I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in
I have for a long time been a customer at Dry Bridge Market, a fleamarket in Tbilisi, the best place for finding older model cars in Tbilisi. Today, Dry Bridge Market is a mecca for tourists but it hasn’t always been like this; in the wilderness years that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dry Bridge Market was used by those who wanted to leave Georgia and were desperate to convert their goods into quick cash before leaving the country. Everything is laid out on the ground, often carefully arranged on sheets of material, other times it is a haphazard collection. You never know what you will find here. One person might be trying to sell you twenty-year-old phone or an old toothbrush, while their neighbour will be touting ceramic cosmonauts and silver jewellery.
We have recently moved to Saburtalo from Varketili and the new flat is smaller and my model car collection is far too big to display so, I decided to have a go at selling some of the excess in my collection at the market.
I took along over 50 models. I thought I’d keep it simple, the majority were priced at 3 lari a piece (about $1.20), a few at 5 lari and the Beatles Yellow Submarine at 20 lari (I’ve seen this model selling for 25 lari in Hobby Master in Pekini Street). Many of the models cost me more originally, this wasn’t intended as an exercise to profit from my collection. I wanted to experience the other side of the market transaction. I was also interested to see if there were other collectors, having a hobby is more interesting when you know like-minded individuals. I know many other collectors from Internet forums but not locally.
I arrived late in the day (2pm…the market begins at 10am) as I didn’t want to put myself in anyone’s place, I didn’t wish to create a potential conflict by setting up inadvertently in a regular’s space. As I was setting up, before I’d even got all the cars out of my bag another trader bought up eight of my larger scale cars (all made in China) for a bargain 20 lari (in the markets and shops they retail at between 6 and 12 lari a piece).
My Georgian language skills are limited (see my other blog : The Reluctant Georgian Learner) but I know the numbers, my Russian is non-existent so I used fingers with Russian speakers to communicate price. Unlike many traders I advertised my prices, other traders will not show their prices and often quote one price to Georgian speakers, another to Russian speakers and a higher price in English to those who speak neither Russian nor Georgian.
All my customers haggled, some I accepted, some I refused. As a customer I have noticed some traders won’t haggle. I found disappointingly most of my customers were other traders, like Gocha who was selling ceramics and bric-a-brac on an adjacent stall. I was hoping to find some collectors to make future trades with. I did swap a Norev Ligier for a French Dinky Jeep but that was the only trade of a car for a car.
I made up a few display signs as the afternoon wore on, I don’t think they helped. Finally around 5.30 pm, Gocha asked me how much I wanted for all the remaining cars (36 in total), I suggested a very generous 30 lari, he offered 20, I somewhat reluctantly agreed but retained two rather playworn Matchbox models from the 1970s and the Yellow Submarine.
My pack was a lot lighter leaving. I did pick up a couple of models myself, a Corgi BMC Mini Cooper S from another Gocha, a Hot Wheels Mercedes C 111 from a guy who sells football programmes, a French Dinky Jeep Depannage Breakdown which I swapped with a Norev Ligier JS1 and a wooden rhino (given to me by a trader to whom I’d given a Matchbox Mercedes).
I didn’t make a fortune, that was not the object of the exercise. The buyers got some real bargains. When asked if I would return, I said I would next Monday, weather permitting. I still have far too many model cars (around 800) but like many collectors they have a personal value to me that I can’t quantify and I’m reluctant to part with them. I tried to examine the psychology behind this in a previous post Reflections on Why I collect diecast cars?
Tbilisi seems to have few people into collecting model cars, here they are seen as just a playthings for children, nothing more.
I made a video clip on my phone of Dry Bridge Market back in August (it is not the slickest of videos): Drybridge Market (YouTube)