How to Tell How Old a Hot Wheels is | A Guide to Base Codes and Case Numbers (With Photo Examples)

One thing that makes people who have Hot Wheels curious are those codes you can see at the base of the models. In there, you can see codes. Furthermore, there are also case numbers that can be intriguing. But can we read these codes? What do they mean? Do they signify something important to us? These base codes are essential, especially in finding out how old the models are.

You can tell how old a Hot Wheels is by checking their base codes. Base codes are used by Hot Wheels to indicate their date of manufacturing by using a date code. For example, A means it was manufactured in 2008, and N means it was manufactured in 2020. Using this, you can find out the year and the exact week it was manufactured.

This blog will discuss how you can tell how old a Hot Wheels is, which year it belongs to, how to read the case number and the date on the bottom. After reading this blog post, you can exactly tell how old the model is because you will not just know the year it is manufactured. You will also understand what exact week it is made. Let’s start.

How can you tell how old a Hot Wheels is?

Even in this age of advanced technology, the average American child owns 50 Hot Wheels cars.

Hot Wheels is the world’s best-selling toy, with over 20,000 designs and 6 billion cars produced.

Many hot wheels collectors have Hot Wheels models that are older than they are.

People began collecting Hot Wheels over time, and as with any collection, rare editions, special editions, older cars, and new packaging became the collection goal.

Not only is it a rewarding hobby, but it’s a good investment for the future.

But in terms of knowing the worth of these Hot Wheels, one of the most significant factors for its price is its age or how old these models are.

So, is there a way for us to know how old a Hot Wheel is?

The answer is yes, and you can do it by checking the base codes.

Mattel began using base codes (also known as date codes) on Hot Wheels vehicles in 2008.

You can use the date code to determine when Hot Wheels produced a specific vehicle in the factory. So, you can tell how old a Hot Wheels model is.

Since 2008, you can find date codes on the base and cards of Hot Wheels vehicles. The code will be either stamped into the base or printed in a variety of colors.

A letter is also followed by a two-digit number to form a date code. The letter denotes the year of manufacture, while the number indicates the week number (1-52) within that year.

The list of base codes

Code LetterYear of Production

For example: If the code is M36, the letter “M” indicates that Mattel made the car in 2019; and the number “36” means that Hot Wheels made the car during the 36th week of that year. This places the production date in the first week of September (2nd to 8th).

New models for the following year and color variations of existing castings may have the current year’s date code but be part of a series designated for the following year.

For example, the year code for 2019 is M. However, when new 2020 vehicles began to hit the market in October 2019, they had an Mxx date code because they were manufactured in 2019. (for the 2020 model year).

Here are some photos from my Hot Wheels. Let’s find their manufacturing date together.

Hot Wheels Base Code Glow Wheels
Hot Wheels Base Code Glow Wheels

My first example is my Hot Wheels in the glow wheels line. As you can see in the photo, the base code of the model is “K09”.

Not, let’s go back to the table.

According to the table, the “K” means it was manufactured in 2017. “09” means that it was produced on the 9th week.

This means my Hot Wheels Glow Wheels line is manufactured on the 9th week of 2017, which is from February 27, 2017, to March 5, 2017.

However, not all Hot Wheels have a prominent base code. For example, let’s look at my Hot Wheels Side Ripper.

Hot Wheels Base Code Side Ripper
Hot Wheels Base Code Side Ripper

As you can see in the photo, the code is not as prominent as the one you will see on other models. However, you can still see the base code.

On my Side Ripper, you can see that the base code is “J04”. So let’s come back to the table.

“J” means that the model was manufactured in 2016. “04” is the fourth week of the year.

Thus, my Side Ripper was made in the 4th week of 2016, which is from January 25, 2016 to January 31, 2016.

How can I tell what year my Hot Wheels are?

To tell what your Hot Wheels are, you can first check the baseline code. Mattel has used baseline codes since 2008 and has been using them until now. Furthermore, you can check the packaging for unique logos like the 50th-anniversary logo used in the 2018 editions.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what year the car you’re buying. However, you can tell which year a vehicle is based on its packaging.

Mattel changed the way the cars were numbered in 2017.

Previously, they had no differentiated color variations, so the mainline set consisted of 250 cars.

Mattel began numbering the color variations in 2017, bringing the total number of mainline cars to 365.

This was also true in 2018, but you can easily distinguish the 2018 packaging from the 2017 packaging.

The mainline set was also out of 365 in 2018.

Mattel also celebrated Hot Wheels’ 50th anniversary in 2018. Hence, the 2018 packaging features a 50th-anniversary logo in the upper right and a silhouette of some Hot Wheels Track sets, the most distinguishable of which are the double loops.

In addition, the font of the casting name and the numbers have slightly changed since 2017.

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Mattel reverted to not assigning new numbers to color variations in 2019, so the mainline set is one of 250. The 2018 track silhouette remains on the packaging, but there is no 50th-anniversary logo.

Mattel was still numbering the mainline set out of 250 in 2020. The silhouette of the track is still visible. A new logo has been added to the card’s bottom left corner. It reads, “It’s Not the Same Without the Flame.”

In addition, the background of the numbers is a dark blue that year, which was not the case the previous year.

Remember, packaging frequently changes at the end of the year to match the packaging for the following year.

Depending on when you buy cars, you can verify which case the vehicle is from. You can find this number on the back of the card.

At the very top of the back of the card, there will be a string of letters and numbers. The letter of the case is the very last letter of the code.

If the letter is further along in the alphabet, the car is from an earlier year, and if the letter is earlier in the alphabet, the car is from a newer year.

Again, something will be different between the two years’ packaging.

For example, toward the end of 2019, Mattel changed the packaging of 2019 cars to resemble that of 2020 cars.

The 2020 models, however, have one distinction. The dark background behind the numbers is absent on the 2019 models but present on the 2020 models.

How do you read a Hot Wheels case number?

You can read the Hot Wheels case number by first checking the first code. C4982 represents International Long Card cases, L2592 represents USA long card cases, and 5785 represents Short Card Cases. This is followed by the remaining letters and numbers that indicate the year specification, release, and mix within the case.

Hot Wheels case numbers contain valuable information regarding the model. The codes C4982, L2592, and 5785 represent the following information:

  • C4982 – International Long Card Cases
  • L2593 – USA Long Card Cases
  • 5785 – Short Card Cases

The remaining letters and numbers can be divided into three groups:

  • 99E/ 979/ 97B – This is a year-specific designation for the USA long, International long, and International short card cases (all are the 2020 models).
  • Each year, 15 releases are made: A-H, J-N, P & Q.
  • The last two letters refer to the mix of cars within the case.

What does the date on the bottom of Hot Wheels mean?

The date on the bottom of the Hot Wheels represents their copyright date. It is not their release date since the first release of these model cars came at least one year after the copyright date. To view the manufacturing date, you can use their base codes instead.

The date on the bottom refers to the copyright date.

It is the year in which the design was first registered. In 9 out of 10 cases, the first release of the design occurs one year after the copyright date.

Do not interpret the year at the base of the Hot Wheels as the year of manufacture.

If it were the manufacturing date, Hot Wheels would have to modify the tool every year the casting was released, which does not happen.

Here is an example.

Let’s come back to our examples above to prove the point. Here is the photo of my Glow Wheels.

Looking at the base code, we already know that the model was manufactured in 2017. However, the year indicated on the model is 2016.

That is because 2016 is the copyright year in which they received their rights to produce that model.

This means they received the copyright to produce my glow in the dark track hammer in 2016. Therefore, this specific model was produced in 2017.

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So, here are the things I love when taking care of my Diecast Models.

Cleaning the Models

The first we are going to talk about is cleaning the models.

Removing Dust

  1. Air Brush – For me, this is the best since it not just removes dust but you can use it in painting/clear coating.
  2. Air Duster – This is a good alternative to Airbrush
  3. Normal Brush – If you are short on budget, you can use a normal brush. However, make sure that the brush has soft bristles because there are some hard brushes than can cause scratches. That’s why I recommended a good brush that can do the job properly.

Cleaning and Shining Hacks

Well, here are some of my cleaning hacks for removing scratches, oxidation, and so much more.

  1. Removing Decal Adhesive – Use Goo Gone on those hard-to-remove decal adhesives. It works fast and works like charm!
  2. Waxing and Polishing – Here is something a lot of people don’t know. Waxing protects the clear coat and paint while polishing shines the model. Instead of buying it separately, use a 2 in 1 to save money. Get this instead.
  3. Beginner Wax – The wax I recommended earlier is good and provides the best results based on my experience. But a beginner might have a problem especially if they’re not good at applying wax. Solid wax reaching hard to reach surface can be hard to remove. You have two choices here. One is to use a qtips to reach those surfaces, another is to use a liquid wax I recommended.
  4. Cleaning Wheels, Rubber, Plastic – Do not forget that rubber and plastic surface are quite different, especially in the cleaning process. Just wiping it down won’t do the job. That’s why I use Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner. Works like charm!
  5. Make the Wheels Shine! – Making our models look good won’t be complete without tiny details such as shiny wheels! Do not forget this because however small this is, the difference can be as big as night and day.
  6. Remove Scratches Easily – Tiny scratches are not the end for your model. Here is a simple trick I’ve been using to make my models look scratch-free even without repainting. Use T-Cut.

Painting the Models

Painting Tools

Make sure when you paint models, have these ready.

  1. Tape – A tape is important if you are painting a straight line. Furthermore, it will prevent your paint to scatter on other parts. I recommend Tamiya Tape since it is really made for models. Furthermore, they stick really well preventing paint splatters.
  2. Brush (Beginner) – Find a good set of brushes to paint your models. Of course, you can opt for an airbrush but it’s quite expensive.
  3. Airbrush (Intermediate/Expert) – This will yield a significantly better result than an ordinary brush because you can easily spray the paint evenly. I recommend this if you know what you’re doing.
  4. Stand(Optional) – Stands are good because it can be hard to manually hold the models while painting. It is optional but in my opinion, the price is well worth it for the comfort it gives.
  5. Drop Cloths – Drop Cloths will protect your surroundings from the paint.
  6. Primer – The most common beginner mistake I see is painting models without any Primer. A primer will prevent imperfections such as bubbles or paint not sticking to your models. It is a small price to pay for quality results.
  7. Clear Coat – A clear coat will protect the paint of your models. This will make the paint last longer. Also, it is the one responsible for making your models shine.


Of course, you can’t do painting properly without paint. So here are the ones I recommend.

  1. Acrylic PaintGood for beginners because it dries quickly. However, it doesn’t produce results as good as enamel paint.
  2. Enamel PaintProvides a good quality finish and longer-lasting paint. However, it takes longer to dry and requires expertise to use.

Model Maintenance

Model Storage

  1. Simple Wood Cabinet – While it doesn’t let you display your models, wooden cabinets are good storage for these models. For one, they are not heat conductors which means that the temperature inside will remain constant and remain cool. Furthermore, they prevent light from reaching the models which can cause oxidation.
  2. Clear Cabinet with Lock – If you want to display your models, then I recommend this. It closes so dust won’t easily get to your models. I also recommend you don’t put more than 1 model in each compartment since metals are good conductors of heat.

Model Photography

So you want to show off your models to others? Well, I got you covered.

Here is my beginner-friendly model photography tutorial that teaches everything from taking pictures to the editing process.

You will also see me doing hands-on photography in that tutorial.

Here is the link: How to Take Pictures of a Diecast Model or Model Kit | Helpful Illustrated and Video Guide



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