vintage metal display letters

I have long dreamt of having a large-scale type installation in my home. Imagine a giant, white wall covered with vintage letters of varying size and fonts. Fantastic!

Reclaimed metal lettersImage: Reclaimed

It makes a statement to visually define a space with type, spelling out words with the metal letters. I am especially fond of the “drugs” sign below.

Examples of metal letters spelling words from the Cavender Diary
Images: The Cavender Diary

One of the barriers to entry on vintage metal letters is cost. Metal display letters range from $40 to $600 depending on size, age and material. If I ever commit to acquiring a real collection of letters, I might search for the first initials of my family’s names plus iconic and beautiful letters like “m” and “x” (and perhaps even an ampersand). I have started a small (but pricey!) collection of my own. The first one—a 3′ tall letter “a” in a classic serif font—I picked up on my trip to Connecticut.

the-letter-a-1

Months later I found a sweet uppercase sans serif letter “E” in red at the Stella Antiques Show at the Piers in NYC. A fine beginning!

Capital sans serif letter "E" in red

There are a couple of places in Brooklyn that carry vintage display lettering, such as City Foundry, a delightfully cramped shop near several other antiques stores on Atlantic Avenue. Metal letters can also be found at the Brooklyn Flea. A great way to find vintage metal display lettering is by visiting small town antiques stores, though they won’t be cheap there either. And there are lots of vintage and lighted metal letters on etsy, but I like to think I find them as much as they find me—that it’s serendipity.

Lighted lettersImage: Pracownia

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