Redlines to Treasure Hunts: A Labor of Love

hobbyDB Team: We are VERY excited about Dan Hornberger’s documentary film project “Redlines to Treasure Hunts” and are pleased to welcome him to our blog with his latest update. “Redlines to Treasure Hunts” is a full-length documentary on the history and collecting world of Hot Wheels. Dan currently has a GoFundMe to get completion costs for the film and is hoping to have it finished by early 2018.

Dan HornbergerA Guest Blog Post by Dan Hornberger

I’d like to thank the folks at hobbyDB for giving me the opportunity to provide an update on the film.


First…a little background on the film: After producing the documentary STANDARDIZED, an exposé on the standardized testing industry that plagues public education, I began looking for other documentary projects, especially those with a lighter tone. I initially thought about a project involving toys from the 60s and 70s (i.e., Major Matt Mason, Vertibird, AirDevils, Creepy Crawlers) so I attended a local toy fair/flea market. After seeing dozens of tables of Hot Wheels and spotting cars I had when I was a kid, I knew I had my next project. I observed the vendors’ and collectors’ passion; I saw how excited the kids were as they scanned the wide array of cars.

I started researching and discovered an entire subculture of people who love these toy cars. I also quickly found out that Hot Wheels is not your ordinary fad (such as Beanie Babies, Longaberger Baskets, or Cabbage Patch Kids). These toys have been going strong for almost fifty years. I knew that the origin of these toy cars, the different phases of their development, and the dedicated collectors would make a compelling documentary.


I wrapped up the interviews a month ago (however, I’ve recently learned of another exciting potential interview, but I don’t want to reveal any more just yet). Sure, we interviewed the giants of the collecting world: Mike Zarnock, Bruce Pascal, Larry Wood, all of whom were friendly, accommodating, and supportive. I’ve been feverishly transcribing all of the interviews. Let me tell you, writing a blog entry beats the tedious transcription process. I’m nearing the end of that stage, but it has been a slow, painstaking phase; however, it’s highly necessary if I want a much smoother editing stage.

I often think about all of the great people we’ve met along the way. We:

Spent time with the SJPD and Charm City Collectors’ Clubs (thank you to all of the members!)


A Charm City Collectors’ Club (MD) sale

Interviewed dozens of collectors such as Kirk Engle, Roy Friend, Dan Hocker, and Ed Bregitzer


Kirk Engle amidst his collection

Gained invaluable information from interviews we hadn’t initially planned such as Mark and Jennifer Millhollin, Wayne Heede, Danny Tharp, Mark Starr and Bill Cookerly…thank you VERY much!


Mark & Jennifer Millhollin, Collectors’ Convention Organizers (and VERY nice people!)

Experienced four days of crazy fun at the National Convention in Indianapolis; we came away from that event with eight hours of footage and the experience of meeting dozens and dozens of very nice people (including hobbyDB’s own Christian Braun and Robert Graves)

Traveled to SoCal and paid a visit to Mattel, who arranged for us to interview Jimmy Liu, Steve Vandervate, and Brendan Vetuskey


Jimmy Liu, Associate Marketing Manager at Mattel

And we accomplished so much more. I feel compelled to say that this project has allowed me to:

  • work closely with my son, who will graduate this May with a BFA in Filmmaking from Montclair State
  • have my daughter help me on two shoots
  • work with several close friends: Jim Del Conte, whose work is always top-notch; Glenn Cocco and Peter Fey, my two Temple University SCAT brothers. My friendship with these two guys has lasted 25 years, and having the chance to work with them has made this great experience even greater. By the way, Pete composed and performed all of the awesome music in the film trailers.
  • rekindle my love for this great hobby

So what’s next? Well, I’ll finish the transcriptions by next week, and I’ll immediately dive into cutting the film. The toughest part of editing will be narrowing hours and hours of footage into a 90-minute doc. My rather optimistic goal is to have a rough cut completed by late November. In the meantime, I’m hoping Pete can continue cranking out cool tunes, and I’ll spend more time trying to raise money for the budget. Of course, we want the film shown on the major streaming venues so the Hot Wheels’ community can watch it. But before that can happen, we need to enter a few film festivals and, hopefully, deal with numerous distribution offers. Our official fundraising page is www.gofundme.redlines.

I’ll continue to post updates on the official site:, and the film’s FB page. By the way, I’m entertaining another title: The Hottest Wheels. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

With more hard work, more money in the budget, and a little bit of luck, this film will be completed just before the 50th Anniversary. How cool would that be?

Well, so much for a break. It’s time to get back to transcribing. No rest for the weary.
Take care!
Dan Hornberger

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Dan, all the best with the project!

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Electable Collectibles: Political Memorabilia Gets Our Vote

As the 2016 election nears its conclusion, it’s time for us at hobbyDB announce that we officially endorse… collecting political memorabilia!

Over the course of U.S. history, elections have resulted in a side industry that has created buttons, hats, posters, signs, bobbleheads, stickers… if it can promote a candidate, you name it. Some of them were created as giveaways, some as fundraisers, some as third party cash-ins. But however they came to be, election-related items can be an interesting batch.

muscle machines 57 chevy 69 chevelle vote

johnny lightning vote 2000 plymouth fury

Diecast cars – Johnny Lightning produced some “Vote 2000” cars around election time that year, but stayed very noncommittal by adorning them with basic stars and stripes themes. In 2004, Muscle Machines created a series of very American hot rods including a ’69 Chevelle, ’57 Chevy and ’49 Mrecury, each adorned with either Donkey or Elephant logos on the roof. What’s strange is they painted the Democratic cars red and the Republican cars blue, the opposite of the standard colors used by most news outlets these days to color electoral maps.

ronald reagan inflatable

Inflatables – In 1984, voters could purchase this awesome life size inflatable Ronald Reagan caricature/figure. Based on the packaging, which simply called it an “Inflatable House Guest,” it was not authorized by Reagan, his party, or anyone involved in the election. There was a separate chamber in the bottom of the body that could be filled with water or sand to make him rock and stand like a Weebles figure. With that weighted bottom, the inflatable Gipper could be used as a pool float, a punching bag, or a passenger in your car to sneak through high-occupancy lanes. So essentially, the makers of this item didn’t care about your political leanings, as long as you voted for their toy.

jim beam 1964 election decanters
Decanters – Do elections sometimes make you want to hit the bottle? Jim Beam has had both sides of the aisle covered for years with their election decanters. for several years, the distillery designed a ceramic 750 ml bottles representing Democratic Donkeys and Republican Elephants. Unfortunately, there is no data on which party was more popular each time, or what consumption of whiskey actually meant in relation to actual likability of each candidate.

political buttons taft eisenhower obama perot johnson

Pins and Buttons – These are among the oldest election memorabilia, and often rare because of their easy to lose small size. Early items like this William Taft watch fob quickly gave way to simple pins and buttons that we have come to know in modern times. As they have become easier to produce, more specific buttons such as this Obama pin started to appear.

trump clinton hat

Hats –  The traditional porkpie hat with a candidate’s name wrapped around it started as a real straw hat, eventually giving way to plastic or styrofoam lids. Folks very rarely wore these in public, of course, except at rallies or conventions. In recent years, baseball style caps have become more prevalent. With the advent of inexpensive, quick embroidery processes, candidates can respond with their own hats in an instant. Since Halloween falls just before the presidential election, knock-off costume and parody hats are also produced in great quantities.

reagan obama poster

Posters and Signs – These were generally designed for single use, glued or stapled to a wall or telephone pole. Over the years, they started to become collectible enough that freshly preserved, rolled copies became more common. So if you went to college in 1980, your roommate may have had this iconic Reagan poster. Or, 28 years later, this famous Obama sign.

willkie compact agnew watch

Jewelry and other bling – Some of these items can get a bit expensive to produce, so they can be kind of rare. Take, for instance, this Spiro Agnew wristwatch. He didn’t make it out of the primaries, so it’s pretty rare. It appears to be based on a Mickey Mouse watch, by the way. Or one can assume Wendell Willkie was pursuing the women’s vote with this makeup compact and mirror.

Barry Goldwater bumpersticker

Stickers and decals – Bumper stickers became fairly prevalent starting in the 1950s and beyond. Since the average expectancy of owning a car before trading it in was fairly short bach then, it was unlikely that someone would have more than one election’s worth of stickers on their car. In later years, it has become more common to see four or even eight or twelve year old stickers proudly proclaiming the driver’s allegiance. On a side note, these stickers (originals and reproductions) are sometimes seen on restored cars as a fun period correct detail, such as this sweet “McGovern/Shriver ’72” decal on a vintage Buick.

mcgovern bumper sticker

Bobbleheads and other figures – Bobble heads and nodders were generally pretty complimentary towards their respective candidates until marketing forces realized unflattering characterizations of the opponent could be a good fund raiser too. With the advent of 3D printing, models can be quickly produced to fit the news cycle, so more custom, up-to-the-minute models are available, including action figures and vinyl art toys.

clinton bobblehead trump funko pop

Magazines and other publications – Major publications such as Time or Life magazines from election years are highly collectible. The TV Guide seen below is pretty cool because it included third party candidate John Anderson on the cover along with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. For those of you too young to remember, in 1980, Anderson was not invited to the main debates, but one channel ran the debates on tape delay and allowed him to respond before hitting play again.

The Chicago Daily Tribune famously printed a large number of “Dewey Defeats Truman” editions before realizing their mistake. An original of that would be worth a fortune today. Modern technology made such changes much quicker to implement, so in the the 2000 election, you might have seen “Gore Defeats Bush,” then “Bush Defeats Gore,” followed by “Now Just Hang on a Minute” editions of one paper in the span of a few hours.

mad magazine 1968

Alfred E. Neuman, the spokesidoit for Mad Magazine, has launched a joke candidacy every election since 1956. The humor has been relatively nonpartisan in that every candidate gets skewered at some point. Things almost turned very dark for Mad’s cover in 1968, however… if you look at the cover of October ’68 issue, Mr. Neuman is about to pop several balloons with the images of major primary candidates including himself. The original image had Robert F. Kennedy on one balloon, and his assassination came just before the magazine went to press. Mort Drucker, the cover artist, quickly modified the image to put Alfred in his place. For a magazine known for its bad taste, this was a classy move.

Ironically, collectibles such as these might be harder to come by in future elections. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have become the popular choice for campaigns to get the word out to a large audience efficiently and flexibly. As a result, yard signs, bumper stickers, buttons, and other physical campaign items are already decreasing in use.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at political collectibles… We’ve done our best to be as neutral as possible here, so if you think we’re too biased towards one party or the other, you know what to do… Politley comment and add stuff to our database! And remember, no matter how you vote, you can’t spell collection with election (well, maybe you can, but who’s counting besides the folks at the ballot stations?)

Comments (1 Comment)

Love the Goldwater!!  Maybe 'cause I'm a Chemical Engineer!

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hobbyDB: 1 Million Data Donations and Counting!

Many collectors often first become experts in what they collect and then start to document either the products and/or the history of their favorite brand or subject matter. There are literally thousands of specialist books written by these collectors and website databases that have been built to help document their collections.

Many of the owners of these data depositories love what we are doing. Quite a few of them have joined our Advisory Board (which now has 61 members) or have given us permission to digitize their books and import their databases. We log each of these donations and there are now more than 200 donors who have given us more than 1,000,000 items that we still have to add to hobbyDB!

Here some examples:

Schuco Bell BoyUlrich Schweizer from Germany has written books on Schuco, Gama and other vintage toy companies (he is also a member of our Advisory Board)

Tri-ang Hornby Books

Some of the books written by Pat Hammonds on British Model Trains (another member of the hobbyDB Advisory Board)


A database of Soviet model cars from Max Paransky’s website


A database of wooden Wild West buildings build by our member Oudennieuwarchief who has already added rubber model cars and Sci-Fi toy guns to hobbyDB

We are working hard on adding all this extra data to hobbyDB.  On top of that we also receive data from our Museum program and the Official Archives we are building with various collectible brands.  We would love to get this data onto hobbyDB and therefore available to you.  So we’re are on the look-out for volunteers that can help with this work.  If you want to help or if have written a book, have images or a database and like hobbyDB’s mission contact us!

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Authors and Publishers Tell Their Stories on hobbyDB

Over the last couple of years hobbyDB has become home to the official archives of many brands of toys and collectibles as well several museums that highlight the sorts of things we love here.

The latest trend is for authors and publishers to set up an archive page on hobbyDB. The benefits are similar to how well it works for brands and museums, in that their books can be cross-referenced with a variety of subjects and collectibles. We talked to a few authors of books on automobiles, automobilia, and collectibles who now have archives here to get some insight on the process.

Arthur Ward airfix

Arthur Ward, Airfix expert and author, also knows a thing or two about vintage cars.

Arthur Ward might be a familiar name to certain collectors as the authority on all things Airfix related. In addition to being on our Advisory Board, he has an archive on hobbyDB. “My first book, The Model World of Airfix, was published in 1984, a few years after they  spectacularly went bust in 1981 to be rescued by American multinational General Mills. I knew, and the publisher agreed, that a history of this famous brand would catch the zeitgeist prevalent at the time – the Brits had nearly lost a famous and iconic brand.” As you can tell, this is a bit more than just a hobby for Arthur.

He’s since written several guides to the Airfix brand, but is also the author of books on other subjects such as World War II collectibles. This isn’t too much of a stretch, he says. “The models I built as a kid, the Spitfires,  Messerschmitts, Lancaster bombers, Sherman tanks, Flying Fortresses and the like, encouraged me to research their subjects carefully,” he said. “Making models was always about much more than simply assembling a selection of components – it was about immersing yourself in the subject. Airfix understood this, which was why their box top artwork by people like the legendary Roy Cross was so much more than a simple illustration of the subject at hand.”

Having an expert like him not just curating his books, but also the models he writes about helps lend a lot of credibility to hobbyDB with collectors, which benefits everyone with an interest in collecting.

Frank Barrett

Frank Barrett is the latest automotive author to host his archive on hobbyDB.

Frank Barrett is the latest author to archive his books on hobbyDB. After spending 25 years as editor/publisher of The Star, the national magazine of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, he generally writes about Mercedes-Benz and his first love, Porsche, but his biggest and best book is about a British/American collaboration, the Shelby Cobra. “Writing is hard work,” he explains, ”so you have to find the best publisher you can. For example I did this book with David Bull and he was fantastic to work with.”

Since Frank has worked with several publishers over the years, it can be hard to find all of his books online unless you stumble onto them in a neutral place. Or, you can go to his archive, and find them all. Long story short, it’s good to have a single source that ties them all together. Frank is only in the process of moving his Toad Hall Motorbooks store to hobbyDB where you can buy his books – plus over 1,000 other vintage automotive books and more than 200 original factory-published Porsche posters.


William Taylor and his company Coterie Press have published a huge array of automotive books.

William Taylor, another author archived on hobbyDB, has found a reliable publisher he likes to work with… his own company, Coterie Press. Their books (and his own) cover a range of mostly European makes, everything from the manufacturer, the cars, the races, the memorabilia, the models, anything related to the subject. If you don’t believe us, just punch in “Coterie Press Lotus” and look at the depth in coverage.

“Over the course of 15 years publishing automotive books, Coterie Press has archived the motor racing images of photographers Ian Catt, Peter Darley and myself,” William said. “Along with the Classic Team Lotus Collection and several other smaller collections we’ve acquired, Coterie currently have over 100,000 images accessible to them when working on a book project.” So add the vintage photos to their stunning original photography, and that results in some really nice books.

Taylor’s (and his company’s) accurate, beautifully designed books have earned them a reputation with folks in the auto industry and the racing world to grant them access to even more in depth writing possibilities. In this case, we don’t just get a single author’s work accurately represented, we get an entire company to go with it.

We’re looking for other authors and publishers of books that appeal to any type of collectors… brand histories, spotter’s guides, price lists, let us know what you write. When you add your books to our database, we can build a great online library for collectors!

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Collect A Nice Tax-Deduction By Donating To Auto-Archives

auto archives library

As the end of the year rolls around, you might be looking for some last minute tax deductions. At the same time, you might be looking to thin out some of your automobila literature collection. If so, think about donating to Auto-Archives, in Denver, Colorado.

auto archives library“Our mission of is to preserve and document the rich history of the automobile, and provide both a physical and virtual resource for the study of the past, present, and future of the automobile, in all its forms,” said William Taylor, President of Auto-Archives. “We hope to inspire, enable and support the advancement of automotive studies for people interested in an industry that has, in the past one hundred years, changed the habits of modern society.”

Like many traditional libraries, Auto-Archives is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means if you donate an item to them, you can declare it as a tax write-off in the US. Ron Ruelle, Social Media Guy at hobbyDB, recently donated a large collection of magazines to the archives. He gave them copies of all 102 issues of “Chevelle World” magazine, a publication he worked for from 1995 to 2012. “When I was Art Director of Chevelle World, I needed to keep a complete archive of back issues handy for reference,” said Ron. “It was a great magazine, but I thought, ‘hey, they can put these to even better use.’”

chevelle world magazine

The physical archive of all their literature will reside at their library location, while a digital database will be hosted at hobbyDB. Eventually, this partnership will mean the addition of millions of entries to the database. Combining the actual collection and the digital reference will result in any automobile enthusiast’s dream.

Besides books about anything auto-related, they’re also looking for factory brochures, manuals, event programs, and back issues of car magazines. “Ideally we want to have at least two copies of everything,” said William. “One in very nice condition for preservation, and one for visitors to browse.” Eventually, everything in the library will also be digitized for anyone to browse or read on hobbyDB.

auto archives library


Items in the Auto-Archives collection are either owned by Auto-Archives or on permanent loan. All photographic images in the archive are held under license with full copyright agreement from the copyright holder.

Auto-Archives has limited funds available to purchase collections for the archive, so they depend on donations from automobile collectors and enthusiasts throughout the world to grow the Archive. If you have any automotive related materials, or know of any individuals or companies that may have items that they would like to donate, please contact them. If you know of any collections or photographic archives that may be available for purchase. Period photographs are the most accurate record of vintage automobile and racing history, and, if properly archived, provide the most valuable part of any library. You can help preserve this area of automotive history that is all too often lost forever. And visit the wish list to see some specific items they’re looking for.

All donations of either automotive related items, or cash, are of course tax deductible with the US IRS. To learn how you can donate your automotive literature to Auto-Archives, you can visit their website. You’ll find lists of what they currently own, specific items they are looking for, and more.

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