Collector's Corner: Automobilia - Hood Ornaments and Mascots
By Michele Alice
Hood ornaments and mascots? No, we're not talking costumed cheerleaders here. Instead, we've entered the world of automobilia, a broad category encompassing everything from magazine ads, restroom signs, picnic sets, and road maps to oil cans, steering wheels, and gas pumps! In other words, just about anything at all associated with the automobile is ripe for collecting.
Hood ornaments are especially sought after by collectors around the world, not just as examples of company logos, but as sculptural works of art. This is especially true of mascots, which in the early years of the automobile were often attached to radiator caps.
The terms "hood ornament" and "mascot" are somewhat interchangeable, though "mascot" seems to be favored in Great Britain and Europe, while here in the States it is used more often to designate those highly detailed, pre-WWII pieces depicting living things like birds, insects, and people. Buick's 1931 figure of Mercury and the 1935 Dodge ram are examples of "factory mascots" - officially produced figures as opposed to "accessory mascots" - what we would term "after-market" pieces. Many of these sometimes one-of-a-kind accessory ornaments were made by fine jewelers, artists, or craftsmen and are considered as much or more collectible than the factory pieces.
Most ornaments were made of nickel or chrome-plated zinc, but there are many examples in brass, bronze, glass, pewter, and polished aluminum. These materials are prone to denting, corrosion and pitting, so when examples in very good, or better, condition appear on the market, they usually demand a premium, especially if they are accompanied by any original tags or packaging in the case of accessory ornaments.
The 29 glass mascots by Rene Lalique are probably the best known ornaments today, and are among the most valuable, with mint examples selling for several thousands of dollars each. Designed for Citroens, Bugattis, Bentleys, and others, the 29 glass mascots were manufactured in a number of variations, with tinted and colored examples being the rarest. Collectors today spend their lives searching for perfect (un-chipped) specimens, and, unfortunately, the rarity of Lalique pieces has led to a spate of fakes and forgeries.
Most collectors, of course, cannot afford Lalique, but there are so many other interesting and beautifully designed ornaments that it is not impossible to form a fairly large collection on almost any budget. One collector might seek out a specific automaker or period, while another might concentrate on an animal, material, or design, and there are always a number of ornaments up for auction online at any one time, with final bids ranging from just a few dollars for the more common specimens, on up.
Like the figureheads on the prows of ships, hood ornaments and mascots proudly preceded the automobiles to which they were attached, and collectors have come to appreciate their beauty, design, and rarity. If you would like to learn more about this popular collectible, the following resources are recommended:
"The Automotive Mascot A Design in Motion Volume I The Early Years," by James R. Colwill
"Automotive Mascots: A Collector's Guide to British Marque, Corporate & Accessory Mascots," by David Kay, Lynda Springate
"Brightwork: Classic American Car Ornamentation," by Ken Steacy
"Hood Ornaments," by Rob Leicester Wagner
"U.S. Hood Ornaments and More," by Lynn Huntsburger
Automobile Figural Mascots
Hundreds of detailed photos help identification. Nicely arranged.
Finesse Fine Art
Tony Wraight's terrific site focuses on Rene Lalique - articles, pics, more!
Hood Ornament and Car Mascot, 1933-1966
A cornucopia of information and photos of some 500 US hood ornaments from the "Streamline to the Jet Age". Beautifully designed site.
This comprehensive site covers everything from manufactures to mascots to links - RECOMMEND!
This site has been included as an example of what is available "after-market" today.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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