The MoB Goes to Market
(November 2004)

If you were to ask me, it was all dreamed up by Wayne and Terry so it’s their fault.  While they had me a captive in the car on our way to a swap-and-sell down in Melbourne one of them said something like,’We should have one too’.  ‘That’s right!’ the other one said.  So there I was trapped in the car with two MoBsters determined to put on our own event, what else could I do. ‘Why not?’ I replied.  What harm could it do anyhow.  No harm at all, as it turned out.

The most difficult part of the exercise was to select a date for our big event.  Sometime in October seemed to be the best, at the end of the swap-and-sell season, so to speak, and a time when spring begins bringing Ballarat back to life.  But then there was the Bathurst race and some other event that we didn’t want to clash with.  Apparently people would rather sit watching television pictures of cars driving around in circles (well, almost) rather than get out, sniff the spring air and scratch that itch for plastic.  I can’t see it, but Wayne and Terry told me the Bathurst race was one of the most important events of the year and they know more about this kind of stuff than I do so I took their word for it.  For all I know the race actually occurred, but I can’t say I noticed.

The venue for the big event?  That was easy.  The same place we always hold everything. Over the years we’ve got comfortable with the room at the Community Centre and it seems to be about the right size for us, not too big and not too small.  So we had a time and we had a place and anyone who has been to one of these swap-and-sell events knows what happens.  It doesn’t take an MBA to run one, just a lack of common sense.

Possibly the biggest problems was letting the people around Ballarat who like plastic modelling know the event was on.  This caused a bit of angst around the club but we solved it, after a fashion, by being philosophical.  This was, we reckoned, the first time we had run one and we would have to run a few of them before they became well known and well attended.  Various MoBsters found places to put ads in the media and put up some notices.  As usual, Wayne cajoled everyone into doing a little bit more than they expected to and our intention of sorting out the table arrangement at the meeting before the event turned out to be going around the entire Community Centre counting tables to make sure there were enough for the day.

After that it was each modeller on their own.  Those who intended to dispose of their unwanted junk in the hope of obtaining treasures retired to contemplate their collections to see what kits were no longer welcome in their homes.  I find it one of the most interesting parts of the entire swap-and-sell process because it is a good excuse to spend a few hours of enchantment with boxes of plastic.  I don’t know about you, but for me each plastic model kit is a box of optimism. You open the lid and look in at all the lovely little bits of plastic.  In the box is the potential to make a miniature masterpiece, all you need is the skill, patience and time to do it (unless it is a Mach 2 kit or one of those beasts that used to be, em moulded is too good a word. pressed m East Germany before the wall came down). Of course there is always the realisation that I don’t have the skills to match that potential, but that’s what dreams are for anyhow …

For once l didn’t have to crawl out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to get to a swap-and-sell.  There was time to have breakfast, chat to the cats and relax before Wayne arrived to pick me up. So much time in fact that I fell to musing over the Mach 2 Caravelle that I was about to embark on and I was lost in contemplation on how to mask the triangular windows when his knock at the door roused me from my reverie.

Down at the Community Center everything was about to unfold.  The few early arrivals pulled almost all the tables from the rest of the center and lined them up in the hall.  With our usual organizational flair we really didn’t have a clue about how many people would turn up intending to sell and we didn’t have the faintest idea of how it would all go.  We all convinced ourselves that this was our first time and we didn’t expect it to be a roaring success.  Holding that belief meant we wouldn’t be disappointed when nobody turned up and we were left to chat amongst ourselves for the few hours the event was advertised to run.

This was the first time I had been in charge of my own stall, previously I’ve piggybacked with Wayne and Terry.  This meant I was not able to wander off and take too much time inspecting the goodies others had on their stands.  Instead I had equipped myself with this Mach 2 Caravelle to fill in the hours.  At the end of the day I had only managed to fit the wheel wells and the wing halves together – which either suggests that I was kept busy doing other things or that Mach 2 kits live up to their fearsome reputation.  But that’s another story …

In comparison to swap-and-sells in Melbourne our event was modest and lacking some of the hysteria of events down there.  We didn’t fill all the tables and there weren’t vast swarms of modellers looking to snap up bargains.  On the other hand, there was queue waiting at the door to get in at the appointed hour and the lack of hustle and bustle meant the entire affair was much more relaxed.  Much like, in fact, our annual display.  It was nice to have the opportunity to chat to people about the kits I had on my table and to do the same with what other people had to offer.  Plenty of time for good old nostalgia, looking at an Airfix kit dating from the late 1950s (you can still buy some of them new in the Airfix round of re-issues).  The price seemed astronomical but when you do the sums to take inflation into account you realize that kits costing about five shillings in 1960 were actually quite expensive – how much did it cost to go to the movies in those days?

At the end of the day I had $3.50 more in my pocket than when I had arrived and had offloaded lots of unwanted junk, err, stuff.  There was a whole stack of vacforms and other limited-run kits I’d acquired in the days when you couldn’t imagine any manufacturer making such odd things as a Vultee Vindicator or a Be11 206.  I thought they were destined for the rubbish bin, but no, they were just what somebody else had been looking for.  And in return I crossed quite a few entries off my ‘kits wanted’ list.  I had a good and rewarding time and I’m looking forward to more swapping and selling next year.

The MoB Goes to Yet Another IPMS Kitorama
(August 2004)

It’s August, it must be time yet again for the IPMS Swap and Sell!  Time to fling together some kits you no longer really want to build and take them down to Melbourne in the hope of replacing them with kits that you’ve always wanted to build.  I guess there are some people who go to these things to make a bit of informal money but I still enjoy the opportunity of spending a few hours trying to get rid of unwanted plastic and then do some serious window shopping at seriously low prices to fill some holes in my collection.  (It seems that these days the bottom price for any kit is around $5 but you only need a short visit to either of the shops in Ballarat to realize that $5 is a real bargain.)  There may be some people who do rather nicely financially out of these events but for me modelling is a hobby so I have no intention of tainting it with the smell of filthy money.

After a few years of taking ourselves down to Melbourne regularly to undergo the ritual of swapping and selling we’ve got it timed to the minute and so we no longer have to stagger out of bed at some inhuman time before the sun rises to make the journey.  While I don’t regret that, I do regret the fact that I no longer have the opportunity to have a good gripe at the beginning of each of these little adventures. To make matters even more boring this time, Terry did driving and so we missed Wayne’s choice observations about the personal habits of the other road users. So, really, it was the kind of trip it was easy to doze through and hardly worth recounting here.

This time we went down in Terry’s little Lazer which is, like the Tardis, bigger on the inside then the outside.  We all managed to fit in rather neatly, perhaps because none of us had really overburdened ourselves with kits we wanted to sell.  Perhaps, after a few years, we have got rid of most of the stuff we were certain we never wanted to see again.  I’m now down to only about ten 1/48 kits whereas I had dozens of them a few years back.  Still, I had enough to make the journey down to Melbourne again worthwhile.  Of course, there is more to these events than just selling kits, there is the serious business of buying too.  Of which more later.

We hurtled down the Western Freeway and then fought our way through Melbourne at a much more frustrating pace.  lt always takes longer to get through Melbourne than it does to get there and we also wonder why so many people want to congregate in such a place.  On most of our journeys we also pass through the trendy spots of Toorak and Prahran where a laté probably costs more than a decently priced Revell kit, which always makes us feel virtuous that we indulge in such a relatively cheap hobby.

The event was held at the same hall as last year but this time they had jammed in a lot more tables and opened up another room to cater for alt the dealers. Last year we had found our backs exposed to curious shoppers, this time we stood back to back with other sellers in a tiny space where it was impossible to pull out the chair provided for us so we had to stand the while. Apart from that, having so many people setting up their kits and bits and pieces created a great sense of expectation because there were so many people there with so much stuff.  Interestingly. even a couple of years ago books and magazines were rarely seen but they are now becoming much more common and the public seem to have become much more interested in them so there were a few people who had a few kits and lots of magazines and books for sale.  Decal sheets too have become popular so there is a lot more browsing done as people flick through what is available.

As usual. it is interesting to stroll about looking at what others have to sell and comparing prices.  A kit that was priced $15 on one table might be $5 on another and I wonder if the people who come in take their time to make the same price comparisons or they just grab what they want when they see it.  I get the impression that people come in and do a quick lap of the place to see if there is anything they really need to have and then go hunting for bargains.  It seems to me that people buy the big kits first because you see people going past with huge boxes of large scale kits and you don’t notice too many of them with a large pile of smaller boxes.

Despite the large number of people standing behind tables groaning under the weight of kits there did not seem to be the same number of customers this year.  Previously the opening of the doors to the public has been like the cork popping from a bottle of champagne, this year the people just seemed to dribble in and waft around.  There really were crowds of people when you looked at it, but there didn’t seem to be the numbers there had been in previous years.  This impression may have been compounded by the way in which people glanced at my pile of kits and moved on.  I didn’t dispose of too much at all.  Fortunately, most of them were little orphan kits that I thought I’d never get rid of, I guess that what counts is the tastes of the public that counts when it comes to selling stuff, not what any person takes along.  Neither Wayne or Terry seemed to do as well as they had on previous occasions but they sold more than I did.  That was probably because they had larger piles to sell and maybe because they are better salesmen. Wayne was always offering to consider an offer and to open up boxes and discuss the contents with anyone who was interested.  Me, I’ve got a more or less take it or leave it attitude and consequently there was a lot of leaving.

On the other hand, I had made the mistake of taking along my ‘wants’ list again. Instead of being overcome with excitement at a massive Dewoitine 501 kit I amused myself by picking up kits that most people already have, such dull things as a Curtiss P-40E and a Bell UH-I.  The nice thing about this swap & sell is that everyone already had one or two of these things stored away so that towards the end of the event people selling them seemed only too keen to part with them for only a few dollars.  Finally I’ve discovered some advantage of having a collection of exoteric things.  I can fill the mundane gaps at very little cost.

By about 12.30 people were starting to pack up and go home, so we made moves too. Getting home wasn’t a whole lot more interesting than getting there, thanks to Terry’s driving.

The MoB Goes to the East
(June 2004)

Wayne and Terry occupied the forward positions in the car while I had the opportunity to watch the world go by from the rear position, next to a bulging bag of kits.  Co-member Dirks was making his own way to the event so we didn’t see him until we arrived.  While sitting in the rear, musing on what the world looks like so early in the morning, I let the conversation drift back to me from the front – it is worth going for a drive with Wayne in control simply to hear the comments on the cars and the abilities of the other drivers. If his car had a loud speaker mounted on the top to allow him to share his insights with those he was addressing the world would be a truly interesting place. (But I don’t know if I’d want to be around to see the excitement.)

Getting to the eastern suburbs involves driving along mile after mile of suburban roads and streets.  Fancy so many people living together, they must be mad.  We drove up Toorak Road where all the rich people go, earning even more interesting comments on their personalities from our pilot.  We drove past endless shops that sell clothes, coffee, food, shoes, books and all kinds of junk – no model shops though.  Don’t these people have any taste.

Finally we arrived at some obscure suburban hall in some leafy suburb.  Goodness knows where it was, everything starts to look the same in the big city after a while.  None of us had really brought much to sell, just a comfortable amount that we could put on our table comfortably.  There were the usual comments cast in our direction, it seems that the MoB has gained some notoriety in the past couple of years so it is becoming impossible to arrive unannounced these days.

As we walked into the hall a lot of others were also setting up their tables with all kinds of goodies coming out of bags and boxes.  Some of the smarter people had their kits lined up nicely in boxes so they don’t have to arrange them on tables.  Following a trend that has been emerging in the past couple of years, there were a lot more books and magazines on display and also, as Wayne observed, a lot of very old kits on display, stuff that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades.  There was a lovely old Hawk Gloster Javelin that might have been attractive to modellers with long memories but not the kind of thing you’d buy to make.  There were also a few ancient Airfix kits in plastic bags that could have been bought in the late 1950s.  You could buy them now for about $50, as mementoes of the old days, not to make.  Even if you wanted to make them it would be easier and cheaper to pick up a more modem kit instead. I’ve already got my keepsake of that kind so I didn’t need to fork out so much money this time.

The guys of the Eastern Suburbs are getting canny these days.  Last year they fired up the barbeque an hour or so into the event, this time they had it going when we arrived. It was cunningly located just outside the door so the irresistible smells wafted into the hall and drew out quite a few modellers even before the buying public arrived.  I have to admit I was unable to resist temptation – after all, it’s a long way from Ballarat and there is plenty of time to work up something of an appetite.

As for the selling action, it was actually disappointing so far as we were concerned.  I got rid of a few more 1:48 kits that have been hanging around for the past few years and that railway gun that had been haunting me for years finally went away.  But most of the stuff just sat there and people looked at it without paying for it.  We figured that if we charged a dollar for every person who came along. went ‘hmm’ thoughtfully and went on we would have done very well.

I made a fatal mistake this time.  In the past I’ve taken my list of the models and kits I already have, this time I made up a wish list of the models and kits I don’t have and wouldn’t mind having.  It is one thing to wander around looking at kits and buying a few that attract your attention.  It is another thing again to have a shopping list in your hand … and potentially very expensive too.  This was not helped at all by the large stall at the end of the hall which was apparently what was left when one modeller when to that great model club in the sky.  If he had been competing in the competition to have the most kits when he died he would have made it very high in the rankings and there were a lot of lovely old Heller kits from the period when that company was one ofthe best going around.  Fortunately I though of them as highly as our deceased modeller had so I didn’t have to buy too many, but I certainly took possession of a few interesting and unpassuppable little gems.

At some stage I went and gave the Eastern Suburbs guys some more money for another sausage and piece of paper and, after the rush was over, wandered about having a good long look at what was on sale and chatting to the people there. One modeller only a few years older than I said that when he had reached sixty he retired and he’s been making a model a week since.  At that rate my collection would only last me into my early seventies, so I’d best get on with the business of storing lots more kits for my retirement.

People began packing up a bit after midday and we did a bit later.  At the last minute there were quite a few frightful deals done and I almost felt guilty at some of the prices I paid for a few more kits that were on my list.  Oddly, however, even though I didn’t sell much it must have been stuff in big boxes because (if you don’t count the humungous box that the Testors B-1 came in) I came away with less than I had gone with, volume wise.

Driving home was almost as entertaining as driving there, our pilot’s comments had not lost their insight and we were soon on the outskirts of Ballarat again.  Did we have fun? We’ll probably be back next year.

The MoB On Show Again
(May 2004)

The first thing you learn about our annual display days is that MoBsters are keen to put their models on display.  If you don’t turn up early it is a fight to find spare space left on the tables to put out all the models you’ve brought along.  But we managed and by the time members of the public started rolling through the door there was fine collection of models of just about every conceivable kind on display.  As usual there was the expected dominance of aircraft and armour but there was a good representation of cars, ships and other interesting bits and pieces.

This time around I really didn’t notice the display very much, what with setting out my own models, then doing up the lists of kits for the raffle and then discovering that I’d left my camera at home and having to go and retrieve it so I could do this report.  In the afternoon I wandered about, took a lot of photos and sat, working on a model for a while.  Then, thinking it would be getting on to about three in the afternoon and it might be time to think about drawing the raffle, I looked at my watch and found it was a quarter to four instead.  The raffle went nicely with most of the prizes going to non members so that there are more people out there encouraged to enjoy themselves in our hobby.

Of course, the display day was just the culmination of a lot of effort, most of it put in by the dynamic duo, Wayne and Yvette.  They went about Ballarat doing publicity with energy and enthusiasm that puts the rest of us to shame.  Wayne also got himself into a couple of newspapers and a line or two in the RACV’s magazine stirred quite a bit of interest.  Others also helped out, also distributing publicity and making sure that our event was going to draw a good crowd.  Then there was the business of organizing the hall, setting out the tables, etc, etc.  Lots of work goes on behind the scenes to make what appears to be a relatively simple operation happen successfully.

During the day Mr NKR (Earle Martell) dropped in for a while and Mr & Mrs Modelart Australia (Frank and Lea Morgan) came along.  They, and the people from Toy & Hobby, Top Gun and several others donated generous sponsorship to the event which meant we were able to raise over $200 for charity and about $180 to boost our own small bank account. Thanks to everyone who helped.

The most enjoyable part of the day was when I sat down and did a bit of work on a kit.  It encouraged a lot of people to come and have a look and to start up conversations in which I imparted a few tips about how to make models and met several fascinating people who had their own stories about modelling or real life experience with aeroplanes or tanks.

The only thing I didn’t take time to do was look at all the models in detail.  Only when I got home and downloaded the pictures I’d taken did I realize there was so much on display and the good quality of most of it.  I wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t put less accomplished models on display for fear of making the pleasure of sticking together bits of plastic seem too difficult and so put people off.  But although I tried to talk myself into making more models to a lesser standard to achieve that end I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  My problem isn’t really that I make good models but that I’ve been making them for so long that most of the little bits and pieces a modeller does to improve the kit out of the box come as second nature and I can’t not do them these days.

The day ended happily with the raffle winners being drawn – one was a man from Sydney who has found out about our display at the Tourist Center and come along.  Again most people seemed to think they had got more than value for their gold coin, so we must be doing something right.

Expo for Fun and Profit
(March 2004)

This is starting to get tedious, beginning these little stories with some jocular comment about having to get up too early in the morning to get down to Melbourne with Wayne, so I won’t.  There’s nothing jocular about it.  Similarly, after only a couple of weeks the jokes about Wayne s lovely new Panzer Ill are getting tedious, so I won’t mention it.

Suffice it to say that I was barely awake when Wayne turned up in his new car and the ride down to Melbourne was so effortless that I could have got in another hour’s sleep if it hadn’t been that we seemed to find things to talk about all the way down.  So it seemed no time at all before we pulled in at the sbowgrounds.  Again we were directed to what seemed the farthest car park from the hall just so we had to lug all our surplus kits so far that we became determined not to have to struggle back with them.  (We could struggle back laden with what had been other people’s kits instead.)

We arrived just a little later than last year (due to a mechanical fault with Terry’s car) so we didn’t get to join the crowd assembled around the door with piles of kits in bags and boxes.  This meant we missed the whole ritual of peering into what other people had to compare what was available and how much they were asking for it.  Instead we went straight in and started burdening our allotted tables with the dross of our collections that we hoped others would find as rare jems.

Wayne and l had spent some time on the way there pondering on what the climate of the swap and sell would be like after the !PMS event last year that was somewhat disheartening.  As it turned out, the crowd that surged in when the doors were thrown open seemed to have their hands in their pockets more than they had last year and so we did a bit better business than last time. Wayne, in particular, seemed to do particularly well and his pile of unloved tanks and aeroplanes had dwindled significantly by the close of the event.  I seemed to sell more in the first half an hour than in the entire event last year.  This was heartening because it meant I could afford to buy more too.  A lot of the 1:48 stuff I’d bought years ago (when I was still labouring under the delusion that I would one day become the world’s greatest modeller) finally found its way into other people’s hands so I could afford to buy some of the 1:72 stuff I happily bang together now that I am not so deluded.  Even so, it was well into the day before l had accumulated enough cash that I could afford to go back and buy that lovely Ilyushin Badger I’d been lusting after, only to find that some swine had bought it instead.  Still, right next to it was an irresistible An-12 for only $10 more that now resides in my collection.

The selling seemed to end with a bit of a flourish as the few people wandering around with a few dollars in their pockets tried to decide which of the rapidly declining items for sale they would take home.  Consequently I had enough in my pocket by the end that, when we went in to spend a couple of hours looking at the models on display, I had enough in my pocket for that set of EP-3 decals I’d been looking for.

It seemed to me that the number of kits entered in the competition was somewhat down on last year but there was still some interesting stuff.  A beautifully done large scale Nieuport Bebe didn’t rate a mention in its category, an elegant little Breguet 693 was ignored and an impeccable constructed Fouga Magister in the vacforrn competition was similarly unrewarded.  One of the MoBsters pointed out to me a nice Leclerc in one of the armour categories and it hadn’t got a prize either.  Are all the judges biased against French equipment?

Of course, being a judge is a thankless occupation because the only person who is really happy with the decision is the person who wins.  My solution to the whole judging problem would be to take all the judges out the back and shoot them.  In the case of the airliner category I’ personally put out their eyes before putting them out of their misery.  I didn’t enter anything but even so I was annoyed at the judging of the airliner category.  Still, if competitions do nothing else, they give us something to whinge about.

Wandering around the professional dealers’ tables I had opportunity to chat to the pusher of the fine Mach 2 kits that he smuggles into the country for me and at the Hawkeye stand, where all the magnificent decals for Australian airliners are found, I had a lovely time fossicking through what they had on display.  Boyohboy, some decals for an Airbus A.330-200 in Qantas CityFlyer markings and a Qantas Boeing 737-800 with little resin wingletts too.  Sheer bliss! Then Mr Hawkeye mentioned that be wouldn’t be back next year, he was going out of business. Mon Dieu!!! That meant l had to pick up all the decals I’d been vaguely interested in because now they would soon be unavailable.  Well, there went the budget and my profit for the event had disappeared into a loss.  Still, I had a lot of fun.