Collecting used model diecast vehicles

This article will hopefully make prospective collectors aware of some of the pitfalls of collecting used model diecast vehicles, be it cars, trucks or aeroplanes, this could equally apply to other metal models.

If you want to collect mint condition or new then that’s fine, unfortunately not everyone can afford to do so or has a limited budget, myself included, although that said, it is getting easier and cheaper to pick up certain models on places like Ebay a lot cheaper in mint boxed condition than you would of done a few years ago, at this time there is a huge amount being listed on Ebay and I have taken the route of picking up mint if  I can.

I started out about seven years ago and decided to collect the cars and trucks from my own childhood.

After searching on Ebay I started to find cars and trucks I remembered so started by buying a few, they were in fair condition but in the back of my mind knew if need be I could repaint them, after all they were only costing a £1 at most plus postage.

If your are going to start collecting or even already have, you first need to decide what your collecting, is it just Matchbox or Hotwheels? a particular size or scale? a maker you like such as Ford or Lotus? or maybe even a particular period in time a bit like I did, I was collecting those I had from 1964 to 1974 and spanned Matchbox, Husky, Corgi and Dinky.

I never got to the Dinky stage and got caught up in collecting all the smaller scale models from all the makers, I do have the older Matchbox Kingsize, bought and sold loads of Corgi as well as Matchbox Yesteryear and Lledo but have stuck mainly to the smaller scale.

Buying used can be a great way of starting and even upgrading over time and as budget allows a few years back I would never of spent more than a few £’s on a model whereas now my average is £6 and been known to pay up to £15 for a mint one.

Good castings, complete with tailgate, light paint loss

There are however pitfalls as with all secondhand goods and also people willing to sell you bad models, so hopefully the following will help.

As I’ve said it depend what route you are going to take, I’m not bothered with the boxes or packing, in fact I sell any boxes I do get on Ebay so we will concerntrate on the models themselves.

The ones sold in blister packs are a fair bet to be mint condition and if you are collecting later ones then this is a good way to go, they still come up fairly cheap on sites like Ebay but not completely without risk, I have had what I thought was a mint on card Matchbox Ford Transit and once it came put it away with the others, it was only a year later when I took a closer look that I realised the blister pack had been glued back together, so I had paid over the odds for a so called mint model, luckily it was mint but the card and blister pack wasn’t, also again on one I never inspected when it arrived, again a blister pack that I opened tonight of the Citroen 15Cv only to find one of the headlights is broken off in the blister pack, ok it can be glued but thats not the point,  again I say inspect closely on arrival if it’s not what it says it is send it back.

Unpacked and used vary from very good to diabolical, I hate the term playworn, this can mean anything from a few paint chips to total destruction, after all they were and are designed as toys, not models and get played with, dropped, stored in a box all together so again be aware of what your getting.

I can only speak from experience so will deal with what I know starting with the older Matchbox from the 50′s and early 60′s,  in this list I include Morestone, Budgie, Dinky Dublo as well as Matchbox.

To start with they were pretty basic, body, wheels and axles, no glass (or rarely) no interiors so seem to fair pretty well, the main things I have come across is rusty or seized axles, in some cases bent base plates and on a few broken castings which render the vehicle useless, again check the pictures of the item for sale this should show the casting is ok, ask the seller for more pictures if you really want it, ask if its complete (unless the listing says otherwise).

Broken casting makes this scrap

The Taxi above is of no use, seems to be a lot of these with broken or missing door pillars, the one below can be repaired but best avoided.

Crack in casting, can be repaired but best avoided

Again I’ve had a few, one was the early Matchbox Taxicab had a broken door pillar so was scrap, a Vauxhall Victor with a snapped base plate and a Dinky dublo with a seized and rusted axle, the axle was sorted out and the other two are in the scrap box for parts, bearing in mind I tend to buy job lots so not always possible to check all of them.

The later Matchbox as well as Husky have more parts and detail therefore more to go missing or break, from the mid- sixties to the early 70′s both Matchbox and Husky had regular wheels rather then the later racing wheels so tend to last well, I have not had many with bent axles but as they started to add glass and things like tow hooks then damage become more of an issue, sometime many people are not even aware of whether a certain model should have a tow hook and have been suprised when I pointed out it’s been cut off or broken off, again they were toys, I’ve has one chewed by one of the previous owners, same with crane hooks, they get chewed.

No roof, no bonnet, no point, just scrap

Good or bad glass can make or break a model, it gets cracked or just scratched up sometime badly, look out for out of focus pictures and avoid them, look only at clear pictures, this won’t always show scratched glass but the rest of the model should give a clue on that anyway.

Also Matchbox had a particular problem with their plastic parts so those with plastic hubs and tyres (Kingsize included) are nearly alway loose, this isn’t the tyre stretching, it’s the plastic hub shrinking, this is also apparent on plastic covers on trucks that seem to no longer fit.

Husky used cheap plated plastic for base plates and things like crane arms etc, this tends to wear off leaving base plastic behind, Matchbox did start to do this later rather than diecast bases and again it wears, the Husky baseplates have two flaps cast in the base to act as the suspension, these break so look out for model sitting wrong in the picture, I have still got caught with broken suspension on these and is  a hard one to spot.

Missing body although good chassis.

The picture above shows something of use but personally I wouldn’t pay for it but would re-use the chassis for a code 3.

By far the worse offenders are Superfast Matchbox, as a used model the axles are easily bent, the chrome on engines chips off, stickers rather then decals get pulled off or look dog eared, so with Superfast go for the best you can get and avoid so called playworn if you can.

Just looks ‘playworn’ but a closer look shows the axles are bent

Paint loss is not really a major issue and seen by some as a sign of an original model, even a badge of honour but casting damage renders the vehicle scrap in most cases, although that said the picture below shows a good casting but has little else going for it, the glass is heavily damaged, the two engines are missing the axles are badly bent but still find their way on Ebay.

This is actually listed for sale on Ebay!

This is not to say don’t buy damaged diecast or one’s with cracked glass, as I do but I also restore them as well as collect.

Any questions are welcome.