The best kids' toys have dynamic and action-packed names - GI Joe, Power Rangers, Hot Wheels! Just like those legends, Johnny Lightning cars have electrified kids everywhere and competed to outsell Hot Wheels since they launched in 1969. Marketed as the fastest die-cast car on the shelf, the vintage company still makes toy cars today. While most modern kids are ride or die for Hot Wheels, toy collectors will kick up a storm over adding the rarest and most valuable Johnny Lightning cars to their hoard.
Most Valuable Johnny Lightning Cars to Look For
|Most Valuable Johnny Lightning Cars||Recent Sales Price|
|The Munster Series||$625|
|Custom Mako Shark||$295|
|Dukes of Hazzard General Lee||$225.95|
|James Bond Series||$89|
Johnny Lightning cars are like so many other vintage toys whose names have been lost to time. Yet, collectors still remember these super quick die-cast cars from the 1960s and 1970s, and are always on the hunt for the last cars to round out their collections with. Make a little extra cash by finding one or two of the most valuable Johnny Lightning cars in your parent's old toy stash.
One of Johnny Lightning's first cars in its initial lineup was the custom GTO. It came with a huge number of variants - multiple colors, two body casts, and both open and closed doors. Since the car came in such a wide variety of combinations, completing the set can be costly today. With the cars coming out over 50 years ago, the hunt for every Custom GTO is arduous and expensive. But it's great for anyone who has one of these originals lying around. If you have one, you can score some decent cash. For example, this beautiful mirror finish orange Custom GTO in great condition sold for $750 on eBay.
Custom Mako Shark
Another of the first Johnny Lightning cars was the Custom Mako Shark, based on the designs for the 1965 Mako Shark II XP-830 concept car. But this futuristic-looking car isn't worth that much unless it's one of the rare color combinations. For instance, finding a car with a gold or white mirror finish is quite rare. These rare colors can sell for far more than the usual $10-$20. One toy collector currently has a near mint Ruby Red Mako Shark car still in its blister pack listed for $295.
Dukes of Hazzard General Lee
Kids from the late 70s and early 80s will remember the General Lee fondly. Inspired by the Dukes of Hazzard's iconic ride, Johnny Lightning's commemorative Dodge Charger isn't worth more than about $20 unless it's signed by any of the original cast members. Those signatures up the car's value into the hundreds. This one, signed by Catherine Bach and Rick Hurst, lists on eBay for $225.95.
The Munster Series
Monsters were all the rage in the late-1950s and 1960s, and one of the funniest shows to come out of monster mania was The Munsters. Centered around a quirky creature family, there was a ton of Munster merch on the market. Curiously, the Munster-inspired Johnny Lightning cars weren't made while the series aired, but rather in the late-1990s and early 2000s. No matter when they were manufactured, these tie-in cars like the famous "Koach" are still collectible.
People love stuff related to pop culture, and these mini Munster cars are a perfect example of something innocuous selling for big money at auction. Individually, these toys aren't worth a lot, but an auction lot of them can sell for a few hundred bucks. Take this 6 car lot that sold on Heritage Auctions for $625, for example.
James Bond Series
James Bond has a tight grip on pop culture, and Bondmania was just as pervasive in the '60s as Beatlemania was. Everyone wanted to be as suave and talented as the fictional spy, and they bought anything that made them feel a little more like 007.
Companies still make classic Bond merch today, and Johnny Lightning is one that's never passed up on a media tie-in opportunity. In the '90s, they released various famous Bond cars, including the Sunbeam Alpine from Dr. No and the Ford Mustang Mach 1 from Diamonds Are Forever. Just like with other tie-ins, avid Bond fans want to have every piece of Bond merch available, including these quaint die-cast models. As with the Munster cars, Bond cars aren't that valuable by themselves, but they can sell for around $100 when sold together. For instance, a set of four Bond cars in their blister packs sold online for $89.
Are Johnny Lightning Cars Worth Selling?
Unlike some vintage Hot Wheels, old Johnny Lightning cars don't typically break the $500 barrier at auction. Although they're a blast to play with, the fun doesn't always translate into high prices on the resale market. Since Johnny Lightning cars appeal to niche collectors, there just aren't enough people asking for them to drive their prices higher than about $10 apiece - especially those that've been removed from their blister packs. But, race cars never go out of style, so if you were planning on keeping one toy around for future generations to play with, it definitely should be these.
Characteristics That Can Turn Into Cash
Although there's little guarantee that you're going to make more than a handful of change from your vintage Johnny Lightning cars, there are a couple of characteristics that tend to increase their values at auction. Be on the lookout for:
- Blister Packs - Like with any die-cast car, one with the original packaging has the best condition possible, so it'll sell for the highest amount of money.
- Pop Culture Editions - On their own, Johnny Lightning cars don't have the same cultural capital that top sellers like Hot Wheels do. But you can bank on appealing to non-toy car collectors if you find cars that hit on a piece of pop culture.
- Rare Colors - Unfortunately, knowing which colors for which cars are hard to find is really difficult for the average person to know. So, that's where getting a toy collector's input is super useful. The Toy Car Collector website is one resource that has a ton of info about the cars he sells, so it's a great place to start.
Get Your Greased Lightnin' On
Although average Johnny Lightning cars might not give you the funds to invest in your retirement, rare cars do come along and outpace the competition. While you're much better off wheeling and dealing in vintage Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars, you can make a small rainy day fund off of a Johnny Lightning here and there and definitely win any toy derby you get thrown into.