Danish Ghostsigns in Copenhagen

Fading advertisement on a wall for Berlinske Tidende newspaper
Photo: Hanne Andersen

Ghostsigns are a truly global phenomenon and the latest installment on my virtual travels comes courtesy of Hanne Andersen from Copenhagen, Denmark. She says that it’s her ‘hobby to find them’ and the evidence here is that the Danish were no slouches when it came to producing large-scale painted wall advertisements. As in the UK, and elsewhere, the heyday for this form of advertising has been identified as the 1920s and 1930s through Hanne’s work in the local archives.

Hanne’s interest in ghostsigns goes back some time, she recalls ‘dragging my parents down to see the yellow sign on the side of my Grandma’s house, watching it fade away as the years went by’. In fact, talking of that sign in its current state of fade she says that she still sees it as it once was: the sign in its better days has left an impression which hasn’t faded from her memory.

Further echoing the situation in the UK, Hanne is conscious of the fragility of ghostsigns’ existence. She says that, ‘you have to be quick when finding the signs here in Denmark – they’re often painted over or washed down’. Hanne believes that this is because they ‘are not perceived to be historical artefacts’. Her own desire to capture them while they are still here often results in messy and risk-taking endeavours such as ‘standing under scaffolds while a house facade is washed down to take photos of lovely old shop signs peeking through running chalkwater’. ‘A messy hobby – but I love it’, she concludes.

Here are some examples from Hanne’s collection of 100+ Copenhagen ghostsigns. She regularly adds new discoveries to her dedicated Flickr set, and also runs a Facebook group all about Denmark’s ghostsigns. Here is a sample of some of the material that you’ll find there, along with some notes on particular signs. Thank you Hanne for sharing these images, keep hunting!

Fading painted sign on a wall advertising Carlsberg
Photo: Hanne Andersen

Whereas in the UK we are used to seeing signs for Courage and other national brands, it’s Carlsberg in Denmark.

Fading painted advertisement on a wall promoting Adamas Cigarettes
Photo: Hanne Andersen

This sign for Adamas Cigarettes is almost gone now, but Hanne also has the image below which shows how it looked in the 1980s.

Fading painted advertisement on a wall promoting Adamas Cigarettes
Photo: Hanne Andersen
Faded piece of painted advertising on a wall promoting Ginge Razors
Photo: Hanne Andersen

Ginge were a brand of razor blades, perhaps contemporary to the Gillette ghostsigns in the UK? An example of their press advertising below shows how this may once have looked. The slogan translated says, ‘The sharpest blade is Ginge’.

Historic press advertisement advertising Ginge Razor blades
Fading painted advertisement on a wall for R Andersen
Photo: Hanne Andersen

I love the letterforms on this one, advertising car and trailer hire company R. Andersen. There’s even a little manicule if you look closely.

Ghostsign advertising BP
Photo: Hanne Andersen

A Danish ghostsign with at least one ‘sibling’ in the UK, although the famous BP sign on Kings Cross Road is no more…

Fading painted sign high up on a wall advertising Hafnia Skinke Ham
Photo: Hanne Andersen

This one advertises the Hafnia Skinke brand of ham. It is noteworthy for its extremely high position on the building, presumably done so as to be visible above the neighbouring buildings, or perhaps it was produced before they were built.

Fading painted sign on a wall advertising Rudolph Petersen
Photo: Hanne Andersen

This one advertises the grocer Rudolph Petersen who was a supplier of, among other things, margarine and various types of herring including fresh, salted and smoked.

Two fading painted signs advertising B.B.Te and Van Houten Cacao
Photo: Hanne Andersen

Perhaps my favourite of the lot is this shared site, particularly as the slogan for the B.B.Te brand is ‘England’s Finest Tea’. Further examples of the second brand, Van Houten Cacao, can be found in ‘Tekens Aan De Wand’, the book about ghostsigns and their restoration in the Netherlands. As with BP above, this brand is still very much in business. I’m not so sure about B.B.Te though…