Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-04-14-pmA Guest Blog Post by Dave Moss
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

When I chat to people who don’t collect vintage Star Wars toys they all tend to think that it must be an expensive hobby as they have seen news reports about a rare Star Wars toy that just sold for thousands of pounds. And I think this puts many people off from getting started collecting. A recent example of this was when a very rare carded Boba Fett figure sold for $18,000 at auction.

But this is really not the case, yes there are some items that sell for thousands, but there is much more to collecting Star Wars than high price rare items.

My first ever post-childhood purchase of a Star Wars figure was a vintage loose Biker Scout, total cost 5p! OK, this was a few years back, but it’s still possible to find nice items for cheap prices. Online auction sites have made them harder to find, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and for me the hunt is part of the fun of collecting.

If you want to get started collecting vintage Star Wars toys then I would suggest you start with loose figures and ships. These you can pick up in many places, online, toy fairs, car-boot sales, second hand shops, charity shops, and flea markets.

Chief ChirpaPrices for loose figures and ships tends to be a lot lower so you can start by only spending a few pounds or less on each figure. This will enable you to get a feel for the condition of the figures and what they should look like.

Figures at the low price range of the market will more than likely be well played with and missing weapons, but you can still find some really nice items and even the odd rare item.

There are plenty of online resources that you can browse through to find out what accessories each figures should come with, or whether there are variations you should look out for. And once you feel more confident you can start spending a bit more and getting some nicer condition figures.

Hopefully by this point you will have caught the bug and want to start collecting carded figures. There are many ways to collect carded figures, some people like to go for the most pristine untouched cards that never even saw the shop floor. While others are happy to have cards that have some wear and tear to them.

Most figures were released on multiple styles of cardback. The rarest being the original ‘Star Wars’ (SW) cards, next are ‘Empire Strikes Back‘ (ESB), and the easiest to find are ‘Return of the Jedi‘ (ROTJ) or ‘Tri-logo’ cards. Tri-logo refers to late release figures where the cardbacks had the Star Wars logo in three different languages on the front of the card.

Again I would suggest starting at the bottom end of the market and pick up cards that are referred to as ‘beaters’. These are figures where the cardback maybe creased or torn, or the bubble (or blister) that the figure sits in is cracked, crushed or yellowed with age. These cards still have lots of charm and character to them, and cost a fraction of the price of mint carded figures. You can expect to pay under $20 for figures on ROTJ cards. As an example I recently picked up a ROTJ Ewok Chief Chirpa on a pretty nice card for £9 from a flea market.

As well as action figures and ships there are many other Star Wars items that you can look into collecting. Other favorites include Topps trading cards, Marvel comics, pencil toppers, erasers, or badges. Once you get started collecting vintage Star Wars you will soon find out how much merchandise has been produced over the years. There really is something for everyone.

So don’t be put off thinking vintage Star Wars toy collecting is all about high price items. Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think and there is something for every kind of budget.

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When MIP Means “Messed-up In Package”

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

In 1975, Hot Wheels introduced a new way to package their vehicles, in themed 6-Packs. Cars were attached to a simple cardstock base with rubber bands, and the artwork featured some of the cars from that set. In the earliest sets, the cars were usually taken directly from Mainline offerings with no distinct variants. So it was all about the packaging. 

At a recent yard sale I found a set from 1982, the “Classic Machines,” in what could be labeled “Never Removed From Package” condition.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

As you can see in the images, that’s not necessarily the same as “Mint In Package.” More like “Messed-up In Package” in this case, right? All but one of the cars had become unmoored from their rubber bands (the black and red Bugatti on the left was hanging on by a thread). The rubber bands had dried and cracked into a texture resembling uncooked ramen noodles (but probably not as tasty). Not to mention, the top panel had been hopelessly folded down and had some rough edges. But they were only asking $2 (the original price sticker said $8.99!). And surprisingly, none of the cars appeared to be damaged. I couldn’t pass it up.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Of course, I wanted to fix it, but decided on a challenge… how much could I preserve the “sealed box” aspect of the set and still get the cars into place? The box ends were firmly glued, so I didn’t want to ruin that. When originally made, the cellophane window was attached by a dab of adhesive in each corner. Here, it was completely detached on one end, so I carefully pried as much of the window out of place as I could, trying not to dent it worse. From there, I had limited access. Success!

Big question: In what order were these cars originally parked? I found a photo online that showed the same set as mine, with the cars ordered from left to right thusly:

• Old Number 5 (below, left), • Street Rodder (below, right);Hot wheels old number 5 street rodder

• Auburn 852 (below, left), • ’35 Classic Caddy (below, right);Hot Wheels Auburn Classic Caddy

• ’31 Doozie (below, left), • ’37 Bugatti (below, right).Hot Wheels Doozie Bugatti

Okay, looks good… except as I mentioned before, the Bugatti was the only car still attached to the base, and it was on the left. So I consulted with Robert Graves, our resident Hot Wheels maven, and he found a photo that was the exact reverse of the order I found. Hmmm. It fit the pattern by having the “Bug” on the left, so I went with it. It’s possible there was no particular order for these cars in the first place. Unlike newer sets with form-fitting plastic bubbles for each car, the early sets could easily be swapped around during what was likely hand assembly.  It’s also worth mentioning, there have been several Classic Machines sets over the years, so you might find one with similar packaging but a different assortment from this one.

6packbugband

You know how you can never find a rubber band when you need one? It’s even harder to find bland, tan ones in the right size when you need half a dozen of them. So I made a quick trip to the office supply store and bought a giant bag containing different thickness and diameter bands. There were just enough of the smallest, thinnest ones to do the project.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

The bands wrap around both axles on one side of each car. It’s harder than you’d guess to get them wedged into place without any twisting. When I got to the Street Rodder, which has no fenders, I was relieved… until I realized with its short wheelbase, even the smallest rubber band was too long, so it had to be wrapped in a more complex pattern.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Wrapping the bands around the cutout would have been fairly easy if I’d just taken the whole dang thing out of the box like any normal person would have. But in place, there was limited room to maneuver. Also, the process required lifting the tab slightly, but not too much, or it would get a crease and then refuse to lay flat. I used a single blade from a pair of scissors (would that be one scissor?) as a guide to gently lift the tab, allowing the car and band to go where they needed. Each car took several minutes to wedge into place, because I am a masochist.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

The long sides of the cardstock window cutout were severely warped. So before resealing then into their car-cophagus, I decided to adjust that. I wedged a small channel of cardstock under the top part to hold it up and on the bottom, glued a reinforcement strip where there was a small tear. It’s not perfect, but a huge improvement. Then I used a small amount of clear Goop adhesive to attach the window into place, sandwiching the front edge of the box together while it dried to straighten that up.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

As for the top panel of the box, it flopped sadly forward. I bent it backwards until I heard a snap and then cringed to see… that it hadn’t ripped or creased or anything. Nope, just sits straight. Whew! There was also a dog-eared corner that needed attention. I put a very small dab of clear glue between the layers and held it straight with a clothespin until it was stiff. Not perfect, but better. Finally, I took a chance on removing the price sticker. Sometimes they only sort of let go, sometimes they remove part of the packaging (GAHHHHH!), but in this case, the whole thing popped off intact, leaving a slightly darker, less faded blue behind.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Finally, the set is ready for display. For a two dollar item plus a dollar for rubber bands, that seems like a lot of work. But if you have to ask a collector “why?” then you’ll never understand this hobby.

Comments (2 Comments)
vinny h

nice job! i,m a hot wheel collector off & on since 68 i have waited at auctions 8 hours just to get a pkg that was like yours * just a house hold auction* and with the work of the freezer {slightly} and patience the items come to life and bingo,money in hand,trading tool,talk about piece,etc.... so hats off to your GREAT find and the book price for your goods $2 well spent,as a collector true collector you always eat your time and gas that's just the hobby!!! but the thrill of the score,the find NEVER goes away. happy hunting. p.s keep up the great work at hobby db.

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Remember Penny Racers from Takara

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-04-14-pmA Guest Blog Post by Dave Moss
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

If you grew up in the 1980’s then you will probably remember Penny Racers. Produced by Takara and released in the US and UK from the early to mid 80’s, Penny Racers were a cheap pocket money level toy with a neat gimmick.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-20-50-pmThe cars were small plastic toys with a pull back motor that could make them run at quite a speed. Each vehicle featured small Dunlop branded tires and was designed with a cute deformed scale style.

Now here is where the penny in ‘Penny Racers’ comes in to play, on the back of the toy was a small slot into which a penny could be placed. The addition of the coin’s weight meant that when the car was pulled back and let go it would do a wheelie. And if you were 5 or 6 years old, this was the coolest thing ever, at least it was for me!

The Penny Racers toys themselves were based on a Japanese toy line called Choro-Q that is still in production today with some being highly collectable.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-8-29-07-amOver the years various waves of the vehicles have been produced ranging from cars to planes (Penny Planes), tanks and more. A favorite wave of mine had the addition of glow in the dark parts.

As well as the cars there were a few larger items released to go along with the line. A large stunt set which came with ramps, start and finish lines, breakable brick walls and the ring of fire was great thing to own. With the tag line ‘Three super stunts to challenge the dare devil driver!’ it was a must have addition. There was also a carry case for you to store you collection of vehicles in.

An interesting thing to note is the packaging which was re-designed for each country the toy was released in. In the UK the backing card features a large one pence piece. In the US this was swapped for a one cent coin. So if you want to own a complete collection, you’ll need to track down both releases.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-27-55-pmIn 1998 a Penny Racers game was released for the Nintendo 64, based on the Choro-Q line that was still popular in Japan. The game even managed a sequel but this was only released in Japan under the Choro-Q brand.

In recent years the Early Learning Centre has brought the Penny Racers line back into the shops, but for me it doesn’t hold the same charm as the original 80’s toy line. But who knows what will happen to kids playing with them now in 20 or so years time. It could be a future classic.

If you are looking to collect Penny Racers, they are not the easiest things to find. Many people remember them, but no one seems to have them. You’ll often find them mixed in with other toys from the 80’s or just listed as a pull back car. So the best way to track them down is not to look for Penny Racers at all, but to keep an eye out for pull back cars made by Takara in the 80’s.

When you do find them, they are a joy to own and really do look great on display.

Comments (1 Comment)
Rex Silo

I convinced my younger brother that putting a dime in a Penny Racer car would make it go 10 times faster. He really wanted it to be true.

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Car of the Month — 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 (Ferrari Daytona)

Introduced to replace the 275 GTB/4, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4, two-seat grand tourer was, like so many new Ferrari models of the period, revealed to a surprised public at the 1968 Paris Auto Salon. The sleek and stylish Pininfarina designed front-engined car featured a heavily revised version of the Colombo-designed V12 power-unit fromthe 275 GTB/4model, bored out to 4.4-litres (4,390cc), and was the only production Ferrari at that time use a high-performance dry-sump lubrication system on its engine. Although a Pininfarina design, as with many previous Ferrari road cars styled by Leonardo Fioravanti, the new 365 GTB/4 was radically different to the model it replaced.Many people felt that its sharp-edged styling resembled a Lamborghini rather than a traditional Pininfarina Ferrari.

The Ferrari 365 GTB/4, is more commonly know to most people as the Ferrari Daytona. This unofficial name is reported to have been applied by the media rather than Ferrari themselves, and was reputedly named to commemorate a Ferrari 1-2-3 finish in the February 1967 24-Hours of Daytona. The unofficial name was quickly adopted by everyone and continues to be widely used today, however, to this day, Ferrari itself only rarely refers to the 365 GTB/4 as the “Daytona”.

Unlike Lamborghini’s then-new, mid-engined Miura, the Daytona was a traditional front-engined, rear-wheel drive car. The engine, known as the Tipo 251 was a two-vales per cylinder, Double-Over-Head-Cam (DOHC) V12 with a 60° bank angle, 365cc per cylinder, a 3.2-inch bore diameter and 2.8-inch stroke, featuring six Weber 40DCN20 twin-choke down-draught carburettors (40mm Solex twin-choke carburettors were used on some versions). With a compression ratio of 9.3:1, the Tipo 251 unit produced 352bhp and the car could reach a top speed of 174mph, and accelerate from zero to 60mph in just 5.4 seconds. For the American version, slight modifications were made – the compression ratio was reduced to 8.8:1 and the exhaust system was equipped with a large central silencer, necessitating visible alterations to the primary pipes. Early Daytonas featured fixed headlights behind an acrylic glass cover, but in 1971 a new U.S. safety regulation banning headlights behind covers resulted in the adoption of retractable, pop-up twin headlights.

The five-speed manual transmission transaxle was mounted in the rear for optimal weight distribution, and a race-derived four-wheel independent suspension featured wishbones and coil springs. The excellent weight distribution provided by the rear gearbox transaxle produced a front-engined car of rare balance. The generally accepted total number of Daytonas built is 1,406. This figure includes 122 factory-made spyders and 15 competition cars. All bodies except the very first Pininfarina prototype were produced by Italian coachbuilder Scaglietti. The first racing version of the 365GTB/4 appeared in 1969 when a prototype aluminium bodied car was built and entered in the Le Mans 24-hour race. The subsequent fifteen official racecarswere built in three batches of five in 1970-1, 1972 and 1973. Each featured a lightweight body (by as much as 400lbs) that used aluminium and fibreglass panels, along with plexiglas windows. In the first batch of competition cars the engine was unchanged from the road car, but the five 1972 cars had revised powerunits with around 400bhp. By 1973, the last five ‘race’ cars built had a little over 450bhp. The cars were raced by a range of private entrants and enjoyed particular success in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including a 5th overall in 1971, followed by GT class wins in 1972, 1973 and 1974. The final major success for the Daytona was in 1979 (five years after production had ended), when a 1973 car achieved a class victory and and incredible second overall in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

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The Mini is one of the safest investment cars around

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-10-37-16-amA Guest Blog Post by Mike Anstee
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

When it comes to classic automobiles for the entry-level collector, the Mini is a great place to start. It’s a British icon that’s affordable, ensuring a secure investment. With legions of admirers and a deep connection to British culture it will remain a sought-after classic for years to come.

Origins

Sir Alec Issigonis

Famously designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the Mini was built between 1959 and 2000.

Its birth came as a response to a fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis. Petrol was rationed in the UK, sales of large cars slumped while the market for German bubble cars boomed. Leonard Lord, the quintessentially English head of The British Motor Corporation, reportedly detested these ‘Teutonic interlopers’ so much, he vowed to ‘rid the streets of them and design a proper miniature car’.

On its introduction in August 1959 the Mini was marketed under the Austin and Morris names, as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor. The Austin Seven was renamed to Austin Mini in January 1962 and Mini became a marque in its own right in 1969.

History

Once established, the Mini’s economy, handling, versatility and simplicity enraptured the British public. It appealed to every demographic and with its transverse engine front wheel drive layout, 80% of the floor pan was usable for passengers and luggage. This added to its short wheelbase, which produced go-kart style handling, ensured it fitted various lifestyles. Such was its popularity, the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th Century behind the Ford Model T in 1999.

Mini Cooper S

The Cooper S model also created sporting history, winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times between 1965 and 1968. Cooper variants also enjoyed success in several Touring Car championships across the globe.

The car’s cultural zenith, though, came with its starring role in the 1969 movie The Italian Job, which cemented its place in the British psyche.

After the success of the base model, several variants were produced, including the Countryman estate car, the Mini van, a pickup version and the beach buggy style Mini Moke. Each of these has a strong collectible scene, particularly the unique, quirky Moke.

Costs

Mini Moke

The cheapest Minis tend to be those from the 80’s and early 90’s. Strong examples sell from around $3500 on the current market they’re less likely to have significant problems but will be less alluring than older models. For those seeking a low cost project, $2500 will buy a solid project car. Base 70’s models in good condition can be found from $5000 upward and will bring a quicker return than older examples given their comparative rarity.

Don’t be afraid of a minor project though as parts are cheap. Before VAT front wings and panels can be sourced for around $70.

Regular faults and fixes

The Mini’s problems can be summed up in five words. Rust, rust and more rust. When considering your purchase, ensure you check EVERYWHERE. Under the carpets, along the sub-frame and all along the body. Even perished seals on the window can lead to rotten metal. Any problems that are structural or will require a complete mechanical replacement will burn money and harm your investment.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-25-15-amFor other reasons, unearthing a factory original is a difficult task. Particularly in 60’s models, many of the panels will have been replaced time and again due to rust or prangs caused through city driving. At a time when people undertook their own auto repairs this meant panels were replaced improperly. When seeking to buy, take the time to check panelwork for gaps.

Most Minis will leak oil but serious leaks are a major warning sign. Ensure you check underneath the car where it has been stationary.

Also check for a quiet gearbox with crunch free changes and a firm brake pedal that stops the car in a straight line.

Lastly check the entire electrical system. As with most cars of that vintage, electrical systems were cumbersome. Electrical problems can be horrifically time consuming to diagnose and fix so avoid these troubles from the start.

On the positive side, its simple mechanics mean it’s easily fixed and parts can be found cheaply in relation to other classics.

Return on Investment

Much depends on quality and mileage. A Cooper S from 2000 with 61 miles on the clock is currently listed at $25000. Even heavily modified 60s Coopers are selling above $10000. For basic models, high quality 1275’s from the 70’s are valued above $8000 and even ‘project’ models in terrible disrepair are selling for over $1000.

All are indicators of a healthy market, and with its place in British folklore assured and fewer strong examples on the road, the Mini is one of the safest investment cars around. If nothing else, you’ll have bags of fun driving it.

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