Vintage beer advertising signs are popular items for decorating beer bars, man caves and garages. Some of these old signs, particularly the ones composed of a tin lithograph on a cardboard backing, were never intended to last a long time. The surviving examples from the mid twentieth century and before can be quite valuable just because they are scarce, even if they were common signs for major breweries at the time they were produced. The earliest vintage neon beer signs are also prized by collectors, but the ones with the highest average selling price are porcelain enamel beer signs.
There is some overlap, as many of the porcelain signs also featured neon lights, but the most expensive one to sell recently on eBay was a curved porcelain sign made for the Evansville Brewery back in the 1890s. That sign sold for $6,500 in November.
The old Bull’s Eye Beer porcelain sign shown at right is fairly typical of the kind of vintage sign that collectors want. It sold for $300, about $25 above the average price for vintage porcelain beer signs. The detailed pictures show the porcelain enamel cracking and peeling and rust on the metal below, particularly around the corner attachment holes. Those flaws did not destroy the value, and may have actually helped, since they show it is a vintage sign that was actually used by a business at one time.
Listings like that one should remind anyone who is cleaning out an old home or business to think carefully about what is trash and what is treasure. That old sign on the wall, featuring rusty edges and advertising an obscure and extinct brand of beer, may well be just the decoration someone is seeking. One man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.