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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Top 30 Vintage Yatmings of All Time (or at least - of my Yatming Collection...!).


To many collectors, the Yatming name conjures up images of cheap drug-store cars, plasticky, with low levels of detail and garish tampos, the Maisto of the 1980s.  They are the filler cars in cases of cars that you purchase, the cars to discard that fill the difference between the 15 Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars vs. the 24 total cars that are actually in the case.

Or perhaps, if you are a discerning collector, the Yatming name represents an intriguing opportunity to get uncommon castings, of uncommonly-modeled cars, with metal bases, opening doors and Tomica-esque levels of quality...

So what's the real story?

Brands are powerful in that they represent a certain quality and price point...   Nike, Hyatt, etc.  When you buy a "Mercedes Benz", you have an idea of what type of quality, reliability, luxury and status that you will have.  And when you sell a shirt on EBay, saying that it is a Tommy Bahama brings an entirely different cache to the sale vs. only saying "size large button-up shirt in a tropical print"...

The same is true in the die-cast world...  Matchbox and Hot Wheels are the brands that dominate, the brands that everybody knows, even those people who know nothing about die-cast.  And along with that name, there is an expectation of the type of quality, detail and heft that you'll get.  There literally are people who believe that if a car is not a Matchbox or a Hot Wheels, it isn't worth collecting...  (and they are VERY wrong!). 

After those 2 major 1st tier brands, I define 2nd tier brands, that have equivalent or better quality than Matchbox and Hot Wheels but don't have quite the same name recognition.  In order to be 2nd tier, I require that the brands have been around for several decades, that they have a numbering sequence of their models, that they print their name and the car's name on the baseplate, etc.  That criteria yields 4 brands:  Tomica from Japan, Majorette from France, Siku from Germany, and Corgi Juniors from England.  These brands all have been around for at least 30 years. In fact, all four brands were around when I was a kid in the '70s and '80s, and all brands (aside from Corgi Juniors) are still around today.  The vintage models from these brands represent tremendous finds for collectors, due both to the wonderful quality of the models coupled with the relative scarcity of those models.  The biggest difference between models of these brands vs. those of Matchbox/Hot Wheels is simply the name recognition (the fact that non-collectors don't know about them) and the unique castings offered...

After the 2nd tier long-term quality brands, you have the 3rd tier brands.  These are brands that again offer high levels of quality, but who just haven't been around long enough to have the cache of a Tomica or Siku.  Brands like Impy, Johnny Lightning (who started in the '60s, died in the '70s, and was re-born in the '90s), Green Light, Racing Champions, etc. make it into this tier.

And after this, you get into the bottom tier brands.  Brands that are sold in drug stores.  Brands that were poorly detailed - so much so that some cars are unrecognizable as a real car (sedan, coupe, pick-up truck rather than Impala, Monza, F-150).  Brands that were plastic in a time when the competition was metal.  Etc.  In today's world, Maisto and Fast-Lane are the poster-children for bottom tier brands.  30 years ago, those brands were Tootsie-toy, Midge-toy, Ertl, Zylmex, Fast-111s, Playart, Kidco, and, you guessed it, Yatming.

Except of course that these brands were not universally bad.  Some of these brands offered suprisingly detailed and accurate models, but the fact that they were interspersed with other poor-quality models dragged the entire brand down into the 4th tier.

Of these brands, I like Zylmex and Kidco.  I really like PlayArt.  And I love Yatming...  You just have to be willing to sift through the junky stuff in hopes of finding the high quality treasures.  For Yatming, it is the earlier castings that are higher quality, with metal bases, opening doors, and fine detail, while the newer castings often suffered a dramatic decrease in quality and detail (however still occasionally feature models not modeled by any other toy maker).

The nice castings are great, while the worst are deplorable.  In the odd case of the Mercedes 450 SEL, Yatming inexplicably has two completely different castings of the same model - one that is nice, one that is less nice.  In the case of the Fox Body Ford Mustang, they have a great casting, and a less nice casting which is simply a less-detailed version of the great casting... 

So which of these Yatming castings are the nicest?  I started off planning to feature the top 10 castings.  But I had a tough time limiting it to just 10, finding more and more castings that deserved to be featured.  My top 10 turned into a top 15, then a top 20, a 25 and now the top 30 (and even so I cheated a bit - including additional castings in some of my comments and photos).  Most of the castings chosen are from the earlier era, with metal bases and opening doors.  But I also included a few later plastic-based castings when the casting was either well done or very unusual...

With that, here we go - the top 30 Yatmings of all time (or more accurately - from my collection):

#30:  No. 1085 - Pontiac Firebird (mid 80s);  Metal Base, opening doors.  Pretty OK casting, but in 30th position since its been modeled many times by many toy companies.  If it didn't have the opening doors it wouldn't have made it into the top 30... 

#29:  No. 1084 - Chevrolet Corvette (mid 80s);  Metal Base, opening doors, nice size.  I actually like this casting a lot, but again a very, very, commonly modeled model.  This one feels somewhat similar to the Corgi/Hot Wheels version (Corgi made it, then sold the molds to Hot Wheels) but with opening doors.  I was torn about whether to rank it closer to 20 than 30, but it ended up in 29th place...  

#28:  No. 1065 - Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (early '70s);  Metal Base, opening doors, I have it in 2 colors - white and gray.  Interestingly, the blue car in the photo is a casting of a later-model C3 Corvette - and an entirely different (and slightly smaller) casting with a metal base and opening doors - which would have been in thirty-first position... 

#27:  No. 1602 (and 1608 in the roofed / opening hood edition) - Jeep CJ-7;  Metal Base, opening hood (only on the roofed edition).  Somehow a Jeep like this again feels like a common casting, and I don't like the cheapy-feeling wheels.  But still, a nice full metal casting.   For some reason that I can't quite figure out, I prefer the open roof 1602 version over the closed roof 1608 version, even though I lose the opening hood...

#26:  No. 1015 - Ford Wagon;  Metal Base, but no opening parts.  Why did Matchbox, PlayArt AND Yatming all have to model the same Ford/Mercury wagon?  Couldn't anyone have done a Pontiac or a Plymouth wagon...? 

This ones' not anywhere as nice as the Lesney Matchbox Mercury Commuter, and is a little smaller, but I think its nicer than the similar PlayArt car.  The police version is much nicer than the plastic-based blue version (same No.) in the background - which lost massive amounts of detail and whose grill is no longer even the same shape as the metal-based version...

#25:  No. 1029 - BMW 320i;  This is one of a few plastic based castings that made it into the top 30, mostly because of their being uncommon castings.  It's hard to find an early 3-series like this, although it is in no competition whatsoever by Matchbox' MUCH nicer 320i cabriolet.  But it still looks nice and so makes it into the top 30... 

#24:  No. 1017 - BMW 2800;  Another plastic-based casting - with questionable detail - but the ONLY example I know of a BMW 2800...  My example has a broken axle holder so the back drags - this is a very common problem with Yatmings. 

#23:  No. 1018 - Opel Admiral;  Another plastic-based casting - again with questionable detail - but the ONLY example I know of an Opel Admiral - and one of the very few castings ever of Opel sedans...  Again - no competition whatsoever for Matchbox' superb superfast Opel Diplomat.  The detail is only so-so, and my example is very beat-up...   But good enough for 23rd place!   

(I'm kind of wish that I'd given positions 23 - 25 to the nicer quality but more commonly modeled cars in positions 27-30...  If you value unique castings you'll agree with my current placement - if you value quality and detail - you may disagree...). 

#22:  No. 1077 - Camaro Z-28;  Metal base, opening doors.  The stripe tampos aren't great - but otherwise a very nice example of a commonly-modeled casting.  Nicer than the ubiquitous Hot Wheels version.  If you are into quality castings (which I am) - or 1970's Camaros (which I'm not) then you need this casting...

#21:  No. 1008 - Ford Thunderbird - mid - 70s;  By most accounts this one SHOULD have been in the top 10...  A metal-based model of an unusually (never?) modeled car... 

However when I was ranking the models, this one just didn't make it on the "gotta-have-it" scale.  There are no opening doors, and the car, while reasonable size, just isn't quite big enough to be in true scale (the real Thunderbird is enormous).  Also the brown paint is kind of ugly.  In short, it sounds great, but it is let down a bit in its execution.  So it doesn't even break the top 20... 

#20:  No. 1078 - C2 Chevrolet Corvette - mid - 60s;  The nicest of Yatming's Vettes, again with metal base and opening doors.  Roughly equivalent to the mid '80s Hot Wheels casting (which didn't have opening doors - although in one version had an adjustable height rear axle). 

#19:  No. 1005 - Toyota GT 2000;  Another plastic non-opening door car - but a very rarely done model (at least in vintage times - it WAS made later in the '90s and '2000s).  The detailed metal-work on it looks great - enough to catapult it into the top 20... 

#18:  No. 1064 - Chevrolet Blazer;  In case you haven't noticed from my postings, I like full-size SUV models...  And this is a great one (though my particular model is again rocking a broken front axle).  Not quite as nice as Hot Wheels mid-80s Bronco, but nicer than Matchbox' police car off-road Blazer, made even nicer with opening doors and a metal base... 

#17:  No. 1700 - Chevrolet LUV pick-up;  I've never seen anyone do a Chevy LUV pickup - a car I remember well from my childhood.  This is another example of why Yatming fills such a void for collectors.  This casting has a plastic base and no opening doors - but its available in at least 3 colors - with further minor tampo variations. 

 #16:  No. ? (no number on the baseplate) - Chevrolet Stepside pick-up;  This casting is a too small for a full-size pick-up (similar to other 1980's 4th tier makers of full-size pick-ups).  So how did it beat the LUV...?  Simply put, the metal base helps a lot.  Plus, although its hard to see in this photo, it has a working tailgate, a VERY unusual feature in any diecast - let alone a non-premium casting (I think I've only seen working tailgates in Racing Champions pick-ups from 10-15 years ago). 

#15:  No. 1302 - Ferrari Grand Prix car, also No. 1303 March Grand Prix and No. 408 Lotus John Player Special Grand Prix cars (The nomenclature on the baseplate is different for the Lotus, so 408 may not be the actual model number); 
OK - I know this is cheating - to have 3 different castings included in 1 position - but I couldn't really choose between them - and I didn't want to list them 3 times.  I have other later Yatming Grand Prix cars that just look plasticky.  But these three?  Metal base and lots of detail get them into the top 15! 

#14:  No. 1078 - Jaguar XJS;  Opening doors and metal base, a bit small to my eyes which might have kept it from the top 10.  A fairly frequently modeled car, more like the long and thin proportions of Hot Wheels mid '80s Jaguar XJS vs. the fat and squat proportions of Corgi's XJS.  This particular example again has a broken rear axle...

 #13:  No. 1016 - Porsche (911 or 912) Targa;  The highest ranked of the plastic base cars.  Given how commonly 911s are modeled, I'm not sure quite how it got to 13th place vs. the LUV and other models....  But its got a pretty nice "gotta-have-it" factor which got it to 13th place.

#12:  No. 1057 - Plymouth Duster;  a great car, never modeled (particular these nasty mid '70s versions (unappealing full-size cars can be very appealing 1:64 cars!)), with opening doors and a metal base...   ...and some ugly stickers.   Includes custom side exit exhausts. 

 #11:  No. 1062 - Datsun 280Z;  .and now we start to get into the SERIOUSLY nice castings...  at first glance this one looks like a Tomica (though in fairness, the actual Tomica 280Z is just a bit more svelte and petite - where this one is a little chunky and high).  Metal base, opening doors, nice detail, etc. all make this a must have for your collection.  Available in at least the 2 colors shown! 

THE TOP 10!!!

#10:  No. 1055 - Toyota Crown;  another Tomica contender (in part since no one else models Japanese market sedans like the Crown...).  This one has the quality you'd expect from Tomica - but in a casting you won't find from them...  I just wish my example was in nicer condition!

#9:  No. 1060 - Pontiac (Firebird) Trans-Am;  This one SHOULDN'T have made it into the top 10... How can a car that was modeled AGAIN and AGAIN by just about every toy company on the planet - make it into the top 10 in a list where unusuality of casting is a major criteria...?  I guess by just doing the very common casting very, very well...  Available in at least 3 colors with excellent trim and metal work - and chrome metal headlights from the baseplate....  Not quite as nice as the super nice Tomica firebird (perhaps the best '70s Firebird ever modeled) - but plenty nice in its own right!  I actually prefer this car over my mint condition Johnny Lightning's from about 5-10 years ago. 

#8:  No. 1087 - Mercedes Benz SLC;  A hard to find model of a favorite 1:1 scale car (remember Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse...?).  Nice feel and nice heft.  The picture doesn't do it justice. 

The Matchbox 500SEC is one of my favorite Matchbox models of all time.  While this Yatming isn't THAT nice (and is a little smaller) - it is still a nice one to have in your collection...

#7:  No. 1067- Ford Mustang Turbo Cobra;  Like the Firebird, this one is of a more commonly modeled car, so you wouldn't think it'd make it into the top 10...  But in the metal, it just feels nice.  This is a quality piece... 

Focus on the beige one.  The white one (No. 1028) is a plastic based casting with doors cast shut.  While the cheaper casting is obviously based on the nicer one - it loses the hood scoop and gains the rear wing.  Avoid it and go for the quality beige version - you won't regret it! 

#6:  No.1053 - Cadillac Fleetwood Broughham;  This one is actually one of the most common of the nice Yatming models - its pretty easy to find on EBay.  I have 3 of them - all in the same wine/burgundy color.  But full size Cadillac castings are hard to come by in general  - and this one is a beauty - with wonderful heft.  And its even got a nice size from a scale perspective - not quite as large as I'd like it to be - but still definitely a big car relative to other Yatmings...  If you don't have it, you need it! 


#5:  No. 1061 - Mercedes 450 SEL;  This model was featured in my 450 SEL comparison a few months back, and while it didn't win it, it still gave a good effort.  In that article I commented on how it tried to out-Tomica the Tomica model.  This one might actually be better than the ubiquitous Matchbox version...  450SELs are a pretty commonly modeled car (Majorette, Tomica, Zylmex, Matchbox, etc.), which is the only thing that keeps this casting from even better than a 5th place finish. 

Note to collectors - Yatming actually made 2 versions of the 450 SEL.  This is by far the nicer (and larger) version, though the other one (No. 1012) also can have a metal base and opening doors.  You want 1061, not 1012....).

#4:  No. 1088 - BMW 6 Series;  As a kid, the 635i/M6 models were one of my dream cars, but for some reason they were seldom modeled by toy companies.  I've got a Siku version that is too large (typical of Siku models), and of course I have the earlier (and unfortunately over-scaled Matchbox 3.0 CSI), but I think that this Yatming is the only correctly scaled version of the '80s 6 series. 

Plus, its just a nice model in its own right.  Metal base, opening doors, nice detail, nice grill, good trim, etc.  The puke-orange color is a bit unfortunate, as are the random tampos (note that the 2 I show in this photo have different tampos).  Overall, an excellent model - that got to 4th place...   The top finishing model of a European car. 

#3:  No. ? - Nissan Silvia (200SX for those of us in the USA);  The baseplate didn't have a number - I don't know why.  I think this one is super rare - I've never seen it anywhere other than my collection.  If not for the poor Yatming wheels this car would easily be mistaken for a vintage Tomica. 

My friend Kevin Gounaud's Mom Karen drove one of these when I was in middle school, though hers was more of a wine//burgundy color vs. red.  But even though 200SXs were common sights on the roads in the '80s, I'm not aware that it was modeled by anyone other than Yatming and Tomica - and the fastback Yatming is NICER than the notchback plastic base-plate Tomica model.  Yes, I just said that a Yatming is a nicer model than a Tomica!

It was a little hard to place this car.  Its a great casting, so definitely deserved to be in the top 10.  I originally had it in 5th or 6th place before moving it to 3rd on account of how unique the casting is...

#2:  No. 1075 - Ford Galaxy;  ...And now for something completely different....  

This model is perplexing.  It is like nothing else Yatming has done (except for maybe a yellow Malibu that I've seen on EBay?).  It was a throw-back model of an American muscle car - and thankfully an unusually modeled muscle car.  And of course it has a metal base, opening doors and nice trim work...

This one is somewhat available on EBay - I've seen it multiple times - so you should be able to get your hands on one.  And oddly, both of my examples, and almost every EBay one, are in mint condition.  Therefore I'm not sure that this is AS vintage of a vintage Yatming as the other ones on this list.  But if its not, how do I explain the quality, the number, the metal base, etc.?  There is probably a story that I'm not aware of.  But regardless, a very nice piece.  The 2nd best Yatming in my collection...


#1:  No. 1054 - Plymouth Fury;  Wow - did I really just pick a pea-green model of a 1970's America car that was awful, fat, slow, ponderous and gas-guzzling (that just happened to be driven by my great-grandparents Corey and Ruth Bubar...) as the best Yatming of all time?!? 

You bet I did!  If the Crown was like a domestic market Tomica, then this one is practically a Tomica F-Series with a Yatming name on the bottom.  A bit nicer than the Furys (all police cars and taxis) modeled by other toy companies (including Tomica) (note that the Matchbox Fury police car was a generation newer than this one - so is a different model altogether).  Nice size/scale (though I'd still prefer it to be a touch larger), nice heft, nice features, nice trim and detail, etc.  Buy it if you can find it - the best Yatming of all time!  

I hope you enjoyed the read - this article was a lot of work to put together!  I'm sure that you'll disagree about which cars I included, and how I ranked them...   Heck, I disagree already with some of my choices!  Let me know your comments, or send me ( photos of your favorite Yatmings that should've made it into the list... 


  1. The original grand prix cars that made by Yatming in Hong Kong are very detailed and beautiful, there is 12 different ones and all of them have metal bases.

    1301 Honda
    1302 Ferrari
    1303 March
    1304 Melaren Ford
    1305 Lotus JPS 72
    1306 McLaren M23 
    1307 Tyrell Elf 007
    1308 Hesketh 308
    1309 Brabham BT 44
    1310 Ferrari 312 B3
    1311 Lola T 370
    1312 BRM P.201

    but I'm not sure in which year Yatming started making them, but all I know is that they are from the 70s.

    And about the black lotus you have are you sure it's a Yatming? Because It's different and not from the original 12.

  2. Thanks Don, for your thoughtful and informed comment. (Nothing makes bloggers happier than knowledgable commentary and questions!).

    Aside from a different baseplate design (that still says Yatming), the black Lotus GP car feels like it is part of the same series as the other GP cars. The wheels are identical, the scale the same, the overall feel the same, etc. It doesn't at all feel like the later and cheaper GP cars.

    Where did you get your list of 12 GP cars?


      I did some changes on it because I think it was incorrect, but check out that link there's huge list for 1/64 Yatmings.