Collecting Posts

Bbig News: Bburago Adds Official Archive to hobbyDB

bburago header

Bburago, the maker of fine diecast models in several scales, is the latest company to host their Official Archive on hobbyDB. With over 40 years of production to document, this will be one of the bbiggest… er, biggest archives on the site. As pioneers of 1/18 scale models, they occupy an important spot in the diecast community.
martoys logoFirst, let’s clear up the mystery around the name of the company. It is indeed spelled with a “Bb” up front. In 1974 the Besana brothers, 
Mario, Ugo, and Martino, who had earlier started Mebetoys, founded a new company in Burago, Italy. Martoys, as they called it at the time, focused on 1/24, at a time when most European model cars makers were making smaller 1/43 scale models. After a couple years in bbusiness… sorry, business, they changed the name to reflect the name of the town and also their last initial… hence the double “B.”

bburago mercedesSales took off quickly for the new brand, as there were not a lot of affordably priced models in the larger scales. The fact that some of their models were offered as kits widened their appeal as well. Bburago became a trailblazer in the late 1970s when they introduced  1/18 scale models to the mix (as well as some simpler 1/43 offerings) and it is for these well-detailed but affordable large-scale models of exotic and performance cars. Early 1/18 Bburago models focused on European cars from the 1930’s, including Alfa Romeos, Bugattis and Mercedes. As they expanded their offerings, they started making models of newer cars of the ’50s and ’60s, followed by modern performance cars, including Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

bburago bugattiMany of the very early cars from the Bburago brand were produced in small numbers and prized highly in collectors markets, such as this Lancia model.

bburago lancia

You may have noticed Bburago often offers the same car in several scales (1/18, 1/24/ and 1/43), sometimes even in the same colors. Not only is that cost effective from a design standpoint, but it’s fun for collectors. An adult could get the delicately detailed larger model of, say, a Lamborghini Diablo, while the kids could play with a more rugged, less expensive model of the same car in a smaller scale.

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Unfortunately, making models in Italy became more and more expensive as time went on. This expense, combined with the decision by Ferrari to award an exclusive model-making license to Mattel (which meant Bburago had to immediately stop making all of their Ferrari models), led to the company’s acquisition in 2005 by the Hong Kong-based May Cheong Group, owners of the similar Maisto brand. Under new parentage, Bburago continued to make many of its previous models and has introduced many new ones – including  new Ferrari cars now that Ferrari has ended their Mattel-exclusive deal.

And speaking of Maisto, if you’re a fan of that brand, we have more exciting news… hobbyDB is also working on an Official Archive for that brand as well. A special thanks goes to Charles Hepperle, formerly of Bburago, as well as Rick Berman and Jose Uriarte of Maisto, who provided a colossal amount of information and work on this archive and the upcoming Maisto project.

What Do Millennials Collect? Experience, Retro, Irony

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

There have been a lot of articles claiming that millennials don’t spend their money on “things,” so we thought it would be good to take a look at their collectibles market. Millennials tend to be more mobile than previous generations, so instead of buying a house (and things to fill it with), they tend to live lighter, putting that money towards experiences and travel.

So What Do Millennials Collect?

lego star wars destroyer

funko pop c-3poExperience, irony and retro are key ingredients. So going to to a Comic Con (experience) and snapping up the latest “Star Wars” items (retro) would fit the bill. The “Star Wars” franchise shows no signs of slowing down, given the number of movies, TV shows, and especially collectibles released in the last few years. And when those items have an inherent oddness (irony) to them like FunKo Pop figures, Lego building sets, or Hot Wheels character cars, you’ve hit the trifecta.

Each of those brands goes well beyond the “Star Wars” theme, so the potential for collectors to diversify is a huge market. Lego is now a $2+ billion brand  (there is a huge market for old and new kits!), Hot Wheels is grossing more than a billion dollars, and FunKo, despite only being founded in the late 1990s, is on its way there.

nintendo nesVideo games are a huge part of the Millennial experience too. but modern systems increasingly lack physical games to purchase in favor of downloads and online multiplayer action. However, older gaming systems have a certain appeal and have become a big collectible business. And it’s not just late 1990s/early 2000s games these people played while young, but even systems their parents might have owned, including Nintendo and Atari systems from the 1980s.

minus 5 dungeon of horrorsModern music doesn’t usually have a tangible form anymore either. It’s mostly downloaded and streamed, not really “owned” like it used to be. The huge exception: vinyl records are increasingly collectible. In fact vinyl records are projected to sell 40 million units in 2017, with sales nearing the $1 billion benchmark for the first time this millennium!

Some artists like Jack White (White Stripes, Dead Weather, Raconteurs, etc.) treat a new record as an additional level of performance art beyond the music itself. It’s one thing to capture a song live in one take… it’s another to record it direct to vinyl, instantly making a very limited number of pressings available for only one day. Consider that White recently released a record that secretly had to be played from the middle of the record outward, and the odd presentation becomes almost as important as the music.

Speaking of “records,” they used to be widely sold in places called “stores.” To celebrate the continued existence of such shops, Record Store Day (April 22, 2017) has become a huge annual nationwide event. It’s fun to stand in the very long line in front of the store and explain it to those not in the know.

“Record Store Day? Are they giving away free stuff?”

“Nope. In fact, they’re charging even more today.”

death cab for cutie cassetteIt’s true. Many artists release special recordings just for this event, often very limited editions in premium packaging, and none of them at all cheap. A few years ago, a band called The Minus Five created just 750 copies of a five record set of new material, including about 100 copies with each record in a different color (Yours truly was able to snag one of the regular copies that day, but not the multi-hued version.) In another instance, Death Cab For Cutie decided to release a new album only on cassette (which led to Cassette Store Day becoming a thing!). In most cases, these come with a digital download in case you don’t have the right listening equipment.

Speaking of which, stereo equipment is a big deal with Millennials as well. For all the convenience of a tiny device that can put 10,000 songs in your pocket, there is still great appeal to a big honking multi component vintage stereo system. They sound amazing but are anything but cheap. The market is there and it’s growing.

star wars record player star wars record player
Which brings us to this Star Wars portable suitcase turntable, another Record Store Day exclusive for 2017. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original movie, this retro record player will be on sale in a store near you. Experiential, Ironic, Retro… this might be the ultimate collectible for millennials yet.

If you’re a Millennial, let us know what you collect in the comments selection!

What are Beanie Babies Worth? Whatever Someone Will Pay

beanie babies value

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Collectibles sometimes go through a life cycle like this: extreme popularity, followed by rising values, followed by a bursting bubble, then maybe even a backlash, then a total lack of interest, then a retro-inspired spike in curiosity, then valuable classic status again. In other words, something will often be cool and popular, until it isn’t, until it is again.

We mention this because it’s been almost 20 years since Ty Beanie Babies abruptly ended their original production amidst the hype of being too popular. Wait, what? Well, the stuffed toys started out kind of rare, which sparked great interest. Also, each design was eventually “retired,” meaning the supply was cut off forever. Collectors were willing to pay a premium to complete their collections, and the increased interest convinced Ty to release more and more stuffies faster and faster. The craze looked unstoppable. Observe:

darwin & Co ron ruelle

Yes, it really was like this in the mid to late 1990s.

But eventually, the market became flooded, collectors got tired of the chase, and the market tanked. Beanie Babies were so popular that no one wanted them anymore. And the kids who made up the original target market were getting old enough to not care about stuffed animals as much anymore. Ty moved onto other lines of stuffies marketed primarily as toys, not collectors items.

According to some sources, though, Beanie Babies are headed for an uptick in interest. The kids who had them the first time around are now in their late 20s to mid 30s. Which means they have disposable income (possibly) and a sense of nostalgia (maybe). Combined with the fact that the supply of these toys hasn’t grown in two decades, well, they might be worth something again. So let’s look in on some possible values for some of the rarer Beanies. Well, here’s what people are asking, anyway, along with some real world results.

beanie babies for sale

There is a big difference between asking price and actual value… (Screenshot from eBay)

Princess Di BearAsking price: $500,000

This purple bear with a white rose was released in the aftermath of Princess Di’s untimely death, so prices shot up in a wake of instant nostalgia. There are several variants for sale on eBay at very high prices. Actual value: There are several completed auctions for under $15 for these, although there are some rare variants that are supposedly worth more. Not too much more.

beanie babies princess di garcia

Princess Di Bear (left) and Garcia Peace Bear

“Garcia” Peace BearAsking price: $5,000

It’s got a swirly “tie-dyed” pattern, so no two are alike. Again, riding on the wave of Jerry Garcia’s death, kids snapped these up… wait, how many kids in the mid ‘90s were Deadheads? Actually, this wasn’t even an official tie in to the Grateful Dead, it just took on that nickname. Regardless, the price of these tops out well under $100, which isn’t too bad.

Pinchers/Punchers the LobsterAsking price: $1,500

beanie babies pinchers punchersLook at that snuggly wuggly wobster… er lobster. Aside from the fact that he was one of the very first wave of Beanies, and there aren’t a lot of lobster stuffies, the value on this shouldn’t be out of whack. The very first ones had the name “Punchers” on the tag, and everyone seemed to think it was a typo, because it was quickly changed to “Pinchers,” which makes way more sense. So if your tag (you kept the tag, right?!?!) has the original name, it’s worth 10 times the regular one… so $50 versus $5.

Valentino BearAsking price: $38,000

beanie babies valentinoSpeaking of tags, the early Valentino bears have a rare typographical error (“Surface” is misspelled as “suface.” Somebody must have been fired for that one, right?). But the error isn’t on the heart shaped paper tag, it’s on the little tag that’s sewed on to every stuffy. With a later correct later version, it’s a $5 bear. With it… Maybe $25.

Snort the Pig/Bull – Asking price $5,000

snortActually, it’s a cow.  It looks a lot like the Chicago Bulls mascot, but for some reason people mistakenly call it a pig. And for some other reason, people want a lot for these critters. Maybe it was because this was the height of the Bulls’ run in the NBA. In reality, You should be able to find one for around 10 bucks.

The lesson here is, yeah, some of these are worth some decent money, possibly more than they cost when new. But not retire-to-your-own-private-island money. The best advice, really is this:

  • Collect these if you like them, or if they bring back fond memories.
  • Sell them if you have them in your attic but don’t have the interest in them anymore.
  • Don’t think you’re going to retire by taking advantage of the speculation market on Beanie Babies.
  • Don’t take out a second mortgage to buy any of them.

One more thing… if you do collect Beanie Babies, add yours to our database! In fact, we could really use a curator or two to help maintain accurate and complete listings for this subject! And while you’re at it, start buying and selling them too!

The Most Expensive Cars Ever are More Affordable in Miniature

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently stumbled onto a list of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction, all of which you’ll likely have to valet, name, and put to bed with a few bedtime stories. If you don’t have a few million to spare on one of these beauties but still want to swoon, there are affordable models you can find on hobbyDB of just about every car on the list.

1937 Mercedes 540K Roadster – Sold for £3,900,000 ($4,818,800)

western models 1937 Mercedes 540KOnce owned by Bernie Ecclestone, head of Formula 1 Racing, this car was one of only 26 ever built. There are several options to choose from including a 1/43 white metal version from Western Models, which usually sells around $100-125.

1904 Rolls-Royce 10hp – £4,000,000 ($4,942,359)

airfix rolls royce 1905This was the first car ever built by Rolls and Royce together, with a 1.8 liter engine cranking out a whopping 10 hp. (A modern Mini Cooper has an engine about that size and puts out over 10 times that power.) We haven’t found any models of this exact car, but there is a four seat version of the 1905 car that doubled the horses to 20. Airfix made a 1/32 scale model kit of it, available in different packaging for about 30 years.

1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK – £4,700,000 ($5,807,272)

bburago Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSKThe SSK is one of sleekest cars of its age, longer and lower than many other roadsters from the time. With very few mods (mostly involving removing unnecessary annoyances like running boards), it was an outstanding race car. While there are several models available, probably the best-known one comes from Bburago in 1/18 scale. There’s even a Mickey Mouse version…

1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM – £4,800,000 ($5,930,831)

looksmart 1962 Ferrari 330The one shown here was driven to victory at LeMans in 1962 by Phil Hill. So yeah, there’s a premium to be paid for pedigree. There are fewer models of this car than you might expect. This one is from Looksmart in 1/18 scale.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB – £6,900,000 ($7,289,980)

Polostil Ferrari 250 GT SWBNothing noteworthy about this particular car aside from the fact that it’s rare and beautiful and fast and once owned by actor James Coburn. There are several models of these available including a nice 1/18 offering from Polistil, who are usually known for their smaller scale cars.

1931 Bugatti Royale Berline – £7,900,000 ($9,761,160)

RIO Bugatti Royale BerlineLong before Bugatti became an ostentatious modern supercar, the name was bestowed on ostentatious luxury coupes. sedans and Phaetons. This particular one was owned by the Bugatti family, so again… pedigree has a price. There have been numerous models other Bugattis, but not many of this style. This similar fixed roof model from Rio is about as close as you can get to the real thing, and at $13.99 it’s a bargain even in 1/43 scale. (Or, if you like a project, you can acquire this one for less and restore it.)

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa – £8,000,000 ($9,884,719)

bburago Ferrari 250 Testa RossaUnderneath that sleek, dripping coachwork is a V12 that is often described as the best-sounding Ferrari ever. Bburago brings you several smaller, quieter versions in 1/18 scale.

1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe – £9,200,000 ($11,367,427)

rio Bugatti Royale Kellner CoupeLong, low, and sinister looking, and powered by a 12.7-litre aircraft engine, the Kellner was too expensive for a car launched during the Great Depression. As it turns out, it would have been quite an investment if you could have held on for another 75 years or so. There have been models of similar vintage Bugattis including this 1/43 droptop from Rio.

1963 Ferrari 250 GTO – £12,000,000 ($14,827,079)

pink kar Ferrari 250 GTOOne of the most iconic and recognizable Ferraris ever, there were only 36 of these ever built. But there are lots of models, thank goodness. So how ’bout a version you can actually drive? This slot car from Pink-Kar clocks in at 1:32 scale.

1936 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic – £27,000,000 – $33,360,928

brumm revival Bugatti AtlanticThis is the Bugatti that everyone recognizes from their early days… a low, swoop Art Deco sculpture on wheels. Only three were ever made, so they tend to be expensive. There have been far more models of it, of course, in several scales. Here’s one from Brumm Revival for around $45, which scaled down, is pocket change by comparison.

Do you know of any other record-smashing auction cars that we also have in our database? Or other versions of these models that are even closer to the real ones? Let us know in the comments!

Daytona 500 Collectibles Gear Up For Race Season

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

“Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” became the unofficial slogan of NASCAR back when the word “stock” actually meant the race car had some connection to the regular street version. With the Daytona 500 kicking off the Winston Cup… I mean Nextel… er, Monster Energy Drink Cup, this weekend, we decided to look at some promotions related to the race.

Now some of you kids might be too young to realize this, but the retired Hudson Hornet played by Paul Newman was not just a character in a Pixar movie. Hudson was the cool car to own back in the early ’50s, with its sleek shape and low roofline. Their early success on the track made its way into advertising (just barely, anyway), but it wasn’t enough to save the marque. They merged with Nash-Kelvinator and eventually became part of American Motors.

hudson hornet daytona 500

In fact, a lot of the early racing oriented advertising in the 1950s was subtle. If you didn’t read the text, you would have no idea that the Chrysler 300 was the car of choice for MOPAR drivers.

daytona 500 chrysler

In the early 1960s, auto manufacturers were facing pressure from Congress and various safety groups to be more responsible with their marketing and image building. By 1963, all American car companies formed a “gentleman’s agreement” that they would stop engineering and promotion of any cars specifically for racing. As such, there aren’t a lot of ads from that era from car companies themselves.

davey allison daytona 500

The sponsors and parts suppliers proudly touted their efforts, however, which is why you see mostly ads like these from Carter Carburetor and  Sun Electric Tachometer during that time. By the end of the decade, government pressure was off, car companies were back in the race, and ads revved up again.

sun tachometers daytona 500

Take a look at these next two ads for the Dodge Charger. One is the Charger R/T, the other the Charger 500, as in  “Daytona 500.” The most obvious difference is the 500’s smooth fascia with the headlights out front instead of in deep recess. Remember when stock cars were basically stripped and hopped up a bit for racing? This was the beginning of the era in which auto manufacturers started to make unique modifications for aerodynamics purposes. To keep things fair, NASCAR imposed rules regarding minimum production numbers for cars if they were to be allowed on the track. So Chrysler had to make a certain number of cars with this aero change in order to race it. Since companies often produced only the bare minimum number of these cars, such “homologation specials” are often very rare as street cars.

daytona 500 dodge chargers

The peak of this trend came in the “winged warriors” era when the Dodge Charger morphed into the Daytona and the Plymouth Roadrunner became the Superbird. Both cars wore long nosecones and tall rear wings, legal because Chrysler made the minimum required street cars with those options. Sales were miserable at the time, but now you’re looking at six figures to even get a beater ‘Bird. At least there are tons of miniature models to choose from, including this groovy Richard Petty kit from Jo-Han.

jo han superbird petty daytona 500

The mid 1980s were the last hurrah for race cars that could be called “stock” with a straight face. Even though the body work used much of the original sheet metal, and some drive train components were factory spec, the cars were sharing fewer and fewer parts with their street counterparts. The black number 3 car in this ad for Winston cigarettes (That’s Dale Earnhardt’s car, of course) was one of the last homologation cars, with a special nose and fastback rear window. By the 1990s, not even the lugnuts were the same as production cars. Tobacco advertising was getting pinched as well… in a few years, Winston would surrender the keys to sponsoring the series.

daytona 500 winston cup

Still, the image of racing was a powerful selling point, even it had become just a marketing gimmick by then. In reality, Chevrolet had as much to do with Jeff Gordon winning a race as DuPont (He won the 500 three times, by the way). . Ads geared to sell you a car just like the one on the track pretty much disappeared. Merchandising, especially model cars, was revving into high gear by then.

daytona 500 jeff gordon

Daytona 500 related advertising took a grim turn in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt died on the final turn of the final lap of the race. Oreo had been running a promotion offering a limited edition 1/64 model of the Intimidator’s car with proof of purchase and a few bucks. After the crash, they sent letters to anyone who had requested the model, stating that there would be a delay, but that they would still honor the deal. The model is somewhat rare, but the letter makes it a more valuable, albeit more sad collectible.

earnhardt oreo daytona 500

What are your favorite Daytona collectibles? Let us know in the comments!