By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)
Back when I was in the rare book trade, there was a classification called Hypermoderns. this was used to differentiate between the "Modern" classics by Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck from the collectible books that had been published in the past five to ten years. Such book's values were highly speculative in nature and subject to the whims of fad and fashion. I'm reminded of those now while looking through this latest from Bob Parker.
Parker begins this guide with 1995, the year that Mattel redesigned the marketing strategy for Hot Wheels to make them more appealing to adult collectors. That was the year we first got the New Model Series, (soon renamed the first Editions,) the four car collector sets, and of course the treasure Hunts. Due to the limitations of publishing deadlines, the book cuts off after the 2001 model year. and since the book is published by Schiffer, it utilizes the same layout of devoting the front half of the book to text and photos and the back half to the price guide. This works well enough, though all the flipping back and forth from pictures to the guide gets tiresome.
The text flows by year , giving a perfunctory introduction to each year's highlights. The pictures are inconsistent. Parker uses excellent large prints of the First Editions, but photographs the four car sets together in their blister packs. This means much smaller pictures of each car with details obscured by plastic and glare. since the defining element of most of these series is the tampos, this is frustrating. Most of these cars are not that valuable so there is no great reason for keeping them in the blister. The Treasure Hunts are also pictured in blister but this is more understandable. At least the size of the prints is increased for the T-Hunts. Still a lot of detail is lost in the reproduction. surely there are enough open collections available for photographing that would make this difficulty un-necessary. Curiously, although the text lists the final Run series, these are not pictured. Nor are most of the limited Editions that have been produced since 1995. These are, however, included in the price guide.
Parker dedicates a chapter to the Hot Wheels Legends series, photographing them out of their Plexiglas display cases. He also has a chapter for the 100% Collectibles line. But these are pictured in the display cases. This is all right for the multi-car sets since they usually come with original artwork on the packaging. However, for the black box singles, this results in models vanishing into black holes, particularly the darker painted models. Since the black box packaging doesn't change, couldn't one have been shown as an example and the rest opened for photographing?
Another chapter that Parker does well, and on a subject I think has been neglected till now, is the Action Packs. These two car sets had their own original artwork and the packaging is bright enough not to obscure the models contained therein. further, the pics are large enough to more detail of the cars can be seen. It would have been nice to have these opened for picturing too, but isn't as necessary as elsewhere.
Some have described Parker as an alternative to Michael Strauss, and like Strauss, Parker has affiliated himself with a collector's convention. In this case it's the Wild Week-End of Hot Wheels that takes place in the North-east each year, and Parker has a brief description, along with the only limited editions pictured in the book. Parker also includes a write-up and Pictures of Randy's Wooster Street Pizza, which has been turned by its owner into a Hot Wheels Mecca. As one whose traveling budget is limited to all-too-brief family vacations, Randy's is on the list of places i want to visit before I die. More pictures of Randy's and maybe an interview with the man himself would be a welcome addition.
The growth of Hot Wheels as a collectible since 1995 has been a remarkable story. Where the hobby will go in the future is anybody's guess. the fate of many hyper-modern books has been to lose popularity and value once the spotlight was off them. Hot Wheels as collectibles may suffer the same fate. Parker's attempt here to chronicle the collectible market through its recent hot phase is commendable, and he's got the makings here for a much better second edition. The first edition has an overall feel that it was published just because the interest is high enough to sell a few copies. With a little more effort this could be a much more valuable resource.
HOT WHEELS the Recent Years by Bob Parker is published by Schiffer books ISBN 0764316990 and retails for $29.95.