Die cast model cars have been around in many forms since the beginning of the century, when metal was the only material available to make toys. With the first automobiles showing up in city streets, metal toy cars were extremely popular with adults and children alike. These first metal cars only grew in popularity, spawning the first diecast model cars which were more closely made to scale.
The period before and during World War II represents the greatest decline in the making of model cars, mainly due to the national initiative to save metal for wartime use. Not to be discouraged, model car makers started experimenting with new and different materials. Once the war was over, the new generation began collecting model cars with a passion.
Matchbox diecast model cars were first created in England in 1953 and quickly gained a reputation for quality craftsmanship and detail. Hot Wheels followed in 1968 with their own line of die cast model cars, and both companies have enjoyed a recent upswing in popularity.
Plastic model car kits are also available for those who prefer to make their own collectibles. There are many varieties to choose from, from easy snap-together models for younger enthusiasts to incredibly detailed kits with hundreds of pieces to make your plastic model car an exact scale model of the real thing.
Caring for diecast model cars is fairly easy. Many hobby and craft stores sell specially made plastic boxes that can store a number of cars in a secure, airtight environment. The main thing to remember is to keep your cars free of dust and moisture. A regular cleaning with a can of compressed air should be enough to keep the wheels in working order.
Older diecast model cars should be cleaned as infrequently as possible, so as not to cause any accidental damage to delicate parts. Compressed air is also excellent for blowing particles of dust from the nooks and crannies of your model car, but never use soap or water to clean antique diecast model cars. Soap residue and water can easily corrode the surface of metal, leading to rust and structural instability.
Luckily for beginning collectors and kids who are just starting to become interested in collecting die cast model cars, most models are readily available at toy stores and hobby shops. In addition, they are usually fairly inexpensive and therefore a nice collection can be started with only a small investment.
Once you've built a 'base' collection and figured out what your favorite kind of car is (classic cars, hot rods, and military vehicles are popular categories), you can start branching out and looking for older models and antiques that fit into your collection. Thankfully for the diecast model car collector, there are plenty of resources available. In fact, there are entire conventions and nationwide clubs dedicated simply to die cast model cars.
Online auctions are a great resource for finding rare or antique cars, but be prepared to compete with other collectors for them! Make sure you understand the grading system for die cast model cars before you bid in an auction, otherwise you might end up with a badly damaged car that you thought was a real deal.
Some collectors like to integrate both plastic model cars and diecast model cars into their collection, especially if they collect along a certain theme. Hot rod model enthusiasts might find a plastic model kit in a style they simply can't live without, and that they can't find in diecast.
Interestingly enough, there are even people who will assemble your plastic model car kit for a small fee. This specialty was created by those who love the look and detail of plastic car kits, but didn't feel confident enough to put one together on their own. The Internet is the best place to find one of these services, and it might be worth your while to have a kit that you order online delivered directly to them to save on back-and-forth shipping.
As tastes and interests change, so does the world of model cars. You can tell a lot about a particular time period by looking at the types of cars that were favored and the kinds of materials that were used to make them. One of the most popular kinds of collectible diecast model car these days are scale models of famous NASCAR vehicles. You might be surprised to find that there are clubs devoted to exclusively collecting NASCAR model cars in all their diecast and plastic forms.
Die cast model cars and plastic car kits are a great way to own the car you've always dreamed of and to introduce the world of classic cars and collectibles to a younger relative or friend. And with new and different models of car being thought up and introduced every year, there's no end in sight to the possibilities for the avid collector.
Who knows? Maybe the next Hot Wheels or Matchbox car on the market might be the one that starts your new collection!