Jim Garbaczewski, Hot Wheels

Jim Garbaczewski collects Hot Wheels vehicles. Here, he shares his start as a collector and explains why a collection isn’t likely to make money.

Describe your collection.

I collect vintage and current Hot Wheels cars; I currently have about 60,000 cars in my collection. I’m a completist; I buy every variation I can find of a vehicle. There are a few Hot Wheels collectibles in my collection (advertising, comics, and puzzles) but I focus mainly on cars.

When and why did you start collecting Hot Wheels?

I became fascinated by Hot Wheels when I was a child in 1968. I was shopping with my mom shortly before Christmas when the colourful Hot Wheels aisle end cap and banner caught my attention. I had about 20 cars in my arms when she found me in the Hot Wheels aisle. She said I could take two. That year I was given a big box of cars, track, and collectors cases for Christmas. That was my childhood: Hot Wheels. It was a fun way to spend time with brother and my friends. I was always fascinated by cars as a kid.

How do you display and store your collection?

I’m lucky to have a good-sized basement! There are probably about 20,000 cars, mainly vintage, displayed on wood shelving and the rest are in containers. I have about 200 Hot Cases, cases that are built specifically for Hot Wheels. Each case holds about 90 cars. If there’s something special about the car, I will keep it out on display but otherwise, they get stored.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Hot Wheels?

I have a list of pieces that elude me. Mostly it’s the cost. I’m pretty dollar-wise when it comes to collecting.

A recent piece that made my day: there was a Cheerios metal flake gold Purple Passion car from a collection I bought from another collector. It is extremely rare and was the only piece from that collection that I kept out. I could have bought one for a price but it just isn’t the same as coming across an item unexpectedly.

Another recent find was a Target/Kellogg’s cereal promotion from 2006. The promotion included three different colours of the Ford Fusion without a hood deco (which were common) and one red version which won you a grand prize – a real Ford Fusion – if you found it inside the cereal box. I knew I would never get that piece. At the same time, Walmart had a 20-pack available for Black Friday that included the same three cars but with the hood deco. I found two of the three but the third one eluded me until this fall, when a friend emailed me a picture of a 20-pack with the blue Ford Focus with the hood deco. When I told him I was looking for that piece he sent it to me as a gift. These are the things that make the hobby fun.  

What resources do you use to acquire knowledge about your collectibles and connect with other collectors?

Anything available! Hot Wheels Wiki, hobbyDB, books, Google searches, Facebook, and people in the hobby. When I really want to find information on a piece I tend to exhaust all avenues.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Hot Wheels collection?

If you are doing it to make money it’s not worth it. You might have a short-term gain but you will end up in a few years dumping all the extra pieces you have for half or less than what you paid for it. Collect what you like and take the time to meet new people and make new friends. I’ve met some of my best friends through the hobby.


Garbaczewski co-wrote Tomart’s Price Guide to Hot Wheels. Find it on Amazon.

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