With Hot Wheels celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, collectors have a wide range of ways to join in on the fun. Mattel is releasing a huge slate of special models in various series during the year, including some original Redline designs that haven’t been produced in a long time.
Some original models, like the Twin Mill, have more or less been in production the for entire half-century. Others, like the Classic ’55 Nomad, pop up every few years, sometimes as limited editions, sometimes as mainline cars. A few castings like the Snake and Mongoose funny cars have only been dusted off a few times for big occasions. And some, like the Custom Volkswagen, haven’t been reproduced since the 1960s.
For the 50th, there is a set called the “The Originals Collection.” The castings feature the ’68 Cougar, Volkswagen Beetle, ’67 Camaro, Custom ’67 Mustang, and Hemi Barracuda, with packaging that evokes a combination of the original flame job and the Spoilers. But the cars aren’t repops of the original Redlines. On the other hand, the RLC releases this year have brought out some extremely rare reissued Hot Wheels castings that are much truer to the real deal.
These special editions are, of course collectible in their own right, but how do they affect the value of the original models? Let’s look back at another major milestone where Hot Wheels did something similar.
In 1993, Hot Wheels celebrated its 25th anniversary by reissuing some of the old Redline designs with retro packaging. Even folks who hadn’t thought about the brand since they were kids were instantly transported back when they saw Otto Kuhni’s orange and red cards with the sleek, shiny cars and the collector buttons. The repops were different enough from the old ones that they couldn’t be passed off as an old model… the cards had additional graphics (and bar codes of course), the cars didn’t copy the multi-piece wheel constructions of the originals, and the buttons were plastic instead of stamped metal. But the overall effect hit a very nostalgic mark. They followed it up the next year with “Vintage Series II,” similarly packaged, but not anniversary related. The response was enormous and universally loved. Well, maybe not universally… some people had gripes, as it turned out.
So what was the effect of those releases on collecting?
- Collectors with less money to spend could get reasonable facsimiles of old favorites at a reasonable price, making them happy.
- Collectors of vintage originals might have seen a little bit of the cache of their collection disappear (just a bit).
- Some vintage toy dealers were upset that a cheaper alternative was potentially lowering costs of the originals.
- Hardcore collectors now had to find all the new versions of the models as well.
Of course, those 25th Anniversary cars are now 25 years old themselves. Remember, this was in the days before the internet really kicked off, so no hobbyDB, no eBay, no message boards, Facebook rants, Twitter storms, or badly Photoshopped rumors. These cars were available in toy stores first hand, or at flea markets or collectibles shops afterwards. Also, there was no way to gauge the price that folks were actually paying aside from what you found in the wild.
Their values haven’t moved much in the past quarter century from when they first sold in the stores, partly because collectors were already becoming aware of the value of keeping their items in pristine condition (and since so many did just that, there’s an abundance of mint examples out there). In fact many other models produced at the same time as these are much more valuable today.
Certain models in the 50th Anniversary releases have already shot up in value, at least for now. What happens over time is less predictable. The initial hype of “gotta have it” eventually stabilizes towards more reasonable prices with time. Or the prices shoot up as collectors realize the cars are harder to find than they expected, and they should have grabbed one when they had the chance. Short of owning a time machine, these reissues are the best chance for many collectors to get their hands on some of these early models without paying too much of a ransom.
What are your thoughts on Hot Wheels reproducing or reissuing older castings? Let us know in the comments!