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Tiny Cars, Big Prices: 5 Really Expensive Toy Cars

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For over 50 years, kids have spent their summer afternoons playing with toy cars sporting the Matchbox or Hot Wheels logos. As these kids grow up and are looking to recapture some of that childhood bliss, they wind up paying a pretty penny for cars that once went for small change. Here are five examples.

Matchbox

Started in 1953 by the British company Lesney Products, the Matchbox line of toy cars lived up to their name, as they were designed to fit inside a matchbox so kids could take them to school. Due to their longevity in the market, there are plenty of devoted fans who still collect these small-scale vehicles today. And some of these fans are willing to pay as much for a car that fits in a matchbox as they are for one that fits in a garage.

1. 1961 Magirus Deutz Crane, AKA "Matchbox No. 30"

When Matchbox released their "No. 30" car in 1961, a crane truck whose full-sized counterpart was built by German manufacturer Magirus Deutz, it came with a silver body and an orange crane. Before it was discontinued in 1965, there were as many as 27 variations of the truck, ranging from the type of rivets used to a smooth or bumpy cover on the bottom. Depending on the variation, the value can fall anywhere between $30 - $100. But unless you're a collector, you'd probably never know the difference from one car to the next.

There is one variant that just about anyone would notice, but trucks with that variant are nearly impossible to find. Instead of the standard silver body and orange crane, a handful of pre-production models were light brown and had either a red or an orange crane. Because this color scheme is extremely rare, it demands a high price from collectors. In the 1980s, collector Charlie Mack purchased a brown No. 30 at a neighbor's garage sale for $10. Three years later, he sold it at auction for $10,000. In 2004, Jim Gallegos, whose 35,000 car collection is worth over $1.4 million, purchased a brown No. 30 crane for $13,000. Considering the original price for the toy would have been less than 50 cents, that's quite a nice return on investment.

2. The Matchbox Quarry Truck

Before Lesney Products' Matchbox line really took off, the company considered manufacturing larger model cars and trucks called the "Major Scale" collection. While a normal Matchbox car is around 2" long, the Major Scale models would have been closer to 10 or 11". As a proof of concept in 1954, a handful of Major Scale prototype dump trucks were personally made by chief model maker Ken Wetton. However, right about that time is when the smaller vehicles started to become popular, so the idea for larger versions was abandoned.

Over the years, the other prototype trucks were lost, but one remained in the Lesney offices as a souvenir. That truck is believed to be the only prototype left, as well as the only surviving example of work that can be directly attributed to Ken Wetton. Because of the sentimental value to the company, it was thought the truck would never be sold, making it truly the Holy Grail of Matchbox enthusiasts. Therefore, it came as quite a surprise when, in the mid-1980s, word spread that the truck had been purchased by a relatively unknown collector out of Japan, Takuo Yoshise.

In March of 2010, Takuo Yoshise decided it was time to pass on his coveted treasure to someone else. The truck was put up for auction at a collector convention in England and wound up going for $15,000, making it the largest sum ever paid for a Matchbox car.

Hot Wheels

In 1968, toy company Mattel released a line of miniature cars that took their inspiration from the "Kustom Kar Kulture" that was popular in California. The initial line, now known as the "Sweet 16," offered muscle cars and forward-thinking concept cars, decked out in "Spectraflame" paint jobs that were far removed from the colors you'd see on the real-life showroom floor. To highlight their roots, the little vehicles sported miniature red-rimmed tires, called "Redlines", modeled after the kind that were popular on the real Kustom Kars of the time. Thanks to their novel approach to the toy line, Hot Wheels were an instant success and are still incredibly popular with collectors today.

3. The Beatnik Bandit

One of the original Sweet 16 cars was based on the 1963 show car, The Beatnik Bandit. The car, a futuristic, fiberglass two-seater with a see-through Plexiglass bubble top, was designed and built by none other than Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, one of the most famous car customizers, best-known for creating the counter-culture cartoon character Rat Fink.

The toy Bandit, like all Sweet 16 cars, was produced in a variety of bright, metallic colors. Some, like red, blue, green, and orange, were more common than others. But the rarest of all was hot pink. The hot pink was introduced to the Hot Wheels line shortly after they were first released, in an effort to get girls interested in toy cars. It didn't work, so the color was discontinued, making these cars very rare today. So rare that a "loose" (meaning it was not in its original package) hot pink Bandit sold for $7,070 in 2004. Four years later, a MIB (Mint In Box) hot pink Bandit sold on eBay for $15,250.

4. 1969 VW "Beach Bomb"

Hot Wheels fans will always remember the orange, snap-together racetracks used to create their own racecourse through the kitchen. Making sure that every car runs smoothly on the tracks has always been a concern for Mattel, even today. In 1969, Mattel had to go back to the drawing board more than once to get a newly-designed Volkswagen van called "The Beach Bomb" to fit properly on the tracks. The van, featuring two surfboards that stuck out the back window, was too narrow to run down the track without bumping off the sides, nor could it fit inside a motorized propulsion unit that was sold separately.

After 16 prototypes had been created, the engineers came up with a radical redesign that placed the surfboards on each side of the vehicle, in special stowaway compartments. Not only was this a more off-the-wall car, but it also made the vehicle wider so it would fit on the racetrack. The new design might have fixed the problem, but that has only made the too-skinny Beach Bomb prototypes all the more desirable to Hot Wheels collectors.

People go crazy whenever a new rear-loading Beach Bomb comes on the market, regardless of color or condition. Top of the line examples routinely selling for $15,000 or more. But there is one Beach Bomb out there that could be considered the holiest of Holy Grails "“ a hot pink, rear-loading Beach Bomb. Collector Chris Marshall bought the only known copy of the car from a former Mattel engineer in 1998, as part of a $9,000 purchase of 250 cars, including 25 prototypes. He turned around and sold the hot pink Bomb a year later to big-time collector Bruce Pascal for a cool $72,000. Marshall sold his little car and bought a big one "“ a brand-new Dodge Viper. Pascal took his pink prototype on the road, visiting Hot Wheels conventions and lending it to automobile museums for the world to see.

5. 40th Anniversary Hot Wheels Car

While there's always a chance another hot pink Beach Bomb prototype could appear, there is one Hot Wheels car that is guaranteed to be the one and only model ever produced. It was customized by "jeweler to the stars" Jason of Beverly Hills in 2008 to commemorate Hot Wheels' 40th Anniversary and the production of car number 4,000,000,000 (yes, four billion) in the Hot Wheels line.

The special-edition car was cast in 18-karat white gold, then covered in 1,388 blue diamonds, 988 black diamonds, 319 white diamonds, and 8 rubies, for a total of nearly 23 carats of precious gems worth $140,000. The showpiece came in a custom display case embedded with an additional 40 white diamonds "“ one for each year of the toy line's history. The diamond-studded car and display case were put up as part of a charity auction for Big Brothers Big Sisters. While the gems might have been worth $140,000, the car only sold for $60,000. Quite a bargain.
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What was your favorite Hot Wheels or Matchbox car when you were a kid? What's the highest price you've ever paid to get back a piece of your childhood? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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