Collecting Posts

Collecting Versus Hoarding: It’s a Matter of Perspective

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project. As much as he loves collecting diecast cars (among other things), he sometimes wonders if he takes his hobby just a bit too seriously.

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The perception of whether something has any value is often very personal. But in the case of collecting, people usually agree that certain items have some value. The difference is usually a matter of degrees and amount. In other words, when does a hobby move from “collecting” to “hoarding?’

collection closet

Is this closet a sign of collecting or hoarding? Depends on a lot of factors…

Consider the following criteria. None of these are hard and fast rules, but if you find yourself on the questionable end of most of these answers, it might be time to sell off a few collectibles.

How much of your collection is  on display? Some collections fit on a bookshelf, and some require a warehouse. If it’s all on display, does it take up most of your house? Is a lot of it in storage? Has a good chunk of your collection not seen the light of day in several years?

Some collectors, rather than being completists, will collect enough of their obsession to fill the allotted space, and then stop. For something like bobblehead dolls, a person might just collect only ones they are interested in. And when their shelves are full, they might dial back their efforts a bit. For diecast cars, many collectors will grab the entire documented set.

This question is really a double-edged sword… if you have a modest display but a vault of hidden goods, you might be over the top. On the other hand, if you have every single item out, to the exclusion of any other home decor, you might want to slow down a bit as well. There’s a healthy balance in there somewhere.

toy collecting

Is this “hoarding?” It’s a lot of stuff, but neatly organized, so probably not.


What kind of chaos lies underneath? It’s possible and plausible to have tens of thousands of toys in your collection with only a small percentage visible. But about that stuff in storage… how organized is it? Did you carefully stack and pack and wrap and protect each item? Are they in a climate controlled, water proof area? It’s not like you need to keep your collectibles in a hermetically sealed humidor, but if you just have dumpsters full of stuff randomly tossed in a big pile… yeah, that might be a sign of hoarding.

Do you find yourself buying items you don’t really want just to complete your collection? This can be a slippery slope. Many collectors started off just buying a few items that spoke to them, such as a model of the car they currently drive. Then finding out that the model is part of a series of a dozen cars, they go out and find the other eleven, even though they have no other emotional or historical connection. Is this necessarily unhealthy? Not really. But it begs the question of who’s in control of what you collect.

Did you take out a second mortgage to add to your collection? Did you have to buy a second home to store or display it? Unless you’re talking about large items such as cars, jukeboxes, or arcade games, when additional real estate gets involved, you might be headed into some unhealthy territory.

hoarding or collecting

“Hoarding?” Possibly, if this is the way the items are always displayed.

Do you even know what you have in your collection? Everyone has stared at an item on the store shelf and had a moment of doubt as to whether that one was already part of the collection. That’s normal. Once in a while.

Some sort of checklist is essential for any collection, especially when you get into hundreds or thousands of items. Or if many of them are in storage. (Shameless plug: hobbyDB can be a great resource for documenting your collection, including notes on what you paid, the condition, and the location of the item.) A checklist that you can peek at on your mobile device is really useful. A detailed inventory is also useful for insurance purposes and just in case someone else will be the executor of your estate some day (more at

Do you ever buy an item just so no one else can get their hands on it? There are many times you know you can fetch a good price for an item by selling or trading, so it makes sense to grab it if you see it. But if you’re just trying to corner the market on that item, maybe you’ve turned the corner towards hoarding.

Do you have extras of your extras? Some collectors like to have every model in a perfect package. And maybe one to display loose in a case. And maybe one or two to trade. And another in case the mint-in-package example gets dropped and a corner of the card is bent. And so on. At some point, this adds up more towards hoarding than collecting.

Do you have trouble parting with those extras in sales, for trade, or as gifts? That’s why you have eight copies of that one Star Wars figure, right? Right?

toy hoarding

We’re going to file this one in the “hoarding” column for sure.

Does your collection stray from its core? For example, if you collect Topper Johnny Lightning cars (1969-71), there are some items such as track sets that are a direct extension of those cars. Maybe you also gather advertisements, lunchboxes and whiskey decanters from that line that relate directly to the core of your collection. And perhaps you collect the reissues of those cars as well. These levels of devotion all sound like “collecting.” If you start acquiring unrelated things that only contain the word “Topper,” “Johnny,” or “Lightning” in the name, you might be trending towards hoarding.

Do you collect variants that are not readily distinguishable from other versions without a microscope? If the UPC code on the back of the package is the only difference from one variant to another, most collectors would not bother calling that a difference. Obsession to detail can be fun, but at some point, it can border on insanity.

Collecting is fun, we get it. That’s why everyone at hobbyDB is a collector of some sort of thing or another. And we’re not judging anyone. We’re just suggesting exercising a smidge of moderation and responsibility. Not too much, of course. That could be also become obsessive.

Do you have any other insights that help distinguish between collecting versus hoarding? Let us know in the comments!

Making the Grade: The Ins and Outs of Collectibles Grading Services

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The condition of a collectible is one of the most hotly debated and important factors in determining its value. What constitutes “Mint” versus “near mint” and everything below is a matter of opinion, but your opinion might be vastly influenced by whether you are buying or selling. What one person considers “mint” may have many very tiny, but still important imperfections that would upset a buyer who paid full price. Of course, you may also want to have high-ticket items in your collection graded for insurance purposes.

skating judgesThe tough part comes with newer items that are designated as collectible right from the factory. Collectors should expect a perfect item in these cases, but even in a perfect world, a tiny bit of wear and imperfection is normal. How much and what kind of wear is the sticking point.

Collectibles grading services can take some of the opinion out of the mix by attaching their unbiased expert opinion to an item.

We did a recent article outlining some of the terms people use to list specifiic imperfections on packaging, but that’s only part of the package in grading. An honest accounting of flaws big or little is crucial for the buyer to determine how much they are willing to spend. For high end items such as vintage comic books or extremely rare variants of action figures or diecast cars, it can make sense to have a professional grading service chime in with their opinion.

In most cases, you will need to send the item to the company, so there is a tiny bit of risk, although the packages should be insured both ways. Some companies may offer on the spot appraisals as well, even setting up at collector conventions and such.

Authenticity is part of the game in collectible appraisals. For an item that is no longer sealed, there’s all kind of possibility for fraud, including faked variants, repairs, or reproduction elements. Some grading services won’t offer grades on such things because the company’s reputation is on the line with each assessment they perform. With a grade from a reputable service and a price guide in hand, a collector should have a good sense of an item’s value.

grading diecast

CGA offers several different grading services including diecast.

CGA, Collectible Grading Authority, is one of the most prominent services in the business. CGA actually has four separate divisions, for grading Action figures, collectible dolls, video game equipment, and diecast. For each of these services, you ship the item to them, insured, and they will grade it in the flesh.

As you may have figured out, this is not free, so this kind of service is not for $5 Hot Wheels cars or $10 action figures. CGA does offer different types of authentication and grading, such as for new items that are easily documented, or vintage items that may have some provenance. CGA can also assess hand-buillt prototypes, pre-production loose toys, and other oddities.

grey flannel auctions grading

Grey Flannel Auctions offers a free valuation service for sports memorabilia.

For vintage sports equipment and uniforms, Grey Flannel Auctions offers an interesting new service. GFA  is a leading consignment auction house for such items and have earned a reputation for their honest assessment of items up for sale. They recently teamed up with, a daily blog about sports uniforms, to offer an appraisal service for sports memorabilia. It’s not technically a grading service, but instead an overall assessment of the value in their expert opinion. Sports gear is a collectible corner where wear and tear and repairs can actually make a game-used item more interesting and/or valuable if it’s an important piece. Best of all, there’s no charge or obligation, although if the item is perceived to be worth less than $250, they will not do an appraisal. You can learn more here.

grading comics

CGC, Certified Guaranty Company can grade your vintage comics or magazines.

For other specific collectibles, there are dedicated services available (if we are missing a service let us know and we will add it!).


Comic Books

(Where “F,” Fine, outranks “A,” Average!)



In each case, you’ll want to do some research to make sure these companies have a reputation for honest respected grading, and also for taking care of your valuable collectibles while in their possessions. In other words, make sure your grading service makes the grade as well.

If you’ve used any another collectibles grading companies, let us know in the comments.

Cheers to the Bus Driver, Especially These 10 Fictional Ones!

ed roth bus driver ron ruelle

Don’t Let The Author Drive The Bus!

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

My car has been in the shop all week getting expensive performance upgrades… *sigh*… I wish. Actually, the shop is waiting on one little but significant part to finish a boring maintenance-type job. But I guess brakes are important on a car, right?

As a result I’ve been taking the bus all week. There’s one from my neighborhood to right in front of hobbyDB headquarters, so it’s not a bad way to go. Of course, it does take a bit longer than driving, but I don’t have to watch the road, plus the bus service in Boulder has WiFi. So in the interest of being efficient while commuting, I started working on a list of fictional bus drivers, mostly with collectible connections.

So, Cheers to the Bus Driver !

fictional bus drivers

Otto, Ms. Crabtree, Ed Crankshaft

Otto MannThe Simpsons
“My name is Ot-to, I like to get Blot-to!” As questionable as his driving (and other) skills may be, Otto has been piloting the Springfield Elementary school bus for almost 30 years, so he must be pretty good at it. Or else the Springfield School District is really desperate. Either way, he starred his own comic book, “The Gnarly Adventures of BusMan.”

Veronica Crabtree, South Park
Speaking of long-tenured cartoon bus drivers, did you know the ill-tempered lady with a bird on her head on “South Park” had a name? Now you do. Sadly, a couple seasons ago, she and her bird were found dead (“I know she wasn’t in any recent episodes, but dammit, she didn’t deserve this!”) and has been replaced by Jose Venezuela.

Ed Crankshaft, Crankshaft
Neither of the previous cartoon drivers can hold a candle to Ed Crankshaft of Tom Batuik’s comic strip, who’s been backing up over mailboxes since 1987. So he must be like, 122 years old by now. A longtime Cleveland Indians and Toledo Mud Hens fan, the character was honored as a giveaway bobblehead by the Hens in 2016.

fictional bus drivers

Ms. Frizzle, The Pigeon, CatBus

Ms. Valerie Frizzle, Magic School Bus
Another cartoon bus driver, but one of the few who’s actually careful and considerate. And since her bus can fly and go under water, she shows dazzling busmanship. All this while imparting important life lessons to the kids onboard.

The Bus DriverDon’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!
The Pigeon, Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!
Never mind that it seems awfully irresponsible of The Bus Driver to ask a child to watch his vehicle to prevent a very persuasive bird from taking the wheel. This children’s book by Mo Willems rivals “The Monster at the End of this Book” for enjoyable yelling and flailing while reading. Spoiler alert: The Pigeon does not, in fact, get to drive, but he did get his own stuffy toy.

ralph kramden

Ralph Kramden, to the moon!

CatBus, My Neighbor Totoro
As an anthropomoprhic anime bus/cat hybrid creature, we’re not really sure if CatBus has a driver, or is the driver. Either way, all hail CatBus!

Ralph Kramden, The Honeymooners
Fun Fact: While you frequently see Jackie Gleason’s character in his bus driver uniform on “The Honeymooners,” they never once showed him actually driving a bus. Kinda makes you wonder what he was really up to all that time. Maybe he was like a detective or something off screen.

fictional bus drivers

Annie Porter, Not Dirty Harry

Annie Porter, Speed
Speaking of detectives on buses, Keanu Reeves’ character does not actually drive the bus in “Speed.” Annie Porter, played by Sandra Bullock, spends much of the film behind the wheel, driving fast, causing havoc and winning our hearts. Reeves and the bus do not appear with Bullock in the dreadful sequel “Speed 2: Cruise Control.” Ms. Bullock’s career managed to survive that wreck, however.

Ben Shockley, The Gauntlet
Long before “Speed,” Clint Eastwood drove a bus very slowly down the streets of L.A. in this movie to deliver a key witness to an important trial. Since it was made around the same time as some of his other films, many people mistakenly think this was a “Dirty Harry” movie.

harry potter ernest prang

Ernest Prang, Knight Rider

Ernest Prang, Harry Potter franchise
On the topic of movies about someone named Harry, Ernest Prang drove the purple triple decker Knight Bus in the Harry Potter novels and movies. It was yet another way to reach Hogwarts if magic train, flying car, teleporting, dragon riding, or viking ship weren’t cutting it. Despite minimal screen/page time, he got his own Lego Minifig.

Shirley Partridge, The Partridge Family
Finally, as if being a Mom who totally rocks wasn’t enough, Shirley Partridge was also the primary driver of the Partridge Family’s tour bus. She piloted the converted mid-50s GMC school bus from concert to concert and adventure to misadventure and into our hearts for four years on TV.

shirley partridge bus

Shirley you remember Mrs. Partridge driving the bus.

Well, my stop is coming up, time to hop off and head into the office. If you think of any other fictional bus drivers, especially with related collectibles, let us know in the comments!

Why Do You Do The Scale You Do? How Collectors Decide on a Model Scale

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Someone recently asked a question on one of the Facebook pages we follow – “What makes you pick the model scale you do?” Seriously? You have to ask? Because the answer is obviously… ummm… Actually, that’s a great question!

This query was from a gentleman in the UK regarding Airfix model kits. Airfix is a long-established, highly regarded company best known for their military models. Mostly planes. In certain scales. And eras. And nationalities. But that’s not all they make. So there’s some wiggle room in there. Which means the folks who chimed in on this question likely had a common core interest, but with some variances due to… well, what, exactly?

Airfix facebook

It all started with a simple question…

Let’s break it down.

  • Who’s responding to this question? The question was about what scale you “do.” Not just collect, not just build, but invest your time and money into. Could it be modelers, or collectors? Is there a difference? Well, yes, as it turns out. When someone is building and detailing a model, the factors of what is possible and what is practical are a bit different from someone who is purchasing pre-built miniatures.
  • Do you have a split loyalty? Do you have multiple scales you work on/collect?
  • Are there scales you love or don’t like for some particular reason? Maybe some scales that just feel too small to be appreciated for quality over quantity? Or too big to be appreciated at arm’s length?

There’s so much to unpack here. So let’s look as some of the factors that influence the decision and how they relate to modelers versus collectors. These were all cited by folks who responded to the original question…

Shelf space – Usually, this skews towards smaller sizes like 1/64 and 1/43. Unless someone only wants a few key models, in which they might go bigger.

Cost – In general, smaller models should cost less, but that’s not always the case. There are plenty of very high-end 1/43 models that can easily break the bank more than similar models in larger sizes.

Airfix spitfire

A lot of models come in multiple scales. Which do you choose and why?

Availablity of a Specific Model – For collectors, this is strictly about what has been made of the cars or planes you like. For modelers and customizers, there is more flexiblity with such things, depending on how much you are willing to scratchbuild.

Availablitiy of certain parts – For someone scratchbuilding a car, tires are one feature that they will most likely acquire preformed from some other source. So tire size is an important attribute when figuring out how big or small to go. A lot of people don’t think about it, but when designing a model in Lego, the wheels and Minifigs are the two most likely factors in determining the scale..

Brand loyalty – Some companies specialize in one particular scale, and that’s that.

Airfix interior

How much detail? How good is your eyesight? How crazy do you want to be? All play a part in scale selection.

Eye hand coordination – This is of interest for modelers and customizers. Generally, bigger is better, up to a practical point.

Taking satisfaction in crafting tiny details – In this case, it’s all about the challenge, eyes be damned! A tiny N scale train with accurate details is an amazing sight (for those who can see it!)

Pride in crafting a humongous tribute – On the other hand, if you have a lot of room or work in a museum, you might want to create an impressively giant model. The bigger the kit, the more you can mimic real materials and assembly techniques. Why create rivet patterns, when you can have actual rivets holding parts together?

The bigger the scale, the more detail you can work with.

How big is this scene? – If you’re making a diorama, do you want to show an complete, enormous battle in one small space? Or do you want to focus on a small vignette in great detail?

Other modeling interests – Airfix makes a lot of airplanes at 1/72 scale, but tanks and ground vehicles at 1/76. Why the small difference? The plane scale came first, and at 1/72, a 6 foot person is exactly one inch tall. 1/76 matches OO scale trains, so when they made land-based vehicles, it made some sense for them to match the trains. (1/48 planes go well with 1/43 model trains) or minifigs. (By the way, if you’ve ever wondered why certain scales even came to be in the first place, we covered that a while back.)

Airfix boeing 727

Large commercial aircraft are usually done an really small scales like 1/144 (half of 1/72).

Wide range of models – If your interests are broad, and you want to stick to one scale, 1/64 and 1/43 are most likely your best choices for model cars. For planes, it could be 1/72 for most small military planes, or 1/144 or even 1/400, if you’re into jumbo jets. Large warships are often rendered in 1/1,200 scale, resulting in a still pretty big finished model.

airfix bismarck

For really big flotillas, scales as small as 1/1,200 are common.

Popularity – You got into this hobby to be popular, right? Maybe not, but working in the more common scales will present more opportunities to trade, share, and otherwise connect with fellow hobbyists. For model car kits in the U.S., 1/24 or 1/25 are far and away most popular choices. Is it because the market spoke and the manufacturers listened? Or do modelers just buy what’s available? Strangely enough, this scale is not nearly as popular for pre-built cars.

Going Against the Grain – Some modelers just dare to be different. Pocher/Rivarossi makes a series of 1/8 scale cars that are quite frankly enormous. They contain some colossal detail, and sometimes require building components such as wire wheels. And they are pretty expensive. But if you only plan to build a few models in your life, that may add up to your cup of tea..

pocher mercedes benz

Pocher makes a series of 1/8 model cars, which are huge, hyper-detailed, and pretty expensive.

It’s sort of made up – For many fictional vehicles, such as spacecraft, it can be hard to nail down a scale. You can sort of figure out how big it’s supposed to be, but accuracy is loose. Models of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek are often listed at 1/1000, as it makes a plausible ratio for a decent sized model. 1/6,250 is about the smallest size, suitable for a model of, say, the Death Star.

Airfix Space 1999

Some fictional creations like the Eagle Transporter from Space:1999 don’t have a scale, some do.

Love at first sight – Did you get a model as a gift at some age that you just loved? Maybe you just found a particular brand or range, and whatever that scale was, it stuck with you forever.

Whatever’s going – Several modelers in the forum said they build whatever strikes their fancy in any scale, feeling that a lack of dedication to one scale or brand can be liberating and fun. And isn’t this whole collecting thing supposed to be fun?

We’d love to hear your stories of how you decided on a particular scale or scales for your collection… Let us know in the comments.

Diecast Collector, Historian David Wright Joins hobbyDB Advisory Council

The Advisory Council at hobbyDB consists of experts on many different facets of collecting, all sharing their knowledge for the benefit of the entire site. David Wright, a noted model car collector from Storrington, England, is the latest to join the Council.

David WrightHis fascination with buses and cars began when he was nine years old. “I started collecting bus numbers while sitting on a grass bank on the main trunk road past my parent’s house to the south coast,” he said. It wasn’t until later in life that he began seriously collecting diecast. He found an old Dinky Austin van in a donation pile, and made a £5.00 donation to the charity to acquire it. “I stripped and restored it, and I was hooked. I then discovered a small shop selling old model cars, stamps and magazines near where we had recently moved in South London, and I began collecting. This means I have been hooked since 1973.”

BMC truck and car

Bakelite 1920s SunbeamHis collection now totals around 1,000 models. British sports cars, such as Allard, AC, Bristol, Jensen, Riley, TVR, Turner, and Wolseley are his primary passion. “I have given myself licence to move into models of British Motor Corporation vehicles, as I just love the red, white and blue rosette logo!” Most of his collection is 1/43 scale, although he also has a nice variety of early Lesney models. One of his favorite larger models is a 1/18 Bakelite design study prototype of a 1920s Sunbeam Roadster, seen here.

David is also a diecast historian who has published several books about collecting. He began by by focusing on lower volume makers other than diecast, who were not likely to have their own existing guides. “My books were prompted by the realisation that many of the makers of white metal and resin models, be they cars, trucks, buses, or trains, are artisans, working on their own, and their stories about how they came into this wonderful hobby needed to be known by all,” he said.

David Wright model car booksDavid Wright“It was only when I retired in 2007 that I found the time to work on the books, and now I am more busy than ever, building kits and converting models for fellow enthusiasts around the world.” He also stays busy driving a commnity bus and traveling with his wife Chris, both of whom are avid bird watchers.

His first two books cover about 170 different model makers in each volume. His first guide, about white metal models (which is sold out), took about three years of research before it was published in 2011. His follow up, a 2013 book on resin models, took about two years. “I then felt confident in my writing style and the self publishing process, together with a comprehensive network of both makers and collectors at my disposal, to work on the British Sporting Cars in Miniature book,” he said. That one was also finished in two years, available in 2015. His books are available on hobbyDB.

As for future writing, he’s taking a break from books at the moment. “I’m happy with my trilogy of books, and continue to publish regular articles on the history of particularly interesting cars, and the models made of them, “he said. “My most recent example is a comparison of the Brazilian made Brasinca, and its similarities with the Jensen Interceptor, Iso Grifo and Studebaker Avanti.”

David also has a couple of 1/1 scale classic cars: an MGA 1600MkII, and a Jensen C-V8 Mk III, both of which he drives regularly. He is also the South Downs Rep for the Jensen Owners Club and collects real car badges, and old cigarette cards of motor cars. “But there’s no space for much more!” he laughs.

David Wright