Written by Barbara Toombs
At any given Barrett-Jackson auction, you’ll inevitably find people gathered in the area where the colorful automobilia items are displayed, reminiscing about something they perhaps once had, or how something reminds them of a special time in their past.
While “automobilia” by definition refers to automobile-related memorabilia, Barrett-Jackson’s offerings in this special category go well beyond that. “It’s not just car-related items we sell,” says Automobilia Director Rory Brinkman. “We sell unique and rare museum-quality pieces that create conversations and enhance a person’s car collection, evoking an era of time gone by, when the cars we now consider classics cruised the streets.”
Two of the highest-selling unusual pieces of automobilia in Barrett-Jackson history did, in fact, have an automotive tie-in: they were magnificent full-size transportation-themed carousels manufactured by Wilhelm Hennecke of Germany. Beautifully constructed with hand-built transportation-related vehicles, the carousels’ stunning colors and design made them truly incredible pieces of mechanical art. One, built in 1957, sold at the 2018 Scottsdale Auction for a jaw-dropping $557,750, while the other (from 1962) had its moment in the spotlight at the 2019 Scottsdale event, bringing in an equally impressive $506,000.
When it comes to repurposing a transportation-related relic, our hat goes off to an incredibly talented craftsman who decided to take a wooden 1958 17-foot Chris Craft boat, cut it in half lengthwise and create an exquisite home bar, complete with custom cabinets, built-in fridge, working lights and an amazing highly varnished finish. The one-of-a-kind head-turning bar did well at the 2015 Scottsdale Auction, selling for $34,500, so the builder did it again for the 2021 Scottsdale event, but this time with a 1948 Chris Craft model. The stunning creation, which brought in $64,400, will certainly be the centerpiece of its new home.
Among the other more unusual items to appear at a Barrett-Jackson Automobilia Auction are phone booths – particular those from the 1930s, which were beautifully built of wood. One exquisite example – an impeccably restored Bell Telephone oversized public phone booth with an amazing paneled interior – sold for $56,000 at the 2014 Scottsdale Auction.
Those raised in the 1950s and ’60s undoubtedly have fond memories of piling in the family car and going on a road trip to a theme park or two back in the day. Barrett-Jackson has had a number of familiar figures that hailed from that era grace the stage, from three large Warner Brothers characters – Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck – to a historically significant Donald Duck neon porcelain parking lot entrance sign from Disneyland, which brought in $59,800.
At the recent 2021 Scottsdale Auction in March, one of the top sellers at the Automobilia Auction fell into the not-something-you-see-every-day category: A working Sinclair Oil 1964 New York World’s Fair “Mold-a-Rama” machine that produces molded Dino The Dinosaur figurines in 30 seconds with just the push of a button. The price tag on this rarity? A very respectable $115,000.
So when you’re looking for that perfect item to complement your car collection or simply a conversation piece from times gone by – which may or may not be automotive-related – spend some time perusing Barrett-Jackson’s incredible automobilia docket or wander among the items in the displays on-site. You just never know what treasures you may find!