Toy Trader
Die Cast Insider - December 1997
1997 Paul M. Provencher

64115 1955 Chevy Coupe coral/gray white walls and factory wheel covers

An Introduction

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My Name is Paul Provencher. I have, for many years been a collector of things automotive. Over time I have accumulated several full-sized collector cars, a cellar full of built and un-built model kits, and countless die cast cars and trucks. My wife has been quite tolerant and at times, contributes to my collections. I also collect cameras, and, if I may say so myself, work them pretty well. I gave up a career in commercial photography to go into computing. I now develop software for the medical community. Let’s just say that collecting little metal cars is a lot more fun.

For the last three years, I have moderated an internet forum that caters to collectors of die cast vehicles. During that time, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one Doug Kelly, who, until recently wrote this column. Doug and I exchanged e-mail discussing our finds and opinions of new and old die cast vehicles. Doug shared his dream of owning a real Viper. I shared mine of owning a mint ’67 E-Type Jag. We got to be great friends and finally met, logically enough, at a toy show. Later, he borrowed a couple of my toy cars for a TV show. MY CARS ARE FAMOUS! (I want them back Doug!) Anyway, we hit it off and one day he gave me a call, suggesting I give writing a try. So here I am. And there he goes. I know he will be missed. He will be a hard act to follow, but I am going to give it a try. I make no pretense to perfection. I beg your comments (good or bad). I plan to share my opinions, insight and collections with you in the months to come. And I will probably be sending Doug more than the usual amount of e-mail!

As I am a member of the "Cyber" community, I will often provide information about where to go on-line for more information about die cast vehicles. There is no shortage of places to go and things to see. Even after three years of daily poking around, I still find new things every day. As I find new places, I add hyper-links to my homepage. If you are ever in the neighborhood, please drop by! My addresses are as follows:

E-Mail: ppro@whitemetal.com

Home Page: http://whitemetal.com/

Compuserve Members: GO STAMPS (The Collectibles Forum) and then select the Diecast & Toys Section for daily messages and live chat on Wednesday nights at 10:00pm ET (My ID in the Forum is 76363,256)

Please feel free to drop me a line and share your interests. I welcome any ideas you may have for future columns, any questions you may have. If I can, I will point you in the direction of resources to help you with your collecting. Having said all that, I now present my first piece for Toy Trader.

Road Champs and the Fabulous ‘50’s

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I have been collecting Road Champs subjects for several years. This line of vehicles always offers a great value, interesting subjects that are well done, and easy to find. Above all, the quality is consistently high and the details well done in this price range.

A new series has been added, the "Fabulous Fifties". The first three cars in this series come packaged in a nice display bubble complete with reproductions of authentic ad-art on miniature billboards. The thing that stands out about this series is the choice of subjects. Each vehicle comes in two choices of realistic, two-tone colors.

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64115 1955 Chevy Coupe red/white white walls and factory wheel covers

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64125 1955 Olds Starfire Convertible aqua/white white walls and factory wheel covers

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64125 1955 Olds Starfire Convertible orange/white white walls and factory wheel covers

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64135 1955 Pontiac Safari Wagon brown/white white walls and factory wheel covers

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64135 1955 Pontiac Safari Wagon turquoise/white white walls and factory wheel covers

Certainly there is no shortage of ’55 Chevies, so the first two cars are not going to be any big surprise. But the Olds Starfire and Pontiac Safari are not common subjects. They are not available from the Danbury or Franklin Mints. If they were, they would certainly cost at least 20 times more. Of course they would feature considerably more detail and hand finishing. But for less than $10, you’ll get opening doors, trunks and tailgates; finely detailed, tampo-printed trim; decent interiors; authentic chrome wheel covers; vinyl white-wall tires; clear plastic headlights and very nice paint finishes. The doors, trunks and tailgates have a nice clean fit with acceptable gaps, although the door hinges on the convertibles intrude on interior detail. The cars display well and look very nice, mixed in with more expensive 1:43 scale models. Doug would be happy to know that they roll. For those who collect automotive art or like to build dioramas, the billboards are a nice touch.

Opening the package was pretty straightforward. Excepting the blister, which is never easy to get past without some damage, the cars were easy to remove from the packaging. Two small screws hold the car to the cardboard base. Once freed, the detail of the plastic base of the cars is visible. It is quite nice. In fact, I have seen several high-end 1/43 scale die cast that do not have as much chassis detail as these cars. Surprisingly enough, there is even some detail cast into the inside of the trunk lids, even if the compartment itself lacks a spare tire or tools. The car is held together with two small screws. Made in China..

These vehicles are available at discount toy and department stores like Toys ‘R Us, Wal*Mart, etc., for about $7.00. They may also be ordered from any number of die cast dealers, hobby shops and others who sell Road Champs. As with most of the Road Champs line, these are quite abundant, so it should be easy to find all the subjects in this series.

I searched in vain for a manufacturer-sponsored site for Road Champs, but did find a number of very informative ones by searching on AltaVista using the term ROAD CHAMPS. Rather than show preference for all the fine independent sites that feature Road Champs, I suggest that you do the search and then surf!

Corgi Yellow Submarine Resurfaces

The time seems about right for a renewed interest in The Beatles and things Beatles. New albums of old material have been published. Paul is making the talk show circuit. And Corgi has re-released the Yellow Submarine and other Beatles-related subjects.

The generation that cut their "Rock and Roll" teeth on the Fab Four are now nicely settled into a life of kids and homes, have a decent amount of disposable income and perhaps some time to wax nostalgic. We are thinking back to the good old days when you could understand the words to pop music, and reminiscing about how we identified with the popular artists of the day… We have become our parents….

I doubt if there is anyone over 40 who cannot remember hearing their first Beatles song. My mom was a music lover and played the Beatles in between Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee (shudder) and Percy Faith (double shudder). I remember the envy I felt when some kids came to school (we are talking 1961 here) with Beatle Boots and Beatle wigs. I saw "them" on Ed Sullivan for the first time, surreptitiously from the doorway because it was past my bedtime.

Those first five or six years, the Beatles could do no wrong. Then Paul "died", they got involved with drugs, religion and unpopular women. So by the time 1968 rolled around, The Beatles had pretty much run their course. I remember my mom trading her first pressing of "Rubber Soul" for some model cars that my uncle had built. (I still have them) The Magical Mystery Tour movie was not as exciting as "A Hard Days Night" and "HELP!" had been, and it along with Yellow Submarine were, well, CARTOONS. We saw the beginning of a new era in pop culture come as the Beatles faded and we lost our innocence.

Now the original Beatles merchandise is being redone. It has been very quick to sell out. The Yellow Submarine was sold out in most places one week after the first one set sail. They are already seeing significant markups in the secondary market. Some folks are wondering how this would affect the value of the original items.

We all know what makes a toy appreciate in value. Things like how popular it was when first introduced; How many were made; how many survived intact; and how many people might still have a fond memory for the item in question. All of these things can make a toy very valuable several years down the road. While there are always little pockets of interest in things that might never have hit the mainstream, these points seem to me to be the most important. The Corgi Beatles items qualify on all counts.

As with many things that resurface in the form of a reproduction, the Corgi items will find a good brisk market. They are nicely done, faithful to the originals, and, perish the thought, have loads of play value. But I do not think they will affect the value of the original ones. Let’s face it – they are reproductions. There are some who just want a piece because they like it, would like to have one around. They will be happy with a brand new one and may be able to save a few dollars going that route.

I remember a few years ago that there was a bit of concern about whether or not the value of Auburn 852 Speedster (the full-sized variety) would slump when a respectable reproduction became available. But despite the exceptional quality of the repro, the originals held their value and continue to appreciate. The reproduction has remained relatively flat over time. A nice car, but not the real thing. Likewise, I seriously doubt that a dealer who has original Corgi Beatles items in inventory is going to lower the price because a reproduction has been released. In fact, it may help to spark renewed interest in the originals! This was true for Mattel Hot Wheels when the original cars were reproduced in 1993. With their appearance, the originals increased in popularity and have remained so to this day.

The official Corgi site is located at http://www.corgi.co.uk/ They carry the latest information about new releases and other Corgi-Related topics.

Paul M. Provencher

Click here to see a selection of Die Cast Collector books from Amazon.com
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Die Cast Collector books from Amazon.com


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