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Q&A with Kit Foster: March 20, 2014

Q. Here is background information related to the Sunoco antique car series coins (Q&A Feb. 27) that were given out as a sales promotion. If you obtained a special coin then Sunoco would send you a complete set of 25 in bronze. I have the complete Series 1 and 2 (of three sets).

— Bill Murray, via e-mail

A. Bill sent a compendium of information, too lengthy to reproduce here in its entirety. He indicates that the promotion was conducted in 1969 and 1970, the coins themselves produced by The Franklin Mint. There were apparently three series of 25 coins each, and sets were minted in aluminum, bronze and sterling silver. Aluminum coins were given out to Sunoco customers, and some of them had “Instant Winner” on the reverse. These could be redeemed for cash prizes or bronze sets. The sterling sets were marketed to collectors, in the manner of other Franklin Mint collectibles. Just 5,672 sterling sets were minted, as opposed to 325,024 bronze sets, and probably millions of aluminum coins. The sterling sets came in blue library display binders, with car descriptions written by Floyd Clymer.

Given the huge number of aluminum coins given out, I’m surprised that I was unaware of the coins, but perhaps it’s just that I seldom bought Sunoco gas in that period. Many Old Cars Weekly readers, however, remember them well. Thanks to Robert Sharp, George Case, Leonard Crane, Mark Moriarty, Don Hoffman, Ron Miklos and Al Schonauer for writing in with information similar to the above, as well as George Hamlin’s listing of the Series 1 and 2 cars that we published in the Jan. 30 issue. Steve Wuchter sent a copy of Sunoco’s Series 1 promotional brochure, which indicates that the Instant Winner value depended on the car depicted on the coin. If Larry Marshall’s 1902 Studebaker Electric Series 1 coin had been an Instant Winner, the original recipient could have redeemed it for $2,500. The 1908 Stanley Steamer was worth $500, the 1909 Ford Model T $100, 1914 Stutz Bearcat five dollars, and the 1916 Dodge Sedan just a measly dollar. An Instant Winner for the 1918 Cadillac Landaulet got the complete 25-coin set in bronze. I may have missed out on the Sunoco coins, but I still have my Wheaties license plates.


Q. Regarding the Chevy hood ornament in the Jan. 16 Q&A, they were made as a replacement item or to add if someone wanted to dress-up their car when hood ornaments became the rage again in the 1970s and ’80s. If you look through a J.C. Whitney catalog of that vintage you’ll find them for sale pretty cheaply.

— Justin Schiess, Rochester, N.Y.

A. Aha. That would explain why neither Editor Angelo nor I was able to find that exact design on any Chevy of the period. Thank you for clearing it up.


Q. Recently, I bought a box lot of car parts at auction and am unable to identify a couple of them. Here are photos. I would appreciate any help you can give me.

— Herb Stuesse, Milwaukee, Wis.


A. I recognize the “ship and castle” motif as post-World War II Hudson. At first glance it looks to me like a gas cap, but Hudson caps in that period were mostly either plain or hidden behind a door. Some colleagues in the Hudson Essex Terraplane Club, however, spotted it as the horn button from a 1946 or ’47 Hudson. Although not obvious from the photo, since it prints in black-and-white, it has been repainted. Originally these were dark blue. The one with the crest is obviously Cadillac, and following the same logic I believe it’s the horn button from a 1948 Caddy.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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