Vintage Hood Ornaments Identification & Value (Expert Guide)

Hood Ornaments are certainly one of the ‘classy’ symbols for vehicles from the days of yore! These small, 5-6” accessories grabbed quite a lot of attention with their solid walls and mascots. So much so that some top cars like Bentley and Rolls-Royce decided to feature their own logos there!

Even though people stopped making them by the 2000s, there is still a high demand for their old designs and features, like mechanical thermostats. But are these old parts the only thing that makes the hood ornaments antique, or are there any other features, too? Let’s find out!

Key Takeaways

  • Vintage hood caps will always have shiny chrome or crystal finishes, LEDs, and old, hand-chiseled designs. Some of them might have capped or bolted bases too!
  • Old hood ornaments with brass, nickel-plated, and clear or tinted glass bodies fetch the best returns. 
  • Branded hood ornaments such as those from Mercedes, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce cost $500 – 1000 more than others.
  • Old hood ornaments will always look Gray or Silver. But if you want the new ones, pick Brown, Green or Gold ones for a good value.

Key Features of Vintage Hood Ornaments

Well, most old and new hood ornaments may look the same – car/bird-shaped. But, with the old ones, you’ll see brass or bronze details and many more aged features as follows:

  • Shiny Chrome-plated, Glass or Crystal finishes on top
  • Themed Animal, Mythology, Figurine, or Geometric designs
  • Triangular structure – mostly to reduce wind resistance and aerodynamics
  • Might have translucent sheets – glass or acrylics and LEDs for lighting
  • Might have spring bases to avoid damage from impact
  • 4 – 20 inch bodies with an in-built gauge or thermostats

A Brief History & Evolution of Hood Ornament

Vintage Hood Ornaments

Did you know that people made hood ornaments even before they knew about cars? That’s right! In fact, the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun used bone motifs on his chariot. And even its designs were simple – just birds or falcons. But yes, it was only for royals!

Then, in the 1900s, Oliver H. Clark made them accessible for all. He even added some levels and sensors for the coolant. And since the 1900s cars had external radiator caps, it was possible to fit them easily. So, there were many designs – lions, tigers, eagles, etc.

Then, in the Post World War era, we had military designs – rockets, jets, and tanks. But, these had shiny, steel bodies with thin, easy-to-dent sections of low value.

However, in the 2000s, there were no radiator caps. At that time, the government revised fuel economics and removed the external joints. But even then, you’ll get some abstract and branded models just for collection!

2 Types of Vintage Hood Ornaments (With Values & Features)

Below are the two most popular vintage hood ornament types with their identification features and average values.

1. Mascot Hood Ornaments

Mascot Hood Ornaments

Just as the name says, these ornaments have logos or mascots from various brands. So you can expect some Lincoln Stars, Cadillac Victress, and Chrysler’s Winged Goddess forms. Also, these will have silver or glass walls that hike their cost from $500 – 5000.

2. Abstract Hood Ornaments

Abstract Hood Ornaments

Abstract hood ornaments, costing $30 – 3500, have everything you can ask for – Animals, Religious motifs, and even Cartoons. In fact, most of them have hand-molded brass and nickel walls with a chrome finish. You can spot some Chinese ‘Good Luck’ patterns too!

7 Factors That Impact the Value of Vintage Hood Ornaments

Now that you know the base type, let’s move to the other aging and make details to appraise your hood ornament:

1. Manufacturing Date & Age

Antique Hood Ornament

While hood ornaments are not that old, dating back to the 1900s, you’ll still find some handmade parts, Art Deco, and colonial themes with the earliest ones. On the other hand, the new 1950s models might have molded steel bodies. So they are cheaper!

But how do you know if your hood ornament is vintage? You must check its age and date using the key features below.

Old Hood Ornament EraAgeSpecial FeaturesCollectible ModelsEstimated Value
1920s95-105 yearsArt Deco designs with intricate details, flowing curves, grooves, or Brass or Chrome wingsPackard Goddess of Speed, Duesenberg Spirit of Victory & Lincoln Minuteman$200 – 5000 as per the design
1930s85-94 yearsFemale or Locomotive shapes with streamlined, geometric designs and Aerodynamic tipsCadillac Leaping Cat, Chrysler Airflow Winged Grille & Nash Rambler Ram’s Head$120 – 2000
1940s74-84 yearsAirplane, Eagle, or Gun shapes with machine polishes and grooved wallsFord Thunderbird, Chevrolet Bel Air & Studebaker Champion$100 – 900
1950s64-74 yearsLarge Fin, Rocket, or Futuristic designs with Stainless Steel walls & Silver finishesBuick Wildcat, Oldsmobile Rocket & Pontiac Silver Streak$60 – 800
1960s54-63 yearsMinimal, light, and molded bodies with Plastic or Bakelite walls and shiny, Galvanized finishesLincoln Continental Star, Mercury Monterey Viking & Chrysler Imperial Ram’s Head$30 – 700

Look for hood ornaments with Calorimeter temperature gauges, car mascots, and logos for an old make.

2. Materials

Old Hood Ornament

Most of the 1900s hood ornaments had brass or nickel walls. But by the 1950s, makers started using plastic too. So each had different features and properties that changed their costs. Let’s see how!

Old Hood Ornament MaterialsTop FeaturesAverage Price
BrassHammered, yellowish surfaces with thick, linear sections$40 – 2000
Nickel or Chrome-Plated BronzeLustrous, mirror-like finish with sleek and curved forms$200 – 4000
Clear & Tinted GlassClear, Frosted, or Stained walls with star or abstract shapes. Also, these might have thick, curvilinear, or molded bodies$150 – 1500
Plastic & BakeliteMatte or Grooved finishes with hollow, molded bodies and complex shapes$50 – 400
Pot Metal, Stainless Steel & AluminumShiny, Anti-corrosion resistant finishes with brass or nickel electroplating$50 – 1000

Pick old hood ornaments with shiny chrome detailing, nickel, and gold plating to hike their costs by 10 – 12%.

3. Brands

Antique Hood Ornament Brand

Want to know if your vintage hood ornament is branded or not?

Well, simply unscrew its cap, and look for any stamped logo or sign on the baseplate, hood, wings, or head. If you find one, compare the features with our table, and find the best resale cost of such branded pieces!

Old Hood Ornament BrandsIdentifying FeaturesRough Cost
Mercedes- BenzThree-pointed stars with a circle and stand at the base$100 – 3500
Rolls – RoyceShows a woman leaning forward with her arms outstretched and clothes flowing back$80 – 3000
JaguarMuscular, Leaping Jaguar, symbolizing speed and power$30 – 1000
BugattiA large design with an elephant standing on its hind legs and trunk pointed upwards$50 – 2000
BentleyStylized ‘B’ design with wings$200 – 1800
CadillacIntricate birds with a crown, shield, and coat$500 – 4000

Various forums, such as the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), Classic Car Club of America (CCCA), and Hood Ornament Collectors International (HOCI), will help you learn more about your hood model’s brand and history.

4. Colors & Finishes

It’s not that all the hood ornaments were Gray or Silver. Some 1950s galvanized ones had colored red or blue finishes as well! So let’s see how to price those!

Old Hood Ornament ColorsEstimated Value
Black, White & Gray$30 – 800
Brown, Beige & Orange$50 – 500
Metallic Gold & Silver$100 – 800
Blue, Green, Purple$50 – 300
Red & Yellow$40 – 250

Get old hood ornaments with old Hammered metal, Satin metal, or Enamel Paints for more value.

5. Unique Shapes & Designs

Different shapes of Vintage Hood Ornament

One more quick visual test to identify your old hood ornament is its shape. It’s so that the 1900s models were geometric, while the later 1970s ones were abstract or bird-shaped. Plus, the new ones might have car logos or mascots too!

Here’s a list of all the ornament shapes with their features to identify and price them:

Old Hood Ornament ShapesRough Value
Human Figurines – Silver Lady, Flying Lady & Other Human Mascots$100 – 2000
Animal Figurines – Jaquar & Elephants$50 – 800
Automaker Logos – Mercedes, Cadillac, Bentley$200 – 2500
Abstract & Geometric Shapes$60 – 1000
Objects & Symbols – Ships, Sculptures & Cooking Accessories$80 – 600

Avoid getting hood ornaments with deformed, melted, or misaligned sides, as those might lose their value considerably.

6. Mounting Methods

Most vintage hood ornaments have four mounting styles – Radiator, Bolt, Spring, and Adhesive. Of these, the radiator ones are quite old, often from the 1900s, while the adhesive ones are new, from the 1970s. So let’s check their features and costs:

Old Hood Ornament Mounting MethodHow it Works? Estimated Value
Radiator Cap MountingUses screws and bolts to stick to the radiator cap$400 – 3000
Bolt-On MountingUses one or two threaded studs to secure the cap on the hood$30 – 1500
Spring-Loaded MountingUses a spring-loaded mechanism to retract the ornament to the hood$30 – 700
Adhesive MountingUses super glues to stick the ornament onto the hood$20 – 300

8 Highly Valuable & Rare Vintage Hood Ornaments

Any themed, series-based, or large celebrity-style hood ornament obviously fetches a better value than the regular ones. So check its history, tags, and golden finishes before purchasing.

Here are the 8 most valuable and rarest vintage hood ornaments worth a lot of money!

Rare Hood OrnamentsEstimated Price
Spirit of Ecstasy$200,000
Egyptienne Ailee M. Bonnot Signed Hood Ornament$96,000
M.Bonnot Art Deco Hood Ornament$9,000
Edsel Hood Ornament$5,000
Winged Goddess of Flight Hood Ornament$5,500
Hispano Suiza Hood Ornament$5,000
Graf & Stift Lion Hood Ornament$4,500
Victoria Goddess of Wind Hood Ornament$3,000

What is the Rarest Hood Ornament?

The Spirit of Ecstasy, based on Eleanor Velasco Thorton, is the rarest hood ornament as of 2023. Its exclusive features, such as anti-theft mechanisms, diamond-studded bodies, and platinum parts, value it at about $200,000.

Are Hood Ornaments Banned?

Hood ornaments aren’t banned, not anywhere in the United States. But yes, you may face a hefty fine if its metal injures any piece of public property or pedestrians.

What Are Jaguar Hood Ornaments Made Up Of?

Jaguar hood ornaments have a shiny chrome plate over a bronze finish with typical iron bolts and magnets at the base.

Vintage hood ornaments are certainly old, fancy, and precious. But, to identify the AUTHENTIC ones, you must check their age and materials. Also, try to appraise them with the help of our brand, shape, and color table. And if you feel stuck, drop us an email anytime!

If you want to learn about more car antiques like ‘old hubcaps,’ ‘car jacks,’ and ‘go-karts,’ I have created detailed guides you can explore right away!

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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