A Question of Money

I was listening to a radio programme yesterday on the CBC Radio.  A man who was a huge collector or something (I am not quite clear what it was because I picked up the programme as it was finishing) was talking about his spending contract with his wife.  He had written a contract that specified how much he could spend a month on his hobby.

The hosts took him fairly seriously and the guest didn’t take himself too seriously.  He also explained that he often broke the budget for “special sales/events” that fell outside of the contract.

It got me thinking about how I spend money on hobbies.  I don’t really have a budget.  I control my spending the old fashioned way….fear that I won’t be able to eat if I spend too much.

Then I started thinking about my hobbies and which ones cost the most money, which ones cost more money than I expected.  Cycling has been the least expensive.  Once I bought the bike, except for some clothes and some nutritional supplements, there isn’t a huge ongoing cost.  Of course, going on cycling trips, which I have done, costs money.  Of course, I think of these as vacations, totally unrelated to my club cycling.

I balked at stamp collecting because it seemed like something that my start off small, but grow to something huge if left unchecked.  You might start off collecting one country and used stamps and then up trying to collect the world in mint stamps.  Deluxe books for stamps cost a small fortune, not to mention inventory software and travel to stamp shows.

I suppose coins are much the same.  The book to house the almost one hundred years of the Canadian penny is probably worth more than the pennies themselves.

Hockey cards seem to have so many sets and special cards that you’d be through your budget in no time.

I suppose all collections start like that.  They start small, but they grow.  Suddenly you are spending more money on storing the collection and reading about the collection than actually collecting.

How do you set a budget for whatever your hobby is?  Is it a monthly amount or a yearly amount?


Stocking Stuffers


There is a tradition in my family of getting Christmas stockings. I assume it is the same with every family who celebrates the consumerist side of Christmas.  What I don’t assume is that the stuff in the stockings (which I call stocking stuffers, but MSWord seems do disagree with) is the same.  I have seen some stockings full of stuff that would be considered “big” gifts in my house.

In my case, most of the stuff filling the stocking comes from the dollar store, or is chocolate, lottery scratch tickets, or personal hygiene products. This year, amid all that stuff, I got some Panini stickers and the album to put them in.

Having checked their website, it seems like Panini makes a variety of products to entice collectors and fans of sports, comics, animation, and others. From my childhood, I mostly remember hockey, rock stars, and famous battles.  My students have told me that the World Cup (of soccer) is a guaranteed seller in their country.  I suppose they sell it here, but I have never seen it.

In this book there are 505 stickers needed. The book came with ten stickers.  With each pack containing 7 stickers, one would have to buy 73 packages of stickers without getting doubles.  It seems like a huge investment to me.  This seems rather unlikely.  According to the website in Canada, you could buy each card for 22 cents.  That means approximately 111 dollars.  Definitely cheaper than buying packages of cards.  Of course, you can only buy 40 of them….so they say.

In this age of collecting, there are lots of little frills; foil cards, all star cards, rookie cards, skills competition winners, and of course a break down of the Stanley Cup finals.  No trophy case, and not all team logos have stickers.  Some teams arenas have pictures….not sure why.

This would be a good job for me.  I would love to design some collector series.  Maybe cards.  I wonder how you get that job?  I will save this thought for another blog.

As for fun…..once a collector, always a collector. I still get a minor rush out of these things.  Opening the package, scanning through them…. feeling rewarded when I get a new card, or a special card….feeling disappointed when I got another double.

This was a fun stocking stuffer, but I don’t know if I will continue buying them, or even trying to complete the set. Maybe, when the season is over, there will be a drastic reduction in price.  Or maybe I will just buy some hockey cards…


2013: A Year in Hobbies

The most popular place in Tokyo to spend New Year’s Eve–in Nanoblocks (fitting isn’t it)
Despite what people might think, Christmas is not necessarily the greatest time for hobbyists.  Yes, Christmas brings the potential of much wanted presents for the hobbyist.  It might also bring a good boxing day sale (as it did in my case) but that doesn’t mean there really is time to actually do anything.  Christmas is so full of stuff that the real hobby season may not begin until the start of the new year.

I know there are people out there who had planned and executed their Christmas shopping and preparation by September.  Those people probably have had lots of time to play with trains or build model cars.  Based on what people on my favourite train site are saying, there seems to have been lots of time to improve their models and run quite a few trains.

I have not been blessed with too many vacation days–yes, I am that guy.  They guy you see marching off to work like some lemming every morning while you are still in your PJs enjoying that first cup of coffee.  While this may sound like sour grapes (and at times it is) I was still better off than the people around here who didn’t have power until Christmas day.  Even if those people had the day off, they couldn’t have run trains or powered an airbrush.


The new year is upon us, and I should take stock of the –in terms of hobbies.  Life has been pretty full, but I’d rather focus on what this blog is supposed to focus on.

  • I have enjoyed blogging and while this blog’s readership has been growing slowly, the blog that I set up to help my students’ English has done remarkably well.  I have even done a good job of preparing and working ahead, so I don’t need to panic the day before a lesson is supposed to be published.
  • I have reconnected with the Nscale.net website and have enjoyed their advice and stories as part of my effort to build my n scale train layout.
  • I have built and painted several models, and can feel good about my improvement in these areas.
  • I have spent time running trains and have reignited my passion in this area.
  • I have come to love Nanoblocks, but hate that they aren’t as readily available as their big brother Lego.  While they are popping up at toy stores, they soon sell out and restocking seems to take months.
  • My passion for reading allowed me to read 44 novels this year.  While this is by no means a record for myself, I think it isn’t too bad since for a quarter of the year I had my head buried in ESL methodology books.
  • I found time to do a few Jigsaw puzzles, but wonder what to do with them after they are built.
  • I have watched far too much YouTube, but I am happy that the few things I have posted have seemed popular.  Though, honestly, I am not sure why unboxing the Statue of Liberty Nanoblock kit is so popular.  Maybe one of you could watch it and let me know.
  • It hasn’t been a stellar year for practicing Japanese, but I still feel good about my ability.
In my next blog, I will look ahead to the coming year and what joy it may bring.   Thanks for reading.



Lost Marbles

Did people used to play marbles?  Really?  I don’t want to doubt a whole generation, or generations for that matter, but did they actually do that?  I tried it as a kid (I think I still have the marble someplace) but wouldn’t have really called it a success.
A quick search on the internet does indeed show lots of beautiful marbles.  I could see how the different patterns would appeal to someone.  They would have appealed to me, but my cheap bag of marbles came from some discount store and they all looked the same.  The pictures make them seem marvellous, but that wasn’t really my experience.
Another quick search of the internet brings up incredible pictures of kids playing marbles, diagrams of kids playing marbles and more than one oil on canvass painting of kids playing marbles.  Granted most of the clothes look like something out of Gangs of New York, or Once Upon a Time in America–but that is probably because nostalgia for those eras is stronger than nostalgia for the 1970’s–and we should all take comfort in that.
I also came across a whole pile of websites devoted to the rules of marbles.  So, I must conclude, albeit with a touch of incredulousness, that people did in fact play marbles.  I will even go so far as to say that a small number of people probably still play marbles today (It wouldn’t surprise me if there isn’t a Japanese association for this, but I am not going to search for it.)
So what happened?  Did it just die away?  Did it put up a fight?
I guess things change.  That means that someday kids won’t play with hockey cards.  Who’s kidding who, kids don’t play with hockey cards anymore.  They put them in perfect acid free binders, organized and stacked neatly on shelves in hermetically sealed rooms.  Though I never did put them against my spokes I did bash the heck out of them on walls, floors, and any other hard surface.  Since I never had Gretzky’s rookie card, I am not losing any sleep over it.
What other things are destined to die?  The 8-track and the cassette are dead.  The Drive-In is almost gone.  DVD rental is almost gone.  CD’s are clinging by a last thread.  I suppose one day, even the iPod will disappear.  I hope we will always have plastic model car kits–though maybe the material will change.  I hope we will always have model trains.  I hope we always have RC cars.
As for now, I just lament what is gone.

A Dollar Store Find

Although “reality TV” is trying to convince me otherwise, I don’t think poking around stores hoping to find some hidden treasure is exactly a hobby.  That being said, I do find it interesting, and occasionally I do find something hobby related.
One such find, years ago, was a box of hockey cards.  As a kid, I never had the financial ability to buy a whole box of hockey cards.  I bought them one pack at a time, carefully sifting through them while trying desperately to make that cardboard like piece of gum soft.  Sometimes I bought three packs in a day, going back to the store for each one.  A whole box was unthinkable.
This treasure find, in a dingy discount store in an even dingier mall,  involved a box of Original Six hockey cards.  The idea was to release a series of hockey cards,  some in black and white, of my father’s hockey heroes.  They probably weren’t a hit, based on the low price for the whole box.  I think the Sporting News did something similar with baseball cards (though I think they were all in black and white)  I found the black and white pictures to be wonderful, even more fascinating than today’s full car, holographic, multi dimensional foil cards.  Maybe it was the deep hues.
I called this a treasure find because I liked it.  Unlike reality shows, I didn’t (and don’t) expect to sell the cards for a profit.  I managed to get two complete sets from that box–the other, when organized into a quality album, made a decent Father’s Day present.  I think my Dad appreciated it because he has more than enough ties, and our taste in clothes differs on a scale I wouldn’t hesitate to call epic.
Someday, I will probably set the cards up in a couple of frames and hang them on the hobby room wall.

Got’em, got’em, got’em, need’em, got’em.

Every now and then the thought of collecting hockey cards jumps into my brain.  Sometimes it is because I am at a store that is selling them by the box rather than the pack.  This is a strange novelty that I would never have considered when I was a child.  It also seems to happen when, rare though it is, I am in a local convenience store.  They keep the packs up at the counter, at eye level, where they used to keep the cigarette packs.

My earliest memories of hockey cards are walking to the local variety store with a quarter in my hand, maybe more, most likely less dreaming of the treasures I would buy.  I don’t remember how many seasons it was, but for at least a few of them, hockey cards were that treasure.

Most people, when reminiscing about sports cards, never fail to mention the gum.  And while smelling that pungent odour yesterday  is what provoked this blog, I am not one to lament the disappearance of that hard, brittle, flour tasting gum.  Although I understand the nostalgia for the crackerjack toy, the nostalgia for gum that nobody would purchase on its own seems rather ridiculous.

My hockey card collection is not worth any money.  The cards were played with, sat on, tossed against walls, and run over by my self-righting battery powered wall tumbling car.  The back of each card was scrutinized for statistics, fun facts and trivia.  They were crammed into pockets, jostled by friends and haggled over by all the kids in my grade.

Whenever the thought to take up this hobby rears its head, so do the reservations that I have..  Cost is a huge factor,  Gum or no gum, several dollars for each pack of five cards seems rather high.  I have heard of inflation, but printing technology should have made this cheaper, not more expensive.    There are also so many card sets and makers that I would have a hard time choosing which one to buy, leading me to buy more than one set.

That makes space another factor.  Where would I keep all the albums full of cards I would inevitably buy?

Perhaps the biggest thing holding me back is something less tangible.  When you’re a kid, sports stars are heroes.  I wanted their cards because they were larger than life.  I would watch Hockey Night in Canadaevery Saturday, rifling through the cards between periods like Catholic clutching his rosary beads.  They were as much an article of faith as anything.  I still enjoy the game and cheer with every goal, but those heroes have to compete with other heroes.

As an adult, there are other ways to get the statistics.  I can watch lots of highlights on YouTube and there are a lot of souvenir items out there.  I suspect, beyond collecting my team, there really isn’t much in the hobby for me.  I suppose I could be a market speculator, hoping to make a buck, but that really isn’t who I am.  I’ll probably just settle for a few Doug Gilmour cards and try and keep that idea in check.