The True Cost of Hot Wheel Hunting

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Face it, hunting for Hot Wheels, as addicting and as much of a rush as it can be, takes a lot of time. As the saying goes, time is money. You might be wondering, how much money does the Hot Wheel hobby cost? Time to do that math!

Let’s keep everything well rounded and easy for this example. If you have a job, you get paid for your time to do the work.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. So, at minimum, your time hunting costs at least that, even if it is your hobby. You have to approach it from this angle because if you aren’t earning money, you need to know how much your time would be worth if you were earning money.

Next, according to AAA, the average annual cost of owning a vehicle in 2019 was $9,282 a year, or $773.50 a month. That is $25.78 a day and $1.07 an hour. If you consider Hot Wheel hunting as a job of sorts, you might also want to consider the federal cost per mile rate, which is currently 57.5 cents per mile. That would be money you could be getting if you were not working for yourself. Otherwise, this doesn’t exactly fit into the equation because if one is using their own car, I believe the AAA rate accounts for the cost per mile in the ownership.

Hot Wheels cars can range in price. But, lets just take the mainline cars, and give them a rounded price of exactly $1.00. This example will be for just a single car

The equation is this: cost of time + cost of Hot Wheels + cost of car ownership = true cost to hunt Hot Wheels

If you spent 1 hour hunting for 1 Hot Wheel, the true cost of that car to you would be $7.25 + $1.00 + $1.07 = $9.32

Clearly those numbers can be adjusted accordingly. If the time is less or greater, if the amount of cars are more, and if you go to out to hunt multiple times a week. Even though you are paying a somewhat fixed price for the cost of ownership for your vehicle, the example is only using the average. That cost can technically be higher or lower as well.

So, that means you have to sell your $1 car for $9.32 and that still won’t get you to the break even point. Then there there is the second part of the equation.

The second part is selling and shipping and supplies.

Fees to post on eBay, use Paypal, and have shipping supplies can sometimes run up to 50% of the total cost. So, to sell that $1 car, to break even just from hunting for it, you have to sell it at $9.32. But if you don’t want to take a loss with fees and shipping and supplies, you would have to put the price up to about $15 dollars. That begins to make it a hard buy for someone who might hunt these cars themselves, and doesn’t make $15 an hour at a job. If you make more than $15 an hour, it still is hard buy when you only get 1 car. You might as well go spend an hour hunting and find 15 cars.

It is very hard to make money from buying mainline Hot Wheels on the pegs and reselling them online. There is money to be made, but you have to hunt, you have to hustle, and you have to work very, very hard. You also have to get a hold of cars that can turn higher profits, such as Super Treasure Hunts, or joining the Red Line Club and buy and flip those cars. I will say though, 100% profit is 100% profit, whether you make a dollar profit off a dollar car, or a $30 profit off a $30 dollar car, math is math. You just have to decide what is worth while to you.

Scalpers: Those Pesky People who get to the Pegs First

for blog about scalpers

The word scalper according to Google is defined as “a person who resell shares or tickets at a large or quick profit” If you are familiar with the Hot Wheels hobby, you have no doubt heard this word used often. It is not a word or person that someone wants to be…or is it?

I think the true issue people have is this. They are mad at “scalpers” which really means anyone who finds cars on the pegs at a store before they do. I saw a post on social media the other day about how crappy a person’s day was because they walked into a store just to have someone pull a super treasure hunt out of a case right in front of their eyes. When it is all about the super treasure hunts, there really isn’t a lot of depth to the hunt or hobby at that point. Especially if you consider yourself to have the rest of your day deemed bad because of it. This is silly to me. Pallet raiders and door warmers and the over used term “scalper” are just ways to blame others for something you can’t control.

Hot Wheel hunting is a very time consuming, expensive, repetitive, tedious, and patience practicing hobby. I’ve seen so many people get into the hobby at full throttle only to get worn out, frustrated, and low on funds in a matter of 6 to 9 months because they did not understand what they were about to get themselves into. Many people are considering this an investment hobby as well. Now days there are so many stories of childhood toys worth thousands of dollars tucked away in closets and attics. People create value and things get expensive for a time, but everything is cyclical. Those of us who have been in the hobby for more that a few years, in many cases, decades, just learn to be patient.

A number of months ago, a video was going around the internet showing the popular author, entrepreneur, and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk attending a garage sale. The part I am referencing starts at 11:54 and goes to 15:07. Here is a quick clip on Instagram if you don’t want to watch the whole thing linked above. In the video, he came across a tub full of diecast cars, haggled a bit with the sellers, and then purchased the lump sum. He then went back to his car and quickly Googled some of the cars in his recent purchase to find that some of them were worth already more than what he paid for the bunch.

At first I found myself very angry at that video. Now every person who owns any diecast car is going to think they have some gem worth something expensive and make the diecast hobby that much more expensive, cluttered, and inflated. Plus all these people are only doing it for the money. They aren’t into it for the collecting or the way the cars make them feel.

Then I started thinking about it more and realized it’s not a big deal. If you have a product that you can somehow find a buyer to buy it for more than you did, props to you. I do that. When I have found a fresh case on the pegs before anyone else, I will buy all the cars I want, and if I have extra, I will sell, trade, or give them away. I wouldn’t consider myself a “scalper.” It just comes with the hobby. The only issue it really creates is that now, if you are really into the hobby, the prices of things become incredibly inflated. But that is a cycle. Once people realize that it is not the most lucrative thing because you have to work hard and hustle, prices will get back to acceptable rates. You just have to be patient.

We watch people on TV flip all kinds of things. Between Flip or Flop on HGTV, Fast N’Loud on Discovery, or an old school favorite like Pawn Stars, all of these shows teach people how “lucrative” flipping or buying and reselling can be. But not everyone is cut out for that and not everyone has the skill, talent, work ethic, or patience to do that. In the end, if you really want something, you’ll have your own opinions on how to get it and at what price. When it comes to selling, it is the same thing. That cycle is what keeps the economy rolling along. For all of those people who have found their niche and are sticking with it, they will know how to be patient and play the long game. That is when the most work, the most fun, and the most profit all start to coincide and true enthusiast has been made.

The Hardest Part about being a Hunter

Some cars I found before the quarantine.
I’m a quarantined car collector. These are some cars I found before everything went down.

A hobby that I have had my entire life is collecting Hot Wheels. It is something that I have always done and while at certain points of my life I collected less cars than at other points, I have never gotten out of the hobby. There have been times I’ve thought about it, but just can’t bring myself to. One of the most fulfilling thrills is going from store to store to hunt down those little 97 cent cars.

That has been the hardest part about this worldwide virus pandemic. I have not left my house in over 5 weeks. In order to hunt, one has to be able to go out and do it. Now, my self quarantine is exactly that. My wife and I have chosen not to go anywhere during this time. So, maybe those of you reading this might not have pity or empathy or sympathy for me. I understand and accept that. In some regard, I’m not seeking that.

While it is hard to watch fellow collectors out and about soaking up all the fresh cars off the pegs, I have to accept that I have not chosen to go out and hunt. I want to be safe and keep my wife safe. In the long run, I’d rather be alive to hunt another day than to risk getting sick. Plus, in this day and age, I can always have cars shipped right to my door. So once this subsides, maybe I’ll hunt online for all the cars I missed. It’s not as thrilling, but it keeps the collection complete.

Collecting Influence

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Economics teaches us about the law of supply and demand and how they affect one another. I have found that to be true in the real life collector car world and it’s influence on diecast cars. Lately, I have been following the trend of the Ferrari F40 and the McLaren F1. These two cars in real life have skyrocketed in value, and that spike in popularity and prestige has carried over into the diecast collector world. It is hard to find a good Hot Wheels Ferrari F40 or McLaren F1 for a price below $10.

A few years ago I experienced the same thing with the Hot Wheels versions of the Tesla Roadster, Lamborghini Murcielago, and the Bugatti Veyron. I ended up spending far more than I care to admit to purchase a 2009 Dream Garage series Murcielago in green on eBay. Asking prices for that car are still quite high.

That situation plagues my mind while Hot Wheel hunting in stores now days. Often times when I find something on the pegs, I will tell myself, “It is only a dollar now. If you want it later, it is going to cost you.” Sometimes I still put it back on the shelf and walk out empty handed. I am trying to be a responsible adult. I am also hoping I’ll find it again to solidify that I should in fact purchase it.

One similarity between the two collector car markets is that the real life collector car world has concourse condition. Diecast car collecting conditions are in the package or not. This topic alone could lead to so many other discussion points. In real life, actual completely “original” vehicles are becoming very rare as age and limited replacement parts slowly take away from factory original condition. I think diecast has the same type of issue going on. The “DLM” or diecast liberation movement is a sweeping craze right now. That movement simply means that the cars are being opened and removed from their packaging. That might not be a big deal for diecast cars produced from 2000 on because of such a large number produced and records of those numbers. But, for cars produced in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, that can be alarming. The amount of still packaged cars from that time is dwindling and the unknown amount of produced versions is certainly going to factor in. The more cars that get opened from that time frame, the higher the demand and higher the price for an unopened original model will be.

A second similarity is that the real life collector car world has rare limited edition models and trims. Diecast has both limited edition production numbers in some cases as well as wheel and paint variations. Diecast has an advantage in this area because not only can they produce the real life car models with special trims, they can also customize them further. This can produce even greater demand for such limited models.

All collecting for both markets boils down to what are people willing to pay for what they want. Perception is important and closely following trends in both real life car collecting and diecast collecting will certainly be beneficial. With all this in mind, know what you want, know how much you want to pay for it, and go enjoy the things you purchase.