Antique toys entrepreneur Jeffrey Levy has certainly succeeded in making an impression on the collecting scene in the six months or so since he opened what he describes as London’s premier shop for collectors of obsolete toy vehicles.
Of course, one has to accept the word ‘antique’ in less than its literal sense – although arguably so much of the face of the toy industry has changed so much in the years since the last war that anything from the ‘sixties or earlier does come, seemingly, from a quite different era when the sophistication of the computer age in everyday life was still far in the future. Or so it seemed.
At this time when toy collecting in all its guises seems still to be riding on the crest of a never-ending wave Jeffrey Levy remains full of confidence for the future and goes as far as predicting that the growth of the hobby is still potentially immense.
And he certainly can’t be accused of not putting his money where his mouth is having invested on a big scale in both his stock and his shop premises in Watford Way, Hendon.
Fascinated by his venture and his style of approach I paid a recent visit to Mint & Boxed to discuss with Jeffrey how trading has gone in his first half year.
I was lucky to catch him in. Jeffrey Levy runs very much a jet-setting life flying regularly to Europe and the Americas to both buy and sell what he describes as only high quality toys.
Always immaculately dressed and with a charming manner Jeffrey believes having the right image and keeping to it is all important. You can easily get the impression that if he was selling cars he would be interested in having a dealership for nothing less than Rolls Royce; or if dealing in the gems market he would have nothing but the finest.
As it is he deals in vintage toys and takes great pride in having not only an excellent stock of them but also manages to display them in an environment that looks superb.
The shop interior is immaculately finished and every item of décor is colour co-ordinated to match the old blue and white Dinky box style. And there’s never a sign of untidiness. To add to the overall effect Jeffrey is gradually amassing a collection of old toy advertising ephemera. These are not for sale but to add extra authenticity. “Things have gone really well. Since opening last September I’ve quadrupled the regular mail order list and new names are being added every week,” he told me.
“I still believe that personal contact with collectors is vital. I always make the effort to see as many mail order customers as I can if not in their homes then at swapmeets both in Britain, Europe and North America. I think this policy instills confidence in both customers and suppliers.
“I have always put a lot of faith in personal contact. You can’t beat talking face to face.” he went on.
All this is leading up to one goal for Jeffrey Levy: “All this travelling on a weekly basis has helped me to build up one of the finest toy collecting businesses in Europe and I’m continuing to build on this.”
Distance is no object to Jeffrey. He recently heard of a collection of models for sale in France. He went to view them as if they were in the next town and agreed to buy, went to his bank and drew an appropriate sum in French Francs and went back with two big cases to collect them. The entire deal was completed within a week and the models were all priced and on the shelves in Watford Way.
Not one to let the grass grow under his show cabinets Jeffrey is now planning to open a second shop – not in Reading or even Radlett but in a well-known resort on America’s surfing West Coast.
That’s about as far as the announcement goes at the moment. Exactly where the first ‘branch’ will be should be announced shortly!
Not only has Jeffrey Levy brought a certain panache to the hobby he also knows his subject having been a keen collector himself for several years before venturing into business.
He makes no apologies for his approach to the business. “There can be no compromise on quality. I advertise the best and I sell the best. Image is important right from the start. I am giving a whole new outlook to toy collecting.”