Collecting Posts

What’s Your damage? A Guide To Common Less-Than-Mint Conditions

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Anytime you’re looking at buying a collectible online, you’re probably hoping to find mint condition, still in the package, never been looked at for more than 30 seconds perfection. Alas, such conditions don’t usually exist in the real world. So if something is “Near Mint” or below, that means something has to be not perfect, right? Of course, if your plan is to take the item out of the package, knowing these terms might help you find a bargain that others would pass on. 

Grading items from “Mint” to “Fair” to “Poor” and everything in between is subjective, so we’re not even going to get into those distinctions here. There are professional grading services that can handle that for a fee. But let’s look at some common terms that show up in collectible listings. Of course, there are certain collectibles like stamps, coins, and comic books that have their own unique forms of imperfection, which we’ll look at sometime in the future.

For now, let’s look at issues with boxes and blister cards, (especially diecast models) and see if we can define exactly what they mean. Here are some ” Less-Than-Mint Conditions .”


package shelf wearShelf Wear – This is some light scuffing, scratching, or rubbing on packaging that comes naturally with a collectible being handled and moved around in the store. Unless employees and customers are using padded gloves and extreme caution at all times, most store-bought items will have at least a few minor imperfections like this.


rubbingRubbing – A common phenomenon in older models that were not secured within the package. Over the years, a Hot Wheels car may have rolled back and forth inside the blister enough for the paint on the center of the hubs to rub off. It’s a shame when the package is perfect but the item inside isn’t. This also can show up on the roof of cars.


yellowed packagingYellowed – Usually this refers to clear plastic bits again. Over time, some plastic just turns yellow, and there’s not much you can do about it. Can also apply to other blastic bits, like hanger reinforcements.

Smoke Damaged – In addition to yellowing of plastic, or discoloration of other elements, the item also comes with the added fragrance of nicotine.


soft cornerSoft Corners – This happens when the corners of the card get a little bit mooshed but not necessarily creased. Layers of the cardboard are often separated. From the right angle, this might not even be visible when the item is on display. Sometimes this can be restored with a bit of glue to stiffen is up.


dented blisterDented Blister – Seems self explanatory, right? Usually the corners of the blister, closest to the edge of the packaging are susceptible. It may be possible to massage the dent out, but that might cause cracks or stress marks, which may look even worse.


stress marksStress Marks – Speaking of which… stress marks occur when a plastic piece bends enough to become discolored (usually white or a lighter shade of the original plastic.)


cracked blisterCracked Blister – Cracked, but nothing is missing. In this case, the entire blister should still be present and connected in some way.


detached blisterDetached Blister – The glue has let go, so even though the card, blister, and contents are in good shape, this is problematic. Even if it came off perfectly clean, it’s hard to prove there were no shenanigans when the collectible isn’t completely sealed in place. If it’s partially attached, but there’s still room for the item to be removed, it can affect value.


creaseLight Creasing – This is a fold that in the card that is light enough to easily return to its original shape, but may have left a scar where the fold occurred. Usually there is no discoloration or missing material.


crunched cornerCrunched Corner – It’s pretty common for at least one corner of a box to be a little bit crunched in. How much that matters to a collector depends on whether anything is torn or discolored, if the seal is broken at all, or if the damage is on the back or bottom where it won’t be seen while on display.


broken sealBroken Seal – Some boxed items have a tape seal of some sort to indicate it’s never been opened. You can have a perfect bobblehead in a perfect box, but to some folks that piece of tape makes a huge difference in value.


price stickerPrice Sticker/Sticker Residue – Price stickers added by the store are fairly rare today, but were very common years ago. To some, such stickers are a blight, but the alternative can be just as bad… sticky goop, discolored patches, or small tears in the surface.


factory sealed hologramMissing Hologram (or other identifying stickers) – Some newer models are supposed to come with a hologram sticker to indicate authenticity or some other status, such as an extremely limited run. If it’s missing or damaged, the value of the item can be lower. Also, if the sticker is placed on crooked at the factory, that can unfortunately make it less desirable.


cut blister card

Cut Card – Why do people do this? Occasionally you’ll see an older diecast car still in the blister, attached to the card…. or what’s left of the card. Was it for storage space? To send in an offer or proof of purchase seals? It’s still a mint car, but dang!


What other common imperfections do you run into either as a buyer or seller? Let us know in the comments and we might add it to our list.

Boris Becker Should Have Documented His Trophies On hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

There comes a time in every collector’s life when you lose track of exactly what you have and where you keep it. “Do I own an Antifreeze Hot Wheels Twin Mill? Or is it Metallic Green? And if so, is it in my library, office, garage, or summer cottage?”

Keeping track of your collectibles inventory is important for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want to trade one of your vinyl caped Jawa action figures. Or you’re thinking about buying a Princess Di Beanie Baby but can’t remember if you have one already. Or perhaps you need to sell one of your hard-earned Australian Open tennis trophies because you’ve fallen on hard times.

Wait, what?

Boris Becker Australian Open

The kangaroo is an unexpected bonus.

In a case we can all relate to, former professional tennis player Boris Becker has run into financial difficulties and plans to sell some of the awards he has won in his impressive career. But he’s apparently having trouble locating some of them. Not just one, but TWO Aussie Open trophies. A trio of Wimbledon awards. An Olympic gold medal. And a few others.

Wimbledon trophies

Fun fact: The Wimbledon Gentlemen’s trophy and Ladies’ award (the Venus Rosewater Dish) remain at the All England Lawn Tennis Club after the award ceremony. The winners take home a smaller replica to keep. Or to sell, if circumstances warrant.

It might make sense that he misplaced his first Wimbledon trophy, since he was only 17 when he won it. Can you remember where your high school sophomore spelling bee runner up plaque is?

All kidding aside, hobbyDB offers a great way to track your collection for a variety of reasons.

Locator guide: Not just for items in storage, but it’s easy to misplace something in a large collection on display. On hobbyDB, you can add a note regarding where that item can be found.

Variant and condition notes: You know you have a pink Hot Wheels Beach Bomb, but is it mint on the card, or lightly played with? Or is that the red one you’re thinking of?

Insurance purposes: It’s useful to have proof not only of what you have and where it is, but also what it’s worth.

Estate planning: We hate to say this, but someone else might inherit your collection some day, and hobbyDB is an orderly way to give them a clue to what’s there. Whether they want to keep it, sell it, or donate it, they will be glad to have this information at their fingertips.

hobbydb add to collection

When you add an item to the database, you can also add it to your collection.

The process is simple, really. When you add an item to the hobbyDB database, take a moment to also click the “Add to Collection” button. There, you will be able to quickly create notes on the condition (for the item and the packaging), the price you paid, how you acquired it, and where it’s located. You can also add photos of your own item. Finally, you can choose whether to keep all of this information private or make it public. Of course, you can do this with items that are already in the database as well.

hobbydb add to collection

You can add notes on how you got it, including “Won in Competition.”

We sincerely hope Mr. Becker locates his trophies and gets back on his feet soon. Congratulations to Roger Federer, who just added another Australian Open trophy to his collection, and to Caroline Wozniacki, who just picked up her first. No matter how many you have, it’s not too late to track your awards collection on hobbyDB.

Antique, Vintage, Classic? Depends On What You’re Collecting

Christian Braun obsesses over collectibles and antiques and toys more than the average person, but in a productive way.


 

“Antique, Vintage, Classic Batman Clock, Correct Twice a Day. $50.”

Aside from parsing that description to determine that this clock doesn’t run, but will be accurate at 8:58 AM and PM, what does that mean?

janex batman robin clock

Holy Gimcrack!

What about “antique,” “vintage,” and “classic?” As collectors, we see and use these terms often, sometimes interchangeably. What to they mean, exactly? As it turns out, there is no “perfect” definition for these words. But they do hold meaning relative to each other.

Historically (and there’s another word we’ll need to parse), “Antique” has meant objects that are 100 year old or more. “Vintage” has generally meant older than 15 years. So “Classic” must mean… well, it’s complicated.

“Antique” and “Vintage” carry a set time frame, regardless of historic or aesthetic value. “Classic,” on the other hand, just means “it has stood or will stand the test of time,” regardless of age.

And “Historic…” What about that? “Historic” is often used as a positive term, but really means that something was a game changer, a revolution, a show stopper for some reason. And not necessarily for good reasons. The Ford Edsel has to be considered a “historic” car because of its massive failure. And over time, it has also achieved “classic” status. Whether the car is remembered for being good/bad/ugly/beautiful remains debatable. “Classic,” sure. “Historic,” absolutely.

Consider another conundrum. Boulder, Colorado (the scenic home of hobbyDB Headquarters), passed a law several years ago requiring houses over 50 years old to undergo an approval process by a city board if the owners wanted to do extensive renovations. At the time, it made sense, as houses of that age were built in the 1940s or before, many of them having some historic charm and significance. But with the passing of each year, a “50 year old house” was less and less significant architecturally.

The hobbyDB office built in 1968…

…and another 1968 house just down the next road.

Entire suburbs of more or less identical houses of that age just don’t seem to need that same kind of designation and protection. Sliding time frames like this don’t make a lot of sense after a while. The city realized this and altered the designation.

Also, consider what is a “classic” car. Again, in Colorado, it used to be that a driver could get official “Classic” plates for any car over 25 years old. The plates were less expensive and didn’t require modern emissions requirements, a great deal for muscle cars and anything earlier. In 1994, that meant cars from 1969 and older, most of which arguably stood the test of time to be called “classic.” But in 2018, that means a car from 1993.

Nothing against that Mercury Sable wagon, but calling it a “classic” is kind of head scratching.

 So there’s now a set date as the “Classic” designation, to be updated as needed.

A Facebook group called “Vintage Toys” only allows posts regarding 1994 and older collectibles. Why that designation? That doesn’t exactly fit the 15 year rule these days. It likely has to do with the age of the founders and moderators, and toys of that age hit a sweetspot with them emotionally, and later ones do not. If you don’t like it? You can start your own Facebook page.

Some categories or brands have their own distinctions that fill in those gaps between antique and vintage. Comic books, for instance, are generally divided into several ages:

  • Golden Age, 1938-1950  (from the debuts of Superman and Batman to the middle of the century)
  • Silver Age, Mid 1950s to 1970  (new advances in art, writing, and production values.)
  • Bronze Age, 1970-1985  (more serious, mature content and styling)

A few notable things… Why 1938 as the start? That was the time Action Comics (Superman) and Detective Comics (Batman) ushered in the more or less current definition of a “comic book.”

The Granddaddy of all comics.

Also, what about comics released in the last 30 years or so…are they worthless? No, they just need their own designation at some point, often just referred to as the “Modern Age.”

But what about 1951-1955? Turns out there is a gray area between the Golden and Silver ages, so something in that range could be considered to fall in either group depending on your tastes. Also, new self censorship guidelines debuted at this time, transforming the content considerably.

Hot Wheels is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Original cars sure seem old and rare. But by that definition, they are only halfway to “antique” status. On the other hand, calling them “vintage” seems unfair, which lumps 1968 releases in with 2003 releases.

Luckily, a brand such as Hot Wheels carries its own distinct eras… Redlines (1968-77) and Blackwalls (1977-94) cover the first two historic waves, and the rest can be broken down by various other distinctions such as Mainline or Treasure Hunts.

So back to that Batman clock… it’s from 1974. It’s undeniably cool. It’s not an antique. It’s certainly vintage. It can be reasonably called a classic. Your desire to own it and how much you are willing to pay will depend on a lot of criteria. But golly jeepers, you really should hear it!

How Many Errors Can You Find In This Article?

error toys

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently introduced you to Nathan Lill, the Master of Mistakes (at least when it comes to Hot Wheels). Lill has a collection of over 12,000 Hot Wheels error cars, all collected since he first spotted one on the pegs in 2000.

But what exactly constitutes an error for something like a diecast car on a blister card? Well, there are all kinds of things that can go wrong, some subtle, some hilariously obvious.  Packaging misadventures, assembly problems, or color and graphics misfires are among the most common. Most errors need to be inside a sealed package to be verifiable, but that’s not always the case. And in a lot of examples, the packaging itself is the actual source of the error.

hot wheels error custom vw beetle

A lot of Hot Wheels come with intentionally mismatched wheels. This Custom VW is not one of them.

Assembly issues such as mis-spun rivets are hard to fake, so packaging might not be as important in those cases. On the other hand, for really early Hot Wheels, there are some very subtle variations in coloring that were probably unintentional, but could also be attributable to fading or other factors, so who can tell? But for the most part, buyers need to be aware of what to look for.

Here’s a check list of common error types that make it past the QC inspectors. Aside from the issues with wheels, most of these errors can apply to other collectibles such as action figures and vinyl art toys. Some error types are common enough that we have special Subjects on hobby DB just for those!

hobbyDB hot wheels error

Misadventures in Packaging

hot wheels error

Pretty sure that’s not a ’57 Thunderbird!

  • Mismatched car and package (On hobbyDB, these should be listed as a variant of the car, not the blister card. If you get that wrong, hey, mistakes happen.)
  • Wrong Shaped Blister (with specific shapes for each car, it’s surprising this doesn’t happen more.)
  • Off-Register/Off Kilter Package Printing
  • Vehicle Facing Wrong Direction In Blister (Upside down doesn’t sometimes count, as it’s easy for some models to do a barrel roll.)

    hot wheels error

    Upside down cars may or may not be considered errors. Depends on how much wiggle room is in the blister.

  • Mis-Cut Packaging (Unpunched holes don’t really count as errors, but are usually considered more valuable on their own merit)
  • Empty Sealed Package (Check carefully in case of the Wonder Woman Invisible Jet.)

Wheel Errors

  • Missing Entire Axle and Wheels
  • Reversed Wheels
  • Unchromed/Unpainted Wheels
  • Mismatched Wheels (Hard to spot these days, as some cars intentionally look like that)
hot wheels error

With so many wheels, you’re bound to have the wrong wheels in the wrong place sometimes.

  • Wrong Size Wheels (Hard to spot sometimes without reference)
  • Wrong Wheel Type

Molding Messes

  • Incomplete Casting (Not enough material to fill the mold.)
  • Excessive Flashing (Too much material in the mold. Not from exposing oneself in the park!)

Assembly Gone Awry

  • Wrong Color Body/Interior/Chassis/Window (Disputable, could be a legit variant. A lot of Redlines came with these kinds of differences and are just about impossible to document.)
  • Mismatched Parts (Such as a Mustang body on a Camaro chassis. That is unnatural and should not be a thing. List this as the variant with which it shares the most parts)
hot wheels error

The baseplate on this K.I.T.T. is backwards. The Hoff must be fuming!

  • Backwards/Upside Down Parts (This mostly happens with the chassis)
  • Missing components (Engines, interiors, windows, etc.)
  • Unspun Rivets
  • Mis-spun Rivets

Graphic In Nature

It’s not that difficult to fake some of color and graphics errors, so most of these probably should be in sealed packages to confirm their validity. Make sure your mistakes are real miscues and not shenanigans!

hot wheels error

The Python is supposed to have a flat black roof. This one doesn’t, and it looks unmodified, but it’s not in the package. Hmmmm…

  • Completely Missing Graphics
  • Graphics Missing On One Side, Top, etc.
  • Misaligned Graphics
hot wheels error

The wheels aren’t the problem here… that’s intentional. But notice how the graphics are “falling off” the car.

  • Off-Register Graphics (One color does not line up with the others)
  • Misspelled Graphics (Technically, this isn’t an error of production, but a failure to proofread. But if it’s caught and fixed, the wrong version might be pretty valuable.)
hot wheels error

Early versions of the Baywatch Rescue Ranger misspelled “First Aid” on the side. It’s a rare “pre-production” error that was eventually fixed. Now The Hoff is really feeling hassled!

Something (But Not Everything) Else

  • Missing Accessories (Buttons, sticker sheets, extra parts, collector cards, etc.)
  • Incorrect Accessories
  • Extra parts

error johnny lightning riviera“Mistakes” That Aren’t Really Errors

alfred e neuman action figure

What me worry? Alfred E. Neuman action figures came in all kinds of messed up alignments.

  • Broken parts… Sad when it happens, but it’s not really an error to collectors.
  • Casting errors that lasted the entire production run. Hey, a Johnny Lightning White Lightning ’71 Buick Riviera with the wrong grill… That’s gotta be rare, right? Well, only as rare as any other White Lightning. JL made castings for the ’71 and ’71 Rivieras, the only difference being the detail in the grill. For the Classic Gold version, they called it a ’71, but used the ’72 casting. They never corrected it, so even though it’s a goof, it’s the only version.
  • Items designed to look incorrectly packaged (Upside down, backwards, etc). This Alfred E. Neuman figure is supposed to be upside down, which matches the spirit of the magazine. Same with the Santa version, who looks like he fell inside the blister. Oh, and Spider-Man, in the image at the top of the page? Yep, that’s on purpose as well!

Do you have any error cars (or action figures) in your collection? Add them to our database as variants of existing items! And if you can think of any other types of errors, hit us up in the comments section!

No Mistake: Hot Wheels Error Cars Can Be Cool Collectibles

Warning: This article contains a lot of errors. And we’re not sorry.

hot wheels error datsun pickup

Looks like they ran out of metal on this Datsun 620 Pickup!

hot wheels error nathan lill

Nathan also collects Chrysler Crossfires in all sizes.

Nathan Lill (aka Maelstrom) isn’t like most Hot Wheels collectors. He isn’t looking for perfection on the pegs. In fact, he’s looking for flaws. “My motto is if it ain’t broke, I’m not buying,” he says. Nathan collects error cars. The stranger the flaw, the better. “I collect all types of errors from mis-packed to unassembled cars. Pretty much any type of error be it a wheel, part, paint or assembly problem can happen to any Hot Wheels car. It is virtually infinite what can be found while looking at each car, so every case or peg full of cars can have something.’

hot wheels error double vision

This mis-carded Lexus SC400 is the one that started it all for Nathan. So, is it a car on the wrong card, or a card with the wrong car? 

His collection is filled with imperfection… over thousands of examples in fact. The obsession started in 2000 when he spotted something odd at Target. “First one I found was a Lexus SC400 on a Double Vision #212 card at the local Target. Little did I know that would lead to close to 12,000 more of them.” 

hot wheels error collection

Just a small error sampling… Nathan has several more walls like this.

As for the rest of the Hot Wheels universe, the Maelstrom is the only car where he collects correct versions (Un-errored? Non-Wrong? Not-botched?). The need to pick up other vehicles is mitigated by finding an incorrect version of each one. “One way or another I get most of the cars I want with some type of error,” he says. “I also don’t have the space to keep one of everything, so I no longer get a correct version of the vehicle if I don’t need to.

hot wheels error baby boomer

It’s kind of surprising the extra parts fit in the blister so nicely.

While a lot of errors are subtle (crooked or missing graphics, incorrect card, etc) some are doozies. He once found a Baby Boomer car with an extra stroller buggy (“It’s for twins,” he laughs.) He also grabbed a Chevy Nova with a Mercury Cougar base that really doesn’t fit in shape or theme. “So many to choose from that just look funny, with either too big or too small wheels all around as well.”

hot wheels error beach bomb

This mis-spun Beach Bomb and off kilter button were made for each other.

Production errors are not a new thing. Nathan has acquired several original Redline errors as well. “My favorite is a mis-spun green Beach Bomb,” he said, referring to the assembly rivets not being punched and spun correctly at the base. “Then later on, I came across the matching misprinted button. By far my neatest error pair from that era.” As if finding an original Beach Bomb and button wasn’t hard enough, right?

hot wheels error stingray

Something seems to be missing from this Stingray racer.

Rather than revel in the folly of someone’s mistakes, however, Nathan has grown to appreciate Hot Wheels on a whole new level. “These errors made me look more into the processes involved in creating these cars’ he said.“ Considering the billions of cars that Mattel has turned out over the last half century, the number of errors that make it to the pegs is really quite tiny. And the fact that some people dig them on a different level makes it all in good fun. Since there are collectors who value these mistakes, hobbyDB has a way to document your error cars. Find the regular version of the car in our database, then click “Add Variant” and then under “Production Status” choose “Error.” Add images and descriptions, and you’re done!

hot wheels error 57 chevy

Mis-aligned graphics can be hard to spot sometimes, like on this ’57 Chevy.

As for the values of Hot Wheels Error Cars, there are many factors. Are they worth more because of the rarity? Or less desirable because collectors want perfect examples? The scarcity of the model and type of mistake can greatly swing the value one way or the other as well.

The Sol-Aire is missing its wheels, the GTO has bonus parts.

“When HotWheelsCollectors.com came on line, I was one of the few error collected that posted there regularly. Soon I became known as the crazy Maelstrom and error collecting guy after all the broken cars. It has stuck ever since.” Even if people think he’s crazy, make no mistake, he’s a serious collector.

Got any favorite error cars in your collection (Hot Wheels or otherwise)? Add them to our database! Find the regular version of the vehilce, then click “Add Variant. Under “Production Status,” choose “Error” and add a description and photos.