Hot Wheels – The Drug Of Choice

Addicted To Hot Wheels


A few years ago, the definition of collecting changed for me. Quite drastically actually. I learned to enjoy the hobby for what it really is. I couldn’t be any happier! Recently, I detailed my collecting ‘problem’ in a previous article. At that time, I thought I knew first hand how out of control a person could get. The new generation of ‘collector’ is among us and to me their habits are terrifying. I’ve debated whether or not I should post this article along with the accompanying picture. Take it for what it is. Think of the following as a sort of public service announcement if you will.

Addiction by definition

The word ‘addiction’ is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to”.1 By definition For the sake of this article, let’s take a look at the definition of addiction. According to Wikipedia2, addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., something perceived as being positive or desirable).

What’s going on?

I’ve been in this hobby for quite a few years now. I participate in many of the social media outlets and still hang around on a few forums. From time to time I still take a walk with my kids down the toy aisles and we still check out some of the dump bins. Some things are still the same from ‘back in the day’ but it seems like things for the most part have gotten worse. Why is that? What caused it?

Let’s take a step back…

Hunting for cars started in 1995 for me. For the most part, I remember hunting being fun. Aside from Treasure Hunts, the chances of finding just about anything you wanted on the pegs was very real. Heck, I didn’t learn about Treasure Hunts until the late 90s. The hours and miles put in were few and far between. I never bothered with newsgroups or websites. Ebay? Never heard of that either.

Today’s Collector

Group to group, forum to forum, I see quite a few of the same actions. Chasing from store to store, multiple times a day with hopes that SOMETHING NEW will be there. I’ve walked past my fair share of grown adults rampaging through dump bins. They reminded me like vultures trying to protect their kill. Don’t step too close, they may attack. And attack they do! I’ve witnessed many threats and heard various stories of fights over these toys. Claiming stores as if they are some sort of territory and warning others to stay away. It’s laughable really. Some of the posts that I have read I will not share simply due to the nature of the subject. I’ve pondered the toy addiction topic for quite some time and decided to do a little bit of research.

Addicted You Say?

Although they may be down to the last few dollars in their account and it may not be in their best interest, they still head to the store to seek what might be there. A quick dash to the toy department and there it is. Bingo! Their weekly intel has paid off. A new dump bin in all it’s glory sitting on the sales floor just waiting to be cracked open. Without hesitation, case after case is cracked open. After a few minutes, the heartbeat returns to normal. Disappointment sets in after going through all the cases – no Super Treasure Hunt. On the other hand 6 regular hunts and 42 other cars (6 castings, 7 of each) have been placed neatly into the shopping cart. Not too bad of a haul. A quick jaunt around the store to pick up a thing or two for dinner. At the self checkout, they scan each car and gently place them into the bag. To eliminate the risk of damage, the food is bagged separate of course. Without much hesitation, the debit card is swiped but quickly declined. After another attempt, it is remembered that payday isn’t until Friday and it’s only Wednesday. A quick wave to the attendant brings him to the station. The food items are removed and the card is swiped again. The sale FINALLY goes through. Back at home, the new goods are marveled at and placed with the finds from the past few nights.

I’ve read quite a few posts where the events played out almost exactly as I described above. It truly scares me that the need to have these toys can come in the way of providing food or some of life’s other necessities for ones self. I’ve spoken up a few times but have been told to mind my own business and that the person could be doing worse things.

Don’t get me wrong. There isn’t a thing wrong with an adult buying and collecting toys. Missing a meal or skipping a bill to obtain more toys? Read that sentence again. Listen to how absurd it sounds. This is the idea that I try to convey when issues like these come up. Maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe I shouldn’t try to help. Toy addiction is a nasty thing.

Addicted to Hot Wheels

The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)

The fear of missing out or FoMO is a relatively new term that I first heard a friend use last year. Maybe I was a bit behind – it was added to the Oxford Dictionary back in 2013. The phrase itself is pretty easily understood but I read up a bit on it. Although few would admit it, I believe that today’s collector experiences this. Enter social media…

I should note before going forward that it’s normal to feel this regret from time to time in life. While the fear of missing out is an old fear, the dependence on social media has taken it to a new extreme. FoMO is most common in people between the ages of 18-33. Think of how many people CONSTANTLY scan groups to see what’s hitting the pegs. Sure, some do this to keep up on the hobby but the others don’t just want to keep up. You know the whole keeping up with the Jones’ thing. It’s that but they need to do better. The latter are the types of people that are then faced with a decision – ‘should I go check my store’? The clock has already started ticking and they are running out of time! They NEED to get to the store and they NEED to find what everyone else is finding. Their finds are posted and then off to the next store hoping that the next collector hasn’t been there yet. On an interesting tangent, studies show that the people most sensitive to FoMO are the ones who are always trying to get the best out of the situation. Is this where the recent onslaught of the perceived ‘rarity’ and ‘value’ of these items comes in to play? How can you buy a standard mainline car for 94 cents and within a matter of minutes expect others to pay $3 plus for it? Supply and demand, right? Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Behavioral addiction is a real and dangerous thing. So many are addicted and they don’t even know it. Even though the person knows that they don’t have the necessary funds or has other priorities, they just can’t help but buy that next car. ‘It’s only a dollar’. I’m pretty sure that we’ve all said that one before. After a few years, that saying leads to the accumulation of box after endless box. It hits home when you need that dollar the most.

How are you treating your hobby? Do you have a toy addiction?

  1. Do you find yourself buying without reason?
  2. Seeing people with new releases, do you find the desire to have them as well?
  3. When you look at your boxes or piles of cars, are you buying more than you can store?
  4. Do you look at certain items and wonder ‘Why did I buy this?’?
  5. Even though your are know you are being taken advantage of, do you throw a premium at the newest of items just to have them first?

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  • Ben

    Excellent write-up as always. The struggle is real, but as you said, there are worst addictions out there (drugs, alcohol, gambling, strip club/prostitutes…), Hot Wheels seem harmless compared to this… i guess it’s the lesser evil of addictions.

    • Thank you kindly Ben. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

      With all the things that I see happening on the various social media platforms as well as even in public, I thought it was time to put something together like this. Even though collecting Hot Wheels can SEEM harmless, it can spiral out of control and affect not only yourself but the ones around you as well.

  • Astrofunk

    Absolutely on-side with you here. I started collecting in 2009 and I’m up to about 4,500 pieces. I have a ratio of 9:1, Hot Wheels to Matchbox, with a smattering of others. Effectively none were purchased outside of the typical stores, or above retail cost. After having purged my life of all my 1:18 and 1:43 (what was I thinking?) I made it a point to never move the hobby to the top of my priority list and promised myself (God knows I’ve been tempted) to never succumb to the Ebay scalpers, and etc. It’s worked out well so far. Sure, I’ve missed a couple things, as is the case with most things in life. For the most part you can just wait for a couple cases to go buy and you’ll find what you were looking for, as a peg warmer, no less!

  • Mk Oli

    I really felt that… thanks for the write-up. It really can get that bad.

    When I first started out, it was nothing… I mean, how expensive can a car or two seem, right? Then weeks, months, years go by… Im now reading websites, forums, blogs, and the more information you get, the more interested you become. And the more expensive the bobby gets. What used to be tens, is now hundreds, and from hundreds is now thousands.

    Fomo is a very hard thing to control. Especially among fellow collectors, among stores with people you’re familiar with, and among friends whom you share the hobby with. What do you do when the girl from your favorite toy store calls or texts you… telling you that “that hard to find diecast” that she reserved for you is now available. If you tell her to stop doing that, you’ll miss out on new arrivals or rare casts, if you dont tell her to stop it, your wallet will complain.

    I guess, the only way to overcome the addiction (and Fomo), is not knowing. Ignorance is bliss? Maybe.


  • Memo

    Awesome writeup its been a while since i have taken any pictures but I will get back into it and make more videos again. Sometimes its good to take a break from the hobby. Memo Collectibles!

  • David Haley

    Thanks for this! I collect hotwheels mostly for fun, but I justify it by hoping that in 20 years they’ll be worth a fortune. I mostly collect themed hotwheels, but I can’t stand it when my sets aren’t complete. I really haven’t spent much, but that attitude you described as a vulture trying to protect their kill – that’s what I feel like sometimes. I think that can be another very negative aspect of toy addiction, and it’s the one I struggle with the most.

    • monsieur diecasts

      I deal with baby boomers cashing out of their collections on a monthly basis. Here is a tip: Hot Wheels (or diecasts in general) make for a very bad long term investment. Yes, there are a few exceptions (that everybody like to focus on), but let me tell you this: If you’re collection is assessed at $25k, you will be lucky to be able to sell it for $15k…at best, you break even. Morale of the story: #collectwhatyoulike

      • Collect what you like – that’s the best bit of advice that anyone could ever give to someone else in this hobby. Gone are the days of the redlines. Today’s toys (we must not forget that these are still toys) are produced in huge quantities and way too many people are storing multiple mint carded pieces.

        • Johnny Collums

          i agree , too many stored up, i remember the days of the baseball card,,and when the 80s hit boxes after boxes stored up now and a whole box can be purchased from 20 years ago for as little as 10 bucks, and thats thousands of cards

  • Lars Ulrich

    Shit this is almost me basically, i gotta stop i dunno how to be honest.

  • Jopi 6

    Oh crap… I’m addicted.
    I love Hot Wheels since I were 1 year old… but now I only search Treasure Hunts when I go to buy a car.
    Today I were to a supermarket and I’ve looked most of the cars. Then, I saw… A TREASURE HUNT! It was “El Viento”.
    But… I thought that I buyed one YESTERDAY. It’s the “Tanknator”.
    Therefore, I realized that I did not have to. I was very lucky, but I did not buy it.
    Otherwise, it would have been an impulse purchase, and I would only use it to make a hole in my collection.
    Well, I LOVE this blog, and I’m glad to comment for the first time here.
    Bye! 🙂