A little collection of enamel (hazard) signs from the Eastern Bloc

A little collection of enamel (hazard) signs from the Eastern Bloc

Enamel hazard signs were a type of sign commonly used in Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War to indicate the presence of potential hazards such as radiation or chemical contamination. These signs were made of porcelain enamel on steel or cast iron, and were designed to be durable and long-lasting, even in harsh outdoor environments.

Enamel warning / hazard sign, "DO NOT TOUCH! LIFE-THREATENING", Bulgaria, 1980s

Above: Enamel warning / hazard sign, "DO NOT TOUCH! LIFE-THREATENING", Bulgaria, 1980s

Bold, simple graphics and a limited bright color palette

These signs typically featured bold, simple graphics and a limited color palette, usually including red, yellow, black and white, as they needed to be easily recognizable and easy to understand by people who may not be fluent in the local language. The pictograms used on these signs were standardized, and often depict a person in danger or the source of the hazard such as radioactive or chemical symbols.

Vintage enamel hazard / warning sign, "Do not touch, Electrical device", Poland, 1960s

Above: Vintage enamel hazard / warning sign, "Do not touch, Electrical device", Poland, 1960s

Enamel hazard signs from the Eastern Bloc

Enamel hazard signs were widely used in various Eastern Bloc countries including the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria and many others. They were commonly found in industrial areas, power plants, military bases, and research facilities as well as public places such as public parks, train stations, and schools, to indicate the presence of potential hazards and to warn people to stay away from dangerous areas.

Above: Industrial vintage porcelain enamel sign with safety instruction "Radiation hazard", Bulgaria, 1970s

Collecting enamel signs?

After the fall of communism, many of these signs were taken down or replaced with new, more modern signs. However, some of these signs can still be found in Eastern European countries, particularly in older industrial areas, abandoned buildings or in rural areas. Because of the rarity and historical value, some of these signs have become collectors items – and, of course, we've got some for you! 

Check out our collection of (enamel) signs from the Eastern Bloc / the Soviet Union.

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We love old posters and little items from forgotten times. Or think about a children's book from fifty or sixty years ago. It's fun to look at and to imagine what people were doing and thinking back then.

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