Gary Hirst – I did not meet him and now never will, but he will not be forgotten

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and this post is about saying Good-Bye to a friend and valued contributor.

Today I got an email from Gary’s partner informing me that he passed away a week ago.  About ten years ago, I reached out to Gary to get his advice on how we document model cars in our database. I admire him as he was always willing to help and share his incredible knowledge.  Over the last three years, he added more than 4,000 models to the hobbyDB database and had plans to add 1,000s more.  In fact many diecast collectors will be familiar with Gary’s kitchen table – as his photos have a very distinctive background  –

He also helped built hobbyDB with other subjects that he was interested in such as his home-town Preston or the local bus company Ribble Motor Services.  Beyond that Gary always had great comments on how to improve the way we document model cars and other type of collectibles.

I had on many occasions invited Gary to come see our office in Boulder or meet at one of the conventions like the Matchbox Gathering of Friends in Albuquerque and hoped that we could meet in person. However, as he was fighting an illness that was unfortunately not an option.  I do not even have a photo of him, so I will always remember him by his chosen Avatar on hobbyDB, a Ribble bus  –

For somebody I never met, I do miss Gary and the news of his untimely demise today hit me hard.  The diecast world lost somebody very special yesterday.


Please share an episode or add another comment below if you knew Gary
Comments (19 Comments)

Very sad to hear the news about Gary. I very much enjoyed his site, Garyscars. As a fellow collector of Playart cars, it was my first resource of all the castings. He will be missed.

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Majorette Moves to Become A Major Player in U.S. Market

majorette blister cardDiecast hunters at Toys R Us may have recently noticed a familiar old brand they haven’t seen in almost two decades. Majorette, which has not been sold in the U.S. since 1999, is making a comeback. “Toys R Us was looking to introduce a diecast line different from what all other mass retailers had,” said Brand Ambassador Andy Goodman. “Knowing the quality and longevity of the brand (it started in 1964) TRU worked with their parent company, Simba-Dickie Group, to strike a partnership to bring the very popular European brand back to U.S. collectors.”

majorette boxster challenger lamborghini

Many new Majorette models include opening doors or engine covers.

During their absence, Majorette made the move from toylike models to more of a collector brand. Their vehicles are in still in the 3-inch range, which is around 1/64. Scales vary for each one, and are still marked on the bottom of each model, a tradition for the brand. But they are now much more accurately proportioned and detailed than what you might remember from your youth.

Majorette Mercedes

Majorette’s diecast cars in the 1970s, such as this Mercedes 450 SE, had more toy-like proportions.

“I really think everything was toy like in the 60’s 70’s – not many people were collecting model cars back then,” said Goodman.  “Collectors were becoming a recognizable group with a presence in  ’80s and ’90s, and they wanted realistic replicas of their favorite and dream vehicles. Majorette noticed and began to deliver the accuracy the community was looking for.”

majorette subaru wrx

Majorette’s newer models, like this Subaru WRX STI, are more accurately scaled and detailed than their early efforts.

The brand has always been popular in Europe but never made the same impact in the States. Part of the reason was a lack of models based on American marques, which they have addressed lately. For the past several years, the Camaro, Ford F-150 and Mustang have been among their most popular cars. Their stable still includes less common models as the Audi A1, Mercedes G Wagon, and Jaguar F Type as a way to differentiate them from other diecast companies.

majorette f150 camaro

The relaunch includes more American marques such as the Ford F-150 and Chevy Camaro.

Collectors should appreciate the value of these models as well. They are designed to retail for around $3.49, but can often be found for even less in some stores. Not bad for models of this kind of quality.

As for upcoming plans, Majorette has signed on as a sponsor for the upcoming Diecast Hall of Fame awards, so attendees can experience their offerings up close. “Majorette also has a great partnership planned for 2018 with Toys R Us,” said Goodman. “You’ll see the launch of the internationally popular Dubai Police Line, their Vintage collection and a special raw collection that’s to debut in the U.S. market first.” Those are some welcome and major developments in the world of diecast.

Did you have a favorite Majorette model when you were a kid? Let us know in the comments!

Comments (2 Comments)
Rich Warren

Yes they are. There was a nice review posted about their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat on the Challenger of the Day website as well. Some pretty cool photos.

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These ’65 Chevies Are Better Than The Real Thing!

Over the past few years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy our comparison of two Chevelle-based cars from 1965.

diecastx chevelle and el camino

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The 1964 Chevelle was a pleasant and sporty mid-sized car, but fell just a bit short of being an exciting ride. Chevrolet quickly fixed that for ’65 with a more aggressive front end and some beefier engine options. For some reason, scale models of both years have been scarce compared to other years.

It only took about 40 years until Lane Exact Detail Replicas came out with a ’65 El Camino …  No one had offered a model of this year Chevelle, Malibu or El Camino before, and Lane offered versions of all of them. They retailed for over $100, a price that brought not only amazing detail, but limited availability of only 1500 copies.

Lane 1965 El CaminoAround the same time, American Muscle released a 1/18 scale Malibu SS model from their Authentics line. This car retailed for around $65, for which the buyer also got some incredible detail.

ertl 1965 Mailbu ssThe exteriors of both cars show excellent fit and finish, including different levels of shine on the grill as needed. Details like the headlights, marker lamps, and door handles are separate bits, carefully installed for extra realism. The El Camino features separately molded chrome trim on the sides and around the bed and windows. Each car also features a radio antenna that can be raised or lowered. As nice as these look so far, you really have to open them up to appreciate the quality of these models. By the way, the doors a realistically hinged, and the Malibu even has a tiny sprung button that holds them shut.

Lane 1965 El CaminoThe interior of the El Camino is astonishing. The vinyl seats have a realistic sheen and feature separate seatbelts with detailed buckles. The passenger seat flips forward to reveal the spare tire. Every texture from the metal dash to the roof liner (a detail found on both cars) is well done. You can even see the texture and logos on the “Body by Fisher” kick plates. American Muscle’s interior is also of much higher quality than their regular, particularly the simulated wood steering wheel, flocked carpets, and readable gauges.

Lane 1965 El CaminoThe Elco’s engine detail is full of surprises, with some very finely detailed and fragile parts throughout. The radiator cap, which is multicolored, has a small hose running back to the plastic reservoir, which is painted to look like it’s half full of fluid. There’s even a plate where the hood pin latches to the body. Best bit of all might be the tiny replica of the glass GM washer fluid bottle, complete with labels.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssThe Malibu isn’t too far behind under the hood, with far more separately molded and colored components than you usually find in a model. One detail that really stands out when the hood is up is the photo etched metal grill insert, which lends an incredibly deep bit of detail to the front end. Another thing you might not have noticed: The hood hinges work like the real car, complete with springs.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssSpeaking of hinges, the hood hinges on the El Camino are the type you usually find on a 1/18 scale model, but the tailgate is another matter. When you lower the gate, there are very thin folding metal straps that drop into place like a real pickup. The Malibu counters that with a trunk complete with houndstooth floormat, spare tire and printed jack instructions.

Lane 1965 El CaminoUnderneath, both cars show some innovative detail. The El Camino has quite a few separately colored components instead of the usual single-piece chassis molded in black. The Malibu has some great working features including separately sprung suspension on each wheel and a driveshaft that turns when rolled. Both cars were pioneers in packaging that didn’t require ugly mounting tabs and screw holes, so they deserve a lot of credit here.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssLane 1965 El CaminoThe attention to detail makes it hard to choose one of these ’65 Chevies over the other. Maybe get the Malibu for the lower price and grab the Elco because you can’t get one elsewhere. Then marvel at both.

Comments (1 Comment)
Jim Simspson

The little details on these are truly thoughtful and well beyond the normal expectations...

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Bringing Marketplaces to your favorite Website

GarysCars, for more than a decade the best source for Lego 1:87, Lonestar, Playart, Triang MINIX, Zylmex and other obscure diecast brands

We all have our favorite collectible websites – mine, for example, is GarysCars. The wonderful people who create these sites put huge amounts of time and effort into them, so we wanted to figure out a way that hobbyDB could help them in their mission. Enter the PopUp Marketplace – a new way for site owners to get revenue from their creations quickly and easily.

The hobbyDB PopUp Marketplaces are tailored specifically to the site they PopUp on! They only show items relevant to that site’s audience and they have a simple and convenient guest checkout, so there’s no need to register and buyers can just pay with PayPal or credit card. All the site owner has to do is link to the PopUp Marketplace from wherever they want to, and the fees we earn from the marketplace is shared with them.

Sellers can also offer discount coupons to specific PopUp Marketplaces and buyers can buy from as many sellers as they like at any one time. Lots more features are in the pipeline, but in the meantime why not check it out for yourselves. Here are our first two PopUp Marketplaces:

We’ve launched five so far, with four more coming next week (you find a complete list of them here).

PopUp Marketplaces are totally personalizable – this one is only showing Superman related items

PopUp Marketplace can be built so that they only show:

  • Items from one or more brands only
  • Items related to one or more characters or movies
  • Items of a certain type such as decoys or posters
  • Items of a certain type with additional restrictions (say only Model Cars in 1:18 Scale)

If you know a site that should have one of these PopUp Marketplaces please contact us!

Comments (1 Comment)
Colin Duggan

Whoever establishes a site to cover only Matchbox "Models of Yesteryear" will benefit from hundreds or even thousands of followers after Mattel stuffed up the brand.

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How the Colorado License Plate Evolved Into an Icon

Colorado license plate

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

At hobbyDB, we love automobile related collectibles as much as we love diecast. One of the most popular bits of automobilia is the license plate, which can (or should, at least) be found on every car. And since we’re based in Boulder Colorado, let’s take a look at the history of our state’s license plates, one of the most instantly recognizable designs in the United States.

1908 Colorado license plate

The earliest license plates were homemade, often using house numbers on leather or wood.

The earliest license plates came within a few years of the first cars as a way to identify one from another, and most importantly, make some money for the state coffers. The very first ones in Colorado came around 1908, and were homemade. The DMV (they probably didn’t call it that yet, or despise it as much as we currently do) would give a number to the motorist, who would then fabricate their own by attaching aluminum house numbers to wood, leather, or whatever material was handy.

By 1912, Colorado was manufacturing the plates, a process that was far more time consuming than it is today. The first designs just said “COLO” in stacked letters on one side and “1912” on the other with a 4-digit number in between. Colors varied for the next few years, but the porcelain construction stayed. Back in those days, by the way, there were no registration stickers to update your validation. You simply got a whole new plate every year, which really isn’t simple at all if you think about it.

1917 Colorado license plateBy 1916, someone had figured out a process to make the stamped style of plates that still exist to this day. By creating raised and painted letters, it became hard to couterfeit these plates. Colors remained in the traditional range until 1917, when black on pink was the choice.

Another interesting bit of design change was happening around this time as well. Those first stamped plates were about 12 inches wide and 6 inches tall, but the shape would become more horizontal some years, in some cases to accommodate more characters.

1941 Tennessee license plate

Not a Colorado plate, but pretty neat, huh?

By the mid ’20s, the 12×6 rectangle became the standard for most states. Even though the dimensions eventually became a federal requirement, Tennessee decided in the 1940s that the shape could be something fun. For several years, theirs were cut in an approximation of the outline of the Tennessee border. The most noticeable holdout in modern times is the Northwest Territories of Canada, whose plates form the silhouette of a polar bear.

1938 Colorado license plateBack to Colorado, however, a state with a rectangular shape like a license plate. The designs swung wildly from one color combination to another: orange on black for 1932, black on orange for 1933, black on yellow for 1934, white on blue for 19361938’s plate starts to look familiar with white on turquoise, but the parade of colors would continue into the late 1950s.

1958 Colorado license plate1958 featured one of the first license plates in the nation to include a graphic other than numbers and letters. A silhouette of a skier showed up on the plates, along with the word “Colorful.” And speaking of color, this was the first year for dark green, though paired with light green. 1959 saw the debut of the now familiar green and white (getting closer…) and finally, 1960 defined what a Colorado License Plate should look like. Jagged white mountain peaks with green sky and lettering became the template for most future plates.

1960 Colorado license plate

The green and white mountains debuted in 1960. The same shapes and colors have been used almost continuously since with some variations…

1963 1964 Colorado license plate

From 1962 to 1972, Colorado plates would alternate between these two designs. Notice how the mountain shape flips upside down.

The color arrangement was flipped in 1962 (green mountains, white sky) and then… the whole thing was flipped. Using the same stamp, but upside down, 1963 saw the entire border rotated to put a sliver of mountains at the bottom, with the lettering in the sky. The plates would alternate between these two looks yearly until 1972.

1973 1974 Colorado license plate

1973 and 1974 saw single year designs.

For some reason, 1973 went with a plain design (except for the word “Colorful”), and 1974 tried a busier version of the mountains with “Colorful” wedged in. But each of those designs would only last one year.

1976 Colorado license plateTo celebrate the Colorado Centennial, 1975-76 used a special light blue and white design with the state’s “76” logo in the middle, sandwiched between different mountains at the top and wavy water at the bottom.

1999 Colorado license plateIn 1977, the familiar green and white peaks returned for good. Those peaks were sharpened up a bit in 1993, but otherwise, there were no major changes for 24 years. One thing that vanished around that time was a stamped year… from that point on, drivers would adhere date stickers to the plate every year.

2001 Colorado license plateIn 2000, the mountains switched back to white (reminiscent of the 1960 plates) along with some subtle silver detail, and the plates have remained the same since. Notice that the mountains have also flipped horizontally, left to right from the previous arrangement. Another change was the mountains themselves were flat, no longer stamped in 3D. Even though there are many commemorative and special use plates in use today, they all show the same peaks, in different colors depending on the type.

Specialty Colorado license plateSo what’s the hardest Colorado plate to find? Depends what you want do do with it. Obviously the older, the rarer, and with fewer cars back then, there were fewer plates made to begin with. Colorado has required front and rear plates since the earliest days, except for 1943-46, when only a rear plate was required. Conserving steel for the war effort is the likely explanation. For the first time in state history, drivers were not issued new plates each year, but instead, attached a small metal year plate in the corner over their old designation, one of the earliest instances of multi-year plates.

1944 Colorado license plateIn answer to the question, if you just want to hang them on your garage wall, obviously the 1943-46 plates are rarest, along with the very oldest examples. But if you want to put correctly dated plates on your vintage car, you would only have to find a single plate for those WWII years. For other years, you have to find a matching set, which might be a lot more difficult.

If you have a history of your state’s license plates hanging in your garage, add the designs to our database!

Comments (2 Comments)
Jerry Lewis

Interesting blog! Wish I had never given up my original Greenie plate.

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