Collecting Cardboard

Posted by: Doug in Member Blogs


Toy car packaging has grown to become a large part of toy car collecting. Agree or disagree, the facts are clear. The cardboard may be as valuable to some as the toy car. For the record, I have always opened the toy cars I add to my collection. I save the empty packages but have seldom had occasion to pull them out of deep storage.

In the toy car collecting community, there are two camps regarding the value of packaging. On one side are the collectors who keep everything in the original packages. On the other side are those who open everything and toss the package. Many collectors try to find a middle ground.

The purpose of the package is three-fold. It provides marketing for the product, protection during delivery and should allow for ease of display at the retail outlets. The collector may have an interest in the marketing information. Pictures and lists of other models can be of value. The package can also offer details on the manufacturer. Collectors may also appreciate the protection the package provides and can duplicate the methods of display used by stores.

While new packaging may seem of minimal value today, packages from 35-40 years ago have the advantage of providing a historical link to manufacturers perhaps long gone or the early work of current toy car producers. While few would be concerned to open a new toy car blister, opening a blister from the 1960's or 1970's is a far more difficult decision. Old blister packs are like little time casuals, perhaps reflecting a moment from our childhood. It is hard to disturb something that has survived that long intact. How is it so many Redline Hot Wheels have survived in their packages when three seconds with any child would have seen the package torn to pieces. Were these forgotten in dusty boxes somewhere or were they being hoarded even back then? I've always wondered.

Of course Matchbox had those handy boxes for so many years. While many boxes were discarded by kids, quite a few kept the handy boxes for use as parking garages of just because they had neat pictures. With their new Superfast series, Matchbox has returned to the boxes and the response seems very positive. For Matchbox, they can double the price of a model when a box is included so the accountants must be happy. I would not be surprised to see other manufacturers begin offering boxes and doubling the price as well. Most of Norev's new models come in window boxes as do the products of Maisto. The products of Tomica are perhaps best know for their 35 year tradition of unique boxes for each model. Who today would discard a Tomica box?

Some manufacturers have added other features to the packaging. Racing Champions offered hard plastic displays with striking metal signs, during the first years of the Mint Edition series. Johnny Lightning has continued to offer separate display cards with pictures of the real car. I've never really figured out what to do with these picture cards so they all collect in several old cigar boxes. Corgi had cut-out pictures with facts about the car on some of their old packages. Ertl tried this too and sometimes got it wrong as with the Jaguar XJ6 series 2. The package calls it an XJ10 and it has a picture of the XJ-S model! Hot Wheels have offered cards in some of their collector series. A recent version of their '64 Buick Riviera had a card with a picture of a 1970 Riviera so it appears that Ertl's 'close enough' system is alive and well. Metal pins, badges, stickers and decals have all been offered by a variety of toy car makers to add value to their products. Even miniature wrenches and screwdrivers have been provided to allow for adjustments to the toy car or assembly of kit versions. I bet you have some of these in your desk as I do.

The big issue is value. Models that are mint-in-package or MIP (MIB for mint-in-blister is also used), are often valued at twice that of mint-loose models. While this is most evident with Hot Wheel models, it holds true for many other brands. If I had the choice of MIP or loose of the same model, I would always choose loose at half the price. Clearly, others do the reverse. The result is that today there are millions of packaged Hot Wheels that will never be loose and ultimately, that will keep the prices of more common MIP models low. With some models like the VW Drag Bus, there may be far fewer loose models as so few were ever opened! Packaged models will always command a premium but unless one plans to sell the toy car, does that matter? To miss the delight of holding and rolling the toy car, the premium of a MIP model seems pale in comparison. Lenin said "Theory is gray but life is green." Toy cars in the package are a bit to gray for me, especially as the long-term value is theory. I have even seen some models that deteriorate in the package so who knows which will best serve the toy car 40 years from now?

There is no correct answer regarding the value of packaging. Perhaps Tomica, Norev and Matchbox collectors have it best. They can have their toy cars to play with and perfect packages too.

Tags: Vehicles, Tales of Toy Cars

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