Collecting cars: How to spot collectible Hot Wheels and Matchbox

by Bennett Tiglao, Seattle Goodwill
February 3, 2017

Most of us remember Hot Wheels and Matchbox diecast cars back when we were children but for some, the memories don’t stop at childhood. Collecting diecast cars is a time-honored hobby of adults everywhere. Collectors range from automotive enthusiasts to others that collect cars as a way to reconnect with their childhood. Some seek that rare and priceless diecast car for profit or to add it to their personal collections. Between fun and making a profit, collecting vintage diecast cars is a rewarding hobby for any enthusiast.

Metal diecast cars were originally produced by real car companies in the early days of the automotive industry. They were primarily produced to promote their product and get a whole new generation excited about cars.  As their popularity grew, diecast cars became more realistic and accurate, often matching their real-life counterpart to perfection. While many of the original diecast metal toy car brands faded away, Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels continued strong and are still producing many new toy cars released every year.

Differences between Hot Wheels and Matchbox

The origins of these two big names in the diecast car world started in 1953 when UK-based Lesney Products started Matchbox. Hot Wheels was created in the U.S. by Mattel in 1968 and quickly gained a solid footing in the industry with its low-friction wheels and new styles. Hot Wheels seemed to win the battle of the two manufacturers when they ended up acquiring Matchbox parent company Tyco Toys in 1997. Here are a few a few notable differences between Hot Wheels and Matchbox.

  • Realism -- Matchbox cars are more accurately designed to be a replica of the actual vehicle of that era.
  • Packaging -- Matchbox cars came in small, individual boxes reminiscent of match boxes.
  • Flashy ride -- Hot Wheels were designed to primarily be hot rods and ventured into more fantasy realms and focused on speed and racing.

What to Look For

Collectors enjoy looking for a specific type or brand of car but also seek era-based cars as well. Here are some tips of what to look for when trying to find a collectible:

  • A “redline” Hot Wheels car is one that was manufactured within the first ten ​years of production, from 1968 to 1977.  The term “redline” derives from the fact that, during that period, the cars were manufactured with a red stripe on the tire. Redline cars are highly sought after and tend to hold the most value with some cars selling for over $30,000! Although, vintage redline cars fetch a much higher monetary value there is also other kinds of cars to collect.
  • Collectors can quickly grow their collection by adding multiple variations of the same car in different colors or wheel types. Search for “Hot Wheels treasure hunt” and you’ll find that Hot Wheels puts out limited edition cars that are hard to find every year.  

Search online on our auctions site on eBay and to find vintage diecast cars or find specific cars to complete your collection. Remember when you shop at Seattle Goodwill, your directly supporting our free Job Training and Education Programs


Bennett spends his working hours as an Admin Assistant with Seattle Goodwill’s Online Department. A jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, he enjoys photography, riding motorcycles and working on projects around the house.

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