Diecast Car Collectors Zone
The Diecast Car Collectors Zone is an online community of scale model car collectors. The focus of these collectors is on pre-made replicas rather than those constructed from kits. The idea behind the Zone was to transform a solitary hobby and use the universal access the web offered so collectors could interact, show off collections and learn from each other. The Zone has been in continuous operation since July, 1997.
The Zone has helped fuel the expansion in diecast car brands. Through the Zone's reporting and reviews, collectors got their first exposure to a new breed of modelers dedicated to bringing much higher level of detail to the 1:18 scale. These brands included Exoto, GMP and CMC.
Resources on the Zone’s website represent the contributions of a core of over 25 volunteers. The Zone provides a permanent online repository for model issue listings, as well as in-depth reviews and photography. The lists regularly update info on 65 brands as of January 1, 2010 and contain over 20,000 individual listings. Access to these listings is free.
The Zone also provides a valuation tool (Price Archive) that gives collectors a method to place a value on an individual piece. It is based on successfully concluded Auctions conducted on the Zone. In May 2009, a Pierce Arrow model that once sold for $109 in 1989 was purchased off the auction for $3,300.
Other resources include new model announcements, how-to instructions, polls for favorite models, and interactive discussion forums. Once a year the Zone conducts a group Wish List, in which collectors vote for the cars they most want to see modeled in the future. A list of the winning cars are communicated to the manufacturers.
The Diecast Zone founded the Diecast Scale Model Hall of Fame to recognize leaders and innovators in the hobby. Recipients of the award have included company founders who shaped the hobby by raising the standard for quality and authenticity as well as broadening the subject matter.
Raffi Minasian was The Franklin Mint's Design Director for Precision Models and Engineered Products from 1995 - 1999. Of the importance of the Diecast Zone, he writes: "a pioneering entity, recognizing the value of the extended Die Cast model car community, the Zone developed such a large membership to directly influence the selection of images that would be developed by The Franklin Mint."
The Diecast Zone was founded in 1997 by Michael Knab and Jay Olins. Knab had created the website on behalf of his ad agency client, Revell-Monogram. Revell had created a new brand and scale (Creative Masters, 1:20th), of precision scale model cars to compete against Franklin Mint. Franklin Mint had popularized the hobby of mass-produced collectibles. Knab convinced Revell that it should be first to exploit the direct marketing advantages of the emerging Internet to gain a “first mover” competitive advantage.
Before the site was even launched, Hallmark purchased Revell and terminated the recently introduced line and the fledgling website. By then, Knab had found Olins, who had just created the Diecast Car Collectors Club, and together they were knee deep into development of the Zone. They decided to continue independently.
The backbone of the site was the Car List which catalogues the issues by prominent model makers. The site rapidly expanded as ideas of what a hobby site should consist were quickly implemented and tested for appeal. One of the first forums on the internet was created. Jay Olins foresaw the popularity of auctions to collectors and created the Zone’s version, inventing a feature to automatically extend auctions in the closing minutes if bidding frequency reached a certain velocity.
In 2002, volunteer Dave Milne launched a new feature "Picture This!" - presenting an opportunity to collectors from around the world to showcase their inventive dioramas built around scale model cars.
As a founder of the Zone, Jay Olins had amassed a collection of every Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint scale model vehicle they made. The number of replicas reached over 400. So that the widest possible public could see his collection and gain exposure to the hobby, he donated it to the Nethercutt Museum in 2004. The Nethercutt is permanent home to more than 130 of the world’s greatest antique and classic automobiles.
The Zone also conducts charity auctions in support of various causes including assisting with healthcare costs of infirm members of the community.
Kelly, Jr., Joe (2009). "Into the Zone", The Car Room. Holbrook, New York: OK Daddy Productions, Ltd. p. 15.
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