While predecessors to what we know as today’s automobile were being developed as early as the 1600s, the first modern automobile with an internal combustion engine was produced by Karl Benz in 1888. Ever since, many folks have had a love affair with cars and just about everything related to them. Today, we call that field of collecting “automobilia.”
Automobilia includes anything from interesting antique or vintage parts and accessories to things such as early road maps, racing flags, racecar driver mementos and ephemera. That said, a taillight from your 2003 Ford Escort would fall into the category of second-hand parts as opposed to being a collectible.
Valuing old car parts
With regard to parts, anything from the 1980s or earlier may be desirable to someone. The most desirable parts will be for the oldest, rarest and most interesting cars, but almost any part can be of value. Most collectors are not searching for parts for vehicle restoration, but rather to display as collectible items on their own. The more interesting items for collecting include hood ornaments, steering wheels, manufacturers’ insignias, plates and tags, dashboard gauges and clocks, shifter knobs, grills, and other accessories that tend to display well in groups.
What is vehicle ephemera?
Automobile-related ephemera is another popular area of collectability. Posters, old automobile advertising, original glove box manuals and repair guides are very popular, as are many other paper items related to this category. Old photographs featuring cars are particularly popular for many collectors. The most sought after are those pictures that show details that are of interest to restorers and history buffs.
Miscellaneous automobile artifacts
Racing-related artifacts are also popular items because car racing is popular among some collectors. This category can include model race cars, trophies, driver autograph items, clothing, ticket stubs and the like. Items from important historic races or related to famous drivers are in highest demand.
Clean it up, but don’t try to fix it
Condition is important to collectors of automobilia. It’s okay to clean grease and dirt off of parts (no one wants to get filthy examining your collectible), but don’t attempt to fix or remove paint no matter what shape an item is in. Examples of automobilia are usually found in the garage or basement where environmental conditions can take their toll. If you have any such items, clean them and move them into a climate-controlled area to preserve their value.
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