Volume VIII, Number 3

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.

It was 20 years ago today...

In March 1985, I was engaged to be married. During a search for vintage formal wear to use in the wedding, I came across an assortment of Redline Hot Wheels in an antique store. They were only $1 each and I could not resist buying a Custom Eldorado to match my real 1968 Cadillac Eldorado. I had good memories of the Matchbox and Hot Wheel toy cars that I collected as a child in the late 1960's and this spectra-flame green Hot Wheel took me right back to 1968.

For 20 years now, I have been collecting toy cars. The Custom Eldorado is still a favorite and it led to the collection that I share each month in Tales of Toy Cars.

After finding the Custom Eldorado, I began to watch for both old and new toy cars. I do not remember what the second model I found was but in the next year, my new collection had grown to a hundred or so. I bought a Hot Wheels race set where the track wound up into the start gate and re-created the gravity races I remembered having with my brother. Toy-R-Us sold plastic yellow display/storage racks, each holding 12 toy cars. I bought 10 and hung my collection on the wall. When we bought our first house, the back bedroom became a toy room.

My favorite toy cars were models of real cars I had owned and I decided early on to leave most trucks and commercial vehicles for other collectors. In the late 1980's, I discovered a local Seattle store that specialized in antique toys. I noticed that they had trays full of old Hot Wheels, Corgi, Matchbox and Johnny Lightning models that I remembered. Sports cards were a hot item at the time and in the early 1970's, I had collected basketball cards. All had been saved and I had about three full years of mint cards from 1970-74. I took them in to this store and asked the owner if he would consider a trade of my basketball cards for toy cars. He agreed and we decided my cards were worth about $600 at the time. I went through all his toy cars and selected $600 worth. Most were Redline Hot Wheels with a few Matchbox and Johnny Lightning models. Most of these were priced at $5 or less so I was able to make a substantial addition to my collection. Since that time, I expect that Hot Wheels have turned out to be a better investment than basketball cards and I have had much more enjoyment from the toy cars.

In the early 1990's, toy car manufacturers realized that a collector market existed and began to produce models targeted to people like me. Both Hot Wheels and Matchbox offered commemorative re-casts and Tom Lowe re-introduced the Johnny Lightning name through Playing Mantis. The toy car market has never looked back and the variety and quality of models today is unprecedented.

Toy cars have become a major part of my life over the past 20 years. While I suppose that I could have channeled my energies and resources into endeavors of a more profound nature, I doubt it would have made me any happier. Toy cars have provided me with a hobby that celebrates the simple joys of childhood and it has allowed me to re-create a visual history of the automobile. I have continued to collect real cars as well as automotive books and magazines. I have been able to pass on the joy of collecting toy cars to my four children and see the fun they have when we break out the orange track and re-create our gravity grand prix. For my oldest son's 10th birthday party last month, he asked if we could set up the track and buy new Hot Wheels for all his guests. It was the hit of the party and the kids did not want to quit. Watching those 10 year old boys send their cars down the track and listening to their shouts of delight as their car proved fastest, reminded me that the our hobby should be all about having fun. The last 20 years have certainly been fun for me.