Decorating With Tin Signs

Tin Signs: Today’s Unique Decor

Thinking back to a pop song in the 1970’s by the Five Man Electrical Band called “Signs” where the chorus line is “signs, signs, everywhere signs…”, they message was clear. There are too many signs in our modern world. True the number of signs has increased in the past 100 years, but businesses have been handing signs from wood signs to neon, in all shapes, sizes and price tags. The first neon sign was in 1923 and cost in the thousands. It was also around this time that tin signs became the most popular product ad sign that businesses display indoors and out.

Before neon in the early 1900’s tin signs was the most popular advertisement. Today, tin signs are used less in advertising and more as an inexpensive decor item. Local diner lead the way in hanging a retro signs on the wall as it captures the atmosphere of good food & coffee from the past. Think of it a the ideal complement to the comfort food served with “comfort decor”. World War II created a shortage of metals and people were asked to discard old metal signs for the cause and thus created a shortage of true original vintage tin signs that have become collectors items.

Vintage Signs v.s. Reproductions

Before you start decorating with decorating with tin signs, just a quick history lesson for how they became popular. Initially to be protected from the harsh outdoor elements these signs were not made of tin, but steel instead and were coated with a thick porcelain enamel finish. This technique started in Germany and was imported into the U.S in the early 1900’s. custom neon signs It didn’t take long for this to become the staple of outdoor advertising as more bold colors and graphics were used on the signs. Not requiring electricity and very durable to the weather, advertising with tin signs took off with signs for cigarettes, diners, beer and to farm equipment. You name it, there was a sign for that. The porcelain enamel coating is the most costly part of the sign and in time costs were reduce by changing to a tin base and silk screening printing on that surface.

Original vintage tin signs are not cheap. Tin signs have become a collectors item and the demand increased from the limited supply, prices have risen over time. Finding an antique original porcelain enamel signs in excellent condition is rare and collectors will pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for the right sign. Advertising signs for businesses no longer in business or unique slogans have the highest value.

Affordable Reproduction Metal Signs

As you start decorating with tin signs it important to understand that “vintage signs” and “tin signs” was used interchangeability. Many companies are selling distressed reproductions of tin signs that are made to look old and are often referred to as “vintage signs”. There is nothing wrong with the products they are selling or illegal, just beware they are reproductions and not the original. Don’t make plans for a visit to the Antique Roadshow with reproduction vintage sign, thinking you might pull a fast one. The big advantage of a reproduction tin signs is they cost under twenty dollars and still have the old fashioned look.

If you budget and time doesn’t warrant requiring hanging original vintage signs on the walls, then reproductions are the next best thing. There a lots of choices and themes for any room in the house or business. From bathroom, kitchen to even the Man cave there any many tin signs to choose. Since reproduction tin signs don’t really cost that much you can have all kinds of decorating fun.

Vintage Signs Decorating Tips

Here are just a few ideas or tips when decorating with tin signs or original vintages signs


  • Always keep a current assessed value of all of your original signs for insurance records in case of damage or theft. Coke may not go out of business in the near future, but when other companies fail your sign value will increase.
  • Match a tin sign to a theme with their old slogans or brand. Its quite interesting to see how in the past certain slogans or stereotypes will look out of place today or comical
  • A single sign is a lonely sign. Create a wall decor of a mix of large and small signs of all shapes
  • Use signs as backdrops to other collector items. They add some nice accent just about any collectors items.