Let’s go deep inside the mind of the collector, shall we. Not too deep, though.
Glen Fredericks, of Empire Coffee in the Honeysuckle precinct in Newcastle, has a brain that’s wired for this kind of stuff.
Just take a look at his eyes, focusing intently on his collection of Coles’ Little Shop of grocery miniatures. We’re just glad he’s not into gambling.
We know some gamblers who, when they place a bet, we can almost see the devils dancing in their eyes. That look reminds us of this look in Glen’s eyes.
We’re going to hazard a guess that Glen’s focus on the miniatures helped keep his mind off problems his business faced with the loss of car parking spaces at Honeysuckle and light-rail construction.
But funnily enough, the miniatures have also helped his business.
“I've been doing toy photography for fun for about five years now, with a following of almost 20,000 people on Instagram [see his imperialcenter handle],” he said.
“Six-inch action figures and Lego people are my choices of subject matter. Having them interact with miniatures tends to get a big reaction.”
Glen initially had a desire to collect a few miniatures – the jar of Vegemite, packet of Tim Tams, box of Weet-Bix and bottle of water. Soon, though, it became an obsession. He desired the whole set.
“I think most people are collectors by nature. It becomes a contest and there is a psychological satisfaction in successfully completing that challenge. So I figured I’d get the whole set and that would be that.”
That wasn’t that.
He organised a “Little Shop Swap Meet” at his cafe in a bid to complete his set, with the aim of helping others with the same desire.
Attendees handed over miniatures they wanted to trade. In return, Glen gave them raffle tickets.
“Once everyone was sorted, we'd pull a ticket out of a bucket and the ticket-holder got to choose one item out of the pile. It ended up being more fun than I expected. The participants, there were 21, were thrilled to get their number called out. It was like winning something.”
Quite a few people completed their collection that day. They were so delighted, they left spare miniatures with Glen.
“I ended up with 20 more than I started with,” he said.
He put those 20 spares in a display cabinet in the cafe, with an open invitation for anyone to do ongoing swaps.
“Over the weeks the collection has grown, with myself, family and friends also contributing. As word spread via social media, we had all sorts of people come in.”
Some hadn’t known the cafe existed.
“It was a neutral meeting place, which added to the appeal. There were no obligations or conditions, just one-for-one swaps.”
Turns out Glen’s hobby helped his business in hard times.
“I didn't expect people to buy a coffee, but a lot did. Some even made the most of the opportunity [to swap miniatures] and bought themselves breakfast. For some, I think it was an extra special treat to celebrate the successful completion of their own collections.”
Despite the promotion ending at Coles last month, swapping the Little Shop miniatures remains popular.
“Some still haven't completed their first set, and others are onto their second and third. It will eventually come to an end as interest wanes but, in the meantime, it's been good for business.”