Musings By Joschik Posts

How do we keep the information on hobbyDB correct?

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.

I recently wrote a blog post about When Websites Die and how much information we are losing (the BBC swiftly followed with an article about why so little of the early web is still around).

“You Shall Not Pass!”

Those websites were following the Gatekeeper methodology, meaning generally one person, sometimes a small team would add information.  Often others can suggest but nothing passes unless it is allowed.  These sites normally have a high level of quality and the information is generally homogenous.  But the Gatekeeper cannot and does not want to document everything and their decisions are final.  For example, they might not like a series produced by a brand or cut-off their effort at a certain date.  Their sites are also in danger to be closed overnight; either because the gatekeeper is no more, has lost interest or is just enraged by ingratitude by their users, a hack of their site or another of potentially millions of reasons.

But crowd-sourcing the information has its own issues, this article is addressing the most important one – how to build a reliable course of information.  Misinformation comes principally in three forms  –

  1. Unintentional
  2. Malicious (including pranks)
  3. Furthering a Business Interest

 

hobbyDB is not the first crowd-sourced project and was able to learn from many that came before it, in particular from Wikipedia and also the 10 collector forums I managed in a past life.  Here is our plan to ensure that information on hobbyDB is correct   –

  • Information can only be added by registered users that have undergone a test (the test is new, initially everybody could add information and is part of our effort to make the information more consistent). These users are called Contributors.
  • We have about 300 Curators that are responsible for individual subjects or catalog entries.  Their Avatar shows on the pages that they manage and they can be contacted for information.  We are working on a notification system that alerts these users on any changes on their pages.
  • Contributors and Curators that do an excellent job are invited to become Champions.  Champions control larger sections of the sites.
  • Database entries already have a rudimentary Revision History and more is coming here and on Subject pages, eventually showing every change and its creator. There will be the ability to revert changes and block bad actors.
  • Any user on the site can flag any page including every price in our price list for any reason with Curators, Champions and Admins dealing with those flags and resolving any high-lighted issue.
  • We are also working on a more Granular Permission System allowing Contributors and Champions to only make changes in their areas of expertise.

 

 

 

We are constantly reviewing our approach and are open to more or different ideas and approaches, please use the Comment section to start a discussion!

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!

 

Sinclair’s Auto Miniatures – a trip to the beginning of diecast collecting

Musings By Joschik
Christian Braun obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way. Diecast was a special area of interest ever since he helped his brother write a book about Siku Model Cars in 1987.

When a former team member called and asked for some help to sell her late father’s collection we were only too happy to help (I wrote an earlier article on how to best sell a collection).  When she then arrived with 20 boxes of amazing models I was glad we offered help, her father Jim just had an amazing collection,  see for yourself here.  But what really excited me was all the paperwork that she had.  And the best were catalogs and other items from Sinclair’s Auto Miniatures!  Since moving to the US and when meeting older diecast collectors I heard so much about Dave Sinclair and his store in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Way before the internet, his catalog was sent to 30,000 collectors around the world and he had the most amazing selection!

Check out for example his 1971 catalog  –

I was looking for the dress in the catalog as it is going very well with that Pocher Fiat

 

I had (and loved that) that Märklin Porsche 907

 

… and wanted to some Mercury Models with all those opening features!

 

Friends and I spend hours driving that Cadillac DeVille from Schuco back and forth (damn, why did I not keep it in its box)

 

You had to fill this out by hand to order! But at least you got a FREE decal with an order over $10…  Also, do not forget to lick the gummed flap to seal the form.  When did you do that the last time?

 

And then just fold the form in and send it in.

 

Dugu & Ziss!

How much I wish to go back in time to join Jim for a visit to Dave’s store in Erie.  And I wouldn’t even cost that much money!  Check out this letter from Sinclair’s with the then new Corgi Toys James Bond’s Aston Martin for $3.50!

Can the Blockchain stop Collectible Fraud?

Musings By Joschik
Christian Braun obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way.

At hobbyDB we love the idea of the Blockchain.  It would be fantastic to create digital ledger in which all collectible transactions are recorded chronologically creating verifiable transactions.  Today the only way to do that is to have your item authenticated and “locked away” in a plastic container by a grading service (more on that on an earlier article we wrote here) and that only works for certain action figures, coins, comics and trading cards.


What about Certificates of Authenticity?

These Certificates of Authenticity or short COAs just do not cut it.  Take this one for example  –

Is it or is it not the one that belongs to this poster?

There is just no way of knowing (and here it is not).


What would be the Ideal Solution?

What the Collectible World needs is a combination of the following for reliable certification  –

  1. It has to be part of the collectible
  2. It has to be as close to being invisible to the naked eye as possible
  3. It needs to carry a unique identifier
  4. It should be not removable (and if removed destroyed leaving a trail that is was there)
  5. It needs cheap mechanisms to apply and read it

Quite a catalog of criteria!


How about Micro Dots?

Already used to mark cars Micro Dots can be smaller than 0.2 millimeter, just about the size of a grain of sand. There is plenty of room on the dots for a laser etched 12-digit alphanumeric identifier.    These dots cannot be moved from one collectible to another.  So far so good!  Only that cheap mechanism to apply and read the dots is not there yet.

 

hobbyDB Plans

We plan for hobbyDB to become the depository of these identifiers allowing buyers to check before purchasing a collectible (a) if it is genuine and (b) if it not reported as stolen. The only issue now is to find a source for relatively cheap Micro Dot applicators (we are thinking of a pen) and for a Micro Dot reading hobbyDB app!  We are working on it.

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 insureyourcollection.com).

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!