'Big-boy toys' hobby is vehicle for career SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

December 08, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A father and son team have turned their avocation into a full-time career and opened a hobby shop west of Sykesville.

Davidson's Hobbies and Collectibles, at Route 26 and Klee Mill Road, is full of "big-boy toys," such as first editions of metal and plastic cars, trains and planes.

"We accumulated so much stuff we figured we might as well go into business," said Marvin D. Davidson, 65, a retired state employee who went into the business with his son, Wayne S. Davidson, 35. "It was either a warehouse or a store."

"I didn't have any more room in my house for collectibles," said Wayne Davidson. "I didn't know I had a living room until we opened the store.

"We cater to toy and train collectors, and our customers are well educated in racing collectibles," he said.

"We carry a lot of items people can't find in large stores. Some items sell out even before the manufacturers' catalogs are published."

The shop features discontinued model kits -- many with logos that manufacturers no longer use.

"We have cars, which are exact replicas of the ones which you see on the racing circuits, right down to the advertisements," Wayne Davidson said. "The next editions will not feature alcohol and tobacco ads."

The owners have stocked the shelves with many items from their own collections.

Now that the shop has been filled up with some of their collectibles, Marvin Davidson said, there is finally room for the grandchildren to play at his Randallstown home.

Those collections started decades ago. When Wayne Davidson was a child, he would tag along with his father to hobby shows. Like his dad, he caught the collecting bug as he grew up at those shows. The family home was doubly full of model cars, trucks and trains.

"You either stop buying collectibles or you keep on," said Wayne Davidson. "If you keep at it, you spend your weekends buying, selling and trading."

Wayne Davidson recalls the $600 Disney train his dad bought and hid in the car trunk for weeks until "mom was out of the house." This happens to collectors all the time, said the elder Davidson.

"There's a bag under the register right now with a man's business card attached," said Marvin Davidson. "The customer will pick it up when his wife goes to work."

Wayne Davidson said his mother might have understood about his father's Disney train. After all, she has a doll collection of her own.

Wayne Davidson's own home in Sykesville is brimming with collectibles, but he managed to part with a few for the shop, too.

zTC "I used to buy three of everything," he said. "Now, I only have room for one of each."

Those one-of-a-kind items are "never-sells," he said. "You don't part with anything you can't replace."

The collecting rage extends even to the stand-up cardboard models of race car drivers. Wayne had four of the lifelike pictures standing in his living room, until one of the 6-foot figures frightened his fiancee.

"I had one standing right by the door," he said. "She walked in one dark night, and she thought there was an intruder. They had to go."

The figures are standing in storage right now.

The owners also understand the collectors' mentality. Most customers -- 95 percent -- are adults, avidly amassing toys, they said.

"Of course, we have some 5-year-olds, who know racing drivers' names and numbers," said Wayne Davidson. "They must watch the races on television with their dads."

Each new manufacturer's edition can precipitate a buying frenzy.

Wayne drove 270 miles one day last week to pick up a new shipment of first-edition racing champion cars, replicas of the Indianapolis 500 racers. The series, which includes only 40,000 of each model, will not be in retail stores until March, he said, and he knew his customers wanted them well ahead of time.

While he was on the road, his father fielded calls from customers asking, "When will he be back?"

"People knew six months ago that this series was coming," said Wayne Davidson. "I restocked the shelves twice the day after I got back. One guy called to reserve one of every car."

Economics plays a role in the frenzy. A limited edition, which costs $7.95 today, could cost three times that within six months.

"It's not just a hobby," said Bill Stacho, frequent customer and collector. "The return on your investment can be 30 percent a year -- better than money in the bank."

Just in case a customer wants to check, the shop stocks price guides, racing magazines and newspapers.

Mr. Stacho said he was among the first in line to get the 1992 Hess truck. He went to several gas stations and purchased six -- "a great investment." The 1968 Hess tanker is worth about $2,500 now, and it sold for about $2, he said.

For parents who want to start a collection for their children, the Davidsons recommend Matchbox models.

"And keep the boxes," they said. "Store and mark them."

Without the box, the value of a collectible can plummet as much as 75 percent, they said.

The store also stocks current comic book issues and specialized frames. No baseball cards, though.

"Too many dealers in that," said Wayne Davidson.

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