Collection Reflection

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Success of Licensed Premium is Hurting Hot Wheels Originals

We have reached the pinnacle of Hot Wheels premium thus far. That is a fact! Collectors like to oooh and ahhh over the latest mixes of #Car Culture, #Boulevard, #Replica Entertainment, #Fast & Furious, and sometimes even #Pop Culture. New mixes sell like hot cakes, while older ones don’t even seem to warm the pegs for months on end — yeah, this has been a problem in the past. Gone are the days where there is a #Purple Passion or #Dairy Delivery in every premium Hot Wheels line. Occasionally, we will see #Unlicensed Hot Wheels inserted into the lineups to the likes of the #Bone Shaker, #Twin Mill, and other newer unlicensed castings like the #MBK Van, designed specifically for premium use. And, historically, we even saw a few original designs as HWC/RLC and convention releases…

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Hot Wheels Mob Rod from the 2010 HWC Series 9 Real Riders

With the release of the Hyper Haulers series in #Car Culture, we will see our first #Unlicensed Hot Wheels casting released in the line: the Baja Bouncer (note: the deco is licensed by Lucas Oil). This trophy truck looks totally rad and should be a hit with collectors. It does beg the question though: could previous Hot Wheels original castings find their way into premium? Or is the success of Hot Wheels premium, limiting use of Hot Wheels original designs in all the lines?

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The fact of the matter is that the bulk of these premium lines were designed for real cars. Car Culture focuses on just that, real 1:1 car culture. Boulevard are vehicles that you could see at any given car show. Original designs like the Twin Mill and Bone Shaker have shown up since their 1:1 counterparts are on the Legends Tour. Replica Entertainment are #TV & Movie cars, in addition to vehicles from various video games. It is possible we could see some premium cars from Hot Wheels Unleashed there, but it doesn’t seem likely outside of the Bone Shaker. Fast & Furious has real vehicles from the movie franchise — despite some being in only a couple frames for a split-second. Pop Culture is really the only place for original designs, but even then, they are laden with graphics. 

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Hot Wheels Bread Box (with Milky Way graphics) and Cool-One (with Mooneyes livery).

Maybe there is a possibility for a new, semi-premium line: #Real Riders with full detail. The compromise would be using existing castings which would mean plastic bases. Without automobile manufacturer royalties to pay, it would seem plausible.

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Hot Wheels Pass’n Gasser from the 2009 Larry’s Garage 21-Car Set

Expectations. One word limits those who choose the lines. In a corporate structure, year over year performance is crucial and I expect it to be no different at Mattel. The expectation now is that each mix will be uber-popular with collectors. Chances taken include a limited liability which usually include some reason as to why a choice was made. For instance, the Twin Mill in Boulevard last year. It was a questionable choice despite the popularity of the casting with nostalgic collectors. I believe it was released to help promote the Legends event since it is a car that is regularly on tour. A “plentiful” wheel variation was undoubtedly done to help prevent the release from becoming a mega-pegwarmer. Still, the casting tended to sit longer than the rest of its mix counterparts.

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Hot Wheels 2020 Boulevard Twin Mill wheel variations (LW5 & RR5SP) on the pegs at Walmart

I get it. There are always an overwhelming amount of collectors that always clamor for “real cars”, and “none of that fantasy junk” — as they like to say. For this collector, I believe it’s some of those fantasy cars that distinguish Hot Wheels as a brand versus others who just produced real-life replicas. No, I am not saying that all fantasy cars are great ideas, but there are certainly a few that deserve premium treatments.

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Hot Wheels Turbine Time from the 15th Annual Hot Wheels Nationals Convention (2015)

Take for instance the #Turbine Time. It wasn’t released in premium, but rather as a convention dinner model. For me, it is one of the coolest dinner models to date! The extra detailing on the turbines probably wouldn’t be feasible in premium, but that shouldn’t negate the fact that this is one cool original design. It appears the way it is constructed no longer allows it to be in the mainline — hence why it hasn’t appeared in the mainline since 2016.

QUICK LINK! Find the Turbine Time for sale!

So many other Hot Wheels original designs are well deserving of premium treatment. Sadly, most will never get it. Instead, collectors’ hope lies within the Hot Wheels iD line for the chance of these vehicles receiving full-detail, but it’s hardly on par with premium since the line doesn’t warrant Real Riders. Some collectors look to an off-chance that their favorite #Unlicensed Hot Wheels casting becomes selected as a Super Treasure Hunt just for the long shot of seeing the vehicle released with Real Riders. With the latter, even Unlicensed Hot Wheels are supers seem like a thing of the past as we haven’t seen a HW original design as a super since the lackluster Street Creeper in 2019. Elevating an original design to super status allows for collectors to chase down a model some would never consider buying. I remember being turned on to the #Driftsta casting in 2016 after this sweet Yokohama deco’d one was “superized” with spectraflame magenta and the new RR4SP wheels. That is a car that will probably never be released with #Real Riders again, fortunately, we did see it with full detail in #Hot Wheels iD.

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Hot Wheels Driftsta from the 2021 Hot Wheels iD line (left) and from the 2016 Mainline / Nightburnerz series, a Super Treasure Hunt (right)

Short of having their own dedicated semi-premium line, what this all likely means is that for these original designs to reach their full potential, the task unfortunately falls on the shoulders of the customizing crowd out there to further detail these super creative castings. There is no mass solution to this.

I know the majority of collectors that take the time to read this will most likely say, “good riddance” in regards to the current state of original designs in premium, but to me, it feels like a missed opportunity for the brand to establish a new generation of Hot Wheels favorites to the likes of the Bone Shaker, #Deora II, and the Twin Mill.

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Hot Wheels 2020 Boulevard: Twin Mill (left), 2007 Street Show: Bone Shaker (center), and 2003 Hall of Fame: Deora II (right)

7 replies »

  1. Personally I’d much rather have metal/metal castings with plastic wheels as semi-premiums over plastic bases and real riders.
    I’d also definitely love to see more Hot Wheels original castings in premium, as long as it’s the good designs.

  2. Yes, I think there are places for the Hot Wheels Originals in the premium line-up as long as they’re selected carefully for being metal/metal designs.

  3. I personally don’t mind the huge amount of HW premiums that are licensed, because I am huge car buff and don’t really care about HW originals (chew me out on that one if you will), but I can’t disagree with you that there are some HW originals that definitely deserve premium versions. And YES, I have often wanted a HW line with plastic bases but RRs. That would be great. One of my favorite HW original castings BTW, no matter how strange it may sound, is the Dieselboy. I just love it. And the engine in that casting is perfect for some of my customs. 😉

  4. I have commented on this subject previously and I am in agreement with Brad on the subject. The “Original 16” had unlicensed models and HW continued that practice through the years. I am not sure how it works with Mattel, but it seems like new designers are told to prove their design mettle with original designs before they get entrusted with a “real” car. Someone help me out if I am wrong. It seems like Phil, Ryu, Larry, and Jun all had their share of unlicensed peg warmers, but to turn HW into an all licensed concern seems to me to be very stifling to a designer’s creative juices. Then, one has to consider Mattel’s marketing aims, which takes in kids from 4 up to 94! Most kids are not going to be as excited about the latest JDM offering as they will be about something colorful and “neat” perhaps with a unique play feature. And vice versa. As a collector aged 67, I have seen a lot of HW trends come and go, some that I really had to shake my head at. I think RR’s with a plastic base would be great. I also look for the metal base cars in thrift shops so that style with plastic wheels is cool also. It’s amazing that HW has been able to hold their $1 price point this long.
    Although there are a lot if ridiculous fantasy vehicles now, there are certainly many really cool ones too, if you keep an open mind.

  5. Great photos of the cars to accompany this article!

    I would not mind seeing a premium version of either Muscle Bound or Winning Formula. I think both of those castings have real potential as a premium release. While I don’t dislike “fantasy castings,” I don’t really collect them because many of them are simply too far from reality for me to be engaged with them as “cars.” Perhaps that is why some other collectors are also not interested in them.

  6. Please bring back the Purple Passion
    or the 49 Mercury…I miss them. And
    no one else is doing them. DCS , now
    House of Cars used to make them. The
    Mexico HWS Conv always had them . The
    Riverside Show used to have them. And Liberty
    was always good for a few.

  7. I think its a new era and well basics with pladtic wheels just arent popular for collectors anymore i just love the premium car culture with real riders just make them so much cooler than a basic line

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