First entering the market in 1968, the Hot Wheels line of die-cast toy cars have become the world’s most sought after and popular lines of collectible cars. Manufactured at 1:64 scale, they featured a special suspension and low-friction wheel bearings. They quickly dominated the market, surpassing sales of the established makers like Matchbox, Corgi and Dinky Toys. Even today, they remain one of the hottest collectibles on eBay.
All cars bear an imprinted production number which makes it easier to identify the year it was manufactured. As with other collectibles, a model that is still packaged is much more valuable than one that is not, although they are still extremely rare as the packaging had to be destroyed to get at the car. Early models that are still packaged and have the collector’s button are definitely worth hanging on to.
Rare and unusual models and variations that have bright or different colors are highly sought after, as are ones that had detachable accessories, as they were often lost. For example cars that were painted pink or purple were thought to be too “girlie” and as a result few were originally made or sold – but are now highly desirable.
An easily identifiable feature of the early cars is the red stripe on the wheels which are called “redlines.” These types of Hot Wheels were phased out in 1977. Also, pre-1972 cars came with a collector’s button in the blisterpack.
Hot Wheels were manufactured in the U.S. until 1971,and were and still are produced in other countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia, France, Italy, Mexico and Canada. Although some collectors prefer the early U.S. made models, there are some variations from the other countries that can be even more valuable. For example, a 1969 Volkswagen Beach Bomb with rear-mounted surfboards and manufactured in Hong Kong is extremely rare and can potentially be worth thousands of dollars.
If collecting Hot Wheels, it’s essential to consult a reference guide to know what is rare and desirable.
A Hot Wheels timeline:
- 1968: Mattel releases the first line of 16 Hot Wheels cars. Included among them is a sneak preview of the 1969 Corvette.
- 1969: With sales much higher than anticipated, Mattel releases 24 new Hot Wheels cars including the VW Beach Bomb.
- 1970: The famous Snake and Mongoose are produced, along with 31 other Hot Wheels cars.
- 1973: Inflation causes Mattel to lower production costs of Hot Wheels cars.
- 1974: Hot Wheels use printed graphics instead of decals.
- 1975: The first Hot Wheels motorcycles are made.
- 1980: Hi-Rakers are introduced.
- 1988: Hot Wheels 20th anniversary. Mattel produces gold and silver chrome cars to celebrate.
- 1990: The first Hot Wheels aircraft are made.
- 1995: Treasure Hunt cars are introduced. These cars are instant collectibles since only 10,000 of each are made.
- 1996: Mattel purchases the rights to Matchbox cars.
Hot Wheel Resources:
The official Hot Wheels website: www.hotwheels.com
Official Mattel collectors website: www.hotwheelscollectors.com
eBay Hot Wheels Buying Guide: pages.ebay.com/buy/guides/hot-wheels-buying-guide
Hall’s Guide for Hot Wheels Collectors: www.hallsguide.com
South Texas Diecast – Hot Wheels Casting Guide: Hot Wheels Casting Guide