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.

The Big Picture

The big picture is hard to see when you are as focused in a specific hobby as I am. It is healthy to step away from the day-to-day search for more toy cars in order to better balance the passions of my life. I try not to decieve myself. When it comes to toy cars, I have a passion that borders on the fanatic. It's silly to try to find a rational justification for my passion, it's not rational, it's emotional.

Let me share my big picture with you and perhaps in doing so, we can all better understand our shared focus on diecast cars. First, I've always been a collector. I'm not a hoarder or a pack-rat. I simply decide what I want and then I begin the search to find it. Once the limits to my collection are set, I'm pretty good at staying within them.

I decided to collect toy cars for several reasons. Certainly their connection to fond childhood memories is an important emotional pull. At the same time, a simple enthusiasum for cars has given me the desire to collect them in all scales from 1:1 to 1:87. A fascination with miniatures has givin me an appreciation for the ability to represent a complex automobile in small-scale, with 1:64 scale toy cars being my favorite. I also enjoy 1:18 scale and I add specific cars of interest in 1:24, 1:36, 1:43 and even 1:87 scale. Production, racing or concept cars are my favorites with a few hot rod/customs, commercial vehicles and truck/SUV models thrown in. Boats, planes, motorcycles and other vehicles are usually easy to leave for collectors who appreciate these items.

See, I've strayed into the detail already. The big picture is that our cultures world-wide have made the automobile an extension of the individual and as such, our cars often reflect our communities in their style and function. While we are seeing more 'world cars' every year, most cars still carry the flavor of the country in which they were produced. Often we go too far and sterotype cars from specific countries. I know that you've heard that British cars leak oil and break down. German cars have no passion and are too machine-like. Italian cars are too passionate and require constant attention. American cars are big, clumsy, thirsty and cheap. Japanese cars are fragile but very reliable, with cookie-cutter style. French cars are simply considered odd by all but the French. Swedish, Spanish, Australian or Russian cars get very little notice at all from any but the true enthusiast. Of course, all these sterotypes are just that. Still, it is the unique nature of each car that makes it interesting.

There are very few cars I don't like. My full-sized collection could not possible grow to represent all the interesting cars I would like to own. Toy cars are a way to do just that. I can build a world-class collection of toy cars without the massive storage or financial requirements that full-size models demand. Maintainence is also a lot easier.

Finally, as I have noted before, toy cars carry with them a simple joy when you remove them from their package and roll them across a table or floor. I can't explain this joy and I understand that it is not shared by everyone. I'm sure other collectibles have a joy of their own but for me it's toy cars that make me smile. I guess when it's all boiled down to the essence of why I collect toy cars, it's simply because it is so much fun.

Don't let the scalpers, re-sellers, investors, dealers, or hoarders get you down. They are not going to ruin our hobby as long as we stay true to the reasons we started collecting. If I have to wait six months to find the new Hot Wheel model I want in order to buy it for $1, I'll do it. If I never find another Treasure Hunt car on the pegs, big deal. The same model with different paint is easy to find. Sooner or later I find most of the models I want at regular prices and you can too. The Internet makes it easier to connect with fellow collectors who are always happy to trade what they can find for what they cannot. Don't worry if it is more valuable to keep models in their packages. Collecting cardboard is not nearly as much fun. Open the packages. Let those little wheels roll free and when you feel your face breaking into a smile, capture for that moment, the joy of toy cars.

Your comments are always welcome. doug@breithaupts.com.