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.

Thirty-Two and Counting

How many current producers of 1:64 scale diecast toy cars can you name. Sure, you know Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Majorette but how many companies are actually competing in the 1:64 scale arena? To be honest, up until recently, I had not really made a count. The following is a list in progress. It provides the company or diecast product name and Website address, where available. I have been able to find 32 existing small-scale toy car producers. Can you add to this list? Let me know via e-mail.

1. Action/RCCA - no Internet address or e-mail found
2. Anson - http://www.anson-scalemodel.com/
3. Code 3 - http://www.code3.net/
4. Edocar - http://www.edocar.nl/
5. Efsi - http://www.efsi-miniaturen.de/
6. Golden Wheel - http://home.netvigator.com/~gwheel/
7. Guisval, S.A - http://www.guisval.com/
8. Hartoy - http://www.hartoy.com/
9. Hongwell/Samba - no Internet address or e-mail found
10. Hot Wheels (Mattel) - http://www.hotwheels.com/home.asp
11. Imperial Toy Company - http://www.imperialtoy.com/
12. Johnny Lightning (Playing Mantis) - http://www.playingmantis.com
13. Kinsmart - no Internet address or e-mail found
14. Maisto - http://www.maisto.com/
15. Majorette - http://nlabille.free.fr/majorette/
16. Matchbox (Mattel) - http://www.matchbox.com/
17. Metchey Toy - Hungary, no Internet address or e-mail found
18. Minichamps (Paul's Model Art) - http://www.utmodels.com
19. Norscot - http://www.norscot.com/
20. Racing Champions/Ertl - http://www.rcertl.com/
21. Real Toy - http://www.realtoy.com
22. Red Box International - no Internet address or e-mail found
23. Revell - http://www.revell-monogram.com/info/
24. Road Champs - http://www.roadchamps.com/
25. Siku - http://www.siku.de/htdoc/eindex.htm
26. Sunnyside Ltd/Superior/SS. - http://www.sunnyside.com.hk/
27. Tomica - http://www.tomy.co.jp/tomy_com/images/global.htm
28. Tootsietoy (Strombecker) - http://www.tootsietoy.com/strombecker_usa.html
29. Welly - http://www.wellydiecast.com.hk
30. White Rose - http://www.whterose.com/
31. Winner's Circle (Hasbro) - http://www.thewinnerscircle.com/
32. Yat Ming - http://www.yatming.com.hk/

Some well-known names are missing. Corgi still exists but no longer offers any 1:64 scale diecast. Polistil also appears to be in operation but only offering slot-car sets. Norev is back in business but has focused so far on re-introducing 1:43 scale models.

It is clear that over the last 10 years, far more new manufacturers of small-scale diecast have appeared. Few old-line names have been lost, with Corgi be the most obvious in it's absence. The vast majority of diecast companies are based in Asia with almost all manufacturing now located in Asia as well. The notable exception is Siku, which continues to produce toy cars made in Germany. While Mattel's Hot Wheels and Matchbox brands still dominate the market, they are not necessarily leading the way in innovation or marketing strategy. At the same time, Hot Wheels still offer some of the best custom car castings and their recent move to produce more authentic racing cars is encouraging. Johnny Lightning by Playing Mantis and Racing Champions/Ertl have forever changed the way the marketplace looks at toy cars. Their collector-directed products have set new standards for variety and value. Newcomers like Kinsmart, Hongwell, Anson and Welly are producing toy cars of excellent quality at bargain prices while stalwarts like Siku, Tomica and Guisval continue to serve their own domestic markets first with wonderful, traditional toy cars. Maisto set the trend for production of all scales of diecast cars from 1:12 to 1:64, followed now by many other companies. Edocar, Metchey Toy and Tootsietoy often use out-sourced diecast castings for their models but all have done their own in-house models as well.

The health of the diecast toy car industry has never been better as the market for these products continues to expand. At the same time, competition for retail shelf-space is fierce and have kept prices down. Amazing quality and variety can still be found in the products offered for less than $1 while the $3-5 range offers some of the best diecast cars ever produced. Manufacturers who attempt to market 1:64 scale cars for more than $5 are forced to dramatically reduce the volume of their sales and often these products move very slowly. In the 'toy car' scale, which 1:64 scale will always be, manufacturers would be well-advised to remember that the 'fun' factor is greatly reduced if the price is to high. Are you as likely to be tempted to roll a $8-10 car up and down the table or floor? Most likely, these high-priced items never leave the package. Any diecast that doesn't leave the package is not a toy car and that very simply, is not any fun.

While there are 32 small-scale, toy car manufacturers today, it's hard to say what the next 10 years will bring to this industry. My bet is that the combination of baby-boom collectors with more time and disposable income, combined with increasing birth-rates in much of the world, will keep this market both competitive and profitable for many years to come.