David Greene – a ‘Bright Light’ in the (neon) Collector World

18 September
David Green 3

There are those in the immediate museum family who are well-known to our supporters, but just as important are those in the background who serve an equally significant role in the museum’s extended family.  Dave Greene is one of those family members . . .

Dave has been collecting signs and advertising for 35 years and befriended museum founder Tod Swormstedt early on, introducing him to the ways and sometimes “rough” (read: cut throat) world of sign collecting.  Over the past 15 years, he has become the museum’s “go to guy” on many matters—from troubleshooting signs in disrepair and sourcing original vintage components to identifying reproductions and advising us on rare finds.  Dave is also one of our best ambassadors in the collecting world, representing the museum at shows across the country.  He also volunteers his expertise in writing formal appraisals for signs donated to the museum.   And last, but not least, he has also become our most trusted and prolific “picker” and is responsible for a great number of our more significant acquisitions.

David Greene

Dave gained his passion for vintage advertising serendipitously.  He moved to Cincinnati in 1977 from Tennessee and really didn’t know anyone in the Queen City.  The seventeen-year-old would drive back to his home on the weekends and one day, while visiting his grandmother, he saw a beer salesman throw a “BUD” sign into the garbage can at the package store across the street.  He asked the guy if he could have the sign and got a casual, “sure,” and laid it in the back of his truck for the five-hour ride back to Cincinnati.  Amazingly, when he got home and plugged it in, it worked.

Since he was as he acknowledges, a little lonely here in Cincinnati, he thought it’d be fun to collect old neon signs.  After a few false starts of cold-calling local grocery stores, he got the idea to print business cards saying, “Wanted to buy: Neon signs.  $25 working; $15 not working.”  He began calling on Cincinnati area grocery stores, presenting his card. The card with its offer of $25 was the hook:  Almost every store he went to had at least one—but sometimes as many as 10 or 12—old signs sitting in the basement or a back room.  Imagine an offer of $25 getting you anywhere today!

Then he discovered neon clocks, and added them to his wish list.  He went so far as to locate old telephone books and identify former grocery store locations and then scout those storefronts for signs and clocks.  To say the least, he was a very resourceful and determined collector from the beginning.  That passion continues today.

In the collector world, Dave is a bright light, lending his 35 years experience and expertise for the benefit of the museum and the appreciation of all who visit.  He deserves our sincere thanks.

4 Responses to "David Greene – a ‘Bright Light’ in the (neon) Collector World"

  1. Steve says:

    I have an old vintage McDonalds Speedee neon sign. No information any where on the web. Any chance you can give me some advice?

  2. Ann ohaver says:

    We have 2 hooters neon signs one of them has a working half and the other one don’t work did some research but could only find one and not much info on them we are trying to sell them but not sure on a price what is your opinion

  3. Sandy Robb says:

    17 years ago I had a 4 foot neon sign for my business. I will be closing this month and need to find a good home for it.

  4. Lynn Martini says:

    i have 3 vintage neon signs from our 93 year old shoe business that I would like to find out the value of or the sale of to the right person. Can you give me some feedback or direction?
    Thank you.

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