Classic toys and collectibles can fetch high prices on the secondary market for the right buyer—right now, Hot Wheels are a hot item.
- Bruce Pascal is a Washington, D.C.-based real estate executive, and he owns the world’s largest Hot Wheels collection of 7,000 Mattel toy cars worth $1.5 million, according to The Hustle.
- Thousands of collectors like Pascal regularly bid five or six figures to get their hands on rare models, prototypes, or variants with production errors.
- Mattel’s collector club membership exceeds 100,000 members in the U.S.
Why It’s Important
Nostalgia is the driving force behind these sales, with collectors associating the toys of their childhood with happy memories and finding joy in accumulating them. The same applies to collectors of classic children’s toys like Lionel Electric Trains or Barbies. In some cases, the valuation of individual collections can exceed the value of the collector’s homes and are fully documented and insured in case of fire or disaster damage.
Mattel first released Hot Wheels in May 1968 and sold 16 million of the toys before the end of the first year for just $0.59 each. They are still in production to this day, with Mattel reporting more than $1 billion in sales in 2021. The older models in good condition fetch higher prices for collectors. Collectors began organizing trade shows in the 1980s to find and sell rare models to other collectors, who grew up with the toys as children and found the money to seek out rare variants.
The desire to track down rare Hot Wheels can lead to extreme actions. As The Hustle notes, Pascal has tracked down employees at Mattel for help searching for rare models. “I’m like the Antiques Roadshow that shows up at their door.”
“The value often comes down to a magical mix of condition, casting, and color. In the Hot Wheels world, there are endless variations of paint, interiors, and wheels. You really have to know what you’re looking at. There might only be 10 people in the world who know the value of what I have, so if I drop dead without documenting everything, I’m screwed,” says Pascal.