Musings By Joschik Posts

Planet Diecast’s Charity Dinner with Marcel R Van Cleemput

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and this post is about a fundraising event he organized with Marcel Van Cleemput who was Corgi Toys‘ chief designer for more than 30 years and also a member of hobbyDB’s Advisory Council. The dinner was on the 10th of March 2012 and Marcel unfortunately died a year and a half after this event.  I believe this was the last time he got together with his fans.  The article was written by Chris Sweetman and initially published on Planet Diecast’s Blog here.

 

As part of a fundraising drive for the Helen and Douglas House children’s charity Tony Brandon, Christian Braun and I met Marcel for dinner last Saturday. Apologies from Andrew Adamides (Editor’s Note: that is Baskingshark here on the site), Chris Aston (of Aston Auctions), Hugo Marsh (formerly Christie’s and now SAS) and Tom Hickwell who after paying up in full for the charity all for various reasons could not make the dinner.

The Venue

The dinner took place at Fawsley Hall which is located near Daventry in Northamptonshire.  Fawsley has an interesting history and was a Royal Manor as early as the 7th century. Over the centuries Fawsley was continuously developed in a variety of styles, reflecting each period. Today Fawsley Hall is a Country House Hotel and Spa with facilities to house conferences and is an ideal wedding venue. For anyone wishing to explore Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, Althorp, Warwick Castle and Blenheim or racing at Silverstone Fawsley Hall is ideally located.

Fawsley Hall is the quintessential English Country House

Over a very enjoyable dinner, there were lots of questions for Marcel from ourselves and other members of the Planet Diecast site! To start with, we asked him to name the five top models he’d include in his model range if he was still in the toy car business. Marcel told us that since he doesn’t follow current car models, he’d be pushed to name five but that the range would definitely include a Smart Car because he has one, and a BL Wedge Princess would be number two because he once owned one during his time at Mettoy and found it to be totally reliable (in contrast to the image of most BL products!). Another likely candidate would be a Triumph Herald as he had a memorable journey in one, driving from Daventry to Florence, Italy on a summer holiday with his wife and two young daughters in around 1960. The journey was 1002 miles and Marcel hadn’t booked accommodation in advance but struck it lucky while driving round Florence looking for somewhere to stay. He suddenly found himself outside “The Grand Hotel” and, taking his two young daughters into the reception area, he managed to persuade the reception staff to allow him and his family to stay. Marcel said that a special feature for this model would be a roof rack with two large miniature suit cases strapped on. He didn’t mention whether it would be a coupe like the famous Corgi model!

Mettoy

Marcel went on to tell us more about Mettoy. At its peak, the company employed over 5,000 people. These included 60 tool makers and three people in their Art Department. There were occasions when they outsourced moulds to Germany in the first few years, later, toolmakers were used in Italy. Prototype models were mainly outsourced from Ian Pickering of Southend, Ian was the finest model maker and was responsible for the best prototypes, The Coronation Coach, as shown in the Great Book of Corgi being typical of his fine work. When really stretched Marcel used Gerald Wingrove whose models were outstanding.

The injection moulding machines Mettoy used were designed and made in-house. These machines were always on the forefront of technology and regularly updated. Mettoy did use die-sets made by Die Casting Machine Tools (DCMT). Copper masks were deployed for two-tone models and for applying additional painted detailing such as grilles and bumpers. The Art Department were responsible for producing all art work including catalogues, decals and packaging. However, the decal production was outsourced and the manufacture and printing of the packaging was carried out by Vernon Packaging of Northampton.

Although car manufacturers would supply blueprints of their models, Marcel never used them. He recalled that Studebaker once sent him 1:1 scale plans of their Golden Hawk. They weren’t used for two reasons – one was the lack of space they had to roll out the plans in their office and the second was that they were out of date! Soon after he received the plans, Studebaker had carried out several modifications to the car and Corgi wanted the most up to date version. As was common with manufacturers, they rarely updated the blueprints when they made design changes after the fact.

Instead of using blue prints Marcel preferred to photograph a car. This would result in around 70 images of the vehicle in question, taken from all angles, including the interior and occasionally of the underside of the chassis. Marcel would then develop the films at home that evening and print off all the whole plates  early next morning so that the model designer could start work immediately on producing an accurate body external drawing of the model. These were always drawn at 4 times model size for accuracy but then reduced to twice the model size for the master pattern maker to produce the body pattern. The wood used was lime as it has a very fine grain. Marcel always took along with him the designer who was to produce the accurate body external drawing. This helped to ensure that the designer was fully au fait with the vehicle and would easily recollect the fine features etc. After taking the photographs, they measured the car and made a drawing to scale on graph paper of the side, front and rear elevations as well as a plan view. They also used very large sheets of paper to lay over the main areas of the car and used crayons to rub over the entire curves and shapes. The principle was” just like taking brass rubbings in a church” Marcel told us. He explained that using this method all the details and their relationship with each other was faithfully recorded. These records would then be used by the model makers to prepare scale models for evaluation purposes. Once the go-ahead was given they would then be used by the tool makers in the first step towards model production.

In the Mettoy era, paying royalties to make models of cars was a rarity – Lord Stokes and Ken Tyrell wanted to be paid royalties from Mettoy for certain Corgi Toys, but Marcel refused and managed to get ELF fuels, Tyrrell’s Formula 1 sponsor, to pay Ken the £6,000 he asked for, in return for selling ELF 20,000 Corgi Tyrell in special boxes for them to sell in their filling stations. Indeed, all deals Marcel struck with car, film and TV companies were on a handshake! There was no paperwork involved.

Many of our members asked why the move to 1:36th scale. Marcel took full responsibility for this one! He reasoned that a larger scale would enable finer details and the only additional costing implication would be for materials. Research and development costs incurred were the same whatever the scale. Marcel felt that the larger scale was well suited to the Formula 1 racing cars Corgi were planning at the time. When asked why didn’t he use the more established 1:32nd scale, the same used by Airfix for their plastic car kits and Scalextric for their slot racing system, he replied that he never considered any competitor’s ranges. “We were too busy dealing with what we were doing to look at what other firms were making” he replied.

The discussion then moved to the 1:18th scale Formula 1 racing cars. Marcel said that this decision was based on an historical connection. Back in 1958 Mettoy released a large scale Vanwall Formula 1 car at the same time as the Corgi Toys version was issued. The Vanwall was roughly 1:18th scale and was a special for Marks and Spencer’s. So in 1974 the first 1:18th scale F1 car was released. This was the Lotus ‘John Player Special’ and sold very well in its four year production run. Only one other 1:18th scale model was issued, the Marlboro McLaren. Further models were considered but other projects took over and the demand on time for their development curtailed any future involvement in this scale.

In the early 1970‘s there were plans to produce the Rocket stock cars in the Corgi Toys scale. These would have complimented the dragster range Corgi were currently developing. However, there was no time to proceed with this venture either, as other topics suddenly took priority. Marcel said that this was a typical recurrence. His team was small in number and they were always overstretched. At any one time they would be responsible for around 45 different models at various stages of development. His team of designers were always stretched to the limit and very hard working. They often put in as many as 25 hours overtime per week, this would include Saturdays and Sundays.

The first version of Corgi’s James Bond Aston-Martin DB5 was in Gold as Corgi’s Management felt that they could not just make it in a bare metal color!

Personal recollections at Mettoy

Marcel didn’t enjoy a particularly good working relationship with Howard Fairbairn, his boss at Mettoy. An authoritarian leader, Fairbairn was set on doing things his way and his interpersonal skills could leave a lot to be desired. Marcel once had a personal invitation from the James Bond producers to spend three weeks on their set in Egypt, but wasn’t allowed the time off by Fairburn. The invitation was in recognition of Marcel’s hard work on the Corgi Toys James Bond Lotus Esprit and on previous James Bond models. His consolation was a lovely card from the film signed by most of the cast.

Another personal invite did actually go ahead. One day he received a call from Anthony Bamford, owner of JCB. Neither Anthony nor Marcel could find time for an essential meeting, Anthony therefore suggested a weekend and to meet him at East Midlands Airport and to ensure he brings his passport. On arrival he was taken to Mr Bamford’s private jet and taken off to Le Mans! Again this was in recognition of Marcel’s work on a variety of JCB models and a Ferrari Daytona owned by Mr Bamford that raced at Le Mans. It was a tremendous occasion.

There were plenty of other visits too – Marcel fondly remembers that when he visited the Lamborghini factory, it was spotlessly clean and he felt one could eat dinner off their floor! It was an amazing place and they were treated very well by all staff there. The only other impressive car plant was that of the De Lorean factory in Northern Ireland.

On a different matter Marcel recalls the problems with Spanish toy car companies pirating their models. Suing would have cost lots of money and one could never know what the outcome would be if it did go though the court system. Marcel didn’t think that moulds were offered to any Spanish firm.

One model that Marcel always wanted to make was a camper van with an opening roof with ‘fabric’ sides. The main difficulty here was selecting the material for the sides. Finally, Plastic moulded slats onto fabric material was tried out but it then proved too complicated to be able to fold the material. The folding was important because the roof had to be opened and closed repeatedly in the process of play. Unfortunately, lack of time was against them and the project was shelved.

The Marcel R Van Cleemput Collection

We also asked Marcel about his famous collection. There were, he said, many reasons why Marcel sold it. The main reason was that he was in the process of moving to a small cottage from his large family home of many years. The move took seven weeks and there was no room for Marcel’s Corgi collection. Instead a friend offered to store the 50 boxes in their loft.

Nigel Turner of Turner’s Merry Go Round, in Northampton was using Marcel to design a computerised musical instrument for him and learnt of his collection of Corgi Models.

Nigel wanted to buy the collection and agreed to create a museum at his Merry Go Round complex where the models etc. would be on permanent display as they really belonged to be in Northampton. Marcel sold the collection to him for £ 7,250. This included all the models to the early 1980’s as well as posters, leaflets, over 100 prototypes, master patterns and resins together with a body mould.

Nigel then talked to Allen Levy about a Corgi book, Alan jumped at the chance of a book about Corgi Toys and the rest is history, up to a point. The fact that all the models were now on display made it easy to do all the photography for the book, which took 3 weeks. Nigel then also wanted to buy Bassett-Lowke, the other Northampton based toy legend but would only do so if Marcel agreed to come in as Design and Management consultant. This he agreed to do for 3 months but eventually stayed for 9 months.

Unfortunately, shortly after Marcel stopped working with Nigel the collection was sold onto a collector in Switzerland for £55,000. 10 years later that collector fell on hard times and had to sell up. A German auction house was given the collection to sell and it realised £250,000!  Needless to say that it is a shame that this collection is not available to the public anymore; but maybe some of our members here want to consider creating a Corgi Museum.

Marcel signing Chris Sweetman’s copy of The Great Book of Corgi

All in all, we had a very enjoyable evening and would like to thank Marcel for taking the time to make it possible and for answering all our many questions. Thanks too to Fawsley Hall for providing a wonderful venue!  We raised a total of £860 for the Helen & Douglas House on this occasion with the cost for the dinner being paid for by Planet Diecast and Fawsley Hall.

Random Acts of Kindness – Special Treatment on Special Events

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience.

I just returned from the 30th Hot Wheels Annual Collectors Convention and started to unpack. Besides a lot of Hot Wheels models, some other cars (some Matchbox and 4 Majorettes) I also ended up with 3 RAOKs.

raoks-from-the-hot-wheels-convention

Collectors prepare these and then give it to others – some make them for children that are running around in the hotel and other produce them in the middle of an interesting conversation. It’s one of the things that make a difference to European events which are much more focused on the business of buying and selling stuff.

The first one I got from Kirk at KMJ Diecast who maintains a well stocked store on hobbyDB. He probably produces the most of these RAOKs as every child in the hotel had at least one! Kirk gets his dyed by a friend, Karl Klouzer and they are all one-offs.

kirks-raok
The next one I received was from Scot Orloff, a member of hobbyDB who goes under the name of Loaf and has made Teslas.  They are nicely decaled with (what else would you expect) Loaf decals.

loafs-raok
The last one I was given was during a conversation with Albert who makes some amazing customs under the Kool51 insignia.  I just had commented on how I liked his Hawaiian themed VW Kombi custom when he said “here is your RAOK”.  I have of course added the Kool Tiki Kombi to hobbyDB.

kool51s-tiki-kombi

Now I have to brush up my customizing skills before going to the next convention!

Please add any RAOKs you received in the comments!

hobbyDB & Museums – a perfect combination

young-christian-braun-smallMusings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience. He recently joined the board of Auto-Archives, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Visiting museums is one of my favorite pastimes and I’ve been to more than 400 of them (including personal collections that are so extensive and well-displayed that I count them as museums!) Museums play an important part in promoting collecting and I think hobbyDB can add enormous value to them as part of the collecting ecosystem, by allowing easy cataloging and, more importantly, showcasing and sharing their collections. This is why we decided to develop features specific to museums and large collection (see hobbyDB’s roadmap for details).

Museums’ software today serves mainly one purpose, keeping an inventory and giving admins access to it. Here’s an example;

traditional-museum-software

Museum Software packages are still stand-alone and not integrated into any other databases

As a first step, we want to give collectors and the public-at-large granular access to each item so that they know which museum has a particular item.

exhibited-on-item-page-mockup

A mock-up of a catalog entry showing which museum has the item in its collection

Next would be custom profiles for museums. These pages would explain the museum’s philosophy and how to get access to their collections. For example, “This item is in Room 8 on public view” or “This item is in the off-site archive, you need to give us two weeks notice and here is how”.

After that we plan to show all items in a particular museum with full search capabilities.  We want to ensure that these digital presences are aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly, the same way museums work hard on their physical presentations (like the Mint Museum of Toys with the below gallery).

Mint Museum of Toys

The Mint Museum of Toys in Singapore. Its founder Chang Yang Fa is a member of the hobbyDB Advisory Board

We also plan to extend the Wish List functionality so that museums can ask for items to be donated or loaned, either on a long-time basis or just for an exhibition.

We have already started working with Auto-Archives and the Shelby American Collection to have their volunteers document these two collections (with an estimated total of 300,000 items) and are talking to five other museums about doing the same.

american shelby collection

The American Shelby Collection not only houses the two most expensive American-made cars but is also custodian to thousands of Shelby related documents

In keeping with our ethos, these features will be free for museums, of course. We hope they’ll add enormous value and help them boost attendance – and help bring hobbyDB’s vision of being “the World’s Museum” one step closer to reality!

How to Best Sell a Collection

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience. Over the last 30 years, he has bought and sold more than 50 collections, owned a physical auction house and operated Europe’s largest eBay store. As part of his work with the hobbyDB Advisory Board Christian has also seen many of the largest collections of the world.

What does Collecting have in common with getting married?

Most collectors collect for collecting’s sake and this will only make sense to a collector. For me, preserving history and relaxation are part and parcel of this same collecting rationale. Collectors rarely (if ever) think about what happens when the love cools and how they will then have to sell everything.

Motormax Ford Mustang Newly-Weds

Consider that your collection might not be with you forever

 

While there are ways to make this sell-off significantly easier, it is like prenuptial agreements – something most don’t want to touch. This blog post tackles why collectors sell, how to go about it and how to best prepare for an eventual sale.

Like the 40-50% of spouses who eventually head for the divorce court, the vast majority of collectors eventually fall out of love with their collections. How long it takes that to happen depends on the type of collectible. For example, pocket watch collectors keep collecting longer than collectors of newer things like Funko Pop Vinyls. On average, the latter will collect for around four years, while collectors of more vintage subjects like Decoys collect for 18 years.

Funko and Vintage Decoy Owls

Until becoming a vintage item himself, Bubo will live in five times as many households as his unhappy neighbor!

 

Why do collectors stop collecting?

There are five main reasons why folks stop collecting and then want to liquidate and recoup the value of their collection:

  1. Lose interest in the subject (this is often followed by a segue into collecting something else)
  2. Need money (and if so, they usually need it fast – which makes being prepared to sell even more important)
  3. Down-sizing
  4. Other-half is strongly opposed to collecting and wins the battle
  5. The ultimate show-stopper – death

Realizing full value for a collection requires both expertise, motivation and time. The reason for selling can have a major influence on how a collection can be sold. For example death often takes the necessary expertise with it.

How to know the value of a collection?

Collectors of vintage items will know a lot about the value of their individual items as they can only buy them in the secondary market (no retailers stock vintage uniform patches ;-). That said, a vast majority of these collectors have no clue how many items are in their collection and significantly underestimate the quantity of item they have bought over time. Often, they need to do an inventory or at least take a count or make an estimate of the number of items they own.

Collectors of more modern type of collectibles such as NASCAR racing cars often over-estimate the value of their collections as they bought at retail and modern collectibles (say everything sold in retail post 1990) generally loses 50% or more of its value as soon as you buy it.

Bandai Tinplate versus Jeff Gordon NASCAR model

A Bandai Tinplate car will beat a NASCAR model in value appreciation every time!

 

A lot of these collectors get a rude awakening when it comes to selling, as they relied on labels such as Limited Edition or Special Collector Edition, erroneously thinking that these automatically ensure the items retain value. While there might be only 500 models of a particular Jeff Gordon model there are hundreds of other Jeff Gordon models and as long as they continue to sell, more will be produced, making it very hard for any of them to ever appreciate in value. Also, as these items were produced for the collector market, most will be carefully stored in glass cabinets so there is very little rate of attrition.

When assessing a collection, there are five different types of value:

  1. Catalog Value. Where price guides exist, you can add the value of each item and come up with an aggregate value. The accuracy of that value depends on how the catalog authors calculated the values it gives and how long ago it was compiled. Catalog Value also do not take into account costs of selling (market place fees, fees for a stand at a fair, time, fuel etc). It is not unusual for collectors to use a catalog value, adding or subtracting a percentage to compensate for these factors.
    Stanley Gibbons Price Guide

    It is not unusual to value stamps by using a catalog price and then apply a discount such as “Stanley Gibbons minus 30%”

     

  2. Insurance Value. This is the replacement value and varies between the Catalog Value and the Wholesale Value, in particular if a whole collection has been lost, for example through fire.
    Broken Doll

    Insurance value should cover replacement costs or, if that is not possible, repair plus the value loss that results from being repaired

     

  3. Wholesale Value. This is the value of a collection if sold to a dealer for resale. The dealer needs to make a profit, so will obviously pay less than retail value. Wholesale value value is often quite close to having the collection sold through an auction house as the net proceeds of an auction sale exclude Sellers Fees, Insurance Premium, Picture Fees, Buyer’s Premiums etc.
    Auction Houses often have to sell large parts of collections as lots, here Star Wars toys.

    Auction Houses often have to sell large parts of collections as lots, here Star Wars toys.

     

  4. Retail value – this is the value of each item sold individually and at the prevailing market value (for example at a physical location like a collector fair or on a website where collectors of this type of collectible transact.)
    Selling on trade fairs gives you the best value but will take a very long time

    Selling at trade fairs gives you the best value, but will take a very long time

     

  5. Realized Value – this is what you actually have left over after all is sold and all costs are factored in.

For me the only value of interest is the Realized Value (unless you currently have an insurance claim) as its the only meaningful measure. Realized Value is either the Wholesale Value or the Retail Value after deducting all direct and indirect costs. Your calculation should also include a value for your time spent on selling the collection, for example at an estimated time-taken-per-item when you sell items online.

The various routes to Monetization

There are many different ways to sell, but they all fall into this five groups:

  1. Selling the collection in one transaction. This is the easiest way to sell a collection but also the one that gives the lowest Realized Value overall. If you have more than 500 items in your collection you can expect to realize less than 15% of the collection’s Retail Value.
    Selling everything is sometimes the only option, but it is always very painful!

    That’s how much you can lose. Selling everything is sometimes the only option, but it is always very painful!

     

  2. Contracting a 3rd party to sell the collection for you. This could either be done via (a) an auction house or (b) as consignment sales with a specialist dealer. Auction Houses are great if you have lots of high value items that are difficult to handle and have a world-wide market. Consignment Selling is the best compromise if you want to receive more of the actual value of your collection but are not willing to do the work required. It does, however, require you to be able to wait for your money and trust whoever you give your collection to, as it is almost impossible to draw up contracts that protect the vendor sufficiently.
    Barrett-Jackson is one of th best places to sell a 2006 Ford GT

    Barrett-Jackson is one of the best places to sell a 2006 Ford GT

     

  3. Selling at Events. The right event provides great returns for items sold and the fees are fixed. That being said, you will only sell a fraction of your collection at your first event and then less and less at later events (unless you are willing to significantly discount). Please also take into account costs such as fuel and your time!
    You might want to count food, hotel, fuel etc - or you might say I enjoy the show and would have come anyway!

    You might want to count food, hotel, fuel etc – or you might take the view that you enjoy attending the show and would have come anyway!

     

  4. Selling online. This can be done anytime and you can do it from home! You can sell either via Auction (faster, but potentially risky in terms of how much you receive) or through a fixed price sale (no surprises but it can take a long time to sell your items). If you have the time, the willingness to photograph, write a good description, pack, ship and deal with customer service issues, this is the way to go!
    Sometimes you find a specialist site that is just perfect for what you want to sell

    Sometimes you find a specialist site that is just perfect for what you want to sell

     

  5. Giving it to a museum – this is not only a nice way to give and have the ability to continue enjoying your collection but can also make financial sense as, subject to your tax jurisdiction, this could result in a substantial tax deduction or credit!
    Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 16.45.45

 

Incorporating an eventual selling plan into how you collect

Even if you are not considering selling your collection now, it’s always wise to plan what you can do now and over the coming years to make it easier for either you or your loved ones to eventually realize the value of your collection when it does come time to liquidate. If you are male (and 90% of collectors are), and in a traditional marriage, you might want to consider that your wife will be an average of 3 years younger than you and will live an average 5 years longer than you. As such, it’s an excellent idea to document your collection by making an inventory in Excel, via a video or, of course, here on hobbyDB.

More Information

It is my plan to improve this article over time. That said, here are some articles that cover specific aspects of selling a particular type of collectible:

  1. Books
  2. Classic Cars (opens as a PDF)
  3. Coins
  4. Comics
  5. Lego
  6. Stamps IStamps II

 

Please leave a comment!

If you:-

  • have queries about selling your collection, including questions on good consignment sellers,
  • want to discuss any aspect of selling a collection,
  • have tips to share, or
  • know of other good resources that I should link to

Please leave a comment below. If your question is about your own collection, please include a quick description of what you collect, approximately how many objects there are in your collection, roughly where the collection is located and how much time and expertise you have. This would allow me to give you more specific answers.

Cataloging is difficult and needs lots of TLC

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience.

I am still relatively new to Colorado and when I saw a book called “Weird Colorado” I needed to have it.  When looking for it on Amazon I found that a search for the title produced five results that were all the same!

Catalog Problems at Amazon
And I am not the only one who found this problem, googling the phrase “Amazon Catalog Duplicates” shows more than 700,000 results.  This makes purchasing difficult as Weird Colorado was offered from $3.35 to $20.87 (a 623% difference) despite the fact that all of these books were in the same condition degree!

On hobbyDB we have (so far) only one catalog entry for Weird Colorado:

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 12.20.29

 

And even if the book was also available as a Softcover it would indicate that there are two variants and then show the differences prominently on the search and catalog pages:

– Mockup only as there is no softcover –

Catalog problems are just part and parcel of a crowd-sourced approach.  To minimize these problems we are working so hard to build a community of Curators.  There are now 214 of these hobbyDB heroes, here some examples and here some more info on curating.  One of them would have merged any duplicated entries if we had them.

Please reach out if you’d like to become part of the Curation Nation!