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Glowing Reviews: Collecting Vintage Neon Signs

Glowing Reviews: Collecting Vintage Neon Signs 1249 840 Gaslight Square Shoppes

Vintage Neon Signs in London 1962

With a heyday in the mid-20th century, neon can add a unique vintage feel (and sound!) to your home.  First sold in the US in 1923, vintage neon signs evoke a retro, mid-century vibe that’s all the rage now, and can be found in many antique stores.

About Vintage Neon Signs

Lighted neon tubes were first discovered by scientists at the end of the 1800s and were treated as a fun novelty. To make it glow, neon gas is trapped in a glass tube with electrified ends. By the 1920s, industry had pounced on this new “liquid fire” marketing technique and red, neon advertising signs were born. By the late 1920s, innovations with fluorescent coatings made different colors possible. Neon signs really took off, setting the stage for the famously lit-up Las Vegas strip.

Which Ones are Collectible?

As you might expect, the older a vintage neon sign is, the more collectible it will be. Condition is also very important. Prices range from low hundreds for fairly common signs in good condition to tens of thousands.

Elaborate and Art Deco

Glass benders, as neon sign makers were sometimes called, developed some amazing skills for twisting and bending glass tubes into some surprisingly contorted shapes. Classic, Art Deco styles are quite collectible.

Unique and Custom

Many vintage neon signs were one-of-a-kind creations made for individual stores and companies. They generally fetch a higher price than more common signs that are seen more frequently.

Famous

Famous neon signs are highly collectible. For example, the original marquee sign from “The Whisky A Go Go” on the Sunset Strip sold at auction for over $41,000. Others, advertising Ramblers, Fords, Mobil Gas, as well as various theaters and beers, have sold for tens of thousands.

Neon Sign Care and Caution

Neon signs can last for decades with a little care.

  • Unplug before cleaning – The neon won’t get hot, but the transformer can shock you if you’re careless.
  • Keep it plugged in – Transformers, which keep the sign running, can be worn out with frequent on/off cycles. You’re better off leaving your sign on as much as possible.
  • Press lightly – Be careful not to break the glass tubes when cleaning or moving the sign.
  • Safety first! If you’re not sure a sign is safe to plug in to test, have it looked over by an electrician first. Better safe than sorry!
  • Buzz – The transformers in neon signs, particularly in larger ones, do often make a buzzing noise.

A quirky, bright, neon sign can make a fun addition to a family room, cabin up north, or anywhere you can enjoy its vintage glow. Check them out on your next visit to Gaslight Antiques, and see if one goes home with you!