Collecting Posts

How hobbyDB decided on the best Setup for Data-Seeking Collectors

Here at hobbyDB, we’re all collectors. And when we started work on the site, one of the main things we knew we wanted was to make it a great place for collectors to research their interests. So we knew better than almost anyone how much time collectors like to spend reading about whatever it is that’s their own particular passion – something our research bore out when we talked to the 10,000 collectors we interviewed before starting the site to see what they wanted.


Eric Marcoullier, a poster collector and great supporter – we talked to 10,000 collectors just like him…

Those interviews also resulted in some fascinating conclusions about collectors. Whatever their subject area of interest, from chairs to teddy bears to corkscrews to vintage shoes, they all approached research in exactly the same way – and for exactly the same reasons. Newbie collectors read to learn about their area of interest to find things to collect. Veteran collectors read over copious amounts of information they likely already knew to try and find more things to collect; stuff they’d overlooked or perhaps just never heard of.

All collectors thirst for more stuff! We wanted to make sure that hobbyDB would slake that thirst like nothing ever before!

We had wondered whether it made sense for hobbyDB to be one platform for ALL kinds of collectibles. But then we realized that not only would a site that covered everything provide a far more robust platform to preserve information about collectibles than the homespun sites that already existed, it would be a huge boon to all those collectors searching for the things they’d missed.

That’s why we made the site a full-on inter-relational database in the mold of sites like IMdB.

Consider, if you will, the plight of the PEZ collector. He needs an encyclopedic resource of all the PEZ dispensers ever made. hobbyDB can easily give him that on it’s PEZ subject page (or through a simple search). But there are dozens of other PEZ items that’ll interest him too. Items that he might never know exist because they’re a different type of thing; for example, a model delivery truck with the PEZ logo on the side. Or a PEZ tie-in Beanie Baby. A PEZ pin. Or a PEZ promotional pen.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.16.26 PM

1940 Ford Pezmobile. A must-have for the PEZ completist.

On hobbyDB, he doesn’t have to rely on running a search for “PEZ” and seeing what shows up to find those things. He could do that on eBay, but there, he’s limited to seeing what’s on sale, or the limited view of what’s already sold. On hobbyDB, he can see everything that’s ever existed, regardless of whether it’s for sale or been sold recently or not.

And if you’re a collector who collects by theme to start with – for example, one who collects Simpsons-related items, there’ll be an even wider spread of item types that’ll include things you need to own. And they’ll all be there right on one page for you to view, whether they’re a doll, an action figure, a diecast car, a slot car or anything else.


Hot Wheels’ Homer Simpson’s Nuclear Waste Van; of interest to collectors of Simpsons-alia, Hot Wheels, van models and Nuclear-themed-items…

So not only can hobbyDB flex to accommodate ANY type of collectible by all its most important data points, it can also flex to accommodate any type of collector and give them exactly what they want to see! And as many users have told us – once you start going on hobbyDB, you can just click on and on forever!

How Big are the Collectible Markets? Are we really spending $200 billion every year on them?

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and this musings are sharing some of his collecting experience that are hopefully interesting.

I have always been interested in this subject and since starting my MBA in 1991 looked for studies or other data points.  I never found a satisfactory 3rd party study and ten years ago I commissioned the only one that I know of.  I am collating my thoughts and the various facts I found in this analysis.

The “Batmobile Thought”

I sometimes use the first Corgi Batmobile as an illustration of how big this market is (and when talking about the subject in the UK find that everybody in my age group had one!).

  • Corgi Toys sold 4,907,000 of them up to the end of 1968, the production run for its last year 1969 is not known and they were also sold in various gift-sets, so I assume a total of 5.2 million.
  • I further assume that more than one third of them still exist somewhere, almost all of them in collectors’ hands (and if some get unearthed today that is where they go).
  • Their value varies widely (there are 10 known variations and with conditions from poor to mint in box they can be worth anything from $5 to $2,000).
  • I assume that the average value is around $60.

This calculates to a total balance sheet value of $104 million for this casting alone and assuming a 12 year average hold period for vintage collectibles (7 years is the average for all collectibles) is correct translates into roughly $8.7 million in annual sales.  I checked this assumption against eBay which we believe has a 3% marketshare in collectibles but less for vintage items (due to an extent to age and internet savvy of sellers but to a much larger one on eBay’s policies in the last 6-7 years) and the 3% holds about true for this Batmobile model.  The Batmobile casting is one of about 4,000 Corgi castings (even if a very successful one) and Corgi is but one of thousands of brands in model cars.  Model Cars finally is just one of the 13 sub-market in Collectible Toys and Models (others are for example Slot Cars, Radio-Controlled Vehicles, Model Trains, Dolls and Bears).

The Hot Wheels Example

Hot Wheels is now a $1.1 billion brand.  While Mattel does not publish segment information of how much of that is spend by collectors (versus parents) many conversations with Mattel executives and others in the industry make me believe that measured by value it is around 20% (collectors pay significantly more per average model as they buy many Collector’s Editions).  That would represent $200 million in annual collectible sales in the Primary Market.
A typical Hot Wheels Collection

Since the brand started almost 50 years ago in 1968 Mattel has sold more than 5 billion Hot Wheels models.  Assuming that 15% of these survived in a condition suitable for collecting and an average price of $5 (I know this is all very rough) we come to a balance sheet number of $3.75 billion.  Further assuming a 10 year hold period we get to Hot Wheels products in the value of $375 million changing hands every year in the Secondary Markets.  As many of these transactions are sold as collections and therefore at a very large discount I assume the total sales to be more closer to $200 million for the Secondary Markets.

That results in a total of $400 million in sales for Hot Wheels.

The Collectable & Vintage Toys UK Market Size 

An MBA student analyzed this market for me in September 2006 by looking at sales on eBay, toy fairs, auction houses and other channels and came to the conclusion that is was valued at £310 million (around $627 million at the time).  With hindsight the study missed some sub-markets which I would estimate would have added around 10% of the total market.

UK Market Size Study from 2006
With the US constituting 2/3 of the collectible markets I believe that the UK represents about 1/15th of the world-wide market giving a total value of the Collectible Toy markets to be $10 billion per annum.

Collectible Models Sold in US Retail

The NPD Group is a market research company which monitors consumer purchase data from over 165,000 stores worldwide.  In 2012 they reported that Collectors bought around 15% of the total toys and models sold in monitored retail outlets in the US and that the total sales for these retailers was $23bn.

Model Kits on the Shelves

This does not account for eBay, other online channels, fairs, P2P sales and auction houses and is a larger number than my prediction (use the $10 billion number calculated earlier, adjust for 2/3 of that to be in the US and then for all missing channels).

Beyond Collectible Toys & Models

While I did the most of my research on the Toys & Models markets I have also monitored literature on other types of collectibles and have created a Segment Map which calculates the annual spend as $200 billion (this excludes the value of Classic Cars).

Collectible Segments

A few comments on the graph:

  • The size of the circles represents annual global trading of collectible segments and are based on similar type of assumptions or comments from experts (many of which are on on the hobbyDB Catalog Advisory Council)
  • Segment colors denote clusters, for example dark blue is for value based collectibles such as coins, stamps and shares
  • Concentration is an approximation on how many items make up a segment and how many of those are responsible for a large percentage of the sales in one segment – take PEZ Dispenser which would probably be less than 12,000 database entries (we consider that a very small number) or model cars where the Golden Brands (Corgi Toys, Dinky Toys, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Minichamps, Wiking and maybe 4 or 5 other brands make up more than half of the total collectible sales.


How many of us Collectors are out there?

I have also run some calculations on the number of collectors worldwide and estimate it to be 75 million. This number is supported by research by Pam Danziger who runs Unity Marketing, the only firm that I found that had focused on researching collectible markets (they have now pivoted their focus to the Luxury Markets).  Pam had earlier been the Director of Competitive Analysis at Franklin Mint. One of their reports from October 2000 that was based on their regular omnibus questionnaire said “Some 42.9 million U.S. households, that is 42% of total households, report that someone in their household collects any collectible item, according to Unity Marketing’s latest consumer survey.  With an average of 1.7 individual collectors living in each collecting household, the total number of U.S. collectors is estimated at 72.9 million — about 35% of the total U.S. population!”

Growth of the Collectible Markets

Elroy Dimson, Emeritus Professor of Finance at London Business School did a study in 2014 on returns of Collectible Assets (which he calls Emotional Assets) since 1900 and calculated Nominal Returns over the period of 6.4% p.a. and Real Returns of 2.4%.  This dovetails with my estimate of an annual growth of the total market of around 3%.  That growth is fed by new collectibles entering the market (like those $200 million in Collectible Hot Wheels referred to earlier) and appreciation of collectibles already in Collectors’ hands.

Chinese Stamps

We see particular strong growth in some of the Emerging Markets, primarily in China and expect the relationship of 2/3 of collecting happening in the US to reverse over the next 20 years.