For Alex Procyk, collecting tinplate models has been a lifetime of toying with reality in the best possible way.
A collector, author and tinplate connoisseur, we’re excited to introduce Alex as the latest expert to join the hobbyDB community and Advisory Council. Alex has been collecting tinplate models for more than 50 years, amassing quite the knowledge base in which he’ll be sharing with us.
You can find his book “Toying with Reality – The Inspiration Behind the World’s Greatest Toys” listed now on hobbyDB. Check out the beginning of our tinplate model database here (a lot to be done here but that is where Alex and others are coming in!).
Alex took some time recently to chat with us about how he began collecting, some inspirations and advice for new collectors.
How did you begin collecting tinplate toys? What was your first one? What got you hooked?
I started collecting when I was about 4 (1969). My aunt bought me a Lionel train (postwar 671 steam turbine set), then my dad – always in competition for “world’s cheapest man” brought home a bunch of Lionel trains that a workmate of his found on the street out in the trash. One of them was a 60 trolley, and we still had trolleys running around Pittsburgh at the time, so that was the piece that got me most hooked.
We collected trains since then – dad acquired the “real’ O gauge and n scale trains, and I hoarded whatever toy trains, no matter how crude or stupid, I could find.
How big would you estimate your collection is today?
It’s small by collector standards. It fills an 11 x 15 bedroom, floor to ceiling.
Do you have a “grail” and, if so, do you own it?
A Voltamp interurban (Ed. Manes A. Fuld in Baltimore, Maryland produced high-quality electric 2” gauge trains from 1907 to 1923 and very, very hard to get). No, never had one.
Voltamp 2210 double-truck
Where do you find these models? Online? Shows?
Mostly online anymore. Used to be shows and personal connections, but I have let my personal connection skills slip in the digital age, and I don’t get to go to many shows because I live too far away from them.
Tell us about the inspiration for the book.
The Lionel No. 68 inspection car. Lionel made these things in the postwar period, and they look just like a Buick station wagon set on train wheels. I always liked them, but thought they were just a goofy toy trying to cross over into the toy car market. Then I saw a picture of a real one – it looked just like Lionel’s. That’s when I thought there should be a book that connects the toys to the real live versions they are modeling so people can have more appreciation for the toys and what they represent.
The Wuppertal Suspension Train here in model and as postcard – Alex loves to show toys in their historical context
Do you collect anything else?
A couple 50’s Postcards and French travel posters, some horror and science fiction movie posters from the 50’s, and mid-century furniture and decorative arts.
Visitez La France
Oh, and I always try to have a collectible car in the garage.
Are you active in the tinplate community?
I am not active in acquisitions at the moment, I am also not selling because I like the collection I have pretty much as it is now, but I am starting to get involved in more writing projects (Ed. We are talking to Alex about a book on Slotcar Starter packages from the last 80 years).
What kind of advice do you have for collectors starting out in the tinplate toy genre?
The usual best advice is to buy in excellent or better condition. It’s a challenge and a good investment as those are the pieces that have high demand and bring the best money if/when you sell. They also are esthetically the most pleasing – who doesn’t like brand new and shiny?
I don’t follow this advice; the things that I like are so old and rare that usually there is only a handful in existence, and the choice is to get what is available in any condition or don’t get it at all. I also love the challenge of getting something almost unknown that is beaten to death and then bringing it back to life in a sympathetic way. This requires patience, talent, practice, and taste – far more challenging than just raising a paddle higher and longer than the next guy. My advice is to find what genre really strikes a chord with you, try to buy the best you can, expect to make and shrug off mistakes (consider mistakes tuition – what education worth anything is cheap?), and don’t be too proud to own some dogs, as long as they are interesting or unique dogs.
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