The Hot Wheels Garage: 18 July 2009
18 July 2009: Collector's Conundrum: To Open or Not To Open? ---Let’s jump into the “Back to the Future” DeLorean for just a minute. Are you in? Ok, let’s set the time period for the early 80’s, when I was a kid. Don’t forget, we have to hit 88MPH before we can travel through time. Buckle up, and let’s ride. Hitting the accelerator…and here we go. 88 MPH…*zap*

We’re in the early 80’s, and my mom is handing me a bunch of new Hot Wheels, still in the blister. What’s the first thing I did? Hell, I opened them, of course! Within minutes, I was running to the house of a friend who lived on the lake, and had a nice little beachfront. Other friends soon joined in, and in about an hour, we had a full city fashioned from muddy beach sand. We zipped our Hot Wheels all over the muddy roads, crashing into each other, and generally just beating the hell out of them. That’s what they were meant for; PLAYING. Before long, my new Hot Wheels showed the battle scars of a war that only kids can wage. Let's face it: most of us were absolutely BRUTAL with our toys!

Our mode of transportation...buckle up!

Ok, time to get back. Let’s jump into the DeLorean again. But, hold on…instead of going back to the present, let’s make a pitstop in 1996, when I picked up collecting Hot Wheels again for the first time in YEARS. Ready? *zap* We’re in a Wal-Mart, and I’ve found the 1996 First Editions VW Bus. “Hmm…this thing is cool. And heavy. And AWESOME! What else can I buy?” I looked at my wife (at the time) and told her that this could be a CHEAP hobby. They’re only .99 cent cars! Well, anyone who’s been in the hobby long enough is probably shaking their heads right now…we all know this hobby has long since expanded past “.99 cent cars.” It’s far more expensive than we ever thought it would be, but that’s all in fun. So, I became a full-time collector…and a completist. I had to have every model and 4-car series model. Before long, I was filling up Rubbermaid tubs of Hot Wheels. Ironically, I’d be minus a wife a few years later. But, I digress…our splitting up had nothing to do with Hot Wheels…I just thought it’d be a funny little quip to add there!

"What're you, 12? NO more night trips to Wal-Mart for Hot Wheels!"

Ok, back to the DeLorean. Now, we’re going to stop in the year 2001, which turned out to be a pivotal time in my hobby. I’d built up a nice collection of VW Buses, and I remember thinking to myself that it’d be really sweet to have pics of LOOSE Buses on the NCHWA website, instead of the packaged variety that everyone else had. At the time, very few collectors were opening their Limited Editions. It just wasn’t something that was talked about, and card collectors everywhere voiced their displeasure when it was done publicly. But, hey…they were mine, and I wanted to do what I wanted to do with them. I made the decision: I was going to open all of my VW Buses in order to have clean shots to put on the website.

Hands trembling (yeah, I was nervous!), I picked up my 1996 FE VW Bus. But, I started to get cold feet. I mean, I WANTED to open it…I really did. But, I also wanted to be able to keep the packaging as well, since many Limiteds had some really cool blister packs. So, what do I do? I thought for a minute…and decided that I COULD have the best of both worlds. I took an Exacto knife and gently slid the blade under the bottom of the blister and gently halfway up the sides, where the plastic met the card. I made an incision to the point where I could lift the blister like a clamshell, while it was still attached at the top. Out popped the Bus.

As the bus sat on my palm, I felt like Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade” when he held the Holy Grail in his hand. I knew my hobby was forever changed. I remember thinking how much BETTER it was to actually have this collectible free and in my hand. I rolled it…perfectly straight, with a clunking sound that the Bus makes when it rolls. I don’t think I made any “vroom” noises, but I was almost buzzing from what I’d just done, so I can’t be sure. Once the awe was gone, I gently loaded the Bus back into its blister, and put the carded treasure back into the Protecto-Pak. The perfect crime. I would be the only one who knew it had been open, since you couldn’t even see the surgery that I’d performed on the blister. I mean, I had no intention of selling any of my Buses, so why not do what I want to do with them? It’s not like I was worried about secondary market value, or anything of that nature.

The rest of that afternoon involved opening the rest of my VW Bus collection, and photographing them for the NCHWA website. If you look in the Bus Gallery, you can see the results of that day on the first page, and some of the second page. It was AWESOME! I would later open several more valuable Limiteds, included the HWC Rodger Dodger and RLC Camaro…the first-ever issue from the Redline Club.

Ok, it’s time to get back to the present. We’ll fire up the DeLorean one more time, and pop back into 2009. Doc Brown’s probably getting pissed because we’ve been gone for so long. Besides, plutonium’s very hard to find, and I don’t wanna get stuck in the past! God forbid, I'd be married again! ;p *zap* And, we’re back.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, uh…different perspective on why I’m a Hot Wheels Opener. I know it’s not for everyone, and card collectors are intensely picky about their cardboard being just as pristine as the minty car trapped inside the blister. And, hey…there’s nothing wrong with that at all! I mean, I don’t open ALL of my stuff. Just the nice Limiteds, and whatnot. All of my FE’s and TH’s from 1995 to 2002 are still on the card, and they’ll stay that way, since I plan on giving them to my kids when I’m done on this planet. They’ll have something tangible in hand…something that they’ll know was fun for their dad. The carded cars will be a record of my collecting legacy…I guess. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Hell, they’ll probably end up on eBay the day my kids get ‘em! No, I know better. They’d keep everything.

So, there you have it. We’re at the end of this article, and you’ve gotten more clarity on…absolutely nothing! In the end, only you can decide if you want to open your Hot Wheels. All I know is this: They can be SO much more appreciated OUT of their package. Try it sometime. Just be forewarned…when you do, you might catch the fever and attack a large part of your collection! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And, no…you can’t borrow the DeLorean to go back in time to change your mind…so don’t ask!

Until next month...keep it real.