Monday, November 10, 2014

Collectors Vs. The Holidays: Survey

Here at the studio, we notice a change in hobby activity between late October (about Hallowe'en) and February 1st. When I lived in CA, the hobbies steamed forward year-round, due to the mild weather. There, model horse shows and sci-fi conventions were held year-round, almost every month. A quick glance at the CA horse show calendar seems to indicate that, with the exception of a quiet July during BreyerFest/NAN, this continues. 
Sales were not tainted by weather too cold to ship breakables, nor waiting for roads to be safe to drive to the local Breyer dealer to choose the latest releases, and the local economy ensured at least some significant sales, even close to the holidays. Likewise, the sci-fi sales drop around mid-November because formerly-single collectors have gone on to become parents, and they now have to budget for Christmas action playsets for their kids, not for themselves. Partners and co-parents look askance at a spouse spending the house payment on a toy for themselves, when the offspring needs a new Christmas bike for his commute to school!
Why does the hobby buying pick up in February? This is about when early tax-filers are getting their tax refund checks, and they do a little shopping. Big shows also pick up again in late March/early April, which means interest in new (or new to them) horses to add to the new year's show string. Also, the post-holidays expenses have been paid off in January, and breathing easy commences.
I've been in the Mid-South of the USA for over a decade, and winter weather and local economy surely hamper major hobby activity. Some hobbyists manage winter collection tours or visit each other locally, but wide-ranging travel is subdued and individual. Our weather is unpredictable and can close roads in a matter of minutes with downed trees, power lines, ice, or flash flooding. Here, formal NAN-qualifier shows drop off after November; even my own show was moved up a month to avoid wild weather. Hobby sales over the holidays are thwarted by both a weak regional economy and, online, it's a Buyer's Market- lots of awesome competition! It's a hobby deadzone for us, with the exception of commercial art jobs, which peak at this time of year and have zero-tolerance deadlines. (And people wonder why we don't travel!) One of my artist friends assures me that it is her busiest direct-to-collectors sales time of the year. Her products are not holiday-themed, so it's not time-sensitive. This opposite dynamic puzzled me, and I wondered if it was also present from the collector perspective. 
For myself as a collector, I see less of what I collect (granted, I collect only certain molds and The Weird and Unusual) coming available as the winter months progress. I used to say this was because flea markets here close until March, so no one was finding Ugly Horses (and tiki) to sell or trade!
Wanna Hippopotamus for Christmas?

Twenty-four asked to participate in time for this post (that were visible to me on FB), and 17 responded. The 2014 Holiday Collector Survey and results:
As a collector, do the holidays (October-January) temporarily change your strategy?
About 65% said the holiday time did change their strategy.
Interestingly, ~18% specifically mentioned that they become vigilant for bargains to be had when other collectors put up items suddenly, to raise money for their personal family gift-giving. This is definitely a condition specific to the holiday season.
The balance of respondents said the holidays had no effect on how they collect.

Do you slow down on acquisition/shopping for your collection, or amp it up due to holiday gifts of money that you spend on ceramics?
Slow down 35%
No change 24%
Plan to shop discounted hobbyist sales strategically 24%
Monetary gifts become model purchases 12%
No response or Other 5%

Do you decorate for the holidays?
Yes 59%

If you do, do you incorporate ceramic horse models in your holiday displays?
Only 53% purposefully incorporate ceramic horses (not static year-round cabinets) into their holiday decor. So, about 6% do holiday decoration, but models are not purposefully included.

Have you ever bought a ceramic horse model with the express purpose of using it for holiday decoration (examples: AA Christmas and Halloween models, HR horse & sleigh)?
There seemed to be some confusion over what sort of models I was asking about, although this survey was advertised only to ceramics collector circles. Some respondents said they purchase and decorate with plastic Holiday models, or ornaments (which are not model horses in the primary sense). 
The result of 47% calculates only for those who purposefully purchased ceramic Holiday-themed model horses for holiday display.

If you invite non-collector guests for the holidays, how do they react to your displays (holiday or everyday cabinet)?
Guests show no response 41%, whether because no one notices, or due to guests being acclimated to the homeowner's collecting habit.
Positive guest response was at 35%.
A cited negative guest response:
"Shouldn't your china dishes be in there?"

Are the holidays a hinderance to your collector activities, such as attending shows, or buying/selling on eBay?
No 47%
For Yes, results varied:
"nothing to do but watch eBay" 
"no shows, less selling"
"depends on work schedule, less energy to participate"
"more obligations"
"time & money reduced"
"nothing to buy"
On the bright side, "still go to shows", "my eBay sales increase", and "I save up for the UK china releases that always come at this time of year" were positive points of the holiday season for some ceramics collectors.

All of these ceramics, from vintage to current reissues and Special Runs,
 were for sale at Clinky Classic in November 2014.
A table like this is one big reason we go to model horse shows!
Ed & Sheri Alcorn's vending space.

Do you feel non-collectors give you "the hairy eyeball" at this time of year because you are a collector?
Boy, did I ever get this from both family and acquaintances. Family believe they know best for the collector. There may be expressed opinions that certain luxury items are actually necessities, compared to yet another model for a collection. I still would argue that cosmetics and couture are luxury items that can be dismissed in favor of a Grail for a collector. Those things lose value with time, and literally expire or fade, while many ceramics prove to be good investments, in the hands of a collector. There are also those who are unaware of (frequently kept private) charitable acts by the collector, and disapprove any visible non-essential acquisition during the season of giving. Those closest to the collector may know of their charity work and donations year-round, and would never disparage the few joys they allow for themselves, not even at Christmas.
No judgement upon the collector: 59%
Yes, there's that holiday "hairy eyeball": 18%
Emphatic, "at all times of year" disapproval: ~12%
No response: ~12%
(With rounding up figures, I realize that's 101%.)

Whether you welcome or dread the holiday season, this may show you what a handful of your fellow collectors experience. It may even give you insight into how they make the holidays work for their collecting habits. Maybe it's just comforting to know that they, too, cope with reactions from non-collectors. Go forward, and make it the best season, yet!

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