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Hot Wheels convention custom swap and 'Death Race' Ford pickups in the foreground, with custom GTOs behind them, from the 2012 event, as built by my son Nick.

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Don't Call Them Toys - Getting Started Collecting Scale Automotive Replicas, Part 3
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By: Tim Sickle

To briefly recap, in the first installment, we had a bit of a history lesson on the earliest diecasts, while in the second installment we discussed the basics in order to get started in building a diecast collection. In this, the final installment, I will attempt to depict how deeply one can get involved in this "little hobby."


There are different methods to store cars, depending on your immediate needs. In the case of Hot Wheels, some collectors may go to the extreme of buying a case of cars (72 count), and simply not even opening it!

As far as collectors are concerned, to be worth "all the money," every aspect of the cars they purchase as "investments" must be perfect. This even applies to the "blistercard" (the cardboard card artwork behind the car) - they go to great pains to ensure that it does not get bent, thereby decreasing its value. There are available, single, formed plastic cases, known as "clamshells", in which one can safely store diecasts to keep them in such condition. They are relatively inexpensive, at $7.99 for a quantity of 10, and they ARE reusable. They are even sized to fit regular Hot Wheels and a series known as Ultra Hots, because their packaging size is different. Try Hot Wheels for these.

For collectors and/or customizers who actually open their cars, there are available, at some mass market retailers, frosted plastic 48-count double-sided cases. If memory serves, they sell for no more than about ten bucks apiece. And it sure beats having all those loose cars sitting around, if they are not protected in a display case.

Diecast Magazines

With the popularity of this genre, it is no surprise that there exists a diecast magazine or two to deal with this expanding hobby.

The Diecast Magazine sells for $7.95 (US) per issue, but appears to be well worth it. It is published quarterly, with a subscription costing $25.95 per year for US subscribers. Meanwhile, Diecast X magazine is another diecast magazine choice available by subscription (8 issues a year) for $26.00, or $6.99 newsstand single-copy price. The Diecast Magazine seems to be a higher-end magazine (a point echoed by their website, which characterizes it as "the magazine for serious collectors"). It is printed on very nice, heavy glossy paper, appearing, on the surface, to be well worth it.

Both magazines feature columns by staff members, a section which focuses briefly on diecast news and new diecast releases, and previews and reviews of current and upcoming diecasts in scales from 1/64th up to and including 1/12th. Both magazines seem to be jam-packed with info for diecast collectors.

Looking at these two magazines, it is nothing short of incredible to see the sheer extent of the many and varied diecasts available - the subject matter, scale, execution and, in some cases, exclusivity (i.e., low production numbers, which directly correlates to price!). I've picked up several copies of both at the local bookstore, but have yet bitten the bullet to subscribe to either one.

Collector's Price Guides

With the focus on buying and collecting diecasts, someone obviously saw a need for collector's guides, in both print and online formats. These guides can be brand-specific, i.e., Hot Wheels, or Johnny Lightning, or more general in nature.

There have been several of these guides published on Hot Wheels. Tomart's, for example, published a Price Guide in a two-volume set (Sixth edition). Judging by the edition, co-authors Michael Thomas Strauss and James Garbaczewski have been at it a while, and have been busy fine-tuning them to make them as user-friendly as possible. This printing is current up though 2008.

That said, these are jam-packed with almost everything (including the kitchen sink) such as history, and wheel and marking identification, just to name a few. They are more than reasonably priced at only $29.95 each, a bargain for the amount of information included between the softbound covers.

Additionally, James Garbaczewski publishes a Hot Wheels newsletter. Included within its color cover and black and white pages are items such as what's new, variations, classifieds, club meeting listings, and, occasionally, the history of a given tool, i.e., the '70 Superbird, for example. Convention ads and coverage also shows up, when available. Subscriptions by mail are $35 for six issues plus updates.

Tomart Publications did much the same for cross-town rival Johnny Lightning. This softbound volume includes pictures of almost every Johnny Lightning car made (including White Lightnings) from 1969 to mid-2001. It bears a 2001 publication date, with the price being in the ball park with the Hot Wheels version.

Fear not - Matchbox hasn't been ignored, but this time it wasn't Tomart. Two guides - Matchbox Toys 1947 to 2003: Identification & Value Guide (Fourth edition, copyright 2004), and The Other Matchbox Toys 1947-2004: Identification & Value Guide (copyright 2005), were published by Collector Books of Paducah, Kentucky. This one is an organized, alphabetical guide to Matchbox values and variations.

As far as determining the value of a diecast or a collection, the Tomart guides are quick to point out that their price listings are averaged from collectors' and dealers' reports of prices paid in the months prior to publication from sales across the US. Auction results are not used in this process. The prices in their guides are for mint, loose cars, and mint cars complete with original packaging.

To help provide a more objective determination of grade, the guide suggests the following point system:

Deduction Feature

1 point small, barely noticeable scratch
1 point slight decal wear
1 point slightly tarnished base
1 point minor wear on wheel (1 point per wheel)
2 points up to three barely noticeable scratches
2 points noticeable wear on wheels
2 points slightly crooked tampo
3 points clearly crooked tampo
3 points substantial decal wear
3 points tarnished base
3 points wheels show considerable wear (3 points per wheel)
5 points small, noticeable scratches
5 points up to 2 small dark spots
10 points very noticeable dark spots
14 points very noticeable scratches
20 points reproduction parts
40 points majority of paint missing
50 points parts missing

Note the point deduction for reproduction parts. Such parts are available, but their use dramatically reduces their value. These parts should only be used for a collector's personal pleasure, not to increase resale value.
At this point, you would total up the points to arrive at the car's value. The table below would provide an idea of the car's condition:

0 points - mint (10)
1 point - near mint to mint (9)
2 points - near mint (8)
6 points - excellent to near mint (7)
9 points - excellent (6)
20 points - fine (5)
25 points - very good to fine (4)
30 points - very good (3)
35 point - good to very good (2)
40 points - good (1)

The numbers in parenthesis following the conditions are based on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being mint, and 1 being good.

Prices for a $100 mint (10) car are as shown below. Again, the 1-10 numeric scale number ratings follow in parenthesis:

near mint to mint (9) - $85
near mint (8) - $80
excellent to near mint (8) - $65
excellent (5) - $50
fine (5) - $30
very good to fine (4) - $20
very good (3) - $15
good to very good (2) - $10
good (1) - $5

Note: Bear in mind that these prices are several years old, and have likely increased since the last printing in 2006.

The downside to almost every one of these guides derives from their publication dates. They are anywhere from four to eleven years out of date - a lifetime in current collector's circles. Since that time, the collector's market has not only blossomed, it has exploded.

As far as online guides go, there exists a website simply chock full of information, both pricing and identification. The site is the South Texas Diecast Collectors website. What sort of things beyond simple pricing is available on this website, you ask? A very important section is the portion of the website that attempts to catalog the cars by year, giving release info, names, and pictures (when available). They have the original redlines, Treasure Hunts, mainline cars, and numerous other special series and lines of Hot Wheels cars. I never realized there were so many different ones. How about something as basic as a wheel identification guide? Can you believe that there have been 84 wheel variations used on Hot Wheels?!

Most importantly, they have a diecast collector's forum where, once you register, you are free to post Hot Wheels-related pictures and information, or ask questions. There are several individual forums focusing on specific subjects and/or lines. For example, there exist a Meetings and shows - local & National board, wherein you may post local meetings, shows & conventions.

Beyond that, the forums are broken down by lines, i.e., Mainline, Redlines, and Cool Collectibles, for example. It is hoped that people posting may be able to help the South Texas Diecast Gang update their website with missing info from any of the multiple Hot Wheels series of cars, play sets, and track sets.

If that one is not to your liking, try the Online Redline Guide for a different approach. This website is geared mainly towards, as its name implies, the redline era cars. It is more of a reference, as it includes pictures of many of these early vehicles, along with listings of them by number segregated by year. For anyone who owned (and maybe still owns?!) vintage Hot Wheels, this site is a trip back in time!

Hall's Guide is another good website with an important difference - it appears as though they cater not only to Hot Wheels, but several other diecast lines as well. A quick scan of their website revealed references to Matchbox, Maisto, JADA Toys/DUB City, Johnny Lightning, M2 Machines, and a few other miscellaneous manufacturers.
This website features a diecast collector's forum, much like the South Texas Hot Wheels website. Here the forum is segregated by manufacturer, as well as "Variations" and "Customizing" sections. Another feature that sets this site apart is the fact that it appears as though the ability to buy and sell diecast cars is possible here.

Oh, before I forget - I've included a few links below for those of you interested in starting those collections! So, what are you waiting for? Time's a wastin'.

Diecast Manufacturers uk/ Brooklin Classic Metal Works Danbury Mint Franklin Mint Green Light
Highway 61 Hot Wheels Jada Toys Johnny Lightning Lane Automotive Maisto Matchbox M2 Machines Motormax Muscle Machines (Funline Merchandise Co., Inc.) New-Ray Toys, Inc. Sunstar Welly Yat Ming

Online Retailers Collectible Diecast Diecast Alley�Lane Collectibles Liberty Promotions One Stop Diecast Performance Years Enterprises Replicarz Supercar Collectibles

Online Auction Sites eBay Go Motor Bids Scoomer

Online Price Guides Diecast Price Guide Diecast Registry Diecast Search both Hot Wheels AND Matchbox
The Online Redline Guide - mainly photos and information about the redline era Print Price Guides South Philly Diecast South Texas Diecast Collectors Tomart's Price Guides Toy Mart, a toy price guide

Magazines Diecast X magazine The Diecast magazine

Bibliography Brooklin Corgi UK Corgi USA Corgi Classics (1956-1995) on Wikipedia Die-Cast Promotions/Highway 61
htttp:// The ERTL Company on Wikipedia Johnny Lightning on Wikipedia (home page) Johnny Lightning
Johnny Lightning History Matchbox History on Diecast-Utpoia Racing Champions History on Funding-Universe

Here we have an example of a magazine that caters to diecast collectors.

Yet another example of a diecast collector's magazine.

The last version of the Hot Wheels price guide, dating from 2006. Looks as though it's time for a new one.

An example of a newsletter published by one half of the team responsible for the Tomart guide.

This silver variant of the wagon built by Nick was part of an auction to raise money for charity at the Hot Wheels convention.

Here is another of Nick's custom creations - a Hot Wheels '67 GTO station wagon, alongside the car before its 'transformation.'

Here is a complete set of the "Back to the Future I, II, & III" DeLoreans from Nightstalker. The 'extra' car comes from part 3, where it originally appeared with wide whitewalls, and ended up with locomotive rims for the final jump 'Back to the Future.'

With Nightstalker carrying his 'movie theme' a step further, here we have the 'Stars' from the Mel Gibson 'Mad Max' and 'Road Warrior' movies.

Nightstalker also built these Hot Wheels cars and rigs.



For something a little different from Nightstalker, how about a beat up Studebaker pickup, complete with snowplow?

Nightstalker's 'Altered Reality' is what Night Stalker christened this set, consisting of a '55 Chevy panel and a '64 Ford Galaxie. He scatchbuilt the chassis, and hinged the hood and trunk on BOTH vehicles.

Now for something a bit different - here, from Spiked Banana is a radical piece of work, a '64 Continental convertible, featuring a folding hardtop, ghost flames, and steerable wheels. Bear in mind that this is a 1/64th scale Hot Wheels car!

Here is a display case with but a small portion of MY collection.

Here is another, smaller, case with more of my collection on display.