By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)
Dana Johnson, of the Toy Car Collectors Association has out a new edition of his Toy Car Collector's Guide. I first encountered Dana several years ago when we were both semi-regular posters on the newsgroup rec.toys.cars. Dana exhibited then a near encyclopedic knowledge of diecast cars, and now he has written the encyclopedia. The Toy Car Collector Guide features over 800 brands and manufacturers of diecast, white metal, and other related automotive toys and collectibles. If you have picked up some unidentified item at a toy show or a yard sale, the odds are very good you can find something about it here.
Dana uses his introductory pages to give a history of diecast cars, and to explain his take on several issues in collecting, such as value, condition, and the secondary market. Of particular interest is his use of the word 'new' in place of 'mint' when describing condition. Dana plainly expresses his distaste for the term 'otherwise mint' in describing items that are less than perfect. He also provides a very useful graph comparing model scales and the corresponding gauges used in model railroading.
The bulk of the book is, of course, the listings of the brands and manufacturers. Dana begins each entry with a brief overview of the company, how long they have been in business, and when they ceased if they are out of business. Each listing includes all the scales in a company's repertoire with a cross section of known models and values. Dana's stated goal is not to give exhaustive lists of each company's total production but many of the entries are fairly extensive. The book is illustrated with many fine color photographs, but the pace of their inclusion is not uniform. One can go for many pages without seeing a picture, and then find a section with many photos scattered through it. I suppose this reflects the author's own collection.
Perusing the pages becomes a jaunt through the minutae of diecast production world-wide. Johnson often refers to fellow collectors who have turned up all sorts of obscure and forgotten diecast toys. I suspect many of Dana's entries have not been updated since the previous edition. I noticed the Johnny Lightning entry listed nothing newer than 1999. The entries for Majorette and Matchbox are both particularly extensive, 22 and 28 pages respectively, and Johnson does cover the whole 1-75 line of Matchbox, including the odd numbers 76-79. I was surprised to find out that Tiger Wheels are not included. Perhaps they were too new at press time to have made this printing.
Dana closes his book with an item of particular value: a list of resources that consists of various collecting clubs. Dana gives addresses, emails, websites, and where applicable, who to contact, along with descriptions of club publications and the costs of subscribing. However, some of his information is out of date. I noticed that he lists the old subscription prices for both the Hot Wheels Newsletter and the Johnny Lightning Newsflash. You might want to verify prices before sending any checks.
Speaking of Hot Wheels, Dana's dis-interest in Hot Wheels is strong enough for him to include a comment in the author information at the front of the book. Although he accurately states that Hot Wheels are already adequately covered by several other authors, the same is true for several other brands as well. Hot Wheels get just three pages in this tome, covering primarily the classic redline era.
Toy Car Collector's Guide is published by Schroeder Publishing Co. and retails for $19.95, ISBN 1574322478.