Hot Wheels Posts

Tomica Diecast Returns to North America

tomica UOS 2019Tomica packagingAfter a long absence from the U.S. and Canadian market, Japanese diecast giant Tomica is coming back. An initial wave of 6 models recently started showing up at Walmart stores, followed soon by half a dozen more.

Tomica has been in the diecast business since the early 1970s, and are the biggest brand in Japan as well as many other countries. Since the U.S. market was originally a big part of their plans, their offerings have included a lot of American marques and models. The relaunch includes specifically modern Japanese cars and trucks.

tomica opening features

Most Tomica cars feature opening doors, hoods, or hatches.

Tomica is generally known for well-detailed, realistic models of actual cars, as opposed to unlicensed fantasy designs or extreme customs and hot rods. Their cars are around 1/64, but are usually scaled to take advantage of existing wheel sizes. So they might range from 1/50 to almost 1/100 for something like the 1970s Winnebago camper. Tomica cars are marked on the packaging and on the baseplate with the exact scale. Despite the scale differences, Tomica’s well-proportioned, sensible vehicles have been popular as scenery on model railroads.

Tomica gtr

From Wave 1: Nissan GT-R, Subaru BRZ, Suzuki Swift.

The first wave of cars to hit the pegs at Walmart include a Nissan GT-R, Subaru BRZ, Suzuki Swift Sport, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota Prius. The second wave includes a Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota C-HR, Lexus RC-FNissan Note, and Subaru Impreza. These should be familiar to U.S. buyers as they most of them are offered in 1/1 scale.

tomica cx5

Wave 1: Mazda CX-5, Toyota Prius.

The new release also includes a pair of Japanese trucks: in wave one, a Isuzu with a payload of giant french fries, and in wave two, a Hino with a family of pandas sitting on the back. So they do get whimsical sometimes. (Other fun past offerings have also included vehicles similar to the Hot Wheels Character Cars, based on such Nippon legends as Godzilla.)

tomica panda truck

These trucks are part of Tomica’s 2019 return to North America.

Their cars also feature premium features like working suspension and opening doors long after those features have disappeared with other brands. There are usually lots of painted details such as lights, trim, and even elaborate grille badges and nameplates. The packaging has a very international feel with lots of Japanese text, and inside the blister is a box reminiscent of the designs the cars have traditionally come in over the years.

Wave 2: Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyta C-HR, and Lexus RC-F.

The cars are set to retail for around $5 slotting them in between Hot Wheels premium lines and Johnny Lightning’s latest offerings. The initial dozen will be followed by more of their other current castings as Tomica celebrates their 50th anniversary in 2020.

Tomica subaru

Wave 2: Nissan Note, Subaru Impreza.

What’s your favorite Tomica diecast? Let us know in the comments!

19 Food Mascots Who Want You to Join Them for Dinner, Snacks or Dessert

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Last week we looked back at some of our favorite cereal spokes characters from big bowlers like Cap’n Crunch to the soggy, forgotten ones like Quake. But there are more meals to the day than just breakfast, so let’s take a look at other Food Mascots from healthy veggies to fast food.

Back when Funko started in the late ’90s, their Wacky Wobblers were heavy on retro, even forgotten, food spokes characters. It was a fun dose of nostalgia, with some deep dives into long retired mascots who still could provide a smile to those who remembered.

big boy toysmcconalds bobblheads

Big Boy was the very first Wobbler, and he has since been immortalized with other figures. During the restaurant’s heyday, vinyl figures and banks representing Big Boy were widely distributed. Bonus fact: It’s fun to guess where someone is from by whether they identify him as Bob’s, Shoney’s, Frisch’s, Azar’s and so on.

Many other restaurants have mascots, but most are on the fast side of the food spectrum. McDonald’s began rolling out friends for Ronald McDonald in the late ’60s. If you’re someone who finds clowns terrifying, you should the original Hamburglar. Also Grimace used to be Evil and had extra arms. The entire cast of characters exploded to enormous size by the 1980s, and has been scaled way back since.

kfc halloween maskIt’s hard to conceive now, but at one time Col. Harlan Sanders was an actual person, not a character played by an ever rotating cast of comedic actors (and also recently by another spokes character, Chester Cheetah!). Burger King used to be a real person, too, possibly a deposed ruler of a far away country, but more likely an actor. Either way, the rubber headed king of the last decade or so has been repping the restaurant and possibly scaring kids since.

kool-aid manwyler's funny faceThe Kool-Aid Man started off as a face drawn in the sweat on the outside of a pitcher of ice cold powdered beverage (didn’t we all?). Eventually, he grew appendages and then an affinity for smashing through walls. Many figures and toys and replica pitchers have honored him over the years, but the best was the early ’80s Kool-Aid Man video game cartridge! Fun fact: Bugs Bunny drank the Kool-aid briefly, too! In the mid ’60s, Wyler’s tried their hand at the powdered juice game with Funny Face. Each flavor had its own distinct character, although they may have tried too hard. While some of them are available in collectible form, several were based on, umm, questionable stereotypes that have not aged well.

poppin fresh familyMany of you know the Pillsbury Dough Boy has a name: Poppin’ Fresh. But did you know he had a family of dough people? Joining him in the 1970s were a wife (or maybe girlfriend, they never specified… Poppie Fresh), a son (Popper), a baby daughter (Bun-Bun), and pets named Flapjack and Biscuit. There are also some older folks, presumably someone’s parents, as well as good ol’ Uncle Rollie. The main family and pets were available as figures and finger puppets for several years.

hostess spokes character toysIf you prefer your baked goods already well, baked… Twinkie the Kid was your guy. Why he dresses as a cowboy is anyone’s guess. There is also a chocolate version of the Twinkie the Kid, also named the same name. Less enduring, but worthy of the Funko treatment were King Ding Dong and Fruit Pie the Magician. Spider-Man and other heroes got in on the Hostess gig for a while as well.

j k simmoms m&mThe kings and queens of the anthropomorphic snack world have to the the M&Ms characters. Starting with just a few different colors, they have added on to the crew increasing diversity, and even an occasional cannibalism joke (well, what do you call it when one candy eats another of itself?) Fun fact: Actor J. K. Simmons has been the voice of the yellow M&M for over 20 years. No, seriously!

jolly green giant toyscalifornia raisins video gameSpokes characters aren’t always trying to lead consumers astray… the Jolly Green Giant seems genuinely interested in selling you healthy vegetables. And of course he had a sidekick… apparently despite the family resemblance, young Sprout was an “apprentice.” Theoretically, the California Raisins were doing the same service, but honestly, they sold a lot of merchandise and stimulated an interest in Motown hits more than they did for shriveled grapes.

noid toyOf course, we need to address perhaps the most annoying, reviled, and despised restaurant mascot of all time… The Noid. Even in the pre-Twitter rage era of the early 1990s, the reaction to this mascot for Domino’s Pizza was swift and unified in revulsion. He was meant to represent the bad, incompetency of “other” pizza chains, but the stink stuck to Domino’s nonetheless. So of course, Funko has honored the Noid with a Pop! figure. The Garbage Pail Kids also did a more fitting tribute.

Of course, many non-food companies have memorable (and sometimes forgotten) spokes characters… we’ll look at those soon, too.

Who’s your favorite food spokes character? Let us know, and if there are relevant toys and collectibles add them to our database.

18 Cereal Mascots Who Were Part of Your Balanced Childhood

tony the tiger groucho marx

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

From the first moment someone decided to ramp up the sugar content of breakfast food to appeal to children, Cereal Mascots have been a part of your breakfast table. Some obvious ones come to mind (Sonny, Tony, and Lucky) but we’re also trying to dig a bit deeper here for some more obscure, short-lived brands. So let’s dig in! You might have some flashbacks (or just a huge sugar buzz). And in hobbyDB fashion, we’re mostly concerned with the collectibles related to these characters.

cap'n crunchCap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch has long been one of the heavy hitters in the business, but has had a flotilla of additional characters on board with his campaign over the years. Most notably pirate Jean LaFoote, whose Cinnamon Crunch had a high seas beef with the Cap’n for some reason. The Crunchberry Beast’s motives were less clear, but he seems benevolent. This yellow, spotted shmoo could survive on just the Crunchberries found on his island… just like kids would go on to devour Oops! All Berries cereal and live to tell.

quisp quake quangarooYou remember Quisp, right? Quisp was a staple of breakfast tables in the 1960s and ’70s, who makes frequent comebacks in the grocery store so you won’t forget him. The goofy space alien with the propeller on his head was designed by Jay Ward, who also brought you Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody and other wacky animation. But Quisp had a rival, a miner named Quake. Quake got his own cereal in the mid ’60s (essentially the same recipe, just shaped differently). They were positioned as having a feud, in which kids could vote with Mom’s wallet. In the early ’70s, kids were given the opportunity to mail in postcards to vote on who got to survive and who would be left soggy and forgotten. I gotta admit, it was a powerful kick mailing that card in!

trix rabbitBut there was a third cereal in the Quaker queue. After Quake was shoved back into the ground, a similar cereal called Quake’s Quangaroos came out, but with a flavor that looked like orange, tasted like orange, but it wasn’t orange. No vote was needed to banish this cereal. (Sadly, there are no collectibles of this character… yet.)

The fate of the Trix Rabbit (did you know his name is Tricks?) was similary tied to the fickle nature of kids’ whims… in 1976, kids could send in a postcard voting on whether the rabbit would finally get to eat the cereal. He won handily. They repeated it in 1980 and again in 1991 with similar outcomes. Who says democracy will never work?

freakies cerealThe Freakies were very much a product of their groovy time. Weird fruit shaped critters with back stories and distinct personalities were a bit much for this extremely, well freaky combination. In addition to early figures and magnets found in specially marked boxes, they have been immortalized more recently.

monster cerealsSpeaking of weird cereal spokesmonsters, General Mills had a huge hit on their hands when they introduced Count Chocula and Franken Berry in the early ’70s. And they struck it big again with Boo Berry, whose purpose was to scare the other two squabbling mascots. But how many of you remember the other monster cereals? Fruit Brute joined the fray for a few years, but was sent to an early grave, as was Yummy Mummy in the late 80s. Funko dove deep and included those fruity monsters in their Wacky Wobblers and Pops series.

sugar beargarbage pail kids sugar crustage sewageHoney Smacks and Golden Crisp cereals share more than similar recipes… They were known as Sugar Smacks and Super Sugar Crisp originally, and featured a frog (Dig ’Em) and a bear (Sugar Bear) as their mascots. Both cereals would rebrand to Honey Smacks (and then just Smacks) and Golden Crisp (although the mascot is stlll Sugar Bear). Obscure fun fact: In its early days, Hanna Barbera’s Quick Draw McGraw repped Sugar Smacks. And naturally, Garbage Pail Kids got a lot of fodder out of such characters.

Of course, we’ve only just devoured breakfast. Sometime soon, we’ll take a look at spokes characters for other meals (as well as some non-edible products).

Who is your favorite cereal spokes character? Let us know, especially if there are relevant toys and collectibles.

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!

Celebrate Independence Day With These Spirited July 4 Collectibles

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

It’s a long weekend for some folks, but collecting never takes a holiday! Fourth of July, Independence Day, whichever you want to call it, is a big deal for a lot of toys and figures. In this case, we are considering overtly patriotic collectibles, so even if they aren’t quite tied into July 4 events, you will still salute them.

july 4 hot wheelsThe diecast world has embraced the holiday quite frequently. Johnny Lightning did a series of July 4th cars in 2000 with special cards and graphics. Hot Wheels responded with annual holiday cars for the next several years, with July 4 being one of them. And as part of their 50th Anniversary, Hot Wheels did an extended Stars and Stripes series, which hit the pegs last summer. One thing they all have in common… they are all based on American marques, of course. Even Radio Flyer gets in on the action.

july 4 evel knievelThere are unabashedly patriotic things that aren’t related specifically to Independence Day but nevertheless feel right at home on this date more than any other. Stars and stripes: who wore it better, Captain America or Evel Knievel? Trick question… the answer is Elton John (so what if he’s British?).

july 4 patriots 76ersAnother question: Most patriotic sports uniforms… the Philadelphia 76ers or the New England Patriots? Both wrong!  It’s the Colorado Rockies (hard to top “purple mountains majesty,” right?).

July 4 hard rock cafeHard Rock Cafe has released numerous pins and collectibles related to July 4. If you’re looking to complete the set, there are over 1,500 pins in our database just for this occasion, so get going.

july 4 garbage pail kidsThe Garbage Pail Kids have also managed to find a way to commemorate independence in their own, umm, special way. Numerous cards fit the spirit of the day, not to mention their takedowns of various politicians over the years.

july 4 smash up derbyThe 1976 American Bicentennial was a year-long stars and stripes fest that produced some of the greatest collectibles and toys ever. Seaboard Coast Line Railroad created a special Spirit of ’76 locomotive which became one of the best selling electric train models ever. Not to be outdone, Kenner decorated their already marvelous Smash-Up Derby set with a red, white and blue motif for the most patriotic Ford vs Chevy battle ever. Buick offered a, ahem, subtle “Free Spirit” livery on the ’76 Century (or would that be a Bicentury?) And of course, many states got into the action with special Bicentennial license plates.

july 4 independence dayThe 1996 sci-fi flick Independence Day celebrated by blowing up the White House as well as half the other iconic buildings in the world. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum versus aliens meant spectacular, explosive fun at the cineplex and on your shelf.

july 4 uncle samjuly 4 black catSpeaking of holiday explosives, fireworks may have been invented in China, but doggone it, The USA has certainly made them our own thing. Black Cat has one of the wickedest logos of any company in the world, and this vintage poster is pure dynamite.

Other icons of the holiday have foreign roots as well. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, of course, but she has made her home in New York ever since. The classic poster of Uncle Sam, oddly enough, was derived from a British character. Miss America on the other hand? She’s from here and drives a Mercury Comet, of course, at least in this ad.

However you choose to celebrate Independence Day, please be careful this weekend. Don’t want to damage the corners on those boxes and blister packs, right?

Got any other favorite July 4 related collectibles? Tell us about them in the comments!