Next time someone gives you a strange look because you’re an adult who collects toys, feel free to tell them about these folks. Rainer from Germany and Edoardo from Italy have each been collecting do not disturb signs for 20 years. According to their website:
The first widespread use [of do not disturb signs] was likely in the early twentieth century in Europe and the United States, particularly by the more prestigious hotels where discretion was the better part of value. Nowadays “do not disturb” signs can be found everywhere. Guests use them to communicate their need for privacy to other guests and to the hotel staff, and sometimes take them in order to remember places of good hospitality or special moments in their lives.
At first glimpse, you might be inclined to think: “Gee, what a strange thing to collect.” However, do not disturb signs are not so different from collecting other historical and geographical ephemera. In this case, the signs tell stories of their collectors’ travels around the world.
The storytelling element is enough to convince me, but the graphics, lettering and design are often also beautiful and/or bizarre. One interesting aspect of collecting do not disturb signs is that you can’t actually buy “do not disturb” signs.
They are not found in hotel souvenir shops. They are rarely seen at collectors’ markets, and only occasionally turn up in online auctions. In order to acquire these signs you must actually travel and visit the hotels. It also helps to have a network of friends and colleagues who travel and can get some for you. You can also exchange or trade with other collectors.
The collectors note with trepidation that these graphically fascinating paper blockades may soon be going the way of newspapers and books. Their combined collections of do not disturb signs amount to over 10,000 signs from “virtually every corner of the globe,” and so they’ve created a website to archive some of the most attractive and unusual signage.
Procrastinate your Monday away browsing their collection of signs by region or category here. Click through for a few of my favorites.