Cars are everywhere in the United States, more than 250 million according to a survey from 2012. They are an integral part of American history, and as such there are people all across the nation who have taken an interest in collecting not just vintage cars themselves, but various vintage used auto parts associated with the automobile.
Some articles of “automobilia” are more valuable than others. For example, brand names play a huge part in determining the value of a particular vintage car part. Generally speaking, the most profitable collectibles are from Ford, Texaco or Mobil. Also, as with most antiques, the older the item is the more money it is worth.
There are many different submarkets to be found in vintage car collectibles. One example is license plates. They used to be made of porcelain, and drivers had to display their license number on both the front and the back. The lower the number on the plate–and the better the condition–the higher the value will be. The value of the license plate will also increase if it is part of a matching set.
Another profitable submarket of automobile collectibles is gas station paraphernalia, particularly signs and pumps. In the mid-twentieth century, the design of gas pumps was quite intricate, and actually nice to look at. Signs from this time period were also more attractive, with bright colors and interesting designs to draw customers in. Due to the fact that gas stations now seem to be sprouting on every corner, the fixtures of today are significantly less pleasing to the eye. This makes the old items all the more attractive and thus more valuable. Because they are so valuable, gas-related items or “petroliana” can sell for quite a bit of money; one sign from an oil company recently sold for 44,000 dollars.
This hefty price tag is great for the people selling the items, but not so pleasant for the beginning collector looking to buy. Luckily, there are some items that, while still highly collectible, are much more affordable. For example, full-service gas stations used to put orange Styrofoam balls on the antennae of the cars they serviced. These can be obtained for about $3.00 a piece. Other affordable collectibles include brochures and other car-related literature, employee uniforms or badges, car polish tins, and original packaging for car parts.
With so many items located all across America, it can be difficult to know where to start looking. A good place might be browsing other people’s garages and local wrecking yards to find vintage car parts.
Summer is the season for car shows, car auctions and various other automobile-related events. It can also be a great time to start a new collection of automobilia.