Posts Tagged fly

Flying High With Aviation Collectibles

2 September 2010

Human powered flight encompasses a large area of collecting interest.  Aviation is equal parts technology and romance.  It occupies a small slice of the span of human history but is a defining element of the modern world.  Airplanes fascinated me as a kid who spent many hours in libraries.  I poured over all the books that showed airplanes and explained how they worked.  The magazine racks held Model Airplane News magazine.  I was one of those kids who hung on the airport fence and watched the planes take off.  After high school I got distracted by popular culture but came back to my earlier interests as I got settled into a steady job and home ownership.  I put the necessary time and money into getting a private pilot’s license which was one of the highlights of my life.  Virtually every aspect of Flying, it’s history and continuing development, civilian, military or commercial is part of an ongoing love affair..

The kind of feeling I grew up with for aviation is what makes a collector tick.  A lot of people have that feeling for automobiles, trains, dogs, horses, stamps, coins, you name it.  I have the same thing for sailboats, hence my other blog: Seaward Adventures.  As a dealer in collectible items, buying and selling to make a profit was the main consideration.  Aviation was one of the few areas I collected for myself.  My pride and joy was an assembly of aviator’s wing badges.

When I first started selling collectibles I naturally gravitated toward items that interested me personally.  My interests payed off surprisingly well.  I had stumbled onto the formula that became my business model.  Artifacts that relate to an activity engaged in by well educated people with a passion for the activity and a healthy income to support the activity equals profitability.  Lets face it you don’t see any poor people climbing into a Cessna 172 to go for a hundred dollar hamburger.

The aviation demographic was grown by WWII and the postwar economic growth that allowed many Americans to pursue their personal dreams. My customers were frequently people with good stories to tell.  I always enjoy some good hangar talk which is why my favorite podcast is Uncontrolled Airspace.  Jack, Jeb, Dave and the various other contributors to the podcast are entertaining and educational in a way that makes a pilot feel connected with the flying community.

Some interesting items I have handled in my business or personal collection are:  Pilot’s operating handbooks for various vintage aircraft, early variations on the E6B flight computer, parts for Jacob’s radial engines,  early pilot’s goggles and way too many other items to remember.  I divested myself of all those collections.  I still dabble.  I have a few items on eBay right now.   A recently acquired WWII item was the subject of a previous Adventures in antiquing post.  You may view it at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220663480133.

I find that people have fond memories of the aircraft they flew once upon a time.  The old sales literature with full color photos of prosperous young folks traveling cross country on business and pleasure have been good sellers.  I three examples on eBay right now.  See the Vintage Beech Sierra Sales Brochure 1973.

Sales have slowed down a bit because eBay is not a happening place lately.  Aviation itself is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.  Certainly some people will slow down their collecting as they tighten their budget.  Ultimately what sustains the market is passion.  Pin your business model on that

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Diving into the eBay

13 April 2010

Once upon a time in a land on the other side of the continent I hacked out my living trading in collectibles. I came to it as an alternative to working as a paralegal.  About the time I got fed up with lawyers and their barely disguised ethical deficiencies the internet gave rise to a whole new way for people to part from their money.  EBay emerged from the internet on a mercantile flood tide.  I was already situated in an Antiques mall after spending several months researching the business and gathering some inventory.

September of 1996 saw the quiet arrival of ebay which soon rose to make a big noise in American culture.  I was what they call an early adopter.  I was into computers and they fit with my new business so I was off and running.  Those were the good years.  The site had lot’s of traffic and everyone seemed to get into the spirit of auction style bidding.  The fees were well below anything you had to pay at local auction houses.

Ebay has it’s ups and downs.  I noticed a trend that matched the stock market generally and consumer confidence indexes more specifically.  for the most part I did okay all the time with nice upward movement during the holiday season and immediately after.  Things began to deteriorate when the Dot com bubble burst in early 2000.   Ebay rallied but September 11, 2001 brought things almost to a halt.   Christmas sales were less vigorous than prior years I hung in there and began to see a comeback in late summer 2001 (your mileage may have varied).

About that time other forces brought changes in my personal life.  I relocated from Pennsylvania to Washington.  The area I am in is not a good hunting ground for antiques and collectibles.  I dabbled in eBay occasionally but haven’t gotten  much out of it.  Until two weeks ago It was a year since I posted anything on eBay.  I figured that if I was going to shoot my mouth off in this blog I should be willing to get back in the game.

Diving in feet first I posted two items.  They were a felt pennant souvenir of the Golden Gate International Exposition 1939-40 and a  WWII silk survival map.  I didn’t put high starting bids on them, just $18.00 AND $12.00.  I got bids and had both sold and shipped out in good order.  The next week I put on just one item, a WWII yearbook from the airman’s training school in Garden City, Kansas.  It went for $35.00.

Not a rapid start but I have been selling everything, That’s the way I like it. The trend I’ve noticed for a long time is a lack of competitive bidding. So many buyers seem content to go for things with “Buy it Now” status. That’s fine for new items you could actually get at a store in your own city. I tend to use higher starting bids now so that I don’t take losses. I like everything to at least break even.

This week I had a pleasant surprise. I posted three things among which was a Hardy silk fly line. This is a great little fishing collectible from a bygone era. It comes from a day when fly-fishing was often done with superbly crafted bamboo poles using silk lines and gut leaders. they are a thing of beauty in both there appearance and utility. This particular line is in it’s original box with all the original labels. I have a good idea of it’s worth and started it at $97.00. I had a bid within a couple of hours. better than that, I have 10 watchers and have 64 views so far with five days left. All the other items did not receive more than a half a dozen views.

could this be a return to the good old days? Well maybe for this item. I know there are still buyers in touch with the concept of quality. Let’s hope for a marketplace that gives us all opportunity.

If you are interested in seeing the item I am talking about follow the link: Vintage Hardy Silk Fly Line

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