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
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
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
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