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Homepage. This page: Collecting automobilia
CONTENTS
  1. Introduction.  
  2. Accessories.  
  3. Spare parts.  
  4. Advertising.  
  5. Literature.  
  6. Toys & Pedal Cars.  
  7. Garage and Petrol Company.  
  8. Obscure stuff.  
 

1. Introduction.

Old car polishing thing
As well as collecting motor-racing memorabilia (see other article on motor racing collectibles), I have been a long time collector of all things related to classic and vintage cars. This type of old motor memorabilia is usually referred to as Automobilia, and encompasses a vast variety of subject material .. and not just cars are covered, but anything related to historic trucks, military vehicles, pushbikes, vintage motorcycles, tractors, traction engines, lawnmowers, stationary engines, pedal cars, caravans, tools, garages, literature, advertising signs and spare parts to name some, are incorporated.
Sensible people try to limit their collecting mania to one or maybe 2 particular fields, but I tend to go for anything that takes my eye - maybe a nice book to add to my collection, or vintage petrol can to hang up in my olde worlde garage, or some rare spanners that are stamped up with a particular manufacturer of historic cars from days gone by.
Below I have grouped up some of the key subject areas that the term Automobilia can relate to, and examples of what you might try to find.
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2. Accessories

Automobilia
Collectable accessories are great items to search for, whether it be to actually fit them to your classic car, or display in your retro-styled garage cum workshop, as I do. The variety of material available in this field could fill a book on its own. Popular items are accessories that add something to the style of your car, and a trawl around a local autojumble or swapmeet will turn up many examples of chrome Lamps, such as those manufactured by Lucas, Marchal, Notek, Wipac and others, as well as other shiny chrome adornments like badges, period chrome mirrors in various styles, boot racks for sports cars, shiny new hubcaps, new chrome grilles to make your Bentley look a treat, and so on.
Buying & collecting performance and tuning accessories has always been popular, and are eagerly sought after also by those who take their classic cars rallying, and anything produced by period tuning companies such as Speedwell, Aquaplane, SAH, Paddy Hopkirk and others are always in demand. Just taking the subject of badges for a moment, there are collectors who specialise in accumulating different eras of grille badge for particular clubs, societies or companies, the AA (Automobile Association) being a good case in point - they have been in business since the dawn of motoring, and as such there have been many differing styles of badge produced over time, and varying by application - motorcycle ones are subtly different to motorcar ones for example.
Some accessories are acquired for their novelty value alone. Who remembers adverts that were in motor magazines from the 1970s selling the new furry look for your car?? somewhere I have a copy of this ad, showing a 1970s Renault (12?) with its upper surfaces decked out in this fetching furry look! The 1960s saw a proliferation in economy devices being sold, advising that they could save the thrifty motorist several shillings a month by fitting their product - somewhere in my garage I have one of these curious extractor exhaust tail trims, which when screwed to the end of your exhaust pipe, claims to suck the fumes out quicker thus relieving things a little for your engine and improve its efficiency. Redex was another popular thing, and is still around today, which claims to improve the performance of your engine as its approaches older age.
Other nice automobilia worth looking out for include those old parking lights that clipped to the top of your drivers door window, and plug into the cars cigar lighter. Or hows about some groovy plastic trays that clips to your door with the window wound down, off which you can eat the scrummy sandwiches and flask of tea you brought along in a period whicker picnic basket? If you are interested in locating such items, advertising online can be very fruitful - there is a section on this website where you can advertise automobilia for sale, or wanted, totally free of charge! click to have a look at this automobilia collecting section.
The 1950s saw a huge increase in the market for trendy gizmos which promised to enliven the otherwise dull prospect of driving around in your ropey old motor. How about a new fangled in-car heater from KL? or clip on head restraints that were later banned as in a crash they'd do your neck more harm than good if they broke off? Roof racks were de-rigeur for holidaying motorists in the 50s and 60s, in the days when cheap package flights abroad were a distant dream. Find one now and bolt it to your classic, strap on a weary leather suitcase, and look like the archetypal 50s holidaymaker en route to the familys annual holiday. Smoking wasn't as frowned on as it is today, and all manner of suction ashtrays were produced by companies such as Barnacle, so that you could dispose of your Capstan Full Strength without having to sling it out into the nearest hedge as you sped along the A roads at 45 mph.
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3. Spare parts.

BMW V12
There are 2 bands of elderly car enthusiast hunting down original spare parts for classic vehicles - the diehard restorer who urgently needs the Spirit of Ecstasy to complete their rebuild of a vintage 20/25 Rolls Royce, and the ardent collector who likewise needs this mascot to complete his collection of RR mascots.
Oily, as opposed to shiny, spare parts are less sought after by the collector, who usually sticks to the stuff that will display nicely in their study or loft space. An unused differential for a '66 Cooper S Mini won't look particularly attractive on the mantlepiece of the collector, but would be most welcome in the spares corner of any Mini Cooper fan's garage. Chrome or stainless steel grilles are popular with collectors simply because they display nicely on the wall, and conveniently provide the perfect setting on which to display a rare collection of enamel motoring-related badges.
Original toolkit tools are often hunted down by keen marque afficionardos, to display in their garages - so if you find an old spanner in a car boot sale with Jaguar stamped on it, you could find a ready market of people keen to buy it from you.
One offbeat subject is that of old car bulbs, and their packaging - a large collection can be built up quite cheaply, and when displayed can look very impressive, plus they don't take up much room - certainly when compared with the room required to display collections of motoring posters or vintage petrol pumps. If you collect old motoring items, perhaps relating to certain makes and model of older car, you can post a note on my new online parts autojumble at oldclassiccar without charge!!
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4. Advertising.

Automobilia
Advertising collectibles have alway been one of the most popular types of collecting when it comes to automobilia, simply because their design often sums up the period in question perfectly, the style of typography, colours, names and so on creating an ambience like nothing else can. Framed up advertisements from early copies of motoring magazines such as The Autocar and Motor always look nice on the wall, as do adverts for products long since disappeared.
Original sales posters, whether for car car products or the cars themselves, are keenly sought after by collectors worldwide - for example find an original dealership poster for a 997cc Mini Cooper and the scrum of interested parties from Japan will easily be a match for the volume of interest in its native country.
Condition with most advertising automobilia is paramount, and the prices of original sales posters can be significantly hurt by creases, rips and folds .. although saying that if its a very early piece indeed, rarity will transcend any secondary issues of condition. Likewise with old tin signs, which have a huge following, casual collectors will accept some corrosion or general wear and tear to an old garage sign, whereas the more fastidious amonst us will only target the very best examples, and pay accordingly. And if you find a piece that appeals to more than one category of collector, be prepared to pay a lot!! Some early oil company signs feature both cars and aircraft, for example I've seen the Kings Cup air racer DH88 Comet on oil company items, so this item will appeal to both automobilia and aeronautica fans alike.
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5. Literature.
Automobilia
If you like a good read, then collecting literature can be very rewarding, Some collectors stick to particular makes and/or models around which to collect, whereas others collect for a particular era, and others for a particular type of transport, whether it be 2, 3 or 4 wheeled, private automobile or public transport (bus, tram, trolleybus) related.
Books are popular with collectors and researchers, and there is a strong following for collecting old car brochures and catalogues. I'm always keeping my eye open for catalogs relating to my own fleet, and have had some success finding brochures for my A40 and E83W specifically, and I still have the original literature and press photos that I amassed when I ran an old XJ12 a few years back.
Related in many ways is hunting out not only catalogues but also pukka workshop manuals and parts lists, invaluable for maintaining a historic steed and interesting to flick through in its own right.
As well as factual books there is also the fictional angle that shouldn't be overlooked, as many interesting novels centred around motoring can be found, as can humorous books if you look hard enough - personal favourites of mine are the motoring cartoon collection books by Russell Brockbank and those published in Punch magazine. An interesting area to collect is that of childrens' books. Many were published from the 1920s through to the 1970s, and the artwork and stories in the books, can be very interesting. I've featured some artwork on the Old Childrens Books and Annuals pages, if you'd like to see some great old cover art. More information on collecting old literature can be found on the main Car literature page.
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6. Toys & Pedal Cars.

Toy collection
Collecting old motoring toys has long been an interest of mine, and I've rattled on quite a lot about old toy racing cars in another page on this site, but suffice to say the variety and scale of old toy cars and vans that is available, is huge, and caters for all budgets.
Pedal cars have their own dedicated band of supporters, and some collectors don't think twice about spending a couple of thousand on a nicely restored Austin Pathfinder pedal car, or slightly less on the popular Austin J40, for which parts are now remanufactured to aid restoration of surviving, tatty, examples. Most pedal cars and tractors were built from low grade mild steel, and as such have all but rotted away if left dumped outside for too long, hence good survivors are sought after objects now. Pre-war pedal cars, as with most things, are what collectors would often consider swapping essential limbs or organs for, their rarity and desirability usually commanding a hefty premium when one comes up for sale.
As with most collectables, its the things that weren't meant to last for too long that are the valuable items now. Watch out for modern 'collectible' toy ranges which are launched regularly, by makers such as Dinky, Matchbox and Vanguard. These are great little diecast toys but its best to not generally look at them as investments - toys in the 50s were just that, toys, hence their survival rate is low so therefore their value now can be considerable. But so-called 'collectable' ranges now are usually snapped up by collectors and squirrelled away, wrapped in cotton wool within their boxes, for the day that they become rare and valuable - problem is, with all these mint examples being preserved, its only the very-limited editions that stand any chance of increasing in value significantly within our lifetimes.
And as with most collecting areas, its not just for cars and vans that there is plenty to search for: just as there are many period items to find on historic cars, there are many many items out there to find for enthusiasts of old motorbikes, scooters, tractors and other agricultural farm-type machinery.
And if you run out of toy cars in the subject that interests you, you could consider moving onto collecting plastic kits of your favourite models. Over the years companies such as Revell, Airfix and Tamiya have produced a bewildering array of self-assembly models in many different scales and levels of complexity - many collectors seek out original untouched examples of such kits (I am fond of Merit racing cars) and leave them pristine in their packaging, never even considering removing the parts from the box to assemble the model up.
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7. Garage & Petrol Company.

Automobilia
Hoarding old garage paraphenalia is another popular pastime, and one which I am keen on too. Anything that you can think of appearing in a workshop or garage will have collectors interested in it, whether it be small things like consumables in their original packaging ( such as polish, oils, whitewall tyre cleaner..) or the larger stuff, like trolley jacks, engine stands, drills to mention a few.
I've not got one yet, but I really fancy getting hold of a nice old restored petrol (gas) pump sometime. These are very popular with old car owners and can look a treat outside your garage, the later 1950s and 1960s examples often still displaying their brand name on a glass or plastic globe on top, illuminated at night if required. There are a number of companies that specialise in restoring these original pieces of street furniture, which can look great in a collection alongside other roadside memorabilia such as old road signs and red telephone boxes. Many pumps display brand names long since consigned to the history books, such as Russian Oil Products (ROP) and National Benzole ( remember Mr Mercury?). I always thought that a pair of matching 1950s Avery Hardoll pumps, with globes, would make a pair of nice gateposts, lit at night of course to find your way into the drive - although problems might occur if bored local brats (sorry, youths) decide to use the globes as target practice. More information can be found on the oil & petrol memorabilia page.
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8. Obscure stuff.

Loads of junk!
As with most hobbies there are always a small number of dedicated fans on the lunatic fringes of the hobby.
Not so long back I saw a thing on television about a guy who collects traffic cones, and must now be a leading authority on the subject - ok he does have a headstart on the subject as he owns a company that manufactures new cones, but the level of his dedication to the subject is such that he carries with him in his car 2 or 3 new cones in case he spies a rare early edition still in use, against which he can do a deal with a brand new example from the boot of his car with the road builders in question.
There are also keen fans of spark plugs, their curators eagerly hunting down obscure examples from autojumbles and fairs across the world, building up as they go a record of all the manufacturers of plugs that are sadly no longer with us - such as Lodge.
Then there are others who take it upon themselves to collect rare stickers, cigarette and other trading cards, 8 track cartridges and players from the 1970s and early valve powered car radios and record players, dials, old style logbooks, tax discs, hubcaps (something I did as a child - must have started me off on this subject!), mudflaps and anything else that can be linked to motoring in some way! If you are keen to amass actual parts of old racing cars, a site such as Motorsport Memorabilia can help with your search, whether it is toys, models or team merchandise that you like to buy.
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