How to Identify, Date & Value Old Hubcaps? (Expert Guide)

If you’re a car freak, you know how important hubcaps are! These round discs hide the rusty screws on the wheels, giving your vehicle a sleek look! But what’s more interesting is that it’s not only new designer hubcaps that are valuable and expensive! Even the vintage ones can fetch up to $300!

So, if you’ve thrown your old hubcap in the basement, it’s time to take it out! I’ll help you identify its type, age, and brand and make some money with it!

Key Takeaways

  • Try to get tight, center-retention hubcaps with screws and bolts for an old make. You can also look for old features like white cases, flat sides, and rims to hike costs.
  • Vintage hubcaps with bare metal, silver, or brass sides fetch the most returns.
  • Branded or rare hubcaps from Ford, Cadillac, and Mercedes-Benz are the most precious. So, don’t forget to check the logos and patents on their rims.
  • You’ll get three types of hubcaps in the antique market – full wheel, partial, and central. Of these, the center ones cost the most, up to $400!

Key Features of Old Vintage Hubcaps

Both the vintage and new hubcaps have double-walled rims and steel walls. But when discussing old hubcaps, you can expect better wheel space and 360° coverage. Also, you can look for manual features like iron clips, wire rings, and lugs on the sides!

Now, let’s move on to the visual features you can spot:

  • Stainless steel or white metal cases with stamped car logos or symbols
  • Hand-painted or enamel coatings with dual or multi-color hues
  • Dome shape with bulged centers and flat sides
  • Embossed brand or model emblems with geometric carvings
  • Simple tire rim joinery with removable lug bolts and caps
  • 13 – 17-inch wheel covers and cases
An Old & Oxidized Hubcap on Tire

Origin of Vintage Hubcaps: Brief History

Well, I must admit that hubcaps are relatively new, just from the 1900s. But antique lovers love them for their crude screw joints and brass or steel bodies. In fact, the first hubcaps even had brushed finishes and axles. But they were small and turned greasy with time.

Things turned fancy during the Art déco period of the 1930s, and the makers started using shiny nickel plates, chrome motifs, and designs. Brands like Rolls Royce and Chevy became known. Plus, most caps followed the wheel’s levels and contours for coverage.

But then, the economic depression came, and makers had to move to plastic and acrylic to save money. They even reduced the size and made 10 -12 inch plate-style hubcaps.

Then, in the 1960s, it was more about pressed steel and plastic. And these used molds and machines. So, each of them looked the same, and there was no handmade touch. That’s why they are the cheapest, costing about $6 – 120.

Identifying & Valuing Old Hubcaps (8 Main Factors)

Remember, not all hubcaps are valuable. Common old hubcaps generally sell for under $20 or a little more. On the other hand, rare, branded vintage hubcaps, such as the Corvette Ribbed Cover (1950), in good condition can be worth up to $5,000 or more!

So, what decides whether a wheel hub is worth money or not? There are several factors, like age, materials, types, and others as described below:

1. Vintage Hubcaps Age (via Features & Patents)

Old Full Wheel Hubcaps

Vintage hubcaps aren’t handmade like other antiques. But here, you’ll find notable differences over the years. For example, the earliest 1900s models had brass walls and wheel bearings. But those from the 1960s use steel. So, each obviously has different features and values.

The 1900s Hubcaps

The 1900s were all about metals and bolt joinery. So, you’ll see threaded hubs, spokes, and ribs with these models. Besides, these will have 100% coverage, with carved stars, scallops, and an anti-theft lock too! So, you can price about $80 – 500 for all these models.

One more thing to note is the shape! These models will be 2D and flat and have no extra grooves and seams.

The 1930s Hubcaps

If you want fancy hubcaps, you’ll love the 1930s models. Such hubcaps are sleek and often have shiny brass walls and steel moldings. But you’ll also see threaded center hubs, spring-loaded retention clips, and ribs. Overall, you can price them for $40 – 300.

Popular Examples: Ford V8, Plymouth, and Cadillac.

The 1960s Hubcaps

Does your hubcap have shiny stainless steel or plastic walls? Or do they look like a mini version of the stylish mag wheels? If yes, you might have a 1960s hubcap worth $6 – 120. Also, look for automated snaps, clips, slots, and chrome plates with this one.

Top Collectibles: Corvette Hubcaps, GMC Truck, etc. 

Another shortcut to aging your models is to check their patent numbers. Here is a reference table to value old hubcaps based on age (estimated using patent numbers):

YearAgePatent NumbersEstimated Valuation
193093 yearsUS1884238A (Patent for Spring loaded Hubcaps)$40 – 300
1960s63 yearsUS3393015A (Patent for hubcaps with flexible axles)$6 – 120
1970s53 years4040672 (Patent for Center Hubcaps)$9 – 200

Try to get hubcaps with three-bar spinners, threaded cores, and ribbed edges for an old make.

2. Hubcap Types

The value of old hubcaps largely depends on what type of hub cap/wheel cover it is! Here are the most popular hubcap types you must look for!

Full-wheel Hubcaps (1930s)

Imagine a flat, broad-rim cap that covers the entire wheel from the center to the borders. That’s how a full-wheel cap, costing $30 – 100, looks! Here, you’ll also see intricate chrome designs and scalloped edges. Plus, there will be some spokes and iron screws for strength.

Popular Examples: Dodge Polara, Fiesta, Lancer, and Hudson.

Partial Coverage Hubcaps

Just as the name says, partial hubcaps are small caps for the wheel’s hub. So, these won’t have central fasteners or plates. In fact, you’ll see plastic or metal arc shapes and trim rings that snap along the sides. But these have better polishes and cost around $30 – 120.

Famous Collectibles: Poverty Caps, Spinner Caps and Moon Caps.

Center Hubcaps

If your hubcap covers the central portion of the wheel but leaves the rest open, it might be a center hubcap. Such caps have shiny steel or alloy finishes, usually costing $9 – 400. Also, these will have cased fasteners and screws for better adhesion.

3. Old Hubcap Materials

You all might have seen aluminum and plastic hubcaps at your local thrift stores. But did you know that makers also used brass and iron sheets to shape the caps back then? And later, they even tried steel and nickel ones to reduce weight and costs.

So here’s the exact value of different hubcaps as per the materials:

Vintage Hubcap MaterialsTop FeaturesAverage Cost
BrassReddish gold or Silvery white walls, Cast or Rolled Sections with a Matte black or Oxidized finish$29 – 300, but branded ones might cost up to $400
Nickel Plated MetalSilver white or bluish finish, Medium-level luster, and high corrosion resistance$30 – 200
Stainless Steel or chrome-plated SteelSilver-white walls, Etched or Electroplated finishes, and thin, reflective sections$12 – 500, but branded ones might cost up to $800
AluminumThin and light sections, shiny, whitish, and brushed or plated finishes$9 – 250
PlasticOpaque white or colored walls and textured or plain patterns$2 – 100

Look for hubcaps with hand-painted, chrome-plated, or brushed finishes for an old make.

4. Vintage Hubcap Shapes

Various Types of Old Hubcap Shapes Available in the Market

If you want flat but fancy caps for your tire’s core, the dog dish ones are perfect. But if you are more into the fancy grooved and round forms, go for the wire-spoked ones. Also, try to get ones with bulging or slightly spherical rims for an old make.

And here’s how to identify and price each hubcap shape:

Old Hubcap ShapesTop FeaturesAverage Cost
Dog Dish HubcapsSmall and flat at the rims, and deeper cores, just like a dog dish. Might have folded seams and embossed motifs.$9 – 400, as per the size and brand
Baby Moon HubcapsFull and round borders with leek and smooth centers$25 – 90
Spinner HubcapsAbstract shapes, central spinners, and double-bordered rims$10 – 200, but branded ones might go up to $500
Wire Spoked HubcapsSolid centers and spoked borders, center caps, lugs, and bulged cores$6 – 350
Rally or Mag HubcapsShaped like a mag wheel with a central hub, deep walls, and carvings$50 – 400

5. Antique Hubcap Colors

Another quick optical test to appraise your old hubcaps is to check their color. It’s so that the earliest hubcaps had bare metal, oxidized finishes, while the new ones are colored. So, try to get black, white, or brown hubcaps for the best returns.

But if you already have a colored one, here’s how much you can charge for it:

Old Hubcap ColorsEstimated Costing
Bare Metal, Oxidized, Silver, Gold, or Chrome$30 – 550
Black, Brown & White$6 – 200
Blue & Turquoise $10 – 80
Pale & Dark Green$6 – 70
Yellow, Red & Orange$20 – 150

Avoid getting hard powder-coated or spray-painted hubcaps, as those might be new, cheaper, or entirely restored.

6. Old Hubcap Brands

Old Hubcap Brands & Finishes

Don’t want to sit analyzing the hubcap’s material, shape, and color? Well, here’s a cheat sheet for you! Just unscrew the hubcap and see if there are any logos or trademarks on it. If yes, it’s a branded one! And now, you can easily check its resale cost from our table!

Vintage Hubcap BrandsTop FeaturesEstimated Value
FordMid-century designs, a Ford, horse, or blue oval logo in the center$70 – 600
ChevroletBow-tie logo with a rally or dog-dish-shaped hubcap$25 – 450
CadillacOrnate crests, wire-spoked cores, and embossed logos$40 – 300
BuickFull wheel covers and tri-shield logos$18 – 250
Mercedes BenzThree-pointed star logo in the center, full wheel colors, and polished surfaces$60 – 400
VolkswagenSmall, domed hubcaps with a stamped VW logo$30 – 350

Avoid getting broken, chipped, or faded hubcaps, as those might lose their value by 10 – 15%.

7. Old & Rare Hubcaps

Brands and features are okay! But did you know that Cadillac’s original, spring-loaded hubcap was sold for $7000? Crazy, right? Well, that’s because it was a limited-edition piece, and there are less than 100 such pieces in the market.

But it’s not the only one! Today, we have many more such exclusive and rare hubcaps. So, make sure to check its history and demand before selling.

Here are some rare hubcaps and their prices:

Rare Hubcap Models Average Valuation
Cadillac Eldorado Fleetwood Biarritz Seville (1960)$7000
Corvette Ribbed Cover (1950)$4000
NOS Chevy Nova Impala SS MAG (1970)$2500
NOS GMC Truck 3/4-1 TON Dog Dish (1975)$1300
Rolls Royce 2-Piece Silver Wraith$1100

8. Old Hubcap Retention Styles

Old Center Retention Hubcaps from the 1900s

You’ll see three retention styles in old hubcaps – center cap, snap, and spring retention. Of these, the center ones, with cast iron screws and levers, cost $40 – 200.

On the other hand, the snap-on or press-fit one costs $16 – 185, and the spring retention one’s value at $6 – 120.

Do Vintage Hubcaps Rust?

Yes, vintage hubcaps might rust if they have any ferrous compounds or cast and alloyed iron parts. So rinse the hubcaps with Dawn dish soap or TSP and lubricate them once every three months.

How Do You Clean Vintage Hubcaps?

Prepare a 1:2 soap and water solution and spray it along your hubcap’s inner edges. Now take a soft scouring brush and wipe all the dust and grime from the rims. Next, rinse it with water, dry it, and store it in a cloth bag.

Hubcaps are relatively new! But makers still love them for their old rims, plates, and screw joints. But just ensure that you pick the earliest, branded, or rare models for good returns. And as we saw, you can trace their brand and make from the logos and patents yourself!

Also, if you want more car-related antique guides for ‘car jacks,’ ‘go-karts,’ and ‘pedal cars,’ hit that subscribe button now!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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