Hot Wheels Posts

Hot Wheels Blister Cards Influenced Diecast Packaging Forever

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Otto Kuhni, one of the great American artists of the last half century, passed away recently. If his name isn’t familiar, you surely knew his work. He was the artist who created the overall look of the new Hot Wheels brand in 1968 and continued to work for Mattel on and off until just a few years ago. He did the art for the carrying cases, advertisements, lunchboxes, and most importantly, the packages those toys came in. The fiery orange-yellow-red blister cards instantly created an identity for the whole brand, and influenced diecast packaging ever since.

Hot Wheels Otto Kuhni lunchboxPrior to his designs, diecast packaging was generally plain and not terribly interesting (although there were terrific exceptions). Most diecast cars were sold in boxes, such as Corgi, Dinky, and of course, the company whose name comes from those boxes, Matchbox. A few cars were offered in blister cards, however. Here are some early designs as well as later cool blister cards where companies realized that toy cars are fun, and they should be packaged that way too. Much credit has to go to Otto’s ideas.

This Dinky Alfa Romeo really looks pretty amazing on its rather basic package. The layout is simple, and colors are very limited due to printing technology at the time. Even the effort required just to change the name and model number was something of a pain in those days. One odd touch is that the car is mounted so high on the card, something you don’t see today.

Husky, an early attempt at 1/64 models by Corgi, also featured simple, not terribly colorful blister cards. This fire engine is unique in that someone got a little creative and added the silhouette of the cherry picker as if it were rising from the vehicle itself. But most featured identical base art to keep costs low. Another neat thing… if you see this era of Husky card, there is often a hole punched in the circle where the price is located, like on the fire engine. Presumably, that happened when a store wanted to charge a different price.

hot wheels blister cardBut then along came Hot Wheels! Brightly colored, dynamic graphics, a custom cut shape, and even a bonus in the blister in the form of the collectors button. (Note the off-center hole punch, arranged to allow the asymmetrically weighted card to hang level.) Not only were the free wheeling cars revolutionary, but the Hot Wheels blister cards themselves created a stir with consumers – and with other toy companies.

matchbox superfast blister cardCompetitors responded quickly. Matchbox began retooling their cars as the SuperFast series, with similar speedy wheels and wilder designs on their new cars. The packaging moved to blister cards, though the art was not quite as exciting as what Mattel was offering. Hedging their bets, Matchbox still included the traditional box inside the blister as a bonus. In fact, many of their cars were still available right in the box, same as always, as if the company saw this new fangled packaging as a fad. The combination of old versus new wheels, and different packaging options has created a colossal number of variants for collectors.

johnny lightning blister cardJohnny Lightning was a new startup from Topper Toys in 1969. Thematically, they represented the closest competition to Hot Wheels, with cars ranging from crazy fantasy designs to mild customs, all built for speed. The packaging had a chaotic, exciting design to match. Curiously enough, they had to make a design modification early on… the “BEATS THEM ALL” tagline ran into a legal challenge, as it could not be proven that JL cars could indeed do that. It was modified to “BEAT THEM ALL” to imply possibility, not fact.

johnny lightning jet power blister cardA later line of JL cars, the Jet Power series, featured their own bespoke card design, with a very energetic illustration of one of the cars in action. Sadly, these new cars underperformed the promise of the packaging and were a flop. More sadly, Topper ended the entire Johnny Lightning line (and just about everything else) after only three years due to company wide financial difficulties.

corgi rockets blister cardCorgi tried to compete in the high speed 1/64 market with their Rockets series. Note the two hole configuration on the card, requiring double pegs to hang the car from. The folks who stocked the stores couldn’t have been happy about that. Cool graphics, fast cars, but no match for the Hot Wheels marketing behemoth, at least in that scale. Corgi remains a major force in diecast, but wisely decided to focus more on their main market of 1/43 and larger cars.

tomy tomica blister cardTomy (Tomica) had a lot of fun with their packaging as well. Their Pocket Cars series was printed on a card that looked like denim, complete with stitching and buttons. Such designs really stood out from the pack and looked impressive together on the pegs at the stores. Many of their later series like the Series 60 also had playful graphics.

woolworth peelers zee toys pacesettersMinor brands like the Woolworth’s /Woolco Peelers cars saw the benefit of an exciting package, even if the vehicles themselves were a notch below in quality from the big brands. Or consider what Zee Toys was doing with this Pacesetters blister, mounting the car in a position to go along with the lines of the graphics.

It’s hard to say where modern diecast packaging would be today without the influence of Otto Kuhni’s designs for Hot Wheels, but it’s safe to guess playtime would be little less exciting (also read Otto’s Diecast Hall of Fame Obituary). If you have a favorite diecast blister design, let us know about it in the comments!

Arrrrrr! Are There Treasure Hunts in Your Booty? Find Their Values on hobbyDB Now!

Treasure is usually hidden, but thanks to our price guide, its value won’t be – at least, not if it’s the Hot Wheels kind!

Over the last few months, we’ve been working hard to make our price guide a one-of-a-kind resource and today marks an exciting milestone. As well as our Expert Valuations, we’re now calculating values from a variety of sources with the aim of providing the most accurate pricing information for every collectible in the database. First up: Hot Wheels Treasure Hunts!

We’re now displaying calculated values for all of the Treasure Hunts U.S. cards and are working on finishing the values for international long and short cards and sets. As well as being able to check out what your Hunts are worth, we think you’ll be fascinated to see the range of values, from $2 to more than $500 and which ones are the most desirable! Hint; it’s not always the ones you’d think!

Ever wanted to know how much the TV Series Batmobile is worth? Now you can easily find out –

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How about that sweet Dairy Delivery Treasure Hunt – a cool $16.76

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And what about the super cool Cruise Bruiser Treasure Hunt – valued at $22.41

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What’s the value of your favorite Treasure Hunt? For a full explanation of the price guide methodology click here. Interested in getting involved? Contact us to figure out how you can help build out the most accurate collectible price guide in the world!

 

Rocky Mountain Diecast Club Archives now on hobbyDB

Rocky Mountain Diecast ClubThe Rocky Mountain Diecast Club is now hosting their Official Archive at hobbyDB. Having a collectors club post their history here is the beginning of what we think becomes a big movement in the collecting community.

Consider all the exclusive merchandise a club can generate over time…  special T-shirts, club exclusive cars, publications and newsletters you’ve created over the years. Wouldn’t it be great to put those things in a permanent museum here? Even better, each item is linked to variants and other related items and Subjects in the hobbyDB database, making it easy for club members to do research and for other folks to find you.

According to Kevin Feeley of RMDC, the club has been active for over 20 years, starting as the Rocky Mountain Hot Wheelers, and changing the name recently to be more inclusive of other brands and interests. “We are a group of car enthusiasts that enjoy getting together to discuss and trade, the latest releases, and treasured diecast vehicles of the past, he said.” Meetings have been held in various places around the Denver area, and they currently meet every other month in Boulder at hobbyDB’s headquarters, of all places. It’s a great space for collectors, especially diecast, specifically Hot Wheels.

Rocky Mountain Diecast Club

Kevin Feeley of the Rocky Mountain Diecast Club with a small portion of his collection. The club has produced very limited Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars for events.

In addition to the bi-monthly meets, the club does other events. “Several members attend the annual Nationals, and Hot Wheels Convention each year, Kevin said. “The club sponsored a diecast toy show at the local fairgrounds several years ago that was very well attended.” If you were there, you might have been able to snag some very rare collectibles. The club has produced some limited edition custom models from Hot Wheels and Matchbox to commemorate such club activities.

rocky mountain diecast club

A Sizzlers track is part of the Hot Wheels action at a recent club meeting.

The next event is April 15, 2017 at hobbyDB.The club has about a dozen regular members who attend, but they are always looking for more to join them in the hobby. “Everyone is welcome and we would really love to see some new faces at our bi-monthly meetings.  I would also like to thank HobbyDB for all of their help in attempting to expand our club in the Rocky Mountain region!” There’s a simple application and a $20 annual fee to cover the club’s basic expenses like their summer picnic.

rocky mountain diecast club

The RMDC visited the Shelby American Collection in Boulder.

Are you in a diecast collecting club? Or ANY kind of collectors club for that matter? We’d love to have you host your Official Club Archive here on hobbyDB. It’s a great way to publicize the club and promote events, and you might find a lot easier than maintaining an archive on your own site. Contact us and we can help get you started!

You’ll Love These Valentine’s Day Collectibles

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

February 14 can only mean one thing at hobbyDB: It’s time to share our love of Valentine’s Day collectibles!

Hot Wheels has experimented over the years with holiday-related segments, with mixed results. Christmas cars have been enormously popular, possibly because their mere existence helps solve the gift giving aspect of the holiday. On the other hand, collectors might balk at paying for premium price cars in a series of 4 or 6 models to commemorate a holiday like Mardi Gras. Somewhere in between those extremes lie the Valentine’s Day cars. Presumably the paramour of a collector is supposed to purchase these as a gift, because the collector likely wouldn’t want to give them away, right?

hot wheels roger dodger

hot wheels tesla roadsterNow here’s the sneaky thing… for some years, the Valentine’s cars have included a “To/From” space on the packaging like on this Tesla Roadster. When lovingly filled out, that actually ruined the “mint on card” status of the car. Oops! Such a transgression would likely drive a collector mad, so the only solution was to buy another set to keep fresh and perfect.

The 2014 Sweet Rides series were designed to promote a softer sell on Valentine’s Day with more of a candy-themed promotion. Either way, that’s six more vehicles you needed to collect.

For 2017, rather than a set of several cars, Matell is issuing a series of “Holiday Racers,” one for each special day throughout the year. They’re mixed in with the mainline offerings, and the Rodger Dodger is the one to be looking for today. Keep an eye out for New Year’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas soon as well.

Hot Wheels has also produced boxes of Valentine’s cards, featuring such sentiments as “I WHEELIE like you” or “I never TIRE of you.” They usually come in packs of 24, 28, hopefully enough for your entire class, including one for the teacher.

hot wheels valentine's cards

Corgi delivered their love for the holiday with this Citroen Moving Van… Okay, that might be a stretch. So how about this Minichamps BMW touring car from Team Valentin. That should get your heart racing.

corgi valentine

Long before Tinder, Zoosk, and other dating apps, you could play the Dating Valentine video game. Since online play wasn’t really a thing yet, one can only assume this was an exercise in unrequited gaming. It was made for the iMode Handy, which is obscure enough that anyone using one was probably extra lonely. 

dating valentine game

Kidrobot has gotten in on the love theme in their unusual way… A romantically themed version of the company mascot was released in 2005, and more recently, the Best Friends Forever series of figures included objects that defied the odds to be together, such as a cassette tape and a magnet, or a wedge of cheese and a grater. There’s a metaphor for every type of relationship in the collectibles world.

kidrobot love

Ponder this item: A Snow White postcard, somewhat romantic in nature (although the Seven Dwarfs might get in the way of things). While not specifically produced for February 14, they were printed by… Valentine and Sons.

show white postcard

Milton Bradley’s Mystery Date first appeared in 1965, introducing a generation of girls to the art judging boys for their outward appearance instead of what’s inside. (As someone who resembled “The Pest”, aka the supposed dud, I was not in the least traumatized by the existence of this game. Nope, not me!) As a bonus, the 1999 edition of the game featured a hunky kid named Tyler, aka the “Beach Date,” who would grow up to be Captain America. No, really, that’s Chris Evans, who has played Cap in several Marvel films. Seriously, how’s a guy supposed to compete with that?

mystery date chris evans

Even if you can’t find that special someone for Valentine’s Day, you can still find that special collectors item.

What I Learned From Toy Motorcycles: I Shouldn’t Ride One

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Toy Motorcycles hold a curious spot in the world of miniature vehicles. Consider this: A toy car or truck, especially one with a closed cabin, looks ready to drive, and requires no assistance to stand on its own when stationary. But a motorcycle? It looks weird moving without a rider, and it can’t stand alone without a kickstand, a sidecar or training wheels. In fact, without any assistance from such things, the only way to make one scoot around was to hold onto it the whole time lest it fall. That’s a lot to engineer into a small toy.

LEhmann Tinplate motorcycle

A typical tinplate motorcycle has at least three wheels, sometimes four. But it can’t go fast enough and far enough to sustain the momentum required to balance on two wheels for long. And that’s kind of disappointing.

matchboxcycle

Matchbox offered some motorcycle models in the 1960 and ’70s, but most had a permanent, fixed kickstand. Even this Honda cycle with posable kickstand was designed primarily as a trailer load. The message was clear: You can look, but you can’t ride.

Hot Wheels Rrrumblers Bone Shaker

Hot wheels eventually offered a series of freewheeling cycles, the Rrrumblers, which could do all the things their cars could do: zoom down orange track, go over ramps, get buried in the sandbox. And they had cool removable riders, too. But like the earlier toys, they still required some assistance in the form of clear plastic bases with training wheels. Some had two wheels, but their three wheeled choppers needed assistance, or they would get squirrelly on the track. (Eventually, I figured out they could go downhill backwards without assistance, but who wants to ride that way?)

Hot Wheels Sizzlers Chopcycle Triking Viking

Mattel upped the ante when they added similar trikes (These were all 3-wheelers to accommodate the battery-powered motor) to their self-powered Sizzlers line. Instead of going in a straight line down a hill with some difficulty, The Chopcycles could go in circles and figure eights at high speeds before crashing even more spectacularly. These also came with a sled-like removable attachment to keep them pointed in the right direction. It should be pointed out that most of the rider figures wore appropriate protection (except for the fancy lad who wore a top hat and the other fellow in the newsboy cap).

Kenner SSP Cycle Stunt Show

Kenner’s SSP line offered a few motorcycles in the early 70’s as well. With their gyroscopic flywheels, they demonstrated how to ride balanced and without restraint, no training wheels, no sidecars… until they came to a stop by either falling over as they slowed down, or by running into something and slowing down instantly. The full gold racing suit and helmet was pretty cool, though.

Evel Knievel Jet Cycle

In 1974, Ideal came out with a line of toys that boys of a certain generation consider the all time champion coolest thing ever: The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. The commercials were filled with promise… enthusiastic boys cranked up their motorcycles with fury, the gears whining to a loud, high-pitched shriek. And suddenly, the bike shot off at great speed! They showed it on pavement. And on dirt. And jumping!!! And perhaps as a warning, crashing, causing a floppy-limbed rider to go flying and landing in a heap!!!!! And when I got one for my birthday and tried it for the first time… It was even louder and more chaotic and more exciting than promised!!! And the harm that came to Evel was even more real. Mine even suffered a gash on his nose when his helmet ended up sideways on his head after a crash. Never mind the carnage Evel would inspire on a regular street bike, the series quickly expanded to include jet-powered bikes and dragsters.

ssp rockin rickIn the late ’70s, SSP offered a new series of cycles, this time resembling street bikes, with posable riders. The drive wheel was hidden in the middle of the bike, so they really had three wheels, (or four for chopper trikes) this time in a line. But the riders clearly cared more about looking cool than they did about safety. Sure, boys wanted to be Rockin’ Rick and girls wanted to be with him, but his long flowing hair and ill-secured guitar sent a questionable message about responsible cycling.

So what did I learn from all these toys? Ride too fast, you will crash. Ride too slow, you will crash. Training wheels look silly. Wearing a helmet is a good idea, unless you have long, flowing hair or a top hat, in which case, you ride at your own risk.

I’ve ridden a motorcycle exactly once since: It was a friend’s dirt bike, and I wore a helmet. The sudden acceleration from standstill caused the bike to do a wheelie, dumping me off the back in seconds. Somewhere Evel Knievel is shaking his head.