Ron Williams, from Tenterfield in northern NSW, has been smitten with Minis since they first became available in Australia nearly fifty years ago. His business card simply says “Ron Williams – Mini Specialist” and while spending his professional life working on and collecting full-size Minis (if any Mini can really be called full-size) it is his incredible collection of the scale model variety that consumes his spare time.
From the outset, we need to stress that Ron's collection is not the largest around. However, the rarity of many of the models, the condition of most and the fact that Ron bought the majority when they were new, as well as the sheer volume of them - estimated at over 5,000 - makes this arguably one of the best (if not THE best) model Mini collections in the country.
When Ron started his apprenticeship as a mechanic with a local BMC dealer, in the mid-1960s, he began spending his small change on model Minis. "I used to go to the local toy shops and buy any new Minis they had", Ron said. "They only cost an average of 6/ 6d (65 cents) then and I bought everything I could get my hands on. Because I was in my twenties, I didn't play with them so they got put away and kept in perfect condition. I had a real fascination for Minis then and would buy every new model as soon as it came out."
What began as a fascination soon became a passion, then an addiction, but Ron keeps it all relatively in perspective. "It can be a very expensive hobby, but if you take your time at it you can build up quite a good collection. It is not the sort of hobby to just throw money at, although you easily can, but it can be a good investment. Some of the models I paid six shillings for are now worth up to $3,000 each."
Ron still collects the cars but is more selective these days and has become quite an authority on collectable model Minis. "I usually don't buy the new ones because they are basically $35.00 things and they're going to stay there. They are aimed at collectors but there are too many of them and they have become a bit of a commodity. I have got a few newer ones though, including one from Wales made out of coal and a few other oddities like crystal ones and the set from the Heart Beat TV show. The old ones were made as toys, and most got used as toys, so there are few left today in really good condition."
He explained that, as with any collectable item, you had to do your homework to find out what was worth collecting, and what their value was. "If you're seriously going to get into collecting you need to know what you're buying. There are so many variations in the cars and also in the boxes for the same model. You need to look for the different boxes as much as for what's in them."
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 20 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>28</plumshop> <plumshop>27</plumshop>