It is just one of those things in our hobby. A model that isn't on anyone's radar while it is readily available all of a sudden becomes a must-have because it is perceived to be rare.
It happens a lot. Sometimes it is legit, other times a certain amount of attention or hype creates the demand. Whatever the cause, there are many examples of it happening.
We documented that to a certain extent last week in our history of the elusive Hot Wheels Boulevard Datsun Wagon. It was always a great model, but its elusiveness made it even more desirable.
Our hobby is littered with stories like this. Final batches of lines that were eventually cancelled and hardly showed up anywhere (see: HW Racing ROADRCR), or models that no one cared about when they were pegwarmers all of a sudden become highly sought-after when a car scene explodes (see: Datsun 510, Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R) or when a casting is retired (see: Walmart exclusive Bugatti Veyron). We are currently seeing that to certain extent with Matchbox from a few years ago. Collectors are discovering the gems that were released by Matchbox in 2005-2010, and now Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprints and SLR McLarens are on everyone's want list.
Or how about the pink Redlines? No boy in the 60's and 70's wanted them, so most were sent back and destroyed. Now the rare pinks are always high on collector's want lists.
Well, it looks like it has happened again. And the models in question might end up being some of the rarest of all. These models were not available in retail, only through a mail-in promotion. A mail-in promotion that, quite simply, tanked. Whatever the reason - and there may be multiple reasons - the Matchbox "Being a Hero Has Its Rewards" promo never took off, and only a small number of mail-in models were actually sent out. It is, if anything, a very interesting story.
Last month, while I was in Albuquerque for the Matchbox Convention, I had a chat with Sammy Fox, a fire fighter and avid fire vehicle collector, about these exact models. Because the models in question were Matchbox Real Working Rigs Fire Trucks, he made sure to get all of them, and followed the events closely. I later emailed Sammy asking him to document the details, and his response is below.
Sure thing my friend,
The mail-in Real Working Rigs (RWR) promo was called "Being a Hero Has It's Rewards". There were three mail-in models that you could get including the Fire Stalker, Pierce Quantum Aerial Ladder, and the Pierce Velocity Aerial Firetruck. (The Pierce Velocity is the one with the platform aerial and the Pierce Quantum is the one with the straight ladder without an aerial platform at the end.)
Each model could be had by turning in receipts from certain stores. (I'll list those for you further down.) To get a model Collectors were required to mail in a receipt from the specific store. The original receipt had to show at least $20 purchase of MB product on it. You were also required to mail in the UPC bar codes from the packaging.
As I mentioned before, you had to buy the $20 worth of product at specific stores in order to get each model. Those were:
Walmart and Target - Fire Stalker
Toys R Us - Pierce Quantum Ladder
K-Mart and Kroeger (and other retailers) - Pierce Velocity Aerial Firetruck
Once you had your receipts and the UPC codes you had to print out and complete the order form:
You had to send in $3.50 for shipping and then wait anxiously like a little kid for the package to arrive : )
There was much talk and even photos of the E-One Mobile Command Center in one of Larry's ambassador reports... But no info on how to get the model. The promo came and went, a lot of collectors worried that it got dropped from the line or that they missed the window to get the model. Eventually the model showed up on Amazon for $7.99
These models are still available and can be had at this link...
Matchbox Be A Hero E-One Mobile Command Center Vehicle
Anyway, I hope that info helps. If you need further please let me know. It was great seeing you in ABQ.
Have a great week, Sammy
So there were four models, and at first collectors thought the E-One Mobile Command Unit would be the hard one to find. It ended up the opposite. The E-One can be easily acquired from Amazon right now, and doesn't require any receipts or UPC barcodes. This one just arrived here at my house:
It is the others that will be rare. Buying $20 worth of Matchbox in one store is not easy currently, not to mention $60 total in three different stores. And maybe most collectors weren't interested in the mail-in models. Or maybe it was badly promoted and no one knew it was happening.
Whatever it was, only the most dedicated collectors pursued the promotion, and Mattel sent out very few RWR firetrucks (emphasis on "very few"). And because this was a promotion, Mattel cannot sell the remaining models. At all. They are gone to the great dumpster fire in the sky.
Certain collectors have caught on. We have only seen three listings on eBay containing at least one of these models, and they are already fetching big money. Who knows if we will see more on eBay?
Sure, the Real Working Rigs haven't been a huge deal with collectors, but "rare" models always are. There will always be a select few that in the future will speak of the Being a Hero Matchbox models, and tell tales of their rarity, and how they actually one laid eyes on one.