From Critic to Curator: A Hot Wheels Collector’s Tale

For all the growing popularity of hobbyDB as a research place for collectors, we still run into folks who aren’t initially impressed with our site. We’ve been working hard to make the site more flexible, easier to use, and more powerful in its capabilities (and we know there are still issues!) But the most important resource we have to make hobbyDB the best it can be is you, the User.

We ran into “Jay C.”, a Hot Wheels Collector from Canada, in the comments section on another website, and he was critical about what he perceived as a lack of certain information about Hot Wheels cars. Sure, we have over 40,000 entries for Hot Wheels on hobbyDB, but he had a great idea for additional characteristics that could be used to identify and  differentiate models.

Jay thought we could include baseplate identification information in our database, which we thought was a great idea. It’s a huge undertaking, but worth the effort.

Which brings us back to the point about our Users. YOU are the ones who can help fix shortcomings like these. Of the over 200,000 items on our site, over half of them have been added by Users one at a time. Useful features like our Wheel Types identification guide were built by Users.

Jay joined us for an interview since beginning the project. Here it is, edited for length.

When we first heard from you in a forum on another website, you weren’t very keen on hobbyDB. What was your frustration?

Hot Wheels Collector

It’s true, I wasn’t very pleased to have to move from a Hot Wheels centric database (South Texas Diecast) to an all encompassing website with features that I initially found difficult to navigate and interpret.

So as anyone does these days, I vented out my utter frustration in a comments section, describing in great detail how, in my opinion, hobbyDB was missing the target on some aspects of Hot Wheels collecting. I knew that the old database we were all using before had been imported in its entirety on hobbyDB, but I just couldn’t seem to find a way to search it efficiently.

Turns out, people at hobbyDB read these things, so after some back and forth with Christian (whose patience is the stuff of legends, and whose thickness of skin defies our current understanding of human biology), we exchanged e-mails and phone numbers and had a good chat.

What changed your mind?

I wrote a long e-mail with examples, ideas, and other ramblings that I thought would help get Hot Wheelers on board with hobbyDB and then chatted over the phone with Christian in response. He schooled me on many aspects of the site that I did not know, and I told him about some quirks of Hot Wheels collecting that hobbyDB would benefit from knowing, in order to make searching and cataloguing more efficient and more fun.

I was also aware that the current hobbyDB design and layout might work perfectly for other types of collecting that are thriving on the site, so I tried to think about ways to enhance hobbyDB’s Hot Wheels game without ruining it for everyone else.

What made me change my mind was the immediate attention and response of the hobbyDB team. They were fully in tune with the community, actually made the transition a lot easier, not to mention the fact that they actually care about user feedback, which makes a huge difference to me.

You’ve started adding detailed information about Hot Wheels baseplates. Do you collect based on these differences?

hot wheels baseplate

Indeed, one of the things we discussed over the phone was the baseplate copyright year of the cars. As you might know, the year under a Hot Wheels car is not the year this particular car was released by Mattel, but rather the year Mattel acquired the rights to make the car from the manufacturer. So even brand new cars that you buy at Wal-Mart today might have a baseplate year from the 1970’s, but you’re just buying the 2016 release of that casting. If you have a car with a baseplate year of 1981, you can be pretty confident its first release was 1982 or 1983.

Personally, I don’t collect based on this, but it’s a crucial part of my collecting habits because I mostly buy old loose cars, and the actual name of the car is not always stamped on the base (like the Peugeot 405, among many, many others), and all you have to identify it is the year on the base of the car.

Since the fields in every collectible profile on HobbyDB allow for a lot of freedom, Christian offered me the chance to set up and curate some baseplate years on the site, which I gladly agreed to do.

The goal is to list every first edition of Hot Wheels casting by baseplate year. So you’ll be able to scroll through a list of cars that have a given year on the baseplate, locate your casting, and then click the variants button to locate your exact car.

hot wheels baseplate

Now, I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of Hot Wheels castings, which is why I still need pictures to put a name on some cars, so I encourage other Users to chime in when they see a missing casting for a given year. Ideally, only the first editions of every casting will be listed for each baseplate year, so if you have a car with a baseplate year of 1981, it might not be the first edition of that car, so the car you see under the 1981 baseplate year list might be the same casting, but of a different color than the one you are trying to ID. But you’ll be able to click on it anyways, and then hit the variants button to identify your exact release of that casting.

What other information do you think would be useful to collectors in our database?

Again, speaking from my own loose car collector perspective, I think being able to quickly find the “Made in” field in search results or variant lists would speed things up even more. Sometimes, this is the only difference there is between identical cars. Was it made in Hong Kong? Malaysia? France?

Actually, the quantity of information available for each car on HobbyDB is amazing, it’s just a matter of tweaking how it’s organized. For example, after clicking the variants button, you see a list of folders that represent the series through which this casting was released: Flying colors, First Editions, Mainline, Workhorses. However, when you have a loose car, you don’t always know which series it came from, so you have to browse back and forth until you find your exact release.

One solution would be an “ALL” button that will list every variation of a given casting in one place regardless of the series it came from, similar to the arrangement on South Texas Diecast.

To me, the main fields we need to ID and differentiate loose cars are the color of the car, the wheels (color and type), the tampos, the color of the windows, the color of the interior, the color, year and material of the base and where it’s been made. We can sort through 99% of loose oldies with those alone.

What is your favorite casting or series of Hot Wheels?

I absolutely love the Nascar type racers from the 80’s. Cars like the Mirada stocker, the Front Runnin’ Fairmont, Mountain Dew Stocker, Flatout 442! The tampos are great on these and they look awesome when you have them all together in a display­. As far as more modern releases go, I was a big fan of the Classics (that antifreeze green could end wars) and Drag Strip Demons series.

How many Hot Wheels do you have, and how long have you collected them?

Last time I checked my list, I had around 2000 carded cars from 2005 to 2016, and around 300 loose ones, mostly blackwall era cars from the ’80s. The carded cars I have are mostly classic old cars like muscle cars. I’ve been collecting Hot Wheels since 2006. I started keeping carded cars when I ran out of space to open them and display the loose ones, and over the years I started focusing more on loose oldies.

What else do you collect?

I have a bunch of old video game consoles and games, but I wouldn’t call myself a collector. I guess that’s the disease… You don’t think you’re a collector until your friends and family come over and start freaking out over how much crap you got.

As we mentioned, the baseplate project is a huge undertaking, which Jay has graciously started on his own. The next step is to link every vehicle to the correct baseplate year. If you have some knowledge of this particular detail and want to help, let us know and we can arrange to have you join in!

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hobbyDB & Museums – a perfect combination

young-christian-braun-smallMusings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience. He recently joined the board of Auto-Archives, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Visiting museums is one of my favorite pastimes and I’ve been to more than 400 of them (including personal collections that are so extensive and well-displayed that I count them as museums!) Museums play an important part in promoting collecting and I think hobbyDB can add enormous value to them as part of the collecting ecosystem, by allowing easy cataloging and, more importantly, showcasing and sharing their collections. This is why we decided to develop features specific to museums and large collection (see hobbyDB’s roadmap for details).

Museums’ software today serves mainly one purpose, keeping an inventory and giving admins access to it. Here’s an example;


Museum Software packages are still stand-alone and not integrated into any other databases

As a first step, we want to give collectors and the public-at-large granular access to each item so that they know which museum has a particular item.


A mock-up of a catalog entry showing which museum has the item in its collection

Next would be custom profiles for museums. These pages would explain the museum’s philosophy and how to get access to their collections. For example, “This item is in Room 8 on public view” or “This item is in the off-site archive, you need to give us two weeks notice and here is how”.

After that we plan to show all items in a particular museum with full search capabilities.  We want to ensure that these digital presences are aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly, the same way museums work hard on their physical presentations (like the Mint Museum of Toys with the below gallery).

Mint Museum of Toys

The Mint Museum of Toys in Singapore. Its founder Chang Yang Fa is a member of the hobbyDB Advisory Board

We also plan to extend the Wish List functionality so that museums can ask for items to be donated or loaned, either on a long-time basis or just for an exhibition.

We have already started working with Auto-Archives and the Shelby American Collection to have their volunteers document these two collections (with an estimated total of 300,000 items) and are talking to five other museums about doing the same.

american shelby collection

The American Shelby Collection not only houses the two most expensive American-made cars but is also custodian to thousands of Shelby related documents

In keeping with our ethos, these features will be free for museums, of course. We hope they’ll add enormous value and help them boost attendance – and help bring hobbyDB’s vision of being “the World’s Museum” one step closer to reality!

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Behold the Power of the hobbyDB Wish List!


Wishing and hoping and thinking and dreaming,
Planning and scheming each night of those cars,
Wont get them into your paws!

Wishing on a star won’t get that item into your  collection. Adding it to your hobbyDB Wish List will!

Perhaps you, like the cartoon teddy bear in our adorable illustration, are wishing, hoping, planning and, indeed, dreaming of adding the green Hot Wheels AMC Rebel Machine to your collection. And perhaps, like me, you’re wishing you could also add about 500 OTHER models to your collection too! The big question, how on earth do you keep track of them all?!

That’s where the hobbyDB Wish List comes in. Wish List is one of hobbyDB’s most powerful and popular features; so far, our users have added over 14,000 entries to their Wish Lists. That means that you never need to worry about them slipping your mind again because the list is always there for you to consult. Whenever you’re out buying at a toy show or store, all you need to do is check it on your phone.

Best of all, though, whenever an item on your Wish List comes up for sale on hobbyDB’s marketplace, you’ll get an alert email letting you know about it. (And of course, if you buy an item on hobbyDB, it automatically adds itself to your on-site Collection Management so you don’t need to add it separately!) So you don’t need to remember to run daily searches, or that you’ll miss something you desperately need, it’ll come to you!

Adding an item to your Wish List is easy and there are two ways to do so. You can do a quick-add in the search results;



Or you can do it on any item page;



Notice that on the item page, there’s lots more information about how “wanted” the item is. That tells you how much competition you have by noting the number of total users who have this item in their Wish Lists. It’s handy if you’re thinking of selling something on-site too, because you’ll know how many people already want to buy it and who’ll get emails alerting them when yours goes up for sale! You don’t need to worry about duplicate Wish List adds, either. If the item’s already in your Wish List, it’ll tell you here, and the button will grey-out and become un-clickable. (The button in search will do the same for items already on your list.) And because hobbyDB’s database catalogs all the variants of an item in detail, you can add the exact one you want to your Wish List (or all of them!)

Once an item’s on your Wish List, taking it off is super-simple too. Just go to your dropdown, click on Wish List and you’ll see “Remove” buttons on all the items on there. If you buy an item on the site, it doesn’t automatically remove it from your Wish List in case you want more than one. And if you want to share your Wish List with someone else, it’s as simple as just sending them the URL!



We’ve got a lot of exciting ideas and features for Wish List in the pipeline too – eventually you’ll be able to specify what condition you want the item in and how much you’re willing to pay and only be alerted when examples come up for sale that match your criteria. We’re also working with more and more manufacturers to ensure items are added to the site before they go on sale, so you can add those to your Wish Lists and not have to worry about missing them when they get released. We’ll even have a feature where you can do an auto-buy when an item comes up that matches the condition degree and price you want by putting in your payment details ahead of time.

For right now, though, it’ll save you having to carry that list of wants around in your brain or on paper. So why not add the Hot Wheels AMC Rebel Machine (or something else you want!) to your Wish List right now – all it takes is one click!

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Hot Wheels Vehicles That Haul Other Vehicles

Hot Wheels recently released the Tour De Fast, which looks like a futuristic Citroen wagon (actually, many Citroens look futuristic, to be honest). What caught our attention was the pair of bikes on the roof.

Hot Wheels Tour De Fast

From the name and the load, it’s apparent that this is supposed to suggest a bike race support vehicle, which is really neat.  It’s an unusual load, but it’s not the first time a Hot Wheels car has carried a bike. In fact, there are many other Hot Wheels Vehicles that have carried other smaller modes of transportation. Such as…

Popcycle / Motor Psycho

Hot Wheels Popcycle

This asymmetrical buggy has a compartment holding what appears to be a Schwinn Sting’Ray bike under the transparent canopy. Pop on a set of vintage redline tires, and you could be convinced this was designed in the early 1970s.

Custom ’53 Cadillac

Hot Wheels 53 Cadillac

Everyone’s familiar with custom cocahbuilt Caddy hearses, but it was also common to make pickup versions as “flower cars” for the funeral procession. So imagine if you got your hands on a retired flower car… what would you do? Lower it, give it a custom paint job, and haul your soapbox derby car, of course, right?

’55 Chevy Panel Wagon

Hot Wheels 55 Chevy Panel

You might not be aware of the cruiser motorcycle hidden in the back of this truck because it only came in the more valuable versions, which don’t get relased fron the blister very often. Early models of the ’55 Panel Wagon had a metal base and opening hatch, allowing the bike to slide out, but later versions with the plastic base have a sealed door and no payload.

Hi-Tail Hauler

Hot Wheels Hi Tail Hauler

Here’s a jacked up ’56 Ford pickup complete with a pair of dirt bikes in the back. Everything about this ride suggests “off-road adventure. Which way to Baja?

Texas Drive’Em

Hot Wheels Teas Hold Em

More recently, the Texas Drive’ Em captures the same effect as the Hi-Tail, but looks  capable of going even further off the beaten path before unleashing the motorcycles.

Dodge Rampage

Hot Wheels Dodge Rampage

In the early 1980s, the Dodge Omni 024 was available in pickup form, which was a neat looking ride. Unfortunately, since it was front wheel drive, adding a three wheeled ATV in the back probably made it lose most of its traction. So this truck would be good for getting to the trail, but the trike would have to take it from there.

Chevy Silverado

Hot Wheels Chevy Silverado

The Silverado is one of the great workhorses of the modern road. However if you chop and lower it, you can only take it so many places. This one is clearly not for off road use, as the motorcycle in the bed is a high speed ninja bike.


Hot Wheels Seasider

At first glance, the Seasider looks like a Custom Fleetside pickup with a camper top. In reality, it’s not at all the same truck, and the back end is actually a removable plastic boat.

SkyShow Custom Fleetside/Sky Show Deora

Hot Wheels Sky Show Custom Fleetside

On the other hand, the Sky Show vehicle was the same as the original Fleetside, but had a snap on rack to hold a rubber band powered glider. Hot Wheels also offered a Deora based model in case you were more of a MOPAR fan.

Hot Wheels Sky Show Deora

Surfboards… why not?

Hot Wheels Surf Crate

As an honorable mention, how ‘bout we call surfboards an alternate form of transportation? If we do, Hot Wheels has produced countless models of cars and trucks to carry them. Some had removable boards such as the Deora, and Beach Bomb, some were permanently mounted, including the Surf Crate, Some required snap-on racks like the ’40s Woodie, and some are molded into the body like the recent Corvair Greenbrier Wagon.

If you can think of other mainline vehicles that haul other vehicles, let us know in the comments below!

Comments (4 Comments)

Here a few more:

    Nomadder What has a soapbox derby car in the back.
    Volkswagen Caddy has a skateboard in the back.
    Switch Back has surfboards on the earlier versions.
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Coterie Press Signs On With hobbyDB

Coterie Press

Specialist automotive publisher Coterie Press is hobbyDB’s latest partner, bringing its archives and information to the database.

Even if you’re not yet familiar with Coterie Press, you’ll definitely know all about the subjects of its books. Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren and other prominent European marques, all with a strong racing heritage are all covered extensively. Lotus is a particular favorite, with individual titles covering the cars, the racing wins, the advertisements, the collectibles, and of course, the people behind the brand started by Colin Chapman in 1948.

Coterie Press

“Coterie Press was established in 1996,” said William Taylor, one of the company founders. “After four years of research trying to find an example of every Lotus to photograph, we released our first title The Lotus Book in 1998. It came out just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration of Lotus Cars at their factory in the UK, and more than fifteen years on, it is still recognized as the most authoritative book in existence on Lotus cars.”

Coterie’s latest book, Pit & Paddock (due for publication in October) offers a behind the scenes look into the world of European auto racing in the late 1960s and early ’70s. It features the work of legendary motorsports photographer Peter Darley who chronicled this incredible golden period of motor sport. Dan Gurney, Sir Jackie Stewart and Lord March, the force behind the Goodwood phenomenon, also contributed their own amazing insights.

Pit and Paddock

Coterie Press books are known for their clean design, smart modern layout, beautiful photography and knowledgeable text with clear, concise and well-researched historical facts. “Our mission is to produce the highest quality automotive books. Books that inform, educate and enthuse car people the world over.” William told us. “Attention to detail and the very highest production standards are the key to the Coterie philosophy.”

In addition to welcoming Coterie’s archives to hobbyDB, we’re also very pleased to announce that they will also be selling on hobbyDB. The posters, prints, DVDs and other memorabilia in the new Coterie store all match the same extraordinary quality of its books. 

William Taylor

Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton was at Magny-Cours to help author William Taylor launch the Coterie Press book McLaren the Cars at the French GP.

Of course, like everything else on hobbyDB, all Coterie’s information is automatically linked to every relevant subject in our catalog, so you’ll find Coterie products on all sorts of pages; drivers, model cars and other memorabilia types.

Tom Walker Racing

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