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This is what 1000 retired Toronto street signs look like

Posted by Chris Bateman / May 9, 2013

toronto disused street signsToronto's substantial stockpile of decommissioned street signs could be up for grabs in just a few weeks if a new report gets the green light. The public works and infrastructure committee will consider a recommendation next week that calls on the city to allow the sale of disused road markers for $30, depending on the size, on a first-come-first-served basis.

UPDATE: The details of the sign sale have changed. Get the latest here. (Nov. 20, 2013)

"It's the city's opportunity to give you a piece of heritage," says Allen Pinkerton, manager of the signs and marketing division. "It's not to make money, it's not to be a profitable venture, it's just to cover our costs ... I really think the signs should go back to the community."

The city receives hundreds of public requests every year to buy the old metal road signs it has been gradually taking down as part of the consolidated street furniture program since 2007.

toronto disused street signsThe idea first surfaced last year with a motion by coun. Adam Vaughan at the public works and infrastructure committee, but the staff report into the necessary details was bumped by other "more critical" transportation issues. The city initially thought it would sell the unwanted items for $20 each.

Toronto started rolling out its latest set of blue-and-white extruded aluminum street signs in 2007 to mixed reviews. The new reflective furniture came at the expense of the small but much-loved "acorn" signs, many of which still survive around the city. It's still possible to find painted wood or plastic examples from other decades, too.

In a typical year 1,800 old weathered or damaged road markers are taken down, and the city estimates just 5-10% of those are suitable for sale - the others are too damaged and are usually sold for scrap.toronto disused street signsRandom fact: the font used on the new signs was originally Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk Condensed, a centuries-old German typeface used by the American Red Cross, but it was switched to Clearview - the same font used on highway signs. Each new sign costs the city $80 and takes roughly 25 minutes to manufacture.

If the committee adopts the report, an inventory of the signs in the city's stockpile will be published online in between 6 to 8 weeks. Orders will be taken by telephone or by email. Which signs will you be looking for? Do you wish the city did more things like this?

Email signsandmarkings@toronto.ca to join the waiting list in advance of the sale going live. Provide details of the street sign you're interested in buying, your address, and telephone number.


toronto disused street signstoronto disused street signstoronto disused street signstoronto disused street signstoronto disused street signstoronto disused street signstoronto disused street signsChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Chris Bateman/blogTO



Gordon / May 9, 2013 at 11:53 am
Kind of want them. Would depend on what street though.
replying to a comment from Gordon / May 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm
I imagine signs for Old Cummer will be in short supply.
Janine / May 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm
Please keep us posted as to when they come up for sale! I don't want to miss this!
Mike / May 9, 2013 at 12:27 pm
SIGN ME UP! Where can I buy?
Romy / May 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm
This sounds great!! Where and when???
Michael / May 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm
please email me when sales start, definitely need a sign.
Suzannet / May 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Hope that this article is updated with a time and place, or a URL.

pat / May 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm
I want Caroline Ave.
Sean / May 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm
I too want a sign. Where do we go to buy one?
Elle Em / May 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm
Neat! How do you order?
Mickey / May 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Would be nice to know where to look for information regarding the purchase of one of these lovely signs.
mike in parkdale / May 9, 2013 at 01:07 pm
yes - please keep us up to date on the news of a sale.

If the city was smart, they do it as an auction, with a base bid of like $20. Why do a first-come-first-served sale when people would clearly pay a premium for a popular street?
sjfbarnett / May 9, 2013 at 01:21 pm
This is crap that they're putting them up for "first come, first served". When the new signs were starting to be mounted a few years ago, there was a program where you could sign up to request your street, which I did. I guess they just threw that list in the bin. Nice.
McKegs / May 9, 2013 at 01:42 pm
Please keep us posted on how we can order. I would love one!
hendrix / May 9, 2013 at 01:52 pm
Hire some geeky highschool kid to post all these to ebay.
they'll make much more than $30 per. And those of us who really really really want a specific street can fight for it from the comfort of our homes. $30 is nothing for this kind of history.
Robert / May 9, 2013 at 01:54 pm
Does anyone know what happened to the old blue and yellow electric signs? they are a real classic.
Miss Kriss / May 9, 2013 at 01:57 pm
Oh yes, let's put them up for auction so all the Queen West loft-owning, creative class, upper mobile yuppies can pay $500 to hang them on their lovely interior brick walls. We want to make sure nothing is left for everyone else after all! Or better yet, just offer them up to one of the antique stores on Dundas West (Metropolis Factory, I'm looking at you) and let them sell them off for $1000+ each. Wheee!
Stephan / May 9, 2013 at 01:58 pm
What a great idea, I’d definitely buy one... I wish this article gave us an idea on how we could buy one.
DL replying to a comment from Robert / May 9, 2013 at 02:09 pm
Always wondered. There's a major throughfare downtown that still has a couple, can't remember which right now. I would love one of those.
Skye replying to a comment from Miss Kriss / May 9, 2013 at 02:30 pm
SOMEbody's bitter.
Nico V / May 9, 2013 at 02:50 pm
Hi I'm wondering who to contact about city signs? I want to upgrade the U of T Civil Engineering Common Room, which already has a number of signs inside of it, with more signs. I've been looking for a contact person but couldn't find any info.
broscosmoline replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 9, 2013 at 02:53 pm
agree $30 seems low given what some of these could fetch but rather than auction, how about generating *some* revenue for the city (e.g. sell @ $50 = $20 profit) which could be earmarked for street beautification project. city should stay clear of speculative bidding process.
broscosmoline replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 9, 2013 at 02:56 pm
what a great idea! yet what constitutes "too damaged"? if they mean rusted or faded, that sort of patina might add to the value. certainly make them more intersting to me.
Jhonattan Bonilla / May 9, 2013 at 02:59 pm
How do I keep posted???? I want at least 4!
wubwus / May 9, 2013 at 03:02 pm
Dear city, why not auction them off for better revenue that can be allocated to something productive ala bike lanes or public art etc? You could make a lot more than $30 on several I'd imagine...
Paul / May 9, 2013 at 03:31 pm
I can only imagine what the city's rich yuppy hipsters will pay for these signs.

Should put these up for auction.
Andrew / May 9, 2013 at 03:39 pm
When and where is the sale going to happen? More details, more details.
jen / May 9, 2013 at 03:59 pm
I've had my name on a list with these guys for YEARS now hoping for a sign. I hope that list still exists.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from Paul / May 9, 2013 at 04:14 pm
How about this - if you've lived on a particular street, then no one can call you a yuppie hipster just because you've bought the sign.
Chris Charabaruk / May 9, 2013 at 05:39 pm
Who cares what font used to be used on the _new_ signs, I want to know the font on the old ones!
Jamie / May 9, 2013 at 07:05 pm
I would love one of the embossed Acorn signs!
Sybil / May 9, 2013 at 07:16 pm
What a great idea!! I would definitely buy them. Keep us posted on if this is happening, BlogTO!
Joe Joe / May 9, 2013 at 07:31 pm
Everyone keeps mentioning that the queen west hipsters who live in condos would pay a fortune for these. WRONG...
Most of these people living in the Queen West area are from the 905 region if you haven't figure it out...
I want my street sign and doubt it won't be in high demand, hopefully!
Vivian C / May 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm
Stoked for this sale!! Please put up a link and more details soon!
Kevin G replying to a comment from … / May 10, 2013 at 12:50 am
wha whahahahahahahahaha :D
StuffTheBikelanes replying to a comment from wubwus / May 10, 2013 at 02:54 am
I'd rather they fix potholes and such.

How about we license cyclists to pay for bike lanes.
Ex / May 10, 2013 at 08:50 am
Seriously, taking orders by phone and email?? Is it 1999?
These should definitely be up on eBay on an auction system. Would be way more efficient than such a manual process.
Paris Trout replying to a comment from sjfbarnett / May 10, 2013 at 09:13 am
We signed up too, what gives?
Kris / May 10, 2013 at 10:07 am
A lot of people seem to be commenting that they want to be able to know when the signs go on sale to have an opportunity to buy one.
At the end of the article, it says email signsandmarkings@toronto.ca to join the waiting list in advance of the sale going live.
Mike / May 10, 2013 at 11:24 am
The typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk was first available in 1898, making it 115 years old. So it's really only one century old ;-)
Jay Boddington / May 12, 2013 at 07:34 pm
This is a great idea!
Sent in my request for a couple of signs I'd love to own.
Siavash / May 13, 2013 at 03:44 pm
How much for the old chair?
Christian W. / May 14, 2013 at 05:10 pm
They should Ebay them.
That way the city will make the most money, and you will have the best chance to get the sign you want.
Jer / May 17, 2013 at 08:52 am
They should definitely auction them off
ROBERT GILLESPIE / May 18, 2013 at 08:07 am
Archie / May 19, 2013 at 10:19 am
I would like to buy a couple of signs
Todd / May 19, 2013 at 10:47 am
Why can they not be re-used? Sure some are weathered by they can be repainted and put back on the streets where they belong.
Lisa / May 30, 2013 at 11:28 am
I'd like to buy one too? are they going to sell/auction them?
Steve / June 10, 2013 at 04:18 pm
Anyone have an update here? I believe we are at the 6 to 8 week timeline.
Elaine Day / July 2, 2013 at 03:39 pm
I would love to get the sign for Goldwin Avenue. My Great Grandparents lived at 23 Goldwin Ave. Then when my father married my mother they moved in there with them. Great Grandfather died 1947. Great Grandmother died 1958. I was born 1951 and my mother died 1963 then my Dad and I lived there until I was 12 yrs. old when he remarried. We then sold the house and moved. Also note my father's Aunt my Great Aunt lived on Goldwin also. So there is a lot of family history of mine on Goldwin. Please let me know if it comes available.
Spidermurphy / July 14, 2013 at 04:28 pm
I'm curious who you all think you are commenting to? Who do you expect to let you know when a certain sign becomes available?
Leona / August 13, 2013 at 10:02 am
I really would love one yorkville or yonge PLEASE I fly back in week to Ireland please email me let me know where but them
Goirgi / September 5, 2013 at 08:35 am
I would like to know for the street signs on Danforth Avenue which are written in the Greek language, who paid the tax payers or the Greek community?

Your answer is appreciated,
the lemur replying to a comment from Goirgi / September 5, 2013 at 09:03 am
Sounds like a question for the city, although the signs have been up for so long they may not have a record of their creation/installation.

The signs themselves would ultimately have been paid for by taxpayers, as with all street signs across the city. If you're asking about the cost of transliterating the street names, it could have been volunteer work by either a Greek-speaking city employee, a member of the Danforth BIA, etc. I doubt that it cost very much.
Matt-C / October 3, 2013 at 02:53 pm
So anything happen with these? I want to pick up my street's sign!
Kate / October 28, 2013 at 10:43 pm
I too have been watching the site to go get my home street sign, anyone know anything yet?
Mark replying to a comment from Miss Kriss / November 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm
Barb Thompson / February 4, 2014 at 10:08 am
I wrote someone at City Hall a number of years ago inquiring when Toronto might selling street signs. I even sent them the Ottawa website so they could see how Ottawa handles the same programme. I have purchased a number of Ottawa street signs already.

I was absolutely stunned when I learned on Global news that Toronto was finally ready to put this programme in gear but would be charging $100.00 dollars to start bidding. What a damn ripoff, considering that Ottawa sells all signs for $25.00 and it is not dependent on how popular the street name might be.
Ottawa has all street names listed alphabetically and one simpy emails them of their choice and goes and picks it up after paying 25 dollars cash.

Leave it to Toronto to try and charge sky high prices.
After learning of this on the news I took the time to write the reporter who aired the story.

There are a couple of street signs I would like to have from Scarborough, but you can bet I will never pay $100.00 for them.

Alexander Galant replying to a comment from Robert / March 6, 2014 at 09:52 pm
For the person above who was asking about the old blue and yellow electric signs, here is some information about them: http://alexander-galant.blogspot.ca/2014/03/toronto-trivia-history-behind-yellow.html
Karina / April 24, 2014 at 01:55 pm
I Totally want one! Where can I buy?
Esther / April 24, 2014 at 02:09 pm
I think an online auction could earn the city an absolute fortune. No one NEEDS a street sign. So who cares what they want it for... sell from a well-curated list and give it a week to receive bids. I'd like a sign but I don't care that much. Set up pay pal for after final bids are accepted and put our tax dollars to work!!!
jr / July 23, 2014 at 07:18 pm
i have an original:KINGS COLLEGE RD sign with post.what would the going price be worth?
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