Epic discovery: Brilliant readers Caryn and Nina have discovered where we can still buy aluminum “Day-n-Night” house name and address plates — just like we’ve seen in the back of golly every 1950s magazine ever. And these retro house plaques are not “reproductions” — they are made on the same machinery — in the same factory — by the same company that has been making them continuously since 1949 — an epic 65 years! Hey, and I think they are quite affordable, too.
Sept. 2016 Update:
I received an email from a reader whose pre-paid order was taking a very long time to be delivered, and Spear Engineering was not returning her phone calls so she could get a status report. I played consumer reporter and was able to reach the company: The owner Spencer Katalin called me back a few days later. He said that a piece of the original 1940s machinery used to print the plates had broken, and it is (or has been? I’m unclear on that) being remanufactured. So, there have been (or continue to be?) long delays. And… the regular company voicemail mailbox is full the last few times I tried to call it. So… take this information into consideration if/when you consider an order.
No website — read on for how to get these plaques
But take note, dear readers, because this company is so old-school that they don’t have a website and don’t advertise an email address. Yes, they do have voice mail — but note, it is my experience that they take you a while to call back.
Want to see the designs? The prices? The complete brochure and 2014 prices are right here in this story. Then, call the company to confirm availability, current pricing, and get the order form.
Caryn and Nina462 made the discovery
Super mega thanks to readers Caryn, then Nina462, for uncovering and sharing this amazing find. The journey-of-discovery started when Nina462 posted a wishful comment in our story about Mod Box midcentury modern mailbox reproductions. Caryn responded, then… well, here you go with the discovery trail:
Commenting on the new ModBox story, Nina462 said:
Just what I was looking for! I’ll be sure to order one…. Now, I’d like the fancy lettering that one used to be able to buy. It was black, and was on top of the mail box, sometimes it was the name or the address….According to my old catalogues/magazines they were made in Colorado. Of course, that was in the 1950’s.
Caryn replied to Nina462:
Nina, you’re in luck! I drooled over those ads in my 50s & 60s Better Homes & Gardens mags for a while, then after much google time, I found the exact same company who still makes the SAME designs!! The company is Spear Engineering in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and you can reach them at (719) 471-9850. I talked to a sweet lady named Judy and ordered an address/name topper for our mailbox. From what I understood, it’s only a few people who work there, so be patient if you do place an order. It took a while to get it, but it’s soooo worth the wait!!
I just tried looking them up and cannot find the website anymore with the designs pictured, so I hope they are still in business. It was March 2013 when I ordered mine. Good luck!
Pam & Kate, this might make a great follow-up story to go along with these mod mailboxes
Next Nina462 got all tenacious and tracked ’em down and followed up to let us know:
Pam/Kate……I contacted SpearsMfg., by sending them a copy of an old advert & asked them if they still make the nameplates…..they DO!! They responded by sending me an order form for their Day N Night glow in the dark markers.
I will be sending you a scanned copy of this!!
And so she did. And here we are.
For this story, I also contacted Spear Engineering. I left a voice mail and within a few days, owner Spencer Katalin called me back. We had a delightful chat. I warned him he might get 100 orders in one day once this story runs. He didn’t seem phased — bring ’em on!
Katalin bought the company in 1991 from Wendell Spear, the son of the original owner. According to one of the old brochures that Katalin sent me, the company was started in 1949. Katalin told me that the presses used to make the house plates came from the Denver Press (which printed money) and Canyon City Prison, which printed license plates. Yes: Come to think of it, these Day-n-Night house plaques are much like license plates!
Today, decades later, the business endures and is going strong. Katalin told me that the company still manufactures the Day-n-Night Markers on the same machinery… the same way… they have for decades. The letters and/or numbers are embossed-to-order onto aluminum plaques (one for each side)… then each placard is painted black… then the raised embossed lettering is painted white, with paint that includes beads that make it reflective. Finally, the placard is mounted onto the mill finish aluminum holder ordered. This is the same kind of aluminum that we see on vintage and new mill finish metal screen doors.
Today, Spear Engineering’s business also includes metal caskets. At first I thought, ‘That must be the lion’s share of their business now.’ But, no. Katalin said that about half of the company’s business is selling the Day-n-Night Markers. The big market is among mobile home parks. The mobile home parks know about Spear Engineering from word of mouth — tradition about where to get these placards is passed from one manager to the next and the orders just keep coming in.
Day-n-Night Markers description, from the Spear Manufacturing brochure today:
DAY-n-NIGHT — America’s most popular markers provide accurate, attractive, distinctive identification for millions of homes. Your name shines in lights at night and with distinction identifies your home to callers — Day and Night. Your wording custom-embossed in solid aluminum plates. Long plates (18″ x 2.5″) can have 17 letters and numbers; short plates (7″ x 2.5″) can have 6 letters and numbers. Same both sides. White reflector-beaded headlight bright letters on black baked enameled aluminum. Scrolls and frame also aluminum– rustproof. Installs in a jiffy. Any wording you want in letters 1.5″ high. Order today and see why Day-n-Night are America’s most popular markers.
An amazing vestige of postwar America domestic material culture
Day-n-Night house plates: These things must have been wicked popular: They are embossed into my visual DNA — just as they have been embossed into aluminum for decades. To be sure, ordering then installing one of these name and address house plaques must have been the icing on the cake to the many millions of first-time homeowners in post-World War II America! The icing on the cake of the American Dream.
Now, we can help revive the market for these Day-n-Night markers among owners of mid-century modern — and more likely, mid-century modest — house. As it should be. I think I will order two: “NB” — Retro Renovation / Pam and Retro Renovation / Kate. For our home offices. “Retro Renovation” is 16 characters — just one under the max — it was meant to be.
This discovery just absolutely positively rocks my world.
- Hey, 2015 update: Randy installs his Day ‘n Night markers — and is thrilled with the result
How to order Day-n-Night markers from Spear Engineering:
- Spencer Katalin sent us the 2014 price list — we have put it into pdf form for your easy access — open it here.
- To get the order form, call Spear directly, including to ensure availability and/or current price information: You can reach them by phone at (719) 471-9850. Note, in my original dealing with the company in 2014 it took them a few days to call me back. In Sept. 2016, after a reader reported problems getting a call back, I had to chase them down by other Pam-plays-consumer-reporter methods.
- To see the model numbers of the various plaque designs, click on our photos in this story – they will enlarge on screen.
All info and images in this story are copyright Retro Renovation 2014. Please contact me regarding any re-use.