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Instant Collection: 55 Radiator Emblems

When automobiles began displacing the horse in the early 1900s – and if you think that was only Ford’s domain, better hit the books as there were dozens of car makers by then – radiators were the first thing you saw coming down the dirt road. Manufacturers, in an effort to distinguish their vehicles, began producing metal emblems to display on the radiator. These emblems acted as decoration, advertising, and even stratified a car according to whether it was a basic brand or a luxury brand. As best as I can tell, Mercedes was the first to use radiator badging in 1901 with its famous three-pointed star. The winner for the earliest enameled emblem appears to be Brasier, from France in 1904. Emblems were artsy and colorful, and collectors soon began removing them from derelict vehicles for display. Here on eBay is a set of radiator emblems, with frisky bidding up to $610, reserve met. These emblems are located in Peoria, Arizona in case you want to inspect the lot, but the seller will ship.

The seller indicates that he purchased this collection from an “Old Boneyard”. Apparently, the grandfather of the Boneyard’s proprietors pulled emblems off radiators before the part or car was sold. Condition varies, but gratefully the seller did not try to polish or repair any of the pieces. The little Marquette badge is likely from the late 1920s or early 1930’s when it was Buick’s companion make. Of course, Ford is ubiquitous, and most have heard of Nash, Essex, Whippet. Huppmobile went through multiple design changes; the emblem above was affixed to its first V8-powered car.

The Reo badge was for a specific model also – the Fifth which was introduced in 1912. It was the last car Reo made but it had a very long run before Reo shifted its resources to making trucks.

This photo shows another iteration of the Huppmobile emblem: the “H” with a coat of arms at the lower edge and an ax at the top. This would be from the late ’20s-early ’30s era. Some emblems weren’t car makers at all, such as the “Uncle Sam” hat at the upper edge here. Another example of a “radiator emblem” unassociated with a car is the Lincoln Highway emblem, which came with a map of the highway and was produced starting in 1913. Lest you think this was an unusual pursuit, records exist of collectors beginning to pull emblems off cars as early as the 1930s. Here at the Swigert Museum resides a wonderful collection. And you can have your own!


  1. Charles F Connell

    Neat! Who knew.

    Like 2
  2. Mike

    That Klieber badge has to be pretty rare. Leno has a restored one.

    Like 4
  3. Derek

    Jordan was the “Somewhere west of Laramie…” car, wasn’t it?

    Like 1
    • Frank Sumatra

      Yep, the Jordan “Playboy” no less.

      Like 0
  4. Peter Moore

    The “Uncle Sam” hat is the “hat in the ring” logo for the Rickenbacker automobile, quite rare.

    Like 0
  5. Steve RM

    Check out this sellers “see other items” on ebay. There’s a collection of 55 early hubcaps for sale. Also a really nice collection.

    Like 3
  6. Speedo

    The hat in the ring is the Rickenbacker emblem.

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      You are correct, and you beat me to it!

      Like 1
  7. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I’ve visited the Swigert Museum many times, and they’ve got to have the finest and largest vehicle emblem collection world-wide. Years ago the curator told me the Swigert guys who founded the museum began collecting emblems [and license plates] in the 1930s, and what is on display is only a small fraction of what they actually have! They don’t know how many pieces or exactly what is packed away, because the stored emblems are sealed in waterproof steel 55 gallon drums, and there are multiple drums full of emblems! I made the curator an offer to come up on a volunteer basis to help inventory the contents of the drums, but never heard anything from them.

    Like 3
    • Frank Sumatra

      Great story! Thanks.

      Like 2
  8. Howie

    Cool, $1,000 now.

    Like 1
  9. Al

    So which museum were these collected from?

    Like 0
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      Based on my memory on how the museum developed, the Swigerts spent decades combing junkyards and scrapyards looking for old cars to rescue, and if the car was too far gone, they would pull the radiator emblem. The guys had the aforethought to save these automotive treasures.

      When WW2 scrap drives almost forced the collection to be scrapped for the metal content, they created an official museum for everything, as museum artifacts were exempt. If not for the quick thinking that lead to this museum’s creation, it’s likely these thousands of emblems and license plates would not exist today.

      Like 1
  10. Al

    Actually I was just kidding. I see a Marquette but no Viking.

    Like 1
  11. chrlsful


    Didn’t I just post abt ‘motor mascots’ or ‘hood ornament’ collections. They often sit, individually, on a fine piece of wood (ebony that’s turned ona lathe, etc).

    Love to see these mounted, collectively, ona placke (grouped by…? owner’s discretion – yr, nationality, motor displacement, car’s original cost?)

    Like 0
  12. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Jun 26, 2022 , 1:06PM
    Winning bid:
    US $1,768.00
    [ 48 bids ]

    Like 1

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