In 1970, the world of die-cast toy cars was a very different place. The British Matchbox brand had been around since 1953, Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand was just two years old, and Topper Toys had just launched Johnny Lightning in the summer of ’69. For kids on the other side of the world, however, the die-cast offerings were, well, foreign. In Japan, 1:64-scale toy cars and trucks were all imported from overseas — a mix of unfamiliar automakers and fantasy creations.
Tomica aimed to change that, launching a line of Japanese autos in a die-cast form that was familiar to kids locally. Produced by Takara TOMY, the line took packaging inspiration from Matchbox, with each vehicle arriving in a rectangular cardboard box. One big difference is that the designers didn’t stick to the typical 1:64-scale; they designed their vehicles to fit the package, leading to some unique differences in size.
Over the years, Tomica branched out, and as its popularity caught on, more vehicles from around the world made their way into the mix, with the line becoming popular not just with kids, but with adult collectors as well. Despite more than a half a billion Tomica vehicles sold worldwide, here in North America, the pegs have been empty for about a decade, but that’s changing thanks to Walmart. Ahead of Tomica’s 50th anniversary next year, select Walmart locations are stocking an initial assortment of 12 vehicles spread across two waves.
Packaged on a blister card back that pays tribute to Tomica’s place as the No. 1 die-cast brand in Japan, each vehicle is identical to its Japanese counterpart — right down to the included numbered box that bears the Takara TOMY logo (it’s simply TOMY internationally) and Japanese writing. TOMY International sent the Pop Insider the 1:10-scale Isuzu Giga Potato Truck, the 1:60-scale Suzuki Swift Sport, and the 1:66-scale Toyota Prius PHV GR Sport. One important note is that the blister pack — which many view as part of the collectible — is not resealable, so the card back will be destroyed in order to access the die-cast vehicle and its Japanese cardboard box.
The vehicles have a distinct weight and stance. In this assortment, both the Prius and Suzuki feature opening trunks, and the Potato Truck includes a working swivel hitch to pull its starchy cargo. When placed into a play environment or diorama, it becomes pretty apparent why these are popular Instagram fodder for toy photographers. Collectors will enjoy being able to get their hands on these vehicles, previously marketed as “Pocket Cars” in the U.S., without paying import prices and international shipping.
It’s important to note that these Tomica vehicles are only sold at brick-and-mortar Walmart locations (for now), so you won’t be able to order them online without paying secondary market prices. Labeled for kids ages 8 and up, the $4.99 price point puts these in the adult collector category alongside Mattel’s Hot Wheels Premium collection and offerings from rivals, such as Greenlight Collectibles, but with an international design flair that feels uniquely Tomica.
Tomica North American Wave 1 Vehicles Include:
- Isuzu Giga Potato Truck;
- Mazda CX-5;
- Nissan GT-R;
- Subaru BRZ;
- Suzuki Swift Sport; and
- Toyota Prius PHV GR Sport.
Tomica North American Wave 2 Vehicles Include:
- Animal Truck with Panda;
- Lexus RC-F;
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV;
- Nissan Note;
- Subaru Impreza; and
- Toyota C-HR.
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Photos: The Pop Insider