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Ed Rust, proprietor of, has worked in publishing in a variety of capacities for decades. He started as U.S. circulation director of the Financial Times "way back when they flew the papers into Kennedy Airport from London a day late." He most recently was managing editor of publications at the General Society, Sons of the Revolution.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

DIE CAST DIGEST: Racing Car Replicas

NASCAR auto racing has become a major sport in the United States, spreading from its deep roots in the South to national attention through the magic of television. And with it has arisen the collecting and trading of die cast metal race cars models, chronicled in the pages of Die Cast Digest.

Published monthly in Knoxville, Tennessee, Die Cast Digest consists of two sections: a bunch of columns on the sport and on the collecting aspect, and a massive price guide giving current market values for thousands of brightly painted tiny metal cars.

I've been looking through the February issue, recently arrived at the newsstand. In it you'll find a helpful schedule of the year's Nextel Cup series and the lesser Busch series, as well as a current roster of the Nextel Cup cars: their numbers, drivers, sponsors, owners and crew chiefs.

One column examines the changes in the NASCAR races this year, such as the entrance of Toyota cars into the fray and the gradual introduction of the "car of tomorrow," apparently a change in the spoiler and in some mechanical aspects of the vehicles.

I was intrigued by special packages being offered to the public by Direct TV and by Sirius Satellite Radio. At the Daytona 500 later this month the satellite television company will unveil "NASCAR Hotpass," which gives viewers access to five special channels. Each channel will have up to six cameras and two announcers focusing solely on one driver for the entire race, as well as access to in-car audio communications. Hotpass will cost $99 for races throughout the year, with no advance guarantee as to which drivers will be featured.

Sirius offers 10 driver channels that will combine the overall race radio broadcast with driver-to-pit crew chatter.

Only two columns in the issue dealt with collecting. One was a brightly written description of some models of European race cars now on the market, accompanied by postage stamp-sized photos. The other offered analysis of a couple of die cast vehicles―a race car and a car transporter―with the writer in his text comparing the models against some photos of the actual vehicles. Die Cast Digest illustrated the column with a few miserable photos of the models, still encased in their plastic packaging!

Were I asked for advice by the publishers, I'd tell them to focus more on the collectibles than on the sport, and to provide more and better photographs of models. And to work on the writing, editing and proofreading, which are substandard for a magazine today.

The price guide takes up 62 of the issue's 82 pages, covers excluded. I'd estimate that some 13,000 car models are listed, by manufacturer, car number, driver and on-car advertiser. There's another number in each row, never explained, which I take to be the number of copies of that model produced. The cars seem to range in size from 1:24 scale to 1:64.

There's nothing in this issue to indicate why a particular model becomes more or less valuable over time, a subject that I think every issue of a collectible magazine should deal with in some fashion. From my brief study of the price guide, I suspect that price has a lot to do with the driver, as Dale Earnhardt models have a high relative value, as do those of Jimmie Johnson, who won the Nextel Cup in 2006. I'm sure the number of copies made of a model is important, as is the quality of the product and the detail of its paint job. I'm intrigued by whether the sponsor name on the hood of a model is a significant factor, and if so, why.

Prices for die cast cars in the price guide range from the low teens to the thousands. Picked at random, a 1:24 1997 Elite #3 Dale Earnhardt car with “Goodwrench” on the hood is valued at $603, a #21 Mike Skinner with “Lowes” on the hood is valued at $57.

An annual subscription to Die Cast Digest (12 issues) is $29.95 from the publisher; we'll send you a sample copy for $2.59.

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