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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Exclusive Interview: Mike Zarnock - PART TWO

In the second part of my interview with Mike, we discussed about customizing, rare cars and some of the missing puzzle in his collection.

14) Have you ever attempt to customize your own car? 
Yes, I have done a couple small customs, but they take so much time, time that I don’t have. If I have any time like that, I like to customize real cars.
15) Do you collect customize cars? 
No, I don’t collect Customs. I like the ones that people give me and the ones that people do of my car, but I don’t go out looking for them. Some of them can be expensive and that money could buy me something old that I’m looking for.
16) what are your view on Customize cars?
Customs are cool. I like to do real cars and guys like my son Chris like to do scale cars. There are guys out there that do some amazing work, just like the guys that do the full size cars.... and the paint work is amazing too!
Mike discussing with Chris Parker at the Las Vegas 2010 Super Convention by Diecastspace
17) How important is it to have Customizers awards?
I think it’s important to have Customizer Awards. It’s like any other competition, everyone like to compete and hone their skill. It’s like real cars, if you don’t place at one show, you try harder to do better at the next one. It make’s you better.
Mike Signing Autograph during the Summer Smash 2008
Mike giving words of wisdom to the at the Summer Smash 2008 
18) Do you have a Favorite Customizer's work?
No, not really. There are a lot of guys out there that are really good. I like it when someone takes a few different castings and chops them all up and makes one car out of all the pieces. Ya know, like real cars.
Larry Wood sharing some ideas with Mike during the Summer Smash 4 2011
19) You have been to many conventions. which is your favorite convention? and why?
 Wow....! Yes, I’ve been to many conventions! I do about five conventions and a few other appearances every year. You can find where I’ll be on the Appearance Page on my website http://www.mikezarnock.com/dates.html  All the conventions that I go to are great in their own way, but I think the best one for me is the Diecast Space Super Convention and Hall of Fame Ceremony. There are so many celebrities that come to that event and I get to meet so many of my fans too.  A lot of wonderful friendships have come from that event.
 Mike with the great George Barris at the Las Vegas Convention 2009
Mike with Gary Reid's Bubble Top Vette
VHTF and rare ones
20) From over 8,000 variations of Hot Wheels produced by Mattel, Can you name me 3 that you deem as a rare car/casting? 
A rare casting would be the Rear Loader Beach Bombs. The Python with the “Cheetah” on the base along with the Mighty Maverick with “Mad Maverick” on the base. I talk about those and a few others in the Warman’s Hot Wheels Field Guide as the “Top Ten Hot Wheels Of All Time” and of course in the Prototype Book that I did with Bruce Pascal.
Bruce Pascal paid a whopping $70,000 for the Rear Loading Beach Bomb
The Phython with the Cheetah written on the base
Mighty maverick with Mad Maverick written on the base
And then there is the Collector Number 271 package. It’s not the casting with this one, but the packaging that is so very rare.
1995 Collector Number 271 Funny Car It’s reported that only 12 of these cars were packaged and released on the Blue Card with white Collector Number 271 due to the way the cards were printed 12 to a sheet. There have only been six of these Collector Number 271 Funny Cars found to still be carded today. To date, no variations of this car have been found. Note: This Hot Wheels car must be in the #271 package to realize the value noted. Value: $3,500 blister pack.
21) You have over twenty thousands of cars in your collection, which is your prized possession? 
I have been asked that question so many times over the years and it was always so hard to answer, but I can now say without a doubt that my favorite Hot Wheels car is the “Mike Zarnock’s Altered Roadster”! Having a production Hot Wheels car with my name on it is just such an honor!  
Hot Wheels Altered State inspired by Mike Zarnock's Altered Roadster
Mike Zarnock's Altered State Design Spec. Sheet
22) Is there a car that you still have trouble finding? 
NO, I can find just about any car that I need, but the problem now is the cash. The cars that I need now are all high dollar pieces. The least expensive being about $500 or so....
The ultra rare blue open fire for sale for over $2000
23) In your opinion. what makes a car becomes a sudden rare items? is it the publicity, designer, limited produce?
It’s always the limited production that makes a car rare. Sometimes Mattel will make a running change after only a few hundred pieces and everyone will want one of those first run cars.
24) Where do you find the rare cars? friends? Internet? travels?  I find rare cars everywhere, I travel a lot and go to any store that I think might sell Hot Wheels. The thing about collecting variations is that the scalpers don’t know or care about them so I get to find them. If I don’t find it myself, I have friends that do or if they are really hard to find, I may get them off of ebay.
A limited edition Batmobile 1st run tool car
25) Do you collect cars such as unspun, prototypes...etc?
No, I don’t collect any of that type of stuff. They get pretty pricey and if I’m going to spend that kind of money, I’ll get something I really want like one of the Variations or Collector Number or a rare Track Set that I need.
 A sample prototype of the Phantom Corsair
 A sample unspun VW Drag Bus
26) How do you determine the value of a VHTF or rare car?
I don’t determine any prices. All the prices in my books are what collectors have actually paid for each car. Remember, a value is what someone is willing to pay for something.
 On Sale online for US$500,000
27) What do you think of the new Treasure Hunts Supers that are no longer in the old green strip?
I love it! I have been asking Mattel to do that since 1998 or so. This is the perfect way for the “COLLECTOR” to find the treasure, not the scalper or people that just look for Treasure Hunts. I can’t tell you how many times I’m looking through the cars and someone else is there looking too. I’ll always be courteous and ask if there is anything special that they’re looking for and they will always come back with.... “I’m looking for the car with the green stripe and the money sign on it! They’re worth a lot of money on ebay!” I’m hoping this will put an end to all the crazyness!
 Old T-Hunt Super$ with the green strip
 New T-Hunt Super$ with a common blue strip
Mike's Collection of Hot Wheels at home
Interview was conducted by Ronald Wong aka Darthvaderr
The next part of the interview will be featured on 1 April.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Exclusive Interview: Mike Zarnock - PART ONE

As a collector, I am as curious as any other collector out there about Michael's success. I have read a couple of Micheal's interview and decided that instead of just having to ask him about his life successful story, I wanted to really understand his deep passion and love for cars. For those who are new to collecting die-cast cars... Listen Up! this is Mike Zarnock better known to the world as the living Hot Wheels encyclopedia aka Hot Wheels Historian. Michael's views on Hot Wheels has always been taken seriously and is indeed a very highly respected figure in the world of Hot Wheels. He is a 2 Time Guinness World Record holder! First in 2003 and then again in 2007! He is in the record books for owning the "Largest collection of different model cars". He is featured in the 2008 "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" book #5 “Prepare To Be Shocked!” and the 2011 "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" book "Utterly Crazy!" February 2009 Michael was inducted into the "Diecast Hall Of Fame" and later that year Mattel Hot Wheels ® honored Michael by reproducing his old Altered Roadster Race Car as part of their Nostalgic "Drag Strip Demons ®" Series!.

Micheal with the 2009 Diecast Hall of Fame inductees

I have segmented my Q & A into three areas of his life - Personal Collection, Customizing and Rare Cars and lastly Moving Forward..
1) How and when did it start? what started it?
I started collecting Hot Wheels cars back when they first came out in 1968. I collected all types of toy cars as far back as I can remember. I was fascinated with cars, any kind of cars. My dad was a body man and I would go with him sometimes to the shop. I saw a lot of cars and trucks as I was growing up. I was always trying to soup-up my Matchbox and Slot cars to make them look as real as the cars on the street. I used to read "Hot Rod" magazine and would drool at all the California Custom cars. Since I lived in New York, we didn't have that many cool cars at the time. The ones we did have were only out for 5 months of the year do to snow and bad weather the other 7 months of the year.
One day I was riding my bicycle down to the local shopping center to look at the models. I walked into "W.T. Grants" and saw a new display of diecast cars. Well, when I saw "Hot Wheels with California Custom Styling", I went crazy! All these way cool cars with mag wheels and red line tires already on them. Blowers popping out of the hood, side pipes or Zoomies, and trick paint. I was in Hot Rod heaven.  After that, I was hooked and it was Hot Wheels ever since!

2) If you weren't a collector, what other hobbies would you have gone into?
I really don’t know how to answer that question. I mean, I’m a car guy, so there really isn’t any other type of hobby I could have found. My whole life has been nothing but cars, so it’s kind of a given thing that toy cars would be in my life. Real car and toy cars go hand in hand.
Here's Mike in 1981 with the `23 "T" Roadster that he used to race on the East Coast.

3) How do you finance your hobby?
I’ve always bought my toy cars with the extra money I have. Now it’s a little easier since I have a little more money.
Mike signing autograph together with Chris Walker at Las Vegas 2009

4) Do you insure your collection of cars?
Yes, I think any considerable size collection needs to be insured.
The Famous Wall at Mke's home

5) How did it feel when Guinness told you that you are a record breaker?
It took about six months before I heard anything from Guinness. I waited and waited and then one day I got a huge envelope in the mail. It was an amazing feeling when I got that Guinness certificate. There was my name along with “Hot Wheels” in the Guinness Book Of World Records! It was one of the greatest days of my life! 

Mike featured in Ripley's Believe it or not!

6) Your son Chris started collecting Hot Wheels, Do you both collect the same stuff?
No, Chris collects specific things. He mostly likes Steering Rigs and the `56 HiTail Hauler. He also likes to do customs. Me, I collect anything that I find with the Hot Wheels logo on it. I love packaging as much as the car inside.
Mike with sons Chris and Codye

7) Between blisters. box sets, baggies, loose... do you have a preference?
As I stated in the earlier question, I love packaging. I’m not much for loose stuff, I like to get as much of the different package styles as I can. I really like the artwork from the different eras of Hot Wheels. 
Various types of Hot Wheels available in the market
Baggies - normally found at conventions or with promotions

 Blisters - most commonly found at the stores 

 Box Sets - made with Promotions and also available at the stores 

 Loose cars - mostly available through eBay or trading

 Oil Cans - available at the stores or special promotions

8) Do you collect different types of carded cars such as international cards or Japanese cards?
Yes, I have packages from all over the world. I think it adds so much to any collection.
 US and Japanese card

9) What sort of maintenance do you provide to your collection? How do you take care of the cars to keep them from being dust-free, rust-free or even faded cards ...etc
All of my collection is in a humidity controlled environment. I keep the rooms at 55% or less humidity. They do get dusty once in a while, but all I do is dust them. 

10) How about Matchbox, Johnny Lightning, M2...etc. Do you have any of those cars? if yes... Which one do you collect? if no... why do you not collect them?
I have all of them! Before I started writing my books, I collected just about every kind of die cast I saw. I have a huge Car Carrier and Tow Truck collection and it’s filled with every die cast brand that you could name. I have Matchbox way back into the grey wheels, Johnny Lightning, Dinky, Corgi, Husky, Tootsietoys, Racing Champion and I love the M2 Car Haulers! I actually have those on the mantle of my fireplace in my office! But now I don’t have the luxury to be able to buy all the other brands. I’m focusing on trying to get the really rare Hot Wheels stuff for my collection.
M2 Good Year Hauler

11) Between Variations and paint errors, is that a grey area or there’s a clear difference between them.
It’s all up to the collector. It’s like the shades of Spectraflame colors. There are many of them and they all stemmed from one color. I call them “Color Swings” and I’m sure that you’ve seen some really drastic differences from one shade to another. If the Redline guys can have red and red rose and rosey pink and pink and then creamy pink, I think we can have a color swing on red from light to dark.
A variation spotted by Mike 

12) What is the largest amount of variations you have ever discovered in one car?
Off the top of my head I would say the 1996 Street Cleaver. It has like 9 Variations.
A variation of 1996 Street Cleaver

13) some collectors keep their cars in the blisters/box/baggies and some take them out, what is your view on this as a collector?
It’s all up to the collector. I’ve seen guys buy a $140 Redline and rip it open because the rest of their collection is loose. That really does bother me though. It’s a part of history that they’re tarring up. If you want a loose car, buy a loose car. Don’t buy a packaged one and rip it open. Heck, I’ll go find a mint loose one to trade you!  These things are getting very scarce and if they don’t stop doing that, there won’t be any left....
 A purple Sky Shoe Deora could easily fetch a whopping $1K

Books By Mike Zarnock

 Hot Wheels Variations: The Ultimate Guide

 Hot Wheels Accessories: The Ultimate Guide

 Hot Wheels Variations: The Ultimate Guide

 Warman's Hot Wheels Field Guide:2007

 Warman's Hot Wheels Field Guide:2010

 Hot Wheels Warman's Companion

Warman's Hot Wheels Firld Guide: Values and Identification

Hot Wheels Prototypes

Interview was conducted by Ronald Wong aka Darthvaderr
The next part of the interview will be featured on 1 April.