Cash in the attic: Advertising memorabilia

The majority of advertising memorabilia available to collectors today dates from the early 20th century at the very earliest, with most pieces dating from 1960s onwards. The market is driven by nostalgia, meaning that items from well-known brands, such as Cadbury’s, tend to the best most valuable.

Well-known brands tend to the best most valuable

Sign of the times

Collectors tend to focus on one brand or on one type of advertising object, such as signs. Food- and drink-related advertising and packaging is consistently popular and tobacco advertising has incresed in desirabaility since the 2007 UK smoking ban in enclosed work spaces. Pieces that have cross-market interest, for example signs that feature, trains, are also likely to be desirable.

A popular style such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco or 1950s kitsch, will usually add value to a piece of advertising. The style can also help with dating, as can the format of the names, logos and telephone numbers.

Condition is paramount

Signs are one of the most popular collecting areas and can be extremely valuable, particularly if the have eye-catching visuals. Condition is very important, so examine surfaces carefully for damage, such as scratches or dents. Signs in mint condition will usually fetch many times the value of worn equivalents.

Counter-top display pieces can be rare, as fewer were made than other forms of advertising and they were often damaged or discarded when a newer version arrived in the shop.

Cadbury's advertising flair

This 1890 large enamelled-metal sign valued at £600-£800 is one of the earliest Cadbury signs and was part of a campaign promoting the health-giving benefits of cocoa. The purity was stressed at a time when the government was concerned about cheap ingredients added to food to boost profits. Founder John Cadbury (1802-89) had a flair for advertising that was inherited by his sons Richard and George who took over the firm in 1861.

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