New York Toy Fair Promotionals
York Toy Fair is one of the major exhibitions in the world held annually for toy
manufacturers to display their products for the upcoming year to their buyers.
The weeklong event is held in various locations throughout lower Manhattan, and
currently the main exhibit for general buyers is held in the Javitz Center.
Major buyers are invited to other showrooms and offices of the manufacturers.
Many of the manufacturers have promotional or limited items that they give to their
buyers in appreciation of their patronage. Mattel has produced Hot Wheels
promotional items for its buyers over the decades – only twice within the first twenty
years, but every year from 1992 forward. While the Super Van from 1975
is generally recognized as the first Hot Wheels Toy Fair promotional, the precedent
actually was established six years before.
In 1969, Mattel held a banquet dinner for its key accounts – major buyers such as
Sears and J.C.Penney. Chromed versions of at least three cars were produced
in Hong Kong in limited numbers for the event. The three known castings selected for
the promotion were the Brabham F-1, Shelby Turbine and Lotus Turbine from
the new Indy series. One car was placed at each table setting as a gift.
The production records for this project are not readily available. It is unknown
why the Indy Eagle was not included, although a gold chrome version was released
in the regular line for reasons that are not evident at this time. Documented
examples today are extremely scarce, although there probably are more surviving chromed
Indy cars buried away and forgotten. Because these cars were not handed out to
buyers at the showroom or in the convention hall, some collectors refer to them as the
“Dinner Cars” and not true Toy Fair promotionals. However, since they were
produced with the sole purpose of giving them to the buyers at Toy Fair, I feel they should
be included in the group. John Parker is believed to be the person at Mattel
that was responsible for this project.
The next promotional Hot Wheels Toy Fair item was produced in 1975, when Bob Rosas
wanted to both promote the Flying Colors line that was introduced the year before and
help boost the product line's popularity, which had begun to wane in 1973. The
Super Van was chosen as the vehicle due to its large smooth sides, which were an
ideal canvas for graphics. The artwork was based on the blistercard graphics and
included the Mattel badge and a Toy Fair banner along the bottom sill. Manufactured
in Hong Kong for the purpose of being gifts for the key account representatives,
an extremely limited amount was produced in three versions, with 200 pieces of
the white enamel car, followed by only 12 chromed cars and even fewer gold-chromed cars.
At this time, only one example of the gold chromed cars is known to exist. The windshield and
interior were smoked clear plastic, and the wheels were the standard Redlines used at that
time. Today, the white version is
very difficult to find, and the chromed versions are nearly impossible to locate.
In spite of tampo technology being in its infancy, the graphics are opaque and reasonably
crisp. The only disappointment is the chromed plastic chassis, as the new diecast
chassis for Super Van did not appear until later in the year.
No additional Hot Wheels promotional items were produced for Toy Fair until 1992, when
the popular Purple Passion casting was utilized. The diecast body was vacuum
plated in gold chrome and carried red and black graphics tamped on the sides, hood and roof.
The glass was clear plastic, the interior red plastic and the chassis chrome plated plastic.
The model was fitted with wide whitewall basic wheels, standard at the time for the classic-era
castings. The car was heat-sealed in a clear bag. In all likelihood, the Passion
was produced in larger numbers than in the past, as it is relatively easy to find.
Manufactured in Malaysia, this release began a continuous string of Toy Fair promotional items
that has continued to this day.
In 1993, new casting `93 Camaro was selected as the Toy Fair promotional. The
diecast body was vacuum plated in chrome and tamped on the hood and sides in yellow, red and
black ink. The glass was molded in smoked plastic and tamped with a 25th Anniversary logo
in white on the rear window. The interior was red plastic and the chassis chrome plated
plastic. The car rode on Ultra Hots wheels and was manufactured in Malaysia. The
`93 Camaro did not feature much detail, and the graphics did nothing to enhance the model.
But, unexplainably it was a moderately popular casting, and this version isn’t that difficult to
find. It was heat-sealed in a clear bag.
The Demon Vintage casting was used for the 1994 model. No extensive printing design
nor paint scheme was created for the release, as only a flame logo and the Toy Fair designation were
printed in yellow and red on the roof. The diecast body was painted in blue metalflake
and the diecast chassis was zinc plated. A black plastic interior, blue tinted glass, chrome
plated plastic blown motor and 25th Anniversary style redline wheels comprised the remaining components
of this Chinese-made model. Of note is that the new Vintage logo had replaced the 25th Anniversary
logo on the bottom of the chassis. The total run of this release was believed to be 2,500, the
largest amount at this time.
Mattel reached back for an older casting for the 1995 car, and the quality improved with this
release. The Chevy Stocker diecast body was painted fluorescent yellow and tamped
with red, orange and maroon decorations on all surfaces. The chassis is zinc plated, the glass
is smoked tinted and the interior is black plastic. The car was fitted with black-chromed Pro
Circuit two-piece wheels, and made in Malaysia. Instead of being packaged loose in a sealed
plastic bag, the car was enclosed in a Park N’ Plates clear plastic box, along with a short piece
of blue track and a clear bubble blister to hold the car in place. The track also had a flame logo
design tamped in red, orange and yellow. New York Toy Fair graphics were tamped on the lid in
red. The whole package was sealed in a clear plastic bag. This release is one of the
more popular in the series, and while it is the most difficult of the Park N’ Plates boxed cars to
find, it is not overly so.
The 1996 issue was the first to feature decorations based on the Hot Wheels color theme. The
plastic body of Power Pistons was painted transparent blue over chrome plating with
the sides tamped in white. Additional tampos included the Toy Fair graphics on the sides and
the flame logos on the top of the rear fenders in red and yellow. The interior was molded in
red plastic and the canopy in red tinted plastic. Gold-chromed three-spoke wheels were
mounted into the zinc-plated chassis. The Park N’ Plates box lid was tamped with Toy Fair
graphics and the raised rim finished in gold chrome plating. It also featured the slogan
“Leading The Way,” which would stay in use for two years. The car, manufactured in Malaysia,
was mounted on a section of blue track and held in place with a clear bubble blister.
The Power Pistons Toy Fair car is not difficult to find.
In 1997, Mattel noted its new NASCAR sponsorship by choosing driver Kyle Petty’s favorite
model, Deora, as its Toy Fair promotional item. The all-metal Vintage model was
decorated in a scheme similar to the full-sized Grand Prix stock car, with the body painted
blue metallic and the chassis zinc plated. NASCAR markings were tamped on the
vehicle in a myriad of colors, with the Toy Fair designation tamped on the gloss black
truck bed cover. The Chinese-made model featured a modified version of the 25th
Anniversary style wheels, with Good Year lettering replacing the red wall stripes.
The Park N’ Plates box lid featured chrome plated trim and multi-colored tampos on the
face. The model was mounted on a section of black track, with two small bubble
blisters holding everything in place. The ubiquitous pair of surfboards is included,
and stashed in the box underneath the track. Popular and hard to find when it first
appeared, the Toy Fair Deora is much easier to acquire at this point in time.
The 30th anniversary of Hot Wheels prompted Mattel to design its Toy Fair promotional
item around its Anniversary campaign. The Vintage Twin Mill casting was
chosen due to the original Twinmill being the first original Hot Wheels design to
appear on the market back in 1969. The all-metal Chinese-made model had a metalflake
red body decorated with black, gold and red tampos over a gloss black enamel chassis.
The redlined 25th Anniversary wheels feature gold chrome hubs, and the twin blown motors are
gold-chromed plastic. The “World’s Coolest Car Company” slogan is introduced, tamped
on both the car and the Park N’ Plates box lid. The car sat on a section of blue track,
held in place with bubble blister inserts at either end. The box lid also featured gold
chrome trim. This is probably the most plentiful release in the series. In
addition to being given to the buyers, the model was given as a gift to anyone who purchased
more than $50 of merchandise at the bookstore next to Mattel’s midtown office building during
Toy Fair week.
Mattel was anxious in promoting the arrival of the 21st Century, coining its new “The
Official Cars of the New Millennium” slogan two years early. The slogan and a nifty
new logo debuted on the Toy Fair promotional vehicle, the futuristic-looking Ford
GT-90. Mattel returned to the Hot Wheels colors on this all-metal Malaysian-made
release, with the body chromed and highlighted with transparent blue, black, white and orange
paint masks. The clear plastic glass and gray plastic interior sat over a zinc-plated
chassis. This model, riding on standard three-spoke wheels, was the first to feature
intricate paint masks and tampos. One large bubble blister held the car on a small
section of traditional orange track. The Park N’ Plates box lid had chrome trim and
the new slogan tamped neatly in silver ink. The same effort required to find the
Deora would be sufficient to secure both the Ford GT-90 and Twin Mill.
The year 2000 featured new packaging for the Toy Fair cars. Deora II was
chosen, and the diecast body was beautifully finished in transparent brown over unplated yet
polished metal. As with the 1997 model, this one had the rear deck masked in gloss
black. The car was intricately tamped with white, purple and black graphics that
featured a newly designed flame logo. The surfboards were plated in gold chrome and
tamped with matching graphics. The engine, chassis and interior were plated in
blackened chrome, with the interior having gold chrome highlights. The windshield
of this Malaysian-made model was clear plastic and the car rode on gold chrome five-spoke
Pro Circuit wheels. The box from the Collectibles line was utilized for the first
time, with the model secured to the base with a pair of screws. Toy Fair graphics
were tamped on the box cover. The quantities for the Deora II were probably
lower than those of previous years, as it is slightly harder to find.
Mattel cut back slightly in 2001, producing only one promotional item to cover every
Toy Fair type show in the country. The Muscle Tone was beautifully decorated,
but for the first time since 1975 did not have “New York Toy Fair” incorporated into its
graphics. A generic “ToyfairMM1” adorned the lower sills and hood. The diecast body
was vacuum plated in chrome and masked off in transparent yellow on the roof and fenders.
The chassis and interior were black plastic and the glass was smoked plastic.
Black, white and blue graphics were tamped on windshield and generously on the car body.
Made in Thailand, the model rode on the five-spoke Iroc wheels and was mounted in a
Collectibles box. The Muscle Tone is slightly easier to locate than other
series models in this packaging due to it not being specifically for the New York Toy Fair.
This year saw a new decoration process utilized on the Toy Fair promotional car.
The Ms-T Suzuka was decorated in similar fashion to models of recent years, with the
diecast body vacuum chrome plated and masked in transparent pink. The plastic chassis
was chrome plated, while the interior was gray plastic and the glass was orange tinted
plastic. The feature that garnered the most attention was the heat-transferred
decorations, intricately detailed with Planet Hot Wheels and New York Toy Fair markings.
The model was fitted with chrome Pro Circuit five-spoke wheels. This Thailand-made model
is mounted in a Collectibles box, and has been extremely hard to obtain due to a small quantity
being produced. It is unknown at this time whether the low run is due to the decoration
process or just that Mattel decided to cut back.
The promotional cars Mattel produces in recognition of the New York Toy Fair have always
garnered attention and been popular with collectors. With the level of intricacy
in the paint schemes and printing detail increasing
each year, it is unlikely that this trend will change any time soon.