Weekend leisure: Toy stories

Just because you're a grown-up, it doesn't mean you can't have fun collecting items from your childhood, or even start a new hobby, writes Alexia Santamaria.

The Auckland Toy Fair brings together collectors of all sorts of memorabilia. Photo / Supplied
The Auckland Toy Fair brings together collectors of all sorts of memorabilia. Photo / Supplied

Most people collected something in their childhood - stickers, rubbers, matchbox cars, beer cans ... There's something quite exciting about completing a set or searching for that one elusive item. The hunt, the chase, the elation at finding that last one. It's all part of the enjoyment.

But life gets busy and most people don't continue this habit into adulthood. With the frantic rush of modern life, they run out of space, time and patience. The collections get boxed, never to be thought of again. It's therefore interesting watching those who have managed to keep up their collections into their later life.

Graeme Humphrey, fair organiser for Auckland City Hobbies, started collecting in 1979 when he moved to Britain and discovered Hornby trains, Corgi Classics, Meccano and Matchbox cars - which were all made there back then.

"I still remember when the Matchbox Yesteryear Series used to put out one model car a month. It was so exciting when it came out," he says.

"Some people have some very valuable collections and many have accumulated so much they have to put it in storage. Everyone started in a different way. For me it was from being from a farming background and never throwing anything away. For others it starts with buying a model of a car they used to own or a truck they used to drive. Once you start collecting, it's very hard to stop."

Although many collectors are retirees, there are also younger enthusiasts. Sean collects Star Wars figures and other pop culture icons. He says of collecting "It's a type of escapism really. Everyone needs that and we all get it in different ways."

This is true and what better way to escape the realities of life than losing yourself in a childhood pursuit? Possibly better escapism than reality TV or Facebook.

Shoshana Gravenor collects The Muppets and Sesame Street paraphernalia.

"For me, and others too, it's about being able to buy the things we couldn't afford as kids. Kind of buying your childhood back," she says.

Groups meet at varying frequencies at venues or someone's house.

There are eight model railway clubs in Auckland alone, as well as model car clubs, doll collectors and collectors of miniatures. Meetings provide the chance to talk about new acquisitions and members can help each other find pieces missing from their collections.

Some meetings are quite active. For example the North Shore Model Railway Club meets up once a week and sets up a train layout and has a catch-up lunch. The Auckland Dollmakers and Collectors Club has a monthly club day. There are trading tables, a lending library, afternoon tea and either a demonstration, some hands-on craft or a guest speaker.

There are also fairs, several times a year "The fairs are a great chance for people to catch up socially and find what they are looking for. Buying over the internet is just not the same. It's always better to be able to examine something properly," Graeme says.

The last fair had tables of Dinky, Corgi, Lledo, Matchbox, Solido, Minichamps, Spot-On, Fun-Ho, Hot-Wheels, Ixo, die-cast models, old tin plate toys, Meccano, model trains, model boats, toy soldiers, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Batman, comics, McDonalds toys, dolls and bears, miniatures, records, model planes, military memorabilia, Coca-Cola memorabilia and Nascar.

Almost all the stallholders are collectors who have acquired extra items from swaps or buying doubles. Sometimes they have had to buy a big set just to get one rare item so the fair gives them a chance to sell any surplus and talk to others who may have items they need.

So if you feel like dusting off your old collection of model trains or porcelain dolls, do it. There's bound to be a group and it's probably more fun to engage with others than play with them at home by yourself.

Share your collections

If you're interested in getting involved, get your boxes out and do an inventory of what you've got, then head along to a club or meeting. There is some information on the internet but not all groups have websites. For any not on the following list, call Graeme on (09) 480 9117 who will have the contacts for more clubs and groups.

* NZ Federation of Meccano Modellers

* Doctor Who NZ Fan Club

* Auckland Dollmakers and Collectors Club

* North Shore Model Railway Club

* New Zealand Model Vehicle Club

* Miniature Enthusiasts

* The Auckland Collectors site has some information on up and coming fairs and events.

- NZ Herald

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