Tragically, I sold my Hot Wheels collection when I was 11 years old. At the time, the family was moving into a new house and for some reason, I thought I had outgrown these toys that had kept my busy, and happy, for so many years.
For approximately $20, I off-loaded 100 cars in two 50-car Hot Wheels carrying cases. I was proud then. Today, I mourn the loss of 100 close friends. By the time I was 20, I’d realized my mistake and became a semi-avid collector once more. Today, I have scarcely more than 150 cars and continue to purchase the occasional Matchbox, Majorette, Hot Wheels, and Tomica.
The latter brand is less known on this side of the Earth. Unless diecast cars are a thing with you, you’ll likely have not heard of this company that started making 1/64 scale models in 1970, only a few years after Hot Wheels.
Now, although more than 4 billion Hot Wheels have been sold since the beginning, Tomica’s roughly 600 million units doesn’t seem like much. Do keep in mind that for many years, Tomica toys were branded “Pocket cars” in Canada and the United States, and were rare. Only in 2010 did Tomica truly enter the North American and European markets. For a number of years, Tomica produced only JDM models, limiting its appeal on other markets.
Another reason that explains why Tomica’s not experienced the same wild success as Hot Wheels is that many of their models were of typical non-modified production cars, devoid of fancy colours and fluff. On top of that, trains, boats and construction equipment were also part of the collections, once more creating a certain amount of disinterest in the toys. Today however, the fact that run-of-the-mill cars and trucks are available has widely increased the toy’s charm.
Fast forward to 2017 and there are now no fewer than 140 models to select from at all times. The majority of the large-scale automakers are represented and the cars range from late-model or even new products to ever-cool classic cars. Over the last 45 years, nearly 900 models have been released through a number of various series including Dream Tomica, Tomica Hyper, and Tomica Premium.
My last two trips to the Tokyo Motor Show brought me face-to-face with Tomica’s enormous display on the top floor of the East Hall at Tokyo’s Big Sight International Exhibition Center. I had heard of the brand but it was here that the sheer scale and popularity of the toy was made obvious to me. According to Tomica, their market penetration in Japan is nearly complete. They’ve calculated that more or less 90% of the country’s population knows about the brand and/or owns a toy from the maker. That’s impressive.
To go along with the toy cars, Tomica sells what they call Tomica World and Tomica Town which consists of various settings, be they a car factory, a police station, a parking structure, a construction site or a typical town setting. With the available Connecting Road box, you can do just between settings.
There’s much more to Tomica toys and I invite you to check out their English website despite it not having been updated in a year.