This 1970s Hot Wheels Redline Red Killer Heavy Chevy sold at auction on Feb. 5 for $650.
Is there any more quintessential childhood toy than a die cast Hot Wheels car?
The feel of the cool metal against your palm as you raced them across the carpet, leaving rug burns on your knees. The sound effects you made as you crashed them into each other in what you imagined was a fiery, death defying explosion.
Some of those childhood Hot Wheels could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, as collectors of die cast cars are eager to find the rarest versions, especially those in mint condition.
Since 1968, Mattel has sold more than 6 billion Hot Wheels cars in 20,000 different models.
We recently hosted a specialty auction with thousands of die cast cars. A single 1970s Red Killer Heavy Chevy Hot Wheels sold for $650. Others sold for less than $1 each.
So, how can you tell if the little metal car you or your kids used to race down the hall is best suited for increasing your bank account or simply increasing your sanity by giving your kids and grandkids something to play with?
There are a few things we always check when estimating the value of a die cast car collection.
Rarity – As with most collectibles, the rarer a car is, the more valuable it’s likely to be. Unreleased prototype cars can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Collector’s Editions – In 1995, Mattel began selling a Treasure Hunt series of cars. Each year, a new batch of limited-edition cars are released. To identify a newer limited release vehicle, look for the letters TH for Treasure Hunt, or a low production symbol, which looks like a colored flame in a black circle.
Condition – Models in pristine condition will fetch the most at auction, especially if they are in their original packaging. But, don’t worry, a truly rare car can still be quite valuable even after you or your child has played with it.
Tires – Cars made during the first ten years of production are called Redline, because the tires have red pinstripe lines on them. While not all of these cars will fetch a high price, the red line is an indication of age and that you could have a more valuable vehicle.
Color – Small details, like the color of the car or of its interior seats, can impact the worth of the car in large ways. That’s why we always recommend you do your research and consult with a certified appraiser before buying or selling.
It might be time to check your collection of childhood toys for any rare cars. If you find a rare car in that box in your garage, or even in your kids’ toy box, consider having it appraised to see how much it might be worth.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.