Advertising Age Uncovered

Advertising Age Uncovered  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Bill Morford.

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need.” Will Rogers. 

Food for thought.

The endless stream of TV ads filtering in and out of our consciousness like stale air can be mind-boggling.  Some TV ads are actually more interesting than the programming sandwiched in between them.  But that’s not usually the case.

Everything from pills for our depression to creams for our sagging skin gets paraded in front of us with a sense of urgency that declares—Buy now or forever be stuck with your predicament.

People have been trying to design the perfect ad for centuries.  And they’re still trying. 

Procter & Gamble (the soap folks) were one of the earliest advertisers to use color and well-known artists to paint pictures and help them peddle soap.  The 1927 Sears, Roebuck catalog featured a homey cover done by Norman Rockwell.  Coca-Cola bolted out of the starting gate associating its beverage with fine-looking, fashionable women.  Their first model in 1904 was metropolitan Opera star Lillian Nordica. 

It’s hard to figure out now if women in the mid-century tried to look like the Coca-Cola girl or the Coca-Cola girl was modeled after an image of what women were “supposed” to look like. 

At the turn-of-the-century the advertising world figured 80 percent of all buying decisions were made by women.  So that’s where ads were targeted.

Everything from movie stars and kids and dogs have been used to coax us into buying.

The best ads aim directly at the heart.    

Along the way advertising emerged as its own art form.  The artwork in many vintage pieces is downright spectacular.  The most desirable advertising pieces capture the look and feel of their era.

It’s hard to figure out now if women in the mid-century tried to look like the Coca-Cola girl or the Coca-Cola girl was modeled after an image of what women were “supposed” to look like.

They’re colorful.  They embody stuff most of us like to look at like good-looking women, hunky guys, innocent children, animals, aircraft, and automobiles. Advertising collectibles also come in all shapes and sizes from wood, glass and tin to paper, celluloid and porcelain. 

Ads are everywhere.  We’re constantly being sold through TV, the internet, radio, calendars, billboards, mugs, mirrors, trays, plates, signs, and cereal boxes.  The list is endless.

Tin and paper signs are two of the more popular types of advertising collectibles. 

As early as the 1840s paper signs touting the glory of whiskey, tobacco and beer lined the walls of general stores all across America.  No surprise.  These same companies had the biggest advertising budgets.        

Advertising pieces made between 1875 and 1925 are especially interesting to collectors because they often display the dazzling early color lithography.  Items made before World War II are some of the most sought after.  That’s considered the heyday of advertising   

Bidding closed on Feb. 26 for Bill Morford’s Advertising and Collectibles auction. 


Ever-Ready Brand Safety Razors; tin litho advertising clock; 19 ½ inches by 12 ½ inches;  $2,090.

Durham Smoking Tobacco; blue-gray variation tin litho vertical tobacco pocket; 4 ¼ inches by 2 7/6 inches;  $4,950.

Hall Luhrs & Co., Hams sign; corn fed hogs; embossed tin litho; highly detailed multi-color graphics; 13 7/8 inches by 19 5/8 inches;  $11,550.

College Yell; tin litho pocket tobacco for the pipe; 4 ½ inches by 3 inches;  $14,850.

Standard Oil Co., sign; early self-framed; tin litho over cardboard advertising sign; for their Red Crown gasoline and Polarine motor oil; multi-color graphics; 27 3/8 inches by 19 ¼ inches;  $22,275.

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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