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 e-mail.

Is your toy car collector case half full or half empty?

In looking at the toy car hobby, it's easy to focus on the negatives. The prices for the most desirable new and vintage models are higher then ever before. The financially naive still think Hot Wheels can make them rich and they have become the poster children for the 'ugly' collector. Online auctions have created a frenzy lifestyle for many collectors as they try to follow and win bids for the items they want. All of this is real but to focus on it is un-necessary and it defeats the purpose of collecting toy cars, to have fun.

On the positive side of the ledger are much more important trends. The variety and quality of diecast cars has never been better. At the same time, new toy car prices over the past 40 years have really seen little inflation, especially if you are willing to be patient and wait for that new model to become a common item on store shelves. Online exchange has made it possible to add an incredible variety of models to our collections, from every corner of the world. You don't have to use the auctions, simply making trades with other collectors is often far more satisfying. The number of new manufacturers in the 1:64 scale market has jumped over the past several years with it not uncommon to see a new name every few months.

If as a collector, you can avoid the areas of our hobby frequented by the opportunists and hoarders, life will be much easier. Yes there are people who visit every store in their area several times a week but who cares? I still find it possible to get most all the new models, even though it may be several months after the new casting hits the pegs. I visit most of the stores in my area every 6-8 weeks and I find that is often enough to get most of what I want. If I do miss a sale or special item, it usually shows up down the road for about the same price. I almost never buy new diecast at toy shows. Why pay more for an item I can find if I am willing to wait a bit?

Hot Wheels have been the bait used to create the current feeding frenzy for diecast cars. Now Matchbox, Corgi, Tomica and even Playart have all become targets of 'crazy dollar' values. People are actually paying over $1,000 foe individual 1:64 scale toy cars! I freely admit that this level of collecting is as foreign to me as speaking Chinese. Only a few times have I spent over $10 for any 1:64 scale model and then only after years of searching for a particular item. This past month I spent $15 for a rare Mini Lindy 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix and that is the most I've ever paid for a single 1:64 scale toycar. You can build an amazing collection and never spend more that $5 per car. Toy shows and garage sales are still an excellent source for cheap toy cars. Thrift shops and even small antique/collector stores can also be a good place to check. Trading with other collectors via online forums is one of the best ways to increase your collection. I often send Johnny Lightning and Racing Champions models overseas in exchange for Tomica or Guisval models that are seldom seen in the US.

Try to establish trading partners in Europe, North America and Asia in order to cover the major distribution bases. Don't forget that countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Australia, Argentina and Brazil are also places to find interesting new and vintage diecast models. If you have decided that you must own every Hot Wheel variation or NASCAR model produced, my philosophy of collecting will not work for you. My guess is that few visitors to this webzine fall into either of these camps. If you simply want to build a nice collection of models you like, then we may be moving in the same direction. Perhaps I'm just a 'collector case half full' person but I think the good things happening in our hobby greatly out-weigh the bad.

Share your thoughts on this topic with me and I'll put it in the next issue. Send to: doug@breithaupts.com.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix by Mini Lindy
Is it worth the $15 I decided to pay?

In this condition, this rare 1973 Hot Wheel Double Header might be worth over $100. It was found for me at a garage sale for just ten cents. I would not have paid over $10 for this fantasy car, regardless of value. Remember, it's not 'what is it worth?' it's 'what is it worth to you?'