For many kids, little and no-so-little, growing up since the 1970s often netted countless tiny toy cars. Introduced in the 1950s, Matchbox started producing die-cast small-scale replica vehicles in the UK, then started similar production in the US. In 1968, Hot Wheels started producing die-cast vehicles of a slightly different type, more fanciful. Hot Wheels were the hot rods of the die-cast car lineup, though both companies eventually would cover daily drivers, race cars, hot rods, and fantasy vehicles.
Because of their small size, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars made great stocking stuffers, and you could buy them individually and in sets. When new, they were also pretty affordable, usually less than a dollar, so saving your nickels might net you a shiny new car whenever you went to the toy store or department store. Today new Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are still affordable, some still starting at one or two dollars.
Still, wait long enough and keep them in good enough condition, some of these tiny toy cars have become quite sought-after in the collectibles market, worth even more than the real thing! That’s right, some of these Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, bought for under a dollar new, have fetched well over $100,000. Here are just a few examples:
- The 1995 Hot Wheels Collector No. 271 is the rarest car from the 1990s, only 12 of which exist. Of the 12, only seven have been authenticated, meaning five are still out there somewhere. In original packaging for authentication, this is worth around $3,500.
- Going back a little further, the Hot Wheels 1969 Pink Beach Bomb Rear-Loader is a prototype vehicle, of which only two exist. Later, the Beach Bomb would have the surfboards mounted on the sides. Either way, Pink Beach Bombs have garnered from $75,000 to $150,000 at auction.
- The Matchbox yellow 1968 Mercury Station Wagon and cream 1968 Mercury Cougar are both valued around $3,750.
How to Make Money on Collectible Cars
The best thing to do is go digging through your storage, maybe the garage, attic, or your neighbor’s attic – ask permission, first. You might stumble across something rare and collectible! Barring this, you’ll have to go back to the beginning. Starting right now, maybe you can encourage your kids to hold on to their Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, just buy them and store them yourself and wait a few decades, or…
Buy the 2011 Hot Wheels Back to the Future DeLorean – $5 to $500. Go back in time and, without disrupting your own birth, defeat Biff’s gang and buy two of every new Hot Wheels and Matchbox car, as well as variations, as soon as they hit the shelves. While you’re at it, buy garage sets and whatever suits your fancy. If you’re a black hat collector, consider sneaking in for factory prototypes. Be sure to bring period- and country-specific cash.
You’ll have to do this several times a year, several visits to each year since 1953, and visit maybe thousands of stores to do this. Individually seal each car, in its original package, in an abandoned copper mine in Arizona – I’ll give you a GPS location – and come back to the present. Hopefully, if someone hasn’t stumbled upon your stash, you’ll have originals to sell to collectors around the world. You’ll have to stay on your toes, though, because Biff’s already onto you.