Collecting Posts

13 Advertising Spokes Characters Who Aren’t Just for Breakfast

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently looked at collectibles connected to our favorite food mascots (cereal and otherwise), but there are lots of beloved Advertising Spokes Characters for non-edible markets, too.

The granddaddy of all spokes characters has to be Bibendum. You might know him as The Michelin Man (which is actually his official name in the U.S.). Even though he’s French, his name is a Latin approximation of “I drink nails.” Bib has been around since 1894 when tires were white or light gray.

bibendum pep boysAlso from the world of automotive service, Pep Boys decided they needed not one but three spokes brothers. Manny, Moe, and Jack have been around since 1921. They are based on the three company founders, who are not brothers and none of whom are named “Pep.”

A perfect example of target marketing, Bullseye the miniature bull terrier has been the spokes mutt for Target stores since 1999. There have been various stuffies and toys of this mutt, most of them presumably exclusive to those stores. 

bullseye geoffrey snoopyAnother famous store mascot hasn’t fared as well lately. Geoffrey the Giraffe was the spokes mammal for Toys “R” Us stores since their inception and was there til the end when the chain finally went belly up.

Snoopy is really just a cartoon character, but honestly, he’s probably as well known as a spokes pup for, well just about everything, including MetLife Insurance. He isn’t available as a true spokes collectible, but he is represented in countless toys, possibly more than any other comics character in history.

 

reddy kilowatt naugaElectricity shouldn’t be a hard thing to sell. You kind of need it for all sorts of things all day. But in the 1920s, electricity was still not the dominant source of power in U.S. homes, especially in rural areas. In fact, a lot of farmers were downright skeptical of it. Enter Reddy Kilowatt, the “electric utility ambassador.” Fun fact: By the 1970s, Reddy changed his message to one of energy conservation, not consumption. Another fun fact: He was once a member of the Grateful Dead. No, really!

Fake leather shouldn’t be a hard sell, either, but Naugahyde brought out Nauga, a spokes monster made of that very substance. His legacy has endured longer than the material has, and it was pretty indestructible.

alfred e neuman bazooka joeSeveral magazines have had spokes characters from “Cracked” (Sylvester P. Smyth) to “The New Yorker” (Eustace Tilly), but none reigned as supremely stupid as Alfred E. Neuman, spokes idiot for “MAD.” Sadly, “MAD”
is ending its print run soon, perhaps allowing Alfred to really focus on his next bid for the Presidency (one of these years, he has to win, right?)

Gum isn’t food, is it? I mean, you shouldn’t eat it. Did you know that’s how Bazooka Joe ended up losing his eye? Sadly, they never really explain it in the comics printed inside the wrappers. And they don’t ever clarify whether he actually owns a bazooka.

Joe Camel tagamet tommyMedicine isn’t food either, is it? Alka Seltzer is kind of the antidote for food if you think about it. In addition to a memorable jingle and soothing action shots of tablets fizzing, the brand had its own spokes guy, Speedy.

Cigarettes are definitely not food, right? And certainly not for kids. Never mind the Flintstones shilling Winston cigarettes in TV commercials in the early ’60s. Of course, the most egregious spokes dromedary was Joe Camel, who swears he wasn’t trying to lure kids to the cool, rebellious life. The backlash against Joe was so severe that not only were cuddly characters banned for tobacco marketing, pretty much all cigarette advertising and sports sponsorships were forbidden.

The greatest spokes organ of all time has to be the Tagamet Tommy. Yes, he’s an anthropomorphic stomach. Which begs so many questions, like does he have internal organs? We’re going to say “no.” 

Freddy FunkoOf course, a lot of the collectibles seen here are Funko products.  Their company spokes figure Freddy Funko has taken on a life of his own over the last twenty years. He started out as a large scale store display Wobbler, and has since appeared in more costumes than you can keep track of. A character created to sell figures of characters created to sell other things… no wonder King Freddy wears that crown.

What are your favorite non-food spokes characters and mascots? Let us know in the comments!

7 Generations of Collectible Corvette Concepts (While We Wait for C8 Diecast)

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Chevrolet dropped a new design on the car world last week, the 8th generation Corvette, also known as the C8. It’s the first mid-engined Vette ever, and a darn handsome car. And if the pricing information is accurate, it’s a bargain starting just under $60,000. We’ve never seen anything like it.

No really, we didn’t get much of a preview because there wasn’t a wild concept car designed ahead of time like most previous redesigns. In the past, some of those Corvette concepts would be outrageous, some dead on, but most gave at least a glimpse of the general direction the new design would take. In this case, an almost finished prototype in camouflage suddenly started driving around. It was accurate, but hard to see.

corvette c8We would love to show you small scale versions of it, but… there don’t seem to be any yet. The way this car was developed killed the lead time for diecast companies to create miniatures. So until we get the C8 in small scale, let’s look at some earlier concepts that made it in miniature. While basically every year of Corvette has been represented in diecast, a good number of concept cars have been available as well. Some were definitely more predictive than others…

C1 Corvette (1953-62)

corvette c1 nomad

Fans have asked for a Corvette Shooting brake since the C1 Nomad was shown.

The very first Corvette was a startling revelation to American car buyers. Compact, with only two seats, it looked like a million bucks but didn’t cost it. It only came in one color (white) and one body type (convertible). Chevy showed off some new possibilities with some other body styles, but none were produced. The Nomad shooting brake concept would predict the basic style of 1955-57 Bel-Air based wagons.

C2 Corvette (1963-67)

corvette c2 concepts

The Stingray Racer and Mako Shark clearly signaled the C2’s styling.

The 1959 Stingray Racer  was a very fast, drop dead sexy car that really showed off the future styling and performance of the Corvette several years in advance. Much of the design made it into the C2 Vette, the shortest lived but possibly most beautiful generation. The Mako Shark  concept also showed off some of those lines with some very shark-inspired features.

C3 Corvette (1968-82)

corvette c3 mako shark

The Mako Shark II was all Hot Wheels had to go on at the time. Not bad, eh?

corvette c3 Astrovette

The AstroVette was a concept towards a swoopier C3.

The third gen Corvette was previewed with the Mako Shark II. Aside from the tapered fastback (a holdover from the C2), the design was pretty accurate. Somehow, the Custom Corvette , one of the Original 16 Hot Wheels, looked really, really close to the production car despite General Motors tightly guarding the design. The AstroVette concept was a bit over the top but had those Coke bottle curves.

As the C3 evolved over a very long run, additional concepts showed ways to possibly freshen it up. It was during this era the first potential mid-engine Corvette concepts started to tantalize buyers. Spoiler alert… none of them would come to fruition.

C4 Corvette (1984-96)

corvette c4 aerovette

The AeroVette kind of presaged the C4 if you squint.

Fun fact: There were no 1983 Corvettes sold to the public… the turnover from the C3  to the C4 took longer than expected, so they skipped a year. None of the concepts that preceded it really showed off the clean-edged style of the production car. The AeroVette  from 1973 (and revised years later) kind of hinted at those smooth lines, but that was about it.

C5 Corvette (1997-2004)

corvette c5 concepts

C5 Stingray 3 and resin test shot from Matchbox.

The C5 was teased in several rounded, swoopy concepts and drawings before Chevy finally settled on the new design. The Stingray III concept showed some of those directions in a very 90s shade of purple. This was one case where the restraint of the final design was an improvement. In some interesting diecast history, designers at Matchbox were preparing a new scale model from limited information, when they were accidentally sent files and molds for a larger scale model. From that, they were able to craft the first accurate 1/64 scale C5.

C6 Corvette (2005-2013)

corvette c6

Sorry, folks… no models of C6 concepts because there weren’t any publicly shown cars.

Probably the most subtle redesign in Corvette history, there wasn’t really an actual concept of the C6 to show off. There were renderings in all the automotive publications, but no show car.

C7 Corvette (2014-2019)

The 2009 Stingray concept was designed in time to appear in the latest Transformers movie.

Since the C5 and C6 were so similar in design philosophy, the next generation called for something radical. The 2009 Stingray Concept was shown well ahead of the redesign and boasted some wild new ideas. By the time the C7 hit the streets, it had been toned down considerably. It was still a major departure, however. Still not a mid engine, of course.

C8 Corvette (2020-)

corvette c8 camoflage

There was no publicly shown C8 concept… just this camo’d beauty.

Which brings us to the C8. GM was so tight with the information and licensing that no scale models of the latest generation were available at the time of the reveal. And with no concept cars to work from, there have been a few years of the same designs kicking around with no new diecast. It’s certain we’ll see some new miniatures based on this mid-engine miracle on the store shelves and pegs soon.

Know of other Corvette concepts? We’re especially interested in the ones that were reproduced in miniature. 

To The Moon and Back: Collecting Apollo 11 (and Other Lunar Lunacy)

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the Eagle landing module, said some famous things, and planted a flag. Buzz Aldrin followed him a bit later, the world was never the same. (Michael Collins was content to do a few laps around the moon in the command module, seeing first hand the side of the moon only a few others have.)

apollo 11 capsule modelhot wheels apollo setFrom the beginning, there were all sorts of models and toys related to the space program, fueling the imaginations of kids everywhere. If you’re of a certain age like me, you remember where you were the moment they landed (although barely… I was three and a half at the time).

Of course, at hobbyDB, we figure a good way to commemorate this feat is to look at collectibles old and new. Some of them are directly related to the Apollo 11 mission, some are a bit of a stretch, but all of them should inspire you to shoot for the moon and collect them all.

Hot Wheels has the entire scene covered with a set including two astronauts, the American flag, a the lunar lander, and a rover. The scale is a bit wonky among those elements, but the overall effect is out of this world.

dinky lunar roverFor some reason the lunar rover gets more diecast and model love than the rocket, the command module, and the lander combined. Maybe it’s because it was the most similar to something you could operate on Earth, being, essentially a really neat dune buggy. Dinky, Realtoy, and Eaglemoss have that terrain covered.

tonka crater crawlerTonka would eventually come out with the ultimate moon buggy in 1970, the super-articulated Crater Crawler. Sandboxes on the moon would never be the same.

airfix lunar modulesimpsons buzz aldrinAirfix has always been a decidedly European model company, especially British, but they got in on the space race too. Their 1/72 Lunar Module kit was one of the first realistically detailed models you could get of it.

Neil Armstrong may have been the first to step on the moon, but he wasn’t the first astronaut to appear on The Simpsons. That honor would go to Buzz Aldrin. And he has the action figure to prove it.

As if being an astronaut wasn’t cool enough, the Apollo ‘nauts were given the opportunity to drive a General Motors car for a year for basically free. Of course, the Corvette was the car of choice. This True Scale Miniatures C3 with the unique gold and black scheme was actually from the Apollo 12 mission, but hey, they went to the moon and back too.

apollo 12 corvetteIt didn’t take James Bond too long to get into the moon exploration business. 1972’s Diamonds Are Forever featured a memorable set piece on the lunar surface to kick things off. He would actually go into space in Moonraker, although in a much more modern space shuttle.

james bond moonrakerHard Rock Cafe also has you covered with a plethora of lunar related pins. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the various Garbage Pail Kids collectibles related to the moon. And that includes all kinds of moons (leaving you ummm, uncovered in this case.)

garbage pail kids moon(We could also mention Mooneyes, Apollo Creed, or Warren Moon, but our mission might be straying a bit off course…)

master crafters lunar landing clockIf you’re of that certain age, old enough to remember the moon landing but young enough to still dream big at the time, you needed this clock on your nightstand. Master Crafters made several different designs with the same case, but the blue one with the 3-D lunar landing scene was the biggest hit in 1970. Spoiler alert: I was one of those kids. I can still hear the crackling of that flickering red bulb under the rocket. I can still hear it partly because it was an amazing sound and partly because… it’s hanging on a wall in my home studio still flickering away. Some fires can never be extinguished.

What are your favorite Moon Landing toys and collectibles? Let us know in the comments!

1 Deora, 2 Deora, 3 Deora… Counting Hot Wheels Remakes and Sequels

Hot Wheels Deora Original, II, and III

Deora Original, II, and III

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

An interesting new Hot Wheels vehicle hit the pegs recently, a swoopy, cab-forward pickup truck with a surfboard and an E-bike riding in the back. While the design is eye-catching, the name is what got my attention… Deora III. Looking at the profile, it sure looks like it could be descended from the Dodge Deora concept that became one of the original 16, and was then re-interpreted ’90s Style a couple decades later.

As it turns out, several Hot Wheels cars have been the subject of modern interpretations years after the original. Mind you, we’re not talking about models of new versions of real cars, such as the original Custom Corvette and subsequent Corvette models. Also not mentioned are slightly modified castings or renamed versions of the same basic casting. And we’re leaving out the Tooned, Oozed, Droptopped variants as well. These are strictly modern retakes/remakes/sequels of the originals.

Hot Wheels Silhouette Original and II

Silhouette Original and II

Original 16, ’90s Style

As mentioned before, The Deora II was created in 1990, and was popular enough that it remains in regular use today (It was even made into a full-size running show truck). Three other Original 16 cars got similar updates: The Slhouette, the Splittin’ Image, and the Twin Mill. Each of the new castings really captured the design ethic of the early ’90s while unmistakably carrying on the distinct characteristics of the earlier models. Kids of that era may have preferred the new designs, but for the most part, but it’s probably safe to say the originals are still the overwhelming favorites. Like the Deora, the Twin Mill got another sequel, the appropriately named Twin Mill III. The Splittin’ Image also got a Part III for Premium releases.

Hot Wheels Splittin' Image Original, II and II Premium

Splittin’ Image Original, II and III Premium

 

Hot Wheels Twin Mill Original, II, and III

Twin Mill Original, II, and III

Other Redlines For Other Times

There have been numerous other early Redline cars that have been updated over the years as well. The Whip Creamer was a strange design with a sliding canopy and turbine that spun when air hit it as it went down the track. An updated version carried similar traits. The Cockney Cab was a hot rodded but plausible London Cab, while the Cockney Cab II was more of a funny car caricature.

Hot Wheels Whip Creamer Original and II

Whip Creamer Original and II

 

Hot Wheels Cockney Cab Original and II

Cockney Cab Original and II

It’s easy to see the lineage between the Bye Focal and Bye Focal II, while the Sweet 16 and its updated version share mostly the long 1930s proportions and 16 cylinder engine.

Hot Wheels Bye Focal Original and II

Bye Focal Original and II

 

How Wheels Sweet Sixteen Original and II

Sweet Sixteen Original and II

The Jet Threat went from a rocket dragster to the Jet Threat II, which was… well, pretty much the same casting. But there was a Jet Threat 3.0, a much sleeker, lower design, and even a Jet Threat 4.0, also very much fighter-plane-inspired.

Hot Wheels Jet Threat Original/II, 3.0, 4.0

Jet Threat Original/II, 3.0, 4.0

Hot Wheels Show Hoss II

Oops, the Show Hoss II is the original.

By the way, has anyone ever seen the Show Hoss II and wondered about the original? It’s actually a funny car based on the Mustang II, (hence the name) but there was never an original first version from Mattel. So nope, not a sequel in this sense.

Even Newer Originals

Nostalgia doesn’t wait as long as it used to. Ignoring the arbitrary but traditional 20-year buffer before something can be considered “retro,” several newer Hot Wheels castings have received the update treatment. The Semi Fast was a sleek, futuristic COE semi tractor, while version II is an older looking dragster with a ginormous engine. The Sting Rod first appeared in the late ’80s as a Fiero-by-way-of-Mad-Max… the recent update keeps the same idea but with a newer, unlicensed body.

Hot Wheels Semi Fast Original and II

Semi Fast Original and II

 

Hot Wheels Sting Rod Original and II

Sting Rod Original and II

Nature Finds a Way

The Street Beasts name has been used several times over the years to mean different things… In the most recent incarnation, it has included a range of animal-based cars, using old castings for the most part. But at least two of these got serious makeovers. The Speed-a-Saurus, perhaps the cuddliest Hot Wheels car of all, featured a rubber stegosaurus riding on a dragster chassis. The new Motosaurus incorporates the dinosaur in a more cybernetic way. Different name, same idea. The SharKruiser, which still finds its way into production on occasion, got a similar update with the more aggressive Shark Bite for this series. You can change the name, but the DNA is still there.

 

About Those Tooned cars…

Okay, we do have to consider one Tooned version, which takes us back to where this all started. The original Deora was given cartoonish proportions when that series came out, and looked pretty awesome. The Deora II wasn’t part of that series, but did get similar treatment as a pullback car in the Micro Speed Demons series. Evolution works in strange ways sometimes.

Do you know of any other Hot Wheels remakes along these lines? Let us know in the comments below!

Limited Licensed Promo Hot Wheels – Collect Them All If You Can Find Them!

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Anyone interested in collecting Hot Wheels can find a pretty much complete list of every variant of every model ever made, as well as accurate lists of upcoming offerings.

There is an exception to that rule, however, when it come to limited licensed promo Hot Wheels models. A company such as Supreme, makers of skate-related fashion, might offer a vehicle (or a matching set in this case) with their logo plastered all over it.

hot wheels supreme bmwWhat makes these rare for completist collectors is that since they are distributed by the company who licensed them, many of them do not end up on the official Mattel release schedules, so diecast collectors might not know about them until they sell out at stores, online, or via mail-in promotions. Eventually they might show up on the secondary market. In fact, the target market for these items would likely not include traditional diecast collectors, but fans of the brand, so some of these might not ever get resold.

hot wheels twizzlers van

This is actually not a promo car.

Davis Sprague is an avid collector who has added quite a few items to the hobbyDB database. He happens to specialize in really odd variants such as these promo vehicles. “I prefer to focus on collecting variations, international releases, and anything that most collectors wouldn’t typically see every day at their local flea markets,” he said.

On a side note, Hot Wheels occasionally offers cross-branded cars as part of the Mainline series. Since these are widely available in most stores, these aren’t what we’re talking about here. Also, convention and event cars are not quite the same thing. Instead, let’s focus on models that were distributed well outside the usual collector channels. Many of these were released well before the internet became the instant toy news machine it is today, so finding out about them back then was hit-or-miss.

Davis was kind enough to send us a pretty comprehensive list of his favorite promos.

hot wheels promo cars

hot wheels fish o sour

Fat Fendered ’40 (2001 Chuck E Cheese’s Game Prize)
This one was fun to get… it was a prize to be earned at Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant/arcades. There’s no shame in playing kids games to get something this awesome, right?

C. Rex Mobile Nissan Hardbody (1994 Kraft Mail-In Promotional)
Speaking of cheesy mascots, this pickup was only available by mailing in mac and cheese proofs. In some cases, promotions like this may have been mentioned in TV ads, but most likely, you just had to spot it on the shelf at the grocery store.

Fish-O-Saurs VW Drag Bus (1998 Van de Kamp’s mail-in promo)
Do you like fish sticks? Good, because there were several vehicles available in this promotion (and one the year before) that required sending in proof of purchase seals.

hot wheels promo carsFatlace Volkswagen T1 Panel Van (Fatlace Promo)
Speaking of VW Buses, Fatlace, a “dope, ill, lifestyle” brand, made this T1 Panel Bus available only through them. It includes the slogan “Collect Everything” on the door, so what are you waiting for?

Second Wind (1983 Spontex promotional)
If this looks like Speed Racer’s Mach 5 with a sticker on the hood, well, yeah, it kind of is. The Second Wind was intended to be a Mach 5, but Mattel didn’t secure the licensing, so they modified it slightly and renamed it. As for the sticker, Spontex is a French cleaning supply company, and even though it’s just a sticker, it does come in a sealed blister, so finding one intact can be a challenge.

hot wheels promo carsAdidas High Voltage (2005 Adidas Shoes Promotion)
There was a chance collectors may have known about this one, as it came with a pair of kids Adidas Hot Wheels shoes. Which you bought for your kid, not for yourself, right?

Ecolab Ford Bronco 4-Wheeler (1994/1997 Ecolab Promo)
Maybe not the hippest brand on the planet, Ecolab (a clean water and hygiene services company) did this promo that resembles their service trucks. They are very sought after by collectors because of the popular casting and several wheel variations.

Since these don’t show up in more traditional outlets, these can be hard to keep track of, especially if you want to acquire them new. If you know of other recent or current promo vehicles from Hot Wheels, or especially from other diecast brands, let us know in the comments. Also, do you enjoy chasing these models from the source, or would you rather get them afterwards (such as on hobbyDB?)