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Published: Sunday, 3/8/2009

Aging toy hobbyists lament waning interest in collecting

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Vendor Don Scheuring of Parma Heights, Ohio, right, stands ready to answer questions from John Quinn of Cleveland at the 95th Toledo Collectors' Toy Fair at the Lucas County Recreation Center. Vendor Don Scheuring of Parma Heights, Ohio, right, stands ready to answer questions from John Quinn of Cleveland at the 95th Toledo Collectors' Toy Fair at the Lucas County Recreation Center.
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You might call Don Scheuring a connoisseur of toys.

The Parma Heights, Ohio, man has been collecting them for 35 years and this weekend has 400 to 500 on display at the Lucas County Recreation Center for the 95th Toledo Collectors' Toy Fair.

Like virtually all of the 80 collectors there, Mr. Scheuring is a hobbyist who more or less went professional, not that he earns a living from his pastime.

"It's a hobby that became a business. Sooner or later, every collector becomes a trader. It's fun. I have an acquaintance in Chicago who's a psychologist and said no toy was ever given in anger," he explained.

Mr. Scheuring participates in about 10 shows a year. "I have a car that's not even three years old and I have 65,000 miles on it," he said.

Back in Parma Heights, he has a room dedicated to his collection, which includes a lot of cars and trucks. An airplane dating to the 1940s is priced to sell at $165.

A pressed tin J. Chein Drummer Boy Wind Up Toy from the 1930s is for sale at the show. A pressed tin J. Chein Drummer Boy Wind Up Toy from the 1930s is for sale at the show.
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The toy shows are an opportunity to become acquainted and reacquainted with other collectors as well as to sell and buy.

The shows are also a lot of work. Mr. Scheuring said he must keep meticulous records of every item in his collection, including its cost basis. When he sells or trades a piece, he pays taxes on any profit.

But all is not well in toy collecting, said John Carlisle, the show's organizer.

The number of participating vendors has shrunk about 50 percent in the past six or seven years. Mr. Carlisle has watched the trend closely and has some well-articulated ideas about the forces behind it.

They are demographic and economic, he explained.

"There's been a change in the culture, or whatever you call it, in collecting," said Mr. Carlisle, who lives in Buffalo.

"At present time, there are very few young collectors. When collecting hit its peak, the economy was very good. Today a lot of younger people don't have a lot of money to spend on things that aren't necessities. They don't have the discretionary income," he said. "The collectors are aging and dying or quitting and they are not being replaced by young people."

A walk through the show seemed to support his theory. Few of the vendors or members of the public looked younger than 40. Most appeared a lot older.

Many of this weekend's vendors are from Ohio, Mr. Carlisle said, but Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York also are represented. There used to be a Canadian contingent, but it disappeared several years ago. Mr. Carlisle said he expected to sell several hundred tickets at the gate.

Bob Cufr of Indianapolis said he has been a vendor in the show since the late 1970s. His specialty is space toy repair. He can fashion parts if he has an original to work from. His collection includes robots and space cars from the 1950s.

"I started doing it as a business after I retired. Sometimes it costs you more to set everything up than you make," he said.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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