Nov/Dec 2018 edition
Issue #2 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
There are many rarities in the model car market; along with said rarities are countless false claims made every day of the week by model manufacturers and dealers. To make good purchases, you need to do your homework. It helps to get the advice & opinions of a very knowledgeable collector, and/or expert in the field, or a dealer that you trust. Many of us learn the hard way, which can dilute some of the pleasure of this great hobby. I’ll address a couple of the ‘pit-fall’ catch phrases commonly used these days. “Rare” and “Limited Edition.”
The use of the word “rare” in descriptions has become so abused that maybe it should only be applied to cooking food. If a model is one that hardly ever comes up for sale and was produced in small numbers (250 or less), then it is generally considered to be rare, and most certainly if fewer than 100 have been made, it is rare. Numbers don’t lie.
Once in awhile a model accidentally becomes rare only because it was a dud when new. But that still doesn’t mean you should run out and buy one if you can. Here are two very different examples.
In the early 1990s, Classic Collectibles (long out of business), produced a nicely done 1:10 scale Bugatti Type 36 GP model. Not the best choice of a Bugatti to model, and not highly detailed, but it looked very good and presented well, each also came with a display case. The planned edition was to be 500 pieces, but only about 100 or less were made before the company went under. That is a rare model, and one worth buying; value is in the $1,500 range, which is triple what they sold for when new. You will not find this type of model on eBay unless the seller doesn’t know where or how to sell it.
The original Top Marques brand from England produced a 1:43 scale, series 1 Aston Martin DB4 around 1990. This brand (no longer in business) was, and is known for their wonderful hand built classic car models, mainly 1920s -1950s Bentley & Rolls Royce models, which are still highly regarded and sought after today. They ventured into new territory with the much different Aston Martin.
This model seemingly had all the right ingredients: great brand value & recognition, limited edition of 200 numbered pieces split across 3-4 different colors of a desirable car never modeled before, each was highly detailed, beautifully finished, and hand built in England. The only thing missing was the accuracy of the body, which can be summed up in one word: bad. It was a pig of a model, still is to this day, not worth buying when new, and not worth buying now....but it is rare! If you have to have one, and I can’t fathom why, then expect to pay in the $200-$300 range.
When it comes to anything collectible (models, art, watches, etc), “Limited Edition” is without a doubt one of the most overused and abused phrases. The majority of model manufacturers these days use those two words to imply something is better or more worthy than it truly is.
If more than 250 are being made, then in reality it is not so limited, and if multiple versions of the same item are being made, then it may add up to being less than a good value. With regard to model cars, any edition over 250 pieces is simply not a true limited edition.
The worst offender I can think of has to be Mattel, with their 1:18 and 1:43 Hot Wheels “Elite” Ferrari models: First came Mattel’s regular mass market runs with no edition claims (that was fine), later they produced slightly more detailed models of the exact same cars, but these were marketed with their “Elite” branding, and claimed to be Limited Editions. Prices went up too.
Printed on the top of each box in bold type was “Limited Edition” in four languages along with the edition size stating - “1 of Up To 5,000” but even more egregious were their many editions of “1 of Up To 10,000.” Then in search of more victims, Mattel offered up higher priced “Super Elite” models with a bit more detailing and leather display bases, limited to only 2,008 of each..... oh please.
How they ever got away with that, I’ll never know. In conclusion, buy with your eyes open, and buy what you like.
To read more great columns like this one from model car expert Marshall Buck...
Collecting Model Cars