In earlier times if you would have told me I was addicted to Hot Wheels, I would have simply laughed at you.
I was shooting pictures last night and I came up with the idea for an image. This image holds a lot of meaning to me as it really put me in place regarding collecting. This image will be professionally printed and matted and will live alongside my collector cases. First the image, then my story. Fair warning - this will be a long read.
Growing up in the 1980s one of my fondest memories was playing with cars and trucks. I had the big Tonka and Nylint but my favorites were of the Hot Wheels and Matchbox variety. I don't remember exactly what my first car was and I can say that for sure I no longer have it but if I were to guess I would have to say it was the red Hot Wheels Tricar X8 from 1983. Back in the day, I remember Hill Street Blues coming on the TV. As soon as I heard the theme song start, I ran to grab my Matchbox Plymouth Gran Fury Police Car - I just HAD to reenact that opening sequence. Every. Time.
The above car is not my original one, but a replacement I bought on eBay a few years ago in very similar condition as the one I cherished as a child.
Throughout the years, I put many many miles on my hundreds of cars that happily lived in a box. Mint condition was simply unheard of.
In the early 1990s, I began my 'collection'. It consisted of a few assorted Johnny Lightning (Playing Mantis) era cars, a JL MOPAR set, and some Hot Rod cars. I was sick at that time and I remember my Mom bringing 2 Racing Champion Stock Rods home from Walgreens for me.
As the 90s went on, I got my drivers license. In the beginning all was good but my collecting was to begin spinning wildly out of control. I remember trips around 1996 to Toys R Us and Target to see if anything new was out. This was well before T-Hunted and The Lamley Group. I didn't know of any other resources at that time except for dumb luck.
I began collecting the castings I found 'cool'. The criteria at that time was simple. Muscle car. Period. As long as I liked it, I bought it. I remember at one time buying over 30 Hot Wheels 1970 Dodge Charger Daytona's. This was in 1996 and I don't recall why I felt the urge to buy them. All of them.
1996 through 1999 was pretty much the same. I bought the castings I liked but then I had an idea and believe this is where the problem began. I remember thinking "why don't I buy the castings that kids would play with? Since they open them all, I would keep these carded and have some valuable cars in the upcoming years.". I bought as many of the 'fantasy' castings as I could.
In 2000, I got married. I remember at that time, Toys R Us sold Hot Wheels by the case. I started buying cases. I would no longer open a car regardless of what it was. I was quite found of First Editions as well as series cars. I bought and bought and bought.
Collecting seemed to slow quite a bit when my son was born in 2002 and remained that way until 2004 or so. I was back to the same practice.
My youngest son was born in 2006. I can't say I remember much about my 'problem' aside from the fact that I bought cars. A lot of them.
2010 was the worst year for me. Being a grown adult for quite a few years now, I found myself asking for Hot Wheels for my birthday. I spent countless hours on the HWC forums. I had a Walmart on the way to work and managed to stop a few times each week on the way. During lunch, I found myself running to Target which was 'conveniently' located just outside of the industrial park where I worked. On the way home, I was more than happy to stop at Kroger if my wife asked me to pick something up. They Had Hot Wheels! I found myself running to that same Walmart I was already at because I had a hunch that they just restocked. Treasure Hunts. Did I mention Treasure Hunts?!?!?!?!?!?!
Also in 2010, I bought my first 2 redlines at a local antique store - a blue Custom Cougar and a red TNT-Bird. What I did not know is this would eventually lead to the end of my problem.
Fast forward to 2013. That year brought some change to my family. We moved back home to our home state and I got a job paying VERY well. I was able to throw money at cars like it was nothing. $50 here. $200 there. My wife supports me in everything I do and my spending didn't hurt the family budget one bit. It just didn't matter.
When I bought my Superfine Turbine in June of 2014, I woke up. It was kind of like a reality and priority check all in one. There was no fun in the hobby. It felt more like a stressful job or a chore if you will. All the enjoyment was gone. Long gone. I don't know how to accurately describe the feeling. I felt that I HAD to buy these cars. I spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on these thousands of toys that live in carefully sorted boxes in the closet. I spent countless hours of my life chasing boxes and pallets. My now cherished redlines live in acrylic cases on the wall. I was sitting at the same desk that I am sitting at now when it hit me...
What the hell did I do?
I can honestly say that I no longer buy cars because I feel that I have to. I have moved into the world of customizing and have tightly focused what I collect - Ferrari's and Supercar / race cars. I've gone from buying hundreds of cars per month to if I'm lucky, 5.
When I see people posting about how they ran to 7 different stores that night or that they bought 47 cars at Kday and another 18 at Walmart on the way home, I cringe. I really do. I've been wanting to write something like this for quite some time now. If there is only one thing you take away from this, take this. Collect only what you like and be sure to like what you collect. I call it the other golden rule.
The 'Hunt' posts you guys contribute to and maintain is great. I haven't been able to help many of you out yet but all I can say is keep posting. I've got a lot of this stuff. My intention is to make a large donation to the local Children's Hospital. A simple little car can make such a big difference to a child that may not have a whole lot to look forward to on a given day.
The value you ask? One hell of an expensive life lesson.
My name is Tony and I WAS addicted to Hot Wheels...