The Hot Wheels Garage: 24 September 2009
24 September 2009: Hot Wheels Speculation ---Many of us are very particular about our collections, preferring to keep the majority (if not all) of the cars in their package. Why is that? Some prefer them to remain on the cards from a reference standpoint, and others...well, there are others who've somehow got it in their head that they're gonna retire on these bad boys, years down the road.

Sadly, those types of collectors may be in for a rude awakening when the time comes to sell their collection. I think far too many collectors have seen the value of old Redlines, and made that the basis of collecting for "down the road." Hate to say it, but...if you're counting on putting the kiddies through college via your Hot Wheels, well...all I can say is, you'd better have a great backup investment portfolio, because it's NOT going to work quite like that. Why? Well, let's go over a few reasons why the current stuff will NEVER garner the hype (and value) of the original Redlines...
First off, let me preface by noting that the current state of the economy has affected even the normally money-grabbing Redlines on eBay. They're simply NOT selling for advertised value (advertised value based on price guides like Tomart's, Lee's, etc, etc). It's not uncommon to see a pristine Redline go for 4 to 5 times LESS than what its "perceived" value is in any of the aforementioned guides. Therefore, when planning to sell your Hot Wheels these days, throw your price guides to the side, because you're NOT going to get what is quoted in them. There may be a few exceptions, like the in-demand castings (Beach Bomb, Olds 442, BiFocal, etc). But, even those have noticed a considerable drop in selling power. It's a buyer's market, and that's not going to change for at least a couple more years.

The author's collection of '32 Ford Vickys, from 1970

But, I digress. Let's go over the reasons that the "common" new stuff will never attain the value of Redlines, even decades down the road. First, let's talk about availability. When Hot Wheels were first issued in late 1967, kids did exactly what they were meant to do with them: they PLAYED with them. Not many were thinking about value down the road, and eagerly broke them out of their packages and pretty much beat the heck out of them. They're TOYS...that was their purpose! So, as far as availability goes, there is a tremendous shortage of Redlines in comparison to the new stuff today, which is issued by the hundreds of thousands for each model. That's why Redlines garner more cash on the secondary, and always will.

Second: Quality. Redlines were made of mostly metal components, and, with the exception of the now-archaic casting/mold flaws, are simply made better than the newer stuff. For cost-cutting purposes, new issues are often made up of mostly plactic components. Plastic bases are the norm. Now, to Mattel's credit, we can be appreciative of the fact that Hot Wheels are the ONLY toy out there that has remained the same in price since the 60's! What other toy can make that claim? Something had to retain that price. Cutting down on the metal was the easiest cost-related measure.

One sweet '32 Ford from 1970!

And, third: A LOT of collectors have kept their Hot Wheels packaged up. But, many collectors who have tried to sell their 1995 to present MOC Hot Wheels have been met with the utter disappointment of getting half of the original value per car than they originally paid for it! New Model Series and First Editions just don't retain value. Will that change down the road? Possibly, but even then it won't be a mind-bending price difference. Fact of the matter is, there is NO shortage of carded '95 to present Hot Wheels, and that will directly impact their value on the secondary market. Treasure Hunts from 1995 and 1996 may be the true exception, as they were clearly limited to 10K and 25K, respectively. Those two years of Hunts are a KNOWN commodity, as their limited availability is clearly stated. Also, it was the first two years of the Treasure Hunt concept, so there's a sentimental value there as well. Present-day Hunts? Unimpressive, but still collectible. Super TH's do sell briskly, but simply don't have the impact of the early Hunts. As the old blues song goes, "the thrill is gone...."

A '67 Camaro issue from 2009...Awesome, but it's no Redline...

In closing, you have to ask yourself WHY you're collecting the newer stuff. Is it for fun, or are you in it with the hopes of someday cashing in? If it's the latter, then you're likely in for a HUGE disappointment. Now, I'll grant you the fact that the Limited Editions (, for example) will likely be highly collectible down the road, with some monetary return in store. How much will that be? None of us can guess, but I'd be inclined to think that expecting DOUBLE of what you paid for them would be a slight stretch. The VW Drag Bus issues may be the one exception, as they've sold very briskly on eBay for 2-3 times the original purchase price.

Keep your collecting real, with little or no expectations down the road. This mantra will help bring far more enjoyment to your hobby, as long as you see it for what it is: having fun with little toy cars. Leave the value-stressing to the Redline collectors. Until next month...keep those superchargers rolling, and may your tracks be smooth!

~Neal Giordano