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Collecting Vintage Magazine Ads and Coca Cola Advertisements


    Vintage magazine ads are an undiscovered treasure. They are simply pages from old magazines, also referred to as tear pages, color plates, prints and historical artifacts. Well I may be stretching it a bit on historical artifacts, but I will say they do encompass the history of advertising.

    At some time just about every company you can think of has marketed their products through magazine ads. Before television the only way of visually advertising your products would be through print. With marketing being a cornerstone of any business, magazine advertisements were critical and many companies such as Coca Cola went all out. Since this is such a large topic, and I'm not an expert, I'm going to just discuss a few areas that I'm familiar with and show a bit of what I collect and why.


    Up until the 1930's color was expensive to use in print so when a company ran a color ad it was a large investment and they would hire artists to draw the images. There were hundreds of different artists hired by the private companies and magazine publishers commissioned to do the artwork.

    One of the artists I collect is Coles Phillips and below is one of my favorite magazine ads of his. He is known for what is referred to as ‘fade away' art. By not filling in the image completely the viewer is left to fill in the extra information to complete the picture, allowing the viewer to think and imagine, not just look at a picture. The ad is framed in with a lined border and the main images break through that border giving almost a 3-D effect. Collecting certain artists work is a popular segment of magazine advertisements.


    If you are a label collector you'll probably be surprised to see the artwork in the Grape Nuts ad is similar to the Pet lemon label from Sunkist. In this version of the Sunkist label the girl has been ‘updated' to reflect the times, the earlier versions of this label are more similar to the ad. I like the way this ties the two areas, magazine advertisements and fruit crate labels together through artwork.

    Often the artwork in magazine ads was offered as prints without the advertising text, especially ads of the 1920's. Also since color print was somewhat scarce, magazines such as the Ladies Home Journal would include nicely printed pages that people could take out and frame. I have included some of those pages in the magazine section of the website.



    When I first started collecting vintage magazine ads I bought what I liked. After a period of time I could see a trend, which ended up being ads of the 1920's and earlier. A good example is this 1920's advertisement for Standard Plumbing. Now, I'm not a fan of sinks or plumbing fixtures, other than for typical use but this is what I think is special about this ad and in general about vintage magazine ads of the 1920's and earlier.

    This magazine ad is from the early 1920's, probably a Delineator or McCalls magazine: both used high quality paper. Standard Plumbing's target market is the middle class homemaker such as the women pictured in this ad. It's a typical day and the mother and daughter are cleaning up after a meal, the ad is a snap shot in time. There were no color photos at this time, an artist would painted these images based on typical America . I can't think of any other place you will find a more realistic color image from these time periods other than in vintage ads.

    I also like the way the Standard Plumbing magazine advertisement is designed. Not too many words, there is a great image of the product in use and at the bottom are three images from the product line. At this period of time they were marketing the height which was 36 inches. They cleverly advertised this through the way the little girl has arranged her blocks, also you can see it's the perfect height for the mother and daughter. This is just one example of the endless variety of ads, each in its own special way telling a story about the company's product.


    I used to set up at antique shows with 1920's Magazine ads and I would always stock the best images. One day a fountain pen collector was looking through my items and he mentioned looking for pen ads with pen holders, and that he used these vintage magazine ads to see which pen went with which holder and also to date his pens. The image in the ad was not important to him unless it was one of a fountain pen. People often collect vintage ads from certain companies or of certain products, maybe a product they like or maybe a company they worked for. Denise collects Kellogg's ads, she is from Michigan and so is Kellogg's.

    A fun aspect of magazine ads is not only the artwork but the products; after all we are a consumer driven nation. Early auto advertisements are a big area of vintage magazine ad collecting. A fun part of auto ads is they often show the prices and any new features, not a lot different than today.

    At the turn of the century there was an amazing number of US automakers. The consolidation started sometime in the 1910's, probably due to Henry Ford's Model T and the development of the assembly line. Below is a 1924 ad for a Ford Model T auto, the magazine is a Delineator which was read by women so the ad is targeting women. The ad talks about value, commercial sense, low cost, long term usefulness. All of which are qualities many of us look for today in vehicle, 80 years later. The artwork is that of a typical day where the mother and daughter are out shopping. Note the wonderful view of the Ford Model T and the prices of the vehicle which range from $525-$685. It's also fun to watch fashion, during this period hats were very popular.


    On the other side of the economic scale there was the Pierce-Arrow automobile. The Pierce-Arrow magazine ad is from the 1925, around the same period as the Ford, and shows a whole different picture of society. The price shown on the ad is $5250 for an open car and $7000 for a closed, which was an amazing amount of money at that time, ten times that of a Model T. The artwork shows a high society event, a reflection of the wealth during the roaring 1920's.



    For quite some time, magazine covers have been collected. Publishers would hire popular artists for their cover artwork. When you think of Norman Rockwall, Saturday Evening Post comes to mind, and visa versa. The cover markets the magazine, and is much in tune with current events. This Ladies Home Journal cover from October, 1918 focuses on World War I, as with all wars it was a troubling time. You will also see this somber mood reflected in magazine ads from this period and articles. I picked this cover since it shows the women's role in World War I. I would image the artist Harold Brett drew this from a photo. It shows women in the YMCA overseas, working with soldiers during the war effort. Ads of the 1920's show a much different role for women in society then pre World War I. The term business women is something used in 1920's magazine advertisements, which you wouldn't see before WWI.



    On the lighter side here's a July 5, 1924 Saturday Evening Post cover with a sleeping Uncle Sam about to be woken up by a Fourth of July firecracker.




    In this section I'd like to look at fashion to beauty products, basically items to help improve appearance. Early women's magazines, as with today's women's magazines, focus quite a lot on fashion and trends. In the early magazines there are wonderful fashion color plates such as the one below. This page is from the early 1910's and shows the spring hat fashions. The quality of the printing on these pages is amazing.



    I like this Vivaudou's beauty cream ad not only for the wonderful image of the young woman breaking through the background, but also for the display of products. Beauty ads vary from large images as in this ad to ones with more information describing how to properly use the product. Also there are many claims to what the product can do which are always enjoyable to read.


    Finally I'll like to briefly discuss Coca Cola advertisements. Coca Cola has marketed their product in every way imaginable, from painting ads on

    old barn sides in the country to Super Bowl half time commercials. This Coca Cola Advertisement ties in well with the above topic of fashion, ‘The Glass of Fashion”. Coca Cola ads are always happy and upbeat, people are gathering and enjoying conversation and of course Coca Cola. Whether it's Coca Cola advertisements or auto ads I hope you have enjoyed viewing these. We have hundreds of similar ads in our magazine ads sections.

    Please enjoy browsing through our expanding selection of vintage magazine ads as well as our large selection of fruit crate labels.