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Collecting 101: The Basics of Diecast Collecting

Collecting 101: The Basics of Diecast Collecting

That gem you own just might be worth a pretty penny!

If you're looking at this hobby from a purely speculative sense, collecting military replicas are a great investment -- just ask all the Barbie and Matchbox/Hot Wheel aficionadoes out there how much money can be made buying and selling some of the harder-to-find issues.

As an example, lets look at Minichamps' first issue Panther tank. When it first came out a few years ago, we orignally sold it for $99.99. We've since raised its asking price several times to what we feel a savvy collector is now willing to pay just to obtain this coveted piece, in this case $499. While we don't claim to be the final authority when it comes to establishing higher than normal asking prices, we feel that our knowledge, experience and networking capabilities gives us some measure of expertise in the area. Anyway, take it for what you will and please make sure you've taken your heart medication when you see the prices for some of the rarer items on our site.

That said, what follows are some general guidelines you might want to consider if you're looking to make some money in this hobby as well as several potential nuggets we've unearthed that we feel should escalate in value in the not-too-distant-future.

Workmanship - A product's overall quality is certainly one of the most important factors in determining whether or not an item will be sought after by another collector. Several manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their products are made with painstaking accuracy and the utmost care. Afterall, a second-rate product can tarnish their reputation within the diecast community and reduce the value/collectibility of their entire range.

Condition - As you might expect, the overall condition of an item, including its original packaging, packing material and accompanying literature, plays a dramatic role in determining its market value. An item still in its original shrink wrap (if applicable) without any dings, dents or other noticeable flaws, will undoubtedly be worth more to a prospective buyer than a similar item that has been through the mill. So, if you're looking to resell an item at some point in time, its best to keep it out of harm's way and leave it in its original state.

Production Run - Some companies are quite content to make large production runs with the hope of appealing to the mass market. While there's nothing wrong with this strategy, these products are less inclined to go up in value simply because there's adequate supply to meet consumer demand. Limited edition items, on the other hand, are more apt to appreciate in value since they're made in much smaller runs, depending upon the manufacturer's goals and production capabilities. Companies such as Gaso.Line and Tank Museum will only make a handful of limited edition replicas while Dragon's limited edition products usually number in the thousands, so its important you're comparing "apples to apples" when deciding upon which products are likely to be snapped up first.

Release Sequence - Typically, the first release in a series becomes the most sought after piece, much like the first comic book, first doll, etc. While alot of it has to do with collectibility, and perhaps latecomers looking to complete the entire range, much of it has to do with quantities available. In the case of Dragon's Michael Wittmann tank (#60001), while its certainly eye-catching and nicely detailed, it was nevertheless produced in far fewer numbers than all of the subsequent releases in the series. You do the math...

Uniqueness - The release of Unimax' first ever 1:16 scale King Tiger tank was certainly a watershed event for military diecast aficionadoes. While some took issue with its fragile construction and eye-opening paint scheme, others recognized it for what it was: a tremendous conversation piece that will likely soar in value as the years pass by. At the time of this writing, there were no listings for this item on Ebay, despite the fact that 2,000 pieces were produced. Compare that with Dragon's first ever Michael Wittmann tank (#60001) which can still be regularly found on eBay fetching hundreds of dollars but was made in roughly the same quantity. Obviously, the vehicle's initial cost, size and weight may be contributing factors in this anomaly but the fact remains that few people have been willing to part with their prized possession, which means these vehicles should escalate in value even more as they become harder to find.

Convention Exclusives/ Chase Items - From time to time, you may run across the term "Chase" or "convention exclusive" when describing an item. These pieces are especially harder to come by since they were either released in extremely limited quantities as part of an assortment pack or could only be purchased from a show or convention. Dragon, for one, has made it a habit of releasing one-of-a-kind "chase" pieces in larger assortments and have consistently offered Show exclusives to attendees of conventions they sponsor. Both marketing ploys have heightened consumer awareness of their lines and could very well become the de facto standard by which other companies will eventually have to be measured. Other companies, such as Corgi and Minichamps, typically hand out short-run freebies at Toy Shows they attend, which have become especially valuable collectibles for their rarity value alone. At one recent Toy Fair, Minichamps doled out a special 1:43 scale automobile that has now soared in value to over $700!

Movement in Sympathy - To borrow a catchphrase from the Stock Market, oftentimes "a rising tide lifts all boats." What this means is that items associated with a key product tend to rise in cost, perhaps not as greatly, as the key product increases in value. The problem with this phenomena is that its not an accurate predictor when determining if a vehicle's rise in value is directly attributable to realistic market conditions.

Forced Scarcity - For better or for worse, some manufacturers have been known to destroy stockpiles of existing product to reduce quantities available and hopefully drive up consumer demand for remaining product. Frankly, we're not at all sure if this occurs in the diecast business, although this phenomenon does happen on rare occassions in other collectible markets, typically with disastrous results.

The Manufacturers - Its common knowledge that product released by some manufacturers tend to appreciate at a faster pace than others. The reason? Beyond all of the variables discussed earlier, some manufacturers are held in a different regard by the collecting community, particularly if they do their utmost to listen to the concerns of the average collector or go the extra mile to ensure their products are as realistic as possible given today's technology. Furthermore, as manufacturers become more entrenched in the hobby, their products begin to establish a trackable history, be it through word-of-mouth, on auction sites or by the actions of vendors and other collectors. As a result, newer companies are at somewhat of a disadvantage, since no one can initially attest to their relative worth until they make it to market and into the hands of the intended audience. Finally, it should be noted that some manufacturers may decide at some later point in time, to re-release an item, particularly if it has become hard-to-find and they can capitalize on its success. While this type of monetization can initially pay off in handsome dividends, it can also ruin the relative value of their products in the long run, as collectors no longer feel their products are being sought after by other collectors.