I was so good the other day.
I had a couple of hours to kill between assignments, and it wasn’t worth the effort (or the gas) to go home in between, so I stopped at a hobby shop nearby to peruse the latest Breyer selections.
The prices were excellent, as was the selection (over a half dozen of the Man o’ War version of the War Horse Gift Sets on the shelf, alone) but I didn’t walk out with a single one. The Brookside Pink Magnums were especially tempting, but then I remembered I still had King in the box at home waiting for me. And a flea market opening up in a couple of weeks.
(My King is lovely, by the by. He may not have a dorsal stripe or scrotum dots, but his color is spot on.)
I suppose I am contractually obligated to mention the controversy that’s sweeping the model horse world this moment: a 2005 Early Bird Raffle Model - the fleabitten gray Lonesome Glory - that ended up in a picker’s lot on eBay.
I have nothing against picking; it’s essentially what I do to support my hobby "habit." I have an aunt who does it, and a great many items I buy at the flea market - judging from the contents of the booths I shop at - are from storage auctions. Heck, if I had the time and money, I’d be buying storage lots myself.
What’s at issue here is the quality of the picker, and the nature of the pick itself.
The picker, judging from his feedback and his merchandise, doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for said merchandise. It’s one thing to not be knowledgeable about everything you end up with in a storage unit: that’s essentially impossible, unless you’re a professional auction house with in-house researchers and stuff.
But what distinguishes a good picker from a questionable one is respect for the merchandise. Stuff that’s been put into a storage unit was put there because it had some value by the owner. True, that value may be subjective, or highly personal, but it was there, presumably. You don't pay good money to store things you don't value.
Taking the extra effort - such as doing a bit of research, or putting a little more care into the selling or packaging - may not pay off with every transaction, but it will in those odd cases where a truly rare or valuable item shows up.
Take care of the small things, and the big things will end up taking care of themselves. Or something like that.
Even if I had the money to invest in that auction, I wouldn’t do it, because it feels like I’m rewarding unethical behavior. I have a hard enough time with a few of the vendors I deal with at my local fleas, and the sums I’m dealing with there are sometimes (literally!) pocket change in comparison.
The nature of the pick itself troubles me even more. How did this model this rare, and this coveted end up in these dire circumstances in the first place? All of the scenarios I can imagine are sad ones: job loss, foreclosure, illness, or death.
Many of the things I buy at the flea market are a result of some sort of loss, too. What is so striking about the Lonesome Glory was the rapidity of its decline in fortune - less than seven years, from raffle model to a picker's inventory.
He’s a disquieting reminder of how quickly things can go bad for any of us.