Originally posted January 8th, 2017.
Note: Be sure to read my updated edit at the end of this post!
I’m a collector who thoroughly enjoys the hunt. I have about a 40 to 45 minute radius that I regularly make my rounds through – I hit every Walmart, K-mart, Target, Roses, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, and mall that I can find. I’ve even made interesting finds at places like Walgreens and Kohl’s. I don’t hit home runs all the time, but the minute differences in inventory from one big box store to another is surprising. Finding the right store can be tough. You’ve gotta hit one that moves enough inventory to regularly bring in new stock, but at the same time, you don’t want it moving too fast because then, well, someone else gets it instead of you!
Some of the patterns that emerge are kinda weird, for example Walmart is best for Star Wars stuff in general, but Target is more likely to carry the newer stuff. Cary in general gets the newest stuff, while the rarer stuff tends to linger in Durham longer. Barnes & Noble may not have the most exhaustive stock, but it’s the only place I’ve ever found a Clone Shock Trooper or the ARC-170 Starfighter. I’d say I’ve found at least 1 cool thing at 90% of the stores I’ve been to.
A couple of nights ago I made my way to Brier Creek, this sort of gray area off Hwy 70 between Raleigh and Durham where a massive strip mall has popped up. Normally I hit up the Walmart and Target and I swing by the B&N and Kohl’s every couple of visits. The Walmart isn’t so great for Hot Wheels cars, but they have been on top of it when it comes to other toys – for instance I got 6 of the Hot Wheels Mandalorian Starfighters back when they were new and they’re tough to find even now. Target can be good for new releases but they don’t have much in the way of a back catalog. Some of the B&N’s stock more toys than others, and unfortunately the one out here at Brier Creek is fairly light. The Kohl’s gets some fun stuff every once in a while (like that Captain America 75th Anniversary 4-pack) but their stock is really, really slow to turn over.
There’s one last place out there worth checking and that’s where this find takes place. If you go about 3 exits past Brier Creek and take that last exit before it becomes a toll road, there’s a little Walmart there on the edge of Morrisville. They’re pretty close to falling into that sweet spot of just enough business to keep fresh stock but not so much that the good stuff disappears as soon as it hits shelves. I even found a Han Solo / Greedo 2-pack, the only one I’ve ever seen in the wild. They’re also good at getting those Walmart exclusive sets of 8, which it seems like my 2 closest Walmarts never get.
Before I get to my first awesome find, I should probably give the car in question a bit of context. If you’re familiar with character cars then you probably know that the 5-packs usually include one exclusive car that you can’t get elsewhere. Well way back, like 2014, Hot Wheels released a DC Justice League 5-pack with a black version of the fairly common blue Batman Hot Rod. Should you attempt to track this down, be careful not to get it mixed up with the other Justice League 5-pack which features a black “regular” Batman car. There’s a plain ol’ Batman Character Car which happens to be black, then there’s the blue Batman Hot Rod, and then there’s the black Batman Hot Rod that was only available in that set. (And then there’s the Armored Batman from BvS as well.)
For whatever reason, possibly because of the black Batman Hot Rod (and probably the Wonder Woman car as well), these 5-packs fetch a hefty price. Normally a 5-pack is like $20 in the store, which means I wouldn’t mind paying $30-ish for it online, particularly those that are out of production. Unfortunately the cheapest I’ve ever spotted one of these sets for is about $60. Crazy, right? I may be able to flip the loose Wonder Woman (I already have one) for $10 or so, but we still end up with a very expensive black Batman Hot Rod. The rareness of the pack is further exemplified by its unavailability – you can’t always find one for sale, no matter what you’re willing to pay. When they do show up on eBay, they can run as high as the $80 mark.
Since I want to be as informative as possible for the aspiring and hardcore character car collectors alike, I took a quick look: 2 of these 5-packs are in stock over at Amazon (3rd party) for $74.95. If you don’t mind damaged packaging, you can snag one for $64.95. You’ll have less luck on eBay right this very second; in fact, the last one to appear on eBay was sold back on October 22nd for $59.
So here am I with every character car in the DCU series except that damn black Batman Hot Rod. I got those 4 new guys, the 3 DC Super Hero Girls, both versions of Man of Steel, the old Wonder Woman, the new Wonder Woman, and so on and so forth…except that damn black hot rod. Should I drop another $60 – $80 to complete my collection…?
Well guess what?
I don’t have to!
Behold, a brand new Batcave trackset featuring the BLACK BATMAN HOT ROD!!!
Ain’t it cool? I found this over at that Morrisville Walmart. I was digging through the regular Hot Wheels in search of any cool new 2017 releases, and looking for the new 2017 Retro Entertainment series, and just as I was about to move on to something else, the new “Hot Wheels Character Cars” logo caught my eye and there it was! I may not end up using the trackset all that much but hey, $20 for my own black hot rod? Yes sir, I’ll take it!
EDIT: Oh crap. As I was putting the finishing touches on this article and putting the pictures in place, I realized that my excitement is short lived – the two black hot rods are in fact different. If you look at the car in the 5-pack, you’ll notice the black body and the gold frame. Now take a look at the vehicle with the Batcave – black body with a silver frame. Agh! On the one hand I did technically find a new character car, but on the other it looks like I still need to get that pricey little 5-pack to complete my collection. Dammit.