A first-time visitor to the Collector Studio Motor-sport Gallery (www.collectorstudio.com) in downtown Toronto likely will feel a tad overwhelmed. The 2,400-square-foot store almost overflows with all facets of car and race memorabilia, from authentic steering wheels of historic Ferrari racecars to track-worn Formula One racing suits. Yet, despite such a far-reaching inventory, it’s what new customers can’t see that may be the gallery’s most noteworthy offering. According to Morry Barmak, the company’s president, about 50 percent of the store’s clientele is made up of classic car collectors. Once Barmak learns of his customers’ collections and the specific cars and marques that most interest them, he enters that information into a database, which becomes useful when he uncovers noteworthy memorabilia down the road. For example, when Barmak recently acquired a collection of racing trophies from the family of the late Formula One world champion Alberto Ascari, he first offered those trophies to the collectors who owned the cars that Ascari had driven.
The database comes in handy, he says, when he encounters significant items—with equally significant price tags—and must decide if the items belong in his gallery. “It’s one thing to write a check for something that’s expensive,” he says, “and it’s another to be able to find a buyer for it. When I buy big pieces, I usually have people in mind [to offer them to], but I’m always buying great things that I like, and I find that when I buy blue chip pieces like that, even if they don’t sell right away they typically hold their value or go up.”
Even though Barmak acquires his memorabilia from credible sources, he still puts each piece through its paces to confirm its authenticity. Such due diligence is what Barmak’s customers have come to expect, but his brick-and-mortar shop offers additional assurance. “Everything on my site is physically owned by me,” Barmak says, “and it’s here . . . in stock.”