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Selling A Vintage Sign Collection? We’re In!

Old advertising collectibles are scorching hot

by Christopher Lancette
Published: Last Updated on

Vintage black and white Mail Pouch Tobacco sign looks great even in old age.Sell Us Your Stuff Case Study: Selling A Vintage Sign Collection? We’re In!

A young man in West Virginia called us years ago. He said he was interested in selling a vintage sign collection his dad passed on to him when he died. Th potential seller knew we were down in Silver Spring, Maryland but he hadn’t had luck finding a local dealer willing to spend enough money to buy the signs in bulk. He wanted to know if we might be interested in taking a look at what he had.


We hung up the phone and hit the road ten minutes later!

Old advertising signs remain some of the hottest collectibles on the market today — on the too-few occasions they do come up for sale. The old-timers who collect them hold on to them until the day they die and probably go to their graves mad that they couldn’t take their signs with them. The family members that inherit them typically don’t want to give them up, either. Buyers across America go crazy for vintage signs, and so do we. Contact us immediately if you’re interested in selling a vintage sign collection!

Making like the American Pickers (we work just as hard, minus the fame and glory), we did our best to obey all traffic laws as we made our way to West Virginia.

Jackpot! A beautiful old advertising sign collection and a willing seller 

The seller had the real deal! Vintage oil and gas signs (petroliana) from gas stations including Gulf, tobacco signs, auto parts signs, grocery store signs, restaurant signs, an old U.S. Forest Service sign with Smokey Bear — and, my personal kryptonite, several mouthwatering vintage Coca-Cola signs. (I’m an Atlanta native, birthplace of Coca-Cola; I will not even enter a restaurant that serves Pepsi.)

Oh my.

It’s rare for me to have to steady my nerves on a deal because I’m fighting off internal hysteria — blinded by my love of what’s in front of me — but old advertising signs and other advertising memorabilia make my knees buckle. The same for vintage toys.

The young man had done his research and knew what the signs were worth at the retail level. But he was also realistic: He told us that he recognized that a number of the signs were in poor condition — and that he understood that antiques and collectibles dealers needed to buy pieces at a price enabling us to make a respectable profit on our money, time and labor. He also stated that he was willing to offer a bulk discount if we could take away a working van full of signs in one shot so that he could move on with selling his dad’s home. He had already pulled the signs he wanted to keep for sentimental reasons; the rest could go.

The dealmaking dance beginsA yellow Prevent Forest Fires sign with black lettering above and below Smokey Bear's face and hat.

It’s always a challenge to determine who is going to throw out the first number — seller or potential buyer. It’s also tricky in a bulk-buying situation to figure out whether we should try to break the ice by picking one or two signs, or dive right in with a bundle offer. (Frank Fritz calls himself the bundling master when he groups several items together; we buy whole collections and estates when warranted — that’s a bundle!) We prefer sellers to throw out the first number so we gain a sense of where their heads are out and to avoid inadvertently insulting them with the offer we have in mind — a number that represents our risk and the work.

I chose to step on the dealmaking dance floor by leaving the Coca-Cola signs and Smokey Bear aside. I love Smokey Bear and what he represents — and our house is equal parts national parks’ visitor’s center and natural history museum. Dealers can’t allow ourselves to be keepers, but wife and co-owner Won-ok Kim already knew I planned to keep three of the signs if we could make a deal.

I pointed to an Atlantic Petroleum sign riddled with rust and some bullet holes. I asked the young man what it would take for that sign to be the first to go home with us. His response was reasonable, and not enough above what we had in mind to bother dickering with.

The end result?

We bought a few more signs one at a time, gained each other’s trust, and worked our way toward a number for purchasing the rest in bulk. It took a lot of hemming and hawing by seller and buyer alike but we ultimately a number that worked for both of us. We handed over a significant amount of money that left us room to profit appropriately — a profit that would of course be greater if it weren’t for my caffeine-and-wildfire-prevention-spokesbear fix. He earned a sum he thought was fair and that allowed him to part with what he knew he didn’t have room to keep at his own house.

Learn More:

  • Find out everything you need to know to Sell Us Your Stuff
  • Check out our Estate Liquidation and Downsizing Guide
  • We’re based in Silver Spring, Maryland and serve the greater Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia region but we’ll go further for great stuff! Contact us today.




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