Saving Old Signs. Tell Us About Your Project

28 February

by Tod Swormstedt, American Sign Museum’s executive director, excerpted from his Signs of the Times article (February, 2016)

Some of the museum’s success — especially with the general public — is in the public’s interest in vintage signs. Whether it’s newspaper articles profiling the local sign collector, or the eBay listings for “porcelain neon” or “neon clocks” or television shows like American Pickers and Antiques Roadshow, or the barrage of questions we receive every day about the value of the old sign they found in Uncle Bob’s bar, the trend is undeniable.

How often does the general public rally around a new sign’s installation? That’s exactly what happens when a grassroots effort unites people to save a neighborhood icon. The public actually beseeches local officials and developers — often sign-industry nemeses — to save an old sign. Such efforts carry a persistent message: the value of the on-premise sign and it’s place in the community. And now, the public is doing it on our behalf. This is good news for us wanting to preserve the history of the sign industry and the signs themselves, and it’s good news for today’s sign industry and sign makers.

I joined Signs of the Times at the end of the Scrap Old Signs efforts of the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s designs to help the sign industry win favor with community powers-that-be.

50 years ago, it seemed like the right thing to do. So many treasures. Gone.

50 years ago it seemed like the right thing to do. So many treasures. Gone.

That same SOS campaign has now become Save Old Signs, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Paramount Blade

‘At approximately 5:45PM the Theater lit the newly-installed, reconstructed 33′ historic vertical blade sign for the first time since the 1960s for a crowd gathered on Charlottesville’s Downtown Pedestrian Mall.’  Courtesy

We always knew sign restoration and preservation were noteworthy trends, and now we’ve actually begun documenting what we thought we knew. For the past year, we’ve been researching coverage of such projects, and we’ve started cataloging them.

We want the people pushing these projects to become aware of the proliferation of other like projects across the U.S. and Canada.  By tracking all these projects, and getting those involved talking to each other, we could potentially shorten the learning curve, saving time and effort, and helping make such projects more economically feasible.

The idea of a conference to address this trend and develop best practices isn’t too far-fetched . . . and we’re the perfect organization and venue to host it.  We have asked certain national sign entities to help us gather information and disseminate it – with limited success.  So, we’re taking it on the road and hoping to present at local and regional sign events around the country, and continue to gather information.  In the meantime, we’d like to hear from all of you about projects you’ve done or are considering doing related to sign restoration and preservation.  Contact Tod Swormstedt at (513) 258-4020 or

2 Responses to "Saving Old Signs. Tell Us About Your Project"

  1. American Sign Museum says:

    Thanks for letting us know. Do you have any plans for restoring and/or displaying it?

  2. Harold Crist says:

    I have the 7 foot long sign that hung above Paul \\”Baby\\” Dixon\\’s head on the Paul Dixon Show on WLWT-TV until his death in the mid 1970\\’s I think. It needs some restoration.

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