The Mattel Pixar CARS line is a runaway international phenomenon hit … and yet, over a year later, supply is nowhere near meeting demand – what happened … and what is happening?
First, we need to backtrack a little. For the past 10 years, the toy market has been losing kids earlier and earlier to video games or other more interactive toys (RC, etc …) so now the movie tie-in market is a shrunken shriveled former self – retail stores still like because they get a bit of marketing frenzy “excitement” of a major motion blockbuster like SPIDERMAN – so while you are shopping for soap and Doritos, they get a little glamour with a wall display of the latest blockbuster release but just like movies tend to die out after three weeks – so does the tie-in. Just look at SPIDERMAN or PIRATES of CARIBBEAN – both massive $300 million dollar hits but the toys are languishing on the shelves. Manufacturers have to strike that right balance between appealing to kids & moms and the other market – collectors. The kids & mom are a much bigger market but more concerned about playability and price while collectors are more concerned with everything else. What is the right balance – hard to say. Every once in a while you hit all the right notes … the king of the heap is obviously STARWARS but TRANSFORMERS is another one that is evergreen … and now CARS may have moved into that territory – rare even 20 years ago but now even more rare. You would be hard pressed to name another movie tie in that has the walls and pallets stripped bare after 15 MONTHS from its initial release so in many ways, you cannot fault Mattel 100% as they had no idea and the last thing they ever want to do is make way too many of something only to have to take them back or issue credits.
IN THE BEGINNING …
When Pixar announced they were doing CARS, I’m sure Mattel started dancing in the streets. Sure NEMO was a massive, massive hit but frankly, fish are not very fun as action figures. Now cars – that’s something!
Surprisingly, the Mattel CARS looked great. I expected them to cheap out and just slap a CARS logo on some Matchbox CARS … sort of like this …
Cute, sure but hardly very accurate – or did I miss the episode where the 5 year-old Dora drives a crew cab running over Swiper so he finally understands, “Swiper, no swiping.”
So, the excellent looking CARS – that was a pleasant surprise and a major contributor to its success.
QUALITY? Consumers like that? Humm, go figure …
But CARS, the movie was not as massive of a hit as NEMO, still a nice success ($220 million US gross) – not as successful overseas since the NASCAR-like Piston Cup runs on ovals while the worldwide F1 runs mostly on street courses – but still, people understood it and of course, cars – kids (and in particular, boys) still love CARS.
The initial shipment sold out quickly, they continue to re-stock – it continued to sell out – by end of summer, Mattel realized they had a hit. Even the playsets sold out immediately – another rarity as most playsets tend to get discounted as clearance. So by end of summer, Mattel realized they had something that would sell through the holidays (the DVD came out in November 2006) so they would get a holiday boost there but Mattel pretty much figured that would be it – by end of the holidays and into 2007, there would still be interested parties but not as crazy … THEY WERE WRONG.
AND THEN IT GOT CRAZY
If anything, it got crazier because … Mattel took their time to restock after the holidays. The stores don’t like to immediately re-stock anyway. They like to take inventory, figure out what sold and what they need to mark down and Mattel thinking the fury would be over – and to restock with a few new here and there but no real hurry – THEY COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG because if anything, hundreds of thousands if not millions of new collectors joined the fray … I got 10 CARS for Christmas syndrome … what do you mean there are 23 out? Or they got a box set and realized it came on cards also – gotta get those. So while millions started trying to complete their collection, the next shipments slowly moved across the Pacific (cheapest possible shipping). This was the time of the minor HAMM and later full-blown hysteria and fist-fights CRUSIN’ McQUEEN frenzy … because Mattel is known for their “Treasure Hunts” Hot Wheels and minor paint/design variants, people began to wonder if Hamm & Crusin’ McQueen were mythical chase cars since they did NOT appear on the new cardbacks … Hamm quickly appeared more often on the shelves so its prices dropped from $40 to more reasonable pretty rapidly but Crusin’ McQueen – while readily available on the 2-pack, the single card was very hard to find and people became hysterically convinced it was a Treasure Hunt NEVER to be seen again on an individual card and it became an eBay must-buy … in fact – reaching an unbelievable $150 for ONE single Crusin’ McQueen (and Flo’s Cafe was selling for up to $250 USD).
BECAUSE WE DIDN’T KNOW …
As Mattel added new CARS, they still continued to ship most cases with mostly “older” CARS – mainly because they still couldn’t believe they were coming up on a full year and people were still pretty much buying EVERYTHING (other than Sally, Sheriff & Buzz/Woody). But it takes time to sculpt, commit resources to new molds and shipping from China can take anywhere from a month to 2 months (shipping by air is not cost effective for something selling for $3.50) so Mattel was finally beginning to realize that they were entering new territory (and a profitable territory it was!) As evident by Comic Con, they were finally making a real commitment to CARS for 2007 and 2008 … but then the SARGE recall hit – setting everything back at least a month if not two or three.
So, now, Mattel is juggling a bunch of things – the recall, this crazy CARS selling frenzy – 16 months later, people are lining up at WM at 7 AM or if you’re lucky to land any ‘new” CARS, ANY new CARS, you can pretty sell them for $30-$40 for a week or two before it arrives elsewhere – for something with a retail price of $3.50 and what most people realize has a manufacturing run in the near millions (Mattel is recalling about 500,000 Sarge’s in a 6 month window so by extrapolating …). Mattel is trying to figure how to extend this into a new Barbie-GI Joe-Hot Wheels so it’s evergreen … at the same time trying to absorb as much money as possible while it’s white hot versus later when it might just be blue hot … and trying to balance the relationship of WM (largest toy retailer in the US now) with Target (#2 retailer) and the only major toy retailer (TRU) with exclusives to keep their interest.
In a nutshell – supply has not really met demand after 16 months.
And that’s just the US!
It’s no wonder they have half forgotten about Canada, Europe and other English speaking countries where CARS did well …
Supply has not met demand because in respective order: surprise, still surprised, holy cow surprise after the holidays, okay – we almost have it, recall – demand rises but supply line halted and now the WM massacre.
Presuming 3,800 WM stores each got 144 CARS, that’s about 550,000 or about $1.6 million USD worth sold in how many minutes? Then presume each WM store will get another 144 for the next 4 … if you time-lapsed each store – how fast will those sell?
Amazing if the movie was coming out next weekend but 16 months later?
it might be too early to call it but I think we have reached a point of normalcy in this line! Mattel is actually shipping in right quantities and boxes are packed 50% with the NEWEST CARS and the box that follows is also 50-75% of the last month releases so finally, things are normalizing! No more crazy paying $40 for a new CAR or waiting 5-6 MONTHS for something new to appear on the shelves … one bit of strong evidence – none of the new CARS are over $10 on eBay because the math is like this – most large stores are ordering 5-10 cases of A, B & C – add to the fact that most places have a ratio of 4 WM to 3 Targets to 1 TRU plus a few other stores in the mix, now within a 20-miles radius, in theory, you might be able to find 60-150 of EACH of the new CARS – way too many for scalpers to suck up. I think the Movie Moments are still in slight short supply as retailers are not ordering as many of those (and why is Mike & Sulley still being packed?) but since the Movie Moment boxes pretty much repeat themselves, don’t worry – eventually you will find them.
Mattel is also packing better – most boxes are 50-75% from the last month shipments and not CARS from 2006 as much … so someone say hallelujah!
For retailing geeks, there is also the bigger issue of WM trying to throw their weight around. WM is now the largest toy retailer in the US but all the toy manufacturers want to help TRU stay in business so it’s a balancing act in not upsetting WM but helping TRU if possible. While Target also sells a lot of toys, their interest is less than WM since the count more on their apparel business to bring in customers. There are rumors that WM is trying to make certain they are being serviced first and as evident over the late summer with the WM 8 CARS, it’s hard to say no to WM when they can order and apparently sell around 1-million CARS+ (and we’re just talking about their exclusive 8) … so you can see if WM decides that Mattel should sell them a particular box and they’ll take 50,000 boxes … Mattel has a tendency to listen when you want 50,000 boxes … so if you want to help balance the relationship, make sure to shop at TRU first, then Target & WM (no other retailer matters very much in the big scheme of things).
RELEASE PRICING TRENDS
For some people (and it really only takes less than 50 people), time is money and they love being first so they are willing to spend anywhere from $15 to $40 to be first/near first and for them, paying 10+ times the cost of retail is no big deal to them since now they can just say they are done and apparently they like eating sugar frosted gold flakes. DON’T PANIC! Just like there are people who like jumping out of perfectly good airplanes – hey whatever. Like the parachute, it will eventually drift back down to Earth. It might take a few weeks (like the WM Cars as a set of 4 are a more reasonable $20-$25 with shipping). The main problem is that with the two major hiccups with this line so far just THIS YEAR creates the perception that all is lost and panic first. Because Mattel essentially didn’t ship for two months at the beginning of the year and NOW, a second TWO MONTH GAP with the recall, it appears that all is out of whack and in many ways it is – the first gap caused the Crusin’ McQueen to race to $150 dollars and now this second gap has kept Cartrip/Dale Jr/Yeti at $20 to $40 levels for 2 MONTHS but it will end soon so don’t panic – unless you want to. It’s your money. You can spend it as you see fit (just like there’s a guy on eBay auctioning off 20 Sally’s).
Holy cow – it might be too early to call it but I think we have reached a point of normalcy in this line! Mattel is actually shipping in right quantities and boxes are packed 50% with the NEWEST CARS and the box that follows is also 50-75% of the last month releases so finally, things are normalizing! No more crazy paying $40 for a new CAR or waiting 5-6 MONTHS for something new to appear on the shelves … on bit of strong evidence – none of the new CARS are over $10 on eBay because the math is like this – most large stores are ordering 5-10 cases of A, B & C – add to the fact that most places have a ratio of 4 WM to 3 Targets to 1 TRU plus a few other stores in the mix, now within a 20-miles radius, in theory, you might be able to find 60-150 of EACH of the new CARS – way too many for scalpers to suck up. I think the Movie Moments are still in slight short supply as retailers are not ordering as many of those (and why is Mike & Sculley still being packed?) but since the Movie Moment boxes pretty much repeat themselves, don’t worry – eventually you will find them.
Mattel is also packing better – most boxes are 50-75% from the last month and not CARS from 2006 as much … so someone say hallelujah!
But depending on where you live and your time, you might still need eBay – there are still no online retailers that can reasonably supply you regularly – every once in a whiel you might get lucky and the multi-packs are online at TRU or WM but nothing you can count on regularly.
Plus stores are anxious to get EVERYTHING out the back room and onto the floor so if you see someone from the department stocking or milling about – ASK!
WHERE TO BUY ONLINE?
They are back online at toyrus.com (link should bring up ALL CARS available).
Walmart.com does sell some of the CARS larger items online (of course, not the exclusives – what, you want easy? 😉 … one nice feature for international travelers is that you can use their SHIP TO STORE feature so you can time it accordingly … they will ship FREE to a specific store, go to the customer service area to pickup. Good luck!
KBToys.com carries the single cars in store and sold them individually last year but hasn’t done so in a long time. They do carry the movie moments packs – of course, in the US, they are EVERYWHERE but for int’l CARS fans, this might be the only way to go.
As noted, KB is closing 156 stores, follow the store locator link to see if one is in your neighborhood – the stores closing will start to liquidate merchadise on 11/8. The other thing to note that most now believe KB is on its last legs and presumably after Christmas, all of the retail stores might close (maybe just live on the web?) so a lot of manufacturers and distributors might not continue to sell to KB unless KB pays them in cash upfront … what that means is they are unlikely to get a lot of “new” things – particularly a hot line like CARS that Mattel can sell to anyone else or even to help prop up TRU.
Kohl’s has stopped selling the Luigi’s playset online but many people report seeing it on the shelves at larger Kohl’s stores so if you’re looking for one – check in store or have relatives check in the other parts of the country where there are more Kohl’s (not as many out West).
Because of distribution limitations, most US stores cannot offer shipping overseas so hopefully you have relatives here in the US.
You can also check Amazon.com and clicked on the USED link. Their main retailer partners sell at a large markup but they also sell for smaller retailers/individuals listed on the right under USED/NEW* – the set price for shipping might be a tad high so it may not be worth your while but it’s another place to check.
*the “used” notation is really for DVD’s & books – all toys sold are sealed and new.
HOW TO BUY FROM OVERSEAS?
Of course, having a relative would be nice. But otherwise, this might be the kookiest suggestion ever but for overseas customers who are fanatical CARS or other collector, there is a way to get a US postal address – through places such as “the UPS Store” which used to go by a moniker that might make more sense – Mailboxes, Etc … they sell private “mailboxes.” By paying around $20 a month, you get a mailbox and you can direct mail there. It’s better than the post office where yes, you can get a PO Box but better than the US Post Office because some places refuse deliver to a PO Box AND you can ask them to re-package and re-direct mail to you (for an extra charge, of course) or even hold it for MONTHS until you arrive … so if you know you’re coming to the US or you don’t mind the expense of having them re-send it to you … check the link above and call or fax them on getting you setup. There are smaller ones in each city so if you visit often for work or you make annual trips, you don’t have to go with them but they are the largest and affliated with UPS now.
Need a US credit card? Man, do we have to do everything for you? 🙂 You can get someone to buy you a pre-paid Visa card, MasterCard or American Express. Now, there are extra fees that you don’t normally have to pay but having a US credit card of course makes many transactions easier and with the dollar down 20-50% from last year, hey, it’s all just play money, right 🙂
Of course, WM, Target, TRU, KB’s and out West people report finding them at Mervyn’s even though their toy section us sometimes just 3 small display cases … same with Kohl’s – all depending on how large your closest one is. Kroeger owns like 20 supermarket chains and some carry toys like Fred Meyer so might be worth a look.
Others worth checking out if you’re right next door or are there shopping anyway – Walgreen’s and Long’s Drugs (last two are drugstores but sell a little of everything).
Another chain that carries them in the stores is KMart but after emerging from bankruptcy and a merger with Sears, the quality and quantity of stock varies greatly from store to store – so you could get lucky and find it in pristine shape with everything in stock or you might think you wandered into a store after a riot … Sears also sells toys but in most Sears stores now, the toy department is pretty small though in some Sears stores, they are actually setting up a holiday section with a space for CARS so who knws what they will actually get (Target returns? 🙂 ) but if you’re there, it might be worth a look but otherwise, not worth making a specific trip.
If you’re a visitor to the US and you’re in Disneyland or DisneyWorld, of course they also sell CARS – I think priced around $6. In DisneyWorld, check out the merchandise stands outside of attractions, such as the Buzz Lightyear ride or the Flik attraction in the Animal Kingdom. For actual stores, check out “World of Disney” or “Once Upon A Toy” in Disney Downtown, “The Emporium” on Main Street, “The Merchant of Venus,” in Tomorrowland, and the Peter Pan ride in Fantasyland. As with every other store selling CARS, it’s hit or miss but since you’re there and spending $8 for a pretzekl, might as well spend $6 for a CAR (You save 10% if you have an annual pass).
Note – the Disney Stores are NO longer actually owned by Disney so they do NOT carry the CARS diecast Mattel 1:55 line – they have been selling some figurines that are quasi in scale (some as about 1:55, others are more like 1:4) but be careful, they are NOT the Mattel line. You will occasionally see them on eBay – some decent sellers pointing out they are from the Disney Store and figurines (made of plaster) but other less scrupulous ones will try and pawn it off as “rare,” DON’T BE FOOLED! The figurines pack are oval shaped – no Mattel multi-pack comes in an oval shaped box. Every Mattel multi-pack is square or rectangular (okay, there are a couple other oddball sizes but just be wary of oval shaped boxes purporting to be ‘rare.’)
One other place to take note of are comic or toy shows in your area. While HotWheelsCollectors Club does list some of the larger ones, some/many smaller ones may not be listed so check your local paper – there is unfortunately no master listing for the country and keep in mind, most charge admission and if you’ve never gone, it’s difficult to gauge how many dealers are there so keep that in mind. If your area has a large flea market, you can also check there … and take home a giant Sinclair Oil sign while you’re at it 🙂
SMALLER ONLINE RETAILERS?
While they do practice variable pricing (understandable since you can see supply & demand on eBay – why sell cheap just so someone else can post it on eBay?), their prices are a reasonable markup here at Diecast Plus. Another place with a nice selection and reasonable pricing is All Aboard Toys (great selection on other toys and free shipping $49+). If there other online retailers you feel are reasonable, add it to the comments and if they pass muster, we’ll add them to the post.
For those completing your collections, be sure and check out Children’s Toy Closet which seems to offer the best individual CARS pricing throughout – also the in-stock counter is a very nice touch. They do ship international and they offer cases also. It looks they are in Michigan for those who factor in taxes for online purchases. They aso sell cases at a reasonable price – link below.
Yes, there are other smaller retailer that sells CARS online but at prices that are at a vast markup for the most part. Of course, they have a right to sell anything at any price but I’m not going to offer them any encouragement or links. If anything, you are better off on eBay – at least, it’s the “market” price – as long as you wait out the impatient ones 🙂 Hopefully next year will be better as shipments will not just be 75-90% 2006 CARS as many shipments were this year and we’ll be happy to add other online retailers.
Yes, Mattel actually has retail stores and some people reported they were selling CARS for $1 USD so if you’re in the area, check it out. The most obvious and easily accessible is in El Segundo (near Mattel HQ’s and near LAX). They also have a store in the City of Industry and Pomona so if you’re driving in from the Ontario (CA) airport, into town, it’s quasi convenient. They also have a store in San Bernardino, CA – two in Texas, Ft. Worth & Laredo and the strangest choice of all – Middleton, WI (sorry Middleton 🙂 ). Directions and hours are here but they do NOT do mail order.
WHERE TO BUY SEALED BOXES?
If you decide that buying them by the sealed box is the way to go, you can do the math, it’s about $75 to $90 a box for 18. That includes shipping (@$10 in the US). As we point out in our post which debates buying by the sealed box or by the “normal” route, there’s less of the thrill of the hunt but there’s also less of wanting to pound sand or worse, wanting to pound sand with the retail clerk 😦
ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING is to read is our post on 2008 releases READ carefully and note the ENTIRE shipment CODE NUMBER such as the one shipping now – HWM1054-A and the subsequent numbers for 2008.
Some online reatilers to look first for SEALED BOXES include:
A newcomer and welcome addition is Children’s Toy Closet which seems to specialize in Mattel and in particular CARS. If you haven’t purchase CASE A, B or C and are interested, the are running a special discount of @$50 for the case. They do ship international and they take credit cards via Paypal (they also accept checks & money orders).
One the mainstay retailers to consider for sealed box ordering is 1StopDiecast, very reputable and excellent double packing. They are a little more than most at $88 (which DOES includes shipping in the US though you have to add taxes if you live in CA). Their website is the most customer friendly listing what Mattel has announced for each shipment for 2008 and its box code. Simply click on each one you want to order. The only sight confusion is the first listing is a I-want-order-every shipment-box-order so unless you want that, scroll down a little. They do not charge your credit until the order ships – you get a UPS email letting you know its shipped and when to expect it. They answer emails and phones promptly and it’s easy to cancel any order that has NOT shipped and since they do not charge your credit until it ships, anything you order way in advanced is a simple null transaction if things change (such as this year when Mattel canceled V & W shipments). They also sell Movie Moments by the case. They do NOT sell individual CARS. They do ship international.
BigBadToyStore is another reputable dealer with great customer service that I have personally ordered from. Their price of @$70 a case does not include shipping. They carry lots of other toys and they answer emails promptly – highly recommended.
They are the first place I’ve seen that is offering the new LAUNCHERS sealed box – 6 in the box though it is unclear how each case is packed:
Collectible Diecast I know they have been around a while though I have personally never ordered from them. They list the current shipment – HWM1054-A – specifically (which means you know exactly what you’re getting) at $75 (shipping is @$10). They do note that they are now carrying the Pixar CARS line – they have been a long time Mattel product retailer.
One other option is Mason Distributing. They are selling cases for $69 but I believe they charge a @$7 handling fee and presumably your normal shipping – @$10 USD so in the end, it may not be a huge bargain. They also do not list the shipment codes so you will need to email them beforehand.
Of course, there’s also eBay – not usually the cheapest way to go but always a consideration.
And yes, people always ask if they can just open up an account with Mattel – yes – as long as you have a real business storefront and you’re willing to spend a minimal amount each quarter (I’m pretty sure it’s in the thousands but I do not recall the exact amount) but in either case, not something you lightly get into …
From reader “galaia2004”
… On amazon.co.uk I have found some good prices for the Movie Moment double packs. They have the Mike/Sulley and Buzz/Woody packs at £2.99 each (which is half price). They also have new-ish cars such as Dinoco Chick and Hydraulic (Red) Ramone at normal price (£2.99). Be sure to check that the supplier is Amazon, and spend over £15 to get free delivery.”
Fortunately, Mattel is wising up for 2008 and the shipments make a lot more sense – new CARS are double shipped and every other month, the other CARS in the box tend to be more recent releases and not repeats from the original 12 CARS …
Our post on what’s coming in 2008.
And if you’re out West, here’s why it’s harder to find WM exclusives.
And pure speculation about what might be coming in 2008 or 2009?
If you need some display ideas, we’ve added some info to our HOW TO COLLECT post … because I know you’d rather have a custom display case than straight teeth for the kids 🙂
OUR OTHER POSTS:
If you want a recap of the Mattel Pixar CARS line from the beginning.
Unlike other toys/hot items that stay hot for a few weeks or months – this Mattel Pixar CARS diecast line has pretty been SIZZLING for 16 months – not just rare but almost un-heard of.
The post below outlines why the line is so difficult and some solutions. There is a list of the main retailers, some online options and for international customers, some options.
BUYING CASES & WHAT’S NEXT
First, one way to skip the driving around is to buy sealed cases, here is a brief rundown on what that is AND what are the CARS coming this holiday season (the last two months of 2007):
And what’s coming in 2008 by the sealed case:
Or what’s the latest on the shelf cards & CARS look like?
If you wish to plot out what CAR will make its first appearance & in what box in 2008, a friend of 2aDay has thoughtfully provided a spreadsheet you can download or it’s also been added to our online checklist/spreadsheet.
HOW TO COLLECT
For those on the intermediate & advanced stages of this obsession (yes, I has the fever! I has the fever 🙂 ) … you’ll want a “field guide” to spotting what’s what:
A Basic Checklist (in spreadsheet form)
The checklist offers a few versions on how you like your poison 😉
Then of course, a more indepth guideline on how to collect them – just one of each? one of each available on a different card?
As you progress further, you might need or want a guide to understanding what do the three different designs on the front indicate and how complete of a collector you want to be:
Info on the Blu-Ray Dinoco “Blu” CAR
MORE INFORMATION THAN NORMAL
Of course, by now, you’ll want to know everything and plan your budget carefully … Mattel will definitely release 35/36 of the Piston Cup Racers in one massive collector’s set but will they release them in smaller sets? Our speculation on why rioting is probably not necessary:
If you prefer to see some of the cardbacks in a larger file size or to view the two posters for a visual look at the CARS to collect, our FLICKER page is here.
Did you know the Blu-Ray DVD (for HDTV’s) will include a “name-spotter” feature that will let you see the names of 217 CARS within the movie?
And while we’re at it – pure speculation on our part as to what might be coming next?
Whether you want a nice display case or a plastic box to keep it night and sealed/unopened, here are some links that should point you in the right direction.
Here’s what my collection looks like so far … just on a bookcase now because I’m too scared to look at another “easy assemly” instruction 🙂 though that Ikea glass case looks like nice and at a great price
MORE USEFUL INFORMATION
Details on the Mattel sponsorship & CARS charity auction for CAAF (Children Affected by AIDS Foundation):
While Frank the Combine on eBay seems enticing, you might want to know that he’s very small and all plastic but there are some other options …
The 2006 Mattel Factory Set …
Too much money in your bank account – starting collecting the other CARS line …
The Sarge Recall:
Nothing very insightful about what’s coming but still good to know that CARS is bringing in money and everything is looking smooth.
CARS 2, THE SEQUEL?
Yes, more speculation & answers on our part but the stars and other things seem to be syncing up for a 2011 sequel: