The Hot Wheels Garage: 26 May 2011

May 26, 2011.-- Scouring the pegs for Hot Wheels variations isn't exactly a new concept. As far back as the first Redlines in 1968, there were plenty of things to look for, including color, interior, base and country of origin differences. But, when 1975 rolled around, the art of the variation slowed somewhat to a crawl. With the exception of an alternate color change here and there, and some tampo variations, there simply weren't very many differences to be found. One good example of alternate colors during the late Redline era was the 1975 Mighty Maverick in alternate green. The alternate green version garners almost double that of its original blue-colored counterpart, as there just weren't nearly as many issued. Two other good examples of alternate color cars were the 1975 Chevy Monza 2+2 in light green, and the 1978 (Blackwall) Corvette Stingray in grey. Both were short runs as well.

Common blue Mighty Maverick (1975)
Alternate light green Mighty Maverick (1975)

Fast forward to 1995. Mattel introduces the New Model series, and a veritable explosion of variations hit the market. Many of the models could be found in various colors and wheels, making the search all that much more in-depth. Granted, the color change didn't make the splash of the late 70's alternate colors (all 1995's were mass-produced), but it still made hitting the pegs a lot more interesting, because you just never knew what you'd find.

In 1996 (New Models were changed to First Editions) and 1997, there would be no color changes to be found in any of the models. That being said, there were many wheel variations to keep collectors looking, and some of the rarest wheel variations sold briskly on eBay for very good amounts. 1998 was pretty much the same story, with only some lighter/darker shades of the same base colors being available. But, there was one major exception in 1998 that rocked the collector base to the core: the '70 Mustang Mach I in orange. The standard color was yellow, but a few orange versions slipped out. It's never been determined what the run number was, but it was definitely considered a short run...and it proved to be a pretty difficult find. By the time the 1999 First Editions rolled out, it wasn't uncommon to find several cars in different colors. But, none would quite have the impact that the orange Mach I had!

Common yellow Mustang Mach I (1998)
The elusive alternate orange version (1998)

So, here we are in 2011. These days, collectors expect to find the new releases in different colors, and they're not rare at all. Mattel figured out a long time ago that a simple paint change would entice us to buy multiples of the same model, which is always good for their bottom line! There are plenty of wheel and tampo variations to look for as well. But, is this a good thing? Glancing at both sides of the coin, there could be frustration for some completist collectors if they can't find each paint and wheel variation that hits the shelves. Then, there are other collectors who enjoy the chase, and are content with hoping to stumble onto that rare find. Color changes, however, aren't rare like they were years ago, which means most (if not all) collectors will have a great shot at getting all of the paint variations, should they be so inclined. The toughest finds over the past few years have been some wheel and interior variations, which is what currently spurs the collector market.

I'm of the opinion that variations add an exciting element to our hobby. While I'd love to find that rare wheel change that everyone's talking about, I'm content with the hunt. If I find it, I find it. If not, nothing lost. I still get the enjoyment out of looking. Sure, you'll hear some griping that Mattel has gone too far with all of the color changes nowadays, but isn't it great to have some variety? Something to look for? Some variations have proved to be far more elusive than Treasure this is really an added benefit to the hobby, the way I see it. More to look for! Sure, we could be mindless zombie collectors and simply snag that New Model that we don't have. But, with variations, you have to look a litttttle bit closer. And, really...that's where the fun lies. Don't make it more difficult than it has to be!

Until next month...

~Neal Giordano Founder/Editor

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