What do you get for the car enthusiast who already has everything (yourself included)? It can be hard to find automotive memorabilia that’s not: 1) a car, 2) expensive, or 3) tacky. RM Sotheby’s, though, is hosting a week-long auction to sell off a collection of old automobile mascots and hood ornaments. It’s a great place to get your hands on some cool—and unique—pieces of history.
The Mascots of Motoring Distinction auction only runs until October 21, 2020, with certain lots closing at staggered times on the 21st, so this isn’t exactly something you’ll want to wait on. There are 50 lots selling mascot items from as far back as 1915 and as recently as 1956.
Back in the day, every car needed a mascot, in part because there were far more auto manufacturers in the United States than there are now—as in, upwards of 1,500 car makers making 3,000 different cars. A lot of those automakers consolidated their efforts, teaming up or buying one another out. Others went out of business after the Great Depression or the World Wars.
The best way to distinguish cars at the time was the automobile mascot, which started out as a radiator cap in the early 20th century. These were little works of art that usually tied into some aspect of the car itself or a larger goal of the automaker. You’ve probably seen lots of birds or stylized wings (which represent swift flight) and graceful-looking ladies or goddesses (which represent beauty and manufacturing elegance).
Then, there are the Willys mascots, one of which is a knight to represent the charge into battle. As we head into the 1930s, there are a lot of abstract art deco shapes that are ultimately designed to look fast.
The RM Sotheby’s auction is worth scrolling through, if only to peek around at the selection and check out an abbreviated version of automotive styling language.
Right now, many of the items still have relatively low bids and low expected final selling prices. The highest expected price is $900, but most things fall into the $300-400 range.