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Emotional dependence on wheels

By Xu Xiaomin and Cao Chen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-03 09:36

Emotional dependence on wheels

A collection of miniature car models at Shanghai collector Shi Ming's home. [Photo by Cao Chen/China Daily]

Shi said that Shanghai Universal Toys Company, which produced miniature car models from 1982 to 2004, was pivotal in igniting an interest in miniature toy vehicles in Shanghai, adding that he bought many Matchbox models from the brand's official store on Beijing West Road.

Matchbox was eventually bought by Mattel in 1997 and the combination of these two iconic toy companies resulted in several stylistic changes to the toy vehicles. Instead of obtaining authorization from automobile brands and designing scaled-down miniatures of the real cars, Shi said that Matchbox started to create "some weird models" after the takeover, the notable ones being a helicopter that looks like a dragonfly, trucks shaped like cows and jeeps equipped with oversized wheels.

Shi said that while children loved the new Matchbox models, adult fans like himself found them to be unsatisfactory.

In 2004, the same year it released a new batch of toys that Shi said were very impressive, Shanghai Universal Toys went bankrupt due to financial problems. He said that the new collection was what inspired him to continue his hobby of collecting cars.

He later developed a fondness for Hot Wheels cars as well and has since 2007 amassed more than 1,500 toys from the brand. Shi said that he spends around 5,000 yuan every year on new additions to the collection. Shi said that some collectors buy these toys as a means of investment, too. He noted how some people would buy two sets of a collection-one for playing and the other for investment.

"A model I bought several years ago cost me just 16 yuan. Today the same model could fetch up to 160 yuan," said Shi.

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