Hot Wheels adult fans

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Even after more than 35 years, there is a excitement surrounding the cars that toys usually enjoy only for a short time, a la Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls. Hot Wheels’ nearest die-cast competitor, Match Box cars, have been around even longer and have a following, but  not the cache of Hot Wheels.

Why? One reason ? ask any guy, big or small ? is that Hot Wheels go faster.

“Hot Wheels just smoked Matchboxes,” recalls Mike Stevenson, a collector in Washington state. “They were the elite, if you will, as a kid’s toy.”

His story is a common one among collectors. He had some Hot Wheels as a kid, and then picked up collecting the cars after becoming an adult. Now he has about 30,000 of them. Stevenson buys mainly old “‘red-line’ models, cars made in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a trademark thin red line on the tires.

He’s in good company.

“To hear of people who have 10,000 Hot Wheels is not uncommon,” says Angelo Van Bogart, who writes a Hot Wheels column for Toy Cars & Models in Iola, Wis.

The nation’s most prolific Hot Wheels collector is probably Mike Strauss, of San Carlos, Calif. Strauss, 62, started collecting the toy cars about 20 years ago when Shell stations were handing them out for free and now has some 30,000 cars worth an estimated $1.5 million. Some are so valuable he keeps them in safe deposit boxes.