The Hot Wheels Garage: 19 August 2011

August 19, 2011.--Good or bad, the Treasure Hunt has always drawn attention. From the inception of the line in 1995, the hype has remained strong with collectors. However, has apathy set in? Certainly. There are many collectors who have simply resigned themselves to the fact that they don't have the time (or desire) to hunt down these little gems, and continue buying exactly what they want, without the added stress of finding, or not finding a Treasure Hunt.

The 1995 Treasure Hunt Series certainly drew a lot of collectors back into the hobby. Once word got around that they were limited to a run of 10K per car, the insanity set in. This translated into very high secondary prices, and you had to be prepared to pay big bucks if you couldn't find one on the pegs. The king of all Hunts is still the 1995 issue of the '67 Camaro. It averages near $300 on eBay, to this day! The variation with the silver rear hub commands an astounding $1,400+ price tag as well. But, how about the rest of the line? How do they compare to the Camaro? Answer: NOWHERE near it, although many of the models commanded values of $100+ in 1995. They've since dropped...and drastically.

King of the Hunts: 1995 '67 Camaro

When the 1996 Treasure Hunt line rolled out, the first thing collectors noticed was that the run was increased from 10K to 25K. Ironically, this didn't affect the value much, as many would surpass the $100 mark on the secondary. However, the line cooled much quicker, and values dropped well below that of their 1995 counterparts.

1997 is really the year that most collectors define as the actual decline of the Treasure Hunt. Gone were the Real Rider tires that collectors coveted, along with the established Limited Edition moniker (there was never a run number issued for Treasure Hunts, from 1997 to Present). Another factor that hurt the '97 line's value was the selection of cars, with the Silhouette II, Olds Aurora and Buick Wildcat leading the way as dud choices. To this day, the '97 line holds the LEAST amount of value, sometimes falling below the "Regular" TH releases of present day. 1998 and 1999 issues suffered the same problems, with odd casting choices and no Real Riders (the 1999 Hot Seat is a classic example of an odd choice!)

Thankfully, Mattel finally listened to collectors, and the Real Riders were re-introduced into the 2000 Treasure Hunt line, which elevated secondary values. But, the damage had been done to an extent, and once the hype of a new release cooled down, secondary values would drop considerably. Treasure Hunts were no longer a sound investment for those looking to make extra cash on them. The only time they generated top dollar was upon initial release of the model, and once they cooled down, the values would drop considerably. Many collectors realized this, and would wait out the storm before buying TH's from secondary sources.

10 Years of Hunts: Special Edition VW Drag Bus TH

2007 brought about a change in the line that's still in place in 2011: The introduction of TWO levels of Treasure Hunts. A "Regular" version was released, with standard wheel choices, and a "Super" version was released with premium hubs and Real Riders. Obviously, the Super Hunts garner more on the secondary than the Regulars, as they're most likely far more limited than the Regulars. As of 2011, most collectors view Regular Hunts as simply "Mainline" issues, and the values reflect as much. An average of $2.50 to $5.00 (depending on the model) can be expected. Only Super TH's bring in more value, and even those suffer a tremendous drop once the initial "newness" of the model wears off. A solid range for a Super (again, depending on the model) would be $14.00-25.00, on average.

So, what brought about the drop in value? A combination of the Limited Edition status being lost, the introduction of the "Regular" Hunt, and the current economic situation. Many collectors simply don't have as much disposable income that they might've had in years past, so they're watching their dollars closely, buying only what they like. 1995 Hunts have retained a nice secondary value, but NOWHERE near what they used to bring in (the lone exception being the '67 Camaro). The '96 line has certainly suffered, having dropped in value nearly 50-60% since their initial release. A good example of the '96 line is the Dodge Viper (the correct white version, and not the error red version). When this model was released, it drew a LOT of attention, and was frequently seen on the secondary for $100 and up. Today, some publications will list the value at $40+, but I can assure you this is NOT accurate. A $16-20.00 range is far more reasonable.

2010 Ford Torino Treasure Hunt

In the present, collectors have established a solid line for Treasure Hunts: the Regulars are "nice to have", but not overly exciting, while the Supers seem to be the REAL Hunt, with much higher values. I actually like the two-tier system of Hunts; it provides more opportunities for casual collectors and kids alike to add SOME kind of TH to their collection. Many will gripe that this tactic has stung the value of Treasure Hunts, but to that I say: I wouldn't advise buying up Treasure Hunts as an investment strategy. Those days have passed, since there's no real answer on how many of them are actually out there. If Mattel ever decides to bring back the Limited runs, then I could see the line recovering nicely to some former glory. But, that seems unlikely to happen at this point. Which brings me to this final statement: Collect what you like, and collect for fun. Collecting solely for profit simply isn't in the cards anymore for this hobby.

Until next month...

~Neal Giordano Founder/Editor

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