Diecast toys are detailed replicas, often to scale, of actual cars, boats, planes, trains and other popular childhood playthings. They are manufactured by the diecast process and are made of metal and plastic and finished in great detail to realistically resemble their larger scale counterparts.
The process of diecasting toys allows manufacturers to shape metal into a desired form with a high degree of dimensional accuracy. The die casting method of manufacturing involves forcing hot, molten metal into reusable molds called dies. As the hot metals cools in the molds, it hardens and forms into the preferred shape.
Thousands of diecast toys can be produced at a time. Diecast toys are among the highest volume of items mass produced by the metal working industry. The diecasting process yields a very detailed and accurate result.
Diecast toys were first introduced to the U.S. market as early as the 20th century by the Dowst Brothers. They were sold under the brand name of Tootsietoys. At that time the practice of producing quality zamak had not yet been perfected. This resulted in poor quality toys that cracked and broke easily. In 1947, a company called Leshey began making a diecast toy they called “Matchbox” cars. They were very popular coming in 75 different types of vehicles and packaged in boxes resembling matchboxes. The term “matchbox car” became so widely used, it is now considered the generic name for this type of diecast toy.
Diecast toys hit their height of popularity around 1968. Mattel marketed a line of diecast toy cars and trucks sold under the brand name of Hot Wheels® that went on to become one of the world’s top selling toys. Many of the early editions of Hot Wheels® are now valuable collector’s items.
Diecast toys are popular today as both children’s playthings as well as collector’s items. Originally packaged vintage diecast toys are highly prized and quite valuable to many collectors and brokers. Common themes of collectible diecast toys include air craft, construction and farm equipment, military vehicles, trucks and cars.
The most common diecast toys of the 2000’s are those appealing to the NASCAR fan base. Reproductions of actual cars have had a resurgent effect on diecast auto sales.