The streaming sunlight poked through the window and glinted off the metal of the cars on display at the Kingmont Community Building.
Sitting on tables, lined up like soldiers, each Hot Wheels package was painstakingly grouped by type of model and line. When Mike Jarrett, president of the Mountaineer Hot Wheels Club, wasn’t behind his table helping customers pick out cars at the annual Hot Wheels Diecast Trade Show, he was organizing them and looking at the displays of cars from other vendors.
“It’s just a hobby that most of us have grown up with from our childhood, and it’s something we all relate to,” Jarret said. “It’s something you fall in love with.”
Since 1968, Hot Wheels have been a staple in any toy store. Individually packaged and labeled, the small metal cars have transitioned from a toy with which to be played to an item to be collected and displayed.
The club meets in the community building at 7 p.m. every second Thursday of the month and has been established for at least a decade. It’s a way for its mostly adult members to sell, trade and talk diecast and, on occasion, play with the cars in downhill races. Members come from all over the state, and even come in from Ohio, to revel in the culture.
“It’s a great hobby,” Jarrett said. “It’s a clean hobby, even for adults. You could be out in bars drinking.”
But, instead of drinking, they’re focusing on something they love.
At the trade show, the vendors unpacked boxes upon boxes of unopened packages for display and purchase. Jarrett said some people buy Hot Wheels to collect them and go to shows all over the country, including national trade shows in the big cities that can last for days, while others purchase them specifically for the purpose of reselling them.
“A lot of people are out there to make a profit,” said Kevin Maxwell, a vendor from Kingwood, “but it’s not really about the profit. It’s about the fun of collecting and trading with others.”
Maxwell has been collecting Hot Wheels since he was a teenager, and said – as an adult – the cars take him back to his childhood.
While Maxwell brought three tables worth of unopened cars to sell at the trade show, he said his personal collection includes around 1,000 cars.
The majority of individuals who collect Hot Wheels are adult males, Jarrett said, with the few female enthusiasts being introduced to the culture by their partners. Jarrett said the age range of the collectors might be due to the fact that today’s children are growing up in a more technological age than the children of his generation did.
believes the cars mean more as individuals age with them.
“The thrill of it is there for the older people, whereas the younger kids want to open them up and play with them right away,” Maxwell said. “You see one that you really, really like, and you don’t want to ruin it by opening it up. You don’t want to get a scratch on it, because it’s such a beautiful thing to look out.”
Both Maxwell and Jarrett said clubs like the Hot Wheels Club bring together the community, and it fosters familial bonds. Maxwell said his family helps him look for cars whenever they’re shopping.
“It’s a culture. It’s a vast culture, not a fad,” Maxwell said. “It’s not going to be something that’s just going to be here for a little while and then leave. It’s going to be here for a while. It’s wonderful."