Collecting Posts

5 Years, 5 Fun Facts – KMJ Diecast, Kirk Smith, and hobbyDB

kmj diecast kirk smithA little bit more than five years ago, Kirk Smith found himself running an online store selling Hot Wheels cars on kmjdiecast.com that was doing very well – until he heard from his software provider that they were going to phase out the very product he relied on running his store. In a nice twist of fate, he was introduced at the same time to hobbyDB which until was just a database but had plans to open a marketplace. Meeting minds both teams up and KMJ Diecast became hobbyDB’s first seller and has grown and flourished since then.

To celebrate this collaboration, here are five fun facts about one of the hardest working guys in diecast.

1.  KMJ Diecast gets orders for multiples – and lots of them – of the same items. “We sold over 100 Pink Cadillacs for a wedding banquet as a table gift,” said Smith. “KMJ sold about 100 Teslas to an energy convention in Atlanta and also sold some Teslas back in 2009 to a person in San Jose, CA who said they were Christmas presents for his employees.”

KMJ maintains about 50,000 items ready to ship at any given moment. They have shipped about a quarter of a million items over the last decade. There are larger collections on the planet, but those aren’t for sale.

kmj diecast track2. KMJ Diecast frequents a lot of events around the Phoenix Valley. “We’re not there to sell, but to buy items for the online store.” They’re also there to hands out free Hot Wheels, giving away well over 20,000 vehicles all for the love of the hobby. “We have a race track for kids of all ages that we bring to events whenever possible. “We regularly go to a local event Tuesday Nights at Goody’s Café in Mesa, AZ Every child under 12 receives a free Hot Wheels car.”

Speaking of free, KMJ orders arrive with a Fruit Treat and a free Hot Wheels car. “It’s usually a loose one which we get from collections or bad cards in cases” Kirk said. “All this is part of sharing Hot Wheels with as many people as possible.” Random free things are good.

kmj diecast autograph

kmj diecast logo 3. The number 55 1955 Chevy in the KMJ Diecast logo is a nod to his birth year. Hot Wheels has created a number of iconic ’55 Chevies over the year, including the early Redline Custom Nomad to the more modern ’55 Bel Air Gasser. Kirk also creates custom models in his free time, often using the Gasser as a starting point.

In honor of turning a young 65 this year, KMJ is having a blowout sale of 65% off everything now through… sometime in August. Order now to make sure you don’t miss out!

4. Kirk got into the business at an early age. “While helping a neighbor who sold toys at the Swap Meet at the La Mirada Drive-In, I started selling Hot Wheels as early as 1970. It was so easy to sell them because they were so damn cool and everyone wanted the newest ones coming out.” 

He went on to start a comic book and sports card store in San Clemente, CA in the 1990s. His early Red Lines were on display in the store and many people admired them, so he started selling them there, which led to selling Hot Wheels online. He closed the physical store in 1997 and went online, with Hot Wheels becoming the dominant items in his store over the years.

kmj diecast culturekmj diecast kirk smith5.  Kirk has been a fan of the Hot Wheels brand since… before day one. “I got my first Hot Wheels in late 1967 from my step-father who worked at Mattel in Hawthorne, CA,” he said. “With several family members, as well as friends and neighbors working at Mattel, their toys were a staple in my home as I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

He was building model cars before Hot Wheels were released and just loved the hot rod look that Hot Wheels had. Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth was a huge part of his life growing up in LA. “Seeing him at events over the years and how cool he always was, are memories that never will be forgotten.” Southern California car culture in general was also a big influence in his early years. “I went to car cruises and drag races at places like Lions Drag Strip, Irwindale Drag Strip, Orange County Raceway as well as Hawthorne Blvd, Whittier Blvd and other hot spots around LA. His interest in diecast continued when he served in the Air Force as a firefighter, so he started collecting fire trucks and cars with flame on them.


kmj diecast inventoryKirk says he’s had over 10,000 customers, many who been repeat buyers and still buy today. “I love this hobby and every time I can put a smile on someone’s face, because I completed their set, I am paid tenfold.” Be sure to check out the KMJ Diecast sale going on now with everything 65% off

Here is to the next 5 years!

Microcar Models’ Danny Draper is Latest hobbyDB Shareholder

Danny Draper of Microcar Models Australia is the newest shareholder in hobbyDB. MMA is a small company that makes minuscule models of microscopic cars. But they still think big. “Our desire is for microcars and bubble cars not previously made or to reimagine those known but longer available,” said Danny, founder of the company.

microcar models avolette

Started in 2018, MMA limits their new offerings to three castings per year in order to “thoroughly research our cars distilling their culture, history, and dreams into miniature. We chose white metal as our preferred media for its ability to be precisely crafted in 1:43 scale.” Collectors who may not be familiar with the brand might also not be familiar with the marques their models represent such as Avolette, Frisky and Peel, but that’s part of their challenge. “Real microcars are broadly appreciated, and the classic scale of 1:43 represents the broadest range of Microcar models, contemporary and classical. Our passion is creating new and always interesting Microcar models and sharing them with collectors.”

microcar models piagio

Microcars are broadly defined as small cars with petrol engines up to 700 cc capacity. Most are designed for two, or even only one person. They are popular in some areas to fight congestion, to save fuel (several of MMA’s models are based on electric cars) or as a transportation solution for people with limited driving abilities. Most of the models are Australian or European, but Japanese Kei cars are also included in the mix, including models of Suzuki and Subaru cars that make their newer vehicles seem gigantic. Many of MMA’s models are three-wheelers, either derived from motorcycle or scooter parts, or conversions of small four-wheeled cars, which exist for numerous reasons.

microcar models nsu

We pay a lot of attention to giant diecast brands,” said Christian Braun, one of the founders of hobbyDB, “ but smaller companies like MMA create a different spirit in the collecting world.”

“Collecting microcar models old and new is a great way to appreciate and experience these interesting small cars,” said Danny. “Some are prototypes while others made it into production.” Also, seeing them in a smaller scale like 1/43 enhances the tiny factor (you will find them on hobbyDB in the next few days).

microcar models lightburn

Connecting collectors to brands like this is a huge part of hobbyDB’s mission, and we are glad to have Danny on board. “With crowdfunding now a reality, we can get share ownership with our contributors as well as folks like Danny who make the cool stuff we all collect,” said Christian. “I’m hoping hobbyDB will eventually have 100,000 contributors who build it and keep it up to date and that all or almost all of them own part of it.”

Here’s Another Collection of the World’s Largest Collections

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently shared a large collection of the world’s largest collections, ranging from diecast cars, Funko Pop figures, and James Bond memorabilia. In each case, hobbyDB has a pretty good start on documenting those segments of the hobbies. For example, we have over 40,000 distinct variants of Hot Wheels in our database.

And we have you, the avid collectors and experts to thank for much of that.

So here are some more record-setting collections, but in these cases, we don’t have a huge representation of these items in our database… yet. But maybe you can change that for us! If you’re an expert or even a novice collector in these areas, you can help fill in the gaps in the world’s largest collectibles database. One of you out there must collect banana label stickers, right?

 

worlds largest matchbox collectionMatchboxes – No, not the diecast kind of Matchbox, although someone out there must hold that title… The actual boxes that matches come in, along with matchbook covers. Steven Smith of Great Yarmouth, UK, has amassed over 20,736 as of the last official count. Since many of them still contain matches, he has multiple fire extinguishers around his home.

 

world's largest beer can collection

Beer Cans – In the early 1970s, beer can collecting went from an obscure hobby to one of the biggest collectibles markets. In essence, you were collecting, well, garbage, or at least something meant to be tossed away. The hobby hit its apex in the late ’70s and by the end of the next decades, was more of a niche hobby. Jeff Lebo of York Haven, Pennsylvania has what is considered the current largest privately owned collection in the world, over 87,000 of them. If you want to see it in person, you can stay in Brew House Mountain for about $470 a night.

 

world's largest baseball card collectionBaseball Cards – Collecting baseball cards became popular among kids in the 1950s during a golden age for the sport. They were largely obtained by buying blind packages at the store (with bubble gum!) or by trading. By the 1980s, it was becoming a big business, and around 1990, it hit a different kind of bubble with perhaps too many companies making too many variants of too many cards. Paul Jones of Idaho recently had his collection verified by Guinness at over 2.7 million different cards. hobbyDB is home to a big collection of other kinds of collectible cards, but sports cards are a whole ‘nother game.

 

world's largest banana label collectionBanana Labels – True story: Christian Braun of hobbyDB was recently contacted by CNN to comment on a story on the world of banana label collecting. While most of us throw them away with the peel, thousands of people carefully remove them and place them in display albums. Over the last three decades, Becky Martz of Orlando, Florida, has collected and catalogued over 21,000 banana labels from around the world. hobbyDB has an Item Type for stickers and decals, so if you collect these or any other kind, please share your collection with us!

 

world's largest world's largest pez collection collectionworld's largest hummelHummel Figures – Long before Precious Moments kids, there were Hummels. Donald E. Stephens, of Rosemont Illinois, has the biggest publicly displayed collection of different Hummel figures, over 1,000 of them. If that doesn’t sound like a colossal number, the company only produces so many new figures in a year, so he probably has just about one of each. The world’s largest Hummel figure is at Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, a German restaurant on Staten Island, standing at over eight feet tall. Either way, you can help fill a void in our database if you’re a Hummel expert!

 

world's largest pez collection

Pez Dispensers – Pez dispensers are functional and fun! At least Jim Blaine of Michigan seems to think so.. what started with buying one dispenser at a gas station has blossomed into a collection of over 17,000 different versions. While we have hundreds of them documented in the hobbyDB database, they tend to skew heavily towards newer models, especially Funko characters. If you’re a collector of the more vintage ones, we’d love to hear from you.

The Ultimate Poser: DC Sculptor Tim Bruckner Captured Iconic Moments

tim bruckner wonder woman

“The Kiss” is one of Bruckner’s finished pieces currently for sale.

A few weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment). As his career there evolved, he spent more and more time on statues instead of poseable characters. A lot goes into the decisions on how to represent a figure the best way.

“The artist or art director has decided on a pose and facial expressions before I start working,” Bruckner said. Illustrations of the basic concept, such as Superman about to kiss Wonder Woman might be done specifically for the project, or they might come from actual comics panels. “Then all I have to do is recreate that in three dimensions.”

“Some of the artists like Alex Ross, with a more realistic style, require more reference,” he said. “But Ross always had so much material to work from for any character, so it was never a problem” In addition to the specific artist’s renderings, photos of people in action poses provide clues to getting muscles and angles just right. “We have to decide what ‘makes’ the character and brings it to life.”

tim bruckner alex ross

There is no shortage of Alex Ross renderings for a sculptor to work from. This prototype is for sale by Tim Bruckner.

Tim Bruckner Green Arrow

Bruckner is offering various stages of prototypes like this paint master of Green Arrow.

In a few cases, the design might not be based on any particular comic or live version of a character. “In the Superman and Lois Lane sculpture, he’s based loosely on the Christopher Reeves era of the character,” Bruckner said. “But it’s not an actual rendering of the actor, just a new way of designing him that looks familiar to collectors.”

At that early stage of the process, Bruckner would work in clay that could be bent or adjusted slightly if someone suggested a change. After those decisions are settled, the next stage is the perfectly detailed wax figure that will ultimately serve as the basis for the molding process. Several of these early prototypes are for sale in his hobbyDB Marketplace shop.

tim bruckner supergirl

Bruckner’s sculptures have a feeling of motion, often from different directions. You can get this one directly from Bruckner on hobbyDB.

tim bruckner

This playful cat is one of the hidden structural elements that hold up a pin-up statue of Catwoman.

Unlike an action figure who will be posed by the customer, a sculpture needs to capture a moment in time but still look like it’s moving. “This pose has to stand for everything about the character,” he said. You want something that says ‘this is Green Lantern,’ and it has to be convincing. Fans will let you know.” Aside from a moment when a superhero is proudly standing in triumph, they are usually seen in action. Bruckner’s statues are well known for conveying motion, action, tension, and lightness.

That last criterion is one where Bruckner has always excelled. “You want to give the illusion of weightlessness. A character running might have just the tip of their foot touching the base of the statue. Or Superman might be just landing, with the tiniest contact point to the ground.” He is particularly fond of a statue of Green Lantern fighting Sinestro at the peak of a mountain. “Sinestro is the only one touching the ground, and he looks like he is falling, about to lose contact. Green Lantern is only supported by points where he is making contact with his foe.” Often the support comes from an unexpected direction like a cat tugging on Catwoman’s dress.

tim bruckner batman

The ivy-covered gargoyle really puts Batman in context here.

Another trick for the weightlessness is that these figures are almost never mounted on a plain base. It will be something key to the environment of the scene, or an iconic prop. Such support pieces help remove the figures from being perceived as “static.”

Despite many of these characters being wildly proportioned, strange-looking, even non-human, Bruckner believes the human connection is what makes it work. “Each pose does represent a human experience,” he said. “If an artist has done that well, the collector can put himself in that experience by looking at this piece.” Bruckner insists that pop culture can be in danger of losing that human connection but doesn’t need to. “As an artist, it has to mean something to me, or it means nothing to everyone else.”

We’ll be taking one more look at Bruckner’s work in a few weeks, much of his work before and after his DC years.

 

 

Tim Bruckner, Man of DC Action Figures!

A couple weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting DC action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment) and other companies. We barely scratched the surface of his stories, so here’s a look at some of the design processes he went through in his career.

tim bruckner dc artistHis sculpting roots go back to his childhood. “I used to take those wax bottles with the juice in them (Nik-L-Nips) and play around with the wax and create all kinds of sculptures,” Bruckner said. He showed them to a neighbor across the street who happened to own a jewelry store. “He was impressed enough that he hired me as an apprentice when I was a teenager,” he laughs. That lucky break led not only to honing his finer wax sculpting skills, but also an understanding of the molding and casting processes.

tim bruckner robin

This Robin paint master is for sale on hobbyDB right now.

For those of you who collect model cars, the original sculpting is usually a subtractive process, where the artist starts with a block of some material like acetate and carves away the bits that don’t look like a car. “Figure design is an additive process,” said Bruckner. “It starts with a blob of wax, and I shape it into the character mostly by adding material.”

For those of you who collect figures, he’s now selling some of his rarer pieces on hobbyDB as the_Sculptor. These include production pieces as well as various stages of preproduction models. It’s a chance to own a bit of DC history as well as a one-of-a kind original piece for your collection.

tim bruckner dark knight

You can get this Batman action figure directly from Tim Bruckner.

Another difference between the two types of collectibles: Model cars are often sculpted with details such as the grill and windows in place. How those are divided into separate pieces is usually determined at the factory instead of by the artist. In addition to the original wax figure, Bruckner had to determine points of articulation, and how to separate the figure into multiple parts. “For poseable figures, I create a fully-functioning prototype with the joints worked out.” If that sounds complicated, yeah, it is. “After you’ve done several of them, that part gets a lot easier,” he said.

Much of the diecast world is headed towards 3-D modeling and prototyping, which has its advantages in speed and accuracy. “Since a statue of a character is organic in design, it’s still somewhat common for sculptors to make their molds the old way. “With the advent of 3-D design, that skill set is evaporating,” he said. “Hopefully digital sculpting and hand carving can coexist.” Even for static statues, he has to figure out what parts can be molded as one and what needs to be a separate part.

tim bruckner red skull

It may look finished, but this is a hand-painted prototype available from Bruckner.

Many of his figures are interpretations of drawings, which may have varied thought put into how a particular feature would be rendered as a real-life object. Sometimes an item like a hand, which might be molded in a different color, becomes a separate piece.

After approval of the shapes, Bruckner was responsible for painting the master from which the production pieces would be colored. “These statues are hand-painted in the factory, believe it or not. My painted prototypes were usually pretty spot-on,” he said. “They have to rely on a perfect example to copy, so it needs to be very accurate.” A lot of color breaks, such as the logo on Batman’s chest, are rendered in relief or as grooves or ridges to make coloring easier. A close look at his Red Skull master shows how much intricate detail can be involved.

tim bruckner supergirl

These three stages of the development of the Supergirl statue are for sale together.

In some cases, they are only part of the model, but otherwise, it’s really hard to tell them apart from the finished production piece. He has even listed a 3 stage set of Supergirl prototypes that really show how the process takes shape.

tim bruckner dc dynamics

tim bruckner

This Joker from the DC Dynamics line is from Bruckner’s private stash.

Those color breaks and separate molds can lead to some great opportunities for design. “My favorite statues are the DC Dynamics line,” he said. For those, a character such as the Joker is seen rising from a raging swirl of green slime. The shapes themselves are lively, but he was able to use translucent material for the goo, adding to the realism. “Being able to work with clear materials for water, smoke, or flames really helped make these even more realistic.”

Speaking of lively, dynamic shapes, there is a lot that goes into deciding every nuanced detail of a character’s pose and facial expression for these figures. We’ll take a look at some of the designs and decisions that go into the final product in an upcoming article.