An Interview With Antique Sign Collector Jim Oswald


Antique Signs

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Jim Oswald, an antique sign collector. I was prepared to go in and see a room with a few dozen old signs and hear a few stories. Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise! Jim not only has hundreds of signs, he has a wealth of knowledge about what he collects. I stayed for over two hours before I could tear myself away . . . I could have spent an entire week learning from Jim and enjoying his amazing collection.

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The Signs of New York City


New York Signs

I spent last week in New York City, attending the BlogWorld convention and checking out all the sights that a city of 8 million people has to offer. Needless to say, there are a lot of signs in New York.

On any given block at street level you’ll find two pizza parlors, a drugstore, a grocer, a florist, two hotels, a cell phone store, three delis, a diner, a gelato shop, two coffee shops, a news stand and three hot dog carts. All of whom have signs, vying for your attention. It can be . . . visually noisy to say the least.

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A New Home for the American Sign Museum


Big Boy, Phillips 66
Courtesy of the American Sign Museum


When I was a child, it was a real treat to get a hamburger and a chocolate shake at JB’s Big Boy in Salt Lake City. The burgers were huge, with special sauce dripping from the bun. The chocolate shakes were served in a tall glass, heaped with whipped cream and accompanied by the frosty aluminum mixing cup that contained a second helping. But the best part of the restaurant visit was the huge, plaster Big Boy that stood at the entrance, holding a Big Boy Burger and grinning in his red-and-white striped overalls. Sadly, many great vintage signs disappeared when business owners updated to more modern signage.

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The History of Signage


Cave Paintings
Image Author: Carla Hufstedler

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, signage (which is what you have to search for unless you are super interested in the Zodiac) is defined as any kind of visual graphics created to display information to a particular audience. At, we’re OK with that description – of course we would have come up with something much more spectacular, but that is another blog post. What we really wanted to know is where did signs come from, how have they been used and what were they made of in the past. As far as we know, the history of signage dates back to when man first figured out a way to express himself artistically. From the symbolic cave paintings of early human existence to the bright and modern digital city that is Tokyo, signs and symbols have always been used to communicate feelings, capture moments or advertise goods and services.

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