A Beginners Guide to Collecting Tiny Fake Automobiles: So why would a grown man buy a tiny car designed expressly for a 4-year-old to repeatedly smash into a wall? Certainly not to play with them, since you’d look like a retard, right?. But hey, it’s not like that isn’t the case when any adult plays with a child’s toy, especially video games. Heh, owned.
I buy Hot Wheels because they’re cheap, they look cool, and the nerdy wannabe designer part of me likes seeing how well the proportions of the car scale down. Of course, once purchased, there’s not a whole lot to do with them. Either display them for all (no one) to see or horde them in old shoe boxes like an OCD maniac; I’m a proponent of the latter. So what’s the point then? Nothing really, they’re cool to look at and you can make “vrroom” noises and you push ’em across your desk when you should be finishing an article….hold on I’ll be right back.
Ahem… I’ve been buying these things off and on for years now, and for the benefit of no one I shall now elaborate on the specifics of collecting Hot Wheels. There’s generally two types: Hot Wheels originals and officially licensed cars. The originals are generally pretty goofy or hot roddy, though they offer an interesting peek into what kind of cars were popular at the time.
The licensed cars are just that, 1:64 scaled versions of real vehicles, though they’re not always the stock factory versions. Once a car’s mold is made, the body will remain the same for a few years, while Mattel will re-release it a few times with different paint jobs or wheels depending on popularity.
Brand new cars tend to have very faithful casts, while more liberties are taken with older cars. Check out the raced out Triumph TR6, no windshield, fuel cell in the passenger seat, cool roll bar.
Some cars get multiple versions on the same year, with different paint jobs, wheels, etc. In some really rare cases a car will get a slight modification to an existing cast, for example:
Generally the first and last years of a model’s production get fairly realistic paint jobs, a plain one color or some stripes and racing livery. After that, it’s kind of a toss-up. Cars routinely get lumped into gimmicky “Segment series” themes that change every year, things like “Hang Ten” or “Video Games”. They’re usually plastered with hideous advertisements or gross gimmicky paintjobs so these tend to rank extremely low on my wanted list. Though I make an exception for these shameless Tony Hawk/Birdhouse crossovers:
Not every car is a success though, a number of vehicles are canned after only a year, including one of my favorite cars: the AE86 Corolla GT-S. To be fair, the cast for this car was ugly as shit and the paintjob wasn’t much to look at either. But it’s mine.
To make things even more annoying for collectors, some cars will have two paint jobs in the same year despite being labeled exactly the same. In even rarer cases, identical cars will be released with slightly different packaging/text.
Repackaging the same old stuff means Mattel needs gimmicks, so they introduced the “Faster Than Ever” cars way back in ’06. These featured nickel plated axles that apparently let the wheels spin faster (valuable info for all of you looking to make money betting on illicit, underground Hot Wheels races.) This means there are essentially two versions of nearly every car released, like Garbage Pail Kids, which helps drive the already mentally ill completist collector to even further depths.
“Treasure Hunt” cars remain the sign of a true die-hard fanatic. The rarest Hot Wheels of all, these feature rubber wheels and special paintjobs. You’ll likely never find one of these, since diehards routinely camp out and harass store employees to get them before they ever touch the floor. It also doesn’t hurt that Treasure Hunt cars can be sold on ebay for upwards of $40 a piece.
What about Matchbox? Well back in the day Matchbox was Hot Wheels’ direct competitor, offering a large selection of diecast cars until they were eventually bought out completely by Mattel. That’s right, the same company owns both of them. Matchbox cars aren’t bad, per say, but they’re generally not up to the standards of Hot Wheels casts. Matchbox doesn’t produce anywhere near as many cars as Hot Wheels, and they tend to stick with cheaper, simpler paint jobs. That said, Matchbox actually seems to go for a lot of oddball models that Hot Wheels doesn’t dare to touch.
Porsche 914, Lotus Elan, Citroen DSes and other European oddities are all cars you’ll only find under the Matchbox line. The only other die-cast makers I’m aware of are Jada Toys (who focus on slightly more upscale casts) and Maisto, who make some really god awful die-cast cars (though they also make some pretty sweet die-cast/plastic motorcycles.)
So if you like cars and have an insatiable urge to clutter up your home with more junk, Hot Wheels are a great way to do that. Just avoid those Cars 2 die-casts, anthropomorphic car eyes don’t belong on the windshield.
Jump right into the world of Hot Wheels with a 50-car Starter Kit!