In the 19-teens, signs on the lithographed tin, screen-printed sheet steel, or the more durable baked enamel became the symbol of American Oil, Gas, and Petroleum consumerism and competition. Signs would eventually become more forward, distinct, and striking (pin-up welcome) to better attract motorists and beat rivals. It is also for this reason why vintage signs are a particular favorite among petroliana and automobilia collectors. Signs were witty, always appealing, and back then, surprisingly specific. Whereas now we have signs that only say “Get gas,” signs back then might read, “Trust your car to the man who wears the star – Texaco.” Gas companies, the more unique and distinct it was, the better.
Gas stations, especially those along the highway, need to be highly visible to catch the attention of passing cars and vehicles. These signs are colorful, vivid, and beautifully designed to capture attention. That’s why it is not surprising that many people want to collect these signs, especially if they’re vintage and from famous locations. For example, an authentic gas station sign from Route 66 is often highly valued among collectors.
History of Gas Station Signs
Gas stations are a part of the American culture. They have been around for more than a century and still hold a special place in people’s hearts. These establishments existed well before the early 1900s. You could only find them in major cities because not many people owned automobiles back then. Gas station owners and employees often performed repairs and servicing while selling gas.
As automobiles became more common, gas stations started cropping up in smaller cities and rural locations as well. By 1910, the market was growing and there was a surge in demand for products like gasoline and lubricating oil. That led to a surge of interesting gas station signs flooding the market.
The competition was especially fierce between the lubricating oil manufacturers in the industry. These signs started to appear in gas stations and grocery stores all over the country. The signs were made from a variety of materials like baked enamel, tin, sheet metal, steel, etc.
They indicated which brands of oil a gas station sold. They were well-designed and often featured cheeky slogans. By the 1920s, gas stations were quite common and came with their own unique signs. You could see things like plate pump signs that were mounted on gas pumps.
Types of Gas Station Signs for Sale
Gas station signs advertise different brands and companies. Collectors can find a wide range of options in the market. Vintage signs from the 1920s to the 1960s are quite popular because of the aesthetic. The different kinds of signs available include:
- Baked signs
- Porcelain signs
- Sheet steel signs
- Tin lithograph signs
- Plate pump signs
Different collectors have different preferences when it comes to gas station or petroliana signs. They vary in value and style significantly based on the period they are from.
How to Buy Old Gas Station Signs
Brands or company names are the most important concern when it comes to gas station signs. Some company names are more valuable and difficult to acquire than others. Here’s a look at what you need to keep in mind:
- Regional Brands – These are the rarest signs and are considered the most valuable among collectors. The most coveted brands include Gilmore, Signal, and Wilshire.
- Big Brands – Big brands and their descendants have their cult following. Collectors covet names like Shell, Philips 66, and Standard Oil. They also value more modern brands like Esso, Exxon, and Mobil.
- Oil and Gas Brands – Oil and gas brands like Sinclair, Sky Chief, Pennzoil, etc, also have a large following among collectors.
The rarer the sign, the more valuable it is. You also need to make sure the sign is in a good state and maintained well.