by Dr. Lori Verderame
Toy maker, Mattel, started producing the Hot Wheels brand of toy cars after the company’s owners, Elliot and Ruth Handler watched their grandchildren at play. Die cast toy cars in miniature were all the rage in the 1960s and so were the real hot rods roaring down the streets of California. Actual cars of the day provided the impetus and in many case, the model, for Hot Wheels toy cars.
Redline models and Designers
Hot Wheels’ famous mag wheels in miniature, auto body detailing, and spectra colors were in keeping with the way that the cars of the day looked. The first custom toy Hot Wheels featured sixteen models and were called the Redline series for the redline found on the toy cars’ tires. The sixteen models were: Custom Mustang, Custom Thunderbird, Custom Corvette, Custom Cougar, Custom Camaro, Silhouette, Deora, Beatnick Bandit, Custome Barracuda, Custom Firebird, Custom Fleetside, Ford J-Car, Python, Hot Heap, Custom Eldorado, and Custom Volkswagen. The Redline series cost 59 cents each and were made by early designers including Ed Roth, Harry Bradley, and Bill Cushenberry. By 1969, there was a huge increase in sales for Mattel as a result of the popularity of Hot Wheels.
Mattel’s unique approach to making toys based on contemporary automobiles put Hot Wheels at the head of the die cast toy car pack.
What to Look For
Original, unopened packaging is a must for the true toy car collector. Look for toy cars in good condition that retain their original finish. Hot Wheels from the Redline series without their original packaging are still regularly sold for $1,000 each or more so make sure that you don’t mis-identify your collection and settle for less. Other Hot Wheels cars command high prices with toy collectors. Common cars that have been played with are still desirable and valued at between $10 to $65 each depending on condition and other factors which can be determined by each toy.
Get an online appraisal of your Hot Wheels from Dr. Lori.