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Collecting vintage traffic signs

Although traffic signs as we know them now are heavily regulated and standardized, we’ve actually had traffic signs since well before the advent of cars. The very first ‘traffic signs’ were actually milestones, and they marked the distance between destinations. On the road to Rome, for example, there were stone columns to inform travelers how close they were to the city. While fads in retro and vintage fashions come and go like the wind, the United States has seen a rising interest in collecting vintage traffic signs. As a result, a number of different vintage sign vendors have popped up over the years. Understanding how to go about this new hobby is the key to doing it effectively.

First, decide what kind of signs you want to collect. You can be as specific or as general as you like. There’s no shame in collecting something as specific as pre-World War II stop signs or as general as vintage street signs. In figuring out what you’re collecting, keep in mind your motivation for collecting in the first place. Are you collecting because vintage signs fit into your aesthetic? Or are you looking to make a little extra money? Depending on your reasoning, you may prefer some vintage signs to others.

After you’ve decided what will be in your collection, make sure that it’s logistically feasible to start buying new signs. Specifically, keep your budget in mind, as it’s foolish to start collecting something if you can’t afford to buy yourself food. Also be sure that you have enough space to store your signs – if you live in a closet in Manhattan, for instance, it may be a good idea to delay starting your new hobby.

If you decide that you can commence collecting, it’s time to figure out where you can find vintage signs near you. Try calling your local department of transportation and asking for some advice, as they may have some old signs lying around or at least be able to point you in the right direction. The local antique shop, flea market, and dump may be other possible goldmines. If you’re looking to shop from the comfort of your own home, the Internet is also a great asset. Online auction sites will often have vintage signs for sale. There are also a number of online communities devoted to vintage sign collection, the members of which may have some words of advice for someone who is just starting off.

Collecting vintage signs is becoming a more common hobby every day. Following this guide should give you a good place to start on such a rewarding and fun activity.

Vintage Traffic Signs
This vintage stop sign is embedded with reflective studs called Cats Eyes, the predecessor to today’s standard of reflective sheeting.

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