The Value of Vintage Advertising Thermometers

While you may consider vintage advertising thermometers to be just relics of the past, they can actually hold a lot of value for collectors. They’re especially valued in rural areas, where knowing the temperature and wind direction is important to the farmers who grow the food and drinks sold there. Originally created to be mounted on the wall of a storefront, they’re usually circular or rectangular and can be as tall as 6 feet. They’re made of a variety of materials including tin, wood, porcelain and even Masonite.

Early wooden thermometers, for example, were often shaped to look like the products they were advertising. Thermometers with a round body and a clock-like dial were particularly popular because of their ability to grab the attention of passing customers. The dial moved based on the temperature, and the inscriptions could be customized with the logo of the company or a slogan or motto.

Some of these were used by beverage, beer, tobacco and automotive companies to promote their brand names. Others were produced by local businesses to show off their pride of place. For example, the Forest Hills and Rego Park locations of a business known as “Continental Wine and Liquor” are illustrated on one thermometer.

Depending on the style, subject matter and condition of a vintage advertising thermometer, it can be worth between $50 and $300. Beverage thermometers, for example, often have a high resale value and can be found in the $100 to $200 range. Other vintage thermometers can be as high as $425. Automobile and motor oil thermometers are also worth more if they’re still working and have the original name plate.

Many of these old thermometers also feature a scenic picture that adds to the visual appeal. For instance, a circa 1940s Lawrence Brown Prime Meat Market thermometer depicts a Tudor cottage with flowers and ducks. Gasoline brand names like Esso, Texaco and Mobil are also featured on older thermometers.

While the thermometers in your home or office probably aren’t quite as elaborate, they can still be decorative and useful. Some have been updated to work with modern digital technology, but the old-fashioned tin models remain popular with some. Today, thermometers can be stamped with a wide variety of designs, from cartoon characters to vintage automobiles and even ice-cold beer.

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