As a Hot Wheels buyer and a collector of vintage Hot Wheels (known as Redlines, in collector circles) for over 16 years, I’ve determined my own ways to determine the value of Vintage Hot Wheels.
It boils down to putting the Hot Wheels into groups, based on popularity and rarity and using a price guide or eBay to see what current pricing reveals.
In this article, I’d like to give a broad overview of what makes a Redline Hot Wheels car valuable.
This might remind you of high school days, but in much the same way that some people were just plain popular and others were not, certain Redlines are more popular than others and there’s no getting around this.
We can break the popularity down into three main categories:
Category 1 – “Real” cars and muscle cars
Let’s face it, the reason most people collect die-cast cars in general and Hot Wheels in particular is that it allows them to live out a fantasy of owning and driving a lot of cool cars! When it comes to Redline Hot Wheels, this is a powerful draw towards the cars that were actually produced by real automobile companies in the ’60s.
Some collectors may have had the experience of actually being driven around in a ’67 Cougar or a ’57 Nomad and those little cars represent a fond memory being relived each time the collector looks at the cars.
So, as you’ll learn, the real cars tend to sell for more money, simply because people can relate to them on more than one level.
Now, within this realm of real cars, there is an even more powerful draw and that is “muscle cars”.
Anyone who knows about automotive history realizes that the years 1965 to 1970 were the “heyday” years for the American automobile industry – there was more innovation and excitement throughout those years than at anytime before or since.
What caused all the excitement? The muscle car did!
A muscle car was basically composed of a big engine in an intermediate or small car, which had the effect of moving that car very quickly in a drag race!
Those were the years when performance ruled and fuel economy was a very distant concern.
Well, those heady days of performance engines roaring and tires screeching were instantly burned into the minds and hearts of impressionable boys – boys who were too young to be driving yet, but who could easily replicate the sights, sound and emotions through their Redline Hot Wheels and accompanying track sets.
Well, as those memories were implanted into the boys, (who are now men) the muscle cars are therefore the most popular type of Redline Hot Wheels and that popularity means they are the Rock Stars of the Redline world.
A few of the cars that fall into this category include:
Custom Camaro Custom Mustang Custom Cougar Custom Barracuda Custom Dodge Charger Custom AMX Olds 442
And don’t forget the souped up drag race versions of these cars, (called “Spoilers”) such as the:
Heavy Chevy Boss Hoss Nitty Gritty Kitty King Kuda Evil Weevil
While the Spoilers do not get close to the value of the Muscle Cars, there are a few that, when found in the right color, can command even more than the Muscle Cars!
There are other “real” cars that are also popular, such as the Custom Volkswagen and the Beach Bomb, but that do not fall into the realm of muscle cars. When it comes to these “real” cars, a typical collection might contain 10% to 15% of these cars.
Category 2 – Concept Cars
While the late ’60s was a period of intense innovation in the automotive performance market, it was also a time of discovering the world of customization.
Many unusual designs were conceived and created by the likes of George Barris, Tom Daniels, Harry Bradley and other customizers of the day.
These whimsical and wild concept cars were sometimes one-off show cars and other times actual concept cars produced for the factory.
In either case, they were interesting looks into the future, complete with bubble tops, moving parts, rockets and giant engines. It must be noted that some “real” cars also fall into this category – typically these are European cars that didn’t carry as much excitement as muscle cars. Cars like the Mercedes 280 SL or the Maserati Mistral or the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.
These represent the second level of popularity and value when it comes to Redline Hot Wheels.
Some of the cars in this category include:
Silhouette Beatnik Bandit Torero Turbofire Carabo Mercedes C-111
A typical collection would be made up of about 30% of these types of cars.
Category 3 – Common cars
The common cars are called common because it seems that more of these were produced and – adding insult to injury, they also happen to have the least demand because they are either “ugly” designs or they are race car designs of the day. (that happened to be an exciting thing back then, but nowadays, not so much)
These common cars make up the bulk of most collections and do not carry anywhere near the value that the published price guide attribute to them for the above reasons.
The cars that fall into this category include both concept and race cars such as:
Paddy Wagon Red Baron Jack Rabbit Special Indy Eagle Brabham Repco F1 Shelby Turbine Lotus Turbine Lola GT70 Ford Mk IV McLaren Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
Most collections are made up of about 50% to 60% of these types of cars. So, as you can see, there is a hierarchy of values when it comes to Hot Wheels values, mostly based on popularity and demand.
There are other determinants of value, of course, such as the color of a particular car or the rarity (prototype, FEP or store display) which I will address in another article.