Guide to Collecting Redline Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels first came out to the market in 1968. They debuted with 16 different cars, which are now commonly referred to as the “Sweet Sixteen”. These 16 cars came in different colors and were originally produced in both United States production plants and Hong Kong plants. Soon, this was changed to cars being exclusively made in either the United States or Hong Kong, and by 1972 all of the Hot Wheels cars were being manufactured solely in Hong Kong.

From 1968 to 1977, all of the Hot Wheels cars had tires with painted on red lines around them. This was a very distinguishable trait of these early Hot Wheel designs and is the reason why this age of Hot Wheels production is known as the “Redline Era” and the cars themselves are known as Redline Hot Wheels.

The Redliners stood out from the competition in the small model car for a variety of reasons that helped to make them so popular. They were also known as California Custom Miniatures at the time and the Redline Hot Wheels cars reflected American society and culture, as well as American cars.

Of the first 16 models introduced in 1968, 9 of them were customized versions of actual, in-production vehicles of the time and the other 7 models were show cars and racing cars. Some of the traits these Redline Hot Wheels had that make them easily recognizable are:

Spectaflame Paint: This paint was metallic in nature and had many bright, shiny and eye-catching colors.
Redline Wheels: As mentioned, all of the original Hot Wheels are now known as Redline Hot Wheels, for the red paint around the tires.
Chrome Rims/Hubs: Another famous trait is the chrome rims. When the cars were being made both in Hong Kong and the United States, the Hong Kong wheels typically had shinier, brighter chrome.
Customization: While the Redliners were based off of actual cars, they were all customized and were designed to portray a custom or “hot rod” style. These customizations often included emphasizing the raw power of the engine.

Grading Redline Hot Wheels

There is a big market for the collecting of the original Redline cars. Whether you are looking to complete your own collection or looking to sell your old toys, it is important to know where you stand. Grading collectibles like this can be a subjective art, with different collectors or buyers looking for different elements. Some of the different grading levels to be aware of are:

A “mint condition” Redline will seem almost completely original and unused. The chrome wheels are perfect, the paint isn’t chipped or faded heavily and there are no major scratches or marks.
A “near mint” car may appear largely intact but has the minor defects that hinder it being rated as mint. These include minor fading or chipping of paint, some damage to the chrome wheels and so on.
An “excellent” Redline will have visible damage to the paint, the wheels and the body. While it completes a collection it would not be mistaken for an unused or mint level collectible.

Obviously the more damage to a particular car, the lower it will be rated and the less it will be worth. So it’s best to do your research, ask questions and that way you’ll have added to your collection wisely.