SHAWNEE, Kans. — Thanks to his mother’s precautionary actions, Kansas City-area sign shop employee Marcus Cockroft, 30, is the lucky recipient in a windfall most pickers only dream about. Finding himself in need of a new (to him) work truck since his vehicle was on its last legs, earlier this year he decided to raise some extra money by selling off items on eBay and Craigslist.
His mother, Linoma, contributed to his enterprise by digging out long-forgotten trays filled
with old Hot Wheels from a closet. Decades earlier she had purchased the crate of little cars at a thrift store for less than $20 because she felt bad about her older son’s loss of his collection to a misguided cousin.
Marcus says when he first received the Hot Wheels from his mother, “I played with them a little, until she thought the wiser and took them away from me for safe keeping. She didn’t really know if they had value, just that they were old.” The Redlines stayed in the closet until January of this year.
On January 26, 2013, two days after receiving the cars from his mother the second time, Marcus posted them as a single lot on Craigslist. He says, “I was very fortunate that the local few that viewed it were ignorant.” He admits he probably would have let everything go for $1,200; a tidy sum, but nowhere near the collection’s aggregate value.
Trying to find out exactly what he had before listing the cars for sale, Marcus began searching Google for the most valuable Hot Wheels. Turning up on the search was a 1968 White Enamel Custom Camaro. According to “Hot Wheels Classics, The Redline Era,” by Angelo Van Bogart, the 1968 Custom Camaro “was among the first castings to be released, and in a dizzying amount of variations.”
According to Mike Zarnock, author of a dozen books on Hot Wheels and contributing editor at Die Cast X Magazine, “Marcus found one of the rarest Hot Wheels cars of its time. Less than 50 of these cars have been found and are highly sought after by collectors.”
He couldn’t be sure, but it looked like one of the cars in his case. Seeking the help of the
experts, Marcus sent pictures to two local collectors. He explains, “One of them said he was sorry, but this was a remake from 1987. The other said he was 99 percent sure it was a fake; if I didn’t get it from a convention that it likely wasn’t real.”
Marcus joined the forums trying to find out information, wanting to make sure he described the car accurately; and, if he really did have the rare 1968 White Enamel Camaro, who better to offer it to than dedicated collectors. However, forum discussions show the online Hot Wheels collectors were skeptical, as well.
Still determined, Marcus found Michael Otte and his website www.HWProtos.com, which is dedicated to providing information on Hot Wheels prototypes. Marcus says, “Through photo verification of its many angles, and having me write down the tiny numbers on the inside of the roof, he confirmed it to be 100 percent authentic.”
Now that he knew he had an authentic, valuable collectible on his hands, Marcus needed to convert it into a much-needed work vehicle. “I had immediate interest in purchases, turning down an offer as high as $1,900. For over a week I attempted to trade it straight up for an actual pickup from local Chevy dealerships, but didn’t get more than a passing interest.”
Disappointed, but nowhere near ready to give up, Marcus listed his Camaro for sale on online Hot Wheels forums. Still met with skepticism, he received some “lowball” offers, but turned them down and continued on his quest.
He decided to list the Camaro on eBay. Initially posting it as an auction with a starting bid of $2,800, and gathering dozens of watchers, “several messages of interest,” but no bids, Marcus re-listed the Camaro as a “Buy It Now” (BIN) for $4,000, then thought better of it and listed it for $3,500. Then, once eBay allowed him to, Marcus made a final price adjustment to $2,600, bringing the listing more in line with actual sale prices. EBay user Kid-Rock-Fan, aka Erin Evans, contacted Marcus with an offer of $1,900, but Marcus told him he didn’t want to go that low, “especially with eBay fees.”
After confirming the car was a legitimate 1968 Custom Camaro, Erin offered Marcus $2,090 to help cover the eBay fees. Marcus countered with $2,100 and the deal was struck on February 26. Marcus packaged up the Camaro and sent it off to Utah.
But the story doesn’t end there: Marcus divvied up the balance of his closet-cache of Hot Wheels into 30 more eBay auctions. Once they all closed, the sales added roughly $900 more to his work truck fund, enabling him to purchase a Chevy S-10 on March 6.
He’s planning to register for a vanity plate, too; it would be — of course — HOTWELZ.
Die-cast cars save collector’s life
MAGNA, Utah — Erin Evans, 43, is a self-made, dedicated family man with a self-confessed “addictive personality.” It’s taken him decades to overcome the disadvantages he was dealt and get to where he is; he says it’s a miracle, considering where he’s come from.
Evans has been on his own since he was 12. A runaway from the Utah foster care system, in which he was placed as the result of stealing food to feed his family of 12, his teens were spent in turmoil. “Then, one day I woke up,” he says. “It turns out I am reasonably intelligent, aced most of my classes and had no problem becoming successful,” Evans continues.
Becoming successful meant putting himself through school at the University of Utah, earning an E100 General Engineering license through the Utah Department of Public Licensing, and holding an officer position in a small corporation, K.C. Ward in Magna,
Utah. He is also a member of the P.T.A., a volunteer member of Watchdogs and is active in his community.
After overcoming his other addictions, his only remaining vice was his tobacco habit. Around 1999, after trying will power, patches and other recommended aids, he purchased a pack of nicotine gum and his first 1:64-scale car (as an adult) at the same time. “I never smoked again, but after marveling at the craftsmanship of this wonderful little die-cast gem, I needed more,” he recalls. He allotted himself the money he would have spent on tobacco to spend on die-cast cars.
“Soon I returned for more and more and more and more. I was using my lunch breaks and early days off work to collect and I knew nothing of T-hunts (Treasure Hunts) or Redlines. I was hiding them from my wife by stashing them in the trunk of our Crown Vic up in the hinge area and sneaking them in at night.”
Evans continues, “After finally confessing to her of my Hot Wheels addiction like I was having an affair, she laughed and said, ‘I’ve known all along, but what you don’t know is you simply traded your smoking habit for those little cars and I’m OK with this.’”
He confesses, “I honestly believe that if I hadn’t picked up that one little car, ultimately I would have began smoking again or, even worse, returned to drugs.”
His collection now numbers more than 14,000 cars, “With around 9,500 of these being Hot Wheels brand and more than 20 percent of those (nearly 2,000) are Redlines all left in a trust to my children.”
He explains, “I don’t buy every day anymore, but rather let it build up and buy Redlines or the occasional bags of 100 to 200-plus cars that frequently pop up at the local thrift stores for $10 to $25 that are mostly main line Hot Wheels with the occasional Redline. That’s where I got my #6969 Snake.”
It was this budgeting provision that prepared Evans for his dream find. He had been searching for the 1968 White Enamel Custom Camaro for 13 years without success. “And then I met Marcus and the perfect storm of variables and combinations of luck and chance allowed my ‘Big Foot’ to land squarely in my mailbox!” he enthuses.
Erin Evans’ life has been a tumultuous journey, rising out of self-destructive behavior and addiction to becoming a contributing member of his community.
Evans gives the power of collecting something you love a lot of the credit: “Although I quit drugs nearly two decades ago, the potential is likely still there. I am certain that if a craving rears its ugly head, it will be masked with a late night eBay Redline splurge and I will never even notice the drugs calling me.”
“And rather than leaving my children a father with some tobacco-related illness,” he aspires, “I will hopefully leave them my collections of die-cast, be around to see grand-kids, and give the occasional Redline out to the smarter ones.”
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