HISTORY - PLAYART
Playart was a toy company in Hong Kong that specialized in die-cast cars, similar in size and style to Hot Wheels and Matchbox. The years that the cars were made were uncertain, but appear to have been from approximately the 1970s through the 1980s. Playart (with name written with an over-sized lower case "a" in "art" and dots in the bowls of the rounded letters) die-cast cars were made in Hong Kong and mostly were distributed as "Peelers", the in-house brand of toy cars for Woolworth. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sears sold blister packaged Playarts as Road Mates. McCrory stores had a line of Playart vehicles called Freewheelers. They were blister-packaged on a blue, white and yellow card. Another Playart blister package stated "Die cast metal - En metal moule", perhaps for the French market.
On another line, Playart was printed, with each letter a separate color, on bright packages marketed as "FASTWHEEL". The phrase "really fast die cast" was also printed on these blister-paks and boxes with the checkered black and white background. Playart diecast cars were also packaged as Charmerz for New York distributor Charles Merzbach (Johnson p. 187). These were marketed as Charmerz Super Singles and packaged in a blue blister card with many different vehicles listed on the back. The Playart name, however, did not accompany all toy packaging.
Vehicle offerings seem to have been more clever than those of other Hong Kong and Chinese makers of the 1970s and 1980s. Marques such as a 1967 Eldorado, a Fiat X 1/9, a Rolls-Royce Corniche coupe, and a Lotus Elite were not necessarily unique in the diecast world, but taken as a whole the series was creative and model selections unique. One gets the feeling that the makers of Playart models were auto enthusiasts perhaps more than with other toy manufacturers. For example, the Playart Plymouth Barracuda (a former Hot Wheels casting) is realistically labeled a Barracuda Formula S on its base, showing a more refined automotive knowledge by the model creators. On the other hand, however, the 1969 Mustang Coupe only says "Mustang" on its base.
Playart's 1/64 scale diecast line had a complex identification system. Numbers can be found on Playart display posters, blister-packs, and, infrequently, on the vehicle base - which also carries the name of the vehicle. The existence of 48 vehicles have been confirmed from the above sources and examination of the bases of the earliest editions.
All of these vehicles can be found with one or both types of the "hub-cap" style wheel, inside a black plastic tire. The 'hub-cap' design was later replaced with an over-sized, simpler, one-piece wheel with five silver triangular 'spokes'. A couple of other wheel styles were a thin, ridged, one-piece design with five trapezoids outlined in silver and a one-piece form with two concentric circles outlined in silver. These were designs for cars, but wheels on trucks and other vehicles were often distinct from these patterns.
Like Hot Wheels and Matchbox "Superfast", Playart cars had thin axle, fast spinning 'mag' wheels. Models released during the 1970s had metal bodies as well as metal bases which were usually painted 'chrome' with the unmistakable Playart script. Later 1970s models were released with glossy black enamel bases. Late 1970s and early 1980s releases mostly had plastic bases. Two notable rounded rivet heads affix the chassis to the body. The name of the car was present and the text said, "Made in Hong Kong".