Written by Tom | 27th September 2019
One of the internet’s great achievements is its ability to make visible and democratise industries that previously flew under the radar, empowering both the major and minor players within them. The world of model cars is just one market that’s being impacted in a big way by the digital era, as auctions move online and attendance at fairs drops. But there’s plenty to be excited about too, as different kinds of collectors enter the market and interest in models cars reaches new heights. We spoke to model cars expert, Michael Michalak, about the world of model cars, their newfound accessibility and appeal, and the enduring habits of long-time collectors.
The internet has expanded the model car market and made model car collecting more accessible to a wider audience. It has also made it easier to find rare models. In the past, you had to attend swap meets to find them. The internet has also made it easier to buy from other countries, which is great as you’re more likely to find a rare or unusual model.
A prime example of how the internet has changed model car collecting is the current Peter Monteverdi Collection auction that we have on Catawiki - many of the models for sale are very rare and were handmade back in the early days of resin and white metal models. The Dinky and Corgi auction is another example of how the internet can make it easier to find all your models in one place, as this type of single focus auction can act like a magnet for buyers and sellers. Social media has also helped buyers and sellers keep in touch and access information about models.
In short, the answer is yes. We now have people collecting model cars who wouldn’t have done so in the past.
The model car collections by Atlas, Hachette and Altaya have contributed to bringing in different people to model car collecting. In the pre-internet era, Lledo and Franklin Mint always had an advert in the Sunday newspapers selling a collection of models which were popular with people new to collecting. Now these collections are very easy to find online and Atlas, Hachette and Altaya have taken it to a new level.
It’s also becoming more socially acceptable to collect model cars too. Model car buyers are becoming younger and more women are entering the market, while classic car enthusiasts are also buying model cars in greater numbers.
The die-cast Dinky Toys cars are particularly popular with collectors
There are many challenges, with weekly deadlines and getting the right model mix being the most important ones. The main issue for me is that nearly all the submitted lots need a correction of some sort and they are in different languages. I also have to take into account the very different type of model car, the real car knowledge of sellers and their level of business experience. This different knowledge means that sellers have very different expectations and these can be very unrealistic. However, I also enjoy helping them and giving them advice. Sometimes I don’t recognise the model, so it’s their turn to help me out.
It really depends on the auction but anything made by Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Porsche and other strong brands does well, especially in 1/18 scale [the scale used to measure the ratio between the miniature and the original]. I also think that newer model cars do better than older model cars. This is mainly due to buyers having a clearer idea as to what they are buying, the quality being better and that collectors want the latest model cars.
Certain big brands and recognised models tend to sell well – like the Volkswagen Beetle
While I think that auctions have made people less likely to attend model car fairs, it’s a more complex answer than that. It depends on the demographics of the buyer and where they live in relation to where the fairs are held. It also depends on what they collect.
If the buyer is a serious collector, such as a Dinky Toys or other brands from the 1950s-1970s, they will still attend fairs but might become picky about which ones they attend. For serious collectors of these brands, there is also an element of socialising with other buyers and sellers at these fairs. This is especially so when you consider the age of the serious collector. Their model buying habits were formed prior to the internet and their habits are difficult to change.
With newer collectors, there is less interest in attending model car fairs. Newer collectors view the internet as one big fair. However, many classic car shows now have people selling model cars and we have more classic car shows than we did in the past, and many newer collectors attend these fairs.
Perhaps the best answer is to say that people attend less model car fairs but attend more classic car fairs (where there are also model cars exhibited). I think clubs like NAMAC need to consider this for the future of their fairs.
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