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Man turns Hot Wheels collection into museum

A Maryland real estate agent's collection of toy cars is one of the world's most valuable.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Floor-to-ceiling walls full of Hot Wheels toy cars line a 4,000 square-foot facility, housing one of the most valuable collections of its kind in the world. By day, Bruce Pascal is a commercial real estate agent in the nation's capital. By night, he's a Hot Wheels enthusiast with more than 7,000 items in his collection.

"To put it mildly, I'm obsessed with Hot Wheels," Pascal said.

The obsession began at age 7, when he obtained his very first Hot Wheel. Coincidentally, that was in the year 1968, the same year the line debuted. 55 years later, he's still buying them.

"My mother gave me back the Hot Wheels I played with in 1999," he recalled. "I was with a buddy of mine; he said, 'I'll give you $200 for it.' I was like, 'Oh, these have value?'"

From there, he said, the love for the tiny and intricate toys consumed him.

"Nothing's better than collecting something you have a connection with," he mused. "The fact that I'm collecting my childhood toys is kind of fun."

One of his prized possessions is a 1913 Model-T that was used as inspiration for the makers at Mattel.

"In 1964, this Model-T was entered into the Grand National Roadster Show in California," Pascal explained. "This won America's Most Beautiful Roadster. Years later, Hot Wheels said, 'What car could we make for our first year?' So, Hot Wheels made this into the 'Hot Heap.' So there is that toy car that was modeled after the original."

Among the collection, which is valued at $1.5 million, are blueprints and original sketches for the 1968 Corvette miniature. "The Holy Grail of paper documents," Pascall calls it.

Other rarities include wooden prototypes and items only sold overseas.

"In Germany, they weren't called Hot Wheels," Pascal said. "They were called Heiss Reider."

His collection also boasts one of the rarest Hot Wheels ever created - the Volkswagen Pink Beach Bomb prototype.

"They discovered it fell down off the tracks, so they decided to reengineer it and sell a different version to the public," he said. 

While some items are extremely rare and can fetch a high price tag, Pascal says the toys have really stood the test of time.

"When Hot Wheels first came out they were under a dollar, 69 or 79 cents," he said. "Today you can buy Hot Wheels at a grocery store for like $1.19 or $1.29. It's like inflation never hit it."

His family, he says, thinks he's crazy. "But they know I have a fun time. Once you get into a hobby, it's not just the toys you collect," Pascal said. "It's also the people and friends you meet all around the world."

Pascal says he occasionally opens up his Hot Wheels museum on Sunday afternoons for kids to come play, and for adults to reminisce on their childhood.

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