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.

Where do you find them?

For diecast collectors, the endless search is as much a part of the process as decisions on storage, display, tracking lists and all the other functions of our hobby. Still, the search is special in that this is the one part of the process where we never really know what will happen. I've spent the better part of a day visiting stores only to come away with nothing. Of course what keeps us going is the idea that the next stop may yield the 'holy grail of diecast'. I often get asked "Where do you find them?", and the short answer is everywhere. Sometimes it's as easy as a trip to a major retailer or a toy show. Some of the most satisfying finds have been at out-of-the-way mom and pop stores or the corner antique/junk store. It is the variety that makes the searching fun.

The following is my list of where to find different diecast manufacturers. This list works for me but it may not work for you. Geographic differences make collecting unique.

Few companies have world-wide distribution. The best source of the best cars is through other collectors. We all have extras and duplicates to trade. I get my favorite models through these exchanges. It helps to publish this Webzine as it serves as a magnet for contact with other collectors and trades are often the result. Sometimes fellow collectors even visit my collection. Mac Ragan and Kimmo Sahakangas have been guests along with others. There always seems to be an exchange of models when collectors meet. My second best source, especially for older models is through toy shows. My region has something every other month and I attend 3-4 per year. I seldom buy any new models at toy shows as the prices are inflated by scalpers. It's the older models that are better priced. I'm happy to wait for several months and find that new Hot Wheels model on the pegs for a dollar or less. I actually do a fair amount of trading at toy shows too. I take a bag full of duplicates and often find that dealer/collectors are happy to work out an exchange. I even set up a small toy show at my home with the local Matchbox Club. We had fun but it was a lot of work.

I do not buy through auctions. I sold a few Hot Wheels via auction years ago and it worked fine but I just don't care to bid against others for what I want. I do buy through a few on-line stores in order to get Tomica or Siku models I want. Like most collectors, I have my favorite stores for new diecast. Here is a quick breakdown of what I find at different locations.

Target - excellent prices and good variety. The best bets are Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Racing Champions/Ertl, Muscle Machines, XConcepts and Johnny Lightning. Jada has started to appear recently and at the same time Johnny Lightning stock seems to be getting very thin.

Wal-Mart - excellent prices but variety is hit and miss. The best bets are Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Maisto, Racing Champions/Ertl and Johnny Lightning. Jada, Revell. Muscle Machines and other smaller manufacturers are always a possibility.

K-Mart - good prices but variety is much like Wal-Mart. K-Mart does carry some of their own re-packaged diecast, usually sourced from RC/Ertl. I have also found Imperial models but otherwise they offer the same brands as Wal-Mart.

Kay-Bee Toys - higher prices but sales are common. Best bets are Johnny Lightning, often 3 for $5 on sale. Hot Wheels and Matchbox can be found in 2 for $1 sales every so often but selection is usually weak. Kay Bee is good for 1:18 and 1:24 scale models. Maisto and other brands sometimes appear.

Toys-R-Us - higher prices and limited selection. TRU has really declined as a source for me. About the only thing I look for is Johnny Lightning models which are the same price as elsewhere and selection is often good. Hot Wheels and Matchbox are overpriced and stock is old as a result. Sales are few.

Walgreens Drugs - mixed prices with regular sales. Walgreens re-packages Welly, Real Toy, Maisto and Motor Max models in their Speed Wheels line. They sell for 2 for $1 but selection is never certain. Hot Wheels and other brands are usually more expensive than the bigger stores.

Longs Drugs - mixed prices with regular sales. Until recently, Longs was my primary source for Yat Ming models. Now they seem to be switching to Motor Max. Maisto, Hot Wheels and Matchbox are higher priced unless on sale.

Specialty Toy Stores - There are still a decent collection of these traditional toy stores in my region. The prices are higher but sometimes these are the best locations to find brands like Siku, Real Toy, Welly, Kinsmart, Hongwell, Tootsietoy, Motor Max, Majorette and Yet Ming. I have even found Guisval and other hard-to-find manufacturers on occasion.

Big Lots and other 'Dollar' stores - excellent prices but odd selections. These stores can often provide real bargains as well as a good source for cheaper diecast cars like Summer, Pioneer and other small Asian firms. You simply never know what you will find and often there is nothing of value. Still, you can't afford to overlook these outlets as they may get a supply of old Golden Wheels or new Motor Max models.

Small drug and hardware stores, even grocery stores - it pays to keep your eyes open. I have stumbled across interesting finds at these stores. Hongwell and Kinsmart are sometimes displayed at check-out counters.

Antique malls and junk stores - you never know. It takes a lot of looking to find anything but it can be fun if you have the time.

In my Canadian trips I always visit Zellers, The Bay, London Drugs, Fields and other stores unique to our northern neighbor. I've found that Canadian dollar stores are often a good source for off-beat brands. Prices are usually good, especially with the exchange. I specifically look for Majorette and other European producers in Canada.

Share your thoughts on this topic with me and you may see them in the next issue. Send to: doug@breithaupts.com.