News-Antique.com - Jan 04,2010 - Beginning with cast iron and tinplate, toy cars have been around as long as real cars, but in 1910, toy cars took a technological leap when Samuel Dowst adapted a new manufacturing technique called "die casting" to produce the first die-cast versions. Named after a favorite niece, the toys were dubbed "Tootsie Toys" (later shortened to "Tootsietoys").
The process uses an alloy called "zamac" that contains zinc, aluminum, magnesium and trace chromium.
Many other manufacturers followed suit and produced their own versions of die-cast automobiles. Midgetoy, Dinky and Budgie were among the earliest.
Then came World War II and a need for metal for the war effor. Die-cast toys were replaced by slush mold toys, produced from a softer lead alloy. Barclay was among the most prominent producers.
It wasn't long after that lead-based toys were banned from the market since lead was found to be poisonous if ingested, and die-cast toys made a resurgence.
Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi toys, all produced in Great Britain, became especially popular in Europe in the 1950s, and the trend spread to America by the early 1960s. The toys represented European cars and trucks of the period.
In 1968, Mattel introduced the first line of toy cars that focused on American cars, called Hot Wheels. The race was on.
One year later, Topper introduced Johnny Lightnings, although Johnny Lightnings were only on the market for three years, due to indictment of Topper's owner on tax fraud charges. The brand was resurrected in the 1990s by Tom Lowe, an entrepreneur who remembered them from his youth. Johnny Lightnings survive to this day.
Meanwhile Matchbox, which was the most popular line of die-cast toy cars in the U.S. through the 1960s, was overshadowed by these two brands since the American-made toys were lighter-weight, faster and more appealing to American kids than their staid European counterparts.
The passion of toy car collecting grew in the 1980s out of nostalgic memories of youth by a generation of baby-boomers now entering adulthood, but the collecting craze reached its peak in the 1990s when Hot Wheels introduced limited edition Treasure Hunt models. Speculation ensued and values spiked on these rare issues to as high as $100 each.
Mattel continued issuing Hot Wheels Treasure Hunts, but increased the volume from a 25,000 model release in the first year to 100,000 in following years, increasing availability and ultimately lowering second market collector value.
In addition to collecting the actual toys, collectors have found that including photos of their favorite diecast toy and model cars enhanced their collection's appeal.
Now, thanks to Dreamstime.com, collectors have access to a large assortment of die-cast car photos, available for download at very affordable prices starting at just 42 cents each. Long-time collector and photographer Mr. Dana Johnson has compiled a collection of die-cast car stock photos at http://www.dreamstime.com/realistic-diecast-miniature-cars-rcollection8722-resi328062.