With this weekend the first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series of races, many racing fans are avid collectors of NASCAR die-cast cars and model car kits.

You can start small, buying small race car replicas such as Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars of your favorite driver and move on up in the size and type of replica car you want to collect. The kind that you can collect depends mainly on the money you are prepared to spend.

The model and die-cast cars have been popular for years with kids and adults and have a great following since NASCAR was founded in 1948.

To brush up on terms:

• Die-cast cars are pre-assembled, made of metal and factory-produced. The most collectible are those in mint condition in their original boxes.

• Model kits contain molded plastic pieces that you carefully assemble and decorate with decals and can take many hours to work on, though the big dollars are in the unassembled models in their original sealed boxes.

Some fans like to use model kits that are non-NASCAR, and use decals and other extra parts to build their own car to their liking.

The first NASCAR model kits were produced after World War II, with the look similar to a street car. In 1982, Monogram came out with the first modern NASCAR car kit. In 1984, Ertl followed with not only kits, but radio-controlled die-cast models. Soon other companies including Revell and Action followed. Hot Wheels and Matchbox also joined the race.

NASCAR drivers like this loyalty. You are not building or collecting a Chevrolet NASCAR, you are building and collecting a Dale Earnhardt NASCAR or any other driver’s NASCAR replica car. This is when the collection and value of your model cars goes up, when it’s related to a popular driver — the more popular and successful the driver, the higher the value.

The cost of model kits is a bit more expensive to produce now, and the sale of these are also up, so collectors have shifted to die-cast cars. According to Collectors Weekly magazine, Revell, one of the main manufacturers of NASCAR model kits, recently discontinued its line of NASCAR models because of prohibitive licensing fees. Revell still sells slot cars.

The most common scale for NASCAR models is 1/24. The price range can start low and go on up to $100 or more.

Tips to collecting

If you do go online and find some memorabilia cars, do make sure they come with a money-back guarantee in case you are not satisfied. Be sure that you do get a certificate of authenticity. All authentic racing memorabilia cars should come with a certificate.

Before you start a collection, determine what type of collectible car you want to start to collect. Do your research before you shop. This can be a costly hobby.

Always refer to a NASCAR collectible pricing guide to determine the most accurate price. Pricing guides are perhaps the most accurate for this hobby. They usually include the current market value in various sizes as well. Make sure the price guide is not out-of-date. The current market value of a particular car is not the same as it was five years ago. Popular price guides that I found for die-cast replicas include www.diecastregistry.net and www.diecast-value.com.

Where to find

At Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona, Brenda Jannsen said, “We have multiple dealers who have many NASCAR racing cars to add to your collection and some are also on a sale this month.”

At Mantorville Square, Mantorville, Paul Larsen said, “We have a nice selection of 1/64 scale NASCAR racing cars by Revell, Winner’s Circle and Racing Champions, which are priced slightly higher from our small die-cast cars such as Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.”

At New Generations of Harmony, Harmony, Joan Thilges said, “We currently have about a dozen vendors who carry Matchbox or Hot Wheels, with individual cars ranging from $3 to $12 each with sets of multiple vehicles ranging from $15 to $19.”

Also take a look at what some are selling at local auctions, auction websites such as eBay, Amazon and Overstock are a few places. Remember these are places where the seller sets the price — the price is not necessarily the actual value.

Sandy Erdman, a Winona freelance writer, dealer, speaker and certified appraiser. If you have a shop, collect anything or restore antiques or collectibles and want to share with others within this column. Contact Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.

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