Curious Collectibles

by: John R. Paul

July 17, 2012

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.

Oil Cans

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.

Necker Knobs

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.

Spark Plugs

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.

Radiator Caps

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.

 

Comments

  1. Steve Warners Hudsonville, Michigan

    I collect the bi-centennial license plates from all the states that offered them. Alaska and Hawaii were kind of tough to locate.

  2. Rhonda Michigan

    KEYCHAINS! Every car driver needs something to put their key on, right? I collect keychains - own thousands of them. Of particular interest to me are the automotive / gasoline / oil related ones; particularly for orphan brands. They're fabulous, and I'll be happy to take any that are unwanted. :)

  3. D. Dean Suhr Tucson, Arizona

    I have a Visable Gas Pump mounted in front of my Shop/Garage, which I restored to "Flying A" brand, and also collect other Flying A stuff. My second compulsion is Sparkplugs with 1/2 inch pipe thread only. I have over 50 rare and unusual, including several with primer cups for priming a single cylinder engine.

  4. D. Yaros Milwaukee, WI

    I collect automobile company employee badges; preferably now defunct companies such as REO, Oldsmobile, Studebaker, Willys, American Motors. etc.Read Car Collector Chronicles online, for free, at - http://www.scribd.com/people/view/7936333-dave

  5. TOM GARD SMITHS GROVE, KY

    I'M '69 YEARS OLD AND HAVE MY GRANDFATHER'S LICENSE PLATE COLLECTION, INCLUDING AN ALASKA BI-CENTENNIAL

  6. Ron McLeod Birmingham Michigan

    How do I find out the value of a 60's mobil gold oil can and a XKE Jaguar 1970-71 spark plug in it's original box unopened?

  7. Ron McLeod Birmingham Michigan

    How do I find out the value of a 60's mobil gold oil can and a XKE Jaguar 1970-71 spark plug in it's original box unopened?

  8. RIMSPOKE NORTH CAROLINA

    I COLLECT LICENSE PLATES . THE ODDER & OLDER THE BETTER ! I HAVE ALL 50 STATES & 7 US TERRITORIES . I HAVE ONE FROM ALMOST EVERY YEAR FROM 1905 UP . THE PORCELAIN ONES ARE GREAT AND I LOVE ODD BALL STUFF LIKE MY 1910 NY PLATE WITH RIVETED ON NUMBERS OR THE 1913 ILLINOIS PLATE WITH BACKGROUND CUT AWAY TO FORM THE NUMBERS . THE WARTIME SOYBOARD PLATES ARE PRETTY COOL TOO . I HAVE A FEW BICENTENIAL PLATES BUT THAT ISN'T THE POINT . I AM GOING FOR COMPREHENSIVE VARIETY .

  9. Ken Alaska

    I dont know if the plates you guys are talking about are Bi-Centennial or Centennial Plates (with "The Alaska Goldrush" on top of them.) I own several Centennial plates. These were issued in the 90's and quit (i think) 2007 2008. I do collect Ak plates but dont know alot about them. I have 6 of them2 matching set and 2 singles. Both brand new...one set even still in bag. I also have a 1961 Alaska plate. And one of what we call "The Bear plate" from 70's Which might be the plate you are looking for...i just noticed there is a 76 on top right corner. Then there's the 1867/1967 plates. I own 2 of them (brand new - not a set - but consecutive numbered) I collect License plates but never known alot about them.

  10. Stephen thomas bahama,nc

    I'm 65 my father was a ESSO field rep , i collect Esso /Mobil signs,old oil cans, gifts and anything with the logo.

  11. Russ Vollmer Long Island, NY

    How about old oil company road maps that the gas stations used to give away? I have a number of them, which I just never threw out, with no particualar thought of collecting them, but I'll bet others do. One of them is a 1936 Esso road map that my parents had from a trip they took back then.

  12. Skip Maple Valley, Wa.

    I collect items used around gas stations. Vacuum cleaners, paper towel dispensers, oil and gas cans, restroom signs. Gas station promotional items.

  13. Wayne Leithner Ormond Beach, FL

    I collect a variety of auto and garage related items including license plates, grill badges, oil cans, and vintage shop cabinets and racks that have advertising on them. A Gulf No-Nox pump from the '60s and a functioning traffic light add to the automotive nostalgia of my oversized two car garage. I love this stuff!

  14. Tim Drew Bangor, Maine

    I collect Quart oil glass bottles and oil cans. I also collect Ford Model T and Model A tool kits, tire pumps, jacks, and air pressure gauges. Very relaxing finding and collecting anything gas station related.

  15. GARY JOHNSON MIAMI, FLORIDA

    I COLLECT 1/18 DIECAST CARS. IT STARTED WHEN I WAS THINKING ABOUT CARS OF THE FIFTIES AND SIXTIES. I FEEL THAT THOSE CARS HAD MORE PERSONALITY THAN ANYTHING PRODUCED TODAY. IT SEEMS THAT NOW THEY ALL LOOK LIKE JAPANESE CARS AND LIKE EACH OTHER. IHAVE OVER 200 CARS AND SOMETIMES I'LL JUST SIT AND LOOK AT THEM. WHILE DREAMING OF THE OLD DAYS.

  16. Erving C. Johnson Ludington, Michigan

    So muchfun to read what people collect. I collect anything automotive, but especially NASCAR stuff and Oldsmobile stuff. I have over 150 hat pins of which about 75 are Olds ones, over 500 cups and trqavel mugs advertising almost anything, about 300 licence plates, about 150 Ricky Rudd stuff, 500 keys for you name it, 200 key chainss, two gas pumps, a traffic light that works, lighted gas station signs, and last but not least, my mothers collection of tea pots and salt and pepper shaker sets. There is probably more, but you get the idea. It is a bad but fun habit to have.

  17. ancil george bell United States

    i have old oil cans,and some old car parts, i have had most of my life, some in good shape,some not so good shape. are you insterested in buying.

  18. champ champs 阿根廷

    El jueves volvía de un viaje, Gafas Ray Ban se había hecho un poco tarde y eso que no me gusta conducir de noche pero me encontraba a gusto y tuve ganas Gafas Sol 2012 Outlet Baratas de vencer al reloj.

  19. scot c st.louis, missouri

    ~ Gary Wales has an unbelievable collection of vintage and classic motoring badges. brass, silver, gold, enamel, cloisonné, cast, sculpted. brands, clubs & organizations, events, over the entire history of the automobile and from every imaginable geographic vicinity. find it on youtube; http://youtu.be/PtkAtAOBq4A and http://youtu.be/qSCp4U6Mn4w as he presents the displays his passion for them glows through the words.

  20. scot c st.louis, missouri

    ~ Gary Wales has an unbelievable collection of vintage and classic motoring badges. brass, silver, gold, enamel, cloisonné, cast, sculpted. brands, clubs & organizations, events, over the entire history of the automobile and from every imaginable geographic vicinity. find it on youtube; http://youtu.be/PtkAtAOBq4A and http://youtu.be/qSCp4U6Mn4w as he presents the displays his passion for them glows through the words.

  21. Horst Brüning Sweden

    I have been collecting car club badges for some 40 years and have around 500 plus patches,stickers and other car related regalia

  22. Horst Brüning Sweden

    I have been collecting car club badges for some 40 years and have around 500 plus patches,stickers and other car related regalia

  23. J. Antonson Salem, Oregon

    I have been collecting Oregon Farm and Truck plates, but also have a fair amount of car plates mostly from Oregon. I have a couple interesting plates from Thailand and an Armed Forces in Germany Plate (1954).

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