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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 16:39 UK
Banker auctions 250,000 of toys
Lee Johnson
By Lee Johnson
BBC Tees

From the outside it looks like an ordinary office on an ordinary industrial estate, but the Vectis auction house in Stockton is actually a toy collector's heaven.

Fred Matt at Vectis Toys
Banker Fred Matt is a seller at Vectis Toys

In one room figures from cult 1980s kids TV hits Thundercats and Ghostbusters, all lovingly sealed in their original boxes, sit alongside toy trains and life-sized Daleks. The owners of the toys all hope they will earn them a small fortune.

Fred Matt is one of those sellers.

After over 40 years of collecting, the American investment banker is placing his set of Dinky toy cars up for sale.

The reason, he says, is limited storage space and an expensive divorce. His collection has been valued at around £250,000, but he says if the right buyers show up it could fetch as much as £500,000.

Hobbyists and obsessives
Fred Matt at Vectis Toys
Ordinarily, that would be worth around £4,000, but a few years ago there were two gentlemen that really wanted it and in the space of a minute and a half it went up to £7,000
Fred Matt

Fred explained how he began his collection: "I started as a little boy - my mother used to give them to me as a Christmas gift, for birthdays or just as an present when she came back from shopping.

"Whatever pocket money I had I would go to the local variety store and buy a model."

What started as a hobby soon grew into an obsession. Fred would hunt down different variations of the same models, snapping up car after car, but it was one unusual vehicle that stood out from all the others; a Radio Rentals van.

"I tried to get this model from my local variety shop in America for about year, but to a child it seemed like an eternity, and they never had it in stock.

"One day I went to a different store and saw another model, and I begged my mother to buy it, which she did, and I convinced myself this was a rare commodity, so whenever I found one I would take it, and that continued into my adult years."

Beware the ego bids
Toy cars
Some of the toys could be worth thousands of pounds

You might think the world of children's toys would be gentle and friendly with adults sitting around playing with toys and sharing their memories, but Fred says the auctions can be extremely competitive: "If you end up with an ego bid, where two people really want it, they can talk it up by thousands of pounds very quickly."

His yellow taxi is a prime example: "Ordinarily, that would be worth around £4,000, but a few years ago there were two gentlemen that really wanted it and in the space of a minute and a half it went up to £7,000."

Despite the huge sums of money that can be involved, Fred says toy collecting is far from a rich man's hobby. "Generally speaking, the premium pieces I have will be bought by the high net crowd. However, most of the models probably sell for £50 to £100, so anyone that wants a piece of the golden age of British manufacturing can certainly buy a few pieces."

After spending over four decades scouring the world for rare and collectable cars, tractors and vans does Fred feel like he is selling some of his childhood?

"It is difficult, I'm not going to lie, but my life's in a different chapter and I need to raise some cash. I've had these for many years, but I've become a bit like an adopted parent where I want them to go to a good home, and that's what I'm looking for."

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