Jeremiahs who prophesied a decline in toy collecting a couple of years back have, it seems, gone to ground as the U.K. has quickly established itself as ‘the world’s mecca for acquiring boyhood bygones, writes MARTIN WEISS.
With the continued upturn in interest among collectors of all income levels there’s a parallel growth in those who seek to keep the market supplied. The new middle 1980s breed of toy shop/collector is perhaps epitomised by Jeffrey Levy whose venture into retailing collectors’ toys and models has filled what he firmly believes to be a gap at the upper end of the market.
Jeffrey Levy clientele for mint and boxed collectors’ toys is world wide (but more particularly from Europe, including the UK, North America and Japan) and he has opened his new Mint & Boxed toy collectors shop in Watford way, Hendon, with the aim of creating an upmarket image right from the word go.
Says Jeffrey: “The appearance of the shop itself, the quality of stock, close attention to customers’ requirements, standards of packaging and even the presentation of letterheaded notepaper and compliment slips have all been carefully planned to give the business a top-class professional image.”
Certainly Jeffrey sees no sign of the market for collectors toys falling off as some thought it would.
On the contrary he asserts: “I foresee tremendous further growth during the rest of the eighties… in face within the next five years serious toy collecting will have become a highly elevated pursuit quite possibly in advance of traditional fields like stamps and coins.”
Jeffrey is aware that in the past toy collecting has been regarded as something of an odd pursuit for adults.
But now it is quite common place for the rich and famous to indulge as well.
Call the toys if you will, but it is really all about buying nostalgia. And for those who can afford it seemingly no price is too much to pay to buy a little bit of lost youth.
Jeffrey says that many of his customers insist on quality and this factor often over-rules price considerations. He has identified and is happy to supply a very large pool of collectors on an international level who, because of professional or other commitments, are unable or unwilling to but through the more usual channels.
He suggests that many serious collectors among the professional ranks want and are prepared to pay for particular toys but don’t want the usual procedure of having to go shopping for them.
“This is where my new shops fill a gap,” explains Jeffrey.
Many top-league collectors may never visit his shop. Instead they merely quote their wants over the telephone, quote a credit card number then leave it to him to do the rest.
It is not unusual for large three-figure sums to be spent on one order while one overseas collector is recently said to have ordered rare models that totted up to more than £3000 – and then announced he would be back for more before long!
The title Jeffrey Levy’s new shop – ‘Mint & Boxed – gives a fair idea of what the visitor can expect.
Everything is boxed and nearly always mint. One has to allow for some fatigue on very early Dinkies in some cases but nevertheless the customer can rely on getting the best possible selection of rare old diecast toys with things like pre-war Dinkies, gleaming post-war Spot on, early Matchbox Yesteryears and of course those highly collectable fifties and sixties Dinky Toys for which Jeffrey has a special fondness and which provided the original inspiration for the general décor and image of the shop.
From the outside the shop is a striking feature of the neighbourhood with an illuminated perspex sign designed after the fashion of the blue and red Dinky Toy boxed of the golden years of the British toy industry.
Those times may be history now – but you can relive them when you walk through the shop doorway of Mint & Boxed and with prices of collectors toys ranging from £25 or so up to many hundreds a piece most can afford to buy a Christmas box for themselves that represents more than mere cash.
As one customer said, old toys are like old friends that you have maybe missed for years.
Perhaps for many, those old friends really do mean a lot more than mere money at the bank.