Sept/Oct 2018 edition
Issue #1 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
My badge collecting started in the late 1980s by purchasing a Porsche 100K badge at what was then an exorbitant amount. These were issued by the Porsche factory to congratulate owners on reaching 100,000 km of safe and trouble free driving. Mercedes-Benz and Volks- wagen issued similar badges.
My collecting really got going sometime in 1997 when I purchased several items from a party in Germany. As part of the package there was a handful of late 50s automotive event badges. Owning a ’58 and a ’59 Porsche, I thought these would add a nice touch to my cars. That was the end of it for about 6-7 months....until I was contacted again by the same party. He had just acquired a collection. Was I interested in a list? “Sure” I replied off-handedly. Shortly thereafter, the images started to pour into my e-mail inbox.
Ultimately, I would send a large donation to the party’s vacation fund, and in turn receive a box with about 80 badges! These spanned from mid-1950s to late 60s. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to the market potential for badges as I almost never saw them at the shows. A few months later at the L.A. Lit & Toy Show I had a very good day of selling. Hmmm… maybe there’s a market after all? I’ll share some observations I’ve made in the course of handling upwards of 1,200 badges over the past nearly 20 years.
Although auto related badges may be as old as the automobile itself, most of my writing will highlight the post WW II era. A future column will discuss pre-WW II badges.
For those not familiar with car badges, they were used to commemorate rallies, hill climbs, wine tours, flower shows, festivals such as Oktoberfest, Veteran car shows, Concours de’Elegance, and more. Other events lost to history include Fox and Hound chases, Night Orientation rallies and Economy runs. One of the badges in my collection even commemorates a Soapbox Derby!
Auto badges are miniature works of art used to display your fine taste in how you spend your free time. Designs run the gamut from plain to quite ornate. In all instances the craftsmanship is old world in a manner seldom seen today. Event badges, as opposed to club or venue badges, were never for sale to the public. They were issued only to the participants of that event. Further, in the case of competitive events, it seems there were additional pieces. I have badges with gold, silver or bronze wreaths added to the basic design to indicate first, second and third place respectively. Sometimes these were in a presentation case and not drilled for mounting.
Some race tracks offered souvenir badges for sale at their gift shops. Interestingly with Nurburgring, there was a kiosk with their badges at the gas station across the street from the track. Club badges were somewhat generic date wise. They most likely required club membership, but beyond that were generally available. Most badges showing up on the secondary market today are in mint condition. This makes sense. After all, how many can you mount on a given car? If you did any amount of driving at all these little gems were going to pile up in a hurry. I have a client who specializes in badges from 1960. In a conversation with him several years ago I inquired as to the size of his collection. His answer ? “…about 240.”
Many badges come to me mounted on small wooden plaques. This can facilitate easy display and provide the option to rotate your prizes if you have limited space. If you’re starting to see a pattern regarding event badges my experience indicates that Germany and, to a lesser degree Austria, was pretty much the center of the universe. For those thinking of starting a collection expect to pay $50 to $75 on the low end, and $400 to $500 on the upper end, generally speaking.
Future columns will discuss the variables which drive price as well as highlight badges from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I’ll offer opinions on the pitfalls and pointers of how to start or build your collection.
To read more great columns like this one from car badge expert Jerry Haussler...
Jerry Haussler knows almost everything you need to know about buying, selling, collecting and trading grille badges. Jerry has been doing it for over 20 years and he shares his knowledge with us. He's also the owner of Rallye Badge.