“I retired last year,” Mustafa Dere says. “I used to work as a nurse in a hospital, and after 27 years, I felt it was time to leave.” Dere is now free to focus on his hobby full time, which is collecting model cars.
Mustafa Dere lives on the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey, in Antalya, with his wife and mother. He has no children, but a sizable model car collection of more than 1,000 pieces.
Dere, 51, began collecting model cars when he was eight years old. “In those days, everyone was looking up to smoking. My uncle found me trying to smoke a cigarette one day, and slapped me. He chided me: ‘Are we raising you to become an addict?’ He was a tailor.”
The same uncle gave him his first pocket money, 25 kurus (cents), and Dere was off to the stationery store. “This was before there were standalone toy shops, mind you,” he tells TRT World. “I bought myself a Majorette 1/64 scale toy car with that money, and that’s how it started.”
Dere has been collecting cars since then. “I collect classic car models, and my car is a classic too,” he says. Dere’s car is an Opel Kadett D 1983, a German car with a diesel engine. Of course, Dere also has the same car as a model, which he says he has special ordered from Germany.
“At first I was thinking I would collect and play with the model cars, and sell them too,” Dere says. “But later I couldn’t part with them, and it became a collection.” Now one room in Dere’s home is set aside for his collection, which he tends to daily.
“They are not in glass cabinets but on shelves. They are hard to clean and care for,” Dere says. But it’s obvious that he loves them with a passion. How else to explain 43 years of collecting?
“My wife and my mother were not too happy about my hobby at first,” Dere tells TRT World. But over time they too, were won over. Dere tells the story of visiting a fellow collector in Ankara, Ekrem ‘Eko Baba’ Mete, where he went with his family for a wedding. “He had model cars in every single room in his home!” he says. Eko Baba’s collection runs to 10,000 model cars, including different colours of the same make for several cars.
Ekrem ‘Eko Baba’ Mete told Dere that Dere had three cars that Mete didn’t have. After seeing his home, Dere’s wife and mother were more forgiving of his collection. Mete also collects ‘regular’ cars and has 12 in his collection, including a Fiat 124 (‘Sparrow’) taxi and a 1977 Renault taxi.
Dere tells TRT World that “I’m not that excessive. Twelve vehicles are a bit much.” Asked if he has any other collections, he says he used to have a copperware collection, and also an earthenware collection. He says he also had a minaret-shaped cologne bottle from his mother that he donated to the Dokuma Park City Museum. Then there’s the collection of promotional pens from medical companies from his time at the hospital, about a dozen or two.
“The museum is not open yet, because of the pandemic,” Dere says. “But I told my brother and nephews that if something were to happen to me, they should set aside a few model cars for themselves and donate the rest to the city museum.”
Dere comments that children like his collection, but don’t take good care of it. “They bang the cars around, bang them against the floor, and it’s as if a piece of me is torn,” he says. “I secretly start to resent them even though I don’t want to,” he adds. “Kids these days, all they know is cell phones and tablet computers.”
Dere has also started off his cousin’s son on a collection. “He is going to the 1st grade and has about 50 model cars. He plays with them one day, and has his mother put them away at the end of the day.”
According to Dere, “material things don’t matter at all. Collecting model cars is an expensive habit, but it is a nice habit.” he says he has no bad habits such as smoking, or whiling away his time in coffeehouses. “I would recommend it to everyone.”