If collecting more than 250 Hot Wheels cars per year isn't enough of a challenge, prepare yourself for embarking on what many fans consider the ultimate quest: finding a Treasure Hunt or, if you're really lucky, a Super Treasure Hunt. Finding cars from either of these unique sets not only increases the value of your collection, but adds a new element of fun to the Hot Wheels search for both kids and adults alike.
Treasure Hunt vs. Super Treasure Hunt
Before you can find a Treasure Hunt (TH) or Super Treasure Hunt (STH), you must know what to look for. The defining characteristic of a TH is the small, circular flame symbol, most often found on the side of the vehicle but also located on the top, the rear of the car or even the hood. However, it will always be visible without having to open the packaging. It can also be seen on the artwork of the car on the card, but it's generally easier to spot on the car itself. On average, there is generally one treasure hunt per Hot Wheels case.
Super Treasure Hunts take some extra diligence to discover. These cars feature Spectraflame (metallic) paint and Real Riders (rubber) tires. There is also a small "TH" symbol located on the car, found on any visible side of the car. While Mattel doesn't divulge the ratio for Super Treasure Hunts, they are generally only found rarely and they are not in every case.
As of 2015, there are 12 Treasure Hunts and 12 Super Treasure Hunts per year to find, as they correlate to each wave, or new set of cars, that hits stores.
Hunting at Retail
For many collectors, the search for both Treasure Hunts and Super Treasure Hunts begins at a retail store. Begin by visiting the store and observe when they restock merchandise. Generally, a 24-hour store will stock late in the evening, and other stores with more regular hours will have full shelves upon opening as they restock overnight. If you notice the pegs are getting bare, odds are high that more cars are coming in the next few days. If you're lucky enough to live around multiple retailers, scope out a few to increase your chances of finding one of these gems.
If you're lucky, you may find an employee stocking in the evening willing to give you a case right off the pallet so you can have first crack at looking for a TH or STH. Offering to put the cars on the pegs as you look through the case may persuade the employee. Keep in mind that being polite will increase your odds, and never pester or berate an employee into giving you a case: At some stores, it is against store policy to let customers handle the merchandise before it's on the pegs, so always be respectful.
Local hobby or toy stores are great locations to find hard-to-find cars like Super Treasure Hunts, but you're likely to pay over retail price. Often, these stores are aware of what they're selling and will mark the rare cars up accordingly. However, the car may be worth the price if you are an avid collector of a specific model wanting a special addition to your collection.
Online auction websites like eBay provide another avenue to locate both Treasure Hunts and Super Treasure Hunts; however, similar to hobby stores, be prepared to pay more as most sellers know what they are selling. Be wary of misrepresented cars, as some sellers like to stuff additional keywords in their titles to get hits. For example, a common car may say "Super Treasure Hunt" in the title just to get more views, when in fact they are only selling a regular car. Examine the auction's pictures to locate the TH or STH markings; if you don't see them, chances are it's not the car you're looking for.
If you're looking to score a good deal on a TH or STH, look for auctions that end at either odd hours of the night or when most collectors are possibly at work, such as the early morning. In addition, look for lots that may contain either type of car, and be on the lookout for misspelled titles. With a little effort, you could potentially save a lot of money!
In addition, some collectors like to purchase entire cases of Hot Wheels online, virtually guaranteeing themselves a TH and increasing their chances of finding a STH. However, with this method you are going to receive duplicates of many of the other regular cars in the case.
Building a Network
Networking is a collector's best friend. If you know fellow local collectors, you can help each other out searching for treasures; for example, your friend may happen across a STH across town and buy it for you.
To further increase your odds, consider networking with fellow collectors online where your networking potential is endless. For example, the Hot Wheels subreddit has collectors on the hunt both nationwide and globally, and traditional forums such as the forum on the Hot Wheels Collectors website Checking posts every few days can tip you off on when stores are stocking new product so you can diligently search your stores, or someone may be looking to trade a TH or STH for another car.