Summer is almost here and many of us want to hit the road for vacation and what comes to mind for some is the famous ‘Mother Road’ or Route 66 and boy, are those signs worth a fortune.
Route 66 was deactivated in favor of Interstate 40 back in the early 70’s portions of the Road still exist, some in large sections which run parallel to the modern Highway.
HISTORY OF ROUTE 66
Route 66 opened on November 11, 1926, as only one third of the road’s length was paved, it took until 1937 to see it through.
On June 27, 1985, it was decommissioned in Williams, Arizona, the last town crossed by Route 66
FINDING A ROUTE 66 SIGN
After a cross-country trip, why not a sign to help remember your vacation?
If you check out eBay you will see a large number of ‘Authentic Route 66 Signs’, when in reality few of these if any are real. Most are made from original molds and recast in tin or steel.
So, a few things to look for. We’ve all seen modern Highway signs and they are rather large most measure 24 x 24. If you see an ‘Authentic’ Route 66 sign smaller than that, chances are it’s fake. Some of the signs were smaller, however, but they were the shield type from the 30’s and made of heavy gauge steel, and very few of those survived and if they did are in collections.
When you find a sign that’s 24 x 24 look at it. Is it weathered? Nicked? A sign post ‘shadow’ on the back from years of sitting outside? Also, look around the mounting holes. Road Crews were rough with these signs as treating them like a collectible was the farthest thing from their mind.
The mounting holes should show signs of chips and scrapes where the bolts that held the sign in place were installed and removed.
Don’t let the reflective paint fool you, some signs had it, others did not.
When you look at the sign and the back, look at the edges, are they worn and dirty or shiny metal?
LOOK FOR DRIP MARKS
Other factors like stains, drip marks should run downward, this is important especially on the Kansas Sunflower signs. There are many out there but they are a Highway 99 turned upside down. Keep in mind Route 66 ran only 2.3 miles, so while Kansas signs do exist they are rare.
So, if you can’t inspect the sign in person, ask the seller to show you the back or the edges and close up of the mounting holes.
Sometimes people will sell ‘NOS’ which is New Old Stock, but don’t be fooled, finding a stash of Route 66 Signs in a deserted Highway Department sign shop doesn’t happen anymore.
All of the above tips apply to most signs, some of the signs were mounted on the big green boards above overpasses and may not have a lot of signs of wear and tear. With age and the elements the aluminum backsides should have a cloudy type appearance.
If you come across an authentic sign be prepared to spend some money. Most, however can be had between $300 to $1000 dollars and competition on eBay can be fierce.
In my next article, I will go over how to Spot a fake Route 66 reflector sign.
At one time had the largest collection of authentic Route 66 signs. I spent years working on his collection knocking on farm doors to shuffling through Sign warehouses in search of Route 66 signs.