AUTOMOBILIA OR MEMORABILIA

BY ANDREW FRANCIS,

DIRECTOR, THE SIGNATURE STORE

Now this is a topic that often confuses, so let’s have a crack at setting some definitions between what constitutes memorabilia and automobilia.

 

It’s actually quite a hard to define, seeing as both markets share a lot of crossover points, but there’s definitely some big distinctions to be made between the two. First off, let’s look at something like football collectibles. Items like team shirts, posters, trophies, boots - all qualify as memorabilia – they are items to do with the living history of the sport.

 

For automobilia, these are items associated with the history of motoring, such as retro fuel pumps, signage, car parts, garage equipment, badges or even the Spirit of Ecstasy off the front of a Rolls Royce.

 

So, what exactly do we at Signature Store deal in? Simple, we trade ‘Motor Racing Automobilia’, which is sort of a third area that straddles the two segments. Items associated with the history of the sport of motor racing, motoring and motor racing history. That can also include collectibles – like posters or models that were not used for the actual event, but created because of it. Buyers are almost always fans of the sport, rather than just those out to find something motoring-themed or decorative.

 

Collectors of motor racing automobilia usually hunt for specific items, and it can be very niche – from trophies, event programmes, helmets, autographs, rare books, models etc. Often many of these items are found in incredibly low numbers and can be valuable. If somebody finds a trophy their grandfather won in the TT at Goodwood in the 1950s, then that’s a true one-of-a-kind, museum piece collectors’ item – possibly not valuable in monetary terms, but priceless as a record of the event; it might be classed as Memorabilia, or Automobilia, or both!

 

Some items (such as rare bonnet ornaments) could even be categorized as ‘decorative art’ and can fetch thousands of pounds at auction, but it doesn’t tend to be such an accessible or progressive market as motor racing automobilia, those items are from a fixed period in time, and there’s a lot less crossover in markets for buyers than you’d think.

 

We don’t get involved in bonnet badges, old fuel cans or dealership signs - like you see on TV shows like Salvage Hunters or American Pickers. Items like that are great, but they’re generally decorative, like wall art – something to pep up a bar, restaurant or man/woman cave, or something you’d see in a museum as a part of motoring history. The core of our market is collectibles, but also wall art, models, helmets and books but also ‘race used’ items that have seen action on the track.

 

I hope that’s cleared some of the confusion up. Now where’s that fuel churn used by Lotus at Aintree in 1964 signed by Jim Clark, that later spent decades in a Lotus dealership window… and who can tell what category that falls into?

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Automobilia or memorabilia..?

BY ANDREW FRANCIS,

DIRECTOR, THE SIGNATURE STORE

ARTICLE FIRST PUBLISHED, DECEMBER 2021, MOTORSPORT MAGAZINE