Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Collectors

I was always a lone toy car collector till I started meeting local collectors 3 years ago. I did not really have a chance to meet any because most of the toy collectors in Singapore have bigger interest on 12 inch figurine collector or action figures. Yes, those who will need to buy 2 piece of the same product, one for play and one to keep it untouched. If it is opened or there is a hairline scratch on the box, the price will depreciate as what they explained (What the....!?). I felt lucky that I have negative interest in figurines. Back to car collecting, I was kind of surprise that there are locals who actually collect Tomica but I wasn’t going to have high expectation based on what they have been posting on the forum before the gathering. The minimum I expect is they do have some knowledge on Tomica but to my disappointment; nobody has any except current Tomica range. Can you imagine nobody ever seen a Japan made Tomica at the gathering? They might not even know that there are Made in Japan Tomica since everything are made in China ever since they started collecting. After knowing some local collectors and doing a series of flea market with friends, I started to understand what the local market wants. I respect what they want to collect but I do not want to understand some of the people who I consider unbearable. Here are the Good, the Bad & the Ugly (based on people I have met & seen).

The One Make/Model Collector
I treat these collectors with respect because they know what they want to collect. I have seen collectors who are contented with just collecting Minis or Beetles of different sizes and makes. Like my quote “I collect any toy cars as long as it is a Tomica”. For these collectors, they substitute my “Tomica” to “Mini” or “Beetle” or whatever their interest. I also know a “Toyotageek” who is a nice person who collects any Toyota and has very good knowledge of Toyota cars.

Tomica does make gift set for Toyota, Honda etc.

The Car & Driver
These are not real collectors but they happened to be a “collector” because of what they drive. My brother happened to be in this category as he displays Suzuki Swift of all sizes and colors in his room. Some of his collections are my contribution from my business or holiday trips. I do get approached by patrons at flea market asking me if I do have a Honda Stream or Toyota Wish on sale at my stall. My Toyota Wish is also the top harassed car at my stall which I do not mind at all as long as they don’t break it. The Toyota Wish on display at my stall is a Promo car for Toyota, strictly Not-For-Sale item in Japan.

My brother's Suzuki Swift Sport collection
Most Harassed Car at the Flea Market: Toyota Wish

The Vintage Collector
I have known people who collect mainly old toy cars regardless of condition as long as they find them charming. I like to talk to these collectors because we can learn from one another and we can have hours of discussion. I do not consider myself a full pledge one yet because my collections are from the 70s till current day (well about 70% are before 1990). There is once when a smart Alec told me that I am not a Tomica collector (which is a big insult to me because he knows nuts about Tomica) but a vintage collector. His intention is not to compliment me but to insult me softly. Anyway, I take it that he complimented me.

Various makes of die cast like Matchbox, Schuco, Husky etc

The Diehard Fans (but Blind)
Although my quote is to collect any toy cars as long as it is a Tomica but I do collect other brands too like Schuco, Matchbox, Majorette, Diapet, Cherica etc. I am trying to say that my main core is Tomica but I am not restricting myself to just Tomica. There are many nice and charming toys out there, why restrict yourself to just one? The diehard fans are the royal followers from Hotwheels or Tomica. I would say that they are good customers to Mattel and Takara-Tomy but somehow they do not know what they want. I am referring to “collectors” who will buy whatever the company release. Tomica for instance, they will buy all regular series from 1 to 120, all Long Tomica and all the Tomica Limited. Why? To complete the series since they start collecting based on what is available in store. They might not like the vehicle but they must buy every release model because they think that it proves that they are a Tomica collector.

The Fast & the Furious
These bunches are mostly from the Hotwheels gang who I like to tease at my flea market. Their favorite line is “I collect fast cars only”. Upon heard that, I will ask “How fast?” answers will be Ferrari, Lamborghini, Skyline being the usual suspects. I will queried them,” Is Golf GTi, Swift Sport or AE86 consider fast?” They stunned a little and I show them my Tomica first Generation Mazda RX-7 and asked, “Is this fast?” They told me that my RX-7 is an old car, not fast car. Darn!

Fast Car
Old Car

The Scrap Metal Collector
Many a times, I see “collector” putting a car on his palm and comment “Ah, it’s very heavy”, “Look! The base is metal too”, “It’s worth it buying this car”. I am starting to wonder if they are buying paper weight or they really like the car. If the car has got rubber wheels, they go crazy. Rubber wheels are nice but when I was a kid, I hated them because the car cannot skid when roll on the floor. To this lot of people, they think that a good quality toy car must have metal base and the toy must be heavy, a bonus to them will be additional rubber wheels. I consider them shallow. I always tell them off that a good quality car doesn’t really mean that it must have a metal base or must be heavy. There are many vintage Tomica which has plastic base, are they bad? Are they going to sell them as scrap metal too when they got tired of the hobby?

Good example of a "Good Quality" toy car

Not-So-Good Toy Car due to plastic base????

The Hunter (aka Scalper)
I have friends saying in exaggerated manner that this piece of Hotwheels (regular release) is “hard to find”, “cannot find” or “don’t have already”. I will tell them, how hard can it be? If I like it, I will just buy it from eBay (of course the eBay sellers might be scalpers too. Ha! Ha!). They are people who will hunt from place to place as many as 5 to 6 spots per day in Singapore and buy all “HOT” cars. They will leave their number at all major departmental stores who are selling Hotwheels so that the store assistant will contact them whenever there is new stock arrival. The same happens in Malaysia too, they pay the store assistant for information of new stock arrival and they mark their territory as well. Why can’t these people enjoy the joy of collecting die cast and why do they have to resort to all this unnecessary moves?

One is never enough. They must make sure nobody else get it besides them.

The Know Nuts
There are many collectors who claim that they are collectors of Hotwheels or Tomica brand. If probed deeper, they know nothing in terms of the brand’s history. For Hotwheels, they will pay very high price for a latest release car which is crazy but they care less about the vintage from 60s or 70s. You can try asking anyone of them using a 60s up to 80s model and they go speechless but if you ask them about what is going to release in 2011, they tell you more than what you know. Tomica collectors are kind of similar to Hotwheels collectors but the vintage models are much more expensive than vintage Hotwheels (in general). There are people who claim that they are collectors but never even seen a vintage model. I decided to give one a test and asked if he will start thinking to collect the vintage ones. He said that he will consider if the price is selling at market price. I asked what he meant by market price for a vintage? He said “$5.95, box and car condition must be excellent”. I was not mad but EXTREMELY pissed because $5.95 is the price of a current Tomica in Singapore and I felt my time was wasted meeting someone who claimed to be a Tomica collector. I just told him politely that I don’t think he will ever find someone who will willingly to offer him a MINT CAR with a MINT BOX vintage which is MADE IN JAPAN at retail price. Whoever does that, he must be a NINCOMPOOP and I wish him luck. These people also like re-issue Tomica (of 70s & 80s) very much (from Made in Japan to Made in China) but they do not know that by doing so, the original die is considered destroyed. They disagreed, they said that if Tomica doesn't produce re-issue, they never have the chance to own a vintage because they are expensive.

This is a dead stock which I acquired recently and should be Mint car in mint box (to my standard) but I will not sell it for $5.95 definately.

The Nit Picker
There are the people who amazed me, mainly the people who buy Tomica. These nit pickers not only nit pick but they are also totally inconsiderate and selfish too. When I started buying Tomica during my SOGO days (my favorite store but closed in Singapore more than 10 years ago, sad), I am glad that every single Tomica are wrapped in clear plastic despite each car cost only $2.90. I will just grab any Tomica as long as it is wrapped because it’s new and it is also being considerate not to open it. In the first place, I never have the thought of opening it. At that time when Tomica started shifting the production to China, the quality varies between models. Example, Nissan Primera has suspension problem, Mercedes C Class has paint blots all over, Range Rover has both. What I did then was to buy 2 or 3 of the same models and I will choose the best one, the balance to sell in eBay. I was still a student then, no income but I am proud to say that I am being considerate to other shopper or collectors. I know that there are people who will open up all boxes of the same model (as many as 20) to choose the best car and the best box. I find this is totally unacceptable just to satisfy your own desire. I knew 2 people who actually do this so I start investigating by asking them. They said that Tomica quality these days are quite poor in terms of paint work which is misalign paint or blots. I took a very close look, almost at the verge of seeking help from a microscope, and it was just a minor over paint and a very tiny blot. I felt disgusted and told them that this is normal and what I experience with the C Class was really much worse. They refused to listen and said that they have the right because they are consumers. These are the people who also buy 2 units of each model, one to play and one to keep untouched. Find some similarity? I urge all Tomica collectors who have this BAD habit, please do not do that again. Be considerate and be fair to others who are also buying Tomica.

I bought these 2 models few days ago and I wonder if they pass the nit picker's test.
I can't really find any flaw, maybe the nit picker will be able to.

This Forklift will not pass for sure because the box has some dirt.

Above posting is based on Singapore toy car collecting scene (I have seen). All comments based on what I felt and strictly my opinion only. You can disagree and have your own opinions or views too.


  1. I agree most to your Nit Pickers collectors. They are very inconsidered group of collectors but I have seen worst.
    Especially in Toy'R'Us department in Tampines where parents allow their kids to rip out the tomicas from the boxes. Reason in damaging & tearing the boxes. Yet these parents did not scold their kids! No wonder the selling price of tomicas these days are climbing. Back to old days where every cost only $2.90. Hoping that Toy'R'Us will do something about it as after that incident, I did not go to "TRU" for tomica hunts.

  2. Those in Toy'R'Us are not collectors, more on children and parents buying Tomica for kids. I never goes TRU for Tomica due to what you have just commented. I would say that both consumer and the store has a responsibility to play. If they were to wrap it like SOGO did (best to put "do not open" signage), I think this problem will be minimize as well. Sometime i see kid do that, I will go up to them and stare at them and they will behave for a min. BUT grown up adults and those who call themselves "COLLECTORS" do that is totally UNACCEPTABLE. They are GROWN UPS and should be considerate and should not open up every one and single box. Feel like spitting into their face, and I will see one spit one (not really to do it but to lecture them on the spot)

  3. I was really enjoyed reading your descriptions about us, collectors. 8-) You made me smile and laugh, some of the kinds you described are exists even here in Hungary. The only difference they are interested in different brands. (Oh, by the way a Tomica 4-pack appeared in one of our hypermarket chains, but the price is very high, about four times of a Matchbox or HW 5 pack. http://matchboxmemories.blogspot.com/2010/11/tomica-az-auchanban.html )

    I think I can add one more to your description - please pick a good name for it. Those whom have one "true love" brand, but very opened to other brands as well, they purchase what they like, the only thing what they are strict about is the scale. Sometimes those guys purchase two modells of the same kind, one to open it to play with - or blog about - and one to put away. I consider myself to such collector as well and I have a suspicion that you are something similar, right? ;-)

  4. Hi Sam Joe, I am not such collector... because I don't collect figurine. Usually people who collect figurines or action figures will buy 2 and open 1 for play. I would say they bring in the culture of collecting action figures to toy car collecting, a little more of a nit picker.

  5. This is interesting, in this part of the World, most of the collectors are purchasing two of the cars as well - while figurine collecting is basically a non-existing sport.

  6. Hi Sam, usually I purchase 4 to 5 or more depending on models if I go HK or Japan because I am helping friends to buy, balance to throw to our flea market which we do every 3 months. I don't mind buy more for new Tomica since they will appreciate as compared to Hotwheels. For vintage Tomica, I might buy extra if the price is not too expensive. If I am buying in Singapore, I am just buying one of each, never 2 pcs.

  7. Really nice post, thanks, I agree with Sam. Joe, I enjoyed reading it. I cannot really put myself in any of the listed types, I buy everything I like, regardless the cars' condition or type. I think I'm not a real collector anyway... Next week I will have a topic on nrfb vs loose cars, which is kind of a similar approach you wrote about, but unfortunately it willbe written in Hungarian - but I invite you to have a look at the pictures at least.

  8. Hi Rajen, actually i collect most things as long as i like it. You have a great site just by looking at the photo. Keep me posted.

  9. I've enjoy reading the blog and I wonder. Oh dear, which category I will be in? Let me know will yah ......

  10. You must be the Hunter lah... need to ask meh?

  11. i thought your rx7 is pretty... and ive experienced the fast and furious collectors... i asked them if my 1972 1st gen skyline is fast and they said skyline but old..

  12. Hi there, I have about 60 cars in my collection, from 1970s and 80s, all great condition in original boxes. I am looking to sell them. Any idea where I might find some buyers? Thanks, Perry.

  13. Helo..i wanna know where to find toyota wish scale car that show above. I wait for your answer. Tq

  14. They look too nice to sell as scrap metals. I won’t pretend I know the mindset of collectors, or what they do after they’re no longer fascinated with their toys; but if they don’t find them interesting anymore, then selling them for some money sounds like a good idea, right? Anyway, you have an amazing collection. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Marion Dunn @ Global Resources

  15. how I do collecting is I usually display my models in my bedroom I do like to take them out of the box and look at them from time to time. also I collect any scale and any model manufacturer. I would like to buy some tomica sometime in the future.

    almost forgot greetings from New Zealand.

  16. I used buy lots of tomica models and play them on the floor when I was a kid. Only recently then I realised that some of them has very high value and considered rare in the collecting world.
    So I was just wondering is there any way I can find out which models are rare and which are not for the 1/60 models? Like maybe a list of the numbers and models or something. Is there any websites I can look these things up? Thanks!

  17. Hi I’m a 50 years old and during my teens years had collected about a hundred Tomica ( the vintage one) and still remember my first one I started to collect and currently still being displayed in its original condition with the rest of my collection at home. They were bought in Hong Kong in the 70’s ,in storage from 80’s and until after the millennium been unboxed and display in my uk home. Never found a similar collector to talk about them and they are more than just a collection but a piece of my teen memory or history :-)

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