Sunday, January 25, 2009

The History of Hot Wheels Online Price Guides
In 1997, Ken McClellan was searching the Internet for information on the values of some of his Hot Wheels. Finding nothing on the Internet, he searched print price guides, finding the only one available to be several years out of date. The Tomarts Hot Wheels Price Guide was considered the benchmark for price guides, but being out of date, and not available online, Ken McClellan began compiling value information into a database by searching
completed online auctions such as eBay.

As the database grew, McClellan made his first attempt at putting his information online, and on April 22, 1997, Treasure Hunt Alley was born. Treasure Hunt Alley was hosted on a free site, and was made up of many HTML tables. Traffic and interest grew, and as the bandwidth grew,Geocities soon became unsuitable for Treasure Hunt Alley. Ken McClellan began searching out Hosting, and through a contest held on Treasure Hunt Alley, was born in late 1998.

Traffic on the new website began to multiply rapidly. A company was hired to transfer all of the price guide data into a searchable database, which by now contained over 4000 entries. In addition to listing every Hot Wheels car ever produced, every variation was included, including color, wheels, and errors. Alleyguide grew and was soon receiving over two million page views per month.
See archived pages from Alleyguide on began accepting paid advertising to counter the rising server costs that resulted from the increased traffic. Online auction houses fought for real-estate on the index page, and diecast dealers from throughout the country wanted banners on the site. Several sent product samples for product reviews. The site had become self sufficient, and more.

In mid 1999, Mobilia, Inc. of Middlebury, VT, publisher of Mobilia Magazine and owners of contacted Ken McClellan about a unopened box of 1972 Hot Wheels that they wanted appraised. In addition to the appraisal they also wanted to discuss the purchase of Mobilia flew McClellan out to Vermont to talk business. Though a deal was not struck at that meeting, a retainer check was handed over to McClellan on the promise that a purchase deal would be agreed upon.

A phone call later that week to McClellan's home included an offer he couldn't refuse. A purchase price was agreed upon, and the deal included a monthly salary for McClellan to maintain Alleyguide for three years. Alleyguide was now owned by Mobilia.

Alleyguide continued to thrive for one and a half years, but Mobilia had other plans. They sold their magazine, and made the decision to go completely online retail, selling diecast and memorabilia. In doing so, the shut down the price guide, as well as the domain Six months after getting investments of over nine million dollars, Mobilia ran out of money, and Mobilia, as well as Alleyguide, was gone.

Ken McClellan wasn't finished. He had seen the end approaching, and was ready with a new website. Once Mobilia had breached his contract with him, McClellan launched his latest online price guide Diecast Illustrated, officially launched February 1, 2001, enjoyed much of the success that Alleyguide did. Diecast Illustrated even attracted the advertising of major diecast manufacturers.

The road wasn't as pleasant this time around for McClellan. After a falling out with a major sponsor, McClellan decided to call it quits. In March of 2002, Diecast Illustrated was no more. Though there have many imitators of Alleyguide and Diecast Illustrated, none have lived up to what the originals were.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Happened to Auto World?

Auto World started as not a store but a mail order company operated out of Oscar's friend Bob "Smitty" Smiths basement. Because of their aggressiveness and knowledge (and need to make some money) they became important to real enthusiasts and manufacturers. Oscar's wife and he did the first catalogs on the kitchen table and ironing board. Their first two of four kids got to like licking the glue on the stamps! Eventually they all got to work at Auto World during school years. In 1962, Oscar met with Bob MacLeod (magazine assembler) and Larry Shaw (auto editor) and together started we Car Model Magazine (OLR Publishing, Oscar-Larry-Robert).

Though Auto World closed it's doors in 1991, many still hold fond memories of Auto World, and today it is the benchmark by which other mail order hobby stores are measured.

Oscar today is now operating as well as his KidRacer project to get kids involved in racing at an early age and teach them the fundamentals of racing, sportsmanship, and teamwork.

Kid Racers In Action