Rob Graves is a Hot Wheels collector and was the creator and for 16 years the only operator of the South Texas Diecast database. He is now the Head of Data for the hobbyDB project.
When I met my European hobbyDB colleagues Andrew and Christian, I was surprised to find that on “the other side of the pond,” even the biggest diecast events last just a few hours! Events like Sandown Park in England, Houten in Holland or Aachen in Germany are one-day-events and the longest last for about eight hours. You can find some amazing stuff but there is no other program!
It’s a little different in the US. Imagine if you will, a Hot Wheels car show that lasts for 4-7 days. Hundreds of attendees are there, some of whom have traveled from all over the country – some even from overseas. They include everyone from seasoned collectors to new enthusiasts. There are competitions for individuals who customize diecast cars, a huge charity auction, charity bingo and poker games, a dinner honoring a special well-known guest, autograph sessions with Mattel designers, multi-lane downhill and battery powered oval car track racing, a question and answer open forum with Mattel. Oh, and in the evenings, everyone who has models to sell puts up a sign outside their hotel room and everyone goes from room-to-room, buying, selling and trading everything from Original Redlines to the latest Treasure Hunts.
No you haven’t entered the Twilight Zone, this is a real event that occurs twice a year. Currently the fall event occurs in California and the spring event can be found in different towns across the Midwest or East coast each year. The first Hot Wheels convention was held in Toledo, Ohio in 1987. It was produced by Mike Strauss of Hot Wheels Newsletter and Tomart’s Hot Wheels Guide fame. This was a single, annual event, until 2001 when the 2nd show, the Hot Wheels Nationals, was added.
Both of these Hot Wheels conventions are now produced by Jennifer and Mark Millhollin from Collectors Events Unlimited under license from Mattel. This year, the fall convention is the 30th Annual convention and will be held in Los Angeles.
Some of the most notable conventions include those held in 1998 and 2003. The 1998 Convention coincided with Hot Wheels’ 30th Anniversary and was the first convention for which Mattel officially produced event cars. This was also the event where ZAMAC (unpainted) cars were first offered. There were 25 carded models (only 500 each produced), a baggie release, and a 4 car set.
At the 2003 Convention, Mattel was celebrating Hot Wheels’ 35th Anniversary. In addition to producing the event cars for both conventions, they also provided all the event baggie cars (which are normally Code 3 versions). The Nationals convention in Cincinnati featured nine different colors of the Midnight Otto casting and the fall convention in Irvine featured nine different colors of the ’32 Ford casting.
In the past there have been smaller conventions, including the Wild Weekend of Hot Wheels (hosted by Randy Price of Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza), Summer Smash, and DiecastSpace. The DiecastSpace convention is now part of the Super Toy Con which is held in Las Vegas in the month of August. And other brands are now doing their own events. Jim Gallegos has been organizing the Matchbox Gathering since 2003 and Andy Goodman, CJ Cramer and Sean Taylor from M2 Machines are now organizing an annual M2 Experience,
The US-style Hot Wheels conventions have now even spread to other countries, including Brazil, Mexico, and Australia. The Brazil Hot Wheels show started in 2008 and now encompasses all major diecast model car brands. It is produced by Marcos Torresi at Expo Diecast. The Mexico Collectors Exhibition also started in 2008 and will be hosting their 9th Annual event on 11th,12th, & 13th of November this year. The Australia Diecast Models Expo was started in 2011 and also includes all the major diecast model car brands.
And on the other bonuses these conventions have is that there are always special convention cars!
In fairness to the Europeans they have an annual 3 day Matchbox event (link to come); the NAMAC event is organized by the largest toy car club in the world (NAMAC also published a great diecast magazine) and the Danhausen event is organized by Minichamps and you can combine it with visiting their fantastic inhouse museum!
As they continue to thrive, conventions become ever better places to meet, socialize and talk diecast – and a truly unique experience for anyone attending!
If you want to go here are the next ones coming up
- Gathering of Friends, a Matchbox event July 14-16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- NAMAC toy fair, June 18 in Houten, The Netherlands
- SuperToyCon, August 5-7 in Las Vegas
- M2 Experience, September 8-11 in Los Angeles
- Sandown Park Toy Fair, outside London on September 10
- Australian Diecast Expo, sometimes in late September
- 30th Annual Hot Wheels Convention, October 5 – 9. 2016 in Los Angeles
- Brazilian Hot Wheels Convention, which we believe is sometime in November
- Danhausen Toy Fair, November 12 in Aachen, Germany
- Hot Wheels Convention Mexico, November 11-13
- 17th Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals, April 5 – 9, 2017 in Pittsburgh
- MCCD Meeting, a Matchbox event somewhere in Germany in June 2017
Make sure you add going to each of these events to your bucket list!