Volume 42, Number 7, August 2004
A visit to any Collectables fair, let alone a specialist medal or militaria one, will leave you with one impression – that things aren’t what they used to be, or so it would seem. Where once there would be long queues eagerly waiting for the doors to open now fewer people stand outside, where once you had to be at the head of that queue to ensure you got those bargains now it seems that wondering in a little later isn’t quite the problem it once was. But why is this? Have the shows had their day? Is the traditional Sunday morning outing now a thing of the past? Maybe, but somehow I doubt it. There can be little doubt that the way we buy medals has changed, in the past the only options were auction, fairs or dealers’ lists – at auction we always ran the risk of paying more than we wanted if another similarly minded collector was in the room, with dealers’ lists it was all too often we’d find that we had just missed out because our postman had delivered our mail an hour later than another collector who jumped in first; so that left the shows; get their early, get to the head of the queue and even if your nearest rival was their too you couldn’t both look at all the stalls at the same time – you stood a chance of picking up that elusive piece at long, long last. Then along came the internet – suddenly you could browse from the comfort of your own home, dealers had their lists on line and auction sites proved immensely popular, a particular advantage of these was that everybody could be a dealer, you didn’t need to sell your “overs” to someone trying to make a living and thus needing to make a profit, you could sell direct to the collector at full price, another reason to stop going to the shows. So it was that it seemed that the “medal fair” was doomed -and the dwindling numbers attending them back that theory up, don’t they? Actually no! Certainly mail order and the internet do have a vital part to play in this hobby of ours and the electronic revolution has enabled people to buy medals from dealers up and down the country and worldwide who they would not otherwise have been in contact with; however the kind of people who are now buying solely from the internet are the kind of people who before were buying solely from dealers lists and, before they became popular, solely from one or two dealers who they had done business with for years. The collectors who don’t leave their armchairs now didn’t before; many of them have never been to a medal fair in their lives and never will. On the other hand the people who do regularly attend such events thoroughly enjoy them, they love the banter, the deals, the social side of things; they love actually seeing and handling the medals they are planning to buy, love examining them in minute detail, they love spotting that bargain that the dealer hasn’t recognised and they love that buzz of seeing, at long last, that missing BWM or KSA that completes their Trio or pair nestling snugly in a dealer’s tray. It is those feelings that make this, or any other collecting hobby more than simple accumulation, no amount of trawling the Internet can beat those feelings and, as long as they remain part of this hobby, the medal shows will be here too. So what about falling numbers? Don’t they tell their own tale? Actually numbers aren’t falling at all – what’s actually happening is that the shows have been a victim of their own success; so popular have they become that where once there was maybe one fair a month now there are four or five on the same day – as many as twenty a month! No longer do people from the Midlands or the North need to travel to London to get their hands on new items as very good fairs are now right on their doorstep, and those living in the South East would seem to be spoiled for choice with some weekends seeing three or four fairs within relative close proximity to each other – a situation that is great for the collector but unfortunately it does rather give a false impression. What is actually happening is that far from there being fewer collectors there are simply more shows for them to go to – if you have 500 collectors prepared to travel to a fair and only one to attend then all would eagerly press through the doors in search of the bargains – now with five fairs to attend and still the same number of collectors it is easy to see why numbers seem to have fallen. There aren’t fewer collectors – if our subscriber numbers are anything to go by there are more and more every month – they are simply spread a little more thinly that’s all!
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