More Confessions of a Closet Lilliput Lane Fancier
|English windmill, Sir?|
My recent coming-out as a browser of Lilliput Lane listings on eBay has landed me a number of excellent items of ECW scenery, and has been quite an education. I am, I sincerely hope, a fringe player here, but I have seen enough to be intrigued and sometimes horrified by the real deal.
Here’s the technique – enter “Lilliput Lane” and some other promising key word like “manor house” or “smithy” or “church” in the eBay search field, and have a look at what’s on offer. Don’t look at the prices at this point or you will run for cover, screaming. Find something you like the look of, and skip through ads for this item until you find one that gives physical size, so you can check it’s OK for scale (usually the serious retailers will give a full spec and lots of photos, but their prices will be off-putting).
|Or a very serviceable manor house for ECW, for £2.25?|
I use 20mm wargames figures (Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt, SHQ, Tumbling Dice), and I deliberately use underscale buildings – the most suitable of the Lilliput Lane items work out at a slightly smallish 15mm scale, which is good for me. Having identified a suitable candidate item (and I like “retired” items best – current catalogue stuff and recent releases are dominated by heavyweight pro dealers, and therefore are too dear), I do a specific search on that, and then list the items by price, cheapest first, and the unknown, perfumed, faintly purple world of ladies’ eBay opens before me.
There are some astonishing bargains, and some of them still have boxes and certificates (which are wasted on me) and many of them are pretty much perfect. There is a whole alternative reality out there of ladies who deal in secondhand party frocks (size 14) and shoes (silver, stiletto heels, worn once only) and assorted gifty tat and shelf clutter, especially LL cottages and chromium plated photo frames. These ladies live in Basildon, or Bournemouth, or Slough, and they are – almost all of them – named Sue, and they are all lovely.
The Sue thing is quite amazing – almost an essential qualification; I did buy a nice little half-timbered cottage, perfect, for 99 pence from a lady whose eBay ID was molly*moppet or similar, but I was relieved to find that her real name was actually Sue, so that was all right. She was brilliant – postage fees were exactly correct, the care of packing and the amount of bubblewrap were well in excess of what I would have done for 99 miserable pence, she posted it the same day and left me nice, gushy feedback which was so extreme that for a brief moment I glowed with my supreme status as an eBay customer, until I checked and found that all her buyers get the same message of love and appreciation.
|Preston Mill - the real building is at East Linton, in East Lothian, about 6 miles|
from where I'm sitting; Montrose could well pass this way...
Why Sue? The Contesse and I discussed this briefly, and we reckon that Sue was a very popular name in Britain for baby girls maybe 50-something years ago, and that this is the typical age at which ladies achieve their lifelong wish to sell used party frocks and ornaments and gush at total strangers. And God bless them all – I have no complaints.
The price spread is astonishing – I bought a flawless (though unboxed) Claypotts Castle for £2 or something the same week that a dealer was selling it, used and "rare", as Buy-It-Now for £32.99.
|Convincing Lonsdale-area farm; watch out - some of them have hidden Land Rovers|
I’ve had a couple of disappointments – paid £1.25 for a David Winter mansion house which turned out to be just over an inch tall, but that can go into the local charity shop – some nice lady will be delighted to buy it, I’m sure, and stick it on eBay. Mostly everything has been very pleasing. You have to be selective – this is a huge, bewildering topic area when you start looking around – and you have to watch the sizes and the close-up pics, but the number of items and the choice is staggering.
Storage is an issue – the buildings are quite heavy and will chip easily, and are maybe not just what you wish to have lying about your bookshelves, but careful use of bubblewrap and old shoe boxes should take care of that (I can send the shoes to Sue for auction). I’m going to stop browsing the listings now – I’ve got some very decent items so far, and there are a couple more in the post.
|Cornish tin mine - could just as easily be a Scottish lead mine|
One word of warning – stay away from the collector forums, for that is a twilight world and you may become frightened. That is where you get into the debates about why the original version of Lupin Cottage (retired in 1987) is worth so much more than the later version (though I cannot tell the two photos apart) and why we all have to put our names down for this year’s special Members-only Limited Edition Piece, Windsor Castle in the Snow, which will (of course) be a magnificent investment to leave to your grandchildren (who, as I am beginning to understand, will get Sue to sell it on eBay for 99 pence).