By Leigh Knudson
Since you belong to ATHS, you must have some interest in old trucks and their history. But do you have a truck-related interest beyond a vintage truck?
In 2008, Bandag printed a calendar with a truck-related collection or interest each month. There are far more areas of interest that Bandag didn’t cover, but I will use that as a starting point.
- Freight lines jacket patches. We see these at conventions, and there are thousands of different ones. They are easy to collect, and most are moderately priced.
- Road maps. Before GPS, these were mighty important. Some truck manufacturers gave away U.S. atlases, but more important were the state and local maps to get drivers to their destinations.
- Matchbooks. Yes, many of us smoked back then, and many truck dealers, freight lines, and truck stops had a free matchbook to remind you to buy, use, or come back. Check the prices now; they aren’t free anymore. The graphics on some of these are fantastic.
- Diecast truck models are very popular, and I am sure that most of you have at least one or two. Once a pattern is made, an infinite number of paint and logo variations can be produced.
- Petroliana. Gas pumps, service station signage, oil cans, uniforms, tire displays, etc. A whole industry is now making replica signage, and others are marketing the originals.
- Truck emblems. This is an area that interests me. I have shown my emblem collection at five ATHS conventions, at the very least, and talked with numerous members who have collections. My collection is split between North American truck marque emblems and nameplates representing the body builders, trailer manufacturers, and the truck accessory market. The obscure truck make emblems are getting very expensive, but the trailer/body builder’s emblems are still reasonable. If you have any interest in emblems, check out americanautoemblems.com. The gentleman preparing it is doing a masterful job and uses acknowledged authorities for the more common makes.
- Truck company signs. There are two separate types under this category. There are dealer signs and even the near impossible signs off factory buildings. The other group is the freight line trailer, door, and terminal signs.
- Giveaways. Dealers, freight lines, trucking associations, and even OEMs give away ashtrays, playing cards, plates, clocks, thermometers, golf tees, pocketknives, calendars — pretty much anything low cost to remind the patron to “buy.”
- Coffee and mustache cups. I know of one collector with nearly 100 mustache cups relating to trucking. But coffee cups from favorite restaurants or dealers are much easier to acquire.
- Gear shift knobs. I am at a loss here, but apparently there are many variations of gear shift knobs, and they are very collectible.
- Glass paperweights. I have a substantial number of these, but they seem to be getting harder to find. An excellent form of advertising that sat on your office desk.
- Sales literature. Whether it is from your favorite make of truck or just old trucks in general, we all have some, a fair amount, or quite a bit.
- Photos. ATHS has a vast array of trucking photos for sale. We see many others at conventions, eBay, and swap meets. They are available for nearly every truck, so it is just a matter of some serious looking. Photos certainly include current pictures taken at truck shows or just of interesting trucks seen along the highway. Photos can easily be categorized as I collect truck body builder’s photos, White truck photos, and California truck photos. Yes, I have a few more that were so good I couldn’t pass them up.
- Truck line hat badges. There are numerous collectors of these, including two ATHS past presidents. One of the most comprehensive collections is in the Iowa 80 truck museum. There are always some for sale on the internet.
- Smalls. This is a catch-all area. Pins, buttons, watch fobs, safe driver pins, etc., are typically given away at trade shows, dealerships, and by truck company sales personnel or management. They are usually low cost, but when you find pre-WWII watch fobs or truck maker’s pins, they can get fairly pricey.
- Belt buckles. There are so many of these available you could amass a huge collection. Truck makers, freight lines, and even truck stops all offer them. Back a few years, Hook-Fast even sold customized buckles with the wearer’s name.
- Truck manufacturer’s house magazines. Most of the larger truck manufacturers gave out monthly magazines touting their products. Probably the most common were Ford Times; White, The Albatross; GMC, Truck Talk; Mack, The Bulldog; Autocar, Autocar Messenger, and many others.
- Hats and t-shirts. Indeed, lots of different ones are available, and hardly any explanation is needed.
- Trucking magazines. Foremost in this category is the Commercial Car Journal, published continuously since 1911. Many others include Motor Transportation, Go West, Western Motor Transport, The Powerwagon, and many more. Most state and regional trucking associations have a regularly published newsletter or magazine. It would be remiss not to mention the American Truck Historical Society’s Wheels of Time, published since 1980.
- Trucking books. There is a wide range of freight line histories and numerous books about specific makes of trucks. The ones I find most useful are the original “Truck Spotter’s Guide” and the three encyclopedias, though all are out of print.
- Scratch & kit truck models. Not the same as the diecast models, as these take more effort.
- Memories. Standing around sharing with others every truck you ever drove, saw, wanted, or thought about. While this is not a tangible collection, the memories are being collected.
- Friends. Probably the best thing you can collect in life is friends. These other collections will attract like-minded people and certainly enhance your circle of friends. But your friends are what makes life worthwhile.
I am sure there are other collectibles I have overlooked. And I am just as certain that someone collects old tires, used windshield wiper blades, or valve stems, but they are not mainstream collectors. My hope for this article is for ATHS to realize how much more enjoyable our conventions would be if we had many of these collections filling the inside space at the convention. Let’s face it, it rains at almost every convention, and folks need indoor activities to supplement their “tire kicking.”