Ghost signs (if you don’t know the term) are my current fascination. I can best explain them as such: 100 years ago, instead of billboards, advertisers would literally paint their signs and adverts to the walls of buildings. In many places, those old painted signs, although faded, are still visible. Places like London and Amsterdam are fantastic for ghost-sign-hunting, because there are so many pre-war buildings sporting ’em. I like the calligraphy and fonts, I like the designs, I like the old-timey, antiquated feel of them. It’s the quickest form of time-travel, really. Here is a selection of ghost signs that I’ve been fortunate enough to find. I will endeavour to find more!
This one is my favourite, so let’s start with it! I found it halfway between Herne Hill and Brixton in London.
I find it highly ironic that this is an antique sign advertising antiques! THAT’S SO META. Can you IMAGINE what antiques you could have found 100 years ago? Stuff from the 18th and 17th century, surely.
You’ll notice that the bottom of the sign is cut off mid-sentence. According to the internet, it used to say “bought, sold, or TAKEN IN EXCHANGE.”
This old Bovril ghost sign is quite popular in Brixton, and I’ve been passing by it for years, without bothering to photograph it. Have you ever tasted Bovril? It tastes like battery acid. EAT UP!
This Dean & Co Chemist’s sign was hard to photograph, as it’s situated high up and is almost blocked by the adjacent building. There’s no chemist there now, just a hair salon. This was opposite Clapham Common.
Here’s another favourite of mine that is really faded, but it’s SO OLD-TIMEY COOL! It says, “For your throat’s sake, SMOKE the world’s premier cork**** cigarette.” I can’t make out if it says corklined, or corktrimmed, or corktarred, or something along those lines, it’s so faded.
This is an excellent reminder of advertising standards 100 years ago, where Doctors would tell you that smoking was actually good for you. And advertisers would lie and say it made you healthy, and shit. AMAZING FIND.
I found this near Stockwell tube stop.
Now to Amsterdam, with a cool Albert Heijn paint job. As I mentioned before, Albert Heijn is a supermarket chain in The Netherlands, and apparently, has been around for a long time!
There was no Albert Heijn shop in this building, just a Japanese resto and a sewing machine shop. This was in the De Pijp area.
Across the street from it was this amazing faded sign that says “Salon Voor Scheeren” which indicates a barbershop once was housed there. Not anymore, it’s just homes. LOOK AT THE FINGER-HAND! So cool.
There’s no way to know what this ghost sign above a billiards place used to say. It looks like two signs were painted over each other, and now over time, they’re fading into each other. But I like the calligraphy.
I have already found more ghost signs around that I have yet to photograph, so expect more soon!