O F F - T H E - S H E L F

The following editorial reflects the personal thoughts of Doug Breithaupt relating to our common hobby of miniature cars. It is intended to generate discussion relating to 'Tales of Toy Cars'. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.


Mirror Images from Maisto and Mattel
by Doug Breithaupt

Under-a-dollar diecast cars are still one of the best values on the toy market. There is little question who the 600 pound gorilla is in this market. Mattel controls the Hot Wheel and Matchbox lines, the two market leaders. The Corgi 1:64 scale line was also swallowed by Mattel with castings re-released as Hot Wheels. Most of the remaining competition is either from old-world firms like Majorette, who seems to be lowering their profile in the United States, or the inexpensive Asian diecast from Yat Ming, Real Toy and Red Box (formerly Zee Toys). Up-scale products from Johnny Lightning, Racing Champions, Siku, Tomica and others all cost more than one dollar.

One company has quietly become a major player in the small-scale diecast world. Maisto is best known for the dramatic way they have moved into the 1:18 scale market over the past 10 years. Their 1:24, 1:43 and 1:36 scale products are also value leaders on store shelves. Maisto clearly states that their 1:64 scale products are for the toy market yet collectors are seeing something more.

The six cars here are all 1998 or 1999 offerings from Maisto and Hot Wheels. The major difference between these two manufacturer's products is price. Hot Wheels sell from $.79 to $1.49 at most stores. Maisto cars usually retail for $.49 to $.99, often half the price of Hot Wheels. Is it any wonder that collectors are being drawn to the Maisto line?

It is interesting to compare the quality of these two manufacturers. The two Pronto models represent a show car, originally produced as a Plymouth. Maisto offered it in 1998 while it became a 1999 Hot Wheel. Who did a better job with this car? The Maisto casting is the better of the two. Notice the door lines and the way the top was painted on the Maisto car. The Hot Wheel top is lower than it should be. Maisto has recently gone to blue windows and no interiors on their closed cars but how much of the Hot Wheel interior can be seen in the smoked glass anyway? Maisto also uses an older, low-tech wheel on their cars but it is reasonable for this price-range. The Maisto color is closest to the real car.

The two Dodge Copperhead models offer an even more dramatic contrast. The body and interior of the Maisto model are much better than the Hot Wheel model. The Maisto version is again in the correct color while the Hot Wheel is more orange than copper. The Dodge badge is nicely printed on the Maisto car and headlights are painted. The Hot Wheel offers new-style wheels but little more.

The last two cars are examples of the classic '70 Boss Mustang. The printing on the Maisto car is far superior and the overall shape seems closer to the real car. The Maisto wheels are a bit better on this 1999 issue and the overall quality of the casting is quite good. If rubber tires, detailed paint and an interior were offered on the Maisto car it could compete with Matchbox Premier Edition models. If you owned the real car and had to choose between these two toy examples which would you want?

Perhaps Maisto should simply be happy to remain the best of the bargain-basement small-scale diecast toys. It would be nice to see what they could do with these castings if they spent another $.20-$.50 per model. Hot Wheels does offer some very good models in their regular line. While painting detail could certainly improve, the overall value of the product is still very good. Hot Wheels have always been more of a caricature of the cars they represent. Maisto works harder to provide a true miniature representation of real cars in real colors. Sure these are toys and let's hope that does not change. If kids can't afford these the charm of toy cars will be lost. It's bad enough that adults are cleaning out the store shelves before the kids can hope to find these toy cars. Many Hot Wheels never even get to the shelf before they are sold to the hawkers who mark them up for rabid collectors.

At least the Maisto cars can be found on the shelves for now. Maybe it will be better is collectors and re-sellers don't take an interest in these fun little cars.

Plymouth Pronto Cruiser by Maisto

Chrysler Pronto by Hot Wheels

Dodge Copperhead by Maisto

Dodge Copperhead by Hot Wheels

1970 Ford 'Boss' Mustang by Maisto

1970 Ford 'Boss' Mustang by Hot Wheels

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