Here's a wee note on my visits to Melbourne last year. It covers the model shops I visited while there. [They were all still there in May 2004 when I visited again and are all still operating in May 2005].
In August I arrived on the Friday morning and planned to do most of my shopping on the Saturday. However when reading up on shopping in Melbourne it became apparent that a lot of shops were only open until 1pm on Saturdays. Lynne and I wanted to get the lay of the land on Friday so keeping that in mind we set off to look around the central area.
The first thing we noted was that a lot of central Melbourne is undergoing "revitalisation" — i.e. they are renovating lots of the older buildings and as a consequence of this many of the shops were having "closing down" or "relocating" sales! It also meant that quite a few of the centre city model shops had moved or had become difficult to find! I'd been through the phone book and noted some places of interest and had been given details on a few places that were worth a look.
Here's where I went:
Hearn's Hobbies, 295 Flinders Street.
I searched in vain for this one on the Friday and didn't find it! But thanks to a friendly competitor I was given clear instructions on how to locate it — as it happened I'd walked past it on the other side of the road! I was looking for the sign by the "big trees" — as it turned out the sign was hidden by the big trees! Hearn's is a large hobby shop underneath the main Flinders Street Railway Station. It is accessible via Flinders Street itself and the stairs to the shop are just past the main side entrance to the Railway Station. Hearns caters mainly for the railroad, Scalextric, radio control and Kitset enthusiasts. It has a small variety of HO scale vehicles but they are really only there for the railroader. Worth a visit though — open Mon-Fri plus Sat am.
Hobby Place, 280 Lonsdale Street.
Hobby Place also caters for the radio control, kitset and railroad enthusiasts. However unlike Hearn's they do have a good selection of 1/43 and 1/64 diecast vehicles. They also have all sorts of other hobby materials including fuel cells for rockets (seems to be very popular in Oz), hobby steel, brass, timbers, etc., and air powered spray painters and sand blasters. Prices are pretty close to NZ equivalents — open Mon - Sat plus Sun 11-4.
Victorian Hobby Centre, 1st Fl, 21A Swanston Street.
Very close to the Flinders Street Railway Station also, this place is largely for the model railroader with a fantastic stock of NZ and Australian Engines and rolling stock, buildings, vehicles, etc. Also carries kitsets and small range of Australian diecasts such as Biante and Classic Carlectibles. Counter staff are friendly and helpful - open Mon-Fri plus Sat am.
Model Mania, 1st Fl, 94 Elizabeth Street.
Model Mania had moved from 268 Flinders Street and it took ages to find as the shop is up a narrow stairway and not well sign-posted. Very large selection of diecast vehicles in all scales and by all sorts of manufacturers. Be Warned – don't go too early – they don't open 'till 10am! But do take lots of money coz the array of models is breathtaking!
Model Cars of the World, 39 Benwerrin Drive, East Burwood.
I'd known of Pier van Netten's shop for years and had bought items via email and mail order from him in the past. A check of the Melbourne trams system revealed the trams went out as far as East Burwood so I decided to make a day of it and hop a tram. The trip took an hour from Flinders Street Railway Station as the route meanders a bit through several suburbs. It's actually quicker by train and I will probably attempt that next time. I went on Saturday and he closes at 1pm – the shop is halfway along Benwerrin Drive where you'd least expect it! Doesn't look much from the outside but WOW!! The stock inside is mind-blowing! and that's only a part of it as Pier has his internet business out the back and there's a huge amount of stock out there too! A very wide and impressive variety of models from almost every manufacturer in the world – lots of obsolete stock items too and the rare hard to get items are well represented (at rare, hard to get prices). I really recommend Pier's shop – he's friendly and the regulars will soon hop into your conversation too to give extra information of comment on the discussion. I left several hundred dollars lighter but with a lovely Holden Hearse done in black and silver, complete with flower rack and mini coffin (donor model was a Homes of Compassion Trax model that was completely remodelled and rebuilt).
Early Model Kits, 15 Royton Street, East Burwood.
This shop is near to Pier's — Royton Street is opposite Benwerrin Park (on corner of Benwerrin Drive) and an easy 5 minute walk from Pier's. It's a quaint, "its here somewhere" type of shop and the owner is really friendly. I searched in all corners and moved stock about whenever I felt like it and he said nothing – just carried on with the conversation. Its just as well I did because after moving some 1/18th scale models in order to look into a couple of display cases that were literally hidden by the 1/18th models I discovered they were full of early Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox and some rare Australian brands from the 50s!! The owner nonchalantly commented "those cases haven't seen the light of day in about eight months!". I ended up buying some rare Australian Streamlux models plus a couple of Vitesse and Dinky toys. Opening hours not noted but was open on Sat am.
Traffic Collectibles, 11 Regent Street, Pharyzan(?)
Traffic are another largely internet based collectibles centre. When I first visited them in August 2003 they were at 570 Malvern Road, Toorak but I was warned they were moving so I phoned them to get their new address on my second visit in November 2003. The old shop was great — large plenty on display, etc. The new premises are down a side street, hard to find and the "shop" is a space about 4m by 3m absolutely crammed with cabinets — out the back is HUGE warehouse facility where the internet business takes places. The owner stated that about 95% of his business is now internet sales via eBay so that's why the bulk of space was allocated there. I got some really great bargains first time out on Matchbox 1-75 series (unboxed) and on Dinky Toys (both boxed and unboxed) on my second visit. A third and fourth visits to this address in 2004 found them closed so maybe it pays to RING before you call at the shop.
Peter Cossens, 15 Cookson Street, Camberwell.
I had to visit this place — my middle name is Peter and his surname is pronounced the same. Unfortunately he wasn't there but his shop was open and its really worth the effort of a 9 minute train trip. Peter's shop is just down the road from the railway station and is FULL of rare Dinky items plus a good smattering of everything else! I got some good deals on Matchbox 1-75 unboxed but he has most of the main brands in diecast and some lovely pieces of tinplate plus other old items. I hope to visit again this year.
That's it for now – I'll tell you all about the November Bendigo Swapmeet in a later article!
Ian Cousins, Wellington