Turning a Private Passion into Business Success

A childhood love of Dinky cars spawned Phil Sunman’s lifelong passion for collecting and eventually inspired a major career change.

After 28 years as an educator and against much advice, Phil opened Philicia Antiques and Collectables on Goodwood Road, Kings Park in 1994.

Since then, his extensive knowledge, understanding of the market and belief in a fair deal have earned him a reputation in the industry.

He is aware, however, that some purists disapprove of his eclectic mix of stock, where plastics from the 1950s and 1960s sit comfortably alongside Georgian pieces and such uncommon items as implements used for bowel surgery.

Step Back in Time

For many, to walk into the shop is to step back in time. One customer makes
twice-weekly visits and swears his heart-rate drops as he soaks up his regular dose of nostalgia.

Phil believes collecting is a form therapy for some people, providing an escape from modern life and a link to other less-pressured times.

Such customers are drawn to a rear room devoted to ephemera: printed collectables including postcards, colonial images, cigarette cards, letters, militaria and advertising material. At Saturday afternoon sessions, collectors gather to discuss and to find unity – and occasionally romance – in their shared hobby.

Phil loves helping and being involved with enthusiasts.

“I was recently visited by a collector from Los Angeles,” he said.

“We’d been in touch via the Internet but had never met. We just connected and spent the whole afternoon talking.”

Needless to say, the American left the shop with several purchases, vowing to return.

Phil’s keen eye for opportunity has also seen his business diversify. When people working on period films started visiting the shop looking for set props, he began hiring pieces out to studios. Production companies now seek his advice on set detail and he has contributed to such films as In a Savage Land, Rabbit-proof fence, and Black and White.

Robert White, art director for Black and White, describes Phil as a ‘generous, obliging man, who makes himself available to help people, including students making low budget films.’

Phil stays ahead of trends by reading international magazines, talking to people and maintaining an involvement in collector clubs.

While some dealers are pessimistic about the industry’s future in the face of a growing underground and online market. Phil remains positive.

A team player he believes a united front can help the local retail area and industry move forward.

“Success comes from a compromise between commercialism and genuine passion, “ he says.

There seems little doubt that Phil Sunman has found the right balance.