Collecting Treasures: How hot are Hot Wheels?

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The proverbial iron is hot on some of these late ’60s or early ’70s Mattel toys that are still in their original packages
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Who would have thought that a 59-cent Mattel Hot Wheels Redline diecast toy car could be worth thousands of dollars, but today they are quite the craze.

Of course, it’s the rare, promotional, or highly sought-out versions that command the highest dollars, but just recently this market has really heated up. If you have some late ’60s or early ’70s Mattel toys that are still in their original packages, have someone check them out as the proverbial ‘Iron is Hot.’

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Fetching thousands

A great local example came to us by way of our most recent appraisal fair. A couple of guys came in with the classic Mattel Hot Wheels car case that all of us boys had when we were kids. Inside was a great little collection of these toy cars.

Upon initial inspection, we knew they were quite good, and they were still in excellent condition. This collection was well kept and we learned that as boys, they were not allowed to play with these particular cars.

Their grandfather was an electrician that did some work at Mattel in California and had acquired the cars before they were thrown away as errors, unpainted and test-painted cars. Thank goodness someone in the family had the foresight to put them away.

Here’s the tale of the tape. This past August, the collection of cars realized more than $24,000 at auction. Much better than our initial $3,000 to $5,000 estimate for the collection.

The unpainted examples stole the show. Meaning, that Mattel never painted the cars as errors or blanks. The 1967 Camaro brought $2,750. The Custom VW was the star at $4,250, and the Camaro that was in an unreleased color soared to $3,250.

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Hot and in demand

These prices would sound crazy to some folks, but when I tell you the 1969 Prototype Beach Bomb VW Van sold recently for $72,000, you can see, these things are pretty hot and in demand. Like new and in the package are commanding amazing prices as well.

It’s not just the prototypes. Even loose, played-with cars can fetch hundreds if you have the right colors or right models.

Want a few examples to search for?

Find a 1971 Purple Olds 442, a 1974 Blue Rodger Dodger a 1970 Ed Shaver Custom AMX, a 1968 Custom Volkswagen without Sunroof or a 1968 White Enamel Camaro and you should have well over $1,000 in your hand!

As usual, contact an expert if you have any questions as there are color variations, condition issues to consider and the overall market conditions.

All this said, I think this market is hot now and might be something you want to consider taking a look at should you be lucky enough to have some or stumble across them at a yard sale!

Josh Levine owns J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Contact: josh@jlevines.com or @jlevines1 on Twitter.

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