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

Today's Hottest Diecast Vehicles, edited by Elizabeth A Stephan

This release from Krause Publications is now over two years old, a very long time in today's volatile collectibles market. Krause is a familiar name to toy hobbyists in general, and to diecast collectors in particular, for publishing Toy Cars and Vehicles Magazine. Elizabeth Stephan is also a familiar name, having been the editor for the encyclopedic 'Brian's Collecting Toy Cars and Vehicles. This volume only deals with the seven most popular brands of diecast: Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Johnny Lightning, Racing Champions Corgi, dinky and Tootsietoy, giving a general overview of each, and a spectrum of models and prices. The result is a book that, while well-intentioned, tries to do too many things at once.

The Book takes the various brands in alphabetical order, rather than ranking them in popularity. Most of the photography is black-and-white, although there is a color section in the middle of the book. Many of the older subjects are in less than pristine condition. In fact, some are what I would term "sandbox specials'. Krause is inconsistent with the way it lists prices and values. For some brands, there are listings for condition for Good, Excellent, and Mint. For others, the classification is for mint, not in pack, and for mint in pack. For many of the modern castings, particularly the Hot Wheels numbered packs, there is only a listing for mint in pack. While there may be justification for the way it was done, it comes across disjointed and unbalanced.

As for the coverage of the various brands, the experienced collector is going to notice some glaring omissions. The Corgi section apparently does not cover their 1:64 line: no mention of Corgi Jr.s, or Whizzwheels or Huskys at all. Since the majority of this book concerns primarily 1:64 scale toys one almost wonders if something were left out by accident. Another item notable for its absence in the Johnny Lightning section is any mention of White Lightnings. Since Johnny Lightning started the whole chase car concept in diecast collecting, it is rather odd that Johnny Lightning's chase cars should be left out. The chapter on Racing Champions deals only with their NASCAR racing collectibles and completely ignores their non-racing lines, and doesn't even mention their stock rods line in racing liveries. The Matchbox chapter covers the 1-75 line and the Models of Yesteryear but says nothing about premieres or Matchbox' other side lines.

In contrast, the Hot Wheels section is very inclusive indeed, with redlines, blackwalls, number cards, treasure hunts, first editions, four car series, (!), and some limited editions. All told, I would guess the Hot Wheels chapter makes up at least one third of the entire book. One wonders why they didn't go ahead and make a book solely about Hot Wheels.

I'm a little puzzled by the inclusion of Tootsietoy in this book. Granted, Tootsietoys were the first diecast cars, and there are some impressive values listed here, especially for the early ones. Still these seem out of place among all the baby-boom era and beyond 1:64 scale diecast lines. Perhaps it's because I move in different collecting circles, but I don't hear the buzz for Tootsietoys like I hear for the other brands covered here. It seems to me there are many other manufacturers left out that could just as easily been included as they have at least as strong a following. So why did they go with Tootsietoy instead of Tomica, or Majorette, or some other deserving line?

One final note: this book is dedicated to the memory of Jon Brecka, a diecast columnist for Krause Publications who succumbed to injuries sustain in a car crash just before Christmas 2000. I suspect that much of the work, particularly in the Hot Wheels chapter, was his. Overall, the book is a pleasant enough read and has a few choice nuggets of information in the overviews of the brands contained herein. I wouldn't' mind having them collected together without the guide. I have seen no indication that Krause intends to update the price guides any time soon, however, so I would probably prefer to invest my money in a subscription to their excellent diecast Magazine.

Today's Hottest diecast Vehicles, edited by Elizabeth A Stephan, ISBN0873419189 retails for $24.95.

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