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Hobby Freaks, Collectors and You
by Susan Sundwall

Chances are you know someone who has an abiding passion for a particular hobby. I know I do. One of my co-workers has collected coins for over twenty years. He knows more about coins, their design and worth than anyone I know. My son’s father-in-law is an avid devotee of all things concerning model trains and one of my dearest friends has more kinds of snowmen than Santa himself. You shouldn’t be surprised to know that there are publications out there for almost every kind of hobby and collector imaginable. My friends have made me aware of magazines like Coin World and Model Railroader. These and a host of other collector and hobbyist magazines and newsletters frequently take freelance material.

You needn’t be a collector of the items that are the focus of these publications but if you’d like to take the plunge and venture into the world of the collector and write about it, there are a few things you should do. To begin, seek out several informative sessions with that dedicated fanatic of yours. Try to pick up on his or her enthusiasm for the subject and take lots of notes. As with all research of this sort, you will come away with a small goldmine of facts and anecdotes and it’s all good. My coin-collecting friend gave me a real appreciation of our current state coin-minting program and also sparked my interest in the coins of ancient Greece, thousands of which are still around.

Anyone deeply into his or her hobby will be able to give you boatloads of information on your subject and can direct you to other research channels for your piece, which is the second step in the process. Books and articles by experts abound. Both of these avenues will help to inform the slant you want to give to your article. Many of the publications take historic or nostalgic articles and this would be an excellent place to start if you’ve never done a story about a particular hobby or collecting. I’ve recently come across the following markets in need of freelance material.

  1. Classic Toy Trains – General interest, historical / nostalgic, how-to (restoration, design and layout, accessories and repair), interview / profile, personal experience, photo feature, technical. Needs 90 ms a year. Pays on acceptance. Query. 500-5,000 words. Pays $75 – 500. Website: www.classictoytrains.com
  2. Dolls – Historical / nostalgic, how-to, interview / profile, photo features and new products. Needs 55 mss a year. Pays $75-300 for 750 – 1,200 words on publication. Query with clips or send entire ms. They would like to see, “original ideas of interest to doll lovers.” Photos a plus. Website: www.jonespublishing.com
  3. Linn’s Stamp News - Ideally, every feature we run promotes the hobby. Articles submitted should be exclusive to Linn's. Rates vary, generally between $40 and $75 per feature. Website: www.linns.com
  4. Finescale Modeler – How-to (build scale models), technical (research information for building models). Eager to work with new / unpublished writers. Seeks articles 750 – 3,000 words about “how to do it modeling information for scale model builders of non-operating aircraft, tanks, boats, automobiles, figures, dioramas, and science fiction and fantasy models.” Pays $55 per published page on acceptance. Website: www.finescale.com
  5. Postcard Collector – Buys 120 mss a year. Essays, historical / nostalgic, interview / profile, personal experience, photo feature. Also takes book reviews. Pays $75 – 200 for 800 – 1,500 words on publication. Query with ideas for a “well researched article with unusual topic.” Website: www.postcardcollector.com
  6. Toy Farmer – General interest, historical / nostalgic, humor, interview / profile, new product, personal experience, technical, book introductions. Buys 100 mss a year. Query with clips. Pays .10 per word for 800 – 1,500 words. Strongly encourages youth involvement. Website: www.toyfarmer.com

Don’t underestimate the value of the information you’ve gathered in helping with other types of articles either. While seeking out information on Greek coins, I discovered Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the American sculptor who created the design for the 1907 double eagle $20 gold piece. Wow, lots of good stuff there. My research detour to his life is fueling a piece for a children’s magazine. So the next time you’re with someone off on a rant about his or her favorite hobby or collectable, tune your writing radar in and listen up—there’s a story unfolding.

© Copyright 2008, Susan Sundwall

Susan is a freelance writer, sometime poet and soon to be blogger. Read her children’s story, "Mary’s Sparrow."

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