No topic seems to spur more conversation among Hot Wheels collectors than that of the “scalper”. It has always been an iffy term among collectors, but has been used as long as I can remember.
The “scalper”, at least from what I can tell, is the collector who combs through store after store, night after night, looking for Hot Wheels that he or she can sell for a profit the next day. At least that is what I think the most simple definition is. That is what a ticket scalper does, so that term fits for a Hot Wheels collector that does the same.
Of course “scalper” has many more uses in our hobby. Among them, my favorite is the assumption that the guy who got to the pegs or bin before you is “clearly a scalper”. Only someone with evil intent could rob you of the Supers that were meant to be yours. Scalper seems to be the most widely used term whenever someone goes on a “what’s wrong with the hobby” diatribe.
I am not too fond of the word. It is too easy to call someone a scalper. Sure, someone taking every desirable model from a bin before I get a chance at one is frustrating, but I have found that eventually I am able to find what I am looking for – minus the Supers of course. But calling everyone a scalper is too easy. It is too easy to justify our own behavior by vilifying everyone else.
Yes, the person first to a bin will more-than-likely grab every Super they find, and that is the prize. I don’t think anyone can fault another for doing that, even when someone finds a whole case of them. But grabbing everything even remotely desirable? Zamacs, New Models, anything these days with the words “Skyline”, “Datsun”, or “Japan” on them? That makes the folks fume, many times me included.
Well, the topic of scalpers has taken a turn. With social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, so-called scalpers can let the world know of their bounties, much to the scorn of some, and amazement of others.
And no one gets the folks going more than Instagram member Joe, aka @diecast_hunter, a Las Vegas resident who has made overnight Hot Wheels hunting a science. It seems that everyday, collectors can wake up to new posts of the Hunter’s finds. And it isn’t just a handful of Hunts. Many of his photos look like this:
or even this:
What does Joe do with most of these? He sells them.
My guess is if you haven’t seen these pics, or are not following Joe’s IG feed, you are forming an opinion about him right this second. Las Vegas collectors have opinions of Joe, some good – “he allows me to stay home and still get what I want” – and bad – here is a reddit post for your entertainment.
Now I am not here to torch Joe, nor am I here to defend him. (My guess is the comments section here and elsewhere will do plenty of that.) But I did want to ask him why he does what he does.
Me? I much prefer the random find hunting method. Essentially, when you have a minute, almost always during the day, hit a store and see what you find. Sometimes you find the model you have been looking for, or maybe a cool error that was hard to detect, and on that very rare occasion, a Super that someone missed or was just put out.
To me, finding a Super would not be nearly as fun if I EXPECTED to find one. I don’t check to see what is en route, I don’t hit stores at opening, or hunt overnight. Random store, random time, random find.
Because it doesn’t happen that often, each find is special. So I keep all the Supers I find stashed away, carded and all. It isn’t enough to fill one Hot Wheels case, and because each of them was random, I can tell the story of each find. Where, when, and what the circumstances were. I have had some good years – I think one year I found 10 of the 15 released – and some bad. Like this year. I just found my first 2016 Super 4 days ago:
And finding that Daytona was awesome! It was as exciting as it always is, because it was completely unexpected. Totally random, at a rural Utah Walmart, at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Into the Super stash it goes. And yeah, I fully understand that I have been luckier then most. I credit that to the rural stops. Here is the whole “found in the wild” stash:
If I was out all night, trying to accumulate as many as I could, to sell or just keep, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
But that is just me. There are plenty of door warmers and pallet raiders out there, giving up their nights for the hunt. And that is fine. If someone wants to dedicate that much time to finding Super Treasure Hunts, then let them enjoy their spoils. It might piss you off, but you know the solution. Get out there and join them.
So what about Joe? What drives him? Is it the hunt? Is it a financial need? Is he just pure evil, a la Ramsey Bolton? Does he get a thrill watching everyone else squirm when he posts his finds?
I asked him, and his answer:
To me it’s a full on Hobby, Collecting is just part of it, the rush is from the hunt. I get the cars that I want and I help others get the cars that they want and not have to pay them ebay rates. Alot of people don’t understand when there’s like 20 walmarts within an hour you don’t have to get all your cars from one bin. I’m a collector as well so I do leave at least one of each model I grab but you know I ain’t bout to leave a $uper. Hahaha.
Damn, it’s the thrill of the hunt as well. I was hoping I was the only noble one.
Of course, Joe might be slightly more addicted to the rush of the hunt than others, and he has found that selling his finds helps support it. We can all relate to a certain extent, or we wouldn’t buy those Supers when we come across them.
We all collect for different reasons. Better, we all collect for a big messy mix of reasons. For some like Joe, it is more about the hunt than anything else. For others, it might be completing full sets. For others, just having cool little replicas of the cars they love. We are all probably a mix of all, or we wouldn’t be so into Hot Wheels.
Ultimately, Joe wants it more than you and me. Or we would make an overnight hunt work. And that is just how it is.
Look at the monsters those bastards over at Mattel have turned us into.
(Special thanks to Joe aka the Diecast Hunter for allowing to write about him. Have at it with your opinions, but please don’t make it personal. Joe buys a lot of cars, that’s it. Share your feelings about that.)