Antique Advertising: A Good Signshirley
As we approach our first sale of 2020, our auction saleroom is brimming with a vibrant and nostalgic display of antique signage and advertising memorabilia.
This is one of our specialties here at Victor Mee Auctions. We love to see the walls adorned like this. It whets our antique appetite. Our Pub Memorabilia and Advertising sales are always big ones for us. They attract great interest from buyers, and with good reason; vintage signs are highly collectable.
But to the novice eye, that value-adding attribute can often seem something of a je ne sais quoi. There’s a lot of vintage signs out there. Many seemingly quite similar. Some of them are worth little. It’s the other ones we want to focus your attention on.
In valuing an antique sign, there are four elements that really matter: age, rarity, graphics and condition. Sort of self-explanatory in a way. That’s not, of course, to say that they are mutually dependent on each other. A rare sign from the 1890s that’s accrued some rust will likely fetch much more at auction than a rare sign from the 1950s in pristine condition. Age trumps beauty in this instance.
In the early 1940s, as WWII raged, basic materials fast became crucial to the war effort. A single infantry tank required 18 tons of metal. Thus, fences were ripped from the ground, spades and shovels donated at “scrap drives”, pots and pans were offered up by patriotic housewives and, of course, many of the signs we speak of in this blog were melted down for a career in armoury and weaponry to win the war.
That’s not a digression. More of an explanation really. A 1920s tin sign, recently pulled from the depths of grandad’s garage, is deemed lucky to have survived the scrap drives. In the years after the war production of metal signs ground almost to a halt as cheaper, faster and more durable means of advertising emerged.
Ergo, advertising signs dating pre-WWII have become hard to come by and highly prized by collectors. Antique signage brings with it a sense of cheerful nostalgia that tends to evade modern advertisements. Older signs leaning more towards illustrations to guide the majoritively illiterate public to their services while a surge in literacy in the 1900s evolved the art of sign painting to include text; slogans, prices, brand names. Companies engaged in fierce competition to entice consumers with extravagant, loud and detailed signage bearing logos, cartoons and guarantees of effectiveness. They exuded positivity and confidence. They are synonymous with the retro and highly sought after, often imitated and never duplicated.
While the antique signs we’ve got for you on January 29th span a range of different products, two major themes dominate; breweriana and tobacciana. We’ve got plenty of captivating lots in this catalogue including rare vintage signs by Ogdens Cigarettes, Paddy Powers, Jameson, McConnells Whiskey, Wills Tobacco, Guinness and much more.
Possibly the most prized advert going under the hammer at Victor Mees next week is a 1910 Kirker and Greer mirror for The Shamrock Whiskey. It is a fine example of the meticulous and exclusive nature of early advertising with hand-drawn gold-leaf gilded lettering. The Shamrock Whiskey was made by Kirker and Greer at the Connswater Distillery in Belfast which closed its doors in 1929. Pieces like this don’t appear often and we’re very excited that this one has defied the often-lethal combination of years passed and the delicacy of glass and made it to our saleroom in near perfect condition. With an estimate of €5000-€7000, we predict a bidding war for this unique piece of Irish advertising history.
Also set to draw huge interest at auction is an extremely rare Gallahers Gold Plate Cigarettes and Two Flakes Tobacco advertising mirror bearing the mark of “Jepson and Co Button Lane.” There are a number of dynamics adding value and intrigue to this one. This mirror is in immaculate condition, remarkable given its age and immense size (it measures 152cm H X 91cm W}, it has been preserved and cared for, the intricate gold-leaf gilding shimmers in the light. Another unique distinction of this one is that the makers, Jepson & Co., spent only a brief period as sign makers, switching exclusively to the manufacture of vehicle number plates in the early 20th century. So, signs carrying the Jepson & Co mark are few and far between and are unsurprisingly thus, extremely valued by collectors. This one goes to auction with an estimate of €3500 – €6500.
Whether you’re an enthusiast seeking out some rarities for your collection, a publican in search of a piece of advertising history or just a lone wolf looking for that perfect retro piece, the Victor Mee Auctions Pub Memorabilia and Advertising Sale is not one you want to miss. Viewing for the sale starts on Saturday January 25th and continues until Wednesday 29th when the auction will commence at 5:30pm