On Target!, "The International Journal for Collectors of Target Balls," began in the summer of 1994. Little was expected of it then.
There were relatively few known target balls, and much less known about them. I said the small publication would last an issue or two, then I’d be out of material.
But along came myriad factors that changed the target ball world (and certainly mine): a broader use of the computer, the explosive growth of the Internet, expanded e-mail, and an interest in these glass orbs that spread across the U.S., then England, then — slowly — throughout Europe. Another factors was my willingness to spend hours each day sifting through what became mountains of material.
Another key factor: As interest in target balls grew, so did their value. That in turn caught the interest of key players, such as Jim Hagenbuch and his Glass Works Auctions. Jim made an effort to learn about target balls, and often featured them in his antique glass sales.
My eight-page target ball newsletter has now grown to 68 pages, and details the history of target balls and the people who shot them. Contemporary newspaper reports on matches of the time are a special goal of mine, along with the personal lives of shooters. I stay up-to-date with glass auctions across the country, as well as in Great Britain and onto the continent. I check eBay at least once a day, attend major antiques shows in North America, England and France, and stay in contact with dozens of major collectors and dealers.
But the journal deals more than just with the past. While I am interested in the history of target balls, I am also interested in the people who collect them. For many subscribers, the journal is like a family letter sent at Christmas: I want to write abut the experiences and interests of readers. In fact, several friendships have been made through the pages of On Target!
But the stories of exhibition, circus, Wild West or match shooters is still the key focus: marksmen like Oakley, Bogardus, Carver, Paine and hundreds of others.
Subscriptions are $40 a year; add $5 if you live in Canada, $10 for overseas readers. It’s $150 if you’d like all the back issues. (Again, add a few bucks for over-the-border readership; postage can be a killer.)
Make your checks out to Ralph Finch, 34007 Hillside Ct., Farmington Hills, MI 48335-2513. I also take PayPal (to my e-mail address) and cash in most currencies — even IOUs, if need be.
PLEASE send me your phone number and e-mail address; it makes later correspondence so much easier.