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Photo by Mark Kennedy/Hot Wheels cars are still popular items on store shelves. Early Hot Wheels cars from the late 1960s and early 1970s are gaining in value.

Joel Magee, a toy collector regularly featured as a Disney Toy expert on the TV series "Pawn Stars," says those Hot Wheels cars many baby boomers collected in the late 1960s and 1970s could be worth money today.

And he should know. Magee recently found the holy grail of Hot Wheels collectibles, a 1968 Camaro prototype car with enamel white paint that could be worth up to $100,000.

"I've already been offered $70,000," Magee, a 58-year-old West Palm Beach, Florida, resident said in an interview with the Times Free Press.

Magee says novice collectors aren't likely to find a Hot Wheels prototype in a box in the attic. Only someone connected to a worker in one of the original Hot Wheels factories in California or Hong Kong would have access to such a choice piece, he said.

But that shouldn't discourage anyone from hauling out their old Hot Wheels collection to see what they're worth.

While you're looking, keep an eye out for an early Hot Wheels Redline Oldmobile 442, Magee said. One manufactured in 1969 or 1970 could easily fetch $200 to $400 he said.

Hot Wheels hit the market in 1968, and even common cars from the earliest years of manufacturing can fetch $10 to $40 each, he said. So if you've got a shoe box full of early Hot Wheels, it's worth sorting them out and determining their value. You could be holding a basket of money.

Magee said a good way to determine the value of a collectible toy, such as a Hot Wheels car, is to look at completed transactions on EBay. Pick a midpoint between the highest and lowest sale price to determine the approximate market value.

He says the more valuable Hot Wheels are so-called red-line cars, so named because they have red lines (instead of whitewalls) on the wheels.

And while you're in the attic look around for these highly collectible 20th Century toys:

* A "Lost In Space" Roto-Jet gun. In a box it could be worth $15,000 to $20,000.

* A Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype action figure from an early installment of the "Star Wars" series is a six-figure item. In a box it could be worth about $250,000, Magee said. One out of a box recently sold for $168,000, he said.

Magee said he got interested in toy collecting when, as a young adult, he spotted a G.I. Joe lunchbox at a flea market in Sioux City, Iowa. It was just like one he had as a kid, which set him on a mission to recapture samples of all his favorite childhood toys.

"I wanted to get my childhood back," he said.

He says people begin to develop nostalgia for their childhood playthings when they reach about 40 years old, so even toys from the 1980s are now gaining in popularity among collectors.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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