There are more Hot Wheels cars than there are actual cars in the world. It makes sense: Hot Wheels have been around for more than 50 years and, in that time, have become a standard part of the American childhood. What kid didn’t have at least one Hot Wheels car or truck that they kept in their pocket and spent afternoons racing for imaginary trophies?
As the cars are such a major part of culture — and because so many of the models are limited releases — the Hot Wheels collector market is quite large and some of the most rare cars can fetch tens of thousands of dollars on the market. So which ones should you check and see if you have them in the attic?
For that, we spoke to Mike Zarnock, author of more than a dozen books on Hot Wheels, owner of more than 30,000 die-cast cars (which earned him two Guinness World Records), and the foremost Hot Wheels collectors and experts in the country. Zarnock been plugged in to the Hot Wheels scene for decades, knows all the players, all the prices and, most importantly, all the cars. Here, with Zarnock’s help, are the ten rarest, most expensive Hot Wheels out there.
10. 1968 Volkswagen Custom (no sunroof)
“The first Custom Volkswagens that were made in Hong Kong did not have a sunroof, and were only available in Europe, with most of them sold in Germany and the UK,” says Zarnock. Other features of this rare model include no plastic side windows and a modified interior. (White is common, dark is rare.) According to Zarnock, most of these cars exist in blue, with rare variations being orange, red, green, copper, and green enamel. You can also check the car’s undercarriage to look for the number of rivets – legit Hong Kong models only have one.
9. 1968 Pink Beatnik Bandit
Value: around $3000
As one of the original “Sweet Sixteen” Hot Wheels released in 1968, this model was designed by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and was originally available in 18 colors. The rarest of these colors was an ultra-bright, hot metallic pink, which can be easily confused for the similar magenta and rose colors. While the hot pink version commands almost three grand, the next-rarest hue (yellow) is only worth about $200.
8. 1971 Purple Olds 442
“Most of the 442s are magenta, and often get confused for the purple ones in photos,” says Zarnock. “There’s really no special reason for the value of this car other than purple being a very rare variation. There are also versions in salmon and hot pink, which can be valued from $1,400 to $2,000.” This car also came packaged with a sticker sheet which, if still in mint condition, can add to the value of the car. In fact, the sticker sheet alone – which features several bluish stars – can fetch respectable dough. Beware of repros, though.
7. 1970 Red Baron (white interior)
Inspired by the World War I fighter pilot of the same name (real name: Manfred von Richtofen), this red rarity was initially offered in 1970. “There are less than 10 of these known to exist; it’s a truly rare piece,” says Zarnock. “The prototype has a white, plastic interior, a blank metal base, no iron cross decals, and shorter rear fenders than the publicly-released version.” The public version – which goes for about $20 – features a black interior, decal enhancements, and a plastic helmet cowl instead of a metal one.
6. 1995 Collector Number 271 Funny Car
Value: $3,500 (MOC)
Funny? Funny how? Funny, like, worth more than your actual car? According to Zarnock, It’s reported that only 144 (or 288, depending on who you ask) of these cars were packaged and released on the rare blue card with white collector number 271. “Of those,” Zarnock says, “about 80 were opened and stripped for prototypes of the popular Pro-Circuit line. Another 24 were sent to Mattel Toy Club members, and the rest were put into random Hot Wheels shipments that went to Wal-Mart and KB Toys.” (Rest In Peace) Thanks, possibly, to intrepid Kondoers, there are only about 20-25 carded Number 271 cars that have survived today.
5. 1970 Ed Shaver Custom AMX
Packaged on the “Exclusive Racing Car Series” card, this UK exclusive features the drag racer driven by U.S. serviceman Ed Shaver. “The blue version of this car isn’t hard to come by,” says Zarnock. “But the Ed Shaver decals and the blister pack add to the value. This one is probably the most sought-after diecast AMX replica ever produced.” Some were given away at the tracks where Shaver raced, and some were also available through a promotion, through which UK consumers could send in proof-of-purchase points to redeem for the profitable prize.
4. 1974 Blue Rodger Dodger
Value: $6,000 (MOC)
“The last fully carded blue Rodger Dodger I saw sell went for $6,000 in 2012,” says Zarnock. The rarity of this car goes back to 1985, when a collector named Bob Parker stumbled upon the unique, blue variation, and plotted to sell them to turn a profit. “[Parker] was actually trading Matchbox cars for Hot Wheels with a collector in England,” Zarnock explains. “In one of the boxes he got, there were two of these cars. [Parker] knew the color was different, and asked the other guy to see if he could get more. The next box had five, which made a total of seven blue Rodger Dodgers…all of which he sold. He didn’t keep one for himself, because he assumed he could get more.” Of the seven, Zarnock says that only three were in complete packages, while the other four were perfectly cut “half packs.”
3. 1968 “Cheetah” base Python
If you’ve got a car that looks like this, flip it over and check the metal base. If you see the word “Cheetah”, you’ve got one of only nine known to exist that feature the exclusive Hong Kong mold. “There are six red, one orange, one yellow and one unpainted, unassembled original ‘Cheetah’ cars that we know of,” says Zarnock. The name later changed to “Python” when it was discovered that “Cheetah” was already the registered name of a Corvette race car belonging to a General Motors executive.
2. 1970 “Mad Maverick”
“Very few of these are known to exist,” says Zarnock, of this car based off the 1969 Ford Maverick. “There are two blue ones, one purple one, and one unassembled, unpainted piece. It was originally released under the name ‘Mad Maverick’, but due to the similarity with a competing brand’s car, which was also named ‘Mad Maverick.” The popular model was later re-released as the more common ‘Mighty Maverick’, with the difference in base plate adjectives being worth tens of thousands of dollars in the collector market.
1. Pink Rear Loading Beach Bomb
Asking price: $150,000
Owned by Zarnock’s good friend, commercial real estate agent Bruce Pascal, this scaled-down, metallic pink prototype is perhaps the rarest and most sacred Hot Wheels car. “In this version, the surf boards were loaded into the vehicle through the rear window,” Zarnock explains. “Because of this, the car was too narrow to fit and function properly with the popular Hot Wheels Super Charger playset, and so this version was never released to the public.” Instead, the few that were produced were given to Mattel employees’ children for “play testing” which is why, according to his Hot Wheels Field Guide, the collections of past employees are the only place they could possibly exist.