Collector's Bookshelf
By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)

Howdy folks. My name is Raymond McKee, and I'm known as 'The Southern Gent". Those of you who have seen me around on some other hobby sites will know me as being very easy-going, but opinionated about our mutual obsession.,1:64 diecast cars. Doug has graciously offered me the space here on Tales of Toy Cars to regularly cover a subject that, till now, has been largely overlooked: books about our hobby.When the shelves are bare of new product, and the flea market trip comes up a cropper, and you can't win an auction to save your life, what's a diecast collector to do to satisfy the craving? Hit the books, of course! There have been dozens of reference books and price guides published about our little toy cars, and there are hundreds of books on real cars and car culture to set us dreaming about what we would make if we owned the factory. Fortunately, I work for a major bookstore chain, so I get to see all these awesome books without having to bleed my wallet too dry to buy toy cars. So let's start with a title that just recently hit the shelves.

Hot Wheels 1968-1972 by Bob Parker

I've always thought Bob Parker was cursed with unfortunate timing. After all, he has been publishing guides to Hot Wheels for years but has always been overshadowed by Strauss's Tomart guide. Now as a supplement to the Fourth edition of his general guide, published in 2000, Parker has brought out this guide to the classic Redline era. Now, before we go any further, let us all repeat together Rule Number 1 for all price guides, "A price guide is merely that, a guide; and nothing contained therein need be taken as absolute, set in stone, gospel truth. It is only there to give you a general feel for the market to give the buyer and the seller some common ground on which to begin their negotiations. Markets may shift, opinions may vary, and values that may apply in one circumstance need not be applied universally in all cases." The problem, of course, with any published book guide is that it takes anywhere from six months to a year to go from manuscript to finished copy. In that time, an active market will experience fluctuations, making any guide last week's news, and no market in diecast has been more wildly in flux than classic Redlines. Cars that I saw regularly traded for $10-20 when I started collecting are now bringing incredible prices, mostly through online auctions, and the $1000 redline is no longer uncommon. How one goes about staying on top of a market as volatile as diecast has been is a daunting task to say the least, and one I don't envy. Now with that out of the way, let's look at the book.

The cover promises 221 color photographs, and they take up the first 50 or so pages of the book. They are printed larger than Tomart's and I commend Bob for not merely recycling the pictures from his 2000 general guide. It looks like there have been some upgrades in Bob's collection over the past two years, and he obviously tried to shoot the best examples. Still many of the cars depicted are far from mint. Bob has done a good job of showing the variations in the various spectraflame colors, for instance, giving examples both of metallic hot pink and salmon pink, on the Porsche 917. Of course the pictures only make up one fifth of the book, the other four fifths is the price and variation guide.

For his guide, Bob has made an exhaustive effort to include every color combination and variation ever produced during the golden years. The result can be overwhelming. For example, opening the book at random, I find that the Custom Fleetside entry takes over two pages to cover some 160 variations. But for all those variations, Parker gives only mint in package values for each listing. Values are rounded off to the nearest $5, or the nearest $100, where applicable. Although I'm hardly an expert , the values given seemed roughly in line with what I would expect. The above mentioned Fleetside ranges from $60-135 for the rarer variations. Parker lists his abbreviations and notations in the front of the guide, and they are easy and clear enough to follow. The guide is laid out in alphabetical order for each year of production, easy enough if you know the production year of the car you are looking for. While moving around the book I found myself wishing for an index to make it easier to whisk right away to the entry I wanted. Also, this is not the book to give you a lot of background information about the cars, or why certain variations exist. A little back story, along with some pictures worked in would have broken the monotony of page after page of listings.

What sets Parker's guide apart from others is his inclusion of the Gran Toros cars, Hot Wheel's first foray into 1:43 scale. Parker explains what separates t the Gran Toros from earlier cars made by the Italian Mebetoys Corporation, and from other models made after Mattel acquired Mebetoys. Bob gives values and excellent photos of the 25 Gran Toros models. Noting that several of the regular Hot Wheels line were made as Gran Toros, it would be nice to see some of the Gran Toros be recreated in the 1:64 line today.

Bob Parker's guide to Hot Wheels 1968-972 is either a redliner's ultimate fantasy, or a redline completist's most frustrating nightmare. Redlines have shown an astronomical rise in prices over the past 12 years I've been collecting, and are the only diecast cars to consistently maintain those high values. The continuing demand of new collectors entering the hobby, and the heavy trading and sales at auction will soon render the values here obsolete. The good news is they aren't making any more classic Redlines so the variations list will always be good. While not specifically aimed at the casual redline collector, such as myself, it does make for a nice afternoon of fantasizing what I could do with an unlimited bank account.

Hot Wheels 1968-1972 by Bob Parker, isbn # 0764314807, retails for $29.95.