When Collectible Websites die – does the Data die too?

Musings By Joschik
Christian Braun obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way. Documenting collectibles has been a passion since working on a book about his favorite childhood toys from Timpo 38 years ago.

Recently I came across a website that had an extensive list of good Matchbox resources, and as we are currently working on adding a bunch of Matchbox information to the database, I checked the links and was shocked to realize that 30 of the 32 links on the page were dead!

Matchbox Links - Now Mostly Dead

It made me ponder about how the internet made preserving the history for what I refer to as “mankind’s lesser achievements”  – not the politicians and big historical events but the smaller things such as a 1920s made Teddy Bear or an 1870s Cork Screw  –   much more difficult.

For contrast here is the first book project I was involved in, a catalog of Siku models  –

My brother wrote this Modellauto Katalog Siku in 1987 and I provided some help. While I would not claim it is very good by today’s standard there were lots sold at the time and you can, therefore, find this book every now and then on various online sites (side note: if you add it to your Wishlist on hobbyDB you’ll get a notification when it comes up for sale).

However, in the last ten years, the internet has replaced collector magazines and price guide books (I saw earlier today that Krause Publications with its about 4,000 collectible book titles entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month). And while the internet has enhanced the hobby in many ways, it also made information created and curated by collectors much more unstable!  You will always be able to buy a book that is out of print but I personally have frequently visited more than 100 sites that no longer exist!

Scalemodelinstructions.info, for example, was a great site to find the work of a Martyn Rigby who had painstakingly scanned instructions for Model Kits and I was initially afraid that all of that work was probably lost.  There was nothing, not even on the laudable Wacky Internet Archive!  Luckily I heard from Martyn after publishing this post – he now has a new website, you can find all the instructions again on plasticandplasters.com (so at least one happy end here!).

The hobbyDB team has made it its mission to preserve this information, as it often cannot be recreated anymore.  We are actively reaching out to current and past “site authors” (we prefer site author to site owner).  Here some examples  –

Hugada was built by two Individuals over a period of over 20 years and included information on more than 60,000 video games. Without the support of a community and a strong platform to run on, there was a danger it was all going to disappear on some back-up drive.  They provided us with the raw data and now that information is coming back on hobbyDB for the world to enjoy.

 

Gary Hirst had one of the best collections on fringe subjects such as Brazilian made Corgi Juniors.  When he tragically died way too early, his fiance worked with us to preserve all the data from garyscars.co.uk, the website he worked on for more than 10 years (with all items that were added showing Gary as the creator of each of these catalog entry).

As part of our mission to document every collectible ever made and being a natural extension to Wikipedia (they have one page on the Hard Rock Cafe, we have more than 85,000 pages on Hard Rock Cafe glasses, magnets, pins and other merchandise) we have vowed to always keep access to the data for free (our Manifesto).  And to secure the future of the catalog, we run a marketplace that allows us to earn income in order to pay for maintaining and building hobbyDB.

We have so far preserved the data of 26 websites and uploaded information of 12 of these so that enthusiasts worldwide can benefit again from this information.  And since we have done so many of these we got good at this as we now have various tools to import data – we uploaded 80,000 Hard Rock Cafe pins in under 3 weeks.

If you know a site that is in danger of vanishing forever let us know!

 

20 comments to “When Collectible Websites die – does the Data die too?”

  1. Bud Kalland says:

    Thanks for all the great leadership Christian. I can’t imagine how many volumes would be needed to PRINT all the hobbyDB information. If I ever get to list all the items in my collection that are not yet on hobbyDB, I would probably add an additional volume. 😉

    Keep up the great search and work to bring additional brands to the site!

  2. Adrian Sayers says:

    I am glad that you saved some of the great articles on Rareburg, will you publish more of them?

    • Joschik says:

      Yes, absolutely. Contact us which articles you like to see so we can prioritize these (between websites, company archives and books we have been given permission to digitize we have more than a million pages to be added to hobbyDB!).

  3. andy says:

    Any printed book will deteriorate over time when left out in the elements, unprotected.  Research and history is only handed from generation to generation when those records are maintained.  Our society may have switched from print to digital; however the rules of preservation have not changed in centuries.  hobbyDB and Christian’s entire team is there to create, build and persevere history, the history of collectibles – and getting to be part of the back end, helping with various segments of their extensive catalog I get to see first hand all of the hard work and dedication put into their database daily.  The team continues to add, maintain and clean data for accuracy to deliver the best research the best data and the best history all in one place. Hats off to the great resource site and the team that builds and maintains it.

  4. Karl says:

    Wow, small world!  I got a Matchbox 1-75 Katalog published by Alba around 1985 in Germany!  Not by your brother though!

  5. Marty Moyer says:

    How about the lists that South Texas Diecast used to have on their website?  When they blended with hobbyDB none of those lists came along.  Sure, it’s been a few years, but those lists were nice as a checklist to keep track of buying.  If one of their members still have these lists, you could make them available, catch up on missed years, and keep it going.  Please consider it!!

    • Joschik says:

      Hi Marty,

      Yes, Rob’s work (all of South Texas Diecast was his work alone) was great and we are working on building on what we have but also his lists. Basically we plan to hide what we call Subvariations (say the Dairy Delivery First Edition made in China versus the one made in Thailand) on first view so we can create annual and similar lists. And if one wants the details that we have (we now got 3x as much Hot Wheel data than his site) it will be availalbe at just one more click. These things take time (we have a small team) and I hope we can reveal this in Q3 or 4 of this year. Bear with us (and maybe get involved as a Curator).

  6. Darby_C says:

    I guess even MySpace had something of value when they did the big purge a few months ago. Good article!

  7. Clive says:

    I love the fact that you were able to save Gary’s work, thanks!

  8. Martyn Rigby says:

    Nice to see that one of my old websites and projects mentioned here, and yes I too have had problems when trying to research things and ended up with dead links.

    One large reason for this is actually the age of the internet, but let me explain a bit.

    In the UK, and I guess elsewhere Internet Service Providers, and even search engines, used to give free server space to customers and this is where a lot of this personal or hobby related website data used to be stored.

    As companies closed these down due to folding, server “upgrades” or merging to make larger ISP’s, the only option available was to buy your own server space, which obviously not many people did, so the websites, and accompanying data fell by the digital wayside. I myself had this happen with where I used to store my personal websites, but with having a joint hobby with my wife and over 8000 motorsport photo’s on it, we pay for server space and host all our websites and web domains on that now.

    When I ran “Scalemodelinstructions.info” I only ever had one person post in some manuals, so that alone speaks volumes, and still do not know why this happened? It didn’t stop me wanting to carry this idea on, so I combined it with my personal model making website to just save on cost, and I have added more to it in my own time. Feel free to pass on the new link.

  9. Frank Barrett says:

    The world’s automotive book business has lost a significant, high-quality publisher. David Bull Publishing ceased operations in early March 2019, and its web site thus closed. For decades, David published excellent books on various and sundry racing topics. His efforts will be remembered and appreciated, and we may see him reappear in another capacity.

  10. At Auto-Archives we are building a ‘Hard Copy’ library to preserve materials and keeping the real objects for folks to see in person. But then we also do our best to keep the equivalent digital archive online for people around the globe that cannot come to our facility in Colorado. Our sister company Coterie Press just lost their website (don’t even ask how and why!) that had 10,000 or so images on it, but then some of the black and white negatives they hold are starting to deteriorate, so both mediums have their issues!

    Sad to hear about David Bull Publishing. We really do need small independent publishers to keep producing quality books on the more ‘niche’ market subjects.

  11. James Wright says:

    Read your article and agree, there were four fantastic Lone Star sites and over the years they all closed, the last one is Geoffrey Ambridge’s that disappeared sometimes in 2017.  I believe people that build these websites should have a succession plan in place (with access to hosting accounts), we are just losing too much info this way!

  12. Anita Smith says:

    This happened to the best Hot Wheel Redline site when it was bought out.  The new owner moved it to a different host, and a decade of extremely important information was suddenly gone. At the time, we thought it was always going to be there…. that history is gone forever.

    Thankfully they will be saved now

    • Joschik says:

      Yes, forums are a source of great knowledge but not very suitable for it. Too many of them have closed for lots of reasons taking important information into their digital graves. We are very close to releasing what we currently call the PopUp Database that forums can add to their sites to keep and share documentation.

  13. Derryl DePriest says:

    Excellent work Christian and team on this valuable subject. In the last decade I have seen so many sites go away, including all that I referenced in my own G.I. Joe book.  While others have stepped up to take their place, even current data should be viewed as fragile, lacking the structure of a marketplace to help ensure their survival.  I admire the dedication and perseverance to maintain our cultural legacies one collection at a time.

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