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Terapeak Trends: Measuring the Market for Hot Wheels on eBay

By Aron Hsiao  on April 08, 2014

Our recent foray into the eBay analytics of classic toy brands like Lego blocks and Disney princesses got us thinking about another classic—Mattel's Hot Wheels vehicles.

How many Hot Wheels cars are out there in the world? Judging by these numbers, many. (Image: Google)

Hot Wheels began as kids' toys, but over they years, like Lego and Disney products, they have also become collectors' items amongst adults.

We thought it would be interesting to measure the size of the Hot Wheels market on eBay and to find out which vehicle makes and types sold best, so we fired up Terapeak for eBay and ran some numbers.

The Makes and Types

There are a lot of auto makers in the world, and Hot Wheels makes models of many of their vehicles, but we couldn't cover everything—so we settled on some of the biggest first:

  • Ford Motor Company: Ford and Mercury

  • General Motors Company: Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick

  • Chrysler Group: Dodge, Pontiac, Chrysler, and Jeep

  • Volkswagen Group: Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi

To this group, we also added some of the other best-known auto makes on the planet including Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and BMW.

To complete our analysis, we also compiled data on Hot Wheels sales by vehicle type:

  • Cars

  • Trucks

  • Busses

  • Vans

Quick Caveats and Data Details

Since all of the data that we compiled is keyword-based, it shouldn't be viewed as an absolute representation of Hot Wheels sales on eBay. In particular, a cursory check on the many keyword variations involved suggests that these numbers may underrepresent Hot Wheels sales by 20 percent or more. They do, however, give a good sense for the relationships amongst the different categories—how many Toyota Hot Wheels sell as opposed to Porsche Hot Wheels, for example, or how many Hot Wheels cars as opposed to Hot Wheels trucks.

Furthermore, many listings for Hot Wheels are for bulk lots and collections, meaning that many different makes and models are involved, none of which make it into keyword search results. The make-specific trendlines below thus represent cars that were collectible or desirable enough for their make to have been included amongst the listing's keywords.

Our data covers the period from the beginning of May, 2013 through the end of March, 2014—some 46 weeks of eBay transactions.

Total Sales Numbers

The numbers for Hot Wheels sales are relatively impressive, given the low street value of these toys when new—as low as $1.00 per vehicle in retail packaging when models are first issued, in many cases.

Total Hot Wheels volume for the period approached $15 million

Total dollar volume in Hot Wheels sales ranged from just over $250,000 (in August) to $590,000 (in December) per week, with a total volume over the entire period of nearly $15 million dollars.

Over 1 million Hot Wheels purchases were made over the period

Total items in Hot Wheels sales ranged from just over 18,000 (in September) to over 35,000 (in December) per week, with a total purchase volume over the entire period of over 1 million purchases made.

Numbers by Make

For our primary charts, we gathered all of the makes from the "big four" groups in our comparison (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and Volkswagen) into unified  trendlines, simplifying the chart considerably and allowing us to declare a "winner" amongst the auto giants.

Ford and General Motors fight for supremacy

The data show that the big four pull way from the rest of the pack considerably in terms of weekly dollar volume. In some ways, this is to be expected, since each is the combination of several makes—but as we'll see, there are winners and losers amongst these as well.

Volkswagen makes may be more valuable than those by Chrysler

The items sold chart is interesting because it shows separation between the Chrysler and Volkswagen, with Chrysler moving more units, while in the dollar volume chart the two groups went head-to-head. This means that Volkswagen makes are generating more dollars on fewer units, implying that they may be more desirable or sold at higher prices.

To see how the makes stack up against one another, we also charted the total sales for each make across the entire period.

Over the whole period, GM comes out on top, Mazda on the bottom

Ford and General Motors are close, but General motors wins in the end, with some $800,000 in dollar volume and nearly 90,000 sales made.

Of course we also wanted to know whether it was Ford or Mercury, Chevy or Buick, Dodge or Jeep, or Volkswagen or Porsche driving sales of the major auto groups in Hot Wheels form, so we broke those down as well.

One make dominates sales for each of the big four automakers

This chart shows that in reality, sales of just one big-name make dominate the numbers generated by each of the big four automakers in our compilation: Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Volkswagen. The offerings in the Chrysler group have the most diverse performance, but even there, around two-thirds of all volume belongs to Dodge Hot Wheels.

Numbers by Type

For those more interested in play value for kids that aren't yet attuned to brand loyalties, we also broke down the numbers by the type of vehicle in question by keyword, at least for four major vehicle types: cars, trucks, busses, and vans.

Ford and General Motors fight for supremacy

Cars are, as we might expect, the overwhelming favorite as a keyword. This is probably due to a combination of factors—the ratio of Hot Wheels cars manufactured in relation to other types of vehicles, the general use of the term "car," and the popularity of fast cars amongst kids and collectors alike. Trucks do make a decent showing, however, followed by busses and then vans.

Of note in this case is the fact that both cars and busses own a larger portion of dollar volume than they do of unit sales, indicating that—all other things being equal—Hot Wheels cars and busses hold value better than do trucks and vans.

Top Searches, Outcomes, and Category Trends

To round out our picture of the Hot Wheels market on eBay, we thought we'd also take a look at some of the hottest keywords currently being used by eBay shoppers looking for Hot Wheels vehicles, and at some of the top recent seller successes.

First, the top keywords:

super treasure hunt 2013 treasure hunt
track set real riders
fast and furious herbie
vintage race track
matchbox set
case mustang
camaro wall tracks

As we might expect, given the data above, we see keywords related to collecting (vintage, set, herbie), to the top two auto manufacturers in our compilation (Chevy's Camaro, and Ford's Mustang), and to good, old-fashioned play (race track, wall tracks, case).

What are the greatest recent sales? Here are the top five small set and individual car sales from the last 90 days:

  • $6,200 on Mar. 22nd: Mint in box 1968 Hot Wheels redline cars, complete 16-car set.

  • $5,724 on Mar. 20th: Roadbeast cars from the Highway 35 World Race series, complete 7-car set.

  • $3,500 on Jan. 14th: Mint in box 1968 creamy pink Firebird redline car.

  • $2,827 on Feb. 25th: Set of 51 assorted Hot Wheels redline cars, used, from the 1960s and 1970s.

  • $2,500 on Jan. 14th: Mint in box 1969 purple Rolls Royce H.K. redline car.

And what about the future for die cast toy vehicles of all kinds, a much larger category that includes not only Hot Wheels but many other manufacturers and products as well? The two-year category trend tells the story:

Sales of die-cast toy cars are slowly growing, up 10-20 percent over two years

Like Lego blocks and Disney princesses, Hot Wheels are a childhood standard that have become both a hobby for many adults and a driver of significant sales volume on eBay.

With the larger category of die-cast toy vehicles growing slowly but steadily, it looks as though interest in collectible toy cars will remain strong for the forseeable future.

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