The future of the hobby: Ebay vs. Auctions vs. MeetsRecently, I‘ve noticed a large number of early spring toy actions with some excellent quality items for bid (picture is from the Spring Lloyd Ralston Gallery offering.) These have got me thinking about recent statements I've heard such as, “auctions are destroying the hobby,” and “toy meets will soon be a thing of the past.” So, up for discussion this week is this question, what is the future of antique toy buying? What is currently the best way to purchase the gems we all seek? I for one have been mulling this over for some time and decided to list my current experiences. If you are reading this please add your comments to the discussion. I am very interested in the current state of the hobby. Okay, here goes:
Ebay: Recently I have watched numerous Ebay auctions run wild. It seems that more often than not Ebay items are advertised as “exceptionally rare” and in “excellent condition for its age.” I do a lot of Ebay-ing and have great luck selling on Ebay, but only marginal success buying. As someone who generally knows what the items I am looking at are, I have some concept for quality vs. price. My feeling is that items on Ebay are often overbid for the quality offered, especially when compared to auctions. Some of the automation is very nice such as automated favorite searches but these advantages seem unbalanced by overzealous buyers who seem willing to overpay just to beat the next guy out.
Auctions: Currently Stout, Ralston and Morphy are all offering some very nice items. With a few obvious exceptions, it seems these items go for very fair prices and the condition is generally far better than what I am seeing on Ebay. Granted these auctions are more difficult to bid on than Ebay due to pre-registration requirements and potential travel, but through the addition of LiveAuctions this seems to have improved. My only complaint with auctions I have participated in is the excessively high absentee bidder fees charged. I recently paid 17.5% to Stout for a very nice, rare early Schoenner live steam engine and feel I still got a good deal, but it would be nice if they could get things down closer to 10% like Noel Barrett did for the Ward Kimball auctions.
Meets: Are they dead? Well, I attend both Spring and Fall York every year and can definitely say they’re not dead. However, for the collector who likes his trains more esoteric than Lionel and MTH I feel like I’m hunting for the proverbial needle in a haystack. But if you enjoy the hunt and don’t mind long slow walks on cement floors, nothing beats the excitement of 1200 tables full of potential diamonds. That said, prices at these meets are always negotiable and the internet has not managed to replace the good natured spirit of such shows.
In closing, what is your favorite way to find toys? What is your most successful? I for one think the future is brighter for the hobby thanks to new technologies that benefit those who can’t travel due to impairment or finances. What do you think?