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The era of the vintage hobby shop find

For many years, I used to go hunting for vintage R/C goodies at old Hobby Shops. Digging for leftover stock, and lost bits of memorabilia – both at stores in Australia, and sometimes overseas.

But as Hobby Shops suffer under the downturn of retail caused by online shopping, many of the oldest (and most interesting) stores have closed for good. So perhaps the time has come to reminisce not just about the R/C cars of the 1980s, but the joy of finding vintage R/C treasures in the years that followed…

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Lost Hobby Shops: Dick Smith Electronics

Dick Smith Electronics

Dick Smith ElectronicsThis month, Australia loses another “hobby” store when Dick Smith Electronics shuts it’s doors for good, after 48 years.

I really enjoyed visiting DSE stores while growing up in the 1980s, just as I did with Tandy stores – mainly due to the toys.

So if anyone else can remember the days when they sold Tamiya R/C cars, electronics kits, and some of the 1980s coolest robot toys, then let’s take a look at some archive material that proves they really were a fun store to visit back in their heyday.

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Christmas shopping at Tandy in the 1980s

Tandy Australia Christmas Commercial (1987)

Tandy Australia Christmas Commercial (1987)Christmas shopping in Australia back in the 1980s meant summertime, heatwaves, flies, Westfield shopping centres, the hope that Santa had received my letter, and last but not least… a visit to Tandy Electronics to see their R/C cars.

Those were my experiences anyway. And even though Tandy Electronics is now long gone, summertime always reminds me of the fun of seeing all those brand new R/C vehicles, stacked on the Tandy showroom floor…

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The R/C cars of the film “Malcolm” (1986)

Malcolm - Tamiya Sand Scorcher

Malcolm - Tamiya Sand ScorcherIn 1986, a low-budget Australian comedy called Malcolm featured a Tamiya Sand Scorcher R/C VW buggy in what you might even say was a “Supporting Actor” role.

Little-known outside Australia, the film was a local success. And on a tiny budget, it’s portrayal of a social recluse whose love of toys and gadgets leads him to become mixed-up with a couple of aspiring bank robbers had a quintessential Aussie blend of humour, characters and pathos.

All up, you should spot two R/C cars in the film, plus lots of other cool 1980s gadgets.

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Lost Hobby Shops: Toy & Novelty

Toy & Novelty - toy store in Queensland, Australia, 1985

Toy & Novelty - toy store in Queensland, Australia, 1985A small toy shop chain from Queensland, Australia that is all but forgotten – “Toy & Novelty” had three locations in the mid 1980s.

Here’s a little TV commercial that will make you want to take the nearest DeLorean back to 1985.

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Photos of Hobby Shops in the 1980s

Model Engines Hobby Shop, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia in 1987

Horizon advertisement, USA, 1989Remember the days of the local Hobby Shop?

Not only are there far fewer hobby shops around now, but it’s actually quite difficult to find photos of hobby shops from their heyday in the 1980s – or earlier. Nevertheless, here’s a selection that is sure to make you wish you could travel back in time.

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Lost Hobby Shops: Uncle Pete’s Toys

Uncle Pete's Toys

Uncle Pete's ToysIn the 1980s, Uncle Pete’s Toys was the toy shop that every kid who lived around Sydney wanted to visit.

While a few smaller Uncle Pete’s Toys stores still exist today, back in the 80s they were dubbed Australia’s first “toy supermarkets” and were packed floor-to-ceiling with toy and hobby gold for all ages.

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