Did you know that diecast cars have been around almost as long as cars have? It’s true! It’s not hard to see why: even with cars as ubiquitous and commonplace as they are today, they still capture the imagination of millions the world over. Since people have been collecting diecast cars for over a century, its natural to wonder how well they appreciate in value. Let’s look at two of the biggest factors that affect diecast car value!
Era: Age Before Beauty
The most valuable diecast cars, outside of one-of-a-kind specials made from gold or encrusted with diamonds, are ones from prior to World War II. New techniques in diecast production were pioneered in the 1910s that allowed, for the first time, the creation of detailed and accurate diecast model cars. The most famous producer from this era is Dinky Toys, which began production in 1934.
The next most valuable era, and the one the average person is most likely to have, comes from the 50s and 60s. Matchbox cars came on the scene in 1953, popularizing the small 1:64 scale. They grew to dominate the industry until 1968, when they were challenged by Hot Wheels. Hot Wheels’ major innovations were basing their cars on more fantastical hot rods and wide plastic tires that allowed for easy rolling at high speeds. Mattel took advantage of this with their racing track accessory, which used motorized wheels to launch the toys at high speeds.
As with many collectibles, 1:64 scale diecast cars follow the “Hipster Rule”: the most sought-after specimens are the ones from before they got popular. Earlier Matchbox cars were packaged in boxes that resembled, well, matchboxes, and the best run is known as the “First 75.” The earliest models of Hot Wheels featured a red stripe on their tires that earned them the nickname “red lines”. While neither is a guarantee of value, they are a good first clue and can bring excellent value if complete and in sharp condition.
Scale: Size and Detail
For the last seventy years or so, the 1:64 scale has been the most common type of diecast model car around. They’re small, meaning they’re cheaper for both manufacturer and consumer, easier to store, and ideal for a child’s plaything. Larger scales, most commonly 1:24, allow for significantly more detail in the model. It also significantly increases the price point of the car.
Larger scales, somewhat paradoxically, are also often more vulnerable to damage. Toys in the 1:64 are small and simple, with Hot Wheels designed to be launched at high speeds. While detailed collector’s edition vehicles in the 1:24 scale, such as those produced by Franklin Mint, are valuable, that detail makes them more fragile. Out of the packaging, their small details like mirrors and antennae are prone to snap off due to even mild mishandling. Once those small pieces go missing, value drops precipitously.
Diecast Car Values and You
These factors add up to modern Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars being sold, in general, by the case. The 1:64 scale saw a major collector boom in the 1990s, fueled by Baby Boomers nostalgic for their childhood wonder. Which means a lot of Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and other cars ended up stored away in mint condition. Therefore, most of them never gained significant value due to still being pretty readily available. They are, however, still great toys and fun to play with.
The growth of the diecast car market, however, also fueled growth in the market for larger scales. Some real gems are hidden among these modern specimens, though you need to know what you’re looking. That’s why it pays – often literally – to let experts like your pals at Back to the Past look over your collection before deciding how to dispose of it. Even if there’s no significant value to it, wouldn’t you rather know it for sure?
Did you collect diecast cars as a kid? Tell us your favorites below or on social media @b2pcollect!