GarageLove: Five Things Car Guys Can Collect

GarageLove: Five Car Things Anyone Can Collect

by Per Schroeder

Thanks to collector auction craze and the inevitable glut of reality shows about it, the market for classic cars has become very volatile. Many enthusiasts have been priced out of the market as values of even the rattiest of project cars skyrocket. The early Porsche 911s are the latest beneficiary—victim—of this trend, with values increasing 50 to 100 percent within the last year.

If you are like many enthusiasts in the buyer’s market, this isn’t a good thing, and may have priced you out of your dream car. While you’re waiting for potential bubbles to burst and the market to possibly self-correct, here are five things you can buy and sell to scratch the itch of desire for the car you really want. You can even make a few bucks here and there by buying and selling these items smartly. Here are five car collectibles I always keep on the lookout for:


Scale Models are an easy way to get into the scene. They are small, look cool and don’t take up a lot of garage space. Your shelves, however, will start to look like Jay Leno’s Garage. Collectible models can range from toy-grade Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars all the way up to working models that run on fuel. Vintage toys are always hot as enthusiasts try to recapture their youth.


Who couldn't use a 1:24 scale Honda Z600 Coupe in their cubicle at work? 

If you’re looking for deals in scale sports cars, try going to a traditional American hotrod show and perusing the stalls of their toy dealers. The dealers there will have a hard time unloading the foreign stuff and as a result, there are deals to be had. Other traditional places to find collectible toys are at general hobby shows, as well as neighborhood garage sales. Keep your eyes open—they’re small!


Older tin toys bring real money, but typically only if they are in good condition.

I especially like dealer promotional models, as they are typically more accurate than mere toys. They also came in a variety of color combinations and models—even the plain-jane trims of popular cars got scale versions. Promotional models were largely phased out by car companies in the 1980s, but you can still find them around at shows and online.

Toys are best found in new or unrestored states, as their values quickly decrease if they’ve been worn or repainted. Original packaging is also desirable but comes at a premium. You’ll see things as marked as NIB (new in box) or MIMB (mint in mint box) and those terms usually go along with high price tags.

Tool Kits

Before car manufacturers took away our spare tires, they took away the useful tool kits that could actually help you fix your car on the side of the road. Wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and even spare fan belts were common things to find in the trunk-mounted satchels or fabric pouches.


Tool kits are handy to have and good to collect.  There's a lot of variation in tools that came with cars, so it's a little like archaeology figuring out what's proper for your car.  

Complete tool kits can be hard to find as they often just go along with the car when it is eventually junked—and by the time you find the in the junkyard, the tools are long gone. Fleamarkets, especially the ones that look like a third-world markets, usually have one or two vendors that just sell used tools. We look for combination open-end wrenches (10/13, 8/10, 12/14 and so on) that were made in Germany. Those handy fellows were often used by the European manufacturers and can work for a variety of kits.


Old Porsche tool kits were very well equipped with gaskets, spark plugs and even valves! 

Used tools can be bead blasted or tumble polished to remove any corrosion and then they can be refinished (usually silver zinc or yellow cadmium plating) for that New-Old Stock look and can bring good money at your next swap meet.

Sales and Service Literature

New car dealers have mostly forsaken the traditional yearly sales brochure. The Internet has replaced these the majority of these give-aways with a much cheaper and easily updated online documents and webpages.

You can look for car brochures at fleamarkets and swap meets or online easily enough. Condition is important as brochures are easily damaged, but they were typically printed in high enough numbers that mint examples are not too hard to find.

Service manuals are also fun to have but they are considerably more expensive than a single brochure. These books and binders are what the car manufacturers gave their service dealers for repair guides and also offered for sale to the public. Service manuals are more than just a collectible, they are also very useful for enthusiasts and restorers alike. Put some on your shelves.




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