This site contains affiliate links for which we may be compensated.

Hot Wheels Turns 50: The Story Behind the No. 1 Selling Toy

Hot Wheels Life Size Fleet
Hot Wheels Life Size Fleet (photo courtesy of Mattel)

… and What’s New This Year 

By Dr. Nancy Berk

n 1968, in an attempt to match the popularity of Barbie, Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler put his idea for a toy car on the fast track: He hired a GM designer and a rocket scientist to design the coolest and most functional car in history. It’s been 50 years since Hot Wheels cars got their license to capture the imagination of kids around the world. Today, as the brand celebrates its golden anniversary and status as the No. 1 selling toy, Hot Wheels is also a force in the grown-up space with partnerships that include racing sponsorships, automotive products, custom sneakers and more. caught up with Chris Down, general manager & senior vice president at Hot Wheels, to find out more about the company that has produced one of America’s favorite toys and most popular stocking stuffers. What Hot Wheels toys are the most anticipated for this holiday season? Read on…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hot Wheels. How has the brand been celebrating this exciting milestone?

Hot Wheels’ 50th Anniversary year is on track to be our biggest growth year in the brand’s history. All year long we’ve been celebrating how this iconic brand has pushed the limits of automotive performance and design, at small —and large—scale. From scouring the nation in search of a custom car worthy of being “the next Hot Wheels toy car,” to bringing our multi-generational fan base new and innovative ways to play with the brand such as commemorative products, meaningful partnerships, exciting live experiences and cool content, our 50th year has really set the tone for our next 50 years.

Here’s a closer look at a few of the new products and experiences Hot Wheels introduced this year:

  • Hot Wheels Legends Tour: Earlier this year we kicked off the Hot Wheels Legends Tour — the world’s largest Hot Wheels traveling car show — in search of a custom car worthy of being immortalized as a Hot Wheels die-cast. We stopped in 15 cities across the nation and saw more than 3,600 one-of-a-kind cars that embodied authenticity, originality and the garage spirit. A team of judges including Hot Wheels designers, automotive influencers and celebrities searched for the ultimate car that met the brand’s high standards of style and performance. All of the finalists traveled to SEMA, world renowned auto-aftermarket show, where we announced the winning vehicle, named 2JetZ, to be immortalized into a die-cast toy to be sold in 2019.
  • Hot Wheels 50th Originals Collection: To mark Hot Wheels 50thAnniversary, we have developed a broad assortment of throwback and special edition cars to celebrate the heritage and the future of Hot Wheels. These awesome cars include features that collectors will remember from 1968, including full die-cast construction, Spectraflame paint, Redline wheels and a collectible metal button, all wrapped in an authentic throwback package. One lucky toy also included a code to win a life-size 50th Anniversary Hot Wheels Camaro!
  • 50th Partnerships: This year we’ve brought our fans countless opportunities to bring Hot Wheels into their homes in meaningful ways; we’ve teamed-up with GM to launch a full-size 50th Anniversary Hot Wheels Camaro, collaborated with the United States Postal Service to release a line of Forever stamps showcasing some of Hot Wheels most iconic cars, worked with Rocket League and Forza to develop innovative games that bring play to the gaming screen, and partnered with PUMA to re-invent its RS-X sneaker through a custom line inspired by Hot Wheels legendary vehicles.
Hot Wheels 1967 Camaro
Hot Wheels 1967 Camaro (photo courtesy of Mattel)

The price of a little Hot Wheels toy car has remained pretty constant over the years. At 99 cents, it seems like the perfect stocking stuffer. Do you see a surge in sales over the holidays?

Hot Wheels die-casts are one of the most beloved toys in the world year-round. In fact, Hot Wheels die-cast cars are the No. 1 selling toy in the world, selling 16.5 cars per second for a total of 6 billion cars sold to-date. Hot Wheels cars and play sets are great gifts and we see the holidays as our peak selling season. 

Has Hot Wheels made an electric car yet?

In 1970, Hot Wheels launched a series of electric powered 1:64th scale cars called “Sizzlers.” These were an instant success. This year we introduced new products that bridge the gap between physical and digital play such as Hot Wheels Augmoto, a smart-device controlled track set that uses 1:64 scale electric cars and augmented reality technology.

Hot Wheels collectors have made some cars extremely valuable. Do you have any tips for those people with cases of old Hot Wheels cars in their attic? Any rare gems they should be on the lookout for if they’re hoping to find a huge return on their 99-cent investment?

Collectors are an important audience for Hot Wheels and we love hearing how the brand has inspired our multi-generational fans. The value of collectible cars continues to amaze me, for instance, the most valuable die-cast, the extremely rare 1969 pink VW Beach Bomb is said to be worth $150,000. My advice to any collector is to focus on vehicles that you’re passionate about. These will be the most valuable to you in the long run. If you think you want to re-sell, then buy two. One to play with, and the other to keep “in package.”

Do you have a personal Hot Wheels favorite? Are you allowed to tell us or do you have to pretend you love all of your “kids” equally?

I do love the variety that Hot Wheels has always represented. There is something for everyone. That said, I’ve always had an affinity for the 1969 Twin Mill. It has two massive, chrome blowers sticking out of the hood, and looks like it’s going 200 mph. It is unmistakably Hot Wheels.

Are there any new cars coming out for Christmas? 

We have a TON of new cars coming out every single month of the year, leading right into the holidays. Here are a few of our most anticipated toys of the season: 

Hot Wheels Rocket League, a head-to-head, smart-device controlled vehicle arena with Bluetooth connected cars modeled after the mega-hit video game and e-sports franchise from Psyonix.

Hot Wheels Ultimate Gator Car Wash Play Set, the largest color-change car wash that we’ve ever done, with a massive water tower, dunk tanks, Color-Shifters car and, of course, a gigantic Gator!

Source: Parade