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How to Start A Diecast Car Collection

Jim Yu December 19, 2011 All Things Hoon, Diecast Delights 60 Comments

Obviously, you love cars.  Over the years, in your mind’s eye, you have assembled and carefully inventoried your dream garage.  An impossibly beautiful 300SL Gullwing.  A blocky, Bloc-ky GAZ-14 Chaika.  Your first car, that plucky RX-3.

Unless you run a hedge fund or invented Post-it notes, chances are you won’t be able to afford that 3-, 10-, or 50-car collection.  That’s where diecast cars come in.  They are much more affordable, and nearly every real-life car ever made, no matter how obscure, has already been replicated and miniaturized.

A stack of 1/43s.

1. Scale.  Quality, detailed cars come in 1/18 and 1/43 scales.  The choice comes down to two factors, cost and acreage.  New 1/18 scale models cost $70 and up.  That’s a lot of dough.  There are cheaper models available, but you get what you pay for in terms of attention to detail.  New 1/43 scale cars start at a more reasonable $30.

Acreage is another issue.  If shelf/desk space is limited, you’ll only be able to display two or three large models.  But with the same amount of space, you can display many more 1/43 scale cars.

2. BrandsMinichamps and IXO have the largest and most diverse stocks.  Spark focuses on sports cars and British cars, though not exclusively.  Kyosho and AutoArt are also excellent.  Ebbro has many rare, older Japanese cars.  And for the Cold War buff, IST, which is affiliated with IXO, has dozens of Eastern European cars, trucks, and vans.  Finally, CMC makes some incredibly detailed 1/18 scale cars, for a price.  That Mercedes Renntransporter shown in the lede will set you back 300 bucks, plus shipping.

From top center (clockwise): Rosso, rosso, rouge, rosso, rot.

3. Vendors.  There are three places to buy diecast cars– brick-and-mortar stores, diecast model store websites, and eBay.

Brick-and-mortar stores that sell diescast cars are far and few between.  They have been battered hard by the recession.  Though higher overhead means higher prices, if you want to support local businesses, this is a good way to go.

Most sales are made via store websites or eBay.  A lot of the hard-to-find models are only available from overseas vendors.  As always, caveat emptor.  Check the vendor’s reputation and customer feedback before plunking down your hard-earned money.

For the bargain hunter, look for used models on eBay.  Collectors often get rid of their entire fleet at once in fire sales, due to financial problems or fed-up spouses.  A bargain can often be had for that discontinued, sold-out model you’ve been coveting.  Ex.: I recently bought a 1/43 VW Phaeton from a guy culling his herd for just $15.50.  Talk about depreciation!

Nick Heidfeld F1 collection, including Nico Rosberg’s Merc (Heidfeld was reserve driver) and Trulli’s Toyota (Heidfeld used it to test Pirellis).

Renntransporter image source: [modelcar.de]

Diecast collection images source: Jim Yu [Editor’s note – Hot Damn!]

  • P161911

    Another source is vendors at racetracks. I don't think I have been to a race in the last 20 years that didn't have at least a couple of guys hawking diecasts.

    • Scandinavian Flick

      Same thing with larger car shows. I was able to pick up a nearly exact replica of my car (it was an '04, whereas mine is an '06…) at a Good Guys auto show last month.

  • Maymar

    A 1:43 Phaeton being hit by depreciation? Seems appropriate.

    • Ex.: $100,000 W12 Phaetons can now be had for around $20,000. I think you're right.

  • $kaycog

    My pride and joy is this 1:12 scale Ford GT by Motor Max. I have a red Hot Wheels GT, 1:64, sitting beside it. My other fifty 1:64 scale Ford GT's are hanging on my garage wall, unopened.

    <img src="http://www.patkostore.de/modelcars/motormax/1zu12/73001A_Ford.jpg"width="500"/&gt;

    • I'm going to guess that you may have a thing for Ford GTs.

      There are many other scales and brands I could have covered, but space was limited and attention spans short.

      • FЯeeMan

        You must be new here. Either that or the sarcasm was so subtle, my sarcometer didn't register it. Ms. 'cog is somewhat renown for her love of the GT, as one might surmise from her avatar.

        • Sorry, I had my sarcasm emitter on stealth mode. 🙂

    • The Professor

      Nice! 1/12 scale is great, nice and big with lots of detail. Here's my 1/20 GT40 in Gulf livery. Click to enlarge:

      <img src="
      https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7143/6538613857_df6aec1dc7.jpg&quot; style="border:2px solid black;" alt=" " border="2" width="400">

      <img src="
      https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7025/6538616339_d6aa68c551.jpg&quot; style="border:2px solid black;" alt=" " border="2" width="500">

      • $kaycog

        Wow! That is really beautiful!

    • Stelios

      I think you need to have a look at what HPI produces. You may have to dig around for a while to find them nowadays (I think there are some on eBay) but their 1/43 resin Ford GT is incredible. Scroll down, they're near the bottom of their whole line up.

      • $kaycog

        I've never heard of HPI……thank you for the link. They have quite an assortment of GT's.

  • OA5599

    "Ex.: I recently bought a 1/43 VW Phaeton from a guy culling his herd for just $15.50. Talk about depreciation!"

    That's probably still favorable retention of value compared to the 1:1 versions.

    <img src="http://www.cellinifinegifts.com/fmimages/fm_1970hemicudaconvlarge.jpg"&gt;
    I have a bunch of lesser-quality diecasts, but my most detailed one is the Franklin Mint 70 Hemicuda ragtop.

    • I hate to sound elitist, but I'm surprised such a pricey/detailed model came with dog leg door and hood hinges.

  • scroggzilla

    I'm a big fan of 1/43's and concur with Jim in regard to the model makers that he's recommended. I would also suggest checking out Biante, Trax and Classic Carlectibles for Australian auto subjects, and M4 Automodelli and Top Models for some excellent Italian racing subjects (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Porsche)





    I'd also recommend Trofeu Models from Portugal…..they make excellent Group 4 era rally and touring car models (Mk 1 & 2 Ford Escorts, Mk1 Ford Capris, Alpine A110s, BMW 2002s)

  • JayP2112

    Surprised no one has brought up HotWheels/Matchbox/Maisto or the 1:64 cheap scale. HotWheels are up to $1.07 on the peg after being 99cents for 40 years.
    The are fun- Hotrods, classics, imports. Get a few dupes for the lad to mash. Pretty good $/fun value.

    • Socialvegetable

      Yes. You can build a HotWheels collection like no other. I have over 100 plastered all over my cubicle. I love them. All of them.

  • Ho. Ly. Shit.
    <img src="http://www.istmodels.com/images/stories/flexicontent/l_ist069-1.jpg&quot; />

    Where do I order these IST models from? I want about a dozen!

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Yup, I WILL take any opportunity to show my buddy's incredible collection. <img src="http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/comment/12/2010/12/e85ae0a1e619ddc411076c157f6af6fd/340x.jpg">click to embiggen

    • pj134

      I wonder if he regrets the C5 pace car…

      I would regret the C5 pace card.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        You know what breaks my heart? He has a Crossfire, but no Volvo 🙁

        • pj134

          … No collection is complete without one.

    • Holy cow… alphabetical order, too.

      • pj134

        Although, ultimate level would have had alphabetical by model name too.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        And that's not all of them, he ran out of room and has some in boxes and on some more normal shelves. Only problem, no Volvos. I tried to remedy that for this Christmas, there was a 121 made by Revel in the past. Not any great quality or anything by his standards, but I checked ebay a few times and one never showed-up. There's a police car version in particular that's nice. I know autoart makes a nice 850 wagon, but whoa that costs more than I paid for presents for my wife this Christmas!

    • dukeisduke

      Wow, a '59 Cadillac hearse? And is that a Duesie on the top shelf?

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        The hearse is his favorite!

  • Stelios

    I find it hard to believe that HPI Racing is not mentioned. Some of the (if not THE best) 1/43 in the market. Certainly better than anything IXO can make and blows away much of what Minichamps and Spark produce.


    • scroggzilla

      HPI make excellent models, but they're typically $10 to $15 more than IXO, Minichamps or Spark. Also, the scope of HPI (as a relatively new manufacturer) model subjects is limited.

      • Stelios

        Yes they are more but well worth it – the difference in quality between similar models from those manufacturers is quite significant. And depending on the model you can get them around the same price as many IXO (for instance the Stratos HF Stradale on eBay, typically around the $30 mark).

        • Thanks for the tip! Will check it out.

    • Scandinavian Flick

      I always knew HPI more for their r/c cars and never really thought of their model line. I was always impressed by their r/c cars though, and it appears their models are great too.

  • Good job Jim! 🙂 I only have one real scale model car, but it's all I need.

    <img src="http://pihled.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Sekalaista/E32 Minichamps/PC192572r.jpg/small" width="600" href="http://pihled.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Sekalaista/E32+Minichamps/PC192572r.jpg/full"&gt;

    <img src="http://pihled.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Sekalaista/E32 Minichamps/engine.jpg/small" width="600" href="http://pihled.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Sekalaista/E32+Minichamps/engine.jpg/full"&gt;

    I'm too ashamed to admit how long it took for me to take such simple pictures…

  • Things I wish I had in 1:18th Scale.

    Neoplan Megaliner.
    Peterbilt 351
    Riva Aquarama
    Sinclair C5
    Fleetwood Bounder RV

    But, above all else;

    1998 Rover 825Si Fastback.

    • I've seen a few Riva boats in real life… those would make excellent models.

      • Even better if you could miniaturise the sound, too.

        • FЯeeMan

          mini car, maxi sound!

    • dukeisduke

      GM Futurliner.


    I had a yellow F40 model when I was a kid. I don't know how I got it, and I clearly didn't understand the value 🙂 It had a functioning steering mechanism, but I found it the easiest to keep my fingers on the front wheels and turn them like that while pushing it around the living room.
    It's still a nice yellow Ferrari, but the chrome has worn off of the front wheels.

    I would like to have a diecast model of all the cars I've owned so far. To show the kids later!

  • BlackIce_GTS

    "Over the years, in your mind’s eye, you have assembled and carefully inventoried your dream garage. "
    If by 'mind's eye' you mean 'wordpad', then yes. 1203 at last count, but that was some time ago.
    Models are… 698. Yeesh, I might have better not known that. It's mostly Hot Wheels. Only 12 are 1:18(ish), with some other mixed scales thrown in.
    I forcefully resist buying online, otherwise I would have no money. I mostly shop in toy stores, too. Average price for my larger cars is probably around 30$, although they aren't great quality-wise. There's a few stores I know that sell nicer stuff, but I try to avoid them, because one is full of AUTOart and it hurts me to be in there.

  • How are the bburago cars? i used have them when i was a kid. Also, German Siku, but those are more matchbox-like.

    • BlackIce_GTS

      Good for the price. Mine has a few tiny paint imperfections, and a few of the small details are… cheapish.
      You can compare the same car (in the same scale and colour) from three different modellers here.
      The marker lights and rear turn signals are painted on, the window trim is a little too thick (especially the front quarter), but it got me out of a store full of AUTOart for only 70$ (which is maybe a little overpriced I just realized?).

  • <img src="http://i.imgur.com/Me4iG.jpg&quot; alt="" title="Hosted by imgur.com" />

  • GTXEliminator

    Local company that has a decent selection, really nice guys.

  • Ozmac

    Great post for starters, Jim.
    I'm a 1:43 collector, for space reasons in my small house partly, but also because the range in 1:43 is incredibly wide, maybe the widest of all scales in diecast. A couple of other manufacturers to check out.
    Neo, a Dutch outfit producing beautiful resin models.
    Starline, a German outfit producing 1:43 models of esoteric Italian cars mostly, plus 1:24 models of esoteric Italian bikes mostly
    Schuco, a German 1:43 producer of quality diecast.
    Brumm, not always top quality, but this Italian company has much to recommend itself, especially in my case their range of historic F1 and other racing car stuff that I like a lot.
    Solido and Norev, two French model makers whose older 1:43 diecast models are quite collectable, if in good condition.
    Premium Classixxs, another German model maker from whom you can buy that Mercedes Renntransporter in 1:43 for a lot less than 330 bucks.

    There are countless others, but these names might provide a few handy leads.

    From that list, I'd say if you don't know about them, check out Neo first, they're at the top of their game right now. I bought a Mark V Jaguar off them (my old family car in the 1950s and 60s, and it's beautiful). http://neoscalemodels.data2.nl/

  • cartype

    Here is the real 1955 Mercedes-Benz Rennwagen Schnelltransporter… http://vimeo.com/16105000

  • teeshka

    I was just in Ukraine and managed to find 16 1/43 models of Soviet and Russian vehicles for about $5 usd apiece. Would have bought more but luggage limits.