When you think of merchandise associated with racing cars, whether track-side or online,you probably think of helmets and race suits (full of sleeved panels and pre-curved sleeves apparently, though why you’d want to pre-curve a sleeve is anyone’s guess). However, the big seller might just be the posters.
There’s certainly a long history. You can get copies of posters for Monaco races from 1932 online and maybe the originals if you are prepared to spend money. Some posters are even signed by the drivers involved (which certainly increases their value.) For this type of merchandise, it is best to buy track-side rather than rely on an anonymous EBay seller, though many people are used to shopping the web and don’t realize that it’s not a good idea in this situation.
When seeking out original items be wary of too much damage but given that they are only made of paper and likely to be folded up in any case some depreciation is probably inevitable. Many posters had limited runs so that may be where the value is.
One strategy in collecting is to look for the more obscure race teams and the more obscure drivers, though the big names are unlikely to lose value overnight. Most people prefer to buy from the owner’s website (for example, Ferrari) rather than on auction sites as there are a number of fakes around. It all depends on how well you trust people and how much you are willing to spend.
For the more souvenir like items, beanies, mugs, coasters and all that haven’t caught on in racing to the degree seen with Elvis, Star Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. People do like to buy things associated with a race team or a big name (for instance Schumacher) but it’s no Grateful Dead.
These items are certainly suitable for a boy or girl who visits the track for the first time and wishes to obtain a souvenir. They are probably unlikely to hold their value though, unless it is a very rare team or racing car driver. You can’t think about profit every time you buy something though, it’s for entertainment purposes mainly.
It’s possible to get decent merchandise that’s not the “official” stuff but still collectable. Items related to specific racing drivers for example, created by independent craftsmen, such as T-shirts or portrait painters. This is a good way to follow a driver’s career (or remember them, if they are no longer driving) but not break the bank in the process. Whether they are worth anything in the long run might not even be important if you are a True Fan.
When it comes to toy racing cars the biggest name at the moment seems to be Hot Wheels, though Scalextric remains popular for an older age group, especially those would-be racers who want to race round their own mini-track. There were other slot-car racing sets in their day – so-called because the cars race along a special groove or slot in the track) but Scalextric seems to be the only one that remains to this day.