Small Cars, Big Prices
Posted on August 28, 2016
Before computer games took over the world, childhoods were filled with the simple pleasures of playing with toy cars and marbles. Now that those children have grown, they are feeling nostalgic towards that blissful time and a whole market was born from those enthusiasts who were willing to pay a considerable sum of money for a car that they would, once, have been able to buy with their pocket money.
‘Big’ car auctions may continue to record ever higher numbers, but so do those for miniature versions. So if you can’t fit another car in your garage and you are looking for a reliable investment, it may be the way to go.
Matchbox and Hot Wheels are some of the brands that are highly sought after as collectibles.
The 1961 Magirus Deutz Crane was released by Matchbox in 1961 and produced for 4 years. Also known as ‘Matchbox No. 30’, the original version had an orange crane and a silver body, however, 27 variations were to follow, including different types of rivets and different vehicle underside. Although those small details would escape most people, true collectors will seek them, as some variations can triple the value of the original design.
There is one variant, however, that tops them all: a pre-production model. Light brown with red or orange crane, the colour scheme is so rare that it commands incredible prices. In the 1980s, a collector sold his at auction for NZ $13,500, while in 2004 another was sold for almost NZ $18,000. Considering that it originally would have cost less than a dollar, that isn’t a bad return on investment!
Before Matchbox cars became phenomenally successful, the company had considered launching a collection of bigger vehicles, the ‘Major Scale’, where models would measure 25 to 30cm-long instead of the usual 5cm. A few prototypes were produced, such as the Matchbox yellow quarry truck in 1954. However, the small scale we are more familiar with took off and the project was abandoned.
Over time, all the prototype quarry trucks were lost, except one that lived in the office of the Matchbox’s owner as a souvenir. As such, you can imagine its value! In the 1980s, it was sold to a Japanese collector who, in turn, sold it for over NZ $20,000 in 2010.
Hot Wheels also has a few collectibles that fetch high prices. In 1968, a line of toy cars inspired by the ‘Kustom Kar Kulture’ popular in California was launched, named ‘Sweet 16’. It included muscle cars and futuristic concept cars with red-rimmed tires and flamboyant paint work. They were nothing like toy cars seen at the time and became an instant success as collectible items – and still are.
One of the original Sweet 16 vehicles was made after a 1963 show car, the Beatnik Bandit. With a silhouette out of a science-fiction movie, the two-seater sported an unusual transparent Plexiglass bubble top. Like its inspiration, the toy car was produced in an array of bright metallic colours. Some were easy to find, but hot pink –which was chosen in an attempt to appeal to little girls – was the rarest. Alas, it takes more than a pretty colour to interest girls in cars so the scheme was soon discontinued, hence the rarity of the model.
A ‘loose’ hot pink Beatnik Bandit –i.e. not in its box – was sold for almost NZ $10,000 in 2004; a mint one –in its box – for NZ $21,000 in 2008.
Hot Wheels is also famous for its toy racetracks, and making sure that vehicles could run smoothly on them was always a great concern for the company and the object of many improvements. In 1969, Hot Wheels set out to produce a new model, inspired by beach culture, a Volskwagen van, the Beach Bomb, featuring two surfboards sticking out of the back window.
Unfortunately, it was too narrow to run properly on the track, as it kept bumping into the sides, and after 16 unsuccessful prototypes were created, it was time for a radical re-think. By moving the surfboard from the back to the sides in stowaway compartments, not only did the vehicle run better on the racetracks but it also made for a more interesting design.
BUT, this is not the one that collectors covet. No… the ‘defective’ narrower models are much more valuable as so few were made. Fans of the skinny Beach Bomb will foam at the mouth when one is for sale, no matter the colour or the condition. And they routinely go for NZ $20,000 and more.
However, there is one of them that is the fairest of them all and the holiest of Holy Grails: the hot pink Beach Bomb. Only one copy is known to exist and it was sold for an astonishing NZ $98,000 in 1999!
There is another very special Hot Wheels car. To celebrate the four billionth Hot Wheels’ tiny vehicle, Jason of Beverly Hills, also known as the ‘jeweller of the stars’ was asked to customise a car. The result was an 18-carat white gold body paint to which was added 23-carat worth of precious gems: 388 blue, 988 black and 319 white diamonds, as well as 8 rubies. And to gild the lily, it was displayed in a bespoke case adorned with 40 white diamonds, one for each year of the company’s existence.
The car was sold at a charity auction in 2008. Although the gems alone were worth NZ $191,000, the car sold for ‘only’ NZ $82,000.
If you are looking into shipping a car in or out of New Zealand, McCullough can guide you every step of the way from choosing the best method of transport to gathering the documentation you will need and taking your car through Customs and MPI inspections. We have been in the business for over two decades during which we have honed our processes to benefit a lot of happy clients!