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'.

The Golden Age of Diecast Cars

Were your part of the golden age of diecast cars? Do you remember trips to your favorite store to add a new diecast car to your collection? Do you remember hearing about a new model from a friend and searching all the stores to find one for yourself?

You should have no trouble remembering. We're not talking about the 1950's, '60's or '70's. The golden age of diecast cars is today.

Forget the regular wheel Matchbox, the first generation 'red-line' Hot Wheels and all the other 'classic' diecast for a minute. Sure, these are great collectibles but compared to what is being offered today in the diecast market, these 'classics' pale in comparison.

Don't get me wrong, I love the older diecast and search diligently to add the missing pieces to my collection. At the same time, on a regular basis, I am buying the best diecast I have ever seen, fresh from the packages. For $1 to $5 today, you can buy the best 1:64 scale cars of Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Majorette, Racing Champions, Johnny Lightning, Tomica, Yatming, Siku, Guisval, Maisto, Real Toy and others. For about $20 and up you can buy the wonderful 1:18 scale diecast offered by Anson, Maisto, Bburago, Ertl, Mira, Guiloy, Solido, Majorette, Jouef, and many more. For collectors of 1:43, 1:32 and 1:24 scale diecast the offerings are just as plentiful.

Prices have never been better. The price of diecast cars has actually declined over the past 30 years when inflation is considered. If you paid $.49 cants for a new Matchbox car in 1969, and today you can buy a new Matchbox car for $.99 cents, you are actually paying less than $.49 cents in 1969 dollars. When 1:18 scale diecast cars were introduced by Bburago and Polistil in the 1970's, they went for the same price as they do today, around $20 for the mass-produced models. If they were a bargain then...

Quality has never been better. I just bought a Maisto 1:18 scale 1948 Porsche 356 Roadster "Number 1" at Costco. The price was $9.95 (their special holiday prices). This is a diecast dream with opening bonnet, trunk and mid-engine compartment. The doors open, the steering works. The detail is a delight to the eye and it is in correct German racing silver. Best of all, It is a car never before produced in this scale that goes right into a missing slot in the Porsche history. Maisto has also offered this car in 1:24 scale and will likely offer 1:32 and 1:64 scale versions. Another new addition is the Racing Champions Mint Edition 1960 Corvair in 1:64 scale. Here is a car begging to be produced and Racing Champions finally did it. Few Corvair models exist and this gem is offered with engine detail for just $3.99 at Target Stores. it also comes in a police version. With perfect burgundy paint, rubber tires and a full-metal base and body, this is a great addition to my collection.

Choice has never been better. Hot Wheels offered 49 new castings in 1998. While not all were hits, many provided cars rarely seen in 1:64 scale. Some of my favorites are the Jaguar 'D' type in correct colors for the 1957 Le Mans winner. The Chaparral 2 (above, right) is another great vintage racer seldom seen (Guisval did it in '72, above, left). The Pike's Peak Toyota, Chrysler Thunderbolt show car and 1953 Studebaker Starliner Coupe dragster are unlikely to be done by anyone else. Matchbox is set to move from 75 to 100 cars in the regular line for 1999. While it may break with tradition, collectors will welcome the new models. Johnny Lightning's James Bond and Hollywood cars are great fun. Siku models are easier to find and the Porsche Boxter is one of their best. In 1:18 scale the list of new offerings is too long to even list.

Will the world of diecast cars continue to get better. There is no reason to think otherwise. With all the new adults and children in the hobby, the demand is unlikely to slow and the competition should keep prices near their current levels. All-in-all, the golden age of diecast is going to be with us for some time, enjoy.

Editor's note: Please tell me about your first diecast interests and why you collect. I would love to share your story with 'Tales of Toy Cars' readers. Your contribution may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.

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