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Mattel Disney Pixar Diecast CARS: Collecting CARS on ‘Desert Art’ Cards

Last week, we discussed collecting CARS – through the years as Mattel changed motifs and designs, how the CARS were generally repeated so if you’re opening them or just collecting one of each, some aspects are relatively straightforward – in particular – if a CAR had a particularly nameplate, there were not a lot of significant changes so if you bought Luigi in 2006, he looks pretty much the same in 2010 or 2011. Sure, there minor production changes to a handful of CARS but hardly earth shattering …

But for those collecting them on card and sealed – it’s the difference between grade school and college. It only looks the same from a satellite view …

(here is a quick snapshot of the different motifs-card designs from 2006 (left to 2010 on the right).

Every year, generally in the Fall, Mattel changes the design & motif for marketing reasons. Some of the intent is of course so that fanatical collectors will buy again but really, it’s mostly to jazz up the line at retail so everything seems “new” again to the average customer & retailers. This design is generally changed on carded items first but quickly encompasses all other releases including box sets. In the case of CARS, Disney also approves this official art to be used on other CARS licensed merchandise so you will see the background art used on everything from candles to bedding to bicycles.

Also note, while in some years, the ‘theme’ seems to be named right on the card (supercharged, race o rama, etc …) technically, it’s all unofficial as it’s all just called CARS and then the specific product description.

Collectors consider the “mainline” cards to the foundation of any collection whether you collect action figures, or diecast cars. While box sets and other configurations are considered part of the collection, no one really considers collecting a lineup by only collecting the box sets (for instance, in the original Desert Art series, you could pretty much build a complete collection of all the characters by buying box sets only BUT collectors would consider these complementary – obviously if you’re an opener, no one really cares but this is a discussion on mint-on-card collecting).

2006 – “Desert Art” (April 2006 to October 2006)

There is no actual official name for the 2006 series. In fact, even though some of the other years are clearly marked, Mattel simply refers to them all as ‘mainline singles.’

Without going into great detail as we have covered this period in our book and the checklist magazine, CARS diecasts started out with fairly low expectations. Sure, it would sell fine for the life of the film and maybe the DVD and then later on, during Christmas in the subsequent years, they might bring out a few box sets but NO diecast licensed line has ever lasted very long. The closest might be the James Bond series and that is really a scattered series of multiple scales and while successful as periodical collectible items, they were never a long mainstream mass market success.

CARS was originally scheduled for release in November 2005 and Pixar was not part of Disney yet while marketing was being planned and there was a chance that Pixar films would not be distributed by Disney going forward so Disney was also thinking in the short term. (Pixar did became part of Disney in 2006 but by then, all marketing plans were locked in).

Also a factor, the film did not test very high and in general, people were leery a talking CAR movie would be very interesting with Herbie the Love Bug apparently as the CITIZEN KANE of talking car films … though technically Herbie never actually said anything – he was more like Charlie Chaplin.

So, to recap –
NEVER a long term mass market successful licensed diecast lineup.
Most licensed movie properties weak long term prospects in the mid 2000’s. (Biggest movie of 2006? PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN).
No Pixar movie has had much a mass market long term success in selling toys (even Toy Story’s …)
CARS not testing very high.
Talking CARS seemed to be a unpopular concept.
Disney was not getting along with Pixar.
Toys R Us in near death throes.

So CARS the diecast launched with 12 singles and 4 Movie Moments multipacks (featuring 9 additional CARS not on the mainline singles) amidst fairly low expectations.

Now it had one thing going for it – it was from Disney and Mattel so there was going to be at least some collector interest (just like the recent Mattel Hot Wheels Toy Story 3 diecast cars).

I think my experience in collecting these started pretty much like everyone else … “the holy crap these are nice, I will buy some in what is sure to be a very limited line – if they release more than 40 from this film, I will dance in the aisles wearing a Ryan Leaf official jersey.”

So, if you’re collecting the basic “Desert Art” starter set is 12 singles + 4 Movie Moments.

In July, they released 4 new singles in the same front card design so 12 + 9 + 4 would complete your carded collection (there are obviously other items you could buy but for singles, that would be it). That’s 25 carded CARS BTW 🙂

So while you had some HW & Disneyana collectors, most people buying them were parents buying for the kids – these would become collectibles? That’s crazy. How much interest is there in Incredible action figures or Pirates of the Caribbean?

So BUY, RIP open.

And hardly anyone – certainly not parents buying for kids saves the cardback so did the cardback feature 12 CARS or 16? Or had or did not have a promo code on the back top right? Who knew. Who cares.

And really, how many Hot Wheels are worth $.50 after a few weeks while only a select few even retain their value – let alone increase?

Who knew.

So, if nothing else, there are fewer SEALED Desert Art sets than any other for these reasons.

Because there was no information online (TakeFive was still devoted entirely to Amish entertainment centers back then 🙂 ), that also added to people just buying and opening.

What also didn’t and doesn’t help is that on eBay, most sellers cannot even figure out if the card they have is a 12-CAR back or a 16-CAR back. They just call them classic or desert art cards.

That’s why it’s impossible to say how much a “full” set of Desert Art cards is worth because which one do you have and what level of detail matching are you offering?

The 4 Movie Moments are easy as they never changed during the entire run of Desert Art card design so 4 of those is 4 of those.

Here are all the versions of the Desert Art sets starting from MUST HAVE to YOUR CALL:

12 Desert Art cards of the original Wave 1 release.
These can be identified with the photo of the 12-CARS on the cardback. This is obviously the rock solid foundation – no questions asked. MUST OWN.

16 Desert Art cards of the Wave 1.5 release.
These can be identified with the revised photo on the cardback now showing 16 CARS. Since this a card change shows a new “series-wave,” many collectors count this as a separate release and so you need all 16 CARS with this 16-cardback to be complete in wave 1.5

However, if you’re only collecting NEW releases from each wave, there is technically only 4 NEW CARS released on Desert Art Wave 1.5

4 Desert Art cards NEW of the Wave 1.5 release.

These can be identified with the revised photo on the cardback now showing 16 CARS. Dinoco Lightning McQueen, Leakless (aka: Leak Less), Green Ramone & Nitroade were the 4 NEW CARS released after the first wave – appearing on the new 16-CARS cardback.

Because 12 of the 16 CARS can be considered re-releases, some collectors only collect non-re-releases.

NOW, this is where we diverge from the main road.

As noted, because of the hodge podge of the marketing situation, it seems after Mattel finished with Sarge, Wingo and Lizzie – presumably Disney wanted them to add in a mail away offer to juice sales and boost awareness for CARS – but since these 3 were done, they were released without the promo code on the top right. Most serious completist collectors will want to add the Wingo, Sarge & Lizzie WITHOUT the Promo Code.

This is made more difficult as most secondary sellers do not show you the back of the card or WORSE, simply use a random photo …

3 Desert Art cards 12-CARS cardback – NO PROMO CODE.

So, either the seller knows this is a hard to find cardback or you get no info or worse, random incorrect info from a photo that might be from some other auction.

Along the same lines is the Filmore/Fillmore front name plate situation. Through MOST of the run of Desert Art 12-cardback series, Fillmore was spelled incorrectly on the front as FILMORE. In the tiny type below the CAR, he was also spelled incorrectly as FILMORE but his name as always spelled correctly in his large blurb (see below).

When Mattel switched the plant from Thailand to China, someone finally realized it was spelled wrong so they fixed the error in the last batch of Fillmore releases on the 12-CAR cardback.

1 Desert Art cards 12-CARS Fillmore cardback – CORRECTED ERROR.

So, the CORRECTED 12-CAR cardback of Fillmore is the more difficult to find. Note – ALL 16-cardback cards of Fillmore are CORRECT.

So, again, this one is difficult to find as ALL the 16-cardback versions are correct front and back while the 12-cardback version is ONLY RARE if the front and back are spelled CORRECTLY.

From March 2006 to @May 2006, 12-cardback Filmore is spelled incorrectly front & back but “common.”

@June 2006, Fillmore is spelled correctly on “last” 12-cardback. One shipment?

@June 2006 to October 2006 – Fillmore is spelled correctly on all 16-cardback – “common.”

So, my opinion is the Desert Art 1.0 set really comprises of 16 singles … the 12 “common” releases + 3 No promo code cards and 1 “Fillmore” corrected.

(and of course the 4 MM’s).

But wait, there’s more for those who want to go deeper.

Look closely at the Top right of the two Fillmore cards above. You’ll notice info about the mail away offer (which because of the outstanding success of the line was NEVER implemented) differs in the start & end dates – again, they pretty much presumed a minimal success and quickly realized after a few weeks it could-should be extended but then when the line continue to sell like blazes through the early part of summer, why bother actually goosing the line, it was Sun white hot …

So, there are 9 12-CAR cardbacks with the start date of April 1, 2006 (Wingo, Lizzie & Sarge blank)

There are 12 12-CAR cardbacks with the start date of April 29, 2006.

There are 13 cards of 12-CAR cardback with the start date of April 29, 2006 counting the corrected FILLMORE.

There are 4 cards of the 16-CAR cardback (the NEW releases) issued with the incorrect spelling of Fillmore as FILMORE.

There are 16 cards of the 16-CAR cardback issued with Fillmore spelled correctly.

So, what is a complete set of Desert Art cards?

12? As long as there’s one of each – good enough.

16? As long as there’s one of everything new on first issue card of Wave 1 & 1.5, good enough.

28? Wave 1.5 is a different wave so collect ’em all again.

31? Gotta have the 3 blank promo card CARS.

32? Gotta have Fillmore corrected.

36? Gotta have the 4 Wave 1.5 with the “Filmore” spelled wrong.

48?  Gotta have the April 29, 2006 12-CAR cardbacks full set on top of the rest.

Confused? Yea – that’s why our magazine might be the most help. There is handy grid to check off what you have or want and photos of every card version including all the cardbacks. This is the only series that warrants a recap of the cardbacks.

Of course, this info only covers the US market. A while back, Rippers was kind enough to send us pics of his super exclusive set of the NO NAME PLATE international cards. Again, we have to presume some info but gauging from the every early production dates on his cards, it seems likely that Mattel was hoping to save money by not doing international name plates (since there are multi-language requirements for Canada-EU retailers) presuming it might be a one-shipment and done deal but like the US, CARS diecasts proved to be popular everywhere. So, they eventually added the multi-name plates-stickers but the first releases had no names on the front.

Good luck if you’re buying or selling!

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10 January 2011 Mattel Disney Pixar CARS, Retail 48 Comments


  • emma says:

    Are packaged cars with a eurpoe back still gunna be worth collecting?
    got a few of the supercharged series and desert art series and they are not fully english as shown in all of the pics I’ve seen on this site.
    Could someone please let me know if i shoulds sell and start again with full english ones?
    also does anyone know a good place to find and buy them?
    thanks, emma

    (MET: I’ll do a post in a couple days and EU & int’l collectors can chime in).

  • quercy says:

    I have another question. Aside Dexter with green flag, which other CARS as non-CHASE were issued ONLY as lenticular? So far I cannot see any other one.

    • jestrjef says:

      Dexter with green flag was a tough one. He was released in a TRU EXCLUSIVE 5 pack with Classic Eyes. Unfortunately, the other 4 cars were repeats and he has never been released as a single. 🙁

    • John in Missouri says:

      I can’t think of one. If you count CHASE, there are three:

      (1) The King with Metallic Finish

      (2) Bling Bling McQueen with Gold Piston Cups on wheels

      (3) Van with Stickers

  • NeoSK says:

    this is how I started the “collect them all” campaign

    I thought there are only 16 of them and thus started the long-term collecting

  • quercy says:

    Question to all collectors and MET: Is Flo and Wedding Day Flo in Story Tellers are identical?

    (MET: In theory since it was way before lenticulars. I don’t have easy access to my Storytellers readily but from the photos, looks pretty much the same.

    Flo with Tray (besides Tray) reflects the Flo lenticular changes).

  • All the cardbacks are amazing! I can’t wait for the Cars 2 ones! Now those look amazing!

  • 5oclockshadow says:

    I picked up the Factory set and the 6-packs, and ended up selling off my DB singles. Seems like I still have a handful of Lizzies and a Sarge I still need to get rid of though. Now will have to go check.

    Other than being the first ones, I never really liked this series. The cardbacks were so bland and boring.

  • BMW says:

    I get a count of 61 Desert singles (all cardback variations).

  • LEADMAN STI says:

    I have a db12 filly with spelling “fillomore” on the back
    It’s an international card.

    Its up for trade if anyone wants him?

  • Fillmore1234 says:

    I bought 7 of the Lightning McQueens in the DB because I thought they wouldn’t release them again. Then came the Supercharged. I bought 3 more. World of Cars, I bought 1. Race O Rama, I bought 1. Lenty Race O Rama, I bought 2- 1 with Rust-Eze Rameplate and 1 not. Then I thought, I have over 14 Lightning McQueens alone! Yet I buy even another one from the Final Lap Series. And that is just the original Lightning. I have 6 Dinoco, 3 Bug Mouth, 4 Radiator Springs McQueen, 3 Cruisin’ McQueen, etc… etc… Ay CARumba!

  • Monica says:

    I had the worst time finding Lizzie!! I ended up getting her from some lady on Craig’s list. I met her in the Vons parking lot and felt like I was making some kind of score of illicit materials.

    Was the DB Sarge the one that got recalled or was it Supercharged or both?

    (MET: Just the Supercharged. Old, old, old post here … did anyone get a voucher?)

    • John in Missouri says:

      DB Sarges were clean. Most of the SC ones were recalled, depending on which country they were manufactured.

      Does anyone know why Lizzie seems to have been retired? My son asked me that yesterday, and I told him probably because the mold was too expensive to make.

      • Monica says:

        Lizzie and Red both, so strange.

        • quercy says:

          Maybe Lizzie is just too old… And RED too shy ????… Kidding, but I won’t be surprised if they somehow release them again later… If Brett Favre can be retired 3 times, then…

        • John in Missouri says:

          Yeah but at least Red was recently released in the Lenticular 3-pack’s found mostly at TRU. But Lizzie hasn’t been seen since the WOC days.

          • 5oclockshadow says:

            Maybe it is because they have no variations

            A Doc Hudson body mold can make Doc, hudson hornet, Edwin Kranks, etc.
            A Chick Hicks body mold can make Chick, Dinoco Chick, Tank Coat, etc.
            Even Fillmore has Pit Crew Fillmore(both movie versions)

            but Lizzie and Red can only make Lizzie and Red

            plus Lizzie was a horrible seller back in the day. I remember walking into any Big Lots store and seeing 50+ supercharged Lizzies for $2, and still taking over a year to sell out.

            • John in Missouri says:

              You must have Lizzie confused with Mater!

            • martyboy70 says:

              As someone fairly new to this having just assembled a load of Cars for my sons Christmas a few things confuse me about this line and this raises a couple of them-so if you will pardon a noob(and a UK one at that) asking a few questions I’d appreciate it.
              First a bit of background.
              I bought the Disney Store Mack w/15 cars and realised some of the main Radiator Springs crew were missing so wanted to round them out and bought a couple of the 1:55s from Ebay befor realising to my horror that they were bigger.
              I then decided to ignore the ones that came with Mack and get him everyone in 1:55 and thats where my problems start.

              Question 1: Everytime a Lizzie or Red and to a lesser extent Stanley and Flo(even loose) sells on Ebay it gets 10-15 bids.
              Now to me that means there are 10-15 people and possibly more watching and not bidding who want and would buy one at retail.
              So rather than another “extra” from row z in a crowd scene why not re-release these main characters.
              Question 2: I already have and on any given day on Ebay could buy at least a few more of each of Ramones various paintjobs apart from the purple he is first seen with in the film which again seems impossible to find.
              Why are the umpteen repaints so readily available yet the original is hard to find?
              Thanks in advance for any answers.

              (MET: Yes, there are shill bids but after 2-3 bids, it should all be legitimate and of course, you can click on the bid (generally) to see who bid and how much. Basically, it progresses like this – it probably lists at $.99 and several people hope to land one “cheap,” but drop out when it gets to around $6 – then others figure – well $6-10 is not so bad so they jump in but others perceive that as cheap – they might as well buy an extra one at that price and soon … so it reaches the middle point of supply & demand … Purple Ramone is available on one of the WM 4-pack’s … if you can’t find it at your WM, someone here can probably track one down for you).

              • John in Missouri says:

                (1) Mind you, the 10-15 bids you see on eBay may only be from 2 or 3 bidders entering multiple bid amounts throughout the bidding process. That being said, Mattel will never understand what the most popular Cars are, since it seems most retailers only track the assortment but not the individual Cars. I asked my Wal-Mart Toy Manager to tell me when they might expect more Checklane Cars, and when he zapped the UPC with his scanner, it had a reordering point for the entire Checklane line, not that individual Car.

                (2) When Cars toys first came out, there were also 4 Movie Moments on Desert Art cards: Flo & (Purple) Ramone, Red & Stanley, Boost & Snot, and Luigi, Guido & Tractor. While Red has never been released a single (unless you count Storytellers), Purple Ramone has, but only in limited quantities. I know he was on Supercharged, World of Cars, and Lenty 2.0, but I don’t think he was on Race-O-Rama or Lenty 1.0 cards. They keep on releasing Green Ramone in all sorts of formats, not sure why.

                (MET: Purple Ramone is on the WM 4-pack).

              • Monica says:

                It’s an excellent observation you make there Martyboy. If I was master of the Mattel universe, I would sell Cars as follows. One line would be cases of the basics for new fans and collectors. These would include lmq, the townies and tuners. A second line would comprise the racers, pit crews and haulers. A third would be for collectors and would include the more minor characters we are seeing in the latest final lap cases in decent assortments and packs. Keeps the toons as is. Then one super premium line for a collector club (like the red line and lego clubs) with all the sweet triple rans paint jobs/special features, etc. Available one per month and you could “subscribe” if you want. Of course there would be fun seasonal releases (Easter, Halloween, Christmas) that are not just repackaging. You would also get a bimonthly magazine and a fun little membership card every year. There would continue to be collector events at stores and mattel would have mini events at shows too. You would be able to buy any and all of the lines online at mattel.com as either singles or cases. I know, I have big dreams.

    • old hippie says:

      Met. I got two vouchers.

    • Jack says:

      Funny post 🙂 Not that you would know how it feels to meet someone for illicit or illegal( for now I think still anyway) “materials”. Your were just speculating as to what it would feel like.
      ” You got it” ” Yeah I got it” ok ” here’s the money” ” ok here’s Lizzie”. Parking lot Disney Cars transactions. I have did a few myself. What we do for these Cars. Crazy isn’t it? It should be easier. The time, money, traveling etc. That we do to get Cars is amazing. Some more than others but many of us have put in a great deal since these Cars started being sold with these early Cars. The ones my son ripped open because I had no idea cool toys would become a collection. Glad we open just about everything and don’t take any part in the ultra madness of trying to get every card and variation.
      I am just so thankful for this site. Without the help of so many great people and the information here I don’t know what I would do or what I wouldn’t know.
      The early DBs are great. Nothing like the originals but I am more than ready for a whole new first set. Cars 2. Woo hoo!

      • Monica says:

        Me too Jack. I was thinking of not collecting Cars 2, but I don’t know who I thought I was kidding! Can’t wait to see the movie and see the new diecast in person.

  • mia, tia and njm says:

    Whoa!! That’s a whole lotta information there!! Thank you!

  • babychristianscars says:

    I have all the original cardbacks but the only one I have still sealed is the original sarge.

    Someone on here needed Lizzie so I sold her a year ago.

  • John in Missouri says:

    What’s weird is that I used to have a few Leakless cards with Filmore (1 L) on the back. They must have printed those when they printed the first 12. Does anyone know if Nitroade, Green Ramone, and Dinoco McQueen had Filmore on the back too?

    (MET: Yep, that accounts for the “32 to 36” count).

    • John in Missouri says:

      Thanks Met — your line above “There are 4 cards of the 16-CAR cardback (the NEW releases) issued with the incorrect spelling of Fillmore as FILLMORE” threw me off because FILLMORE in all caps is spelled correctly even though you said ‘incorrect spelling’.

      Hey speaking of spelling, how DO you spell “Sparemint”? 😉

      (MET: oops, fixed).

  • DDD says:

    Great post Met! As I’ve said here, I had that first set MOC and let it go a year or so ago. I hadn’t seen the movie (and never did until a few weeks ago), but I remember being impressed by the writeup on a popular toy-review site. Oddly enough, it’s the design of some of the Toon toys that got me interested again.

    Speaking of cards, I was at the Disney Store yesterday and saw a new card with several more cars depicted, all of them race cars. (Some were there.) The white tractor wasn’t on the new card, BTW.

    • Man-I-Fold says:

      Hmmm. Was it No Stall and RPM depicted and on shelf? And were they the carded ones, or the ones in the single-display boxes? I love the Disney Store racers. Love the happy, just-hanging-out, not racing, expression.

      • DDD says:

        Sorry, all I remember was that they weren’t familiar to me, so even though I don’t collect or know much about the racers, I know enough to recognize those names. Next time I’ll pay more attention…it seems like they were more like regular “people” names (maybe one was “Jerry” something?). And they were carded, not boxed. I never saw those boxed ones at my Disney Store.

        • Man-I-Fold says:

          Thanks DDD! The racers all have their sponsorship names as well as given names; like the Dinoco car is Skip the King Weathers, HtB is Chick Hick, and so on. The Disney Store (big scale) singles are labeled with the cars’ given names. The Mattel racers are labeled with their sponsorship names (except for McQueen, King, and Chick). There’s a post somewhere on here that lists all of the racers names. There are 2 Disney Store racers that only came out recently in a $50 box set, but not as singles, so I was wondering if you saw those, but probably not. I think the Disney Stores either have the display box versions, or the carded versions; that’s how it is in Chicago anyway.

  • Laurence says:

    and Lizzie was the hard one to find during those early days. i remember she was selling for serious $$$ on e-bay (average price was about $17.50).

  • BMW says:

    “There are 12 12-CAR cardbacks with the start date of April 29, 2006”

    I don’t believe anyone has found a Chick/chick Hicks with a one L Filmore cardback. Have heard it exists but never saw any pictures of it. There are the 2 Filmore Fillmore versions with the April 29 cardback one L back so it is 12 in this series, but no Chick that I know of. Would love to see one.

    • Aaron & Jeanne Scriven says:

      ill send you a pic, i actually have both april 1 and april 29 with the 1 L.. they are in the attic because the cars were taking over the spare bedroom lol, so as soon as it stops snowing ill get up there 🙂

      • BMW says:

        Thanks. I have the April 1 Chick, he is common but I would love to see the April 29 Chick one L cardback picture. When you do get a chance, after the snowstorms, my email is aglare99069@mypacks.net

        • BMW says:

          I decided to no longer pursue collecting the (April 29-12 car one L in Filmore cardback series), as it seemed there was no way to collect all the variations, because of the perceived missing Chick in this series.

          So instead I collected all 9 April 1 and the 3 no logo versions,and most of 13 cards of the April 29 12 back corrected Fillmore back versions.

          Counting Chick, There would be 13 – A29 1L backs since there are 2 Filmore/Fillmore front plate versions.

        • Aaron & Jeanne Scriven says:

          sure thing! 🙂

    • jamie3859 says:

      Hi BMW,

      I’m a collector in the UK, and read your post about the ‘chick’ desert card with the 1 L back card. Mines a euro card release with 1 L and no dates. Would you know if this is one of the rarer versions? I’ve also got DB Filmore spelt FILL’O’MORE. Again, any ideas?

  • LUCA says:

    Great post Met!
    In Factory set sealed 2006 there is Rollin bowling mater carded,also..

  • cac1959 says:

    I only had a few DB… decided to go ahead and get a set, not caring if they were DB12 or DB16… and then decided to finish the DB16 as I only needed a few of those… and then I had to finish a DB12 set… and then I got the Movie Moments… About this time I decided I was fully OCD when it came to Cars.

    I have managed to be satisfied with the DB12 that I have; I’m fine with not having all variations of the dates and spellings.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Micky says:

    This post makes me want to go deep into the archives (LOL) and look at my original Cars.
    It’s fun to pull the boxes out and remember the good old days 🙂

    Great post MET.

  • Hostile Takeover Banker says:

    Gotta love those FIRST cars! Awesome post. Thanks!

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