The New Collector



DIECAST CARS
A NEW COLLECTOR’S PERSPECTIVE...
December, 2004





HOW I GOT STARTED

I’m in my early 40’s now, but I didn’t start collecting 1:24 precision diecast cars until recently, after seeing them at a friend’s house. I’ve always had “toy” cars around the house—some model kits and a few inexpensive 1:18 diecasts and 1:64 cars, but when I saw the Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint models I fell in love. As an apartment dweller with limited display space, these little gems were just the ticket.

 

A NEW WORLD IS DISCOVERED ONLINE

Once I got interested in the hobby, I began searching the internet for more information, and quickly discovered some great resources. Franklin and Danbury have their own online stores of course, but the pictures and descriptions leave much to be desired. My favorite sites have to be the Diecast Zone and JSS Software for their thorough reviews, great pictures, price archives, and member forums. These sites are where I go first to see what’s new and upcoming from the mints, and they help me decide what I want to buy. They also have auctions where I’ve found some great buys on pre-owned, but well cared for diecasts—some brand new ones too! The audience is obviously more specialized than eBay, but it’s smaller too, which has its plusses and minuses.

 

SPOILED FROM DAY ONE

I’ve read several comments that the FM repaints are targeted at the new collectors, but if that was their intention I’m afraid they missed the mark with me. My very first purchase was a Limited Edition DM 1959 Biarritz in Persian Sand Poly that I paid WAY too much for in the secondary market. That car set my level of expectations very high, and needless to say I have been disappointed many times since. I’ve bought about 100 cars so far, returned 4, and sold about 45, leaving me with a current collection of roughly 50 cars that I deemed acceptable, and worth keeping. If I've learned anything, it's that there's no such thing as a perfect diecast, although some of Danbury's recent offerings have come pretty close.

 

FRANKLIN VERSUS DANBURY

It’s not like FM can’t make an awesome model—some FM cars I’ve kept include their ‘56 Mark II, ‘55 Packard, ‘55 Fleetwood, ‘39 Ford Deluxe, and the Vicky’s ‘61 Continental (despite its flaws), to name just a few. But having bought and quickly re-sold many repainted L.E. cars by FM, I am very wary of their quality. As for Danbury, I’ll buy almost anything they make that appeals to me, because they haven’t let me down once—not even the older issues. I wasn’t in the market back when FM was the only game in town, so I probably can’t fully appreciate their contribution to the hobby. It’s a shame they have fallen so far, but I will keep supporting them as long as they offer something of quality and value. For example, I recently bought the Vicki's Gifts 1956 Lincoln in Dubonnet Red and I must admit it is gorgeous, even if it is not absolutely perfect. Defintiely a keeper. I've also discovered CMC and have one of their magnificent 1930's Mercedes models, which I treasure.

 

MY SALES PHILOSOPHY

I buy almost every model hoping I will love it, although I'll occasionally grab a bargain for resale. If I get a car and it's defective or damaged I return it, but if it's fine and I simply don't love it I sell it. I would never try to sell a defective model, though a few sellers on eBay have tried to do that to me. Usually they will accept a return though, so I've rarely been burned very badly. Another problem with eBay sellers is the occasional seller who thinks the original box can just be labelled and handed to the shipper with no outer box or padding. Collector's know this is just asking for trouble, with shipping damage more likely than not. Check out my "eBay Horror Stories" elsewhere on this site for tales of some unscrupulous sellers I've had the misfortune to deal with on eBay. While eBay can offer some amazing buys, it's really hit and miss. I've found the sellers on the diecast website auctions are a lot more dependable for delivering what they promise--after all, who knows these cars better?

 

VALUE IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

I don’t care what a model is worth. What matters is the feeling I get when I see it. If it doesn’t excite me or make me smile, off it goes. Some of my cheapest purchases are my favorites, like a pristine silver ‘54 Gullwing that I got for only $46 on eBay, and the ‘55 Packard mentioned above. Of course I have a few that cost me $200 or more that I love too, including that ‘59 Caddy that started it all. Yep, I paid $195 to buy that from Phillymint because I didn’t know anyone could just go to Danbury’s website at the time and buy one for $60 less. As of this writing they are still available, but quantities are said to be limited. I learned quickly how to estimate what various cars are really worth, but I still treasure that model and wouldn’t sell it for twice what I paid (if someone were green enough to offer me that much).

 

WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE THE MINTS DO

The cars I really want to see have yet to be made by the Mints. I love the personal luxury cars of the 60’s and 70's like the '72 T-Bird (okay, I admit it, I owned one), the '63 and '73 Rivieras, '68 Mark III, '66 Toronado, '67 Eldorado, '69 to '72 Grand Prix, etc. I would think this was a vast untapped market, but maybe not. Maybe it’s just me, and a few others in the minority, whose favorites weren’t necessarily the muscle cars. Don’t get me wrong—I love fast cars. I have a number of the earlier Corvettes and a Chrysler 300C for example, but to me these transcend the muscle car genre and are either true sports cars or touring cars. I just can’t get excited about a Chevy Nova despite my mom having had a ‘77 once with the V8 and dual exhausts. Yeah it was fast, but it looked and felt like a piece of junk. I swear the seat material was some blend of vinyl and cardboard. Nothing inspiring there—not to me at least. Check out my "Wish List" elsewhere on this site for some pictures and additional cars I'd like to see.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thanks for taking the time to listen to my point of view. I would love to hear from other diecast enthusiasts about their own experiences in collecting, and some of the history of the hobby, to get a broader perspective myself.

 

P.S. I recently joined the Die Cast Car Collector's Club (D4C) and can't wait to see what limited edition model they choose next as a member exclusive. I've also picked up some diecast software from JSS Software, and I regularly enjoy their friendly forums and information-filled monthly newsletter. These are both relatively inexpensive ways to be more a part of the diecast collecting community, and get the inside track on what's new and exciting.

 

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The above article was featured in issue number 69 the Journal of The Die Cast Car Collector's Club (D4C) in October of 2005. Please check out my follow-up article, A Second Look at Collecting.