In the body of every car lover beats the heart of a collector — and we’re not just talking old automobiles. What about old oil cans, suicide knobs, and spark plugs? Check out this shortlist of what’s big in the world of “oddly popular” automotive collectibles.
Old spark plugs, rusty oil cans, dented and pitted automotive signs: to the right person, any one of these items can be seen as infinitely collectible and therefore worth preserving. This month we’re taking a look at just a few of the more popular (albeit “unusual”) automotive collectibles and then leave it to you, the reader, to fill in the rest.
We’ve all seen Frank Fritz on American Pickers drooling over walls of rusty oil cans and other bits of seemingly obscure automobilia. Oil cans have long been among the more popular collectibles sought after by those interested in petroliana (petroleum-related collectibles, including oil cans, gas globes, signs, etc.). With their classic-looking graphics and logos, the sort of oil cans that make Fritz go gaga can demand big money at auctions, flea markets, and eBay where bidding prices can reach $200 or more.
Also known as “suicide” or “brodie knobs,” these steering wheel fixtures — which facilitated one-handed steering — were popular with the hot rod set in the 1950s, long after falling out of favor with the general motoring public. A multitude of these knobs — everything from the classic ergonomically-friendly wooden knob to chrome skulls and eight-balls — have since flooded the collector market. While most tend to go for a fairly reasonable amount (eBay bidding typically starts in the neighborhood of $20), some of the rarer and more ornate knobs can go for $50 to $100 — amazing considering the knob’s original purpose and function. As with any collectible, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, even those little electric current delivery systems are seen as collectible — to the right person, of course. Antique spark plugs of certain brands or vintage (and in very good to excellent condition) have sold for several hundred dollars —each! For example, an original Hedstrom spark plug for an Indian motorcycle was recently listed on eBay at a starting price of $279. Unusual plugs — in their original boxes — from defunct companies such as Hastings, Splitdorf, and Bethlehem often demand surprising sums.
Originally designed with function ruling over form, radiator caps gradually morphed into the much more aesthetically appealing (and now often incredibly pricey) hood ornaments. A run-of-the-mill radiator cap won’t require you to cash in your kid’s college fund; however, they can be just as collectible as the some of the highly-stylized hood ornaments we featured in February’s article titled “Sex, Lies & Dancing Elephants”.
So what do you collect? Old license plates? Owner’s manuals or old car catalogs? Tell us about your favorite collectible in the comments section below. Or head over to the HVA’s Facebook page where you can upload a photograph and see what other HVA members are collecting.