It is a question we have seen asked a lot. Should Hot Wheels do away with the Super?
Super Treasure Hunts are a hallmark of Hot Wheels collecting. One model in each batch has a slightly modified version with spectraflame point, rubber tires, and (most of the time) additional deco. They are randomly inserted in cases, and you are one lucky SOB if you find one.
And there is no denying they are a blast to find. Just today, a friend and his son called me to tell me they were in a store, and the pegs looked full. They asked what to look for, I told them, and they dug in. No luck, but it was fun for them to look. And they will look again at the next store. The fact that you rarely find them is exactly what makes finding one so fun. I can attest. I can remember the circumstances surrounding every instant I have found one. (I have found 4 this year.)
And it works for Hot Wheels. The hunt for the Super has created a massive amount of additional collectors, many who weren't collecting as kids, or who could care less about cars. And obviously, the more Hot Wheels can bring in the collectors, the better their sales. To borrow a term from the fast food industry, collectors are the "Heavy Users" of the toy world.
But Supers have also notoriously brought out the ugly side of collecting. Collectors harass store employees, destroy displays, and fight each other for the chance to find the Super. We also see it online, as words like "scalper" and "selfish" are used a little too loosely as a means to knock down someone who was lucky enough to find one or a few. How many times have we seen someone complain that the reason they didn't find a Super was because of some scalper or employee who snagged them first, when the higher likelihood is that another collector just got there before them and had a very lucky day.
If someone has connections, more power to them. If they want to spend every night hunting, good for them too. If that person has made finding Supers a very large priority in his or her life, then let them. If it really bothers you, make finding Supers your top priority too. I, like most collectors, choose not to, so it is up to me to not be bothered by the guy who does spend most of his life hunting.
But all that ugliness is on us as collectors, it has nothing to do with Mattel. So none of the reasons we cite above merit the cancellation of the Super TH line. But there are other problems. What Mattel has been trying to do something about, although it is understandably difficult, is control what has become a thriving underground market.
I know I open myself up to criticism here, because I am quick to defend many of the Malaysian sellers on eBay, citing that they found the models in street markets and sold them to make extra money. They aren't always the person who stole the items from the factory. I have also, in full disclosure, purchased a couple of early release Supers on eBay, although it has been awhile and I won't do it anymore. I have also linked to sellers in the past that turned out to have stolen goods, and I try to the best of my knowledge not to do that anymore.
I also understand that showing photos of upcoming releases opens me up to criticism as well. I equate these to spy photos like you would see in a car magazine, and try not to connect them to any sales (again, to the best of my ability). I am always open to constructive criticism here, but I think these fall in the category of generating excitement about upcoming models, as Lamley has always been about the models more than anything else.
With all that said, what I have seen on Instagram lately has been disturbing. More and more collectors or sellers are flaunting stolen Super TH's on their feeds, and selling them or raffling (a particularly bad scam) them and other hard-to-find models off. This is not new, but it seems it has grown particularly fast lately.
When you really think about it, the joy of the Super lies in its rarity, and that rare occasion when you find one. That also creates high demand, which can feed an underground market like we are seeing now. Sellers like this thrive on that demand, and that hunger to have something no one else has. Every collector has that gene, it is just a matter of controlling it. The constant flaunting and trolling of stolen Supers on eBay by collectors outside of Malaysia, and the subsequent reactions and comments, has been ugly to watch.
So would the abolishment of Supers eliminate these problems? Not at all. And frankly, Mattel policing the factory shenanigans is hard to do, but they are trying. The best way to stop it? Control your collector tendencies, be patient, and buy your Hot Wheels from stores or legit, Mattel-licensed sellers like Wheel Collectors, A&J, and 1StopDiecast. Or buy from one of those "scalpers" we all like to vilify, who could be selling it to support his or her family, or further their hobby.
So let's go back to the question. Should Supers go away? No way. They add a different depth to collecting, and I think most of us like the rush of finding one, however rare that occasion might be. But remember, it is finding one that makes a Super great. Do you actually think the upcoming Toyota Supra TH would cause as much of a stir if it were a premium model that sold for $3.47. Nope.
It seems collectors like to criticize Mattel about a lot of things, and many times it is deserved. But in the case of the shenanigans we see surrounding Super, including the market for stolen models? That's on us. Keep the Supers coming, Mattel.