Bruce Pascal leases buildings by day and plays with Hot Wheels by night.
The Potomac man appeared on Maryland Public Television’s “Chesapeake Collectibles” last week to show off his 7,000-item Hot Wheels collection, including rare vehicles original blueprints and prototypes.
Pascal, 57, is a commercial real estate agent at Cushman & Wakefield, carving out time in the evenings design a private museum to display his Mattel artifacts.
The toy cars came out in 1968, and 7-year-old Pascal said he was immediately hooked.
“It’s hard to describe the national phenomenon that Hot Wheels were,” Pascal said. “It was just an amazing toy.”
Hot Wheels come with plastic tracks for racing. The cars include classic representations of real-life vehicles, along with theme sets such as “Star Wars” or “Batman.”
“Hot Wheels is coming off its best performing year yet in its 50-year history and we’re proud that we continue to engage our multigenerational fan base, including our passionate community of collectors,” the toymaker Mattel spokesperson said in a statement.
As he entered adolescence the cars and trucks went into storage. Pascal wouldn’t see them again until 1999, when his parents gave him an old box of toys after cleaning out their house.
Within three weeks of reuniting with his Hot Wheels, Pascal decided to become a collector. He ran ads in the newspaper, scoured eBay and discovered an international cohort of 50,000 other collectors.
Pascal’s collection soon included more than just toys. He began reaching out to former Mattel employees for interviews, always closing with, “You didn’t keep anything, did you?”
He soon had blueprints, original molds, prototypes, artwork, ad displays, memorabilia from every step of the Hot Wheels creative process.
“I’ve kind of become a historian, interviewing former employees of Mattel, learning about how the company was run,” Pascal said.
Pascal estimates he has 3,500 cars and about the same amount of paper items. He said an appraiser on television once valued the collection at more than $1.5 million, and while he doesn’t like to put a number on it, Pascal said it’s definitely worth more than $1 million.
“Chesapeake Collectibles” Executive Producer Ken Day agreed the collection is worth seven figures in the collecting world. He discovered Pascal after his appearance on NBC “Nightly News with Lester Holt,” then quickly moved to get him on “Chesapeake Collectibles” after finding out the collector was from Maryland.
The show doesn’t usually have many toys, and if it does, they’re early 1900s relics, Day said.
“It’s pretty unique in the sense that we don’t usually see something that’s only 50 years old,” Day said.
Participants usually show only a few items, but Pascal’s volume of items prompted the show to broadcast from his warehouse, Day said.
The crown jewel of Pascal’s collection is a pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb Rear-Loader, reengineered shortly after production because the design wouldn’t allow it to stay upright on the Super-Charger track.
Mattel moved the surfboards from the rear to the sides of the toy to improve its balance, but about 50 of the originals are in collector’s hands, Pascal said. His is one of only two pink versions, and his is in the best shape, making it one of the rarer Hot Wheels items ever.
Pascal recently purchased a 4,000-square-foot warehouse for the collection. He plans to make it into a private museum, only open when he’s there.
Pascal said balancing his day job with collecting has gotten tough, but he’s getting better at balancing his workload.
“You find time, it keeps you busy,” Pascal said.
Pascal’s segment on Chesapeake Collectibles: