Tim Smith, Micro Machines

Tim Smith collects Micro Machines. Here, he tells Toy Tales about his collection and how it served as a catalyst for his new book, Micro But Many.

Describe your collection.

I have a collection of over 5000 Micro Machines, a line of small-scale vehicles produced by Galoob in the 1980s and 1990s. The oldest vehicles in the collection are the first set of five cars released in 1987, called the Hot Rod collection. I also have the final set from Hasbro released in 2007. Hasbro bought Galoob in 1999 and eventually stopped producing the line. Wicked Cool Toys now owns the license to produce Micro Machines. New releases are expected this year, I believe.

When and why did you start collecting Micro Machines?

I was born in 1983 and started collecting as a kid in the ’80s. Unfortunately, I made a trade for much of my collection with a childhood friend for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle coin. I regretted that trade almost immediately.

As an adult, collecting began as a casual hobby for me. I’d pick them up on eBay or in charity shops. As Micro Machines became harder to find, I took it more seriously. Thanks to the internet and Facebook in particular, items have been easier to find. Buying and swapping with other collectors has become quite easy and fun. While I have over 5000 vehicles in my collection, Galoob (and then Hasbro) produced about 7000 vehicles, so I have a ways to go before I have everything. I used some of the advance from my book, Micro But Many, to invest in my collection and get the must-have pieces into the book. So, the last year or two of collecting has been quite crazy.

How do you display and store your collection?

I have a half-displayed/half-stored system. I have what looks similar to a letterpress cabinet where I stack sets of transparent plastic trays that hold multiple vehicles. They are categorized alphabetically by make, model, and vehicle, with custom-designed labels on the trays. I’ve future-proofed the system by using white 4×2 LEGO bricks in place of the vehicles I don’t yet have. This means that I don’t need to re-sort my entire collection when I add a new vehicle. It’s immediately joyful to replace a brick with a new Micro Machine.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Micro Machines?

The answer depends on what kind of collector you are. I collect only loose Micro Machines, meaning I don’t collect the boxes.

I own a couple of prototype Micro Machines that were never officially released. Those are holy grails for me because they are so rare. Examples are the Datsun 1600 Roadster and my hand-carved Indy Pace Cars collection. Only two exist of the Datsun: I have one, the original designer has the other. Galoob produced two trade catalogues each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. These were sent to retailers so they could order the product. The vehicles that didn’t generate demand were never mass-produced so only a couple of prototypes ever existed. When I began writing Micro But Many, former Galoob employees provided prototypes for me to include in the book. That’s very, very, special to me because some collectors will have never seen these vehicles.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Micro Machines collection?

It can be daunting! First, I suggest deciding on whether to collect loose cars or boxed. From there, collections can be built around vehicle style – lorries, military vehicles, cars, convertibles, etc. The people in the community get to know what each person collects and they are often the first person approached for information or with something for trade. I’ve been collecting for about 15 years and my collection is one of the broadest out there. Some months I buy nothing, and other months I add more. I’m currently waiting on a collection of 3000 vehicles to arrive. I will probably only need about 200 of them, so I’ll swap or sell the rest to others. I prefer to collect in a way that is financially self-sustaining (well I try at least).

I’d like to recognize some people. Bitmap Books and I had modest plans for the book to start with, but it turned out to be twice the size originally planned. Part of that I attribute to Galoob. The people I spoke with from Galoob – Galoobians as we call them – for Micro But Many were amazing. The book wouldn’t be what it is without them. They contributed prototypes, sketches, and original advertisements and I now consider them friends.

In this time of lock-down due to COVID-19, I hope Micro But Many helps collectors, toy fans, and nostalgia-enthusiasts take a break from bad news. I hope people enjoy the book.

Head over to Bitmap Books to buy Micro But Many (released April 27, 2020). Explore Smith’s collection online at the Micro But Many website.

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