Expert Only versus Crowd-Sourcing, a Personal Perspective on how to build Collectible Databases

Rob with just a small portion of his collection.

For years, my site, South Texas Diecast, was one of the leading sources for Hot Wheels information on the internet. It catalogued thousands of Hot Wheels variations dating back 40 years – and I did all the cataloguing myself. It was a labor of love and I enjoyed every minute – but it was also exhausting and I started to wonder what would happen to the site in the future.

Like thousands of other collectors who build catalogs of their favorite collectibles online, I’d spent 16 years on STDC and because it was all me, I dreaded the thought that in the future it might become a similar “ghost site”, falling into neglect before ultimately disappearing when the hosting ran out.

Far too many good websites are not with us anymore


That was when hobbyDB stepped in and introduced me to the concept of crowd-sourced data. Of course, I was familiar with Wikipedia (who isn’t?) and it’s community-created information repository. But I hadn’t previously considered using the same model for STDC – which is just what hobbyDB was proposing.

The much wider mandate, documenting every collectible ever made excited me as I also collect records, my wife is a collector of Supernatural Collectibles and I have many more interests besides Hot Wheels. Wikipedia has nine pages on Hot Wheels, hobbyDB already has more than 31,500 pages on Hot Wheels related collectibles! I was also attracted by the fact that like Wikipedia hobbyDB has vowed in its Manifesto to be free forever.

Naturally, I had some questions and skepticism at first. After all, if STDC was a Wiki-type site, wouldn’t it be open to vandalism and manipulation? And even if incorrect data wasn’t maliciously-intended, how would we make sure that all the data entered by users was to my exacting standards?

Of course, these are all the same questions leveled at Wikipedia when it began. And as I researched, I realized that all of them had been answered. In 2005, a blind study was completed by the journal Nature that compared 42 science subjects and biographies between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica (here a write up about that study on the BBC site and here much more background on that subject). They concluded that “Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries”. And by that time Wikipedia was only four years old! From everything I could find Wikipedia not only got better over time but also more and more trusted.

Wikipedia is constantly gaining quality and trust, even compared to some of the most established expert only data sources in existence
Wikipedia is constantly gaining quality and trust, even compared to some of the most established expert only data sources in existence


A combination of a passionate userbase and the right amount of oversight ensures that data is exactly what it needs to be. Of course, that doesn’t happen overnight, as contributors need to find the project (whether that’s through their own efforts or marketing outreach), become familiar with the site and learn to work together. Given that hobbyDB is not a pure wiki either, time and effort has to be expended on developing proper tools too. hobbyDB is only 18 months old, so we still have a long way to go!

Just as Wikipedia introduced its famous “Talk” pages, at hobbyDB we take care of all of this in a similar way with a team forum. There, Curators (all our official data gatherers/editors get this title), Champions (Curators with enhanced on-site features and powers), the hobbyDB Advisory Board members and Admins can converge to discuss cataloging conventions, site improvements that would help their job and which bad data to weed out.

Many hands make light work, the saying goes, and that’s certainly proving to be true here. We’re far from being the only entertainment/research site in this space to follow the model either. IMdB and Bricklink are just two of the diverse examples of sites which have made this model work in spectacular ways.

Moving STDC to hobbyDB and starting to work in this way has certainly taken the pressure off of me and ensured the longevity of the data I spent so long putting together. I have seen others making the same move with the same feelings – worried before the transfer, relief afterwards.

Price Guide Update: Vision for the hobbyDB Value Guide


The hobbyDB Value Guide will be the most up-to-date and accurate on the net, primarily because we plan for it to be drawn from the most comprehensive range of data sources possible and to have it updated by many stakeholders in real time.

Our data sources will be:

Expert Opinion
As a jumping-off point, we’ll be using the opinions of leading brand and sector specialists (many of whom you’ll find as members of our Advisory Board) to get the price guide off to the best start possible. We’ve already introduced the ability for experts to add value information to items for examples of that item which are in perfect condition in and out of packaging.These expert views will be used to set a baseline, which will then be enhanced as we introduce other factors into the mix.

On-site Transactions
As the hobbyDB marketplace grows, so too will our repository of pricing data.We retain details of the price and condition of every item which sells on hobbyDB – something we designed into the site from the start. This will allow us to aggregate the prices into averages and track these over time, opening up a wealth of pricing data possibilities; users will be able to view all time highs and lows an item, see how the values have risen or fallen over time and get an up-to-the-minute value for the item in any condition.

Off-site Transactions
We’re always aware that some people will still be trading on other platforms besides hobbyDB (until they see the error of their ways!) and in real-world situations like toy fairs and shops.To accommodate this data, we plan to allow experts and buyers/sellers to enter values and conditions from offsite sales that they’ve verified or been a part of respectively. Users will then be able to view value information that includes these offsite sales or which is solely calculated on the basis of hobbyDB sales. We are also looking into the potential of scraping data from third party sites if they allow that – although this can present issues when it comes to matching item conditions.

We’re aware that sometimes users may simply feel that, however many factual data sources pricing information is derived from, it simply may not reflect their buying/selling experiences or what they’ve seen. As such, we plan to allow for “nudging,” whereby users can “nudge up” or “nudge down” prices. Of course, we’re also aware how open to abuse this could be, so limits will be in place on how many times a user can nudge a price for an individual item, details of nudges and their nudgers will be displayed prominently, and you’ll have the ability to view un-nudged pricing data too, of course.

hobbyDB Collectible Stats
With records of how many hobbyDB users own a particular item, in what conditions and how many other users have it on their want lists, we’ll be able to generate stats for rarity and desirability. But for items which are very rare and have no sales records, or very limited data, we can use these stats to create estimated values by looking at variants of these items – or other similar items if there are no variants – and combining this information with the number of “wants”.

Lastly, all of this will have to be displayed in an easy to understand fashion and should work well on small screens (think mobiles).

We have already added values to the 1995-2014 Treasure Hunts and we are continuing to updated more items everyday.

The Original Hot Wheels Entertainment Series


In 2013, Mattel/Hot Wheels introduced a new series called Retro-Entertainment (and has recently been shorten to just Entertainment) with model vehicles that were represented in major Television and Motion Picture franchises.  However, this isn’t the first time Hot Wheels has had a series called Entertainment.

In 2004 and 2005, Hot Wheels released several sets called Entertainment 2-Packs.  These were sets with two mainline vehicles, decorated with subjects from several different animated series and a couple from World Wrestling Entertainment.  These 2-Packs usually had a battle theme (such as Batman vs. Mr. Freeze and Yu-Gi-Oh vs. Summoned Skull).

When introduced, these were fairly popular and some of the sets disappeared quickly.  In 2004, there were 17 sets released and only 6 releases in 2005.

Hot Wheels Long Haulers & Pavement Pounders


One of the most popular series that Hot Wheels released was the 1998-1999 Long Haulers and the 2000-2003 Pavement Pounders .  These are sets with a Truck/Trailer combo and a Hot Wheels vehicle.   This series used popular castings including the ’57 Chevy, Scorchin’ Scooter, and the Dodge Viper.  These are now set up on hobbyDB as separate items (truck/trailer combo and the vehicle) and as sets.  This will allow you to add these to your collection whether you have them loose or in package.  In 2004, the series name changed to Truckin’ Transporters which is the next section that will have this feature soon.


You asked, we listened. Take a look at some of the new features coming in January & February

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really appreciated the supportive comments, helpful feedback and positive requests for features that STDC folks missed or wanted. As mentioned, my primary reason for transferring to hobbyDB was so that I could provide the features the Hot Wheels community has been asking for, but was unable to provide with a team of one (after all there was only me). Now I’m part of a team that is working hard to make sure that your experience is better than ever before. After more than 50 demos with some of you and a series of team meetings, we’ve created an action plan to address and prioritize the items that have been brought to our attention.

We have a Roadmap page that shows the list of features we plan on adding in the next couple of months. I will continue to update this road map with new features, so feel free to check back as often as you’d like. If you have any suggestions, we want to hear from you. We also are hosting site demos for anyone who wants to learn more about how to use hobbyDB. If you’d like to attend a demo, please email us at (we like doing these as we are learning a lot about how people use the site).

The HW Guide has now moved to hobbyDB!

hobbyDB Logo (Internet)We have teamed up with hobbyDB to create the most comprehensive Hot Wheels online database. You may be asking, what is hobbyDB and what do they know about Hot Wheels?

hobbyDB is the internet archive of all things collectible. It was founded by collectors and is managed by collectors. Their Advisory Board includes 58 of the respected collectors from all over the globe. At hobbyDB, you can research, document, track, wish, buy, and sell collectible items. There are many new features that are now available that South Texas Diecast did not have time or the resources to offer.

All the information that you’ve had access at South Texas Diecast is now available on hobbyDB (see the Casting Page and the Series Page in the top menu). In addition, the hobbyDB website has the ability to also document code 3s, card variations, customs, errors, and everything Hot Wheels related (comics, posters, hats, t-shirts, key rings, trading cards, store displays, printed catalogs, and many more). Members have the ability to add their own items that aren’t currently documented in the catalog. There are subject pages dedicated to many of the Hot Wheels designers, authors, and convention events.

Add to My CollectionThe most popular feature is being able to keep track of what is in your collection. Members can add items to their ‘collection’ and document condition (package and item), price paid, how and when it was acquired, storage location, additional notes, and add photos/images of their item. You can also choose to have the items private or public. This is also a great way to document your items for insurance purposes.

Add to Wish ListAnother popular feature is ‘Add to Wish List’. If there is something that you’ve been wanting to add to your collection but can’t find it, you can add it to your wish list. When that item becomes available, the system will notify you via email.

hobbyDB also has the ability to for subjects/castings to have ‘curators’ and ‘champions’. These are members who are experts on certain subjects and castings. The curators ensure that the listings are accurate and complete. Champions have additional tools to keep the database accurate and managed.

The goal at South Texas Diecast has always been about documenting the history of Hot Wheels. hobbyDB has provided the opportunity to keep this project alive and well for many generations to come.

We at South Texas Diecast and hobbyDB have worked hard on putting together this information and features for all collectors. If you see something that needs improvement or tweaking, feel free to email with your suggestions and comments. The hobbyDB team is very attentive to improving the collector experience for everyone.

Casting Spotlight: Dairy Delivery

Dairy DeliveryThe Dairy Delivery, designed by Phil Riehlman, debuted in the 1998 First Editions series. It is loosely based on the Divco Dairy Truck which was produced from 1926 to 1986.

The first release was White with Light Blue, Dark Blue, and Pink decoration. It has “Got Milk” on the sides which was a famous advertising campaign at the time. This first release was manufactured in Malaysia and China and has been found on Red or Blue cards.

In 2008 the Dairy Delivery was voted as number 22 into the Top 40 Hot Wheels of all time, today it might rank even higher (there are now more than 150 variants!).

This casting is very popular with customizers due to the large surface areas to apply their graphics/designs.

What does the Year on the Baseplate mean?

So you’ve found an old Hot Wheels car at a garage sale. You tried to find out more information but nothing matches the year on the base. This is a very common issue with all Hot Wheels.

Baseplate Year
The year is not an indication of when it was manufactured. It is the year that the casting design was copyrighted.

In the example, the ’57 Chevy has 1976 on the base. The first Hot Wheels ’57 Chevy wasn’t released until 1977. Most ’57 Chevys, regardless of when they were made, have 1976 on the base. In most instances, the date is one year before it’s initial release. The example above wasn’t produced until 2009 and was part of a 10 pack release.

What is a ZAMAC car?

A ZAMAC car is basically an unpainted car. ZAMAC is the material that Hot Wheels are casted from.

A normal painted version and the ZAMAC version

The term ZAMAC car was first used in 1998. There were 25 carded versions available at the ’98 convention along with a baggy Zamac and a 4 ZAMAC car set. Kay-Bee Toys also had some 2 car sets (Same casting, one painted, one unpainted or ‘ZAMAC’). In 2004, Mattel released some of the First Editions in ZAMAC. These were a Toys ‘R Us Exclusive but were later found at Target stores as well.  In 2013, Walmart issued 18 unpainted mainlines for their exclusive ZAMAC series.  These have a ZAMAC logo on the cards and are numbered 001 to 018.  Walmart continued these releases in 2014 and 2015 (18 cars each year).  Walmart also issued a premium ZAMAC exclusive car for their Rewards program in 2013, 2014, and 2015.