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Automobilia That’s Free!

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Complementary – and inexpensive – automobilia is everywhere, and oftentimes given to you without you realizing that it’s a potential collectible. The most meaningful pieces of automobilia in my collection are mainly the ones that I got for free. They’re significant, not because they didn’t cost me anything to buy, but because they represent a place I had visited, or a race or car show that I attended. These are the pieces that keep the memories of those events alive for years to come. Here’s just a sampling of some of the “free” automobilia items that make up part of my collection. Click on images for larger view.

One of the most popular promotional items that are given away at trade shows and many street-rod events are koozies. When folded, they don’t take up much space in a display cabinet, and can be stuff in a top-down model car for added display appeal.

The annual winter auto shows are an ideal place to pick up many automobilia items. This pin from Mazda was handed to me by a model at the New York Auto Show.

Pens and Pencils
Another promotional item that car manufacturers give away at auto shows are pens and pencils. I prefer not to use my car pencils, instead I display them in a Goodyear coffee mug.

Christmas Cards
I bought a packet of GTO Christmas cards at a GTOAA convention years ago, and saved a few to include in my collection of automotive-related greeting cards. Although they weren’t free, they were very inexpensive.

I don’t recall where I got this vinyl Corvette pouch, but I liked it so much it immediately went into my display cabinet for safe keeping. I’ve also seen promotional pouches with other manufacturer’s emblems on them.

Plastic Models
In the early years of the New Beetle, Volkswagen had injection molding machines on site at all the major auto shows and gave away these plastic models. Each car model is actually a pencil holder.

Antenna Balls
I picked up this 76 Gasoline antenna ball at their booth during the annual SEMA convention in Las Vegas. NASCAR races are the other venues where promotional items such as these are given away.

Plastic Bags
When visiting Monaco several years ago, I bought a bunch of vintage Grand Prix postcards from a street vendor, which he then handed back to me in this plastic bag. While it may be a peculiar thing to collect, to me it’s a pleasant reminder of a wonderful European vacation. Like they say, the best things in life really are free!

Artsy gift shops, like the one I once walked into in NYC’s Greenwich Village, are a wonderful resource for unique postcards and greeting cards. I found this Delahaye postcard at that shop, which cost me all of 65 cents.

Ticket Stubs
What better way to keep the memory alive of an event that you’ve attended than by preserving the ticket stub from that event. Even after 38 years, my ticket stub from the 1980 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen still looks new. This was the year I sat above the Lotus pit – being close to the great Colin Chapman was an unforgettable experience, which this ticket stub never lets me forget.