Children all over the world are getting excited this month about what toys they’ll be getting. Terry Grant, however, thinks it might be time to get rid of his.
Grant, a retired teacher and school administrator — he was superintendent of Blue Sky Public Schools when it merged with Kremlin-Gildford schools — was busy this week cataloging his 5,000 Hot Wheels cars, organizing them by rarity in hundreds of boxes across a dozen tables in the Masonic Temple.
He’s been collecting the miniature cars since 2000, when his daughter Allison asked for some for Christmas. A friend of hers gave her a few. She wanted more.
Grant asked his daughter if she wanted to play with them or collect them.
“She comes back and says she wants to collect them, ” Grant said. “By Christmas we had 100. It’s nuts, just nuts. ”
Since then Grant completed numerous collections, traveling across the state — to other states even — in pursuit of all the variations and special editions, honing his expert’s eye.
Even among the same model of car, numbered the same in the same series, there are several subtle attributes that make all the difference. The color of the car — even a hue or two lighter — the style of rims, the numbers decals on the car, the interiors, the color and style of the underside of the car, even the packaging can increase the value of a car tenfold.
The real hot finds are the packages with a green stripe on the side and bottom, with the words “Treasure Hunts” along the bottom. Among these, even fewer have a dollar sign for an S at the end of Hunts, “Treasure Hunt$. ”
Some models are exclusive to Kmart stores, which is why, every few months, Kmarts have special events that bring out the collectors.
“You sign up, ” Grant explained. “They call you up. You stand by a box. You have five minutes to go through the box. ”
One Kmart special that Grant is particularly proud of is a collected box set of 40 Hot Wheels. The store had two of the limited edition boxes, and he got one of them
“This set wasn’t cheap, ” Grant said, then looked at his wife Twila, “and she looked at me like I was nuts. ”
One time, on a trip to Spokane, Wash., Grant heard that a local store had just gotten a new shipment. Showing up early the next morning, to get a first crack at them, he ran into a small crowd of local collectors. After picking up some good finds there and trading with the locals, they showed him around town, their release-day routines and which stores to avoid.
“I've met some fantastic people, because of going to these special events, ” Grant said. “It's a neat activity. ”
Over the past year, Grant said, his collecting has slowed down. He began the cataloging process when he and his wife decided to move to Big Sandy and realized their house was filled with hundreds of boxes of Hot Wheels. Bedroom walls were lined. Closet floors were covered.
He hopes to sell them all together and has a few people already who may be interested in paying the thousands of dollars that would require. One pile of boxes on the floor comprises the cars that Grant is not ready to get rid of. There are some Treasure Hunts, and some particularly difficult finds, which he still associates with the excitement on his daughter’s face when they found them.
Another group he is keeping is all of the 1967 Pontiac GTOs. Grant had that car himself, full-size and functional.
“I rebuilt the engine, the transmission, the rear; it was one hot ride, ” Grant said. “It's had a sweet spot in my heart. I wouldn't drive it now, but it was a fantastic car. I had fun with it. ”
The rest of the cars, the thousands that have filled home and life and now the dining room of the Masonic Temple, are not going to be following Terry and Twila as they move to Big Sandy. And she is glad.
“I think it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world, ” Twila said, looking up from a stack of 2008s at the rest of the past decade.