Category Archives: Guinness + Breweriana

Purcell’s (Birr) Auction has plenty of interest for enamel sign collectors!

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.

Guinness sign

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past, as did prices, so there was little point in such hard wearing signs whose message and price would inevitably be out of date long before the sign wore out.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.

Brooke Bond Tea

Catalogue pages for advertising signs: Catalogue icon

Full catalogue here: Catalogue icon


Guinness was Good for somebody at Whyte’s History, Literature & Collectibles Sale!

Whyte’s sale of  History, Literature & Collectables on Saturday 21st April has been adjudged a major success by the company with over 80% of lots sold for a total of €350,000.

The star item was Lot.12. Composite Atlas Orbis Novi et Antiqvi Delineatio (1657) – a collection of bound 16th Century maps. Manuscript title Orbis Novi et Antiqvi Delineatio, 1657, G.M.F. within an engraved title page. A total of 90 engraved maps (72 double page) by or after Mercator, Ortelius, Hondius, Janssonius and Quad, with fine examples of Ireland. Est.€10,000-12,000 sold for €9,500

Lot.235. 1916 (28th April – 2nd May). The Rising in Enniscorthy – a unique and important collection of documents including ceasefire order.  Estimate: €5,000-7,000 sold for €7,000. Never has so much been paid for so little – in my opinion – but the surrender order is only the second one ever to appear at auction!

Other popular items to exceed their pre-sale estimates included crockery from the White Star Line and some very fine Guinness lithographic posters, one of which – Lot.548. Colour lithograph, framed,Guinness poster with artwork by Raymond Tooby. 32 x 22 inches. Printed by Mills & Rockleys, Ipswich (below). Est. €300-500 sold for an incredible €1,150!

* Some unsold items are still available, details here:

Collecting Guinness can be good for you!

When it comes to collecting drink related antiques (breweriana) Guinness represents the very top end of the market. The most popular items feature the animals made famous by the artist John Gilroy in Guinness advertising from 1930 until the mid-1960’s. Carlton Ware produced a wide range of these animals  with Penguins, Toucans, and the Sea Lion lamp (pictured here and once the star item in my collection) being amongst the most sought after items.

Guinness collecting is a seriously expensive business, and as such has attracted the attentions of quite a lot of forgers. Legitimate reproductions also abound so you have to be really wary or you can pay as much for a forgery/reproduction as for the real thing!  Look out for signs of wear, especially on the base and also smoke staining and crazing – their absence is often a good indicator that the item in question has never been inside a pub and is new.

As a general rule don’t buy Guinness items in Ireland, as the quality isn’t to be had and the prices are usually outrageous. The internet is a much better option and eBay normally has several thousand pieces of Guinness breweriana for sale at any one time. Quality varies enormously and good pieces fetch staggeringly high prices but there is still the odd bargain to be had.

If you’re a Guinness collector look no further than The Guinness Collectors Club which can be contacted via its website at Here there is everything that you could want to know about the history of Guinness, the advertising material, the breweriana etc and there is also much useful information about how to identify fakes – indispensable to the collector.

The official Guinness website has all sorts of interesting things on it including long forgotten TV ads – sadly though, none of the best ones!

Further reading:

Nobody with even a passing interest in Guinness collecting will want to be without a copy of “The Guide to Guinness Collectables” by Nick Fairall & David Hughes. This is available at a discount through the Guinness Collectors Club website but hurry, as I think that the first edition is now out of print.