car memorabilia items collected are vintage retro objects—everything
from oil cans to tire pumps and everything in between. Some of the
favorite items of the guys on the T.V. cable show, “American Pickers,”
on the History Channel, are the road signs, gasoline station equipment,
other things associated with cars and driving. Collecting them has
become a passion for those who do so with a nod to nostalgia or a look
back at the wilder days of their youth. While everyone couldn’t be a
James Dean, there were sure plenty of James Dean wannabees.
collectors love old cars, but they can only admire them at car shows.
Even though they can’t afford to buy one of those vintage beauties, they
can collect objects that are related to old cars and driving. Almost
every collection of car memorabilia has come about from the interest
someone has shown in old cars.
Why do people collect car memorabilia? For many it’s the thrill of the
hunt and the stories behind every object. They know where each piece
came from and how they obtained it. Also, there’s a comradery among car
and car memorabilia collectors. They share information on what’s been
recently discovered or what might be available. Often collectors fill
their garages and basements to the breaking point with the items they’ve
If a collector knows what to look for, he or she can unearth some
fantastic car memorabilia, or automobilia as it’s known in the trade. In
the long-term, a collection could even turn a tidy profit. People
collect car memorabilia for a number of reasons. Some collect for
nostalgia reasons while others do so for investment.
Look Out For Objects With a Story
A beat up, old steering wheel from a 1980s Ford Fiesta might not seem to
have any value at first glance, but, if this is a steering wheel with
provenance it’s no longer any old steering wheel. It is, for example, a
steering wheel used in an Oscar-winning film, and it instantly becomes
collectible. As there’s a growing interest at the moment in vintage and
retro memorabilia that can be repurposed, this makes an item such as
this doubly treasured.
Original Car Parts
a classic car is an expensive and arduous task. To retain the value of
the car, owners always try to source original parts for it. The older
the vehicle, the less likely it is that the manufacturer still makes the
original components, so if you can source an original factory part there
could be someone out there willing to pay a significant sum for it. With
the current trend for upcycling, vintage car parts such as car seats and
wheels are also sought after by those in the reclamation business. The
back seat of a car can be repurposed into a retro sofa and an old
Michelin tire has been known to come back to life as a coffee table.
Car Badges and Mascots
Go back a few decades and any car worth its salt wore a badge on its
radiator or grill with pride. Made of metal or enamel or both, they
represented the vehicle manufacturer or particular motoring associations
or car clubs such as the Automobile Association (AA) or the Royal
Automobile Club (RAC). Those badges pre-1960 are particularly
collectible. Vintage car bonnet mascots, such as an original leaping
jaguar from an old Jaguar car and The Spirit of Ecstacy off the top of a
Rolls Royce, are worth holding on to too.
Anything Gasoline Related
Petroliana is a category of collectibles related to gas stations or the
There are four basic subcategories under the general heading of
oil and additive cans, gas pumps, and gas pump globes.
Of these four subcategories, signs command the highest prices across the
oil cans, badges, early road maps and all sorts of other early gas
pump plates which are the small porcelain signs that went on gas pumps
and identified the particular brand sold.
cans peaked in the late 1990s, after reaching very high levels due to a
few aggressive, very competitive buyers. When they dropped out of the
hobby, the market for oil cans crashed – but now cans are back up to
where they were at their peak, and even higher.
The same could be said about the buying pattern for gas pump globes.
That particular specialty was much more sensitive to changes in the
marketplace because there were comparatively few people collecting them.
For every one person collecting gas globes, there are probably 50 who
collect petroleum signs. Gas globes are beautiful to look at, but
they’re made of glass, and that scares off some potential collectors.
Collectors like to display their items. There’s a risk in displaying
glass of any type.
Also, it’s not very practical to display gas pumps in your home. That’s
another reason why signs are so popular. They can be displayed on walls
like artwork, and they’re made of metal, so they don’t break.
begin, go with the tried and true. Look for usual items. Most will
increase in value over time. The longer you keep your collection of car
memorabilia, the more the items in it will be worth. If there’s a
limited number of a particular item, it will be worth more.
And always try to buy objects that are in good condition. Those in the
best condition will be get top dollar. The average good collection is
only 10 to 20 percent museum quality. The remaining 80 percent are
usually hard to sell.
No matter who you buy your pieces from, make sure they’re reputable. In
the long run, it’s worth dealing with someone who’s an expert.
Ever since collecting gas and oil-related advertising became an
organized pursuit in the 1980s, prices have increased steadily. Now,
three decades later, the playing field is well established, with many
auctions, collector clubs and shows that are dedicated solely to
petroliana. As for prices, they aren’t on a gradual, northeastern climb
anymore. They’re headed straight up, like a vertical line that you’d
never see on a stock market chart.
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