Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Demographics of Collecting

Here's a question for collectors. In your particular area of interest, does the market change as the population matures, or is it fairly constant?

As my dad and I wandered the halls of the York Fair Grounds at one of the largest toy train meets in the world, we observed something unusual. Every meet (and there's two a year), it seems as if there are a few items that crop up on just about every table. Items that are plentiful at one meet virtually disappear at the next -- but others have taken their place.

Toy train collecting shares something with other types of toy collecting -- people tend to be most interested in they had as children (or what Santa never brought them). So when the Train Collector's Association started in the late 1950's most of the members were looking for toy trains from the 1920's-1930's (the hobby tends to skew to late-middle age).

Trains from the 1960's didn't really become desirable until the late 1980's. And now, of course, toy trains from the 1970's-1980's have become extremely desirable. Those early toy trains snapped up by that first generation of collectors, remained off the market for the most part (save for estate sales). While the rarest and top-of-the-line pieces still command premium prices, most early toy trains have declined in value.

So this train show we noticed, for the first time, low-end train sets from the 1920's-1930's. A lot of them. At many different tables. Sets I've never seen before. And for not much money at all.

Why? Not sure. My guess is that as the primary collectors for these items are downsizing their collections as they move into assisted living facilities -- but that's just a guess.

If you collect something similar, such as comic books, dolls, toy cars, games, etc., I'd like to know if the same thing's happening in your field. Are older items declining in value, and are things previously off the market suddenly appearing again?

I appeal to the wisdom of the crowd.

- Ralph

Day 126 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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