REDLINE HUNTING

Old Hot Wheel collecting is a wonderful hobby.  There is nothing better then finding that illusive 36 year-old pink redline Python at a yard sale (true story) for five bucks.  The problem though is just plain finding old redlines, period!  I can’t count the times at flea markets or toy shows that I have asked the person selling, “Do you have any Redlines?”  Most sellers know what I’m talking about and they usually hesitate and then answer.  “No, haven’t got any of those.” Or they say “Yeah, I got some at home, but they’re not for sale.”  The most common response is “Boy I haven’t seen those in years!”   Sometimes with this hobby you feel like your beating your head against a wall.  That coupled with the fact that when you do find them they are usually so expensive.



Why do redline collectors and toy collectors submit themselves to such torture.  I may not know the exact reason for your passion, but what I can help you with is some hints on trying to find old hot wheel Redlines.

ESTATE & YARD SALES    

 Every weekend in my neighborhood there are estate and yard sales.  This is a good way to try to find old toys, especially redlines. In most cases they are reasonably well priced.  The trick here is that most of the time old toy cars are hidden in a box or may not be displayed.  Estate sales generally have everything displayed for sale, but at the yard and garage sales I always ask the sellers if they have any old toy cars; this may trigger several responses.  Sometimes they have some and they’re still in the house.  Ask to see them.  If the sellers are close to my age (40) then maybe they have them stored away in the attic or basement. They may even say they know someone that collects small cars. Ask for their phone number. If that person is not intent on selling, I usually don’t get too deterred and I tell them that I am a collector (some what of an expert) and I would love to see their collection and give them a free appraisal even if it is not for sale.  If they let me, then maybe I have made a new collector friend or potentially a seller in the future. Either way the point here is that if you run into some redline cars that aren’t for sale don’t be discouraged, there may still be some opportunities in the future.

FLEA MARKETS

My car, when driving down the road will always stop, time permitting, at a flea market.  The great thing about flea markets is that you never know what you’re going to find.  Sure 90% of the stuff maybe junk unless you’re at a “fancy furniture” flea market, but these are great places to find old treasures.  Most of the time the sellers are seasoned and experience venders who know what stuff is worth.  This is actually good, because they know that old die cast cars are valuable and so they look for them when they go treasure hunting for inventory and will appropriately exhibit them to sell.  They usually just want to turn a profit so you still can negotiate a good price for the most part.  I would consider them “middleman” in that they have done a lot of the hard work in finding the cars; now all you have to do is ‘pony up the cash’ to buy them.

eBAY /INTERNET 

As I mentioned before in previous articles, eBay and various other toy auction sites (such as Paul Biddle’s “The Toy Peddler”) are great and fairly easy ways to locate redline cars.  Where you may not have much competition buying cars at a yard sale, the Internet will have several or many collectors going after the same car, which could make for a more expensive purchase.  I will say though, that the quality and rarity of finds on the internet are significantly better then you yard sale and flea market finds, but again you will usually pay for it.

AUCTION HOUSES 

 Just recently I went to a great die cast car auction in Pennsylvania that featured Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars.  Although this is a little more work because you may have to drive a few hours to get there (and not just sit and click using eBay) the auction lets the collector see the cars in person before making a bid.  Usually the auctions have quality-conditioned cars and in some case maybe some of the best examples of mint.  More often today these auctions are live auctions and simultaneously run on the Internet too. Vectis is a popular auction house that usually has several die cast auctions a year.  Some of time they have some mint redlines.  Again, maybe not the least expensive way to find redlines, but maybe a great way to fill that rare orange spectraflame in your favorite casting. 

ANTIQUE STORES

It’s ‘hit or miss’ with antique stores.  I have rarely ever had any luck in finding good conditioned redlines in antique stores.  Hopefully you have had better luck then me.  In the extremely rare instance that one does find a redline in an antique store they are usually over priced for the condition.  A beat up silhouette could cost you $50 bucks.  Remember that the antique store have significant overhead with rent, insurance etc… in that you may be better off buying that beautiful French country dining room set then the redlines.

CONVENTIONS/SHOWS

 Inevitably the best way to find redlines is conventions and toy car shows.  Conventions are great!  Pack your bags and go see yourself.   I have been to several conventions specifically the Hot Wheels sponsored convention and it is truly one of the best ways to find thousands of redlines for your viewing and buying pleasure. I see collectors bring their families with them and make it a big event for everyone. Of course the kids have a ball because it’s a jam packed with toys, games and fun things to do.  The best part for me at the conventions is the room-to-room trading that goes on between collectors.  Day or night, you can walk the hallways hunting for mint redlines and most importantly meet fellow redline and Hot Wheel collectors.  Some of the closest friends and contacts I have in the hobby I have met at conventions. But the biggest benefit of the convention is the knowledge you can pick up from others and learn from different collecting styles and techniques. 

You’ve heard the expression, “It’s not the catch, but the thrill of the chase”.  In the case of redline hunting a lot of this is true.  If you could find any car in any condition on any given day, this hobby would be extremely boring.  The excitement when you discover a great find or hidden treasure is exhilarating.  Which brings me to “The Tale of the Python.”

THE TALE OF THE 'PYTHON'

I noticed, one Friday morning in the local newspaper that there was going to be an Estate sale with old toys later that day.  Since I was at work, I called my wife (an expert Redline spotter by-proxy) and asked that she go see what was cooking.  About an hour later she called to say that she had purchased a plastic bag of three cars, two of which were not in very good condition and looked like Matchboxes and the third was a pink car with redline wheels.  Not sure whether the money she had just spent was a good purchase, she further described the pink car as having “Python” on the bottom.  Needless to say, I was quite anxious to get home that night.  When I finally did arrive home, I realized just how incredible a purchase she had just made.  In the bag was the rare mint pink Python I had spent years looking for.  My wife purchased all three cars for a mere five dollars, but it cost me an expensive dinner out (without the kids).  Well worth it considering the current value according to Tomarts guide of $350.  To me the car is priceless, because my wife found it for me and I have a great story to tell when I show it off!


Today, the cars sit proudly on my shelf.  Good luck on your Redline hunting!            

"HOW MUCH IS THAT REDLINE IN THE WINDOW....?"

 It is hard to imagine that a toy from 1968 that sold originally for .57 cents can now, 36 years later, sell for over $50.00.  In most cases, toys from the late sixties and early seventies, such as Barbie, Fisher Price and Pez have dramatically gone up in value over time, and of course, Hot Wheels are no different. Tony Storti, a Hot Wheels collector from Pennsylvania, says that the earliest Hot Wheels, affectionately called “Redlines” by collectors due to the ‘redline’ on the tires, have had a very popular resurgence over the past few years.  He states “Every year the prices for mint popular models keep going up and up.”

This brings us to the main question:  just how much is a redline worth??  A not so easily answered question ….  Redlines can vary in value based on three (3) major factors or the 3 C’s as I like to call them:  Condition, Color, and Casting.  Believe me when I say that the three C’s have everything to do with the value of Redlines.  “Hey, what about rarity” the Peanut Gallery asks?? Rarity plays a very important role in the value of redlines, but rarity is more of a result of harder to find castings and colors.  Some castings or models are more rare than others primarily based on the numbers produced. The same principal applies to colors as the lowest production colors are  tougher to find and thus more rare. 

Redlines are not unlike most collectables in that the condition and rarity of color play into the value.   I feel that in old Hot Wheels these are important if not the single most important aspects in the valuation of these cars controlling whether a car is worth $50 or $500.  Prices discussed in this article reflect loose Hot Wheels.  Mint examples in original packaging (blister cards) are 2 to 3 times higher in value than that of a loose car. 

CONDITION   

I don’t need to explain how important condition is to collectors.  Some collectors use a number grading system C-1 through C-10 with C-10 as the best.  Some use a more descriptive ‘Mint- Excellent-Very Good-& Good’ evaluation scale system while others may use percentages such as ‘the wheel chrome is at 95%’.  Anyway you slice it, the condition most sought after for in redlines is anything C-9 or better or what collectors may call “Minty” or Mint (-) minus.  Collectors will debate whether a truly “mint” or a C-10 redline example even exists due to inherent manufacturing and factory flaws.    

COLOR

So you want a Hot Pink Python?  It’s gonna’ cost you.  The color of a certain casting is a huge factor of value.  In the first year the Hot Wheels were made, many casting models came in a variety of different colors.  Some castings came in as many as 16 different unique colors!  Trying to make a rainbow of every color of Custom Cougar could be difficult and very expensive.  A blue Cougar is not a very hard color to find and a mint one can be had for about $60-$80 dollars, but a red Cougar could easily cost over $1,000 dollars in a mint version.  Even a slight change of color from a Blue Cougar to a light blue could result in the difference of several hundred dollars, whereby a Light blue Cougar could cost $500.  Generally, the Pinks and Purples of most castings are the most desirable nowadays due to the fairly low production numbers of these colors, but it could be a simple blue or red color in the case of the Custom Fleetside that could be hard to find and may sell for close to $200 mint.

CASTING     

The Olds 442 or the Cord are some of the most sought after castings.  It is not uncommon to see prices on these little gems consistently around the $500 mark.  Mint examples with no toning in a slightly harder color such as light blue or a Pink will be in excess of $1,000 each.  Recently, a mint Purple 442 sold from one private collector to another for $10,500.  This is a prime example of how a combination of condition, color and casting makes for a very expensive toy car. On the flip side, if you have a Silhouette or Twinmill, which are concept type models from the early years, these cars, even in mint condition in most colors are closer to the $35-$40 dollar range.  It seems that the most collectable casting models are some of the hardest to find, proving that a lot of the fun in this hobby is to find the tougher castings in the rare colors (bank account permitting).  Luckily, there seems to be a price range for every type of collector.

VARIATIONS

Sometimes it is the small variations that can add value to the cars.  It is variations such as   black painted roofs, unusual color interiors, deep-dish wheels, hybrid types (ones that mix US and HK parts i.e. US body with HK base) that collectors go after to have a truly unique car in their collection.  If two collectors are going after the same car there could be a bidding war and that’s how some prices may reach ‘stratospheric levels’.  This was evident in mid-April of 2004 when an Olive Custom Barracuda sold for a record $5,700.    Typically, collectors will find cars at conventions or local die cast shows, but over the past few years eBay has been one of the easiest ways of buying Redlines. 

PRICE GUIDES

Although there are many ways to figure out the value of a car, traditionally published price guides have been a good way to look up the value of a toy car.  Tomarts Pricing Guide and The Ultimate Redline Guide maybe the premier price guides that come to mind.  Although these guides are a great source of information, remember that anything published can be out-dated fairly quickly, and that checking eBay under sold items may give you an even better indication of current value.  In the end don’t forget that these are just what they are guides...not the Bible.  A redline is ultimately worth what someone is willing to pay for it.     

REARLOAD PINK BEACHBOMB (revisited)   

I cannot possibly write this article without mentioning the legendary sale of the Rear Load Beach Bomb in Pink (RLBB).  Back in January of 2000, Washington DC Real Estate Broker, Hot Wheels collector, and car enthusiast Bruce Pascal bought, in a private sale, one of the most rare redlines known to exist.  The sale was estimated to be $72,000.00.  YES, $72,000.00 dollars for a toy car!!  Call him nuts at the time, but unbelievably, the prices of Redlines continue to go up in value including Bruce’s famed Pink Beach Bomb. 


WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN

“If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” comes to mind as I peruse the aisles of my local Toys R’ Us store. I’m always looking for new and interesting die-cast cars for my son and his friends. Its a little like “Deja’ Vu” walking the aisles seeing new die-cast cars and packaging looking similar to the ones from my childhood from the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Hot Wheels recently put out “The Classics” (which by name gives you some indication on what your getting). The blister pack looks straight out of a ‘time warp’ from one of Otto Kuhni’s original design boards and could easily be mistaken for original Hot Wheels pack.  Inside (the packs) Mattel has gone back to their roots with several 1960’s muscle cars and other designs that are reminiscent of the Hot Wheel early years.  Taking it one step further, they have made the “Classics” in colored chrome paint and redline style wheels!  The chrome cars harkin back to the old Hot Wheel Chrome Club Cars that only Hot Wheel members could get and more recently to the discovery of the rare ‘original’ employee chrome cars.

TWO STEPS BACK….ONE STEP FORWARD?  

This (of course) is not the first time that Mattel has gone back to its roots with retro style cars and packaging.  During the 25th Anniversary of Hot Wheels, Mattel not only duplicated the exact original blister packs with Hot Wheels buttons, but they also duplicated the original car castings including the famed spectraflame paint.  Note: Collectors need to be careful when buying original Hot Wheels and not be fooled by the 25th Anniversary cars. The Anniversary cars have a white Hot Wheels decal usually on the car body along with the stamped base, which clearly identifies its lineage. Unfortunately the 25th Anniversary cars did not quite capture the spectraflame look of the originals and collectors who have some of these cars know that the spectraflame paint in some instances have developed a bad case of dandruff over the years whereby the paint has flaked off showing the bare metal underneath. 

Other die-cast toy car manufacturers have joined in the nostalgia too.   Many Johnny Lightning cars over the years have had a retro look also.  In fact it was the Playing Mantis Johnny Lightning cars that FAO Schwartz put out in the mid 90’s that were exact replicas of the famed designs made 25 years earlier.  I presume that the die-cast car companies knowingly target products to older collectors that are trying to buy back there youth and no doubt that much of the retro style cars and packaging is suppose to appeal to the older collector, but what will happen if most all the new stuff becomes retro.  What will the kids of today be buying back their youth with when they get older? 

Another example is the new Matchbox ‘Superfast’ Cars that come with retro styling cars, vintage looking wheels and a “matchbox” box just like the original ones.  One major difference from the original packaging is that they put the car and the box in a clear blister pack, which enables the customer to see the car and the box artwork together. 

GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE

How often does a toy car lay the foundation for a real full size vehicle?  Usually never, but in the case of the new Ford ‘Syn’ prototype, it is in the works to put into production a ‘hip’ new vehicle that looks like a shrunk down armored car.  Many Hot Wheel collectors were startled to see the design of the concept car looking very similar to an old Hot Wheels design ‘Funny Money’ from about 35 years earlier.  Funny Money, casting number 6005, was based on an armored truck and was designed by Larry Wood circa 1971. It opened like a dragster in the front and had a yellow ‘Funny Money Truck’ tampo on the side. The amazing thing is, even after 35 years, a little toy design could be so similar to a cutting edge car design made in 2005 from a large car company.  Kudos to Larry Wood!

It is no secret that the toy industry is going through some tough times.  Trying to come up with the next hot toy is tuff.  New toy car lines such as the Hot Wheels ‘Acceleracers’ have had a rough time and have never really seemed to take off. Acceleracers have the basic elements that should appeal to kids nowadays: colorful graphics, futuristic designs and cross over merchandising, but it is difficult to pinpoint what will work and what wont. Rick Wilson, a Hot Wheels redline collector from St. Louis, says, “It seems that most of the successful (die-cast car) toys today are reinventions of the past.  When you go to a Hot Wheels show the buzz is about either the original Hot Wheels (redlines) or the new stuff that looks just like it.”  As a consumer walking the isle at Toys R’ Us I gravitate toward the nostalgic stuff too, even if I’m buying for the young kids.  To me it’s old school or no school!

10/30/05

CHILDREN'S TOYS 

I have been truly humbled.  My son just turned three this past week and I guess now it is pay back time.  Pay back for all the toys that I wanted and bothered my parents for as a child.  I want this, I want that.  Even if you don’t have children of your own, most everyone can remember a time as a child that they ‘nagged’ their parents for some hot new toy just released.  My son really is a great kid (of course I am bias), despite his constant nagging. He loves cars.  He especially loves toys cars.  Dad of course buys him many toy cars and all the family friends and relatives give him wonderful gifts too (more toy cars).  I am guilty of ‘possibly’ influencing his taste since daddy loves toy cars too.  He loves my die-cast car collectable room and he observes my passion for toys. His favorite is ‘Hot-Wheels’.  It was ‘literally’ one of the first two syllable words out of his mouth.  He likes all toy cars, but he calls all of them ‘Hot-Wheels’.  This is all good and fine, but the real toy dilemma comes when he wants to play with Daddy’s toys. 

My toys are different from his toys.  He does not know the difference and therein stems the problem. Most all toys start off the same. They are made for kids to play with.  It wasn’t until recently that a lot of toys have been packaged for the collector, but even the new collectable stuff still looks like regular toys.  After time not all toys are cared for the same way and the line of separation emerges between collectable toys and play toys.  Just about everybody reading this magazine has encountered a time or situation where a child wants to play with the rare or valuable car, robot or doll.  The adult has to politely say, “Don’t touch”.  Is this a confusing message to a child when they know they can touch and play with some toys, but why these others are of limits?  Like everything certain boundaries are drawn and it becomes apart of the culture to not touch items that are ‘for display only’.

A LESSON LEARNED

I digress.   When I was maybe 5 years old I was on a driving trip to Florida with my family.  We stopped of at one of those roadside Indian Trading Posts stores to get some toothpaste and my sister a hairbrush.  Inside the store was like a little boy’s dream come true.  Shelves and shelves of Indian and Cowboy gear, but even more interesting were the shelves stocked with toy cars.  Some of these cars were even motorized.  I was in heaven.  I remember going up to my dad and asking if I could have a toy car.  He miraculously said yes!  I picked up a small car from the shelf and held onto it with total glee.  My sister was not done yet picking out a hairbrush, so I continued to look at all the great toy cars.  I saw another slightly bigger and better toy car and grab that one while putting the smaller one back in its place.  I walked over to my dad and hesitantly asked if I could have this car in place of the other.  He looked at me with a little frustration and said, yes. Happy day! I was elated once again since now I had a bigger cooler car in my possession.  With my sister still not having picked a suitable hair brush (she was down to which color to get) I perused the toy car shelves once again (big mistake) and a very large multicolor mechanical car that would barely fit in both my hands caught my eye.  I reached up for the massive machine thinking that if I could convince my dad into giving me the other one I just had, surely he would get me this bigger better one that I loved. I carried the toy over to my dad who at that time looked even more gruff and frustrated from my sister taking a large chunk of our vacation time picking out a new hairbrush (future note to self: do not ask Dad for anything when he looks like this) I looked up at him and showed him the large toy car in my hands and before I could get any words out of my mouth….He said to me. “No! That’s it!  You’re not getting anything now!”  I had pushed the envelope.  Houston we have a problem!  My heart sank and my little mouth was left speechless.  I put down the ‘best toy car in the whole world’ and walked out of the store totally amazed and dejected.  There was no arguing or complaining because when my father said something, that was it….end of story.  It was my first lesson and the first time that I learned what greed was.  That moment in time is permanently etched in my memory.

I don’t want to have to say ‘no’ to my son.  But from everything that I have learned during my life, there is a time that you have to say no.  It is a hard lesson for a child, but as crazy as it sounds it has made me appreciate the cars in my collection even more since that day I learned that not everything is handed to you in your life. I have found great joy and satisfaction working on my die-cast collection. 

PLAY vs. VALUE

It may be a dumb question, but why don’t collectors let their toys be played with?  I mean they are toys and they have survived this long, right?  I may have to draw the line here.  At some point a toy, whether because it is rare or just old, becomes a collectable.  I get a lot of calls and emails asking me if this item or that item is valuable.  I remember a friend of the family asked me to come over and look at his old Matchbox collection see if they were worth anything and to make sure that it was ok for his son to play with the cars.  Needless to say a few of the cars were in mint condition and worth a $20-30 each, but most of the cars were so far gone condition wise that I told him that the kids could play with them and not really devalue them anymore then they had been already.  My son has old Hot Wheels, 40-year Matchboxes and even old Corgies that he plays with.  These of course are in rough condition that we found at garage and Estate Sales in the area.  The only ones that he cannot play with that are in ‘rough shape’ are mine that I played with from my childhood. Those are the ones to me that are truly priceless and worth more than any of the cars I have collected because of the fond memories I had playing with them as a child.  Hopefully, my son will feel the same way about his childhood toy cars one-day…..priceless!

The Annual Hot Wheels Convention is once again coming to Irvine California October 5th-9th      and will be held at the Hyatt Hotel.  For more information link onto http://www.hwcollectorsconvention.com

ENAMELS & TAMPOS

Ok, what on earth is Curtis Talking about now?  ‘Enamels’ & ‘Tampos’.  What does this have to do with my beloved Hot Wheels cars? Well, actually everything after 1972.

In ’72 Mattel was feeling the effects of what much of the world was going through with inflation, rising gas prices, and a major slow down of retail sales. The gas prices alone had a huge effect on what new cars people were putting in their driveways.  Unfortunately for car enthusiasts, the muscle car power and the styling of the past took a back seat to economy and conservatism. Changing the paint and look of Hot Wheels would soon follow suit. I hate to keep using my own cliché’ of the “parallel universes”, but what was going on in the world during these ‘lean’ years directly effected what was going on in the toy industry.

EARLY ENAMELS

By late 1972 the popularity of Hot Wheels had cooled off too, sales were down, and Mattel needed to do something to spark interest and cut cost.  The usual approach to cutting cost was to reduce the number of parts on the cars, but they thought perhaps changing the look of the paint could possibly increase interest while also saving money.

Some employees at that time may petition now that the changes to the toy cars in the seventies where merely to spark more interest and had little to do with the economy, while others would say it was clearly cost cutting measures taken to keep the Company solvent.  Whether its incidental or not Mattel came out with the enamel line of Hot Wheels, which were a major milestone in the cars evolution.  Unfortunately this evolution produced only three (3) new cars in 1973.  The Superfine Turbine, the Double Header (both produce that year only) and the Sweet Sixteen, which are all great designs, but hey only 3!  In addition to the three ‘new’ styles in ’73 were twenty-one (21) old casting styles redone and repackaged in synthetic enamel paint. The colors included fluorescent green, fluorescent lime, fluorescent pink, red, blue, light blue, light green, orange, yellow, lemon-yellow and plum. I don’t know if a person at Mattel had a fruit fixation or that it was just an early seventies theme, but the colors were bright and eye catching and from the sounds of it ….fruity (as a footnote to collectors not all castings came in all the colors and there were some subtle variations of these colors too).     

Collectors and toy hobbyists, at that time, claimed that the quality seemed to have decreased, but actually the quality of the cars was the same as before; it was the paint process that had changed.  Pre-1973, the Hot Wheels painting involved a ‘4’-step process, which included an extra zinc plating and shinning step. The Ransford ‘Patented’ body paint process used by Mattel sent an electrical charge over the car body and a paint spray gun to help cover the car and make the paint more even, but required the paint to contain heavy metal elements such as lead.  The Spectraflame finish also required that the surface of the cars to be almost flawless because the paint was fairly see-through for it to achieve the trademark reflective look.  A close visual inspection yielded many defects and factory flaws with the zinc plating that did not pass inspection and in-turn created a lot of rejects.  Enamel paint was a two (2)-step paint process and a lot more forgiving to the eye since the paint went on thick and hid many casting defects. This in turn saved money and time.  It was most likely an accumulation of all these reason that Mattel switched to synthetic enamel paints for all the cars. There were a few enamel cars made pre-1973 such as the gray enamel Rolls Royce (1969), the popular white enamel Jack Rabbit special (1970), and the yellow enamel S’cool Bus (1971) amongst other.

TAMPOS

1974 brought even more dramatic changes to Hot Wheels.  The new Flying Color line came with a new blister-card design featuring a white background and colorful car pictures (usually in a red, white and blue theme), but the biggest change was the new designs Tampos now appearing on the previous plain enamel paint.  Tampos originally evolved from a company in Germany that invented a machine that created the press-on-pad designs.  The machine was called the ‘Tampo’, which pressed onto surfaces, similarly to sponge painting, placing a colorful design or logo on the surface of the toy car.  One very unique prototype car to keep your eye out for is the ‘Grid’ car.  The Grid car, which could be found on many various castings, was used in the factory to assist the designers and engineers position the tampo design correctly on the car.  A grid of perfectly perpendicular lines applied over the entire car helped make sure that the tampo was not only on straight, but that the tampos were even on both sides and centered properly.

ALTERNATE COLORS

The other major change starting in ’74 (and another big cost cut in production) was that each car was only issued in one color unlike the previous years of rainbow colors. Bob Rosas, a former Mattel employee who worked on the Hot Wheels line and tooling of the cars, gave me some insight to how and why this was done. “Certain tampos looked better with certain color background.  So most all the cars at that time were made with only one individual color weather it be yellow, blue or whatever color with the same tampo.  Sometimes though, cars on a production line would be going through the paint process and the paint would run out.  In this case an ‘alternant’ paint color was put into the paint machine to get the needed number made for the day. Alternate colors were generally used in a short run.”

For example, the Heavy Chevy (1974) usually painted yellow enamel to best contrast the red and orange tampo, on occasion got a light green or alternate base color sporting the usual red and orange tampo on the sides. Today the alternate color car is 10 times the value of the regular color car because fewer were made. Another example of this is the Vega Bomb (1975) in orange with a red, yellow, and blue tampo would be worth today about $80, but the light-green alternate color with the same tampo could be worth over a $1,000.  The Z-Whiz (1977) which usually came in a gray color with orange yellow and blue tampo with ‘Datsun Z’ on hood would sell for about $50 dollars now, but the White Z-Whiz could fetch upwards of $2,000 dollars (only a few know).  The difference is that the White Z-Whiz is more of a variation than a true alternate color. I don’t know why or how the Z-Whiz showed up in white enamel, but this brings we to the profound question and possible answer of the day….. “What happens when the alternate color paint runs out?”

REDLINE HOT WHEEL VARIATIONS

Door-lines, black roofs, white interiors, and deep dish wheels keep collectors hunting for variations of different Hot Wheels to fill their collection shelves.  Lots of collectors of Redline Hot Wheels look for the neat variations that make for a very rare collectable. Some variations add minimal value, while others add a significant amount to rarity and price.  For example, the Custom Mustang received open hood scoops on very “early run” red and gold Hong Kong cars and later on received louvered rear windows on blue and orange U.S. castings which increased the value 10 fold in comparison to a regular Custom Mustang.  Having one of these valuable cars makes for a great centerpiece in anyone’s collection.    

US VS. HK

The most prevalent Hot Wheel’s variation is the place of manufacture.  If it’s a United States casting or a Hong Kong casting can make a big difference in terms of rarity and value.  Most cars in the early years were made in both U.S. and H.K., while some later model cars were made in one place or the other.  Your typical red Custom Mustang isn’t so typical if it is a U.S. casting with a champagne interior. 

If you inspect the bases of your early Hot Wheels you will notice a significant difference in style and construction of the H.K.’s vs. U.S.’s.  The Hong Kong bases usually have four small square holes equally placed diagonally and set inside of the four wheels, a front and back rivet, and some under-carriage detail showing side pipes.  If you look closely you will see a thin wire running through the middle of each small square.  That wire is the patented suspension system that Mattel invented for the Hot Wheels to give the little cars independent suspension and “spring” to the wheels (just like real cars). The US models have a solid flat base (without the holes), front and back rivets, and minimal detailed exhaust systems with side pipes.  The cars from H.K. vs. U.S. also have some subtle differences as far as the actual body of the car, but the base is one of the easiest ways to tell if it is H.K. or U.S. 

You ask…”Why should I care if it’s a U.S. or H.K.??”  Some collectors collect only U.S. casting since they used a better quality metal and possibly less moisture was present in the factory during production which creates a toy car that holds up better over time and most importantly a car with less toning.       

BLACK ROOFS

Most redlines did not come in a “black roof” variation, but ones that did seem to be very desirable.  Starting with the first year, there were several models that got a factory painted roof variation such as the Custom Camaro, Custom Cougar, Custom T-Bird and in later years Maseratis, Mercedes, Rolls Royces and even several spoilers also had them (spoilers are custom hot rod cars with the engine exposed).  Some of the harder to find Black roof cars are an orange H.K. Custom Camaro and a red H.K. Custom Cougar.  Lately, some redlines that were traded and/or purchased have been identified as possible “fakes”.  Whether or whether not some cars’ roofs have been painted after market, just goes to show how valuable some of these variations can be. The lesson here is to be careful when purchasing this type of Redline variation.

DOOR LINES

Several cars came with door-lines as part of the common casting, but some U.S. Custom Firebirds and Custom T-birds came with a variation door-line (DL).  The Custom Firebird were manufactured at a ratio of about 100 to 1 of non-door-line to door-line models and the Custom T-Bird had a ratio of closer to 500 to 1 non-door-line to door-line.  The other truly unique thing about the T-bird is that it got a rare variation of trunk lines too.  Most of the door-line models were thought to be prototype bodies for the spoilers.  Some of the hardest door-line cars to find are the red DL Custom Firebird and Anti-freeze Custom T-Bird.

WHITE INTERIORS 

Against spectra-flame colors nothing looks better than a beautiful white interior to set the brilliant color off!  Most early redline cars came in a variety of interior colors.  White seems to be the most popular interior color and can bring more value.  One of the hardest white interior models to find is the Red Baron.  Only a few are known that came with a white interior. Although, sometimes it could be a dark interior variation that is the rare variation as in the case of the Olds 442 and the Custom Mark III.  Both cars came exclusively with white interiors, but a very early Olds 442 (in red) had a black interior while several Lincolns in various colors came with black interiors also. 

DEEP DISH WHEELS  

No this is not a special wheel made by “Pizza Hut”, but rather a very cool early variation of the redline Hot Wheel design.  Covered in a previous article, the Deep-Dish wheel was a Hong Kong variation on most first year “Custom” redlines and some concept type castings.  The Deep-Dish wheels, used mostly on the front, have an inset “Mag Wheel” which gives a more realistic look and stance to the redline tires.  For some reason this variation, probably due to cost, went away just after the first few months of production.  If you are lucky, you may find a Custom Blue Camaro or a Gold Custom T-Bird with all four wheels “Deep-Dished!”

STORE DISPLAY CARS

To market the new Hot Wheels in 1968, Mattel designed a display case that could be used in the local toy store window.  The display was nothing more than some car-board and clear plastic, but some of the cars in the display would one day become very collectable.  The store display cars were mostly a variation of colors that Mattel was making at the time.  The five most unique colors were the Watermelon Custom Mustang, Chocolate Brown Custom Camaro, Honey Gold Custom T-Bird, Blood Red Custom Barracuda, and the Light Ice Blue Custom Cougar.  Although there were 16 different models the first year, just these few color variations on these cars make the store display very collectable since these cars were never intended to be sold to the customers. 

ALTERNATE COLORS  

Between 1974 and 1976 alternate color variations showed up on the enamel painted cars.  If a Chevy Monza 2+2 was to be painted enamel orange then the factory would proceed to make orange cars, but at some point in the assembly line process either the orange paint ran out or for some production reason the paint was switched to light green.  The key here is that the ratio of common color to rare variation color maybe 10 to 1.  If you collect that casting then that color variation is a must to have on your shelf and more than likely you will pay a premium for it. 

Where most toy cars produced had one color variation and maybe some changes to the wheels over time, Hot Wheels created a collectors’ dream right out of the starting block with so many variations with the cars that the hobby maintains its interest to this day.  Chuck Gaughan, a long time Toy and Hot Wheel collector from New York states,  “With all of these cool variations…. it’s no wonder that this hobby never gets Boring!”  

FOR THE “HOTTEST WHEELS”……..ACCESSORIZE!!!

Hot Wheels are some of the best die-cast cars in the world, but it’s the incredible accessories that bring them to life. The greatest single accessory, hands down, is the original orange Hot Wheels track.  From its simplistic but brilliant design to the burgundy tongue connectors that connect it all together, the Hot Wheels track is the foundation for all accessories that follow. Starting in 1968, Mattel offered accessories along side of the Hot Wheel cars on toy store shelves. Joe Adamo, a Hot Wheel collector from Maryland says, “Most of the stuff came ‘hand-in-hand. If you went to a friend’s house (in the early seventies) that had Hot Wheels, you were also sure to find some track and curves set up on the floor. The cars were (are) great, but the accessories just made them that much better”.  In this article I will attempt to cover many of the early accessories that created fun and excitement for Hot Wheel fans. (All prices listed below are current estimated values)

1968 ACCESSORIES

Many of the 1968 accessories were geared around track components and Pop-Up packaging to accentuate the convenience and size of the cars. Some of the popular Pop-Up accessories were the Pop Up Service Station, Pop Up Speed Shop, Pop-Up Speedway Action Set, ($60-$75.00 plus price of car i.e. w/Mustang cost $250).  All the Pop-Ups came with at least one car. Other sets were the Strip Action and Stunt Action Sets ($50.00 each plus price of car). Track accessories included Half Curve Pak, Full Curve Pak and the all too cool Daredevil Loop Pak (all around $15.00 each).  The Highlights; The Daredevil Loop is a 360 degree drive-in loop-the-loop that uses speed and centrifugal force to keep the car moving through the loop and down the track.  There was also a 24 Car Case made of vinyl in orange and brown that shows a white and purple car crossing a finish line ($50), but indisputably one of the best accessories was the 12 Car Rally Case Wheel which sported a red-line and insert sticker on a big black plastic mag wheel ($15)

1969 ACCESSORIES   

In 1969 the accessories got bigger and better.  The Rally Wheel Case grew to fit 24 cars ($10.00) and they came out with a 48 Car Adjustable Case in yellow showing a yellow, purple, and white car on the front ($45.00).  The case adjusted to the different sized Hot Wheel cars with small square plastic dividers that slid down into various groves which allowed for one to get a ‘Heavy Weight’ tractor trailer in the same case next to your prized ‘King Kuda’.  Some of the must have accessories included The Jump Ramp Pak, The Trestle Pak, and The Competition Pak.  The Competition Pak included a yellow “push button” starting gate for two cars, a Burgundy Universal C-Clamp, a yellow finish gate with fall down checkered flag, and a red/orange Elimination Merger which told you (definitively) which car was fastest down the track (all that for still only, $15.00). Hard to find accessories included The Action City (a fold down mini city, $65.00), and the Talking Service Station (with 10 different talking phrases, $85.00).  The highlight for ‘69 were the Super Chargers. The Super Chargers were battery operated accelerators that looked like a small building with a red roof and stickers on the sides showing various car shop scenes, and housed 2 “D” batteries and came separately or in various sets.  The Sets were Sprint, Speedway-Freeway, and The Grand Prix Race Set.  Each set came with 2 cars (Grand Prix with 4) ($50.00 each) Inside the Super Chargers there are two spinning wheels simultaneously moving around that propel the cars forward on the track.  This is the ‘infamous’ accessory that made the designers at Mattel change the Rear load Beach Bomb to a Side load Beach Bomb because the Rear load was getting stuck inside the super charger during testing.

1970 ACCESSORIES

1970, often regarded as one of Mattel’s most creative years, was no different for accessories.  The Hot Wheels Factory featured Plastix ™ and real axels and wheels to make 10 different custom Hot Wheel cars. It used a heater unit that melted the Plastix material and is then injected into metal molds.  The toy is actually pretty dangerous (by today’s standards) and I doubt it would be allowed today, thus making it even more rare and pricey ($150).  Another fantastic accessory, and one of my personal favorites, is The Tune-Up Tower, a three (3) level garage that featured a car elevator, a battery operated “Dyno-Meter” (which measured speed and drift), and a flip up ramp that connects to the Hot Wheels track.  The box advertises that it’s “A Complete Performance Center”…..”Test Em”…..”Service Em” &Park Em”($150). I will personal attest to playing with this for countless hours.  Ironically, the most coveted part of the whole Tune-Up Tower is a little metal wrench.  The Prized ‘Tune-Up Tower wrench’, helps align wheels and axels, but if you want an original one it could cost you in excess of $100 on eBay or at a toy show (the wrenches got lost very easily).  Luckily, if you really want one and don’t want to spend $100, you can get a reproduction for about $5.00.

Some of the big ticket items in today’s toy market are The Sky Show Fleetside Set, which featured a Custom Fleetside in various colors with a ramp on back along with six planes that launch from it with a rubber band and The Mongoose Vs. Snake Drag Race Set which featured a very nifty starting light.  Both of these, mint in box could fetch $600-800 depending on the condition of the cars.  Other accessories this year included The Lap Counter, 2-Way Charger, Speedometer, and the ever-cool Rod RunnerThe Rod Runner is similar to a manual Super Charger.  As the car entered, it would be pushed through by means of a foam pad attached to a white crank.  A white knob on the side called the ‘Speed Control’ adjusted the speed.  It took practice to work the setting just right so that your cars didn’t go flying off the track!

AFTER 1970

After 1970 brought some very ‘hard to find’ accessories, mostly due to the rare cars you would get with the set.  Examples of this are the Mongoose & Snake Wild Wheelie Set, Mountain Mining Set (yellow Road King Truck, $750), Thrill Drivers Corkscrew Race Set (red and white thrill driver Torinos, $250), The Great Getaway Sey (The Deamon and Paddy Wagon with special short Top, $650), and The Flyin’ Circus Set (Sky Show Fleetside, 3 planes and 2 Zopters, $1000).  Zopters were flying helicopters that could be launched from the back of the Custom Fleetside.  The rarest version of these featured a Custom Deora with the ramp attached.

Today, collectors search for the old Hot Wheel accessories not so much to play with them, but to show them off in a display case.  The vintage Otto Kuhni artwork (see previous article) on most of the older boxes are classic and make for a great display.  Unfortunately, the best part of the accessories is being able to play with them.  It is amazing the durability these toys still have after all these years. At a recent Toy auction I was able to get some original track and an un-boxed Competition Pak, which could race two cars side by side, for my two-year-old son.  That night I set it up, attaching the C-clamp to the back of a high chair and extending the track (out) over the full length of the family room floor.  I remember looking at him the first time he saw both cars racing down the track.  The look on his face was pure joy.  I also, unfortunately, remember the look on his face 2 hours later when I tried to send him to bed and his refusing to go because he was having so much fun.   Luckily for me, and Mattel, he was racing his new 2004 Hot Wheels cars down the track.… ‘Crashing them into each other’ and not my 35-year-old collector redlines.  And I say ‘lucky’ for Mattel also because the next day we went to the toy store to buy more ‘new track’ and ‘new cars’ for him to play with.  Lucky Boy!!  Lucky Dad!!

TOY CAR AUCTIONS

I always feel anxious before live auctions.  You got to wake early to make sure you get there on time (important); you have to remember to bring the booklet or printouts with the items you want to bid on (very important); and you need money. Don’t forget to bring your wallet (very, very important)!  I have done all of these things, fortunately not all at one time, attending various auctions.  I could continue with a long list of things to do or not to do at auctions, but I don’t want you to think I’m neurotic.  I’m really not.  I am just a regular collector who goes through the same motions and anxieties as every other collector the day of a live auction.  The anticipation and the events leading up to the auction can make any person anxious, even the coolest of cucumbers.  In the end, I know that it will be all worth the effort if I can ‘score’ one or two pieces I would like (need) for my collection. 

The peanut gallery says, “Curtis, Why don’t you just save yourself all the trouble and just bid on items on the Internet in the comfort of your own home?”  Good question, but I am old fashioned.  I like to go and see (with my own eyes) what I’m bidding on and potentially buying.  Since condition and color are so important with older die-cast cars and collectables, specifically old ‘Spectraflame’ Hot Wheels, I think it’s important to be able to inspect the cars in person.  Also, it really is a lot more fun seeing everything right in front of you.  The excitement of raising your hand and trying to out bid other collectors is just plain exhilarating (especially if you’re the winning bidder).

VECTIS USA

The auction that I was going to on this particular day was the Vectis USA Auction in York, Pennsylvania. Vectis, back in 2003, bought the auction house portion of the Die- Cast Toy Exchange and started Vectis USA.  Vectis is based out of England and has a wonderful history of die cast car auctions specializing in Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi.  More recently, they have branched into other die-cast genres and related toys and have featured everything from pre-war pressed tin toy cars to newer and older Mattel Hot Wheel toys (i.e. Rrrumblers, Chopcycles and Redlines).  I personally usually “go for” the ‘Redlines’.   The Vectis USA auction house is a fairly easy drive from my home.  Having gone to college not far from York, PA I am very familiar with the Southern Pennsylvania area and I usually enjoy going back to my old stomping ground.  I occasionally go up with my wife and stay over night and make a weekend out of the combination Auction and Die Cast car show that is put on the following morning (Sunday) at the York Fairgrounds, but this weekend I was only doing the auction.  I was unfortunately was going alone. 

The main reason I usually take the almost 2 hour drive is to ‘score’ some great old redline Hot Wheels, but today I was going for another reason. I have a friend whose father passed a way and she inherited a collection of die cast Tootsie, Barclay, Corgi and Matchbox toys that were being sold in the auction. She called me a few months previously and asked me if I could be help her figure out the value of her newly acquired collection of toy cars (which she knew very little about) and possible help her sell them.  The obvious reaction for most people is to tell them to sell them on eBay, but this is a lot of work to sell on the Internet and if you don’t do it often, it can be a big hassle.  Other means of selling a collection is to put adds in the paper advertising it or to try to sell them at a toy show.  The least obtrusive way to sell anything is to consign it to a reputable auction house. The auctions usually feature a large collection from one person, although some auctions will have many items from several different collectors.  The auctions are done professionally whereby if the item is sold they will take a small percentage of the sales price to do the work. In the end the owner can sell the items with little or no hassle.

Having never sold anything at auction myself (largely because I never sell anything, my wife says), I thought this would be a good venue for the older car toys she had.  I was able to get Wayne Laughman, the man in charge of Vectis USA, on the phone just before he headed to England and he told me to send the cars up to him and he would get them in the next auction for late May.  My friend actually became a “pseudo expert” on these cars after identifying them from the collector books she bought and the little bit of information I was able to give to her.  The important thing to note is when having items sold in an auction is to establish an estimated value of the items before you put it up for auction.  This way you will know what to expect and what the approximate realized priced is going to be; thus, save yourself some disappointment.  On the buyer’s side, one of the benefits of an auction is that it gives collectors time to see a catalog (or log onto the Internet) to see pictures of the items of the upcoming auction.  Many auction houses combine Internet auction with the live auctions, which usually coincides with the end of the Internet auction.   

THE STORY OF 'SMITTY'

On this day one of my friends’ items up for bid was 1930’s pressed tin motorcycle with rider called “Smitty”.  Smitty was not mint, but had lots of character.  The definition of character in the collectable business means it has some years of “wear & tear”, but nevertheless Smitty was great toy.  In fact I really wanted Smitty for myself, but not knowing if it would sell for $200 or $600 it was only fair to have my friend put it in the auction to see what it would bring.  I couldha’ve bid on it in the auction, but I didn’t what the owners to think that I was shill bidding (bidding up the price on an item to benefit a friend) so I casually observed the bidding on Smitty.  Unfortunately, Smitty didn’t have a great day.  It sold for a little less then we all hoped for (around $230), but two hundred and thirty dollars is really not to shabby when it comes down to a toy that may have cost a few cents when it was new. 

Some of the best Auctions I have attended over the years were either antique auctions or collectable/memorabilia auctions.  These auctions did not ‘feature’ die-cast cars, but rather other items such as antiques or baseball cards.  I remember I went to a ‘Huggins and Scott’ auction once that had (only) four (4) small lots of Hot Wheels cars out of about 1000 total lots.  The great thing was that I was the only one bidding on the old Hot Wheels at the auction.  I picked up all four (4) lots for a very reasonable price.  The great news is that one of the cars I bought, a ‘root beer’ brown ’57 Classic T-Bird with white interior, was worth more than the combined cost of all the lots I purchased that day.  Yeah, I got lucky!!  Hopefully you will experience some excitement and get lucky at your next auction!!

Footnote:          Jack Clark’s and Robert Wicker’s Second Edition of the Ultimate Redline Guide is out in the bookstores now.  If you collect Redline Hot Wheels, this book is one of the most comprehensive books out there filled with pictures, estimated prices and a ton of fun facts and information.  Check it out at your local bookstores.            

DIECAST DISPLAYS

I was talking to a fellow collector right after they made a significant purchase from a local toy show and asked him, “What are you going to do with that awesome car, display it?”  He looked at me with a little disappointment on his face and said quite candidly, “I’m not,…..its going into storage in a car carrying case.”  Storage! In a case!  There should be a law against such a thing.  But the ironic thing about this situation is that it is very common for collectors to do this.  Not long ago I was doing the same.  I have to admit that is was my wife that got me to see the light as far as displaying my spoils.  She did not like my cars being displayed temporarily in the dinning room of our house (why I don’t know, they looked good next to the Lenox dishes and to me worth more than the rare soup bowl), so she politely ordered me to remove my cars from the dinning room for an in determinant period of time e.g. “FOREVER”!  She did however say that I should have a permanent display room or area in the house to be able to enjoy my cars everyday and be able to invite fellow collectors over to see them.

At this point I was faced with one of the biggest dilemmas of my life.  Where do I put my cars?  I’ve heard stories about guys that keep their cars in their living room displayed on shelves.  I guess lucky by some accounts, but my collection of cars is mostly old redline Hot Wheels. Putting them on full display on a shelf is out of the question. They are really too valuable (to me) to leave in a public room with kids and guests roaming about. Think about all the people that come to your house every week. 

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO….

Die-cast collectors are faced with many problems when it comes to making decisions on were to have your collectables displayed. Weather you collect Matchbox, Jonny Lightning, Racing Champions, Hot Wheels or any other collectable die-cast car, it is safe to say that dust, dirt, light, heat, moisture and cold are big problems.  Having some kind of closed display case is a huge benefit from dust. I have seen al kinds of creative display cases; everything from a 3-foot tall ‘turning’ cigarette lighter case to custom made dioramas built to scale. Think twice about putting your precious collectables on an open shelf (this is usually better for the larger size scale cars anyway such as the 1:18 or 1:24 models which are easier to dust frequently).  

Old Redline Hot Wheels posse even more serious problems, toning.  Toning is the ‘splotches’ or darkening you see in the paint on some older spectra-flame cars.  Toning can occur on any original spectra-flame car, but mostly occur on the Hong Kong made casting.  What can cause toning is moisture, humidity, or possibly salty air.  Not really knowing for sure what causes toning many collectors go to great lengths to safeguard their collection from any of these environments.  Following these few tips may help.  Avoid damp basements.  Usually, basements are the best place for car collections since this is wear there is extra space in the house, but many basements have moisture problems.  Even running a de-humidifier 24 hours a day may not get all the moisture out of the air.  Most cars can do fine in a slightly damp environment especially the enamel painted models, but if they are in a box or blister pack with cardboard that attracts water watch out for the four letter word “mold”.  

On the flip side, you would think attics would be good for storage of car collectables, right?  Wrong.  Unfinished attics can get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter and the extreme temperatures will have dreadful effects upon your plastic windshields and plastic blister packaging.  If your attic is ‘finished off’ or in a climate that is more ‘mild’ than say Minnesota or even Florida, you might be fine. 

Ok, so now your getting smart and you know your basement is too damp and your attic is too hot, so your going to set up your display in the 1st or 2nd floor bedroom.  After you have now have moved the baby’s room to the attic and have gotten federal approval from your spouse to move your mother-in-law to the basement, all is good, right.  Wrong again.  Can you believe that sunlight can wreak havoc on your 35-year-old Hot Wheels?  Sun cannot only fade the colors on cardboard, but even paint on the car.  A light spray ‘36 Coupe is cool, but a sun bleached one is not, and virtually worthless.  So now you’ve put up the mini blinds and bought the thick backed curtains and your room looks like a ‘darkroom’, but at least your redlines are safe now, right.  Wrong again.  Do you have your cars on an exterior wall, which stays cold, or hot most of the year?  Is a heating/cooling vent right on top of your car display case? The best place for your cars would be attached to or near an interior wall away from any heating or cooling element or vent. So after pulling out the rest of your hair from frustration, perhaps the large closet in the bedroom is a good place for them.  Finally, a safe place for your little treasures, right.  Right. But displaying your cars even in a big closet is not really an ideal situation.  There really is no ideal situation unless you (maybe) custom-build a room or an addition to your house, which is what a lot of collectors do.      

THE HOT WHEELS ROOM

I was always a little jealous of my neighbor’s collectable room for his Baseball memorabilia, so I was very fortunate to be able to create a small room on an upper floor of my home to display my Hot Wheels and Matchboxes.  The goal for this room was to get as many cars displayed in a small area. To do this I used 20 Giovanni cases (www.giovanniplastics.com) set side-by-side stacked 3 high around the room. Each case can hold 108 1/64th scale cars (for you math majors that’s about 2,200 cars on display). The room is no bigger than 8 ½ feet by 7 feet.  All the walls have insulation, a thick layer of plywood backing, and are covered with drywall plasterboard.  The point of the plywood is that when you hang the cases you don’t have to worry about hitting a stud.  I used semi-gloss white paint to finish the walls and ‘laid down’ a really cool black & white checkerboard pattern vinyl floor.  You don’t need to have crazy colors or loud décor in the room. You want people to notice the cars and not a hot pink wall behind them.  The clean walls also make for a great backdrop for pictures and artwork to accentuate the cars you collect. The last remaining item (and by far the most important) is ‘lighting’.  You may have the best die-cast car collection in the world on display, but without proper lighting and the right kind of lighting it is almost pointless. I used incandescent bulbs which are more commonly known as ‘high hats’ as the main lighting for the room and some very stylish directional ‘mini pin’ lights (wall washers) on a dimmer to add more light on the cases.  I even used some ‘rope lights’ that run along the base of the floor to make the floor light up (I usually hand sunglasses out at the door).  The amazing thing is when people take a tour of our house they end up staying in the Hot Wheels room longer than any other room, much to my wife’s chagrin.

SUPER COLLECTIONS

What do you do if your collection outgrows your house?  Buy another one?  I remember reading somewhere that Marie Osmond, and avid doll collector, had another home that was just for her dolls.  I guess you could call it a ‘dollhouse’, but this one is full size!  Same thing happened to a local collector of the Leo Pascal antique toy cars and car memorabilia collection.  When their expanded home became too cramped with items they moved part of the massive collection it to another house in the area.  Another gentleman I ran into just recently, Mr. Connoly, is a ‘handy-man’ by trade and decided to build himself a small retreat house in his backyard.  This cute little cottage is jam packed with die-cast cars, Barbie’s, and some incredible glass-wear. Most of the collectables are displayed in custom made sliding glass front cases that have interior lights. The rest of the thousands of blister packs are neatly arrange on every wall and even on the ceiling.  He told me that when he needs a break, he just walks out his back door of his house and in a mere 15 feet, steps into the front door of the collectable house.  I even saw a couch in there when I visited with him.  I think I could get very used to having a couch ‘ala’ Hot Wheels room!

Hot Wheels Prices “Update”

Prices for old Hot Wheels, specifically Redline Hot Wheels, are going through the roof!

I write this article with a little hesitation since I am a collector and I don’t want anybody to accuse me of bias.  But since I started writing for Toy Shop about a year and a half ago, the dynamics of the hobby have become phenomenal. Prices for these little toy cars across the board have gone up with many cars hitting all-time highs.  By being careful and just stating the facts, I think I can be objective and try not to influence the prices (not that I would flatter myself as having that ability), but the die-cast car market as a whole is like a racing machine… and gaining speed! Nowadays, it seems commonplace to see prices of over a $100 dollars each for an old mint Hot Wheel. It also seems, as crazy as it may be, commonplace to see Redline cars sell for  over $1,000 dollars each. Whether it is a sealed Blister Pack Card or a loose version, Gary Nabors, a long-time collector and statistics guru, tracks the prices of redlines and old Hot Wheels on his website www.redlinespoilers.com.  At this time, he has over a few hundred documented sales mostly from eBay of the blistered and non-blistered cars that have sold for over $1,000 dollars. It is scary to think that this is probably only a fraction of all the sales taking place in the world. 

IT’S IN THE BOOK

It seems appropriate at this time, since the discussion is about prices, to mention that Jack Clarke’s & Robert Wicker’s 2nd edition of the Ultimate Redline Guide will be out in print; hopefully by the time this article is published.  Their 1st edition was unveiled with great fanfare since it was the most detailed publication to date on old Hot Wheels cars and had more accurate price information than other price guides currently published.  The newly expanded 2nd edition will have at least one to two full pages of information on each car/casting featuring even more pictures and details. This pricing guide now includes all color variations; distinguishing between U.S. and Hong Kong, and also featuring loose and blistered prices.  This should make identifying the variations and colors much easier for new and seasoned collectors.  When I spoke to Jack, he said that he and Robert spent years assembling all the information into one comprehensive book and that, “The toughest part is to keep pace with the increasing prices, you may see substantial differences in the prices from the 1st to the 2nd edition.”

RECORD PRICES

Lenny Mankowski from Mountainside, New Jersey says “Year after year collectors keep thinking it is the ‘top of the market’ or ‘it can’t go any higher’, but it seems there’s too much interest in these toys for it to stop or slow down.”  I have always found it interesting to compare prices and trends of Hot Wheel cars to the older tin and die-cast toy cars of the late 1930’s and 1940’s.  You may see a ‘Tootsie Toy’ truck that sells for $2,000 at an auction and wonder….. Who is buying that? Most of the time it is a long-time collector that grew up playing with that toy. More than likely, it is not a 30 year old who played mostly with Hot Wheels as a child.   The collectors that remember and cherish the older ‘pre-war’ toys are getting older, and one may think that the prices for them will start to depreciate since less people may be collecting them, but despite the ‘age’ issues, it seems that the prices are holding their value and, in a lot of cases, actually keep going up.  If you compare that to the collector of the die-cast cars from 30 years ago, it is the baby boomers who are buying back their youth and memories through toys  and are now at their peak earning potential.  Stay tuned for the next 10 years, as it could get interesting (and more expensive).  

INVESTMENT VS. INTEREST

The hard question that arises for all collectors, and I do mean all collectors of toys, is…. How much are you willing to pay for your interest?  Most collectors collect toys for the pure enjoyment of the hobby and the benefit of the appreciating value is incidental.  Some collectors dwell on the increased value (over time) and are more ‘in it’ to ‘win it’ as ‘they say’ as opposed to the ‘happy-go-lucky’ collector that does not care so much about its worth now or in the future.  Unfortunately, the increase in old Hot Wheels prices are affecting all collectors, and that ‘happy-go-lucky’ collector who just wants to complete a simple rainbow of Custom Fleetsides now might realize that the light blue one could cost as much $2,000 in (C9) mint condition.  To solve this problem, many collectors often get certain cars to fill the holes in a rainbow or particular casting in their collection.  These are commonly known as ‘fillers’ or ‘beaters’.  Fillers or beaters are usually very poor condition cars that may only cost a small fraction of what a mint example costs.  I remember seeing a fellow collector at a show walking around with a big smile on his face and a horrible looking ‘beat-up’ Pink Superfine Turbine in hand.  He was smiling because he finished his rainbow for that casting and didn’t have to pay mega-bucks to do so.  A lot of collectors will keep the “beater’ until they find an affordable upgrade or when they can pony up the money for a mint version.

Some collectors I’ve encountered over the years will collect the cars purely for the investment.  I’m not sure if you can call them true collectors, but rather than investing in stocks or real estate, they invest in toy cars.  Ironically, these cars, as of late, have outpaced the stock market and certainly have kept up with the real estate appreciation in many towns, but I am not a financial advisor and would never profess recommend this. So my advice would be collect what you like, and more importantly, what you can afford.  I personally would not collect ‘purely’ for the investment aspect since the hobby can be unpredictable and I have seen a few people get ‘strung out’ on some cars; it is not a pretty sight. Since my article is now sounding more like a Dr. Ruth article instead of a toy Hot Wheel article, I will now let you  ‘gawk’ at the incredible record setting prices listed below:

Hot Wheel Record Prices: (excluding Beach Bombs)

L= Loose Cars           BP= Blister Pack Cars

Gold Mustang Open Hood Scoop Salesman Sample     $20,100     L
Gold Open Hood Scoop Custom Mustang                           $14,241     BP
Purple Custom Olds 442                                                     $12,656     L
Brown U.S. Custom Cougar                                                 $12,200     BP
Creamy Pink Hong Kong Custom Camaro                             $9,988       L
Creamy Pink Hong Kong Custom Firebird                             $8,988       L
Hot Pink Beatnik Bandit                                                        $7,070       L
Yellow Bye-Focal                                                             $7,000      BP
Blue Custom AMX Ed Shaver                                        $6,040      BP
Olive Hong Kong Custom Barracuda                                    $5,710       L
Yellow-Orange Superfine Turbine                                           $5,900       BP
Blue Custom VW no/sun Roof                                            $5,300       BP
Pink Rolls Royce Silver Shadow                                                   $4,600       BP
Light Green Light My Firebird                                                       $3,825       L
Alternate Green Heavy Chevy                                                     $2,975       BP
Purple Open Fire                                                                         $2,727       L
Olive Custom Continental                                                            $2,478       BP
Pink Rolls Royce Silver Shadow                                                    $2,426       L
Gold Classic Cord                                                                        $2,414       BP
Blue Rodger Dodger                                                                    $2,075       L
Aqua Mighty Maverick Black Roof                                                 $1,975       L
Orange Hong Kong Custom Barracuda                                         $1,913       L
Purple King ‘Kuda Black Roof                                                        $1,625       BP
Purple Boss Hoss Black Roof                                                        $1,725       BP
Antifreeze Door Line Custom T-Bird                                              $1,500       L
Orange Sand Crab                                                                        $1,335       L
Gold Porsche’ Salesman’s Award                                                   $1,152       L 
Purple Boss Hoss Black Roof                                                         $1,125       L
Magenta Peepin’ Bomb                                                                  $1,076       L
Purple U.S. Custom Camaro                                                          $865          L
Gold Open Hood Scoop Custom Mustang                                       $709          L
Light Blue U.S. Custom Corvette                                                    $615          L
Pink U.S. Custom VW                                                                    $449          L

ELLIOTT HANDLER ARTICLE


ELLIOT HANDLER:


He is to Hot Wheels what Thomas Edison is to Electricity; what Alexander Graham Bell is to the phone; and what the Wright Brothers are to the airplane. A bit Dramatic huh? Sorry, but I just got off the phone with Elliot Handler, the inventor of Hot Wheels! It is not everyday you get to talk to the creator of one of the most popular toys in the world and since I am such a Hot Wheels ‘nut’ it was certainly a distinct pleasure. It was also dually special for him since he just turned ‘90’ years old this past week and he was in a somewhat of a celebratory mood.

A BRIEF HISTORY



Elliot and his Wife, Ruth, started a little company you might have heard of, Mattel, back in the late 1940’s. As you may know, Ruth came up with the idea of the Barbie Doll which has been one of the top selling toys in the last century. Elliott was always looking for the next big ‘boys’ toy and with the changing times of the mid sixties he was searching for the ideal toy that would capture the hearts of young boys and girls across America and the world.

My telephone conversation was brief with Elliott Handler. The entire conversation lasted maybe 10 minutes at most. He was very non-chalant about how his Hot Wheels invention and was very ‘a-matter-of-fact’ about the specific events which lead up to the concept and creation of this revolutionary toy.

THE INTERVIEW

CP: “Thank you for allowing me to talk to you about Hot Wheels. Can you tell me how it all started?”

EH: “Hot wheels actually started in 1967. We were looking for a low cost boy’s toy to replace some of the current toy lines that had gone out of style such as Cap Guns. Barbie was booming at this time and we were missing a large part of the boys market.” (Because of the Vietnam War toy guns were not popular anymore)

CP: “How did you come up with the Hot Wheels idea?”

EH: “I was sitting at my desk one day and I had a Matchbox toy that I was trying to roll over my desk. The wheels were almost molded onto the toy (just for appearance) and itwas unable to move by itself (or roll). I called my Chief Engineer, Jack Ryan, down and asked him to put some little plastic wheels on it. Three hours later he came to my office and placed the modified car on my desk and just lightly ‘flicked it’ with his finger. The car rolled all the way across my desk. Back in those days I had a big desk too. I looked up at Jack and said….. that is some ‘hot- wheels’! “

CP: “Wow, it sounds so easy.”

EH: “Some of the best inventions are just that easy. After that we just started making them.”

CP: “How did you decide on what cars to make?”

EH: “Initially we decided to just make replicas of real cars and after that we designed special cars. Not much later, it was like we need to make a track for them to roll down. The track was not complicated and it didn’t need to be electric. Gravity was the best way to play with the cars. Soon we were making tons of accessories for the cars, it justhappened that easy.”

CP: “You realize that today there are conventions and toy shows that are specifically for Hot Wheels. It has become (huge) big business.”

EH: “Yes, I am aware of that. It was really no big deal. We were just out to make a low cost toy that children would play with and that’s pretty much it.”

CP: “You almost down play the impact that this toy has had.”

EH: “I am quite proud of its accomplishments, but the toy industry continues to change.”

CP: “Can you explain?”

EH: “I have been retired for 25 years, but the toy industry is changing a lot lately with the electrical toys. They have a different feel. Kids stop playing with toys at an earlier age now-a-days. A void needs to be filled. Especially with the girls. The girls stop playing with the Barbies and dolls much earlier than they used to. By eight they are ready tomove onto other things.”

CP: “By the way, Happy Birthday!”

EH: “Thank you. I just had my ‘90th’ birthday party with my family and friends. At the table were Hot Wheel cars. The best part was that I had my grandkids there and they wereplaying with the Hot Wheels and I got to enjoy that. I guess in that regard, something’s still don’t change that much…..”

I want to thank Elliot for the time on the phone and I want to wish him a Happy Birthday from all the Toy Shop readers and Hot Wheel Collectors!

This orange Mustang is possibly the very first Hot Wheel toy car ever made. It is a 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback Matchbox #8 that has been modified into a Hot Wheel by Mattel engineers. These pictures have never been seen before. The base is completely made from scratch and notice the lines on the car have been smoothed and the side window cut out.


LARRY WOOD INTERVIEW:  THEN & NOW


This past weekend I was able to meet up with Larry Wood or what some might refer to as  “Mr. Hot Wheels” at the K-Mart in Manassas Virginia.  Larry Wood is the Hot Wheels designer of some of the most recognizable Hot Wheel cars in the world and has been designing for Mattel for almost 35 years.  Felix Krayeski, assisting Larry Wood on his visit from Mattel, indicated that this K-Mart had the largest increase in sales over the past year for Hot Wheels and three-hour visit from the designer was the prize!  Lucky Hot Wheel collectors old and new stood in line and gathered round to shake hands, get blister packs signed and take pictures of Larry and his wife by his side.  It was a real treat.  Lucky for me that he was gracious enough to let me interview him for this article right there at the signing. 



Curt:    “How is the design process different today from back in the early days of Hot Wheels?”

Larry:  “Big difference because of electronics and computers.  All the design and information out of Detroit uses digital pictures.  In the old days you had to go out and measure the car and take the dimensions and convert it to the scale you needed.  Now you push a button and a lot of that is done for you.”

Curt:    “So your saying it’s easier to design cars now a-days?”

Larry:  “No, it’s just different.  I still use a pen and paper.  I guess you call it ‘old school’.”

Curt:    “What cars or projects and you working on now?”

Larry:  “Mostly collector stuff.  I still do about four basic cars a year though. The collector stuff is real accurate in detail and scale and that’s what I enjoy most especially the hot rods.”

Curt:    “So hot rods and customs are your passion and interest?”

Larry:  “Well, I’m a Hot Rod guy.  I have a shop with some full size 1:1 cars that I like to customize and restore. I take a lot of ‘ques’ from the real cars to the toy ones.  For example, for years the difference in design of the basic hot wheels and a special edition collector hot wheel starts with the wheel design.  The basic Hot Wheel car is worked around the regular wheel while the collector cars you can design your own wheel.  The custom wheel design is a big part of the collector cars.  They don’t have to fit the standard wheel design.”

Curt:    “It’s amazing the whole custom car market is exploding with the popularity of car designer guys like Chip Foose and Boyd Coddington.” 

Larry:  “Well Exactly, even before Hot Wheels existed I always wanted to make hot rods. Later while at Mattel when I was the only one doing it (the design), being a hot rod guy, you always look to modify the cars or customize them.  If you compare Hot Wheels to Matchbox, the Matchbox’s were always the cars that looked like your average everyday cars and trucks.” 

Curt:    “Are you amazed at how popular some of your designs are with collectors especially some of the old redline cars such as the Olds 442, Superfine Turbine, or the Cord?”

Larry:  (In a modest voice) “Well, there are a lot of great designs such as the VW Buses and a lot of what Ira Guilford did before I got their.”

Curt:    “Are you aware that some of those cars sell on eBay sell in excess of $500.00 or more?”

Larry:  (Again in a modest voice) “It’s like anything else.  Rarity-hard to find ….people try to find what nobody else has.”

Curt:    “Have you been able to get some of your favorite full size car designs into Hot Wheels?”     

Larry:  “Yes, I try (sooner or later).  There is a four car Larry Wood set that’s coming out later this year which has a Packard with the rear window filled in just like my Nash (same colors and everything).  Most people would rather have a Packard than a Nash so I thought this would be a good way to get the look of the Nash I have, but on a more well known car.”  

Curt:    “Anything Else?”

Larry:  “‘Designers Dream’ where I did my truck & trailer combination (a‘34 3-window) and also a Sedan Delivery which just came out.”

Curt:    “Of the most recent stuff you’ve done, anything really stand out?”

Larry:  “Well, ‘The Wild Thing’ which has no wheels on it was completely different and the “Shift Kicker” which has the stick shift through the top of the car was neat.”

Curt:    “I really like this ’57 Buick ‘Two 2 Go’!” (I had one of his new cars in my hand)

Larry:  “That car is neat because it’s the first Hot Wheels car to have chrome on the sides.  All those years and this is the first one with that chrome detail”

Curt:    “Besides Hot Wheel cars have you designed anything else for Mattel?”

Larry:  “Yes, a lot!!  I did all the ‘Sizzlers’, ‘Chopcycles’, and many, many accessories.  I did everything myself for about fifteen years.  I was a one-man show.  Now, (in a relived voice) for me they have divisions on specific projects which take care of the accessories and other Hot Wheel toys.”

Curt:    “Does it surprise you the popularity or the prices of the old redlines & stuff?”

Larry:  “Who’d a thought? It’s hard to believe.  I never kept these things.  I let the kids play with them.  I’m sure at I had some (rear load) buses on my desk at one time.  What I’m surprised and glad to see is this surviving after 35 years.  There were some hard times.  1972 was rough.  Soon after they got rid of the redline tires, there was no tampos, and I was not able to do any new tooling.  Some thought this may be the end of the road, but Mattel and Hot Wheels are still around.”

Curt:    “So it is true that the omission of the redline on the tire was to save money?”

Larry:  “Yes, that is true.  Hopefully by the time this article is out (pretty soon) we should have something new out on all the cars, a redline type thing (but not a redline).  If this thing ‘catches-on’ it will be another point in Hot Wheels evolution.”

Curt:    “Sounds exciting.  Ironically, taking off the redline tires was one of the best things for us collectors.”

Larry:  “Yeah, it definitely divided the generations of cars.”

Curt:    “So. Hot Wheels are ‘hot’ again!”

Larry:  “I think were selling three (3) million a week, it’s a lot of cars.  And the crazy thing is that it is still hard to find them all (variations).  The cars are spread out over every K-Mart, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us stores throughout the United States.” 

Curt:    “What do you think about some of the young designers morphing and customizing the 1:64 scale Hot Wheels?”

Larry:  “It’s amazing stuff.  Beautiful.  In fact we have a big contest in L.A. at the convention coming up (October) for custom cars.”

Curt:    “It is hard to believe, that as good as these cars look, that they’re still a dollar?”

Larry:  “That is the toughest part of the design process; to create a great quality car and have it priced under a buck.  You may have to have this part show through this part and you may only have ‘X’ amount of parts to work with at that time.  They assemble the cars upside-down…so it’s a complicated process to say the least and a lot more goes into these than you may think.   


             "It is still a challenge after 35 years to do all this, but I still love doing it!!"
-Larry Wood


LARRY WOOD INTERVIEW:  THEN & NOW


This past weekend I was able to meet up with Larry Wood or what some might refer to as  “Mr. Hot Wheels” at the K-Mart in Manassas Virginia.  Larry Wood is the Hot Wheels designer of some of the most recognizable Hot Wheel cars in the world and has been designing for Mattel for almost 35 years.  Felix Krayeski, assisting Larry Wood on his visit from Mattel, indicated that this K-Mart had the largest increase in sales over the past year for Hot Wheels and three-hour visit from the designer was the prize!  Lucky Hot Wheel collectors old and new stood in line and gathered round to shake hands, get blister packs signed and take pictures of Larry and his wife by his side.  It was a real treat.  Lucky for me that he was gracious enough to let me interview him for this article right there at the signing. 



Curt:    “How is the design process different today from back in the early days of Hot Wheels?”

Larry:  “Big difference because of electronics and computers.  All the design and information out of Detroit uses digital pictures.  In the old days you had to go out and measure the car and take the dimensions and convert it to the scale you needed.  Now you push a button and a lot of that is done for you.”

Curt:    “So your saying it’s easier to design cars now a-days?”

Larry:  “No, it’s just different.  I still use a pen and paper.  I guess you call it ‘old school’.”

Curt:    “What cars or projects and you working on now?”

Larry:  “Mostly collector stuff.  I still do about four basic cars a year though. The collector stuff is real accurate in detail and scale and that’s what I enjoy most especially the hot rods.”

Curt:    “So hot rods and customs are your passion and interest?”

Larry:  “Well, I’m a Hot Rod guy.  I have a shop with some full size 1:1 cars that I like to customize and restore. I take a lot of ‘ques’ from the real cars to the toy ones.  For example, for years the difference in design of the basic hot wheels and a special edition collector hot wheel starts with the wheel design.  The basic Hot Wheel car is worked around the regular wheel while the collector cars you can design your own wheel.  The custom wheel design is a big part of the collector cars.  They don’t have to fit the standard wheel design.”

Curt:    “It’s amazing the whole custom car market is exploding with the popularity of car designer guys like Chip Foose and Boyd Coddington.” 

Larry:  “Well Exactly, even before Hot Wheels existed I always wanted to make hot rods. Later while at Mattel when I was the only one doing it (the design), being a hot rod guy, you always look to modify the cars or customize them.  If you compare Hot Wheels to Matchbox, the Matchbox’s were always the cars that looked like your average everyday cars and trucks.” 

Curt:    “Are you amazed at how popular some of your designs are with collectors especially some of the old redline cars such as the Olds 442, Superfine Turbine, or the Cord?”

Larry:  (In a modest voice) “Well, there are a lot of great designs such as the VW Buses and a lot of what Ira Guilford did before I got their.”

Curt:    “Are you aware that some of those cars sell on eBay sell in excess of $500.00 or more?”

Larry:  (Again in a modest voice) “It’s like anything else.  Rarity-hard to find ….people try to find what nobody else has.”

Curt:    “Have you been able to get some of your favorite full size car designs into Hot Wheels?”     

Larry:  “Yes, I try (sooner or later).  There is a four car Larry Wood set that’s coming out later this year which has a Packard with the rear window filled in just like my Nash (same colors and everything).  Most people would rather have a Packard than a Nash so I thought this would be a good way to get the look of the Nash I have, but on a more well known car.”  

 

Curt:    “Anything Else?”

Larry:  “‘Designers Dream’ where I did my truck & trailer combination (a‘34 3-window) and also a Sedan Delivery which just came out.”

Curt:    “Of the most recent stuff you’ve done, anything really stand out?”

Larry:  “Well, ‘The Wild Thing’ which has no wheels on it was completely different and the “Shift Kicker” which has the stick shift through the top of the car was neat.”

Curt:    “I really like this ’57 Buick ‘Two 2 Go’!” (I had one of his new cars in my hand)

Larry:  “That car is neat because it’s the first Hot Wheels car to have chrome on the sides.  All those years and this is the first one with that chrome detail”

Curt:    “Besides Hot Wheel cars have you designed anything else for Mattel?”

Larry:  “Yes, a lot!!  I did all the ‘Sizzlers’, ‘Chopcycles’, and many, many accessories.  I did everything myself for about fifteen years.  I was a one-man show.  Now, (in a relived voice) for me they have divisions on specific projects which take care of the accessories and other Hot Wheel toys.”

Curt:    “Does it surprise you the popularity or the prices of the old redlines & stuff?”

Larry:  “Who’d a thought? It’s hard to believe.  I never kept these things.  I let the kids play with them.  I’m sure at I had some (rear load) buses on my desk at one time.  What I’m surprised and glad to see is this surviving after 35 years.  There were some hard times.  1972 was rough.  Soon after they got rid of the redline tires, there was no tampos, and I was not able to do any new tooling.  Some thought this may be the end of the road, but Mattel and Hot Wheels are still around.”

Curt:    “So it is true that the omission of the redline on the tire was to save money?”

Larry:  “Yes, that is true.  Hopefully by the time this article is out (pretty soon) we should have something new out on all the cars, a redline type thing (but not a redline).  If this thing ‘catches-on’ it will be another point in Hot Wheels evolution.”

Curt:    “Sounds exciting.  Ironically, taking off the redline tires was one of the best things for us collectors.”

Larry:  “Yeah, it definitely divided the generations of cars.”

Curt:    “So. Hot Wheels are ‘hot’ again!”

Larry:  “I think were selling three (3) million a week, it’s a lot of cars.  And the crazy thing is that it is still hard to find them all (variations).  The cars are spread out over every K-Mart, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us stores throughout the United States.” 

Curt:    “What do you think about some of the young designers morphing and customizing the 1:64 scale Hot Wheels?”

Larry:  “It’s amazing stuff.  Beautiful.  In fact we have a big contest in L.A. at the convention coming up (October) for custom cars.”

Curt:    “It is hard to believe, that as good as these cars look, that they’re still a dollar?”

Larry:  “That is the toughest part of the design process; to create a great quality car and have it priced under a buck.  You may have to have this part show through this part and you may only have ‘X’ amount of parts to work with at that time.  They assemble the cars upside-down…so it’s a complicated process to say the least and a lot more goes into these than you may think.   

            It is still a challenge after 35 years to do all this, but I still love doing it!!


THE WHEN, WHY & WHAT OF REDLINES….

WHEN

Bigger, fatter tires with bolder stance were the rage on cars of the mid to late 1960’s and with car enthusiasts modifying stock cars to look cool, Mattel wanted to use the same principals when it came to design their toy die-cast tires on the Hot Wheel Cars. The unique “Redline” tires whereby a red line stripe circled nearly every Hot Wheels tire on the cars made from 1968 to about 1977, was great looking and mimicked the Goodyear and Firestone tires of that time. The red striped tire coupled with the flashy silver five spoke design would certainly set Hot Wheels apart from the ‘less hip’ plain black wheels of the competition.

WHY

Why you asked?   In the mid sixties, many cars sported white wall tires.  In fact so many cars had white wall tires you could even find them on your Mother’s station wagon.  Not too cool, huh….??  The car companies wanted a unique tire to put on the “cream of the crop” muscle cars coming out of Detroit.  A color stripe tire was thought to be the way to go, but which color would be best?  Blue, Green, Yellow… Purple?  After some thought went in to it, the best colors seem to be red and a golden/yellow not only for their visibility factor but they looked the best against the black tires.   So thus, the redline stripe and goldline stripe tires were created.  Initially, the redline tires were put on several popular cars such as Mustangs, T-Birds, and later on most all Muscle cars such as Chargers, Barracudas, Firebirds and Camaros. The goldline tires were on Corvettes exclusively. The Mustangs got a double red stripe while the T-birds and most of the other muscle cars sported a single redline stripe.  These more expensive high profile tires gave them an edge and set them apart from the common tires one saw on the streets….. Especially from the ones on Mom’s station wagon! 

Tony Fleming, the Manager and part owner of Cherner Classic Cars of Potomac Maryland, says “the redline tires brought sporty-ness and style to the muscle cars.  The redline tires looked fast and racy and definitely bucked the establishment.  The tire Companies used a process called Vulcanizing whereby the whole tire’s side is red with a thin black outer layer. The black is cut away to expose the color underneath and ‘presto wammo’ a redline stripe is born. Of course the process that Mattel used to get their redlines on the toy tires was much different than Vulcanizing (Mattels’ redlines were pressed and painted on in a several step machine process), but it does go to show you that in both cases it was quite an elaborate process nevertheless.

WHAT

What, they got rid of redlines???  With the majority of Hot Wheels from 1968 through 1977 having redlines, starting in 1976 and more in 1977 Mattel decided to do away with the redline wheels. Just like the Good year and Firestone redline tires, Mattel wheels were a little more expensive to make.  Mattel concluded that the redline on the wheels added approximately one cent (yes, one penny) to the total cost of the car.  Remember that the cars themselves originally might have cost 50 to 60 cents to make (Mattel had little or no profit from these cars originally) and they sold on the retail shelves for about 57 cents so a measly penny was a lot of money relative to the total cost.  The toy divisions were not doing well into the mids 1970’s because of this and Hot Wheels profits were down.  Accounting and the designers had to come up with ways they could save money on production.  One of the easiest ways to save money was in the wheel design.  Mattel went away from the multiple part wheel assembly (bearings and caps) to a single unified wheel on the wire axel.  This change was not noticeable to the average consumer, the cars rolled about the same, but what was noticeable was the omission of the redline on the tire during these hard times.

A 'PENNY' SAVED... IS A PENNY SAVED

Literally, on millions of die cast cars a penny was a huge savings.  Unfortunately most of the cars from the mid 70’s on didn’t have the sporty redline wheels and plain tires called blackwalls populated the toy store shelves.   Ironically, the hot wheels that are worth the most to collectors today are the cars from these years.   As Mattel started into the Enamel and the Flying Color years (the none spectraflame cars from 1974 to 1977) it was hit or miss as to whether some of these cars came with redlines or not since the factories placed whatever wheels were available during assembly.  For example, the T-Tottler, which was a very cool Larry Wood design, and was made during this transition of the wheels came in both redline and blackwall versions.  The rare redline wheel T-Tottler in mint condition could sell upwards of $400.00 while the easier to find and more plentiful blackwall version might sell mint for $40.00 or 10X’s less.  The Second Wind (Speed Racer look-a-like car) from 1975 may sell today for $100.00 in the redline version while the blackwall version may only sell for $30.00 bucks at your local second hand toy store.   

Today, Collectors hunt for the illusive redlines since they are not only the oldest and most collectable ones, but also generally more valuable.  And yes of course, the redline Hot Wheels are more expensive to buy then their counterpart blackwalls (more values will be covered in a future article). The Redline actually helps collectors in identifying the older vintage hot wheels by its trademark redline tires.  If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then Johnny Lightning’s flattered Mattel and their Hot wheels big time by copying the redline wheels on their die cast cars of 1969 and 1970.  What’s really neat about the redline era cars is that they have taken on and have adapted the nickname “REDLINES”.  Mark Pavkovic a redline Collector from New Jersey says, “A lot of Collectors like to distinguish themselves as redliners or redline collectors.”  Some of the seasoned collectors who have been around for years and view them selves as ‘old school’ and collect exclusively redline die cast cars call themselves redliners and even have their own websites and clubs.  Dave Espino a fellow Hot Wheels and redline collector from California has a website call redlines-on-line (www.redlinesonline.com) which has over 1000 members of redliners that chat, trade, and show off their goods.  There are also numerous clubs around the country, one of which I belong to is the ‘East Coast Redliners’.  We meet a few times a year to get together and sell, trade and you guessed it…. to ‘Show off’ our REDLINES!

                              

Sid Belzberg:  ‘HOT WHEELS SUPER COLLECTOR’

It is not everyday a hobby has a person that can elevate it to the stratosphere level, but Hot Wheels now has Sid Belzberg.  Sorry if I sound a little obsequies, but Sid over the past few years has been on a collecting frenzy and amassing some of the rarest and expensive Hot Wheels cars in the hobby.   It is not always just expensive cars that are attractive to him, but more the rarity and the story behind the cars.  I was able to talk with Sid this past spring at the National Hot Wheel Convention in Atlanta, GA and I was able to catch up with him again on the phone a few weeks ago for this article.  Between the time in Atlanta and just recently, Sid had acquired many very rare Hot Wheels including some prototype spoilers from another well known collector in Texas. 



Described as a well educated and professional man by his peers, Sid is one of the nicest people you will meet in the hobby and is always wiling to share his knowledge and stories about his cars.  Sid also has a storied past including being an entrepreneur, a chess champion, starting his own company, and collector of rare coins.

CP:     “Sid, how did you get started collecting Hot Wheels?”

SB:      "Back in 1969 like most kids is when I really got started, but I have always enjoyed collecting cars such a Corgi, Dinky Johnny Lightning and especially Hot Wheels. Pre-1997 before the internet or eBay it was more difficult to hunt down particular cars.  The way I would find cars back then is to use publications like ‘Toy Shop’ to try to find sellers or buyers.”

CP:      “What is the methodology to your collecting?”

SB:      “I like to collect anything rare and with a story.”

CP:      “Can you explain or give an example?”

SB:      “Some of these cars are rare not only because they are scarce, but   it is the story behind them on why they are scarce and collectable.

            For example:  The Mighty Maverick, a very popular 1970’s casting was originally called the Mad Maverick.  Mattel made a few (less than five known) and had to switch the name to Mighty Maverick from concern for a possible copyright infringement with another toy.  Another situation similarly occurred with the Python casting where by the original version of the car was called the Cheetah and quickly switched to Python.  Some very early run car ‘basses’ were stamped with the Cheetah name and most of them were destroyed with only a few surviving making this casting one of the rarest early Hot Wheel cars.”

CP:     “So you have both of those in your collection?”

SB:     “Yes and more.”

CP:     “Please, tell me more!”

SB:       “One of My favorite stories is the one about the Rear Load Beach Bomb Bus that I got a few years ago.  The Bus was originally found at a yard sale of all places by a young Hot Wheels collector.  The collector paid only 50 cents for the toy.  With only 27 known of the prototype (I of course had to pay a little more than 50 cents) it is one of the rarest Hot Wheels in the world.  The best part is that the boy bought it for only 50 cents!  That’s a great story.”

CP:     “What other cars have you added to you collection recently?”

SB:      “I really like prototypes since they have such a unique provenance.  I was able to get some amazing pre-production spoilers last month from the Texas collection that sold.  The unique thing about these cars is that they are pink, gold or antifreeze which are colors that the regular spoilers never came in.  These cars could have been test colors for other castings or one offs made by the employees. The TNT Bird in pink that I have was the exact car pictured in the 1970 Hot Wheels catalog.”

CP:     “From the pictures you sent me I’ve noticed you have quite a collection of original blistered packs from the late 1960’s and early   1970’s.”

SB:     “To me, what is more amazing than a rare loose car is a rare car in blister  and I guess that’s a story in-it-of-itself in that some of these cars have survived 35 plus years in there original packaging.I also have some cars that were never suppose to be put in packages such a ‘Store Display’ chocolate brown Camaro.  In addition I am proud of finding the rare purple black roof Hong Kong Custom   Cougar, the hard to find U.S. olive Continental Mark III and the light blue Olds 442 all in original packaging.”



CP:       “You mentioned that you collect other toy car besides Hot Wheels.”

SB:       “Just recently, I've been able to assemble the four prototype Johnny Lightning castings of the so called ‘Lost Toppers’ which were made in Mexico. The Camaro, Mustang, Charger and Continental  are all made in Hot Wheels, but never in Johnny Lightning’s and they are   all one-of-a-kind.  I also have many Corgi and Dinky toys that I have collected over the years.  I also have quite a coin collection too.”

CP:      “Wow, cars and coins.  What kind of coins?”

SB:       “At one point I had amassed the largest collection of Canadian coins in the world with some early British Columbian coins that dated back to the early 1800’s.  Some of these coins there were only a few known    on the planet.  I will not go into details which hobby is more fun, but let’s just say that I have been spending more time looking for cool Hot Wheels in the past year than coins!”                

SIZZLERS:   “From ‘Rare’ to ‘Well Done’, SIZZLERS  Still Cook!!”

At the height of the die-cast car craze, Mattel wanted to push the bar “a-little” farther and design a small motorized car that could move very fast around a track and give kids hours of continuous fun.  They did it with SIZZLERS!!  SIZZLERS were produced off and on from 1970 to about 1978 and were a 1:64th scale battery powered rocket car.  Mattel looked to George Soulakis, an in-house engineer, to accomplish this daughting task of creating a tiny car that could run by itself for an extended period of time.  Together with General Electric, Soulakis came up with the very first ni-cad rechargeable battery that enabled the cars to run for up to five minutes on a charge.  The incredible thing about this is that the ni-cad battery not only had to be really small, but more importantly, powerful!  Since most die cast cars, at the time, were made with metal, it was thought that a hard durable plastic resin material would be better for the body and chassis to accommodate the motor/battery combination since this would make for a lighter, and most important faster moving car.  Soulakis, now done with the chassis design, needed to get a whole new fleet of car bodies designed to fit the car bottoms.

Enter car designer Larry Wood.  Larry Wood, Mattel’s sole designer at the time, designed most all the SIZZLER cars.  The car bodies were all different and distinct variations from the Hot Wheel Redline car designs and made SIZZLERS quite unique and special. Though some of the first year cars were designed similar to regular production cars of the time, such as the Mustang Boss 302, Firebird Trans-Am, and the Grand-Prix cars such as the Ford Mark IV and the Angeleno, most of the car designs were contemporary concept cars that showed a lot of creativity and imagination.  Cars such as Sidburn, Backfire and the Anteater from 1971 were extremely popular and very exotic and looked nothing like anything on the road.  Ross Schlichting (a.k.a… The SIZZLERKING at www.sizzlerking.com) a along time SIZZLER collector who has some of the rarest SIZZLERS ever made and a ton of prototypes says, “Hot Wheels were cool, but SIZZLERS were cooler!  Most kids only had one or two of them (because they cost a little more than the regular Hot Wheels) so they were and still are pretty special because of that.”

CHARGE!

“Hey what’s with the hole??” The cars looked like regular Hot Wheels from a distance, with the redline tires (they did come with a rubber slick on the back wheels for traction) and the bold bright colors, but up close on the left side of the cars in front of the ‘rear wheel-well’ is the charging hole were the filling nozzle would go. A metal tipped jack would snap in the hole and charge the car for about 60 seconds. For kids, it was like pumping gas into the car just like dad does at the gas station.  The charging devices itself came in a variety of sizes and designs, three in all.  The most popular (according to kids in my old neighborhood) was the “Juice Machine” which resembled a real gas-pump from around the 1970’s and had an electrical charging jack that looked like a filling nozzle.  The “Juice Machine” got its juice from four “D” batteries, which made for a very heavy little gas pump.  The other charging device were the “Goose Pump” which was hand held and came with a belt clip and housed two “D” batteries and the “Power Pit”.  The “Power Pit” was a different charging device in that it plugged into the wall with an AC adapter.  This was great because it did away with the batteries and since it was designed to look like a service station was a very cool accessory.  In the first year (1970) the SIZZLERS ran on the familiar orange track that the regular Hot Wheels ran on (single and double lanes).  The next year (1971), being one of Mattels most creative years for toys with the introduction of ‘Rrubblers’ and ‘Hot Trains’, also introduced the SIZZLERS wide tract.

 

FAT TRACK  

            

The wide tract or “Fat Track”, as it was called, as far as kids were concerned one of the best inventions since “Pop Tarts”!  The “Fat Track” was just as it sounds a three lane wide racing tract in black that resembled full size racing tract of NASCAR. The track had slightly raised groves that gave texture to the road and the track could be assembled in various lengths (usually 12 ft long) and had a high bank 180 degree turns on the ends. 

The wide track enabled for several cars (4 or more) to race all at the same time. The set up was much more realistic than the conventional slot cars of the time. The really cool thing here is that the cars although traveling at unrealistically fast speeds would actually draft each other, pass like real cars and ‘juxta’ for position as if some one was really driving the little car.  The cars would enter the turns and maneuver around each other just like real racing cars.  That combined with the whizzing and sizzling sounds from the cars and track made for an unforgettably fun experience.  Kids could literally play with SIZZLERS for hours with out getting bored (great for parents who needed a break from the kids too).     

ACCESSORIES         

Not only did SIZZLERS come with cool cars and track, but also a host of other accessories to add to the fun.  The “Scramble Start”, which was by far one of the coolest accessories, would allow for four cars to start racing at the same time (similar to starting blocks).  In addition, the “Lap Counter” kept track of which car had the most laps of the cars racing at one time. To do this Mattel designed a metal attachment plate.  The plate was hooked on to the back bumper of the cars and a small black antenna post was placed in one of the various locations, 1, 2, 3, or 4.  As the cars went through the lap computer it showed how many laps your car had.  SIZZLERS also had some other track accessories such as trestles and a “Stunt Loop” option, but for SIZZLERS not much else was needed except some “Fat Track” and some fast charged up cars for hours of fun!

In 1972 Mattel continued to make more Sizzlers and also introduced Chopcycles which are small motorized SIZZLERS in the form of Chopper Motorcycles and in 1973 introduced the “Fat Daddy” SIZZLERS which are exactly what they sound like, a big Sizzler with big fat wide tires.  After 1973, Mattel stopped making SIZZLERS for a few years and then started out with a new line of them in 1976.  The ‘Bicentennial SIZZZLERS II were all chrome plated reissues of previous cars and were made in silver and also the more rare and very hard to find gold chromes.  SIZZLERS took another year off in 1977 only to return for one final run in 1978.  The 1978 SIZZLERS were all ‘Night Riding’ SIZZLERS and featured a variable speed mechanism and the all too cool headlights for riding in the dark.  Unfortunately these were the last of the SIZZLERS.  Then in 1996 Jonny Lightning re-introduced the “Sizzlers” with some fanfare, but it never reached the frenzy of the original ones and after a few years stopped production. A lot of the problems with sales were the cost of the cars. At more than eight bucks each it was expensive. To buy two or three of them meant a fairly significant investment, and that was before any track or accessories were purchased.

Most of the original SIZZLERS today are priced around $35-60, while some of the more rare color variations such as pink could reach $75-100. Incredibly, even some prototypes have been sold in the thousands of dollars. Mike Grove, a long time SIZZLER collector and one of the foremost authorities on SIZZLERS, can restore and fix your old SIZZLERS and has a book called ‘A Pictorial Guide to SIZZLERS’.  In it, you will find some great pictures and a whole lot more information on these cars. Check out his home page at www.sizzlers-hotline.com or email him at sizzlers@aol.com.     

You could fault me for my corny title to this article (my wife helped me come up with it so blame her), but SIZZLERS are a ‘rare’ find in the collectable world and they were extremely ‘well done’. Some of my fondest memories as a child were in my friend’s basement playing with SIZZLERS!  I still have my old SIZZLERS from my childhood in my Hot Wheels display room. I was lucky to have three!  Beat up a little, but still worth, I was told, about $30 each! 

RRRUMBLERS!!

Maybe Peter Fonda had something to do with it, but Mattel’s RRRumblers came on the scene not much after Easy Rider was in the theaters…. and it seems both made some noise!  Rumblers were cleverly designed miniature toy motorcycles that embraced the originality of the chopper motorcycles of the late ’60s and early ’70s.  Rumblers were quite a departure from regular Hot Wheels and gave kids a cool variety of toys that were markedly different than anything else on the shelves at the time.  Mr. Lovejoy, a toy engineer, was hired as a consultant by Mattel in 1970 to put concept to paper for the initial design of the Rumblers.  Together with Larry Wood (see previous article on Mr. Hot Wheels) they came up with the basic design and layout of how the Rumblers look. The scale was much different from the 1/64th Scale Hot Wheels (closer to a 1/40th) but it was still about the same length as a normal Hot Wheel. The Rumblers were only made for three years, but the combination of styles and colors of motorcycles as well as riders made for quite a ‘buffet’ of variations for collectors.  Influenced by a host of factors, the Rumblers are a valuable find in today’s toy market. The interesting thing about the Rumblers and their sister toy the Chopcycles (which were a 3-wheeled power-charged motorcycle counterpart to Rumblers just as the Sizzler were to the Hot Wheels) is that a lot of us kids played with them, but never knew much about them or even what they were called!

       

Starting in 1971, Rumblers came out in six styles: the 3-Squealer, the High Tailer, the Mean Machine, the Rip Snorter, the Road Hog, and the Torque Chop.  The bikes were fairly wild in design and boasted some cool colors. The “mod” riders, eight styles in all, came initially in tan, brown, and blue and were removable from the bike. The riders featured either numbers on their backs, a neat helmet, or even a hat. The more popular ones were “Shades” and “Tops” with “Caps” and “Fin” a close second.  It was in 1972 that some of the more crazy designs of Rumblers hit the shelves such as the Bold Eagle, Chopin’ Chariot, Devil’s Duece, Revolution, and the Roamin’ Candle. More were introduced again in 1973 such as the Rip Code, Centurian, Prying Menace, and the Boneshaker. 1973 also brought ‘Funky’ color riders with purples, (pinkish) reds, light greens, yellows and even some silver ones.  Finding a Boneshaker with a purple “tops” is like finding a ‘little bit of heaven’ to a collector, and with some help (check The Ultimate Redline Guide Volume II) you should be able to identify a later version rider by its color. 

 Most of all the U.S.-made Rumblers used a polished (metal) zinc alloy that produces a shiny appearance while the Hong Kong and Mexican castings had painted metal that was ‘wiped off’ in production to generate an antiqued or aged appearance. This, by far, is one of the easier ways to be able to tell where the casting was made. In addition to the motorcycle, Rumblers came with a track stand “training wheels”. The track stand was a unique ‘X’ shaped plastic clip-on base piece with 2 or 4 small roller wheels (that look like tiny skate board wheels) at the corners to help balance the chopper and enable it to roll upright.  The rumblers could now roll down the same track that your Hot Wheels did, adding an extra ton of play value to the toy.  This also meant that some play sets could be integrated and mixed with the Rumblers, saving money, packaging, and time in production.  The Dizzy Dare set, although very rare and hard to find, came with both Hot Wheel cars and rumblers bikes, and featured a stunt loop with some track.

HELL'S ANGELS RIDE AGAIN?

Some surplus inventory was distributed to Europe, which eventually made its way to the United Kingdom and Germany and where it was re-packaged.  These short-lived English Rumblers were called ‘Hell Riders’ and the German ones were called ‘HollenHoffers’ (German for Hell Riders). It is interesting to note the name is similar to ‘Hell’s Angels’.  I can’t say for certain there is a connection here, but the horrible events at Altamont (the Rolling Stone’s Concert) and some other bad raps that the ‘Hells Angels’ generated might have been reason the “Hell Riders” name was short-lived and pulled from the packaging.  In general, sales of toys dropped in 1973 as the United States had to deal with the gas shortage and the rough economy and consequently the Rumblers were relatively short-lived too, as mentioned before, selling for just three years. 

MR. RUMBLER

Chuck Gaugan, long-time Redline Hot Wheel and Rumbler collector from New York State, has one of the largest collections of Rumblers in the world.  He tries to get every variation of color and different styles in each casting.  When I asked him how he knows which riders came with which bikes, he said it was easy. “I try to get as many of the variations originally packaged (un-opened blister pack).  That way I know if a certain color rider and bike combination existed. The only hard part is finding the un-opened blister packs. They don’t show up at toy shows much anymore. I’ve seen collectors sell riders on Rumblers that never originally came like that. They will put a tan rider (’71) on a Bone Shaker (’73) and try to sell it as original at a very high price.  That’s were knowing your stuff comes in handy, because you know what’s what and how much it’s worth.” 

As a general rule of thumb, the pricing for loose Rumblers goes as follows:  The ’71s sell for $35-$75 on average; the ‘72s from $75-$150; and the ‘73s from about $175-$250 with the Bone Shaker more commonly selling above $300 loose.  Blistered Rumblers can fetch upwards of 2 to 3 times the price of a loose version, and depending on rare color variations or packaging, some of these toys have hit the thousand-dollar mark.  One of the difficulties in tracking prices on the higher-end pieces is that they aren't for sale too often and, of course, there are a lot less of them compared to Redlines.  Originally, the Rumblers sold on the toy store shelves for about the same 67-cent price as Hot Wheels.

CHOPPERS INCORPORATED

With the immense gain in popularity of 1:1 choppers and motorcycles over the past few years, and with household names such as Jesse James, Billy Lane and the late Indian Larry leading the pack, it is not surprising to see resurgence in popularity of Rumblers and Chopcycles also.  A lot of collectors are looking for ‘period’ toys and many find the early ‘70s toys to be very collectible and fun.  A lot of my Redline Buddies also collect Rumblers because they are gaining value and they look fantastic in a display case. The gang at ‘Orange County Choppers’ (OCC on the discovery channel & Super Bowl Commercials) might be jealous of the many great designs that Larry Wood created with the Rumblers.  I’m thinking about calling Pauly, the son (from OCC), and see if he’d be interested in building a real ‘life size’ Boneshaker!  I think this could be the start of something big. What do you think?  Perhaps one day, don’t be surprised if you walk down the road in your neighborhood and see your local mailman delivering mail in a ‘Rip Code’ Motorcycle or your neighbor pulls out of their garage on their light green Preying Menace or orange Centurion! Wild! 

SUPER WHEELS

When it comes to Hot Wheels, it doesn’t get much more collectible than the animated cars from the mid to late 70’s featuring Super Heroes from the Marvel Comics.  I call these ‘cross over collectibles’ because they are on one hand collectible by being older Hot Wheels and on the other hand they have Super Heroes such as The Incredible Hulk, Captain America or Spiderman painted on the sides.  Because of the ‘cross over collect ability’, these toy cars are desired by both Comic Book and Hot Wheel fans.  By the mid 1970’s many Comic Book Heroes where making there way onto Saturday morning television.  Starting in about 1975 it was common to see your favorite Super hero on a T-shirt, lunch box or toy.  Mattel thought it would be smart marketing and profitable to put them on Hot Wheels too.  Several examples of these are:

‘Thor’ in 1975 (casting 2880) was a standard deliver van in yellow with red, tan & blue tampo with ‘The Mighty Thor’ written on the sides and a picture of ‘Thor’. Current value: $25.

‘The Thing’ was introduced in 1977 (casting 2882) was a dark blue Ford Pinto Wagon and the Marvel Comics Superhero ‘The Thing’ on the sides in orange, black & white tampo.  It had a black plastic chassis, blue tinted windows, chrome plastic interior & engine and black wall tires.  Current Value: $20. 

‘The Incredible Hulk’ 1979 (casting 2878) was based on a customized yellow van and had ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Marvel Comics Superhero in green, black and white on the sides.  This model has a metal chassis, large rear spoiler; blue tinted plastic windows, clear blue plastic interior, two small rear windows and black wall tires.   Current value: $35.

‘Spiderman’ 1979 (casting 2877) was a black plastic car shaped like a spider with a red and white Spiderman tampo on top.  Current value: $20.

‘Captain America 1979 (casting 2879) was a white Pontiac Firebird with Marvel Comics Superhero  ‘Captain America’ written on the door sides in red and blue.  The car model had a metal chassis, blue tinted plastic windows, red plastic interior and black wall tires.  Current value:  $20.

SCENE MACHINES

 ‘As if’ a Hot Wheels with a Super hero painted on the sides was not cool enough, Mattel decided to make the Scene Machines.  Scene Machines, which is a play on words (seeing and scene), a cleverly designed mini view finder with a small view hole magnifier lens in the rear of a car that when you look through you can see an action slide (very similar to the little telescope pictures you get at the beach), but nowadays these Hot Wheel cars are hard to find especially in mint condition and command over $100 each.  Some of the most popular are ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (casting 2850), ‘Captain America’ (casting 2851) and ‘Spiderman’ (casting 2852).  Others include the rare Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus that features a picture of tigers inside, Motor Cross Team, The S.W.A.T Van and a Space Van which features a cartoon picture of men floating in space.  I was at another collectors house one day and he had just bought a S.W.A.T. Van Scene Machine.  I looked in the ‘view finder’ expecting to see a S.W.A.T. team with guns and fatigues and saw a picture of tigers.  Somehow during production the correct slide must have been switched. I joked with my friend that it was a ‘rare variation’ of Circus trained S.W.A.T. tigers!

SUPER VANS

 From my observation, it is no accident that most of the Marvel painted Hot Wheels were vans.  If fact, many of the ‘cross over collectible’ Hot Wheel castings with painted tampos are some sort of van or truck.  The reason, I believe, is that they have a larger surface for graphics and pictures.  One of the most popular casting for graphics and tampos was the Super Van casting.  From about 1975 to the early 1980’s this casting had many variations some of which are extremely rare and collectible.  The Herfy’s Restaurant chain put out two versions of this van, the 62 KGW RADIO and the KING RADIO van, which today can still be found in the original plastic baggie for about $350.  The Blue Super Van (w/ flames) is famous among collectors because it is very hard to find and valued at around $1,500 each (it’s Cousin Black Super Van w/flames valued closer to $30 is no match for Cousin’ Blue).  The Toy’s R’ US Geoffrey Van in white with an orange black and purple tampo featuring a picture of ‘Geoffrey the Giraffe’ on the sides from 1976 seems almost common valued at $400 compared to the ‘rarest’ Super Van of all.  The most ‘Super’ Super Van is ‘The Flying Colors Toy Fair Van ‘75’ with only 200 produced which was given to key accounts by Mattel at the 1975 Toy Fair valued at about $2,200.   Some of these vans where chromed for the top ten or so accounts, and they are now valued at over $4,500.  It’s good to be chromed!

After the 1980’s, aside from ‘Iron man’, which was based on a customized Corvette, there were less Action Hero’s making they’re way onto castings.  I hate to say it, but that may be a good thing for collectors.  The best part about collecting older Hot Wheels is that they are a small microcosm of things over time (now, almost 40 years).  Each decade has brought a representative time capsule of what cars looked like back then and popular events going on in the world during that time. I wonder what neat things well see in the next decades to come from Mattel….. Perhaps, Flying Hot Wheel Cars?!      

STORE DISPLAYS

Bigger than a breadbox, the very rare and illusive original store displays dioramas are wonderful and colorful mini marketing displays that Mattel designed to sell Hot Wheel cars.  The initial goal of the store display was to show the collectors and hobbyist what all the cars looked liked (similar to a salesman sample), but in a cleverly designed package to be displayed in a local toy store.  The subtle goal of the display was to attract the buyers to come back and by all the different colors and castings that were offered that particular year.  Made from no more than simple cardboard sides with a plastic view top and front, the store display really is a thing of beauty.  Uniquely designed using certain automotive related scenes and enhanced with bright colorful artwork, the store displays have become one of the ultimate Hot Wheels collectable. Who would think that a simple display used in toy stores 38 years ago (which probably cost no more than maybe $5.00 to manufacture) could become one the rarest of all Hot Wheel collectables. Today, that ‘old’ original store display is worth ‘a little’ more than $5.00 each. Some original examples of these have sold for more than $10,000 in good condition and a few (confirmed sales) excellent to mint condition ones (i.e. without cracked plastic or missing cars) have sold in excess of $20,000.   

I would compare this type of collectable to the life-size promotional movie ‘cutouts’ or posters you see in a theater lobby advertising a new movie.  The movie posters are usually up for a short period of time advertising the movie. After the initial few weeks most of them get tossed in the trash.  Not much unlike what probably happened to many of the Hot Wheel Store Displays.  Most stores may have displayed the diorama for a while, but because of it’s large size or the fact that it was difficult to display since it had to be on a counter or shelf, many were either placed in storage or thrown away.  Some savvy owners or lucky employees might have been able take one home. If you were a smart collector back then, somehow you got a hold of one by convincing the manager to give it to you or got one out of the trash.  Either way, today even the poor condition displays can realize a five-figure value. 

1968 Store Display-   The 1968 Display resembles a car dealership and is the most popular and sought after diorama to collectors not only because it is the first one, but also it contains the first year cars including some rare color variations. There are five cars in particular in this display that are different colors (Shades) than the regular production model colors.  They are the Watermelon Custom Mustang, Chocolate Brown Custom Camaro, Honey Gold Custom T-Bird (no black roof), Light Blue Custom Cougar and the Ruby Red Custom Barracuda.  These cars unique colors are specific to that casting and are not seen on the regular blistered cars.  Because these cars were only made for the store display they are extremely rare and valuable (some being valued over $1,000 each).  One of the definitive ways of identifying a store display car from 1968 is to take look at the front cowl between the hood and the windshield. Usually a glue spot will be found or more than likely some paint will be missing.  The reason is that the 1968 Store Display cars were displayed with their hood up to show that they could open to be able to see the engines.  Since the hoods on these cars don’t usually stay up too well by them selves, Mattel engineers added a ‘dab’ of clear glue between the hood and cowl to aid holding the hood open.  Many collectors see glue and/or the loss of paint (in this location) as a good thing since it further proves that it might be a legitimate store display car.  Other collectors may see it devaluing the car because of the damage; so finding a mint condition car with little or no paint loss is a rare find indeed and valuable.  

1969 Store Display-   The 1969 Displays came in three different styles:  #1 resembles a lakefront scene featuring eight European cars at a Grand Prix type race;  #2 resembles a section of the Daytona 500 Raceway with Grandstand featuring eight American cars (‘5’ racing and ‘3’ older Detroit muscles cars parked outside the track; and #3 resembles a Mountain and Tunnel City scene featuring eight cars including a police car and some concept cars.

1970 Store Display-   The 1970 Display is a ‘Four-Mural’ diorama with a white curved sloping track with 16 Hot Wheel cars of mostly concept in nature featuring some of the most popular castings Hot Wheel made including the Paddy Wagon, Jack Rabbit, and Red Barron.  Some of the cars seen on this store display were spoilers (see previous article), which were brand new for this year and were defiantly the hot collectable for this year.

1973 Store Display-   The 1973 were a cardboard unit (similar to a book shelf) that contains one example of each of the 24 cars issued that year in the original blister packaging.

1974 Store Display-   The 1974 are a gold metal display rack with white plastic header.  The artwork on the header shows a Plum Rodger Dodger, and Orange Porche’ 917 and the Hot Wheels Flying Colors logo.  The display has red, white and blue plastic vertical panels with clear plastic slots to hold the cars in place.

1975 Store Display-   The 1975 display has a light blue metal display rack with a header featuring artwork used on the 1975 blister pack.  The artwork shows a blue heavy cheavy, and Orange Porche’ 917 and a yellow Baja Bruiser streaking across the header on a white background. 

THE RAREST OF THE RARE


What’s rarer than a 38 year-old Hot Wheel Store display you ask??  The illusive English Hot Wheel Store Display!  Of course!  American Hot Wheels were going ‘head-to-head’ with English Matchbox in the late sixties so a special store display was used over in England.  The English store display was dramatically different from the American in that it was an open six-tiered white painted grandstand display made of wood.  The entire display could hold 54 cars (6 rows of 9 cars each) and had a colorful backboard illustrating a Porche’ 917 with the caption, “ Here’s why more Boys prefer Hot Wheels”.  Obviously directed at the die-cast competition in England at the time.  There are other unique early store displays such as the 1970 Canadian Store Display which is a metal floor stand that can hold punched blistered cards and features some beautiful artwork of a Custom Mustang racing down a track. As rare as the Canadian display is, it will still never rival the value of the American display or the English display which is now presently valued close to $25,000 in complete and mint condition.  Good Luck Store Display Hunting!    

I’m tired & hungry….  and I just got back from the Hot Wheels Convention in Chicago.  This convention was fantastic!  One of the best! Well worth the lack of sleep and expensive hotel food.  But before I tell you about how the story ends, let me tell you from the beginning….. 

THE TRIP

 I woke up early since I couldn't sleep.  I was too excited and I was faced with an 11-hour drive from Washington to Chicago.  It always seems it’s never a good time to go away, let alone for almost a whole week.  Too much going on at work and too much going on at home with the kids and on top of it all I was getting my driveway fixed to add to the confusion.  Regardless, I needed this.  I needed to go to the convention and buy and sell Hot Wheels.  Not to sound too spiritual, but it was my destiny and my one time a year to immerse myself in my hobby and re-connect with all my fellow collectors I have met over the years. 

I said good-bye to my wife and kids and headed out on the highway.  It was a beautiful day and a great day for a drive.  The strange thing is that I was taking this drive alone and 11 hours in a car alone seemed daunting.  At about mid point, I was finally in a groove.  The road was smooth, the air was warm and the windows part way down and the sun was shinning.  At that moment my cell phone rang.  Back to reality.  Someone from work needed something.  It is incredible that even though I was alone, driving for hours, that you would think this would be a welcomed distraction from my ‘solitude’, but it wasn't.  Unfortunately, toward the end of the trip it was getting dark and I was tired so I decided to stop and get a cheap hotel room for the night just about a hour out of Chicago, or at least I thought.  I will tell you that the cost of a room is directly proportionate to the quality of the mattress your sleep on.  Judging from the mattress I was trying to sleep on that this place was over charging even at $39.95.  Lying there looking at the ratty decor at about 5:00 am in the morning, I decided I had enough of the Cassidy Motel and headed out for what was closer to a two hour ride in Chicago traffic. 

Arriving at the O’Hare Hyatt at 7:00 am I was greeted by my friend Mark who told me nothing was going on yet and I didn't miss anything last night. Relief.  The main reason I drove was because I was taking a lot of my stuff to sell, but even more stuff for others to sell also.  I had Alan’s, a friend, 200 clean redlines and my other friends, Bruce, boxes of Hot Wheels sets and other various unique items like two 37 year old Hot Wheel trash cans.  

THE ROOM

Most everyone thinks of conventions as meetings and sponsored events, but the truth of the matter is that the best part is the room-to-room trading, buying and selling.  Some people go to the convention to buy stuff and some to sell.  If your selling stuff it is critical that you get a good room location.  I left this to my roommate Brian who naturally got one of the best rooms in the hotel based on location.  It was on the 1st floor 1st door on the right.  Can’t miss it!  On the way up to the room in the elevator I noticed people wearing name badges, but not Hot Wheel convention badges.  They were there for a pet food conference.  Pet food?  I didn’t know that there was even a need for a ‘pet food conference’.  If my dog found out that I was staying at the same hotel at the ‘pet food conference’ she would be ecstatic and would probably want me to bring a suite case full of treats home with me.  The ironic part is that the pet food people looked a little weird to us Hot Wheelers, and I’m sure all the Hot Wheeler’s invading the executive wing of this fancy hotel look certainly weird to them.  The pet food convention only lasted through Wednesday so the Hot Wheelers had full ‘rain’ of the hotel after that. 

I called my wife to give her an update and to tell her that I love her and thank her again for letting me go away for a week.  She of course starts complaining about the driveway work and wonders what the heck I’m doing all day at a Hot Wheels convention and why I don’t have time to talk to her more often.  I try to explain to her that I am so busy.  I don’t have time to even eat lunch.  There are guys here that are only sleeping a few hours a night, if that much.  I go on to tell her that it’s….wild! And I’m having a great time.  She immediately thinks… Wild?  Wild party?  It really isn’t anything like that I assure her.  Sure there are some Hot Wheel parties at night, but too many of us collectors, this is serious business the buying and selling cars (morning noon and night).

REDLINE ETIQUETTE

 One of the big issues for me was how one is suppose to upon entering and looking at another s collection of cars. If you have proper etiquette for tea parties why shouldn’t you have it for looking at Hot Wheels?  First of all, upon entering a room it is nice to say hello or acknowledge the person sitting there.  This creates a friendly basis for the relationship if the two parties become a buyer and a seller.  The true ‘cruixed’ of the etiquette issue really comes down to the proper method of looking and handling the toy cars.  In many cases the cars your looking at are very valuable.  They are also not yours until you by them.  One should always ask first to see and especially touch the cars if wanting to inspect them.  I collect redlines and the last time I looked redlines are not cheap and they are also almost 40 years old.  A fellow collector was telling me about two guys that came into his room and starting touching every car in his display case.  Everyone one!  Not to be anal retentive, but every time you touch a 40 year old cars oils from ones hands gets on the car.  This can lead to toning and wear and tear and that is not good on a $40 dollar car or a $1000 dollar car.  If you are interested in a particular car then ask the person if you can pick it up. 

There is also a proper way of picking up a rare/expensive car.  Palming the car is out of the question.  The best way to pick up a car is with the thumb and forefinger and holding the car gently between the roof and the door.  This way you minimize exposure to the body of the car.  In addition, if the car has an opening hood it is customary to hold that in place with the middle finger so as not to “chinck” the hood.  “Chincking” the hood is one of the most horrible sounds a collector can hear.  A novice collector will flip a car over to look at the base and all of a sudden you here a high pitch “chinck!” .  That is the sound of the hood flopping open, hitting the cowl.  If you look closely at the rear portion of some hoods you can see a chip mark where hoods have been “chinked” opened.  Please for the sake of all mint old Hot Wheel collectors, when flipping the car upside down to look at the base…..please hold the hood down!

One of the highlights of the week was when a guy named Redline Roger came in our room looking for things to buy.  Redline Roger is quite a character and is infamous for his comedic ways.  It was mentioned to him that the two rare trashcans that I had would make very nice Hot Wheel shoes, and for a ‘goof’ he should wear them that evening.  Low and behold he purchased the trashcans for what a person might buy and expensive pair of Nike’s and walked out of our room with them clanging together.  Although, it was funny to some, a few die-hard collectors were not amused to see very rare Hot Wheels items (trashcans) getting bent and scratched. 

BLISTER-PACK LIBERATION

Although I didn’t partake in many of the festivities that were put on by the convention folks, I did get to witness a redline ritual, the ‘blister pack liberation’.  The blister pack liberation to some may be a little sac religious, but to others it’s what this hobby really is all about.  At the event collectors bring one sealed redline blister pack and in a public forum ‘rip it’ open freeing a 35 year-old redline Hot Wheel car.  The event is usually a lot of fun and afterwards everyone displays their liberated cars for everyone else to see.    

All said and done I bought about 30 cars, sold about 30 cars and sold 40 cars for my friend Alan. I also did by some of the new convention cars that looked pretty cool. 

On my way back I could take my time driving.  I was lucky enough to stop for lunch in a little town called Archbold Ohio.  On my way to get gas I noticed a sign that said “Oberhaus Antique Cars and Collectibles”.  Almost seeming like this was too good to be true, I proceeded down the road until I came to huge warehouse.  I first saw a beautiful aqua ’56 Cadillac parked outside the side door so I walked that direction running into an elderly Gentleman.  He was the owner of the “Oberhaus” and after introductions took me inside to see an incredible surprise.  Lined up ‘side by side’ just like toy cars were at least 70 mint cars from the turn-of-the-century to about the 1970’s.  The bulk of the collection were Cadillac’s with a very cool ’58 silver roofed suicide door which is one of three and even a very rare ’77 Cadillac station wagon.  Between the Jaguars, Rolls Royce’s, and a few I can’t even remember, it was by far one of the largest private collections of vintage automobiles I had ever seen.  After my incredible visit, I told him that I collect toy cars and showed him what a 35-year-old Hot Wheel Redline looked like. He seemed impressed.  As I said my good bye I reached into my little plastic case and took out a pretty red Cadillac Eldorado Hot Wheel from 1968 and gave it to him.  I told him that he should have one more Cadillac for his car collection.  He very much appreciated the gift and soon after I was back on the road.  Only 5 more hours to go till I’m home……Boy, I’m tired and hungry…….                   

            

MUSTANG ARTICLE

One of the true Icon cars of all time…. the Ford Mustang was introduced not quite midyear May of 1964 and ever since then has dazzled car enthusiasts ever since.

Originally the brainchild of Lee Iaccoca, the Mustang used a foundation similar to the Ford Falcon, but Iaccoca wanted a sportier car that would excite and turn heads.  The low-slung car with its long sleek hood and crisp lines did turn heads, a lot of heads.  The first full year of production Ford sold almost a half a million cars.  This was unprecedented for a brand new car.  From the original 1964 ½ hard top to the convertibles, fastbacks, to the Shelby GT s and all the way to today’s fifth generation of Mustang, the spirit of the running horse lives on for many generations to come.         

The Hot Wheels Mustang casting was based on the 1967 Fastback, which was easily one of the better styles and made popular by Steve McQueen’s movie ‘Bullitt’.  The Mustang was one of the 16 original Hot Wheels made and was accompanied by several other custom muscle cars in 1968 such as the Camaro, Cougar and Barracuda.  The Hot Wheels Custom Mustang went through several early changes that made for a very interesting first year of production. Made both in the United States and Hong Kong, each casting had an opening hood, but upon closer inspection they had many significant differences. 

The Hong Kong factory was believed to have a head start in making the Custom Mustang casting since the very first cars made had an open hood scoop cut into the hood of the car. The very first colors off the production line were red and gold.  The red Hong Kong cars had red interior, black steering wheel, a flat dashboard, same color painted rear panel with no fuel cap (this would later become black painted), blue tinted glass, deep dish redline bearing 5-spoke chrome mag wheels all around, a detailed Hong Kong base showing exhaust with side pipes with 4 whole exposed suspension bar and a raked (jacked up) appearance to the stance.

The gold HK Mustangs had brown interior with a black steering wheel. Upon spraying the hood of the cars some spray would get onto the engine compartment (over spray) and this became problematic for the engineers.  They decided to go back with silver paint and touch up the engines if over spray go on them.  After a few weeks of production it was seen as a big slow down in production to check and paint each engine compartment and the extra cost factor so they got rid of the open hood scoop (OHS) on later run red and gold mustangs.  They also stopped the deep-dish wheels on the back and eventually even stopped the deep-dish wheels on the front of all HK mustangs.  After the initial run of colors different color interiors were used with the introduction of white and dark interiors colors.  

The early US mustangs had either a white or brown (dark) interior with matching small steering wheel, raised dashboard, clear glass, painted rear light panel and front grill, an outlined fuel cap, a fairly non-plain flat base with no wholes and less detailed exhaust system with side pipes, a less raked stance, and four silver painted 5 spoke mag redline deluryn bearing regular wheels.

Some fairly rare later version of the US custom Mustang was the rear louvered window was ‘ribbed’.  The blue tinted plastic windows were thought to be extra spoiler windshields and put into the US castings.   The lrw came in orange and a medium blue and always have the back rear panel of the car painted black only between the lights.  The Blue is usually a lighter than the normal blue color, but darker than a true light or ice blue color.  Some collectors say that an antifreeze or lime US Custom Mustang with louvered rear window exists, but to this day none have been indisputably verified as real.   

The mustang is fairly difficult to find in blister pack and of the colors red and gold that are usually found in blister pack very very few of them are the Open Hood Scoop type.

Usually white interiors are more desirable for this casting since it shows off the color of the car more. 

Color Chart:

1= easy            2=tough           3=very tough               4=rare              5=super rare


HK COLOR                          RARITY                    COMMENTS     

Gold                                        1                             usually toned
Red                                         1                             white interior preferred
Gold OHS                                3                             brown interior always
Red OHS                                 3                             red interior always
Copper                                    1                             tough to find untoned
Olive                                        3                            tough to find untoned
Green                                      2                             look for the white interior
Blue                                         4                             very tough to find
Purple                                      3                             Lighter purple than US purple
Pink (creamy)                          5                             only a few known, super rare
Orange                                    5                             usually dark interior, super rare
Aqua                                        4                            harder than you may think     

         

US COLOR                           RANK COMMENTS

Gold                                        2                                 Usually a thick paint that glows
Red                                         3                                  look for champagne interior
Blue non/louvered                    1                                 Different shades from deep to medium
Blue RLW                                 4                                 Usually with dark interior
Light Blue                                 3                                 Brightest of the blues
Ice Blue                                   3                                  Some call this ‘fog’ blue
Purple                                      2                                 Usually a darker/deep purple
Brown                                     3                                  chocolate brown color
Orange            non/lrw            5                                  Super rare, some looked toned red
Orange lrw                              4                                  Blue glass/white int./Check tabs
Pink (creamy)                          3                                  Commonly known as lavender
Rose                                        3                                  Rose only see on US casts
Green                                      2                                  Some look like Christmas ornaments
Olive                                       3                                   Some have matching olive interior
Antifreeze                               2                                   Almost opaque, not as shiny as lime
Lime                                        2                                  Bright/shiny
Aqua                                       2                                  Usually white interior
Watermelon (sd)                     5                                  Store Display usually with white int.     

BRUCE PASCAL ARTICLE

 THE “INDIANA JONES” OF OLD HOT WHEEL COLLECTING

When it comes to finding diamonds in the rough or should I say finding rare prototypes of old redline Hot Wheels, there may not be any better than Bruce Pascal, the “Indiana Jones” of Hot Wheel collecting.  From the “infamous” Real loader Pink Beech Bomb Prototype to the latest artwork find, Bruce plays detective and hunts down the illusive jewels of die-cast collectors everywhere.  Being a part of a long time toy car collector family, which started with his grandfather Leo Pascal, Bruce is no stranger to toys cars and automobilia. A few years back, after visiting a close friend and seeing his collection of old Hot Wheels, he started concentrating on Mattel’s old “redline-era” cars.  Somehow anticipating the resurgence of Hot Wheel popularity, he hit the ‘curve’ just right and has be a big part of the continuing success of Hot Wheel cars.

I was able to catch up with Bruce on one of his busy days to talk about his extensive Hot Wheel Collection and to discuss some of his secrets to hunting down rare and valuable prototypes.  Meeting for Lunch on K Street in Washington, DC we sat down for some “quick” discussion and a “quick” lunch.  For those of you that know Bruce or have meet him, this is how he does things. Quick!  That’s how he gets so much done in a day, he wastes no time and he uses all his nervous energies and channels them in to being extremely productive (no matter what he’s working on).  Some may say that Bruce Pascal can actually make a cup of coffee “nervous”, but lets see what he has to say.

Curtis Paul (CP):         “Your method of collecting toy cars is far different from others.  What sets you apart?”

Bruce Pascal (BP):      “I go after the rarest and the unusual.  I have a nice collection of common Toy cars, but what I really enjoy is the “one-of-a-kinds”.  For lack of a better word, Prototypes!”

CP:      “How do you accomplish this?”

BP:      “One of my first collections was Tucker Car Automobilia (Tucker made only 49 of his cars). Some of my greatest Tucker finds were from the children of employees who worked in the factory. I was able to hunt down original employee I.D. badges, cancelled employee paychecks (with Tucker’s signature), and a ton of original memorabilia from these contacts. It was amazing to discover that (old) employees of companies many times have treasure troves of items related to the company they worked for.”    

CP:      “Did that help you with Hot Wheel Collecting?”

BP:      “Yes, when I started collecting hot Wheels, I quickly discovered that the most valuable and rare Hot Wheels (Prototypes) were cars that were experimentally dealt with by the employees. These cars are considered rare because they were never released to the general public and hard to find.” 

CP:      “So, contacts are a big part of your ‘method’ of detective work?”

BP:      “With a little bit of luck and a lot of detective work, by interviewing some of the original employees from Mattel (initially to gather more information on the Rear Loader Beach Bombs) I got the opportunity to even get more information and more contacts.”

CP:      “So how did you get all the contacts?”

BP:      “After alot of phone calls and searching on the Internet I was talking to an old Mattel employee explaining how hard it was to tract down all the ‘ex-employees’ and he asked me if he could make my life easier by providing a 1968 Mattel Employee directory?  Needless to say that was a good turning point in finding more contacts.  It wasn’t just employees though.  There were also venders and individuals that Mattel used in the early days that worked on Hot Wheels such as artists and industrial design groups.  With all these names I was able to continue my Hot Wheel search.”

CP:      “Ok, now that you have given some of your secrets away, what would stop someone from doing what you have done?” 

BP:      “Well, I don’t mind sharing it, but if ‘anyone’ can find ‘someone’ now after all the years of canvassing the list, more power to them! I’ve put in hundreds of long distant phone calls, numerous plane trips and a lot of hard hours of work and money.  But most importantly, it is my reputation with the people (contacts) and my ability to be 100% fair and honest with them that enables me to deal with them and makes them want to deal with me.  If I bought an item from someone and it turned out to be more rare than originally thought I would not hesitate to send them more money for it.  Not many people out there would do that.”          

CP:      “True. Tell us more about the detective work.”

BP:      “The most important aspect of the detective work is two fold:  One (1) understanding and learning as much as I can of what it was like to work at Mattel at that time and two (2) the process of making the cars.  The knowledge of the process helps fill in the unknowns and the “blanks” on the what, where and whys of prototype production. For example, they painted some of the first run cars black to test the coverage of paint.  Most of those cars were thrown away; luckily I have a few of those.”

CP:     “In typical Indiana Jones fashion, you really jumped head first into the Hobby.

One of your very first purchases was not only notable, but also expensive.”

BP:      “I had a read an article in a paper that a Hot Wheels had sold for a record price.

A month another article reported that the sale had not taken place yet.  Figuring I was too late, I tract down the ‘article’ writer who stated that the seller of the famous Pink Rear Loader Beach Bomb was concerned about the sale going through. He had already bought a new Dodge Viper for cash.  So I got in touch with the seller and immediately put a (back up offer in) securing it with a deposit.  Thirty days later, He flew to Washington, DC and we finished the deal.”

CP:      “This is the Hot Wheel that ‘reportedly’ sold for $72,000?”

BP:      “Yes, but its rarity and value has gone up considerably since then.”

CP:      “Where is the Pink RLBB now?”

BP:      “As of today it sits in the Petersen Car Museum on display in the Hot Wheels section.”

CP:      “You sound like a proud father.”

BP:      “It’s quite an achievement, but as I said before it has cultivated from a lot of hard work.”

CP:      “Even the hard-core hobbyists may not be aware that you have found four RLBB’s.”

BP:      “Well, I did find a second pink, a purple one and another one which I would consider to be the rarest of them all; an unpainted ‘riveted’ with out the interior.  This could theoretically be the ‘prototype of prototypes’ in that it could very well be the first made of all the Rear loaders.”

Bruce has amassed one of the most impressive collections of Hot Wheels and the neat thing is that it is not just Hot Wheel cars.  A lot of the collecting is concentrated on Hot Wheels and Mattel related memorabilia items such as original Hot Wheel watches, curtains, puzzles and many extremely hard to find items such as original drawings and artwork.  If it has anything to do with early Hot Wheels, Sizzlers, or RRRumblers, then Bruce has a place in his collection for it.         

BP:      “The important aspect of collecting for me is that the item must be unique, tell a story and most importantly be in excellent to mint condition.  Unless it’s a “one-of-a-kind” protoype, it is essential that the items be in great condition.”

TS:       “What, in your opinion, are your Top Ten Hot Wheel Finds?”

BP:      “Not in any certain order:”       1) The ‘2’ pink RLBB

                                                         2) The unpainted RLBB

                                                        3) The Gas powered Thunderbird redline

                                                            4) Original Otto Kuhni Artwork

                                                       5) Original “8” Harry Bradley’s sketches

                                                            6) The Chrome Cars

                                                            7) Earliest know Matchbox-Hot Wheel prototype   
  
                                                            8) Original Hot Wheels wood models (1/10th scale)

                                                            9) ‘500’ or more Original Hot Wheel Plans

                                                          10) Original Dan Gurney Indy Eagle painting

CP:      “Can you elaborate on a few items on your list?”

BP:      “All are special, but the chrome cars are great cause they look like “Christmas” ornaments. These cars seem to get a lot of attention from collectors cause they look so beautiful.  Also, the Matchbox Mustang that could easily be the first Hot Wheel ever produced is such a cool piece. It shows how the engineers at Mattel bought a competitor’s car and fabricating it into a Hot Wheel.  All the drawings and art work are truly unique and special too since in many cases I got it through the person that did it.”

CP:      “Does any one (on the list) stand out?”

BP:      “Well, maybe not so much the most valuable item, I have, but the Gas powered car stands out (for me) because of the fascinating story it tells.  There was a gentleman by the name of Les Storman, who was an engineer and a mechanical genius who has since past away, but he put a miniature gas powered engine in a Hot Wheel.  A lot of the employees remember a very fast Smokey and smelly car racing across the concrete floor at the factory.”

“Upon talking to a previous factory employee one day I asked him if he had kept any Hot Wheels from the olden days…. he answered, No, and I was about to conclude our conversation and he perked up and said that he actually had one, but that I probably would not be interested in it since it was not a “real” Hot Wheel.  He went on to say that on the day a guy named ‘Les Storman’ retired from Mattel that he just left a car on his desk.  Guess what. The car had a gas motor. The employee decided to save it and now it is a part of the my Collection.”

 CP:      “How do you safeguard against fakes out there?”

BP:      “By getting a letter of authenticity from whom your buying it from and also it makes sense that you know who your buying from.  Luckily, I have dealt only with verified employees and I have been able to do detective work to further validate a lot of my Hot Wheels.”

CP:      “So, what’s next for you?”  

BP:      “Well, I will continue my hunt for the rare and unusual as always, but I will be on the ‘look out’ for clean redlines any where I can find them such as yard sales or at my friend Perry’s local vintage toy store the “Toy Exchange” in Maryland. www.thetoyexchange.com.  You just never know where you next redline find might be….and that is always been the thrill for me in this Hobby!”  

I would like to thank Bruce for the time he gave for me to interview him.  His website which has a ton more pictures and information on his collection is www.redlineprotos.com.                    

CHEVY CAMARO STORY

The Chevrolet Camaro is and will always be the quintessential American muscle car!  Introduced in 1967 the Camaro was Chevy’s answer to Ford’s Mustang that came out just about a year and a half before.  The Camaro was unique with its uni-body design, smaller chassis and sporty lines.  Designed and geared specifically for the ‘young at heart’, the Chevy Camaro soon became a muscle car Icon that also sported hood scoops, spoilers and big 350cc 8 cylinder engines.

When the Hot Wheel designers choose cars for the initial “sweet sixteen” it was a no-brainer that the Camaro was one of them!  In fact not only was it one of them, but many Hot Wheel experts and employees claim it was the first one tooled and assembled into production in 1968.  Such proof of evidence comes from the numerous prototypes that have been found from Mattel employee’s collections of cars with unique stamped bases, pre-production prototypes, and pictures and drawings of the casting. The evolution of the car and its changes to this casting leads us to believe that the Camaro was the true center of all the test pieces.

 What makes the Custom Camaro such a special Hot Wheels car is the number of variations it has.  ‘There is no other casting that has as many variations as the Custom Camaro!’  When you look at color variation, casting bases, interior colors, black roof vs. no black roof the permutations are almost endless.  Starting all the way back to the pre-prototypes to the prototypes to the chrome cars to the regular production cars,  the Camaro went through more incarnations then any other casting. Many collectors look specifically for early “tabbed base” or “kidney bean” Hong Kong bases or even a white enamel car as desirable variations to their collections.   

 The Custom Camaro was made in both Hong Kong and the United States and shared many attributes with the other fifteen cars produced that year, such as a lift up hood, metal chassis, and plastic interior.  One of the main differences between the Camaro and other castings was that it seemed almost random if a car got a black roof or not.  The very early Camaros (1st and 2nd month produced) were antifreeze with a matching green interior and blue with a matching light blue interior, deep-dish wheels all around, black roof and a tail panel (rear light deck) that matched the paint of the car.  Not much later (after a few weeks of production) the cars rear panel were painted black to match the roof. (Note: a rare blue car has been seen with an antifreeze rear panel variation).
  

The Hong Kong (HK) version had blue tinted plastic windshield glass, a stamped detailed base showing a gas tank and exhaust with side pipes, four square holes (typical HK) (some with kidney bean shape) showing the suspension wire for the wheels, and a flat dashboard with various colors interiors and a black steering wheel sticking through the interior. All HK Camaros have ‘door-lines’.  This is not a rare variation like in other castings. Not all HK’s have black roofs. The most common HK’s with black roof are blue, antifreeze, but several other colors such as Aqua, red, purple & orange have been seen with black roofs.  On the flip side, not all HK blue or antifreeze cars come without black roof either.  The Hong Kong version also had smaller taillights on the back panel and a painted front grill. The earliest Hong Kong cars had deep-dish wheels all around and 5-spoke chrome mag redline bearing wheels.  

 The United States (US) version came with clear plastic windshield glass, white or dark interior with matching color small steering wheel, a raised dashboard, and a less detailed stamped base with side pipes, and silver painted regular 5 spoke redline bearing wheels. The U.S. version does not have ‘door-lines’.  Some of the U.S. variations came with black roof. Not all U.S. versions had black roofs.  The most seen colors with black roof are blue, red, antifreeze, & lime.  

COLOR CHART      

 1=easy        2=tough       3=very tough       4=rare       5=super rare         

 HK COLOR                    RARITY         COMMENTS

Blue w/black roof                    1                   w/deep-dish wheels
Antifreeze w/black roof           1                   w/deep-dish wheels
Blue w/o black roof                 1
Antifreeze w/o black roof        1
Orange w/o black roof            2
Aqua   w/o black roof              2
Green                                     3
Copper                                   3
Gold                                       3
Red                                        3
Purple                                     3
Green w/ black roof                4
Aqua w/black roof                   4
Orange w/black roof               4
Purple w/black roof                 4
Pink (creamy)                         5                   Also called Lavender 

US COLOR                          

Blue w/black roof                    1
Blue w/o black roof                 1
Antifreeze w/ black roof          1
Green                                     2                   Many with blue glass
Red w/ black roof                    2
Antifreeze w/o black roof        3
Medium Blue                           3
Olive                                       3
Aqua                                       3
Lime                                       3
Purple                                     4
Orange                                   4
Light Blue                                4
Rose                                       4
Brown                                     5                     Store Display with White Int.
Pink (creamy)                          5                     Also called lavender
Gold                                        5

T-BIRD STORY

The Ford Thunderbird or “T-Bird” is as cool as the name sounds!  For over 50 years T-Birds have been cursing the streets starting in the mid 1950’s with the classic’55 and ’57 models all the way up to the newest “retro” version coming out of Detroit.Hot Wheels decided to make the current year, at that time, 1967 Custom T-Bird as one of the original 16 castings.  Considered a little bit of an ‘ugly step child’ to other Ford cars at the time, the 1967 T-Bird was neither a muscle car nor a luxury car.  It never really found a niche’ with buyers especially after the incredible styles of the 50’s.

Never the less Mattel did justice to the casting.  In some ways the Hot Wheels version of the car looks even better than the original full size version.  With it’s elongated California Custom look the 1967 T-Bird was down right Hot!The Custom T-Bird was made in both Hong Kong and the United States and shared many attributes with the other fifteen cars produced that year, such as a lift up hood, metal chassis, and plastic interior. 

The Hong Kong (HK) version all had black painted roofs, blue tinted plastic windshield glass, a stamped detailed base showing a gas tank and exhaust with side pipes, four square holes (typical HK) showing the suspension wire for the wheels, and no dashboard with various colors interiors and a black steering wheel sticking through the interior.  The Hong Kong version also had wider taillights on the back panel and an unpainted larger front grill. The earliest Hong Kong cars had deep-dish wheels all around and 5-spoke chrome mag redline bearing wheels. The earliest known casting colors came in either a gold or aqua with a black roof and dark interior. 

The United States (US) version came in both painted and un-painted black roof variations, clear plastic windshield glass, white or dark interior with matching color steering wheel, a flat less detailed stamped base with side pipes, and silver painted regular 5 spoke redline bearing wheels. Also note that the cowl on the US version has a larger gap between it and the hood than the Hong Kong version and the front grill is painted black.

The US T-Bird can be found with/out the black roof in red, purple, green, antifreeze, and gold.  The gold is a rare Store Display (SD) model and is well known for its beautiful “Honey Gold” color and white interior.  Sometimes a black roof variation is hard to find such as the red US black roof whereby the non-black roof red is easier to find.

Another variation on the US cast is the ‘door line’ (DL) and ‘truck line’ (TL).  If you look closely at the doors of some T-Birds you can see the ‘raised outline’ of doors on the side of the car and the truck also has more defined lines than the usual casting.  No one may know for sure, but all things lead to the fact that these are TNT-Bird bodies used on the regular custom T-Bird casting, which could mean that they are late production variations. The Door line casting in the T-Bird differs from the Custom Firebird in that the door line occurrence is closer to 1 in 500 as apposed to the firebird variation, which is 1 in 100.  This means the door line on a T-Bird is fairly rare and has only been seen on Gold, Aqua, and the very rare Antifreeze (only a few know).

COLOR CHART      

 1=easy          2=tough        3=very tough          4=rare            5=super rare         

HK COLOR           RARITY                  COMMENTS

(all black roofs)

Aqua                                       1                 Some w/deep-dish wheels
Gold                                        1                 Some w/deep-dish wheels
Green                                      3
Olive                                        4
Copper                                    1
Purple                                      3
Orange                                    4
Blue                                         1
Light Blue                                 3
Pink (creamy)                          3                Also called Lavender
Red                                          2

US COLOR                         

Aqua                                       1
Aqua (DL)                               4                 Not as tough as Gold/Antifreeze
Gold w/black roof                    1
Gold w/o black roof (SD)         5                Store Display only seen w/white int.
Gold (DL)                                4
Red w/black roof                     3
Red w/o black roof                  4
Green w/black roof                 3
Green w/o black roof              3
Purple w/black roof                 2
Purple w/o black roof              3
Olive                                       4
Orange                                   4
Antifreeze w/black roof           2
Antifreeze w/o black roof        3
Antifreeze (DL)                       5                    The toughest door-line to find
Pink (creamy)                         3                    Also called lavender
Blue                                        1
Light Blue                                3              

GET “ SPOILED”!!

Big, big engines, front and back spoilers and numbered decals and strips are what make’s a redline Hot Wheel a “Spoiler”.  In 1970 Ira Guilford, a Hot Wheels designer for Mattel, designed and introduced “souped-up” hot rod cars called Spoilers. Only eight models were designed in all, but those few eight have had a huge impact on little toy cars ever since.  Just like the earlier Hot wheels cars had been influenced by changing times and custom car styles, the 1970’s ushered in a time of wild clothes, big hair and flashy colors. And the 1970’s Cars were no different.  For example: The Dodge Daytona had a huge spoiler on the back; the Plymouth Barracuda had the “shaker” motor; and a lot of the cars had bright, crazy colors or stripes like the Mustang Shelby GT-350. With the addition of rear tires getting bigger and bigger (almost to the point of resembling dragster slicks) made these cars truly a ‘Sign-of-the-times’. The Redline Spoilers, being a sign-of-the-times, held true to the 1970’s roots and the motto of ‘bigger, bolder and badder.’       

Spoilers are hot! Today with the resurgence in popularity of older muscle cars, it would make sense that “Spoiler” Hot Wheels are very popular too. Out of the several hundred or so different castings of Hot Wheels, the spoilers are very near the top of desirability with collectors. The eight original models of spoilers are; The “Heavy-Chevy”, The “Boss-Hoss”, The “King-Kuda”, The “Nitty-Gritty-Kitty”, The “Sugar Caddy”, The “Evil Weevil”, The “TNT-Bird”, and the “Light-My-Firebird” which was most likely influenced by Jim Morrison of the music group the Doors (ha, ha but true). Gary Nabors, a long time Hot Wheel collector who specializes in spoilers, says, “Many of the Hot Wheels made today are influenced by the original ‘spoiler design’.  In fact Mattel’s Redline Club offers several redesigned models of the original spoilers.  It seems most every collector is looking for a good condition spoiler old or new."

  

FRONT TO BACK

From the front the “Spoilers” have a spoiler just below the front bumper.  All engines are exposed with out a hood and extend above the cowl. Each car has a big circle decal with a number on each door and racing strips on the roof and trunk and sometimes along the running board. The rear wheels are some of the biggest Mattel made for any Hot Wheel.  The big rear tires give a “jacked-up” look to the car were-by the front-end spoiler almost scrapes the ground as it rolls.  The rear got a big spoiler that would make some of the car designers at Dodge even jealous!   To top it off the cars got a spectraflame paint job (some later versions of Boss Hoss’s and Heavy Chevy’s did come in enamel paint). 

COOL FEATURES

All spoilers were made in the Hong Kong factory and therefore they all have the typical four-hole base with the exposed suspension, blue tinted windshield and door-lines. The spoilers came in less color options than other Hot Wheels (around 8 in all). One would think that making a rainbow collection would be easy, but this is not true.  Some of the spoiler colors are impossible to find such as olives and oranges.  Some other cool features would be the louvered rear glass that came on the Mustang “Boss Hoss” or the clear sliding moon roof on the “Eevil Weevil”. A black roof variation came on some Boss Hoss and the King Kudas too. This variation (covered in a previous article) has created such an uproar lately and has also seen some record high sales prices.  This unique design coupled with the special blister package art made specifically for the spoilers make them very collectible loose or blistered.

One of the most interesting aspects of the car’s production process is that some of the parts that were being made for the early “Spoilers” made their way on to other Hot Wheel cars. Since most of the spoilers were based on the “Custom” castings from the previous years of production, the body styles had a lot in common. This commonality may have lead to parts being used on different, but similar cars. Questions like “how the heck did that part get on that car” have created many sleepless nights for hard core redline collectors. For example, some of the bodies of the TNT-Bird and Light-My-Fire Bird, which have door-lines, have made their way on to Custom T-Birds and Firebirds (very rare).  A louvered rear Spoiler window shows up on an orange or blue Custom Mustang also making for a rare find.  Since the Spoilers were all made in Hong Kong and many of these parts showed up on US castings, this would mean the parts some how ‘magically’ made their way to the United States from Hong Kong.  Or maybe the tops were made here and then shipped there, which means the bases were made there and not shipped back here.  Confused??  Good, because I am and maybe that’s why some of these variations have made these cars so valuable.      

CLUB CARS

Around 1970, Mattel introduced The Hot Wheel Club.  You could mail in a form and for a dollar get a Hot Wheels Club Kit box with lots of cool stuff. In it, a Club Certificate, iron on patch and a prized Chrome Club Car.  As I date myself here, I myself sent away for the Club Kit and remember getting at the time one of the coolest toy cars of my life.  A Chrome Boss Hoss Spoiler!  Maybe this is why I like mustangs so much.  The all chrome Club Kit cars were such a hit that they made three in all.  The first one made was the Boss Hoss, and little later on the Heavy Chevy and the King Kuda got the chrome treatment for the club kits. It was hit or miss on which club car you might get, but my mom must have sent mine early for me to get the Mustang.  Even today, the all chrome cars are extremely popular with collectors.  In some cases Mattel used some chrome club cars on the regular production line and painted them over with spectra flame paint so keep an eye out for an extra shiny Boss Hoss in green or a TNT-Bird in red when redline hunting.  As for me, I still have my club car (yes my original one) and it is still in great shape.  It was so special to me that ironically I never played with it as a child.  Go figure!  



HOT WHEELS

Articles appeared in
Toy Shop Magazine
under 'REDLINE ROOTS'
between 2005-2008

1968 - 1977

Sweet '16' Hot Wheels 1968


  • Beatnik Bandit

  • Custom Barracuda

  • Custom Camaro

  • Custom Corvette

  • Custom Cougar

  • Custom Eldorado

  • Custom Firebird

  • Custom Fleetside

  • Custom Mustang

  • Custom T-Bird

  • Custom Volkswagen

  • Deora

  • Ford J-Car

  • Hot Heap

  • Python

  • Silhouette