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Collection of vintage toy cars
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A toy-car trip down memory lane

Well, life’s just full of little surprises, isn’t it?

My most recent unexpected discovery was rather interesting, actually. I thought I loathed collecting in any form, and am suspicious of collectors, always and everywhere. They fill drawers, suck up time and create things to dust.

As the only member of my family who is not a pack rat, aka collector, I have worked hard to hold the line.

So when I pulled out the Matchbox vehicle collection, passed down from my brother, I inwardly groaned. I really wanted to know its worth, but the thought of doing the necessary research gave me a mild case of hives. I also got a snoot full of dust, as these things have been packed away for decades.

For any of you who are truly interested, my “collector” mother began gathering them for my “collector” brother when we were stationed in Germany in 1959, and it appears my sibling only played with a couple of them, so the rest are what they call “mint.”

After scouring multiple websites and collector’s blogs, however, I’m still a little foggy about whether they are more valued if they are beaten up, but unrestored, or if untouched is better.

I did learn that some collectors also want the boxes to be pristine, which puzzles me, since paper just doesn’t hold up that well. Apparently, our collection was looked at a lot, as most of the boxes are a bit shabby.

But what is most disturbing to my non-collector heart, is that the more I learned about this boxful of toys, the less I wanted to part with them. They managed to bring up fond memories and create unexpected attachments.

I did not see that coming and am not at all pleased about it.

Equally unsettling was that I found the hours and hours of internet research I had to do on these little metal creatures was really rather absorbing.

I love that many of them bear charming British descriptions and names, as in the street cleaner is a “refuse cleansing” truck, dump trucks are “tippers” and the milk truck is a “milk float.”

Then I discovered that the vehicles I found adorable and fascinating were the least valued, while the ones I thought screamingly ordinary carry a hefty price tag.

My favorite is The Bedford Evening News van, with the tiny signs saying “First with the News” and “Football Results.” It’s value? $25. And the ordinary Ford station wagon, just like my parents owned? One guy on eBay wants $700 for it.

Perhaps my status as a non-collector is still secure.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer backing swiftly away from all dusty boxes under the bed. Contact her at [email protected].

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