MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - It’s been more than half a century since Mattel created its Hot Wheels franchise, and for one super-collector in Gaithersburg, Maryland the fascination with the toys started at a young age.
By day, Bruce Pascal is a commercial real estate agent in the nation’s capital.
By night, he’s a Hot Wheels hobbyist with more than 7,000 items in his collection.
"To put it mildly, I’m obsessed with Hot Wheels," Pascal said.
At 7 years old, he got his first Hot Wheel in 1968 — the same year they were created. Fifty-five years later he’s still buying them.
"My mother gave me back my Hot Wheels as a kid I played with in 1999," Pascal said.
"I was with a buddy of mine, and he said, ‘I’ll give you $200 for them.’ I was like, ‘oh, these have value?’"
From there, his love for the tiny and intricate toys consumed him.
"Nothing's better than collecting something you have a connection with and the fact that I’m collecting my childhood toys, it's kind of fun," Pascal said.
One of his prized possessions is a 1913 Model T that was used as inspiration for Mattel.
"In 1964, this Model T was entered into the Grand National Roadster Show in California. This won America’s Most Beautiful Roadster," he said.
"Years later, Hot Wheel said, ‘What car could we make for our first year?’ So Hot Wheels made this into a Hot Wheel called the Hot Heap. So there is that toy car that was modeled after the original car."
Among the $1.5 million dollar collection, there are blueprints of original sketches.
"Here is the original blueprint for the 1968 Corvette that came out of Mattel," Pascal said. "So to me, these are like the holy grail of paper documents."
Pascal has wooden prototypes, and even items sold overseas.
"In Germany, they weren’t called Hot Wheels they were called Heisse Rader," he explained.
Plus, one of the world’s rarest Hot Wheels cars ever created — the Volkswagen pink beach bomb prototype bus — Pascal owns it.
"They discovered it fell down off the tracks, so they decided to re-engineer it and sell a different version to the public. So, this is a prototype. It's considered the rarest Hot Wheel in the world," Pascal said.
While some items are extremely rare and can rack up a high price tag, Pascal says the toys really have stood the test of time.
"When Hot Wheels first came out they were under a dollar. They were 69 cents, 79 cents … This is in 1968," Pascal recalled. "Today, you can buy Hot Wheels at a grocery store or at a store for like $1.19 or $1.29. It's like inflation never hit it."
So what does Pascal’s family think of all this?
"They think I’m crazy, but they know I have a fun time and it is a lot of fun," he said. "Once you get into a hobby, it's not just the toys you collect, it's also the people and the friends you meet all around the world."
He hopes by showing the world his collection he can pass on his love of Hot Wheels to younger generations.
"Do you know how many kids come here with their cases of cars all ready? They want to trade with me," Pascal said. "I always have fun and any kid who leaves always leaves with a few Hot Wheels; I have a few extras to pass out."
Pascal says he occasionally opens up the Hot Wheels Museum — a 4,000 square-foot facility equipped with floor-to-ceiling walls lined with miniature cars — on Sunday afternoons for kids to come in and play. And for adults to reminisce on their childhood.
To reach Bruce Pascal you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org