If you've ever seen an episode of the History channel reality show "American Pickers," you know the antique-salvaging hosts are crazy for vintage advertising signs. And with good reason. When a rare, porcelain 1920s' gas station sign can fetch in excess of $150,000 at auction, you've got a highly lucrative collecting hobby on your hands.
Credit the "mantique" phenomenon, which eschews grandma's prized collection of frilly tea cups in favor of relics fit for man-cave decor; think vintage toys, sports memorabilia, booze accessories and, of course, advertising signs. By far, the most active and expensive sign-collecting sub-genres are automobilia and petroliana. But there's also a healthy number of hobbyists who focus on so-called "country store" signage — ads for soda, beer, tobacco and food.
In general, pre-World War II porcelain-enamel signs are most coveted. Yet collectors are willing to pay serious coin for metal, neon and paper signs if it's an iconic brand and/or the artwork is particularly pleasing to the eye, like the $70,000 Mobil Oil winged-Pegasus sign pictured above. To illustrate this nostalgic collectors' niche, we've rounded up 14 other vintage signs spanning some eight decades of advertising history.