Saturday, 11 January 2014

ARTICLE - The Art of Collecting - Part 1

The Beginning

Written by Ivo

Our hobby is made up of a very diverse range of individuals who all have different objectives when it comes to the subject of slot cars. There are many amongst us whose sole intention is to build the fastest car, or those who seem intent on buying shelf queens, or perhaps those that occasionally setup the track on the weekend and simply have fun with their kids, friends and/or family.

The term collector can mean different things to different people and in the context of this article I’m going to define collector as an individual who has more than one hundred (100) shelf queens (slot cars sitting on a shelf or in a box).

I’ll put my hand up right away and gladly tell you that I’m a collector with close to 650 shelf queens (not the biggest collection in the world). I’ll also put up my other hand and tell you that I’m a racer who regularly races slot cars at clubs. If I had more hands I’d put them up to scratch building, proxy racing, photographing and anything else related to slot cars.

To give you some background about how I started in the slot car world, we have to wind back the clock to 2007 when I discovered slot cars around 7 years after the birth of my first son. I walked in to Armchair Racer in Sydney Australia and I could not believe the vast array of cars available for sale. I walked out with a gorgeous Alfa (you will notice that it is still in the shrink wrap......)

From that point on I discovered quite a few slot car models that I was interested in and the list included the Scalextric GT40, Camaro’s and Mustangs. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I had missed some of the most collectable Group C models released by Slot.It and the wonderfully detailed models by Fly such as the Porsche 917k and Lola T70.

And so my search began. Like many collectors having just a few different cars of a particular type in the collection was not enough, I had to have every slot car model of the same type. This would mean collecting the standard models, limited edition and boxed sets. The collection began growing and fairly fast. I did draw the line at any Playboy cars which I think are plain silly and kit cars (the ones you put together).

The process of collecting is not any different from any other tangible acquisitions. The main objectives when acquiring models is to try not to pay more than the retail price for a model or if that is not possible, attempt not to pay more than $20 above retail. Ideally I like to pickup models at prices lower than the retail prices. I have been fairly successful in not paying top dollar.

How do I achieve this? Well let me fill you in on what I do as a collector to ensure I get what I want.

One of the most important things about collecting is receiving the most up to date information about slot car releases. In the collecting world you cannot be taken by surprise. If you are unaware of a new model then you run the risk of having to pay post release prices (particularly if it is a limited edition that sells out quickly).

There are a number of methods that I employ to ensure that I am fully aware of what is about to hit the market. I recommend that you subscribe to many of the information streams that retailers and manufacturers provide about new cars.

This could means subscribing to newsletters, reading forums, adding manufactures to Facebook or setting up monitoring services on retailer web pages that notify when pages are updated. You might see the last item as a bit extreme but many retailers and manufacturers are poor at communicating with their customers. Some typical example information sources:
  • Racer Facebook page
  • MRE newsletter
  • Auslot / SlotForum / SCI / HRW news sections
Once you know what is coming and you can make a decision about what you would like to add to your collection. You need to ensure that you pre-order your slot cars. If you don’t pre-order then depending on the release it’s possible that you may miss out. You can never anticipate the demand.

If you want more than one of a particular car then check with your retailer that they allow you to pre-order more than a single item. Many retailers only allow a single car to be ordered for very limited edition runs. If this is the case then find a new retailer or pre-order with multiple retailers.

If you use the same retailer on a regular basis and put enough business through them, then you should ask for a discount. The standard discount that I seem to be able to negotiate is about 10%. You'll be surprised what you can get even from a bricks and mortar establishment.

We’ve all seen the inflated and sometimes ridiculous prices that many cars are listed on auction sites. The sad thing is that many noob collectors buy at the high end of the price scale through eBay when with a bit of research they could have paid considerably less.

You cannot limit yourself when attempting to acquire past or present slot cars to using eBay. If you are going to use eBay don’t just search on your local eBay, use the eBay options to search for slot cars Worldwide. If you know a slot car was made in a particular country search specifically on that eBay.

I have bought many cars from eBay Spain, Italy or France where the initial posting indicated that the item was only available in that country (so it didn’t show up on Worldwide searches). The messages tool is there to be used and I regularly use to it enquire about purchasing and shipping outside of the host country. What’s the worse that can happen, they seller says no?

Your browser Google/Chrome/IE should be your BFF (best friend forever) you should use them to search high and low to find your next item. Don’t be afraid to use the translation features of some browsers to search web sites / forums that use other languages.

Register on your favorite slot car forums as each of them has For Sale sections where other enthusiasts offer items for sale. I’ve acquired a good number of slot cars from Auslot, SlotForum, SlotCarIllustrated (SCI) and Home Racing World (HRW).
I cannot stress the importance of networking within our hobby. I have over time built up relationships with many other collectors who I keep in contact with on a regular basis. We hold secret meetings to determine how we can limit the supply of particular cars to the market – of course we don’t have secret meetings but we do help each other with information exchange about limited edition releases and on occasion consolidate purchases to reduce postage costs. Some European countries have expensive postage rates.
In summary collecting is a fantastic part of this hobby, it’s not for everybody but if you are collecting or trying to acquire slot cars for your collection to either put on the shelf or race then some of the tips above should help you minimize the cost of your acquisitions.

I'm going to finish off this article by answering a common question that I often get asked as a collector. Why don't you just collect static models instead? I agree that static models are more detailed, however they generally cost a lot more and you can't just take one out of the box and give it a run on the track.

That’s it for Part 1, keep your eyes peeled for the next installment Double Vision I'll leave you wish a few more photos of part of the collection....

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