How do you describe your collection?
My collection specializes in the history of Hot Wheels, including Hot Wheels vehicles — but more importantly for me, the memorabilia associated with the earliest days of their creation. If I was a burglar and broke into the Mattel design centre of 1968, this is the stuff I’d run out with. My collection includes an internal Mattel memo about the yet-to-be-named “toy car project”. I also have original sketches, molds, master patterns, and original store displays from 1968. I am the Indiana Jones of Hot Wheels: still in search of the Ark but not knowing where it is or exactly what it is.
When and why did you start collecting Hot Wheels?
I was born in 1961. The only toy I remember well is Hot Wheels and taking that orange track and whipping my brothers with it. I put the cars away in a cigar box in about 1970. In 1999, my mother gave me that box. I was with a friend that afternoon who was a collector. He said, “I’ll give you a couple of hundred bucks for those.” I said no and started collecting Hot Wheels. I began running ads in the National Post newspaper offering to buy people’s collections. Six months later I saw an ad for the rare rear-load Pink Beach-Bomb #1 prototype for $72,000. My company had just handed out bonuses and many of my colleagues bought tech stocks; I bought a Hot Wheels vehicle, though not for the rumoured price. Only two of these prototypes exist.
I’ve always been a collector; I’ve collected Tucker automobile memorabilia, and as a college student I collected political memorabilia. Not all my collections last but it’s personal with Hot Wheels.
How do you display and store your collection?
I have a Hot Wheels-themed home office. I’m there now! I also have a separate 4,000 square foot warehouse space. I’m obsessive-compulsive.
My home office is lined with my collection. I have Carney display cases hung on the wall and professionally framed. Each case holds about 100 cars. I have about 3,500 Hot Wheels vehicles in my collection. That number changes by a few hundred cars each month, up or down depending if I’m buying or selling.
When my collection went beyond cars, I bought a 4,000 square-foot warehouse space. It looks like a gallery — my own miniature museum. In fact, you walk through it like a museum. The warehouse contains much of the memorabilia — display cabinets, blue prints, molds, advertising. There are over 3,000 objects in addition to the vehicles. Some of the objects never see the light of day because I don’t want them to deteriorate. The warehouse is air-conditioned and heated to prevent temperature and humidity extremes.
I just recently started a project to document my collection and the history behind each object. All the knowledge is in my head, and if I passed away tomorrow my wife would be mad at me for that. I started with my most valuable items, documenting what they are and the provenance of each item.
What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Hot Wheels collectibles?
The King of the hobby is the rear-load Pink Beach-Bomb #1 prototype. Then there are the Queens of the hobby, which I consider to be the barrel-plated vehicles. You know how when you go into a McDonald’s restaurant and you see the hamburger posters on the wall? The hamburgers never look like that when you actually get one. It was the same with Hot Wheels: the original advertisements made the vehicles shine. That was accomplished through barrel plating. Mattel didn’t just want the cars to roll down the track, they wanted them to sparkle like Christmas ornaments. The process wasn’t efficient for mass production so there aren’t many cars like this. The barrel-plated vehicles sell for $10,000 to $50,000 each. They were used in advertisements and given as corporate gifts. I discovered the story about the process through eBay. A woman was selling cars that her husband owned from his time at Mattel.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Hot Wheels collection?
My advice for every collector is to find out what you really like about the vehicles and start with that. Don’t go looking to buy everything. Some people like Ford, Dodge, Mopar, the color pink. Limit yourself in the beginning and buy what you like in the best condition you can afford. One day you’ll become wealthier and be able to upgrade. If you don’t limit yourself, you’ll burn out. Specialize, become an expert, and don’t do it just to make money.
At some point, you’ll reach a certain level in the hobby and have established friendships and connections. It’s amazing! One of my friends I met through the hobby is a rock star and now I get to go backstage. There are so many good people in collecting. You’ll meet some amazing people from all around the world.
My goal of being a collector and doing interviews is not to make myself famous but to make the hobby more accepted. The price for Hot Wheels collectibles is still going up! Everyone accepts baseball card collections as legitimate. My dying goal is for Hot Wheels collecting to be mainstream and have more collectors in the community.
Immerse yourself in the world of Hot Wheels collectibles through Bruce’s website and book, Hot Wheels Prototypes. Bruce is still growing his collection. Do you have classic Hot Wheels you’d like to sell? Email Bruce to let him know!
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