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Downsizing your toy collection isn’t as bad as you think!

“You need to get rid of some stuff!”

She was never one to mince her words, my mum. I knew what she meant though. I must have heard her say that at least once a month for the past god knows how many years.

But as usual she was right. We couldn’t go on like this.

Dad and I loved to collect. It never became an obsession; we didn’t buy pieces for the sake of it. We weren’t fanatical collectors who have to have every model, in every version. On the contrary – the rules of our game were simple. We only bought what we liked. And therein lied the problem – we liked too many things.

Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox 1-75, Matchbox MOY, Brumm, Corgi Classics, Corgi Heavy Haulage, Vanguards, Britains (vehicles and soldiers), Action Figures, tin-plate, plastic, trains: I could keep going on – the list was endless. If we liked it, we would add it to the collection. The only two things that hindered our collective needs were finance and space!

Our collection started when I was seven and even up to the point when we had to do “something” about it, we never knew how many items we had amassed during the forty odd years of collecting. If pushed on the subject I would say it totalled at least 5,000 collectable pieces.

For years I had lived in a bedroom where 3 of the 4 walls were enveloped by diecasts.  Proud, home-made display cabinets adorned almost every vertical space. When the walls were full, every spare nook and cranny be it, cupboard, draw, wardrobe was inhabited by part of our collection. Toys took up residence in our house like puffins perch precariously on jagged cliffs.

The point where we had to do something about it, came in the summer of 2014. Dad’s health was deteriorating somewhat. He could no longer walk and had to rely on the use of a wheelchair. We had a lift and a new wet room installed at the house which would make life a lot easier for Dad. My old bedroom where the collection was located had to be re-engineered to accommodate this, so the collection had to be packed away and put in storage.

This was no mean feat! It took Baz and I, working one full day each week for six weeks to complete! It was an arduous task at the time, but looking back at it now, it was the best thing we could have done.

It made us take stock of what we had amassed, literally. It also forced us to look at the direction the collection had taken. Dad and I realised that we need to do something about it – there was no option really, we had to sell some things – in other words – DOWNSIZE!

 It’s a word that strikes fear into any collector. We could not put it off any longer – we knew it had to be done!

In retrospect, downsizing was great, in that

  • it made us look at things differently and made us realise that our tastes had changed. What we may have liked back in the early days of collecting, does not necessarily mean that we like today. Tastes change over time.
  • technology changes also, and in our hobby, it’s meant that there is a vast array of new manufacturers and models that weren’t present when we started to collect. There is variety now, in terms of scale and category that was not available many years ago.
  • it also generated a new source of funds – we could go out and buy new things! It seems like a contradiction in terms i.e. you are getting rid of old stuff and then buying new. However, the funds from 10 models gave access to 1 model! Suddenly, things which were on our collecting hit list for years were now more accessible to us.

Unbeknownst to us, our downsizing exercise was also the worst thing we ever did, as it signaled the start of a series of events that I am only now just coming to terms with.

No sooner had we started to downsize, put some of the collection in storage and got used to Dad’s new amenities, when Mum suffered a massive brain haemorrhage; as a result, Dad’s health went downhill rapidly and eventually both Mum and Dad were admitted to a nursing care home. We had to get rid of their house, and not long after this, Dad passed away and 12 weeks later, Mum passed away also.

There is not a day that goes by without I think about Mum and Dad. Yes, time is a healer and I’m coming to terms with grief, but from a collecting point of view, if there is one piece of advice I can give is, don’t let your collection get out of hand. Have a plan and make it now and not before a time whereby you must.

Dad and I started to downsize while he was still here. Their untimely departures from this world has also meant that I have had to downsize without them – I say them because, although she wouldn’t admit it, Mum was also a collector. Being subject to the hours of collecting chatter in our household meant that her knowledge of diecasts was on par with a lot of collectors.

The first few items we "downsized"!

I’ve been very luck in my life that I have spent lots of time with my parents, Dad in particular. Our hobby meant that we had a shared interest and lots to talk about. Yes, there were times, especially in my teenage years that I fell in and out love with collecting. Why would I want to spend a damp dull autumn Tuesday evening in a draughty hall in Blackburn, Clitheroe, Chorley or Keighley when I could be out and about with my mates? But now later in life, I realise just how lucky I have been to have spent such times with my Dad. It’s given me an untold wealth that exceeds any monetary value the collection has accrued over the years.

Downsizing now, is harder than I imagined without the guiding hand and knowledge of my Dad. For months, I couldn’t look at a model without thinking about where it came from or the times we had spent together as a family. I’d gaze at our Matchbox MOY green MG and instantly I’d think Blackpool – North Pier on a Sunday during a day out. Dinky 667 Inspection Vehicle – my 16th birthday – bought at a steam fair in Skipton; Britains Kubelwagon – summer holidays in Bridlington. The list goes on and went on for what seemed a lifetime. It troubled me to look at the collection. I couldn’t part with our models because of the memories they evoked. Everything I touched whisked me off to a happy time free from the stress and difficulties of the last few years we have been through. It was torture.

One question which dawned on me while downsizing was, who will inherit my collection? I don’t have any kids I can pass them onto – so in the advent of my passing, what would happen to the collection? It forced me to re-examine my will, otherwise the collection would have been sold with the rest of the house contents. Pardon my French, but I was buggered if a relative who I seldom see, harvests the fruits of mine and my dad’s labours! On the contrary! Better my wife and I enjoy them!

I get lots of correspondence from social media and from people who have purchased items from me, from people who are like me. I get collectors telling me how their hobby was shared with their parents; I receive emails saying that the model I’ve sold reminds people of memories of childhood; I get Dads telling me how they love their new hobby as it gets their kids involved in things other than a keyboard or smart phone.

How lucky are we as toy collectors? How lucky that we have an interest we can share? It’s more than an interest – it’s a passion! A passion that can be shared and loved.

I wish we would have downsized sooner, and I would whole heartedly recommend you do it – sooner rather than later. Don’t put it off.

Our tastes change over time, and when you recognise that’s happening to you make that the time to downsize!

Look at it as the dawn of a new era in your collection. – a chance to walk a different and maybe more exciting path.

Look at it as an opportunity and not a chore.

A chance to encompass new things, gain new knowledge whilst remembering the good times, the models you collected and people you’ve met along your toy collecting journey.

Downsizing should not be a dilemma.

It shouldn’t be dull.

Embrace it – it won’t be as bad as you think!

What is your opinion on downsizing? Is it something you are doing at the moment, or are you putting it off? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments in the box below!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Harry Laos

    Great article. You bring up important points about the long term when it comes to amassing so many toys. I quit collecting years ago and have only recently restarted, though it’s filtered and no longer fanatical. Fanatical meaning paying anything to get something. My collection was downsized through the early 90s through unfortunate, but exciting, battles with fireworks and giving away figures because I was supposedly an adult. I am reclaiming those lost figures slowly so I am afraid I am now a victim of up sizing! ???

    1. Si Kelly

      Thanks for your comments Harry. Glad to see your “up sizing” – once a collector always a collector!

  2. Michaela Nightingale

    Yes, indeed! I have far too much stuff and a lot of it is hidden away in boxes and cupboards as I live in a small flat and have run out of space to display things. My 1/64 chevy collection is mainly to blame. I have nearly 300 of them filling my shelves and the packaged versions are pinned to every door and surface that will take them. I’d love to display my 1950’s Dinky American cars but all I can do now is to photograph everything I have. At least I can look at them without having to hunt for them.

    1. Si Kelly

      Not taking enough photos of our collection is a massive regret of mine! Maybe its because we didn’t have the convenience of mobiles back in the day and I couldn’t be bothered getting photos developed. I dont have any photos of my Dad and I collecting which is a major disappointment – especially as I write this reply approaching the third anniversary of my Dads passing! Top tip for any collector of any age – take pics of your collection and your collecting adventure!

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