Motoring collectors items



Motoring art has captured the imagination of collectors since the first automobile took to the road. It is a fascinating subject covering many areas of collecting including literature, printed ephemera such as sales brochures, magazines, postcards, race programmes, photographs, mascots and badges, bronzes and trophies, pictures, posters and prints, brass acetylene and electric lamps, other accessories, tinplate toys, pedal cars and garage display fittings. There are many sources for collectors such as auto-jumbles, specialist dealers and auction rooms. Prices vary considerably, but in common with most collecting fields it offers plenty of scope for an interesting collection to be built up for a modest outlay. Most people tend to concentrate on collecting a particular category of different items on one theme. In order to give the reader an overall picture of the subject we will look at those items he is likely to encounter and give a guide to prices.

There are literally thousands of different books available and accounts of motor races and drivers are in great demand. Prince Chula of Siam wrote a number for private circulation including Wheels at Speed, Road Racing 1936 and Road Star Hat Trick. Copies signed by the author, which seem to be the majority, realise £60 to £80 each. Barre Lyndon’s Combat, published in 1933 can make as much as £140 for a singed limited edition and between £30 and £40 for the first edition. Other limited-edition books which are sought after include Eden Hooper’s The Motor Car 1908 (£300 – £350), The British Racing Drivers Club Silver Jubilee Book 1952 (£70 – £100), F Loiseau’s Le Pur Sang de L’Automobile with colour plates by O Fabres circa 1930 (£500 – £700), J C Bell Aigue’s Coup de Volant (£600 – £700) and H O Duncan’s World on Wheels circa 1913 (£200 – £300). Rare booklets such as The Hat Trick, about Bentley’s racing success at Le Mans in 1929, have sold for as much as £240, and a publicity brochure for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1935 recently made £200 at auction. Race programmes from between the wars are worth on average £20 to £30 each. Magazines and periodicals are popular with literature collectors. A complete run of Motor Sport from 1924 to 1980, which includes the extremely rare volume five consisting of only three issues, would sell for £5,000 to £8,000. A complete run of Autosport from 1950 to date would be worth about £1,500. Speed, published from 1935 to 1939 is worth £500 to £600 if complete. Pre-war issues of Motor and Autocar can be worth up to £20 each. Other examples of prices include Automobile Year 1953 to 1980 worth around £600 and Autocourse Volumes 1 to 10, 1961 to 1967 for about £2,000.

Decorative mascots have been in use since the early 1900s and have taken many varied forms of glass, bronze, brass, steel and wood. One of the first mascots to be produced in great numbers for only one make of motor car was the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy. Charles Sykes was commissioned in 1911 after an introduction from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to design a mascot which would reflect the grace and elegance of the Rolls-Royce motor car. These mascots, which were produced in a surprising range of sizes over the years, can vary in price from £500 for an early example to £150 for a mascot from a Phantom II. The Hispano Suiza Cigogne Volante mascot has, like the Spirit of Ecstasy, a unique design. It was based on the emblem of the famous ace La Cigogne Squadron of World War 1 whose Hispano Suiza-powered aircraft were painted with a stork. The mascots, sculpted by F Bazin, now sell for between £500 and £1,000. Bentley, Minerva, Mercedes, Alvis and many other marques all produced exclusive mascots. Most of these are fairly common and range in price from £200 to £400. An exception is the Bentley winged B with outstretched horizontal wings produced for the 4-, 4-1/2, 6-1/2 and 8-litre models which is now worth around £1,000. Marque-related mascots represent only a small proportion of those available. Companies such as Desmo and Louis Lejeune produced an enormous range of popular mascots including dogs, horses, aeroplanes and sportsmen. Most of these sell for between £200 and £400. Other popular mascots produced in large numbers were speed nymphs and Old Bill, based on the World War 1 cartoon character created by Bruce Bairnsfather. The most valuable mascots are those of glass produced by Rene Lalique in the 1920s and 1930s. Some took the form of etched plaques including an archer, St Christopher and a greyhound, and others were figures of animals, birds, fish and insects. In addition to these are two entitled Vitesse and Victoire modelled as a female nude figure and a stylised girl’s head with flowing hair. Other makers of similar glass mascots were Sabino and Red Ashay, which are still sought after although they do not command such high prices as Lalique. Badges, like mascots were also produced in very large numbers. The Royal Automobile Club and Automobile Association badges are the most common in the United Kingdom. Early versions of these made of brass and sometimes nickel-plated can be worth as much as £300. Club badges are also popular; the Brooklands Flying Club, later know as the Aero Club, would sell for around £700.

In the field of motoring art, Frederick Gordon Crosby was very prolific from about 1920 to 1945. During this period he worked for The Autocar magazine, attending race meetings throughout the world to capture the excitement of motor racing for the journal’s readers. His trackside sketching nearly brought him injury. He was often seen running away from racing cars which had left the track at great speed. These drawings would then appear in the following issue and afterwards would often be used as the basis for watercolour and oil paintings commissioned by drivers. His great rival was Bryan de Grineau who worked for The Motor. Their work has now become very collectable and can sell from £1,500 for a charcoal sketch to £4,000 for a good early Crosby watercolour. Other artists whose work is sought include Roy Nockolds, Michael Turner, Michael Wright and Dexter Brown.

Edouard Montaut was famous for his lithographs of early motor racing events. His first pictures appeared in the mid 1890s, and by 1897 he was embarking on an ambitious programme of chronicling the racing events of France. After Montaut was well established, other artists such as Campion and Nevil produced similar work. All these lithographs were published by Mablieau et Cie, Paris, measuring 43cm x 86.5cm, and the last date to appear on any of these was 1913. No check-list of Montaut’s work is known to exist, although in 1907 he produced an elaborate catalogue entitled 10 Ans des Courses, Les Marques Victorieuses 1897 – 1907 which consists of 31 prints in miniature and is now worth between £800 and £1,200.

The earliest posters of motor cars and motor races were produced by the F`rench, although in 1899 a poster was published to advertise the Automobile Club show in the Old Deer Park, Richmond. Famous early French poster artists included Jules Cheret, better known at that time for his theatrical designs, Georges Gaudy, Mich, George Rochesgrosse, J L Forain, Emile Sevelinge, Eugene Grasset and Noel Dorville. Examples by these artists included advertisements for such manufacturers as Mors, de Dion Bouton, Peugeot, Monet-Goyon and Michelin, as well as for motor shows and races. These now command between £200 and £1,000. It is interesting to note that French posters from the 1890s are easier to find than those produced in the 1920s and 1930s. This is due to the great interest at that time in France in the invention of the motor car after the war interest waned. As a result, many examples can be found in the Paris flea markets and salerooms. The early posters were greatly influenced by the imagination of their artists and often depicted ghostly spirits drawing the motor car along to give an impression of speed. Accurate representations of motor cars did not really appear until around 1905 when the design of vehicles became more consistent and less liable to change. By the 1920s, Art Deco strongly influenced motoring posters. Artists such as Rene Vincent, Charles Loupot, Geo Ham, Falcucci, Ashley Havinden, E McKnight Kauffer, Zero, A M Cassandre and Paul Nash were producing designs for Bugatti, Peugeot, Amilcar, Michelin, Shell and Grand Prix races.

It would be impossible in such a short article to include everything, but the following includes other collectable items. Early brass acetylene and electric lighting equipment by Lucas, Powell & Hanmer, Bleriot, Cuceiller, Rushmore and other makers can sell for between £200 and £1,000 for a complete set in good condition. Brass and nickel-plated boa-constrictor horns can sell for up to £700. Other valuable accessories include mirrors, Auster screens, fitted luggage, picnic services, motor clothing and instruments such as the Eliot double header. This is a speedometer and maximum-speed indicator often fitted to Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts and is worth up to £1,500. Tinplate toys have now become very sought after, particularly those by Bing, Carette and Marklin, most of which sell for over £1,000.

Another area of increasing popularity are garage display fittings and associated motoring products ranging from decorative enamel advertising signs to petrol pumps and glass globes, illuminated hanging signs, cans and packaging for oil and petrol. Prices for enamel signs are in the region of £50 to £150 for non-pictorial examples and up to £600 for pictorial designs. Petrol pump globes can be bought for £100 to £200 each and you would expect to pay around £15 to £20 for a 1920s Shell can in good condition.