Individuals and companies have been advertising their products and services for centuries. Rarely found today, the oldest examples of advertising are usually the most desirable. However, items from the 1950s and 60s are often sought after as well, making advertising a broad antiques category.
We’ve talked about advertising ephemera in another post, but old advertising goes way beyond paper goods. Popular collectibles include old bottles (bitters, snake oil, liniment), tins (tobacco, chocolate, tea and coffee), souvenir items (from political campaigns, fairs and expos, resorts), gas station paraphernalia (oil cans, maps, signs or ads) and sales brochures. Salesman samples and miniatures made by cabinet makers, foundries and fixture manufacturers are also in high demand.
Think historical and cross-collectible
The more historically significant or nostalgic the item, the more valuable it tends to be. For example, an old medicine bottle with the original label that lists cocaine or opium as the magic cure is very collectible. A cigarette advertisement that used doctors to endorse cigarettes as medicinal, or even an old stoneware jug with lettering from a local country store, can be especially desirable.
A good rule of thumb is that the more cross collectible an item is, the more valuable it tends to be. Cross-collectible items are items that are interesting to different collectors for different reasons. For example, an advertising plaque for a famous company like Roseville Pottery would be interesting to both collectors of advertising and pottery, thus doubling its potential market. Collectors of Edison Light Bulb advertising are often collecting the beautiful artwork done by famous American illustrator Maxfield Parrish. While not always considered politically correct anymore, a cigar store Indian is desirable by specific collectors of cigar items, general store items and possibly American Indian items.
You probably have some old advertising
Chances are, everyone reading this article has old advertising in their possession. Because these items were usually intended to be used and then discarded, the few that have remained are often fragile and easily damaged. If you’re not inclined to properly preserve and display them, it is best to sell them while they are still intact. The vast majority of advertising items are sold through antique dealers. This is one category of collectibles that can be difficult to sell through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or pawn shops. No matter how you sell your item, do not attempt to clean or repair it in any way. These are things that should be left to the experts.
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