Collecting Posts

Painted in a Corner: Castings That Look Strange in Different Colors

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Henry Ford supposedly said you could get a Model T in any color, as long as it was black. And even though you could easily paint one any color, it sort of looks weird when you do.

Toy companies have to think long and hard about dedicating time and money to creating a mold for a new car model… in order to get their money’s worth, they need to be able to offer a model in multiple versions. The easiest way to do that, of course, is by releasing it in Different Colors.

In some cases, the company might paint themselves into a corner with certain design decisions however. Here are some model vehicles that just sort of look weird in anything but the original hue:

hot wheels red baron

hot wheels dodge lil red express

Red Baron: Based on Tom Daniel’s World War I flying ace hot rod, there’s really no other color this car could logically be. For the original release and the Flying Colors variant, Hot Wheels honored that commitment. Eventually, when the car was reissued for Hot Wheels’ 25th anniversary, they opened up the paint booth and offered it in a bunch of different tones, even painting over the silver hat in some versions.

1978 Dodge Li’l Red Express Truck: This vehicle is based on a real version of the 1978 Dodge truck, and it had that name for a reason. Hot Wheels took some liberties with the colors after the initial release. When you see one on the road, the stepside fenders, loud graphics, and working smokestacks are awesome to see… and they are always red in real life, darn it!

hot wheels purple passion

Purple Passion: There wasn’t a compelling reason to call this car “Purple Passion” aside from that being the color of the first version. Despite different future colors, the name has stayed the same except in a few cases… For example, the Treasure Hunt variant was renamed “Gold Passion,” the Pearl Driver series called it the “Pearl Passion,” and the Steel Stamp series was known as the (wait for it…) “Steel Passion.” A few other odd ones just dropped the color altogether. The woody wagon version retained the color in the name, but the convertible was called “Passion Too.”

hot wheels golden arrow golden submarine

Hot Wheels Golden Arrow (left) and Golden Submarine

Golden Arrow, Golden Submarine: These are both fairly modern castings sharing a colorful name. At least the Submarine initially came in gold before embarking on a rainbow journey; the Arrow has to this point never been released in gold. Okay…

hot wheels chaparral

Hot Wheels Chaparral 2G (left) and Chaparral 2

Chaparral racers: No, that’s not a color. But to see a Chaparral in anything but white is kind of weird. The original Redline Chaparral 2G came in a surprising range of solid colors, and the newer Chaparral 2 has showed up with all kinds of graphics on it.

hot wheels jack rabbit special

Hot Wheels Jack Rabbit Special (left) and Sand Witch

hot wheels deloreanJack Rabbit Special: This one is kind of strange… the Jack Rabbit Special was the star car from the Hot Wheels animated series, and as such, kind of needed to be seen only in white, preferably with blue stripes and maybe side graphics like on the show. That is, until the casting was renamed the Sand Witch, allowing designers to do whatever the heck they wanted.

DeLorean DMC: You could get a real DeLorean in any color as long as it was brushed stainless steel. Some people have painted theirs, and while they do look nice, that just ain’t natural! Hot Wheels has released a few differently colored DMCs as well, but most of their variants are related to different time travel options instead of colors.

corgi james bond aston martin

James Bond Aston Martin DB5: While a DeLorean is supposed to be unpainted, the folks at Corgi felt that the silver tone of James Bond’s DB5 was too close to unpainted Zamac and would look unfinished on a toy. So for their model of the most iconic of all the Bond cars, they went with gold instead. Later versions were done in the correct silver, but the gold version is so well known that it almost looks right.

kenner ssp blue monday

Blue Monday: Moving to a different company and a larger scale, Kenner’s SSP cars originally came molded in six colors: red, purple, orange, magenta, lime green and light blue. Honoring  its name, the Blue Monday dragster was only available in that blue tone at first. When subsequent series were released, such as the Ultra Chrome cars and the Monster series, it became available in all sorts of colors (including a very nice chrome blue).

kenner ssp black jack

Black Jack: As mentioned above, the initial SSP cars were only available in 6 colors, but the Black Jack was the first to come in black. And only black. Toss in the molded red hourglass shape on the nose, and the car is often mistakenly called the “Black Widow.” As with the Blue Monday, the later chrome cars came in all colors (and the red bits were changed to black). The Monster series still came in black, this time with green spider graphics on it.

kenner ssp copper cart

johnny lightning blue max

Copper Cart: Okay, this might be a bit of a stretch… the SSP Copper Cart was a Ford C-cab paddy wagon hot rod with a police driver figure, and it was available in all of those original colors. It looks most natural in blue, which seems to be the most common version. Sadly, this design was never offered in the chrome colors, one of which could be described as… copper.

Blue Max: Johnny Lightning’s Dragsters U.S.A. series featured miniature versions of many famous funny cars and Pro Stock racers, including the famous Blue Max Mustang. Most of the cars in this series were first offered in a color close to the real dragster, but were eventually produced in multiple colors, even the Blue Max. Bonus Fact: Another car in the series was called “Color Me Gone,” which should by logic be invisible. It was not.

johnny lightning mach

Mach 5: If you’re going to make a model of the world’s most amazing animated race car, it can only be white with red and yellow graphics, right? Both Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning did limited editions of Speed Racer’s car in chrome silver as well, which looks sharp and not too jarring. JL also did a bronze version calling it the Mach 4, which was available only by mail after cutting up half a dozen blister cards for proof of purchase seals. Many collectors were reluctant to damage their packaging, so the Mach 4 is fairly rare.

There are of course, many other TV cars such as the Batmobile or the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine that have presented similar limitations. I, for one, will be curious to see what Hot Wheels does to jazz up future releases of the Yellow Submarine.

Why is THAT one worth so much? Odd Reasons for Rare Collectibles

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

After some time in a hobby, collectors get a sense of the value of certain items. Some collectibles are intentionally made rare as limited editions, of course, which drives up the cost for obvious reason. In some cases, only a few of a particular item were ever made before the company made a change or cancelled production, such as the original Hot Wheels Beach Bomb. And there are occasionally errors, but those are usually single events such as one car missing a tampo or placed on the blister card incorrectly. In that case, it’s more of an oddity than a variant.

But every now and then, some variant goes off the charts in value for unforeseen or fluky reasons. Here are some rare collectibles and the stories behind them…

kenner ssp super stocker

Kenner SSP Super Stocker (orange): The Super Sonic Power cars were all the rage in the early 1970s, with about 65 different models produced throughout the decade. For 1971, Kenner added several new designs, including a Plymouth Road Runner Superbird. While several SSP models were in production for multiple years, the Super Stocker was only made for one year. The most likely reason for the short run was that the rear spoiler on the car was very fragile for a toy designed to be raced and crashed. As a result, cars with wings that aren’t bent or broken are rare today in any color. Also, in recent years, this particular model was sought after not only by SSP collectors, but by MOPAR fans as well, further driving up their cost. Many other SSP cars sell for under $20 in good condition, but a nice, unbroken Super Stocker will set you back at least $100. 

Here’s where it gets strange. This model came molded in six colors: The most common hues are purple and lime green. Red, magenta, or light blue copies seem to be a bit rarer and might sell for $125-$175 (prices for the blue version are skewed higher in part because the color is similar to the shade Richard Petty used on his NASCAR Superbird.) And then there’s orange… for some reason, this color is exceedingly rare on this model. I’ve only seen an orange Super Stocker on eBay three times in the last 15 years, selling in the $500 range.

So what’s the story? One theory is that Kenner rolled out certain models in a few colors first and then added the other colors in later runs… So it seems orange may have been the last color for this particular model, right about the time they decided to stop producing it altogether.

corgi mini pop art

Corgi Pop-Art Mini: There are few toys more quintessentially British than a Corgi Mini. The company made many versions of the car over the years and produced quite a few of them. In good shape with a decent box, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $100 for any of them. 

But when you see the Corgi Pop-Art Morris Mini Minor, sellers are usually asking at least $500 for starters. Why’s that? First, this particular version appears to have only available for about 6 months in 1967 and only by mail for members of the Corgi Club. So if you didn’t send off for it, tough luck. Secondly, it’s actually a unique casting from all the other Corgi Mini models with its jeweled headlights and an extra mold line on the front fender. This exact mold was never used again, as Corgi soon introduced a new casting with opening features to replace it. Even badly restored models sell for decent money because of the unique body. All of which makes it one of the “mostest” rare models by Corgi.

schwinn sting-ray cotton picker

Schwinn Sting-Ray Cotton Picker: In the 1960s, Schwinn set off a major craze by combining a miniature cruiser bike frame with wild hi-rise handle bars and a banana seat to create their Sting-Ray bikes. With hot rod looks and perfect gear ratios for excellent performance (if you had a single speed version, that one speed was “fast!”), these bikes were a major hit. By the end of the decade, they offered a deluxe version with a a springer fork up front and spring mounted rear posts… in effect the first mass-produced full suspension bike. The tip-top version also had a 5-speed stick shift mounted on the top tube (which was later banned for safety reasons). 

So it’s easy to see why perfect examples of these top-end Sting-Rays might sell for upwards of $1000 these days… at least the more common colors like the Orange Krate and Apple Krate. But the Cotton Picker? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story. This version was all white (frame, seat, hand grips), which wasn’t as popular as the other vivid hues available. But the reason for the relatively low production numbers was that in hindsight the name “Cotton Picker” was seen as racially insensitive, and the company backed away from it quickly.

If you want to pick up one of these, you’re looking at more like 2,500 bucks for a really nice one.

hot wheels cadbury range rover

Hot Wheels Cadbury Egg Range Rover: In the early 1990s, Hot Wheels offered a new casting for a contemporary Range Rover. Sure, it’s a neat model, but nothing eye popping. The Rover has been released in numerous paint schemes over the years, and most of them aren’t exceedingly valuable, available for under $15. 

Except for the Cadbury candy versions, which might sell for over $1,500 if you can find one. This particular model came in purple with side graphics or yellow with tampos on the hood. They were designed for a promotion in the Middle East. So they weren’t available in Europe or North America… but that’s not why they’re rare. Legend has it the ship carrying them from the factory was sunk during the start of the Gulf War. There are only about ten of each color known to exist, believed to be pre-production models obtained by a Mattel employee.

kenner star wars jawa

Star Wars Jawa Action Figure (with vinyl cape): Hard to believe, but in 1977, very few people expected George Lucas’ new space movie to be a big hit. In fact, he skipped the premiere and hung out on a beach with his friend Steven Spielberg, working on a screenplay that would become “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” 

So nobody saw much reason to start producing action figures in advance like they do today. Heck, the term “action figure” wasn’t even in use yet. So when Kenner finally did come out with a line of small Star Wars characters, there was no thought about limited editions, and kids didn’t really see the point of keeping them in the package. 

One of the last of the original figures was the Jawa, a caped desert scavenger, released in 1978. It wore a brown vinyl cape that was kind of stiff, and not fun to play with. So Kenner very quickly modified the design to a better looking and softer cloth cape and moved on. The extremely short run for the less-playful, not-as-good-looking, vinyl-caped figure makes it rare today. A loose figure is of questionable value, however, because modifying an Obi Wan Kenobi cape to fit is fairly easy. So you have to get one sealed in the package, which is quite rare indeed. That’ll set you back about three grand or so.

Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-04-14-pmA Guest Blog Post by Dave Moss
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

When I chat to people who don’t collect vintage Star Wars toys they all tend to think that it must be an expensive hobby as they have seen news reports about a rare Star Wars toy that just sold for thousands of pounds. And I think this puts many people off from getting started collecting. A recent example of this was when a very rare carded Boba Fett figure sold for $18,000 at auction.

But this is really not the case, yes there are some items that sell for thousands, but there is much more to collecting Star Wars than high price rare items.

My first ever post-childhood purchase of a Star Wars figure was a vintage loose Biker Scout, total cost 5p! OK, this was a few years back, but it’s still possible to find nice items for cheap prices. Online auction sites have made them harder to find, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and for me the hunt is part of the fun of collecting.

If you want to get started collecting vintage Star Wars toys then I would suggest you start with loose figures and ships. These you can pick up in many places, online, toy fairs, car-boot sales, second hand shops, charity shops, and flea markets.

Chief ChirpaPrices for loose figures and ships tends to be a lot lower so you can start by only spending a few pounds or less on each figure. This will enable you to get a feel for the condition of the figures and what they should look like.

Figures at the low price range of the market will more than likely be well played with and missing weapons, but you can still find some really nice items and even the odd rare item.

There are plenty of online resources that you can browse through to find out what accessories each figures should come with, or whether there are variations you should look out for. And once you feel more confident you can start spending a bit more and getting some nicer condition figures.

Hopefully by this point you will have caught the bug and want to start collecting carded figures. There are many ways to collect carded figures, some people like to go for the most pristine untouched cards that never even saw the shop floor. While others are happy to have cards that have some wear and tear to them.

Most figures were released on multiple styles of cardback. The rarest being the original ‘Star Wars’ (SW) cards, next are ‘Empire Strikes Back‘ (ESB), and the easiest to find are ‘Return of the Jedi‘ (ROTJ) or ‘Tri-logo’ cards. Tri-logo refers to late release figures where the cardbacks had the Star Wars logo in three different languages on the front of the card.

Again I would suggest starting at the bottom end of the market and pick up cards that are referred to as ‘beaters’. These are figures where the cardback maybe creased or torn, or the bubble (or blister) that the figure sits in is cracked, crushed or yellowed with age. These cards still have lots of charm and character to them, and cost a fraction of the price of mint carded figures. You can expect to pay under $20 for figures on ROTJ cards. As an example I recently picked up a ROTJ Ewok Chief Chirpa on a pretty nice card for £9 from a flea market.

As well as action figures and ships there are many other Star Wars items that you can look into collecting. Other favorites include Topps trading cards, Marvel comics, pencil toppers, erasers, or badges. Once you get started collecting vintage Star Wars you will soon find out how much merchandise has been produced over the years. There really is something for everyone.

So don’t be put off thinking vintage Star Wars toy collecting is all about high price items. Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think and there is something for every kind of budget.

When MIP Means “Messed-up In Package”

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

In 1975, Hot Wheels introduced a new way to package their vehicles, in themed 6-Packs. Cars were attached to a simple cardstock base with rubber bands, and the artwork featured some of the cars from that set. In the earliest sets, the cars were usually taken directly from Mainline offerings with no distinct variants. So it was all about the packaging. 

At a recent yard sale I found a set from 1982, the “Classic Machines,” in what could be labeled “Never Removed From Package” condition.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

As you can see in the images, that’s not necessarily the same as “Mint In Package.” More like “Messed-up In Package” in this case, right? All but one of the cars had become unmoored from their rubber bands (the black and red Bugatti on the left was hanging on by a thread). The rubber bands had dried and cracked into a texture resembling uncooked ramen noodles (but probably not as tasty). Not to mention, the top panel had been hopelessly folded down and had some rough edges. But they were only asking $2 (the original price sticker said $8.99!). And surprisingly, none of the cars appeared to be damaged. I couldn’t pass it up.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Of course, I wanted to fix it, but decided on a challenge… how much could I preserve the “sealed box” aspect of the set and still get the cars into place? The box ends were firmly glued, so I didn’t want to ruin that. When originally made, the cellophane window was attached by a dab of adhesive in each corner. Here, it was completely detached on one end, so I carefully pried as much of the window out of place as I could, trying not to dent it worse. From there, I had limited access. Success!

Big question: In what order were these cars originally parked? I found a photo online that showed the same set as mine, with the cars ordered from left to right thusly:

• Old Number 5 (below, left), • Street Rodder (below, right);Hot wheels old number 5 street rodder

• Auburn 852 (below, left), • ’35 Classic Caddy (below, right);Hot Wheels Auburn Classic Caddy

• ’31 Doozie (below, left), • ’37 Bugatti (below, right).Hot Wheels Doozie Bugatti

Okay, looks good… except as I mentioned before, the Bugatti was the only car still attached to the base, and it was on the left. So I consulted with Robert Graves, our resident Hot Wheels maven, and he found a photo that was the exact reverse of the order I found. Hmmm. It fit the pattern by having the “Bug” on the left, so I went with it. It’s possible there was no particular order for these cars in the first place. Unlike newer sets with form-fitting plastic bubbles for each car, the early sets could easily be swapped around during what was likely hand assembly.  It’s also worth mentioning, there have been several Classic Machines sets over the years, so you might find one with similar packaging but a different assortment from this one.


You know how you can never find a rubber band when you need one? It’s even harder to find bland, tan ones in the right size when you need half a dozen of them. So I made a quick trip to the office supply store and bought a giant bag containing different thickness and diameter bands. There were just enough of the smallest, thinnest ones to do the project.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

The bands wrap around both axles on one side of each car. It’s harder than you’d guess to get them wedged into place without any twisting. When I got to the Street Rodder, which has no fenders, I was relieved… until I realized with its short wheelbase, even the smallest rubber band was too long, so it had to be wrapped in a more complex pattern.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Wrapping the bands around the cutout would have been fairly easy if I’d just taken the whole dang thing out of the box like any normal person would have. But in place, there was limited room to maneuver. Also, the process required lifting the tab slightly, but not too much, or it would get a crease and then refuse to lay flat. I used a single blade from a pair of scissors (would that be one scissor?) as a guide to gently lift the tab, allowing the car and band to go where they needed. Each car took several minutes to wedge into place, because I am a masochist.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

The long sides of the cardstock window cutout were severely warped. So before resealing then into their car-cophagus, I decided to adjust that. I wedged a small channel of cardstock under the top part to hold it up and on the bottom, glued a reinforcement strip where there was a small tear. It’s not perfect, but a huge improvement. Then I used a small amount of clear Goop adhesive to attach the window into place, sandwiching the front edge of the box together while it dried to straighten that up.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

As for the top panel of the box, it flopped sadly forward. I bent it backwards until I heard a snap and then cringed to see… that it hadn’t ripped or creased or anything. Nope, just sits straight. Whew! There was also a dog-eared corner that needed attention. I put a very small dab of clear glue between the layers and held it straight with a clothespin until it was stiff. Not perfect, but better. Finally, I took a chance on removing the price sticker. Sometimes they only sort of let go, sometimes they remove part of the packaging (GAHHHHH!), but in this case, the whole thing popped off intact, leaving a slightly darker, less faded blue behind.

Hot Wheels Classic Machines 6 pack

Finally, the set is ready for display. For a two dollar item plus a dollar for rubber bands, that seems like a lot of work. But if you have to ask a collector “why?” then you’ll never understand this hobby.

Thomas Wurk Collects Very, VERY Hard To Find Schuco Models

schuco super schnell thomas wurk

If you’ve ever thought of a collectible as “very hard to find,” then consider the story of Thomas Würk, one of hobbyDB’s new Curators. He has an amazing collection of 1/66 scale Schuco Super Schnell cars and other related brands… but getting his hands on them has never been easy.

“I started collecting these models now for over 40 years ago with a break of nearly 20 years,” he said. “In my childhood I collected only eleven of them, because it was very difficult in Eastern-Germany.” Yes, Thomas lived on the other side of the Berlin Wall, where anything from Western Europe, including toy cars, was nearly impossible to obtain. “At this time I had no contact behind the border. I got Matchbox models from my grandma, who had relatives in West Germany. I swapped some of those against Schucos with friends in my town. So every model was hard to get.”

schuco super schnell

By the time Germany was unified, and the borders opened up, he had moved onto other interests and responsibilities in life. He eventually started collecting them again in 2004, which presented a different challenge: The Schuco Super Schnell cars were no longer in production. “It was much easier to get some items, but now the condition became a problem. Most of the toy cars are much play-worn… high mileage in the sandbox, so much lost paint and scratches everywhere.”

schuco super schnell gold plated audi

This real gold-plated Audi 100 LS is one of the absolute rarest Super Schnell cars.

super-schnell-displayThomas also gave himself a new challenge, collecting factory prototypes. “I have some wooden models for made the molds and of course, only one exists of each. The real gold-plated Audi 100 is very rare. Some other promotional-models are also very hard to get.” Schuco did some interesting deals such as using Norev models in the range or selling castings to Brazil, therefore those also get collected (find the Norev Mini Jets and Miniaturas REI here)!  Lastly there are of course also related store displays and merchandising products. He sticks to 1:66 scale cars for space and cost reasons. That small size allows him to have about 500 of them on display in his home in Chemnitz (Saxony) in Germany.

To see more of his collection, you can visit his website (he included an English translation button if you need it!) and of course, browse the database on hobbyDB. When we approached him first, he loved the idea of preserving these items for everyone to enjoy and immediately agreed to become the Curator for Super Schnell.  Even since he’s been uploading his collection at a furious rate (in German they would say Super Schnell…), with more vehicles added daily.

schuco super schnell