SPARK PLUGS

Collectibles For Your Engines


| August/September 1985


Nine Meadow Lane, North Caldu/ell, New Jersey 07006

The box under the table held strange looking objects with porcelain tops. If these were spark plugs, I questioned why the petcocks... and the springs... and the little windows. There was a whole new world in that box and my bride of three months shook her head at my lingering interest. The sign said '25 and 50'. The vendor leaned over the table and said, 'They're all a quarter'. I was hooked!

That started a 25 year hobby... and thankfully, it's just as interesting today as it was then. Prices are higher, but new and different spark plugs turn up at almost every meet. Spark plugs are generally discarded when they are changed today, but most early plugs could be disassembled for cleaning. And they were expensive! A good spark plug sold for $1.25 in 1910, the same year you could buy a colt revolver for $13.50 or a pair of shoes for about $2.50. It was natural to save and clean spark plugs! They're still hiding in barns and garages and part of the fun is digging them out.

So many different spark plugs were produced! Over 4,000 brand names are known to collectors. No doubt many were 'private branded' by the larger manufacturers, but between 1900 and 1925 there were probably 1,000 different companies or individuals who manufactured or assembled them from parts.

In truth, the history of spark plugs parallels that of early gas engines and automobiles. It was a marvelous era. Technical developments poured out in profusion. Every manufacturer seemed to have his own idea of 'improvement' and took it to the marketplace with much fanfare. Early advertisements give a good idea of what was available and also the competitive atmosphere. Advertising was in its heyday and many ads made claims far beyond reality; truthful or not, they make great reading. A friend suggests, 'They had the ethics of weasels, helping themselves liberally to each other's technology; if not patented, they marked it patented just to claim superiority'.

The names themselves speak of the variety: Barney Google, Bald Head, Spit Fire, Inferno, Blue Blaze, Fan Flame, Home Run, Kantfoul, Sure Pop, Hire Fire, Bulls Eye, Ezekleen, Raccoon. But it's the mechanical gadgetry that intrigues most collectors. Some features had real value; others were destined to oblivion as soon as the consumer passed judgment. Spark plug collectors tend to classify plugs by their features; there were primers, quick detachables, self-cleaners, breathers, visibles, 'intensified' plugs, series plugs, double-enders, and those of special interest, perhaps because of shape or color.






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