“As always collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect”…
This quote is familiar to anyone who reads MEARS Auth, LLC’s articles on this site as he always ends each story with these familiar words. It is with this motto in mind that I answer the many questions I get regarding the non sports items on our for sale site. Why do we have over 240 different toys, 99 TV character items or 129 auto racing items on a site that is noted for sports memorabilia? The answer is simple; I enjoy buying these types of items. I am a collector. Each category has a particular memory for me in one way or another. The one common denominator with each item we stock is condition, condition and more condition, most of which have their original package as well. That is the common thread in which I make my buying decisions.
And one of my favorite collectibles is automobile memorabilia. My memories and love of old cars and racing go back as far as I can remember. My step father used to race the old formula V cars which were like small Indy cars. We spent many a summer day at the old Elkhart Lake WI. Track while he raced. In addition, we used to go to the stock car races on Saturday nights thru out the 1960’s. These were not the extravagant NASCAR style of stock cars most are familiar with today. These were either the midgets or they were basically just souped up street cars that had been stripped of every luxury and had a roll cage welded into the interior. They were run on dirt tracks and there was so much dust and dirt along with flames, noise, fires and collisions to keep every young boy completely entranced for hours. Around 1967, my brother built a dragster out of an old Kaiser Henry J and painted it pumpkin orange with huge silver letters that spelled out “Speed Freak” and this was my entrance into the noisy world of drag racing. I accompanied him to many of his races at the old Union Grove drag strip as part of his crew (I handed him tools) and hung out with the other races and I was hooked. I loved the races and the cars and I spent my spare time making custom models by designers such as George Barris or Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.
My stepfather sold cars during this time (Chevrolet) and I still remember the promo toy cars that the dealers would give away when your dad test drove a car (I got one of each one that came into the showroom) and today, on our site, you will find dozens of these “not for sale” promo cars all mint in their original boxes. Of course, my favorites and the most valuable are the promo models for the now six figure real muscle cars of the late 1960’s and early 70’s like the Charger, Super bee, Road Runner, and Barracuda hemi’s. Another huge premium available only at car dealerships of the era was the promotional slot car sets put out by Dodge and Chevrolet such as the Scat City Drag Race set. These sets were never available through a regular store retail outlet and were available for sale through the dealerships but most often, were thrown in once your dad bought a car.
Hobby shops and slot cars were huge throughout the 1960’s. HO scale cars made their debut with the Aurora vibrator series in 1962 but the king of slot cars at the hobby shops was the 1/32 scale cars. We had a place in Antioch IL, Stowes Hobby Barn, that had a huge 6 lane track and you could bring your own cars and controls and enter races in which you could win cash, trophies, and merchandise. I spent just about every Saturday morning at the “Barn” with my kit of interchangeable car bodies, chassis, extra tires, controls, oil, and tune up kit and would race in several events each week. Again, I stayed away from the foreign cars such as the Ferrari favoring the American models such as T-Bird and Impala and other icons of the era. It was like a bowling league but with toy cars and there were dozens of kids and their dads working on cars and signing up for different style races. What a way to spend a rainy afternoon!
HO scale cars became the home favorites and they offered many different sets with some of the greatest models ever built. Hot rods with no hoods and large engines, 49 Mercs, 57 T-Birds, Nomads, GTO’s, you name it. You will find some of the finest vintage pre 1970 slot car sets and promos on our current site and if you are my age, you can’t help but travel back to the days where slot cars ruled. The Honus Wagner of slot car sets, the Eldon eliminator set, the best drag race set ever built using the long rail 1/32 scale dragsters, was available in the Christmas catalog and everybody I knew wanted to find one of these under their tree (No, it took another 40 years to get my first set, I got the free sets given out by Chevrolet). In addition to slot cars, the world was introduced to the hottest new toys ever seen in 1969 and they were the now famous Hot Wheels. They cam out with a set that was endorsed by the biggest two names in drag racing in 1970. They went by the name of the Snake and the Mongoose. These endorsed cars were the coolest things ever made. Based on the HO scale slot cars and offered in an array of custom styles, the so called Red Line series did not require electricity and so many accessories were offered that it seemed as if you could get Hot Wheels products for every birthday and Christmas and never get a duplicate. New styles, sets, and models were introduced each year and some of them are spectacular and their boxed sets are some of the most collectible of any toy from that era.
My introduction to the Indy 500 race came about in 1968 when my neighbor took his son and me. He was a big wig with the old International Harvester company and got us pit passes to Gasoline Alley. This was the first year of the big STP turbo car team. It was one of the most exciting weeks of my young life and I remember it to this day. I was hooked and years later, I even went back to see the museum and that hooked me on the old time cars and the history of the track and the race. The famous Indy 500 has been held every May 30th since 1911 except for the war years of 1943-45 and I have acquired almost a complete run of programs from 1923 thru 1953 along with some great original photos and assorted real photo post cards and other items. The rich history of this American classic is without peer in auto racing.
Another favorite collectible of mine is circus memorabilia. In the old days before mega entertainment, the local traveling circus and carnival was the hottest ticket in town and back in the 1960’s, just about everybody in town went to the event under the familiar big top. Today, for those interested in vintage circus memorabilia, the big circus museum in Baraboo WI and Sarasota Fl have some of the most incredible collections extant and if you don’t collect circus stuff now, wait until you go through those museums. As a result of my visits to the museum, I have purchased numerous pennants, posters and programs dating back to the 1920’s and famous Ringling Bros circus. The colorful artwork is fantastic and the images of clowns and tigers takes you back to a more innocent time. It would be next to impossible to not be enticed.
That is what is so great about being a dealer and a die hard collector, it allows you to buy everything you like but then offer them for sale as well. Once we are in our new show room and offices, we will be able to have a huge display of slot cars, promo cars, circus stuff along with another of my favorite collectibles, early toys. I cannot wait to see all of these items on display rather than on storage shelves. It will be like having our own personal museum with an ever changing display. How can it get any better than that for a collectaholic, a 15,000 square foot display room for all of our toys? And speaking of toys, who doesn’t love old toys? My broad interest in toys spans the late nineteenth century up to about 1970. This includes early German and French toys (talk about pieces of art) up to and including the killer space toys of the 1950’s and the many great Marx toys such as their play sets, toy gas stations, tin plate, toy trucks, motorcycles, boats, ships, games, you name it.
Troy has a keen interest in collecting toys as well but he is more interested in the Mego Superhero’s, Planet of the Apes (he has one of the best collections in the world), GI Joe, and TV character toys from the post 1970 era. I lean heavily towards great graphics and transportation toys. This gives us a broad collecting interest that spans over 100 years of toy making and gives us a wide array of collectibles with condition always being the number one priority.
Troy also has a compelling interest in history as do I so we are constantly buying historical memorabilia such as the Lindberg flight, famous ships, rodeos, roller derby, wrestling, and horse racing. When you add up each of our interests, it would be easier to write an article on what we don’t collect.
It should be no surprise that I look forward to a great toy show, a poster show, a comic book show, an advertising show, a coin op show, an antique gun show, a western show or a fine antique show as much as or even more so than sports shows because of the sheer diversity of material. It is well known that I have collected guns of the American West for over thirty years and am trying to get one top condition example of every rifle or pistol that would have rode in a holster or on the side of a horse. This would include every model sporting rifle made between 1865 and 1899 along with any post civil war conversion of a civil war model. This same holds true for holster pistols. From this, I have branched into collecting civil war era slim Jim holsters and any marked holster and belt from famous saddle makers of the same time period. And as if that was not enough to keep me busy and broke, I starting collecting mint versions of the Carbines used by the North in the Civil War as many of those surplus guns found their way west after the war. Throw in ammo boxes, sights, carrying cases, original advertising, etc. etc and you have one heck of a wide range of interests.
Then there is my interest in 1930’s era stream line style toy trains that are colorful and of a stunning art deco style as to form a sort of artistic wall display, at least that is what I keep telling myself every time a get a new example with no room to possibly display even half of what I already have. I don’t care who makes it as long as it is pre war, mint, and colorful. That leaves a lot of trains on my current want list.
And where does it go from here? Who the heck knows? It seems as if every time I go to a show or someone’s house and see their collection, I want to start one as well. Lead soldiers, antique tools, art deco clocks, pre war bakelite radios, calendars, knives, bicycles, first edition books, posters, coins, and so on and so on. So do I enjoy what I collect and collect what I enjoy? Of course I do but the biggest problem seems to be that I enjoy just about everything ever made before 1970 and that leaves a lot more collections yet added to my dwindling space and wallet.
Until next time,