Reflections on Why I collect diecast cars?

I have never studied psychology, so I don’t know how psychologically valid my reflections are.

I came to Tbilisi (Georgia, the country not the state) in 2009 with just two suitcases of my worldly possessions, in which I had just five diecast cars. Before moving I had sold or given away most of my possessions (including a couple of dozen diecast vehicles). Since arriving in Tbilisi my collection has grown considerably to around 1500 vehicles with 15 to 20 being added each month.

cadillac Eldorado (2)
Cadillac Eldorado (Dinky) one of the few models I brought with me when I moved to Tbilisi

I have had small diecast* cars for as long as I can remember.  On my first birthday cake was a Matchbox racing car, so I’m told. Then there was a Matchbox Pickford’s Removal Van with sweets in the back, occasionally restocked by my mother. My earliest actual memory is being on a train holding a Matchbox Racing Car Transporter, I would have been three at the time. Collecting model cars…toy cars…is fine as a child but as an adult?

Collections allow people to relive their childhood, connect themselves to a period in history or time they feel strongly about, to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present.

Racing car transporter catalogue image
Racing Car Transporter depicted in the Matchbox Catalog

I don’t have any of the models I actually played with in my childhood. But I do have some of the same models picked up more recently at Car Boot Sales and markets. These can stimulate autobiographical memories.

Marcos Mantis

This Marcos Mantis comes with a childhood  tale…

Some people like to collect just one model.

BP wreck trucks
Scott Miller’s collection of Dodge BP Wreck Trucks

The value of my collection is not monetary, but it is emotionally valuable—I’m not looking to profit from the sale of the cars. I usually take the cars out of their blister packs, which would reduce their value if I was looking to resell, but I want to hold the car to feel it in my hand and look at it from different angles. I do look for  bargains at boot sales also at Dry Bridge Market, I tend to know when something is way overpriced and when it is a good deal. One of the rules for investing in antiques is to stick to what you know.

Drybridge (14)
a selection of vehicles on Gocha’s stall at Drybridge Market

Collecting is not an exclusive trait of humans, pack rats and magpies are famous for their collecting habits, too. In early humans, collecting could well have given some of our distant ancestors an edge in the survival stakes, storing nuts and berries for a rainy day and holding on to primitive tools.

The Thrill of the Hunt

Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete. Hot Wheels have cashed in on the hunting nature with special “Treasure Hunt” cars, which are supposedly harder to find than the regular Hot Wheels. There are regular and super treasure hunts, the latter being much harder to find but having a different paint job and rubber tyres. I have only one Super Treasure Hunt in my collection, the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, which I found on the pegs in Smart.

Mystery Machine Super TH
Mystery Machine Super Treasure Hunt (on a short card)

Rummaging through the pegs of Matchbox and Hot Wheels in toy shops, there is always a thrill, when I spot a model that I’ve been looking for. I have a long wants’ list.

Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or void of meaning. When one collects, one experiments with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed. My father died in 2011, and part of my collecting might be a way of connecting to my childhood, when I still had my Dad.

Also, I came to live in Tbilisi because in this city I had found a wonderful wife. Now I no longer needed to search for a soul mate, there was maybe  a void to search for something else.  My wife tolerates my collecting but has no real understanding of my interest in diecast cars, she has given me a couple as gifts in the past a 1:32 Lamborghini Gallardo and a 1:32 BMW X5 (the first was fine but the latter is a car I loathe).

The amount of cars I have amassed here is like a kind of ballast holding me here. I’m not attached to every single model and have given a few away. I have three grandchildren, the two girls might occasionally race the cars across the floor, but have no real interest in toy cars. The youngest Lazare (aged 3) seems to like toy cars which he calls in his child language “pipi” (because of the noise of the car horn).

lazare road tester
Lazare road tests a couple of VWs

Social Media

Also fuelling my interest are the social media. On Facebook I am in quite a few (maybe too many) groups of like-minded enthusiasts, who collect diecast cars. Our brains are very social, talking about a hobby with others boosts our oxytocin levels when we connect…

    1. Pinoy Hot Wheels Collectors Club This is a Filipino group with over 1000 members dedicated to collecting Hot Wheels. I often post pictures of my new acquisitions, and am inspired to look for what other members post.
    2. Hot Wheels Club (Philippines) Very similar to Pinoy group.
    3. Race Grooves Community Administered by Mark Kasimoff who has over 500 000 subscribers for his Youtube channel devoted mainly to Hot Wheels Cars (unboxing, track time, off the pegs etc…) Racegrooves Youtube Channel
    4. Matchbox Collectors Forum
    5. VDTM – Vintage  Diecast Toys and Models A Romanian group of which I’m a moderator.
    6. Bir64 and Kafe64 Two Turkish groups specialising in 1:64 scale models.
    7. Matchbox e Majorette. Portuguese group for Matchbox and Majorette. Two of my favourite maunfacturers of diecast cars.
    8. MCCH Matchbox Collectors’ Community Hall A group for Matchbox collectors especially of old pre-Superfast (1970) Matchbox cars.
    9. Poppa’s Toyroom
    10. Peter’s Vintage Toys
    11. Matchbox Romania
    12. World Toy Vehicle Collectors Group for all toy car collectors
    13. Auto Gruppo International Diecast Collectors/Bloggers Association

I also use sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit in connection with my hobby. I have so far been unsuccessful finding fellow collectors here in Tbilisi, Georgia.

reasons to collect toys

Diecast toys are tough they are made with an alloy called Zamak or Mazak, 96% zinc and smaller amounts of aluminium, copper and magnesium. Diecast cars to me are like miniature works of art, even if they are mass produced.

“I’d sit on the large heavy carpets and invent a game to play on my own. Arranging the miniature cars that someone had brought me from Europe into an obsessively neat line, I would admit them one by one into my garage.” extract from Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Laureate

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you.

Some further insights on adult toy collecting can be found here:  Why do grown men collect toys? and a bleaker look toy collecting like heroin addiction?

*A die-cast car is a car or a collectible model produced by using the die casting method of putting molten zinc alloy in a mold to produce a particular shape. Wikipedia explanation of process

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