THE GENERATION GAME

BY ANDREW FRANCIS,

DIRECTOR, THE SIGNATURE STORE

How do you compare drivers of different eras? Is it even possible? There were so many different variables that separate the birth of racing itself, Formula 1, and the sport we have now. And the same can be said for the collectibles coming from each of those eras.

 

We see three distinct spans here: ‘vintage’ (pre-WW2), ‘classic’ (the birth of F1 in the 1950s through to the 1990s) and then the ‘modern’ era. Each era is interesting in its own way. Take vintage collectibles for example. Any original items from the time of Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola and such are incredibly rare. We’re talking about a period where there were only a handful of events, drivers owned their own kit (and sometimes their cars too) and merchandise was yet to be invented.

 

That all sounds like a recipe for big-ticket museum-piece items, but actually the hunger for this period has diminished, now it’s a specialist collectors market or museums that want to tell the story of the birth of motor racing.

 

The classic, in living memory, period is more accessible. Collectibles from F1’s early years can be rare and expensive, but from the 1970s we start to see merchandise arriving along with big sponsors and drivers like Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve and James Hunt. Items from that period are very collectible at the moment; and many can be a good investment. Collectors are the TV generation that have grown up and now have the income to own a piece of their past and relive the memories of the boyhood hero they met in the paddock.

 

The modern era collectible market is harder to predict. The market is very strong for the 90s to noughties drivers like Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen, but with only six World Champions in the last 20 years the teams have turned taken control of their merchandise factories and licencing rights, with many drivers embracing the digital, social marketing age and opening their own shops with their own range of merchandise.

 

Looking forward, it’s so hard to pick any single area of the contemporary market to tip as an investment hotbed. The half-scale helmet market has emerged in the last ten years and is now big business. Team merchandise is now so prolific, and we live in a far more disposable age. Who knows if the current crop of compeitors will be revered in 20 years’ time in the same way Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna are now?

 

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong if you stick with the golden rule with any collectible; buy something because you like it, not for its investment potential, and enjoy it.

Teams and drivers have taken control of their merchandise

CapZandvoort.jpg

BY ANDREW FRANCIS,

DIRECTOR, THE SIGNATURE STORE

ARTICLE FIRST PUBLISHED, SEPTEMBER 2021, MOTORSPORT MAGAZINE