The late 80s was a weird time for me, toy and collecting-wise, because I was racing into my awkward preteen years and the idea of playing with toys was starting to become the epitome of uncool. In 1987 I turned 10 years old and for the first time toys and kid-centric things were not the center of my universe, pop culturally speaking. My best friend at the time was tiny little metalhead who had just introduced me to Metallica, I had received the Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas that year, and skaters were now the crowd that I was hoping to force my way into. Of course, I still had a huge pile of toys that I cherished, and the idea of taking a trip to Toys R Us or Circus World in the mall was still the height of excitement. But there were certainly other things vying for my attention and money. So when Galoob launched their Micro Machines line that year I was conflicted; did I ask my parents to help fund yet another toy collection, or do I push for that brand new Powell Peralta Mike McGill skateboard I wanted?
Ultimately I chose to focus on skateboards and Metallica albums on cassette, but that didn’t stop me from coveting these tiny car sets. Eventually though, sometime in the middle of 1988, I did finally manage to trade my way into a modest collection of Micro Machines cars. There was a kid down the street who seemed to have everything under the sun when it came to toys and games, but his parents were weirdly strict with one thing, Garbage Pail Kids. He was always trying to snag any of the gross Topps stickers he could get his hands on, and at the time I was finally at a point where I was ready to let my collection of sticker cards go. I had a Ziploc bag with a stack of 2nd through 5th series stickers that I’d amassed, probably three or four hundred cards with complete sets of series 3 and 4. We met up halfway between our houses at dusk on a warm summer night and made a trade. All of my Garbage Pail Kids stickers for his giant tire-shaped Hot Wheels Redline collector’s case full of Micro Machines. I think there were 50 or 60 cars packed into that case including some of my favorites from the line like the Lamborghini Countach, the Porsche 911 convertible, and some wild colored Ford Mustangs. I had to hide the case under a stack of comic books in my closet so that my mother didn’t see it. She hated when I traded my stuff with other kids in the neighborhood, but I had to have these. Eventually I took the empty collectors case out into the woods near my house and buried it under a bunch of fallen pine needles and just kept the Micro Machines in the top drawer of my dresser (which was reserved for my odds and ends treasures for years.
As the years progressed and I found myself with some disposable income (typically from saving up my lunch money in my middle and high school years), I’d add to the collection here and there when I saw a set of Micro Machines that really caught my eye. Or in some cases, I’d pick up a set of off-brand tiny vehicles, like the set of Ertl 1989 Batman minis that included the Batwing, Batmobile and the Joker Van. In the 90s I went all in on the official Micro Machine, movie-themed sets for flicks like Predator, Aliens, Star Trek and Star Wars. But at some point over the years I’ve lost every single one of these with the exception of tiny action figures of Admiral Ackbar and a Gamorean Guard.
Even though I wasn’t a huge collector of the line, I did love the ones I had, so when I found out last week from a very cool bud on Twitter, Michael from Retromash.com, that there was a brand new book centering on a huge collection of Micro Machines called Micro But Many, I just had to order a copy for myself.
The book is from author and Micro Machines super collector Tim Smith and features over a thousand photos of the tiny vehicles in his impressive 5,000 piece collection. Clocking in at 400 pages, this book covers almost everything you’d want to know about the toy line with chapters dedicated to the various eras of the line, the folks who dreams up and designed the toys, as well as a curated sections highlighting sets from his collection. Smith sticks mainly to the standard Micro Machines automotive and vehicle sets in the book, and doesn’t really showcase any of the pop culture sets that Galoob produced in the mid to late 90s,but it’s a treasure trove of tiny car imagery for sure.
As soon as I received the book in the mail (which came very quickly considering the current pandemic and the fact that the book is a UK publication and ships from across the sea), the first thing that jumped out to me was the attention to detail in every single aspect. Not only was the book packaged extremely well (complete with custom foam inserts in the box to ensure a perfectly mint copy arrives at your doorstep), but the presentation and design is outstanding. The small but substantial hardback volume features a beautiful lenticular cover, and design features throughout the book that utilize the color palette of the original toy packaging in very smart ways (from the sewn-in silk bookmarks to the chapter break pages.) The photography is great with hundreds of oversized photos of Micro Machines, as well as a lot of behind the scenes imagery of the folks who worked at the company in the hey day of the line, as well as lots of pre-production and prototype artwork. Smith and the publisher went out of their way to track down a lot of the folks associated with the toys, including scoring a forward for the book by none other than MM spokesman and actor John Moschitta Jr, the fastest talker in the world. There are also a lot of fun visual embellishments in the book like holographic foil blocked pages notating the ultra pieces in Smith’s collection.
I’m a huge fan of visual guide books that seek to compile and celebrate toy lines, like the various Mark Bellomo G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Transformers guide books, and this Unofficial Micro Machines Collection by Tim Smith is a shining example of how to knock it out of the park. In fact the only thing missing in the book is photography of in-package examples of the sets, but considering that the focus of the book is on Tim’s personal collection, it stands to reason that these would all be loose cars. If you’re looking for a complete Micro Machines product compendium, this book might not be for you, but if you are a fan of the toy line and want to relive the excitement of these tiny cars with a lot of the company history and one hell of a personal collection, this book is well worth checking out.
You can snag your own copy of the book from the Bitmap Books site. You can also check out Tim’s site, Micro But Many, where he’s adding photos of his collection all the time. Remember, if it doesn’t say Micro Machines, it’s not the real thing!