Micro Machines

Micro Machines
Micro Machines logo.png
Type Model car
Company Galoob
Country United Kingdom
Availability 1980s–

Micro Machines: The Original Scale Miniatures (called either "Micro Machines" or simply "Micros") were a line of toys originally made by Galoob (now part of Hasbro) in the mid 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Galoob licensed the idea behind Micro Machines from Clem Heeden, a toy inventor from Wisconsin. Micro Machines were tiny scale component style "playsets" and vehicles that were slightly larger than N scale. Although Micro Machines have not been sold in the United States in some years, newer models are available in the UK, Europe and the outlets in the US now also once again sell Micro Machines.

Early Micro Machines television commercials were famous for featuring actor John Moschitta, Jr., who was (at the time) listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's fastest talker.

Contents

The Toys

American LaFrance ladder truck with movable outriggers, ladder and opening doors

Many different styles of Micros were made including all the popular cars and trucks of the times, trains, emergency vehicles, tanks, boats, airplanes, helicopters, and motorcycles. The Tuff Trax series contained many of the popular TNT Motorsports Monster Trucks, including the influential Grave Digger truck. Star Trek and Star Wars models were also made, as were models from other science fiction franchises including Babylon 5, Power Rangers and MIB. They even immortalized James Bond and Indiana Jones in micro scale. After the Hasbro buyout, they came out with Winner's Circle NASCAR and G.I. Joe themed cars and playsets.

While the Micro Machines collection was known primarily for sizing down automobiles, it also featured several playsets including 1991's fold-out Super Van City. Licensed character products would often be fold-open heads including miniature characters and vehicles interactive with their playset environment. Micro Machines also utilized several diverse features such as color-changing cars and "Private Eyes" vehicles that even allowed one to peek inside and view an illustration of the contents.

One of the many Micro Machines product lines was the Insiders series. Incredibly popular in the late 80s and early 90s, the Insiders series featured a small vehicle inside the standard size Micro Machine. The body and chassis of the larger vehicle connected via a hinge. Opening the larger revealed the smaller, which was a different model of car.

For 3 to 4 years Micro Machines was the largest selling toy car line in the US with total dollar sales exceeding the combined sales of the next top selling lines: Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Majorette.

Micro Machines had a well-known advertising campaign in the 1980s involving fast-talker John Moschitta, Jr.. The commercials featured pitches in his trademark speedy style and ended with the slogan "[i]f it doesn't say Micro Machines, it's not the real thing"[1].

In the 1990s, transforming playsets were released. Some could transform from one playset to another, such as a factory to a test track. Others could transform from giant vehicles to playsets, such as a 6x6 to a jungle. Earlier ones included one that could transform from a toolbox to a city. Another innovative release was a line of special boats in the 1990s. While past boats had merely sunk and were not intended for water use, these new sets could actually float.

When sold to Hasbro, the basic line was largely discontinued, and new packaging of the toys didn't catch on as well as hoped, though some imitators continue to be sold in toy stores. In 2006, the brand name was visible only in the detail panel of the Star Wars and Transformers Titanium series die cast vehicles and figures.

A Micro Machines Dodge Viper (bottom) compared to a Matchbox version of the same car.
Micro Machines compared to a pencil sharpener.

Collectors

Interest in collecting Micro Machines has not reached the level of interest in collecting Hot Wheels. One possible reason is that toys are too new; not enough time has passed for collectors to develop an interest. Another reason is that one had to buy a pack at a time and typically only one would be a new model in any given year. Most sets are worth less than the $5 retail, though some like Civil War can command over $10, and the Aliens set of three are on eBay stores for $50. The rare US version of the action fleet Aliens jump ship has been asking over $70. Some rare Star Trek sets and ships are being sold for $100 to $370 online. Some of the hardest to find packages of cars have commanded prices around $100. Those packages often contain prototypes never released to the public. Often large lots can be had for pennies per vehicle.

Micro Machines kept sealed in the package take up a lot of space, so many collectors store them in other containers. Some collectors use one of the original showcases for Micro Machines while other store their collections in fishing tackle boxes.

Some individual cars such as the SVO Mustang have changed hands for over $25 in the early 2000s, though with the appearance of traders who have nearly every vehicle for sale all the time, it is uncommon to see values over $5 for any one vehicle. However, there are some rare models that continue to trade at high values, such as the collector #CE3R Corvette from 1999. Some military vehicles are remarkably valuable models: those made with accurate markings or Soviet equipment such as the T-80BV. Rarer collections such as Star Trek or Star Wars are also valuable. A solid gold Star Trek model that was a grand prize in a drawing sold for over $5,000.

There are a couple of comprehensive Micro Machines web sites, but no books. Cars can be identified by the name Galoob on the undercarriage, though a jeweler’s scope is needed. It helps to be an expert on classic or not-so-classic cars and military tanks and aircraft.

Popular culture

Micro Machines were featured in the 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, starring Macaulay Culkin. In the movie, Culkin's character sets dozens of Micro Machines at the bottom of a flight of stairs as a hazard for a pair of bungling burglars. In the webcomic Least I Could Do, the main protagonist Rayne Summers offers to pay his father six Micro Machines and twenty five POGs if he looks after Rayne's Tamagotchi.

Revival

The Micro Machines brand was revived for a few years in response to the popularity of the similar Speedeez brand. Hasbro also opted to use many fantasy castings in the revival. The revival only lasted a couple years.

The brand 'Micro Machines' has also been incorporated into the packaging of the popular 'Star Wars Titanium' 3-inch vehicle range.

See also

References

External links


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