When Elliot Handler first conceived of Hot Wheels, he had no way of knowing just how popular they would become! A series of 1/64 scale diecast cars originally intended to be a competitor to Matchbox, Hot Wheels drove on the scene in May 1968 and would go on to become one of the most collected items in the world!
Now, more than five decades later, Hot Wheels are fervently searched for by collectors of all ages.
The brand has gone on to encompass everything from mass-market releases to retailer and convention exclusives produced in limited numbers. And, for many a collector, price is no object.
However, coveted as some may be, there is one type of Hot Wheels car that seems to set the fandom on fire year after year.
While they may not hold the value of a purple redline ’71 Olds 442, or be as legendary as the pink ’69 rear-loading Beach Bomb, collectors love them. And, they’re not above scrounging through store and cyberspace alike in order to obtain them.
Welcome to the fast and furious world of the Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt!
Let The Hunt Begin
What Is A Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt?
Hot Wheels Treasure Hunts, or T-Hunts, are a specialty series of cars first introduced by Mattel in 1995. Treasure Hunt Hot Wheels are highly sought after due to their limited production run.
Featuring such popular models as the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, 1957 Ford Thunderbird, and the Rolls Royce Phantom II among others, Treasure Hunts began as a 12 car assortment released yearly. With one new piece released each month.
The original production run started at just 10,000 pieces worldwide. As if that didn’t make collecting them hard enough, the Treasure Hunt edition cars were also randomly packed into cases of regulars. Meaning that these particular Hot Wheels would not be easy to find and could show up almost anywhere.
Despite this, the Treasure Hunts were extremely popular with collectors – especially the complete boxed sets available exclusively through JC Penny. Thus, Mattel increased the number of cars to 25,000 in 1996.
Interestingly, subsequent years have not revealed the exact quantity of Treasure Hunt units produced. Yet, they still remain both difficult to find and desired by collectors.
For the first nine years, Treasure Hunts stuck to 12 different models – each with unique paintwork that set them apart from other cars in the line. That number was then bumped to 13 for the line’s 10th anniversary in 2005 with the addition of a bonus VW Drag Bus – complete with redline wheels and some slick flame work.
Following years once again returned to 12 pieces until 2011 when the series was increased to 15.
Upping The Ante With The Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunt
In 2007, Mattel introduced a two-tier Treasure Hunt system. These included regular Treasure Hunt cars and a new assortment known as the Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunt. These new cars were upgraded variations of vehicles and included such special features as Spectraflame paint, Real Rider wheels, and a much smaller production run.
Beginning that year, the number of Treasure Hunt cars was increased, while the number of Super Treasure Hunt pieces released to the market by Mattel equaled the number of past Treasure Hunt cars.
Just a few years later in 2012, Mattel released Super Secret Treasure Hunts. Unlike previous years, these cars are not upgraded versions of regular Hot Wheels. Rather, each one is part of a different series such as Muscle Mania or HW Racing to name but a few.
They do not have the green stripe on the card and discovering one may be difficult. There may be a Treasure Hunt or TH logo featured somewhere on the car, or Real Rider tires and Spectraflame paint.
Super Treasure Hunt vehicles can go for hundreds of dollars on the card because of these special features.
How To Find A Treasure Hunt Hot Wheels
The early Treasure Hunt vehicles were identifiable by a label on the package.
The blister card said Treasure Hunt or T-Hunt in a green bar, which was oftentimes accompanied by an illustration of a treasure chest.
When the Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunt cars hit the market in 2007, they featured a similar card design, but with the S replaced by a dollar sign that appeared as Trea$ure Hunt$ or T-Hunt$ respectively.
For the tenth anniversary of the Treasure Hunt series, the cars also featured special TH markings.
In addition, the vehicles were decorated with flashy designs and special rubber wheels before 2007.
In 2013, wanting to make finding the cars more difficult, Mattel ditched the specialty blister cards and changed things over to a small circle-flame logo that featured both on the actual vehicle and the packaging.
During the following year, some North American Treasure Hunt vehicles featured the phrase “This symbol on the vehicle lets you know it is hard to find and highly collectible!” printed on the card.
This was later changed to “Congratulations! This symbol means you just found a collectible treasure-hunt car!” in 2016. In 2015, Super Treasure Hunt Hot Wheels would also feature a new gold treasure hunt logo on the card.
I’d Buy That For A Dollar!
Given the rarity and popularity of the Treasure Hunt Hot Wheels cars, one may wonder just how much these specialty diecast toys cost and, by extension, where they can be found.
Treasure Hunt cars cost the same as mainline Hot Wheels at retail stores, meaning that the newest ones can range between a dollar or two.
If you’re looking to track down something a little older, however, perhaps the 1967 Pontiac GTO released in 2000 or the Mustang Mach I that hit pegs in 1999, know that you may have to part with a little more than that.
Treasure Hunt cars purchased on the secondary market can run you anything from a couple of dollars to thousands of dollars depending on whether it’s carded or loose, the condition of said card, how rare it is, and the vehicle’s popularity.
Given the fact that the cars continue to be randomly placed in cases of mass retail Hot Wheels, you can technically find Treasure Hunt cars wherever Hot Wheels are found.
This includes dollar stores like Dollarama and Dollar Tree and retailers like Toys R Us, Walmart, and Target.
You can also track them down at Grocery Stores like No Frills and Sobey’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, Walgreens, at online sites ranging from Amazon to eBay, and of course through the Hot Wheels collector community.
Numerous hobby shops, flea markets, and swap meets are also known to carry the popular toys.
In addition, specialty Treasure Hunt boxed sets have also been made available to Red Line Club Members in more recent years through HotWheelsCollectors.com
Hit The Road!
It has been over fifty years since Mattel first unleashed the Hot Wheels brand upon the world, and it is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon! Continuing to be one of the most beloved collectibles the world over, it seems as though people can’t get enough of these tiny diecast transports.
And the specialty Treasure Hunt pieces continue to be some of the most sought-after of them all.
Whether it be the flashy colors, the feelings of nostalgia that transports a collector back to a simpler time before bills and back pain, or the simple thrill of the hunt, Mattel has continued to keep this specialty series going strong for over twenty-five years now and collectors are always hungry for more!
Whether you are a fan, collector, or completist, be sure to keep your eyes open! You just never know where the next Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt car will show up next.