Collecting motoring memorabilia - anything from mascots and badges to headlights and horns - is one of the fastest growing hobbies today.


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 Collecting motoring memorabilia - anything from mascots and badges to headlights and horns - is one of the fastest growing hobbies today.

 The first internal combustion engine spluttered into life in 1885, so some of the earliest automobilia is genuinely antique. But all items from the period prior to World War 1 have something of a classic status for the enthusiastic collector. Many enthusiasts have also formed fascinating collections of accessories from the inter-war years.

 Before 1900, motorists rarely drove at night because of the unreliability of their vehicles.  The candle powered carriage lamps attached to these first cars were only intended for getting the car home after dark in the event of a break down.  Lighting systems gradually became efficient but they were not standardized so there are many interesting variations . The variety of fuel systems included candles, oil, acetylene gas and, from about 1900, electricity.

 Motorists delighted in personalizing their vehicles by attaching mascots ranging from soft toys to brass ornaments. Manufacturers soon began to produce mascots specifically designed for their own cars. From about 1905 some well-designed mascots began to appear, as well as a good deal of junk.

The first manufacturer's mascot was made in 1903 by the Vulcan Motor Company and represented Vulcan the Blacksmith.  Before 1914 motorists preferred to choose their own mascots and these appear regularly at auction.

 Before 1914 Rolls Royce mascots were often silver plated; nickel plating was used until the late 1 920s. Replating, damage or bending will reduce the value of these mascots considerably. Beware of fakes.

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 The Automobile Club, founded in 1897 by F R Simms, became the Royal Automobile Club in 1907, when Edward VII agreed to become its patron. The RAC produced badges to attach to the car, as did the Automobile Association, which was started in 1906. These metal badges and the makers' name badges are usually grouped with mascots as an area for collecting, and can produce an extremely effective display, perhaps in a wall-mounted case.

 Other items of early hardware that are of interest to collectors include petrol cans, radiator caps, petrol pump globes and dashboard instruments such as speedometers, clocks and horns. All are solidly made and evoke the excitement of those early days of motoring.

 Although many collectors specialize in the hardware petrol cans, badges, mascots and so on the field of motoring memorabilia encompasses a vast range of items from maps to driving gloves. Anything associated with the motor vehicle from its earliest days to the present can form part of a collection.


 Car meets are good opportunities to buy accessories and to examine unfamiliar items. It is always interesting to see lamps and other equipment fixed to a vehicle in the way that was intended. There are a number of car owners club that produce newsletters, hold meetings and organize sales of spares.

 Before 1914, headlamps were not always sold as pairs. Today's collectors, however, greatly prefer pairs, and single examples may be bought for a quarter of what a pair will fetch.


 Vintage cars usually also had side and rear lamps, which were often oil-powered. These 'opera' lamps had red, blue and sometime green glass, and were used as courtesy light for passengers getting out at the theatre. The front and side glass of oil lamps is often hand-cut and is finished in a surround of nickel plate or brass.

 A pair of Lucas's 'King of the Road' headlamps will fetch four figures, while a single Powell & Hanmer can be had for rather less. Oil lamps tend to be somewhat cheaper.

 The original AA badge, the 'Stenson Cook', has the signature of the first secretary of the Association embossed on the bracket, and is highly collectable. However, you do need to examine each one carefully, as this budge has been reproduced recently. Look for a patina on the brass that only age can bring.




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