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COLLECTING, COLLECTORS AND COLLECTIBLES

Clearing Up the Confusion - or Adding To It!

INTRODUCTION. Everyone is a "collector." We all collect something. It may be paperclips, recipes, or Tiffany lamps, but it would be a rare person who doesn't have more than one of a favorite item. You've moused on to an aviation site, so it's assumed that you have some interest, at some level, in the world of aeronautics, perhaps in collectibles associated with aviation.

I'll set the tone here by narrowing down, or winnowing out, the field of "collectibles." Obviously, these opinions are just my own but I think most people would agree, at least with the basic concept. There are tons of books written on the subject of collectibles in hundreds of fields of collecting - whole aisles in the bookstores are devoted to collecting and collectibles, from price guides to definitive histories. As an example of the high interest level, our local newspaper had three syndicated articles on collecting in the space of just a few days. Also, A&E is running a program series, "The Incurable Collector", which features people who collect interesting, bizarre and unique items, from swizzle sticks to eggbeaters, books to vacuum cleaners. The internet is overflowing with websites devoted to collections, from the oddball to the sophisticated.

DOLLARS AND SENSE

To start off with, there are two very basic classes of collecting: Items with value and items with negligible current worth. As an example, you could go out and acquire thousands of modern matchbooks and satisfy your desire to have thousands of different matchbook covers (and special collector albums are made for these covers), but there would be little hope that any misguided soul would come along and actually pay you for them. Current valueless items only acquire value as a collective group when dictated by interest and scarcity, and with the passage of significant time, usually much longer than most of us have remaining on this planet, or unless something cataclysmic happens such as government banning of matchbooks, a rather cosmic event. So enjoy the search, savor the find, proudly display, but don't expect a windfall because you have a plethora of something that are daily throwaways. Maybe, just a slim maybe, your great-grandkids, but then who knows what people will want to acquire generations from now.

Collecting nearly valueless items is an inexpensive way to have fun and you are truly a "collector." Most valueless things never make it into the guides, now or forevermore. Junk today, junk tomorrow. Times change. Consider that old bottles, 100-200 years vintage, can bring a few dollars on today's antique market; everything didn't come in packaged containers back then. In your wildest imagination, can you see the billions of plastic containers cramming landfills everywhere today being of collecting interest 100 years from now? "Wow, I just found a plastic yogurt container (cap missing) from 1986 and you can still see the calorie label!" Some things have little or no intrinsic value but are hard or laborious to find or acquire; take nature for example. A single common rock on a river bed is worth nothing by itself but if a collector wants to put together a geological display featuring rocks from far reaches of the planet, it's going to cost a lot of time, energy and travel expense to acquire thousands of rock specimens. An enterprising, rock-gathering entrepreneur can sell rock specimens to the collector whereby both profit from the experience and the rocks take on a collective value based chiefly on convenience. Far fetched? Consider that there is a Museum of Dirt. The oddball throwaway collections can run from such items as tissue box collections to swizzle sticks (websites for both).

Collecting objects of value comes next. "Value" can run from cents to millions and items can be new or ancient or manufactured or natural so you can see that there's a huge matrix or variety of "collectibles"; let's sort out a few of them to gain some perspective on the subject. Lots of "collectors" seek like items of low or moderate value, of any vintage, to put together a grouping.

For example, a collection of pink pigs. Each pink pig, whether ceramic, plastic, paper mache, bronze or topaz may only be worth a few cents (or perhaps thousands if modeled in diamonds) and by itself will probably never be worth more, but when grouped with hundreds or thousands of other miniature swine, the accumulated company of porkers will elicit awe at the minimum, and perhaps a complementary listing in the most recent Pink Pigs Price Guide. Let's say you own a lovely pinkish plastic bacon-maker that came by chance in a box of garden implements that you acquired at a local garage sale. Value to you is near zero (or maybe less). Value on the open market is also near naught. But consider that the big time Pink Pig collector doesn't have that particular four-footer amongst the thousands of diminutive hogs in the collection. And what's more, didn't even know it existed. Suddenly (providing you make a connection with "big time" through eBay or some other outlet) your worthless chitlin container has a new "value" and that economic stature is entirely based on how badly "big time" wants to add the little snout to the rest of the snorters. Now there's a "market" for your pink peccary. Realistically, there's hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pink sows on this azure orb, so they're neither scarce nor an endangered species; your particular hambone may be replicated in every "hamlet" on the globe but if "big time" can't find them, then yours is of "significant" value to that one person once it's discovered and a connection made. Exactly how much value is up to you and "big time" and this interchange of commerce makes the market for the moment, however fleeting. The commonality to this sort of "collectible" is the subject matter, not the value nor the vintage, nor the source, nor the scarcity, nor the perceived sociological consequence of being a pink pig collector. There's an abundance of these folks around with countless subjects. A visit to the internet world of collecting is astounding.

Value has little to do with a collector's enthusiasm and drive for aggressive searching. The collector of old fountain pens is just as satisfied with a new and rare acquisition as the collector of fine sports cars is with a sought after Testarosa find. Market value increases with desirability, scarcity and the ratio of the number of items still existing or being produced to the number of collectors seeking an item. This leads up to the next field or subclass of collectibles where "hype" becomes the common factor. Think Beanie Babies as one example amongst hundreds.


The cartoons frequently spoof collectors!



BUY NOW OR WEEP

Collectors of modern items sold as "collectibles" frequently fall prey to "hype." The urge to collect what are perceived to be "scarce" is propagated by the drumbeat of value "appreciation" and the suggestion that you'll lose out if you don't get in on the action. "Buy this figurine now before we quit making it and watch it appreciate in the future." Ignore the fact that perhaps hundreds of thousands of identical copies are being produced and sold to collectors, most of whom have been convinced that their newest "hand made", mass-produced item will escalate in value as soon as they're all "sold out." Also, keep in mind that practically nothing made in China, Malasyia, Hong Kong etc. is produced in small quantities (usually die-cast requiring expensive dies so volume production is necessary). The price guides will immediately start quoting the "secondary market" and collectors are further convinced that they're sitting on a gold mine, mindless of the fact that the so-called market is being driven by the dealers and manufacturer, not by genuine demand.

Slackening of the number of new collectors, an increase in the production rate, or an increase in the number of collectors placing their prizes on the market are all factors which can influence perceived value and, when accompanied by a growing awareness of the immense number of items produced, the "market" can vanish as doubts about "value" take hold. When a significant number of collectors elect to dispose of their collections, the desirability and scarcity factor erodes quickly leaving people with rooms or cases full of modern "collectibles" at deflated prices if they tried to sell them. Witness what's happened with the success of on-line auctions such as eBay. Price guide figures can go out the window and take leave as sellers discover how many like objects are being offered - a buyers market then develops.

The true value of many nearly-new "collectibles" is being established by the on-line auctions. I refuse to believe that there is a lasting value appreciation to any "modern collectible" mass produced in tens of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands or millions) and merchandised throughout malls country wide. Yes, there have been exceptions, and there will continue to be, but on balance I'll bet my money with the flat market. Enjoy them, caress them, covet them, but don't plan on sending your kids to college with the proceeds of appreciation. You can be an investor in the collectibles market and be successful but you also assume investment risks. Quality is the key as in most investments, right along with acquiring those items which have the most potential of lasting and future collecting appeal. And yes, timing is an important factor as is true with any investment.



HOT OFF THE PRESS

Aviation buffs have an array of currently produced, production "modern collectibles" available, most made in huge quantities; die-cast, semi-toy airplanes of all sorts and scales made in China, Philippine mahogany models, 21st Century plastic, airline display models, stamps, plastic kits, replica military clothing and patches, art prints and posters, synthetic castings of sculptures such as the nice Michael Gorman pieces, collector cards, even replicas of the WWII recognition models, and much more. All great "stuff" well worth the sales price in most cases and nice to display and collect. These items (not including true hand-crafted, very limited production items)are a category unto themselves and aren't to be confused with vintage collectibles or museum quality pieces. The majority of "aeronautical collectors" stop with this subclass of "collectibles, of moderate and obvious value, modern" and are reluctant to move on to the field of vintage items where value appreciation, appraisal and market forces drive prices in a less apparent manner. No K-Mart or hobby shop sources.



THE REAL STUFF BUT FEW ANTIQUES

Let's look at what I call real vintage, man-made items that have become "collectibles." The patina of age, whether the slow chemical process or perceived imagery, adds to the mysterious flavor of times past. An original painting, sculpture, virtually any art form, is a "collectible" also but I'm excluding original art from this discussion because I consider it to be a different genre from the commonly held definition of "collectibles."

"Antique" is a term not easily associated with aviation inasmuch as those Wright boys kicked this whole airplane business off right around the rigorous 100 years held to be the criterion for antique vetting - so we'll use "vintage" as defining old flying stuff. It could be 30 years or back to the early bird era before WWI. The Second Great War is fading into the distance, over the 60-year mark, so it's only fair that we define WWII as a vintage period - and one rich in collectibles and consequently popular today in the collecting field.




PRICE SHY

Many would-be collectors of vintage items are unsure of values and tend to shy away from true aviation collectibles because they're not comfortable with prices. In my estimation, most price guides to old aviation stuff are worthless and should be used only to identify items that you're unfamiliar with (some aren't even good for that). There is just too little sales information on a too large array of material, along with too great a spread of scarcity and availability to cover very much of the field of aviation with an accurate price guide. Most sales go unreported, private or dealer.

Then there is the syndrome of "Should I pay that much?" which has afflicted most of us at one time or another. Every collector can relate a sad tale of passing up a treasured item because we were sure that we could find another at a better price, then finding none available or eventually paying many times more when confronted with the reality of scarcity. Also, on the flip side, all of us have purchased a nice vintage nugget only to find another available at a much better price. There are no "set" prices even though many collectors or dealers will try to convince you that such limits exist. Buying an old Spitfire gunsight is no different than buying a vintage car; condition is a prime consideration and how many you can find for sale helps establish the price range through competition. Provenance is also an important factor; was this gunsight actually used during the Battle of Britain? On what serial number Spit? Buy your item, add it to your collection, and don't let price be your major influence - ten years later you'll be glad that you made the decision.

The antique toy market usually commands much higher prices than the field of aviation collectibles; here is an example. Vindex cast iron toys were made by the National Sewing Machine Company. Best known for their farm toys and cars, Vindex made several cast iron airplane toys in the 1930s, a Lockheed Speedy Mail Plane #41 and two Fokker planes. If you would like to know more about Vindex, an informative article may be accessed by clicking here. The Lockheed toy, pictured below, was sold in 2009 at the Donald Kaufman Collection sale run by Bertoia Auctions.

Another example of an auction price for a rare toy airplane is shown below. The unusual airplane is a British Short S.18 Knuckleduster; first flown in November 1933, the airplane did not win a contract and only one example was built, K3574. The airplane continued to fly however, and was finally retired in 1938 to be used as a school airplane. An unusual subject for a toy airplane. Appears to have pulleys to allow "flying" on a string. This toy was sold at a Morphy Auction in 2012.

The diminutive Paul Weiss clockwork aeroplane from 1955, pictured below, was sold at the Auction Team Breker in Cologne, Germany in 2013 for a whopping $4,000.

Several more auction examples are shown below. The Hubley Lindy Lockheed Sirius toy sold for $3,555 in 2014. The JU-52 is probably an early Marklin, again selling in 2014.




TRUE OLD COLLECTIBLES WEREN'T . . . . THEN

Also, junk is never worth more than a dross price and adds nothing to the merit of a collection; seek quality and pay for it and you'll never be sorry in the future. If nothing else sticks, remember this: virtually all old and valuable "collectibles" that we treasure today were not originally conceived and sold as "collectible" items, but were produced to serve some contemporary function - the notion of collectible appreciation and investment (and the manufacture, in large quantities, of things for the "collector market") is a modern invention serving commercial interests. Sure there are exceptions, but I'll bet that even the old baseball cards (some now worth thousands) were originally sold just to satisfy the then current desire to fan the interest of sports enthusiasts or given away to promote a product such as bubble gum, not to create a collectible for the future so convention centers can promote sports memorabilia shows. The Mutts cartoon below says it all.




WILL YOU TAKE LESS?

How are vintage collectible prices established? The marketplace of private sales, dealers and auctions usually defines the price range expected for a given or similar item. But how can you be expected to know what these prices are if, as I previously suggested, "price guides" are inaccurate? Shop around. Ask questions. Checkout shops, respected dealers, auctions, on-line sales, classifieds, anyplace that could reasonably be expected to deal in the artifact that intrigues you. Network. Join organizations that represent your collecting interest. Example: What is the value of a like-new, 1940 model airplane engine - let's say an Ohlsson 23? Some show up on eBay, one source of information, and auction prices are usually at the top end of the range although bargains occasionally happen. You can also follow my advice given above and join MECA, the Model Engine Collectors Association, an organization which puts out a swap sheet full of old engines and sponsors "Collecto's" where vintage engines and modeling paraphernalia are regularly bought and sold by hobbyists and collectors. There are countless associations catering to a myriad of special interests. Get involved if you want to be a collector and be informed. There is always the chance that you'll find a treasure at a garage sale or flea market but prices are not influenced by the rare "steal" at an attic cleaning. But it sure is a thrill to find a bargain gem!


2004 book, "Flying Model Collectibles", available for $29.95.

As mentioned previously, the internet auctions have brought some moderation to the pricing of collectibles and antiques. Be aware however, that internet auctions are short term and a few dozen bidders doesn't necessarily set the price for the world and for the future.

Vintage aviation magazines make excellent collectibles and are chock full of contemporary information and advertising. This Bellanca Airbus (bet you didn't know there was an Airbus long before the French thought it up) illustration is from a Bellanca Aircraft Corporation ad in the February 1933 issue of "Aviation."



CHECK NEW BUT BE BOLD, BUY OLD

I also use the theory of "contemporary comparative value" when pricing artifacts that have modern counterparts or replicas. This method can be used for all sorts of collectibles but in this article I'm focusing on aviation items. Take the field of manufactured airplane display models, or desk models, as an example for comparative pricing. Bill Topping mass-produced aircraft desk models for the industry as sales aids and promotional items. Starting in about 1943, the Topping models poured out of the Akron/Elyria factory and Topping became the premier source of airplane miniatures. These models were NOT made as collectibles but were serious industry tools used to promote interest in their aircraft, primarily throughout the military establishment (general aviation models were also made, sold by the manufacturer to dealers for promotional purposes or outright retail sale). If a Navy pilot flew a Grumman Panther in the 1950s, he probably received a nice blue Topping model of the F9F, given to him by Grumman. Nearly every photo of a Pentagon official sitting at a desk, taken in the '50s and 60s, shows a Topping model proudly sitting somewhere. Topping went out of business in the 1960s in part because of Defense Department restrictions on gifts to military personnel (stupid, huh? - some general is going to be compromised because of a $5 model!). The important factor to consider here is that these delightful models were not produced to satisfy you and I as collectors. That is precisely why Topping models are valuable collector's items today. And that same fact holds true for all sorts of vintage sales tools such as brochures, advertisements, salesmen's models, promotional give-aways, buttons, etc.

A sidebar to Topping Models. Bill Topping used rather elaborate, movable molds to manufacture his models with injection molding in as few pieces as possible; many are a single, unified structure. Also, most of the Topping models are not painted but depend upon the base color of the plastic. Although probably done for manufacturing ease and cost purposes, a rather unintended consequence has resulted. The desk-top models were sort of bullet-proof with very few appendages save a prop or two and little paint to scratch. Now, far removed in time from the 1940s and 50s, the simplicity of these models has made them not only collectible but also available. Imagine what we'd have today if the Toppings had been made in the style of modern, plastic assembly kits with their hundreds of bitty pieces, detail and appurtenances; 99.9% would be broken and totally unredeemable. So, thanks to Bill Topping and the manufacturers who ordered them, some of these sleek models of the great airplanes of that era are still around, having survived decades of cigarette smoke, desk top disasters, young'uns play, storage woes, grandma's attic, ultraviolet rays, and probably even the pet cat. A little polishing and possibly a new decal or two (although I generally like to keep the decals "as is"), the vintage Toppings are handsome sculptures portraying the aerodynamic theory and aspirations of that most prolific design period in American military aircraft history.

Topping models are easy targets for comparative pricing. Today, the majority of new display models are made for so-called collectors; I include high production, toy-like die-cast and plastic models in this category of display replicas - maade by the millions, they are becoming quite common. How much should you expect to pay for a nice vintage Topping?

Please note that the use of "Topping" as the prime example of older manufacturer's display models can almost be used as a generic term - Topping shut down in the early to mid-1960s and the molds (owned by the aircraft companies) were then used by offshoot firms owned by former Topping employees. RoLen Plastics, Precise Models and the Walter J. Hyatt Co. are examples; the models constructed by these firms are nearly the same as the original Toppings and command the same collector price. A history of Bill Topping, "The Model Man," by Chad Slattery, appeared in an old issue of Air & Space. Usse the back arrow to return to this page.



SOME TODAY PRICES

Here are a few of the companies manufacturing display models currently and the approximate price range of each. Airline display models are made in Europe by several major model manufacturers, Space Models for example, and their larger, show-room/travel agency scale can be quite expensive - several thousand dollars. The smaller scale (1/100 on down) are priced in the $100 to $500 range. Westway Aircraft Models in England specialize in airliners made of fibre-glass and polyurethane - their average model runs in the $500 to $1500 range with cut-a-ways and larger models running much more. They also offer a selection of military models;check out their nice selection by clicking here. PacMin makes a wide selection of 1/100 airliners in practically any livery for about $700. British Classic Models makes fiberglass airliner models in 1:100 scale - expect to pay a handsome price. Atlantic Models in Miami manufacture airliners, including a few oldies such as the DC-3, Connie, Sikorsky boats, Boeing 314, Martin China Clipper, at prices upwards to around $400 and will make commissioned models which can run many thousands; their quality is excellent. Small scale, plastic airliner models are inexpensive (around $25) and are manufactured by a number of companies - scales run around 1:200 for the most part for models by Wooster, Long Prosper etc. and are usually snap together. Die-cast, semi-toy military aircraft have become popular and are made by companies such as Corgi (now owned by Hornby), Armour (Franklin Mint with prices around $195), Carusel1, Dragon Wings, 21st Century, Hobby Master Air Power, Sky Guardian, Merit, Witty Wings, Gemini Aces, Matchbox Collectibles, Sky Guardians, IXO Models, Easy Models, Admiral Toy, Yat Ming and many others (number of companies changes constantly) with prices ranging up to $135; these are one-step above a toy and are made in unlimited numbers for the most part, mostly in China, with some in Malaysia etc. Die-cast metal airliner models in scales from 1:400 to 1:600 run from under $10.00 to $30.00 or so. Information on companies manufacturing die-cast models, and their prices, are subject to frequent change so anything stated here is just an approximation. Many models are now being offered with clear canopies and interiors; FDM offers a wide selection of custom models, including modern helicopters, for $399.

High quality painted pewter miniatures (with limited production)in 1:200 scale were made by the British company, Western Models (CollectAir was a dealer for these - this company was sold and is doing business in Israel - only a single model is currently being produced as of 4/09), and prices ran from $135 for a DC-3 to near $300 for a B-36 or B-52H; airliner models in 1:200 scale pewter are now available from Skyline Models and will run around $200 to $300. The 1/200 scale has become a popular size as it can encompass airplanes from WWI through airliners without becoming too large or too small. An overview of the British 1/200 scale industry may be viewed by clicking here. Also look up The One True Scale (TOTS) for more 1/200 info. CollectAir has some of the hand-crafted, painted pewter models made in England by Diverse Images; these models are mounted diorama style, come in 1:144 and 1:72 scales, are historically accurate and are priced from around $95 to over $300 and more for elaborate dioramas. These models are produced in limited editions running from 50 to 100 with special signed editions in fewer numbers putting them in a totally different category from the common die-cast; a secondary market has developed for some of the retired pieces. See a separate page link for details of the Diverse Images sculptural aircraft which are the premier collectible offering in today's marketplace - CollectAir has a few of these on display - the only place that you'll see them in the U.S.

Philippine mahogany models in 1:32 scale or so have prices from $100 to several hundred; these are ubiquitous, have painted canopies, are usually finished in an unauthentic gloss coat, and have little manufactured detail for their large size save for painted features. Collector's Air Model offers a wide range of solid plastic models priced from around $60 to several hundred, most in 1:72 scale. One-of-a-kind custom models are available at widely varying prices depending upon the size, degree of detail, complexity etc.; a "museum-type" model can be commissioned for approximately $1000, sometimes less, and for many times that if significant museum quality is desired such as detailed cockpit, controls, landing gear, etc. Of course, you can buy a $20 kit and build a lightweight plastic model yourself. There is a wide range of die-cast metal and plasic models coming out of China and they sell for very low prices, some sold by brand names and others by not-so-well known names. Quality helicopter models made of plastic with clear cockpits are available from Executive Helicopter Models and will run around $500 to $600. The German company, LIMOX, has nice resin 1:28 scale models of the EC-135 available for around $200. I recently picked up a very nice, 1:40 scale Apache helicopter in die-cast metal and plastic by Toy Zone (made in China) for $24.95 - but as a collectible, you got to figure that every 8-year-old has got one in his sandbox.

For the high end collector, the magnificent aircraft models by Fine Art Models in Michigan are the ultimate; Mustangs, Corsairs, Bf 109s are available for around $15,000. Check out their website for a real treat.

The incredible Chinese toy manufacturing industry!



COMPARE

So, how does a Topping model compare to the modern equivalent? First of all, none of the above modern models have the vintage appeal that an old display model has - and the Topping models are true collectibles (remember, they weren't made as collectibles). A fifty or sixty-year-old Topping, in my estimation, is worth considerably more than a Philippine wood model, Armour, or a Corgi toy or a Dragon model. I would compare a Topping to the price of an Atlantic Model or some of the other quality production models including the hand-crafted pewter examples and less than a better museum grade model; rare Toppings will bring upwards of $1500 (some much more) and the more common types are $150 to $800; as an example, many more F-100s and Grumman Cougars were made than XC-142A V/STOLs, Hiller H-23 helicopters and Mercury space capsules which are scarce and much more expensive.

The comparative method of pricing is a good start but keep in mind that rarity counts - there are no more Toppings being made. What will bring more pleasure to you - a scarce Topping or a common Philippine example? Which model lends itself to a good story about it's origin and purpose? And which will have the greater value in the future as a collectible?

Here's the Readers Digest version of all this blather: If you want a true collectible, something with provenance - buy "old." If you just want something to display without regard to provenance or value, and are on a budget, buy modern. Here's an excellent example: The World War II aircraft recognition models made of cellulose acetate plastic in 1:72 scale are valuable collectibles. The so-called "black rubber" training models were discarded after the war, sold for pennies at war surplus outlets, were peddled by Polk Hobbies as Authenticast models at fairly high prices for the forties, and in general faded from the scene by the 1950s. As interest in WWII collectibles gathered steam in the past 25 or 30 years, these "ID models" have been sought after by collectors of WWII aviation items. I obtain duplicates now and then and the average price of these Cruver-made, cellulose acetate models is in the range of $95 to $140 for a typical single-engine fighter, say a P-51D. Collector's Air Models in Fort Worth makes plastic replicas of these models molded from existing vintage examples; these replicas are nicely made and a P-51D sells for $56.00, comparative pricing at it's most basic level.

Military aviation clothing, headgear and accessories have attracted numerous collectors; some enthusiasts have equipped a whole bomber crew with authentic period gear. Again, comparative value enters into the pricing picture as many of the items have been reproduced. The authentic, vintage clothing will usually sell at a premium when compared to new articles; however, rarity and scarcity are important factors as well as condition, condition, condition. Expect to pay thousands for an authentic, decorated A-2 jacket in excellent condition, but watch out for fakes (in all collectibles).

For dealers, such as myself, and collectors, the "retail" price of a vintage model is going to partially depend upon how much the item cost to acquire in the first place. If I have to pay a premium to acquire an item for inventory, then the retail price is going to reflect that premium - better than not being able to offer it at all in my opinion.

Quick! What's wrong with this graphic from 1941?

As discussed, prices for aviation artifacts are not etched in 4130 steel - different sources have different prices, based on the acquisition cost of the item, the demographics of a particular marketplace, scarcity and availability of like items for sale. For example, what do you think the price should be for a vintage, 1930s wooden propeller? CollectAir has three interesting wood props in the gallery, all in perfect condition, yet they are not offered for sale because potential buyers aren't willing to pay what I believe them to be worth, so I don't bother to put a price tag on them. Ok, so now guess what the current price is for a de Havilland Tiger Moth prop dated November 1940? If you would like to see an item from the September 2007 issue of Architectural Digest magazine, offering a prop from a New York designer, click here and use the back arrow to return. Use the enlargement icon to view a high resolution copy of the item. Another recent designer offering, from the pages of Architectural Digest, of several collectible models can be viewed by clicking here. Note that the aluminum DC-6 is a new model and that the McCoy tether car is missing the McCoy engine. Check those prices against commonly offered vintage aviation items on this website and then tell me that the vintage Topping models are "expensive."

A 2005 book, Big Book of Toy Airplanes - Identification & Value Guide, written by W. Tom Miller Ph.D., covers a wide range of mostly toy airplanes but also a few display models. This book is now sold out but used copies are available on-line. As with most price guides, it is best to ignore the suggested price range as the author suggests that prices vary widely dependent upon many factors.



NO EXCUSES

If you have a strong desire to be a "collector", there is no reason not to be. If finances are a consideration, then collect inexpensive or free items. If exhibit or storage space or portability is an important factor, then collect "small". There are no obstacles to collecting other than those you create as excuses not to collect. I know people who have immense collections which have taken over their homes and even spread to warehouses. Then too, you can have a nice collection of aircraft manufacturer's lapel pins which wouldn't fill a cigar box.

No matter how big or "complete" you think your collection is, there is always a bigger one. Concentrate on the quality of what you have and the pleasure that it gives you. When you start comparing your collection to others, you will always be disappointed. Obsession with having one of everything will also be disappointing because there is usually someone out there that can prove that there was "one more" item that you don't have. Don't become the type of collector that a recent article on book collecting described as "rapacious agglomerators" and "pasty-faced completists." They are the most boring people on earth.

A Wall Street Journal review of an old Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) book, "Rasselas," quotes a telling statement concerning the pursuit of happiness by the protagonist; "we desire, we pursue, we obtain, we are satiated; we desire something else and begin a new pursuit." I've heard of several collectors that accumulted thousands of plastic kits, only to sell the bulk and start over again - the act of collecting trumped the satisfaction of owning "everything."

A cogent quote from B. Traven, "The treasure which you think not worth taking the trouble and pains to find, this one alone is the real treasure you are longing for all your life. The glittering treasure you are hunting for day and night lies buried on the other side of that hill yonder." I find that there is a reluctance amongst aviation collectors to spend the kind of money that other collecting fields command. A $10,000 antique toy train is common while few aviation collectors would consider investing that kind of money in a valuable aviation item. Those collectors who are willing now to see the value in rare or unique artifacts of the aeronautical world will be the ones with the enviable collections in the future.

One sad feature of the collectibles market that I've experienced over the years is the lack of interest or the "hunt" by some individuals who have the money and wherewithall to purchase any item that falls into their collecting categories - you don't see those individuals browsing through the shops or searching the internet; they leave that task to their "designers" and functionaries.

FEEDBACK AND BRICKBATS

Do you agree with this article? Do you have points that you would like to add? Fill in the gaps where I may have gone astray; send me your thoughts and suggestions and I'll add them to this tome giving you full credit. Is there something that I can help you find or, heavens forbid, is there something that I can sell you? Let me know. And hey, congratulations if you waded through all this material and made it to here - you are truly a thinking person!

ADDENDUM: I made up the bit about pink pig collectors but the collectors website, AandE.com/collector, has a piece about a huge collection of pink elephants! Honest! Schiffer Books, in their catalog of Antiques, Collectibles & the Arts, has hundreds of books on a wild array of collecting subjects including a 112 page tome entitled Glass Elephants. There's a world of collecting out there.

Believe it on not! The Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press carried a feature article entitled "Penchant for Pigs;" the subtitle was "Porcine menagerie fills Montecito home and garden to the brim." Over 5,000 pigs fill the home, garden and yard - included in the piggy collection are a number of pink specimens, so my fantasy pink pig collector story wasn't so unlikely after all!









You are cordially invited to add your two-cents worth to the above article. I will edit (maybe) and attribute comments to you. Use the Feedback Link to respond or if you would like to chat about this article, call me at cell 408 828-2810.


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