I think everyone is pretty aware that the bulk of my Hot Wheels/Matchbox collection is loose. I’ve always preferred the models out of package, obviously to photograph, but also to display. As nice as some of the card art is, displaying all the cards together can look like a big jumbled mess. Aesthetically, loose is better. For play, there isn’t even an argument.
But there are many other reasons too. One, simply, is anxiety. Basing a collection on condition of the packaging can be a stressful proposition. The card has to remain crisp and crease free, and safe from elements that can cause it to age. Thankfully we have a lot of tools to keep them safe, like protectors.
But what about the blisters? It is pretty obvious that the blisters Mattel uses have changed over the last few years, my guess to make them more environmentally safe. That is a very good development, and to me necessary thing to do. Ultimately the main purpose of a basic Hot Wheels car is to be ripped from the blister and played with, so as long as that blister stays intact from factory to store to the register, all is essentially good.
But we know there is much more to that. Collectors want those blisters to last. But it is becoming more and more clear that the new blisters won’t. Or at least we don’t know if they will. Weather, age, and excessive movement makes them prone to cracking and separating from the cardboard. Sometimes before we even buy them. Take, for example, the photos below taken by my friend @ut_ace at Walmart.
I have learned this the hard way. I do keep some models carded, either because of the awesome art or because the model is a rare variation or error. Recently I decided to simplify my collection down to loose models and my boxed TLV, so my carded stuff is going. Most have survived the journey to their new homes. Others haven’t, and they’ve all been newer models. At least from the last 4-5 years.
We’ve been watching this unfold over the years. We have seen blisters taped to cards like the first release of Japan Historics. We have seen Matchbox cases opened with almost all the blisters cracked. And the latest Car Culture/Fast and Furious models have been prone to cracking as well.
And this is on new releases. What happens as these carded models age? Get subjected to excessive sunlight, or temperature changes?
Simply, does this mean Hot Wheels collecting will change over time? Will the risk of keeping expensive models carded outweigh the joy of keeping them in packages? For me a loose collection is the way to go, but that is my preference. Many others prefer models carded. Will they still be able to do that?
It’s a difficult question. Mattel SHOULD make the materials they use environmentally safe. I think that is what they are doing. That is far more important than a collector preference. BUT, blisters with a good chance of cracking en route to the store or over time isn’t a good thing either. Maybe there is a packaging solution right around the corner. A higher quality blister with a good environmental profile. Maybe the way Hot Wheels and Matchbox are packaged needs to change entirely, ditching the card back and blister norm and moving to something totally new.
Until then, keeping a carded collection may be a difficult, anxious, unfun experience.