T34 Toy Collecting ... An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In the early years before the internet & eBay Lee Hedges had been driving T34s as daily transportation since 1987. He collected literature, photos, and rare parts, but he soon learned how rare the scale T34 models were with few for sale. He lived near Bob Gilmore (world famous VW toy collector) in San Diego and got excited about starting a T34 collection. Over the past 18 years hes discovered there are only 14 different T34 model manufacturers. Well-known companies like Corgi, Siku, & Minichamps, but also little-known companies like Ichiko, Shimazaki, and Busch. Lees good friend in Japan, Ghin Tsurusawa, is a serious collector of the large T34 tin models and Ghin helped Lee to find some of the rarest tin T34s. Now an obsessive compulsive disorder, Lee collects only T34 models and has no duplicates, keeping his focus and making as complete a collection as possible. There are currently 90 different T34s with 11 of the 14 known manufacturers, likely the largest T34 model collection in the world today. But Lee is always vigilant about adding new T34 models to the collection and is consistently surprised by new models & variations that surface on eBay-Germany.

The largest T34 models (1:21 scale) are the Japanese tin plate versions by Ichiko & Shimazaki. There are many different versions & colors of these fun toys. The Ichiko models are a bit easier to find but still sell for $100-450 depending on condition & features. Most are police models with different colors & lights. Some have battery-operated remote-control cables that allow kids to drive the car on the ground, just like Lees son Dillon (shown in the photograph). Some are friction-driven or battery-operated with a switch in the rear. And if you get lucky you may find one with its original paper box.

The middle-sized models (1:44, 47, & 61 scale) are the most common to find including Minichamps, Siku, & Corgi cars. All are die-cast metal models available with opening hoods (Corgi), opening doors (Siku), or extremely detailed parts (Minichamps). There were six different color combinations produced for Corgi models (1963-68) but the dark blue & gold Corgi colors are extremely difficult to find. The Siku models (1965-69) all look the same but they actually have orange or red rear lights and a white or black steering wheel. The Minichamps models (2001-05) were designed based on a 1967 with the pseudo woodgrain dash and have amazing details like dash gauges, body scripts, and colored turn signal lenses. The limited production runs have made these instantly collectible. Prices for the Corgi range from $50-100 in excellent condition, $30-60 for the Siku, and $30-40 for the Minichamps.

The small HO-scale plastic models (1:89) were produced in huge quantities from 1962-2005 by four different German manufacturers: Fisher Model, Model International, Praline, & Busch. Most were pre-assembled but some were available as kits, and some even came with tow hooks & gliders on trailers. The HO-scaled models typically sell from $10-35. Lee collected so many of these HO-scale models in different colors so he wanted a place to display them. He decided to make a unique Volkswagen dealership diorama with showroom, service shop, and maintenance area. Prices for the early FM2 models are the highest at from $25-40, and the very rare packaged unbuilt Model International kits go for $40-50, while the more common Praline & Busch range from $10-20. Glider kits tend to sell for more at $30-50. Busch continues to make unique colored HO-scale T34 models today and new variations are added each year, amazing for a car that ended production in 1969.

There are several other T34 models that Lee has not yet found including the extremely rare Struxy, the handmade Kunze, and the white-metal DUE. Check the detailed toy section for photos & info on these other models.