70+ Lots of quality vintage enamel signs are included in Purcell’s (Birr) sale of Antiques & Collectables tomorrow Saturday 12th October. Some real gems here including several rare, double sided, AA signs (see below) and prices are now very competitive. For years the best of these signs were beyond the means of many private collectors and found their way into Irish theme pubs, but with changing tastes, and the decline of the pub trade, many items are now back on the market and at realistic prices.
In Victorian times the use of sheet steel coated in vitreous enamel became popular for advertising signs. It retained its bright colours for far longer than either paint or print. The heyday of the enamel sign was not long (1880/1910) and some place the start of their decline from popularity at the about the time that the railways stopped expanding. It seems that a more general downturn in the use of enamel signs began in the 1920’s with the Depression. Then in the Second World War the use of steel for advertising purposes was prohibited and many existing signs were recycled in the scrap metal drive.
After the War fashions changed more rapidly than in the past, as did prices, so there was little point in such hard wearing signs whose message and price would inevitably be out of date long before the sign wore out. Indeed, such was the durability of the signs that many still turn up today in good condition after more than fifty years in use as a shed roof or some similar function.
The advertising is from an era before the product got lost in the message! Simple slogans such as ‘Guinness is good for you’ or ‘Brooke Bond Tea’ (illustrated here) with little else added were the norm.
Catalogue pages for advertising signs:
Full catalogue here: