12 Tips for Collecting Diecast Cars

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12 Tips for Collecting Diecast Cars

Diecast toys are made using the die casting method, a process that forces molten metal into a mold cavity under high pressure. Diecast toys are made entirely of metal but often have details made of plastic, rubber, and even glass. Diecast toys were first made in the early 20th century. The diecast car, however, which would become the most popular type of diecast toy in history, was not made until the late 1940s. The first commercial line of diecast cars was the Matchbox 1-75 series by Lesney.

Collecting Diecast Cars

Today, diecast cars are available to the consumer in a wide range of options. Some diecast cars are made specifically as toys while others are geared toward the collector. Diecast cars are also available in traditional fixed models and as do-it-yourself model kits. The market is also rather diverse and not just limited to passenger cars. Other popular categories include sports cars, NASCAR, trucks, construction vehicles, and service vehicles. Due to the sheer array of options, new collectors often find entry into the hobby to be daunting. Here are 12 essential tips for diecast car collecting that will ease the transition:

1. Maintain Diecast Cars Carefully

The most common mistake that new collectors make is that they do not maintain their diecast cars or even realize that such maintenance is necessary. All diecast cars,, whether open or still in the retail packaging, should be kept at room temperature, kept in a relatively dry environment, and dusted regularly. Over time, exposed diecast cars will tarnish. This process can be avoided by using anti-tarnish bags, such as those used for jewelry, but most collectors want to display their diecast cars out in the open. Most serious collectors recommend buying a diecast car maintenance or detailing kit, which includes wax, a cleaning solution, and applicators. Collectors should apply a coating of wax as soon as a diecast car is removed from the packaging. For re-waxing, follow the instructions, but it is generally only required once every five to ten years. Once glazed, simply use a damp cloth, or a microfiber cloth if the car has decals, to dust. To clean an interior, use a can of compressed air and spray approximately six inches from the opening. Be careful not to overspray since this can cause condensation in the car.

2. Store Diecast Cars Properly

Most serious collectors also opt to store their diecast cars in display cases and other storage solutions. In a proper display case, a single coat of wax can last a lifetime, and the need to dust will be significantly diminished. There are display cases large enough to store entire diecast car collections, and the weekly upkeep with such a case can be as simple as wiping the case down. There are also cases specifically designed for portability, and such a case should be used to protect a collection whenever the collector takes it somewhere, such as to a tradeshow.

3. Monitor Prices and Industry News

The best way to learn and stay current about the diecast car hobby is to monitor prices and industry news. There are various diecast car price guides and publications available, and many of them publish much of their information online for free. New collectors should start by making a list of the diecast cars that they own, and then they can use that list each month to track how each car has appreciated. The new collector will learn a lot by osmosis this way and will eventually start to identify trends and other opportunities.

4. Learn about Condition Grades

Most collectors will begin the hobby by collecting the cars that are currently manufactured, but all serious collectors will eventually turn their attention to vintage diecast cars.. General prices for such cars are available and can be used as a guideline; however, such prices assume mint condition and other factors. Vintage cars, particularly pre-1970 vintage diecast cars,, are rarely in pristine condition, and the collector must be able to adjust his or her max bid based on the actual condition.

5. Start with 1/64-Scale Diecast Cars

Diecast cars range from as large as 1:12 and 1:18 scale to as small as 1:87 and 1:148 scale. The 1:64 scale is the traditional and most popular scale for diecast cars as well as most miniatures and models. New collectors should start with 1:64 for a number of reasons, including that the 1:64 diecast cars are more readily available and less expensive than other formats. The 1:64 cars are also relatively small, which makes it easy to collect many of them in limited space, but still large enough to hold and appreciate. Finally, the 1:64-scale cars are much easier to sell and trade and typically move quickly.

6. To Open or Not to Open

When collecting vintage diecast cars, the collector has to take what is available to them, and that often means cars that are not in their retail packaging. When collecting new cars, however, the collector has a choice. For the most part this is simply a matter of preference, but there is also the matter of price. Diecast cars that are still in their retail packaging will have more value and will appreciate faster. Since new diecast cars are relatively inexpensive, one way that collectors avoid this decision is buying duplicates, or in even greater numbers, which gives them at least one to open and one to keep in its original package.

7. Buy New Diecast Cars ASAP

Companies that manufacture diecast cars typically release them in runs. Runs last for a set period of time, and the production level generally diminishes from start to finish. At the start of a run, the retail supply is greatest and thus the prices are lowest. As the run continues, the cars will disappear from the big retail chains and the price will go up. When the run concludes, the run will become vintage and begin to appreciate more quickly. The point is that collectors should buy the cars that they want as quickly as possible in order to avoid any premiums.

8. Buy New Diecast Cars as Trade Bait

Diecast cars are relatively inexpensive when first released but appreciate quickly. Many serious collectors use that to their advantage to get more out of their collecting budget. Once a run ends, which can happen within several years, individual cars and sets can appreciate ten times their retail price or even more. This is why many collectors make collecting duplicates such a big part of their hobby. It can limit the new collector's resources, but it's an approach that begins to pay good dividends sooner rather than later.

9. Buy New Diecast Cars at a Discount

Diecast cars are often available at a discount, and collectors should take advantage of those discounts whenever possible. One of the most common discounts is the preorder discount, which is available when the collector commits to a diecast car or diecast car set before it has been released. Another common type of discount is the bulk or wholesale discount, which is another benefit of buying duplicates.

10. Haggle on Vintage Diecast Cars

The prices for vintage diecast cars listed in a price guide are optimal prices, and the price that sellers list are typically best-case scenarios. Collectors shouldn't settle for sticker prices that match the price guides and should instead shop around and haggle. One of the reasons that a site like eBay is such an effective tool for collectors is that the buyer only has to pay what the diecast car is actually worth to other collectors rather than what some price guide says it's worth.

11. Diecast Cars Should Choose the Collector

At the end of the day, collecting is about possessing something special. Collectors are often caught up in collecting for value, but fans of diecast cars aren't really in it for the money. New collectors often have limited budgets, and they can really put a damper on the experience if they focus on other people's interests rather than their own. Collectors should buy the cars that excite them, and factors like long-term value and trade bait should only matter when they coincide with those interests.

12. Embrace the Diecast Cars Community

Collecting diecast cars can be a solitary experience, but it doesn't have to be. Collectors should embrace the community because it's a great way to learn, socialize, and get access to opportunities that aren't available elsewhere. The biggest online community is the Diecast Car Collectors Zone, and collectors can embrace the local community by attending conventions, tradeshows, and collecting clubs.

Find Diecast Cars on eBay

eBay offers a humongous selection of diecast cars, ranging from the newest offerings all the way back to the original Matchbox 1-75s by Lesney. To peruse this selection, explore the Diecast & Toy Vehicles section of the Toys & Hobbies category. Within that section, the shopper can refine their search by the type of car, such as Ferrari, General Motors, or NASCAR,, or by the age, such as pre-1970 or post-1970. There is also a section for collections and lots,, where shoppers can find bulk discounts on both new and vintage diecast cars.


The first diecast cars were made in the 1940s and have since captured the imagination of children and adult collectors alike. Today, the most popular brands are Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Tonka, and options include passenger cars, sports cars, NASCAR cars, construction vehicles, and service vehicles. New collectors should focus on current 1:64 scale cars and can expand into vintage cars and other scales when they have more experience with the hobby.

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