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Collecting special bits of Jaguars
IAN COOLING’S The Complete Guide To Jaguar Collectibles is a standard-setter in analysing automobilia for a single marque. Published back in 1998, the lavishly illustrated book testifies to a Jag passion born in his 1950s schooldays. He says his bedroom walls were plastered with pictures and cuttings on the company’s epic racing achievements. ‘My mother was appalled but my heart was in those cars. That really was Jaguar’s legend-making era.’
For Ian, the book was an adjunct to his reputation as a leading dealer in the stuff of Jaguar. Since its publication, he’s developed a unique on-line ‘distant auction’ (www.jaguarautomobilia.com) that’s crammed with nothing but Jaguar books, brochures, models, mascots and anything else he or his customers care to enter. Once registered, up to 200 bidders table competing offers during a limited period, based on Ian’s knowledgeable descriptions.
‘I’ve known some customers for 40 years, and I have about 100 diehard regulars,’ he says. ‘But every year I add more who are new to Jaguar. It’s an interesting trend: they’ve bought brand new cars, loved them, and then wanted to reach back into its history.’
Printed ephemera for Jaguar sports cars is a staple of the auction. Brochures for XKs kick off with the launch edition for the XK120, worth £150 in excellent order, but modelspecific data and print variations can command serious premiums.
The XK140 brochure, for instance, is soughtafter because it’s the last with full illustrations (rather than part-photographic), but the fancy cover-laminate lifts and clouds, so nice examples are scarce, and are worth more than £100. The XK150 edition usually suffers dog-ears because its larger-than-A4 format makes it vulnerable in storage; only one edition features the SE, worth £175 if in peachy condition. A 1935 brochure for an SS100 Jaguar can command £500.
‘The difference between poor and very good in pre-war brochures can amount to £200, and run-of-the-mill examples are worth half the value of the best specimens. Prices really have been pulled up as the values of the cars themselves have risen.’
Look no further than the strong values of owner’s handbooks for proof. Obsessive XK120 owners will want all eight different issues, which start at £100 minimum apiece for clean examples, yet a flimsy paper insert for the XK120 SE can add £50.
Among old toys, a consistently desirable piece is Tri-ang’s Spot-On XKSS, a highly unusual choice for diecast scale-model capture. There are five known colour variations and, with boxes and windscreen intact, they’re worth up to £250 a time. You might easily pay as much for a 1:20 scale Tri-ang Electric Jaguar Mk1 saloon, in super-brittle plastic; the box art was copied craftily from the car’s brochure.
Widening the scope, Ian has just accepted an alloy prototype of the V6 XJ220’s cam cover but with ‘220’ cast on it, not the production car’s ‘XJ220’ (pictured above). What fanatical customers will pay for this is untested, although Ian says several XJ220 owners have recently joined his list, so a battle is in prospect. After all, brochures for the prototype V12 car, as distinct from the V6 production vehicle, have leapt in value from £250 to £650, fuelled by rarity – only about 25 are thought to exist.
Not everything Jaguar-related is worth a packet. The company’s booklet entitled Genesis Of The Jaguar V12 is a wonderful piece, with its acetate overlays so you can dissect the engine’s inner secrets, yet it struggles to make a tenner.
But that doesn’t mean he’s shutting out newer items with potential as great investments. Ian is generous with his tips for Jaguar automobilia that’s ripe for appreciation. He strongly recommends us to start cherishing items from the 1983-86 period of the XJ-S’s appearance in European Touring Car Championship races. ‘It’s an overlooked part of Jaguar’s racing heritage,’ he maintains. ‘The flame was flickering, being kept just alive, before the company returned to triumph at Le Mans. You might be very lucky and find something like a door panel from one of the cars; that, potentially, could be very special.’
Among models, Ian’s an advocate of a series of 1:43 handmade Le Mans winners produced by Tim Dyke’s MPH Models, using Provence Moulage castings as their basis. They’re worth about £150 each today but, as there were only 20-25 of each, Ian thinks a full set will soon be worth £5000, and be prized for its completeness. ‘I also rate the series of 1:43 scale pewter models from Danbury Mint,’ he confides. ‘They’re very attractive and were sold only on subscription, so little-known, and not too expensive – yet.’
Ian has a few copies of his superb book still available. It’s a collectible itself these days. When you flick it open, the frontispiece is the one item that’s eclipsed everything Jaguar that’s passed through his hands: F Gordon Crosby’s prototype for Jaguar’s leaping mascot. He’s sold it several times, watching its value soar from £2600 to £42,000. It’s the world-record price for a single piece of Jaguar automobilia, backed by a sheaf of lawyers’ affidavits guaranteeing authenticity…
‘Ian is generous with his tips for Jaguar automobilia that’s ripe for appreciation’