Kootenai County's hottest cars

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SHAWN GUST/Press Maj. Ben Wolfinger, with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, displays two prototype Hot Wheels cars made with the department name and logo.

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County has earned a place in Mattel Hot Wheels history.

The sheriff's department's logo graces one of the toy company's 2012 productions - a 2010 Ford Mustang GT police car.

"They partner with a local law enforcement agency and create a model based on the agency's cars," said Major Ben Wolfinger. "It's their way of giving back, and to get sales up in the area."

The Kootenai County car is part of the Mattel Hot Wheels Main Street series of 10 cars featuring various city police and fire departments including Roanoke, Va.; Austin, Texas; Cranston, R.I.; and Kokomo, Ind.

Mattel contacted the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department about 18 months ago and asked if it would be interested in a toy homage to the department.

Wolfinger said because there was no cost involved, they went ahead with the project and sent photos of their cars to Mattel. Department representatives simply had to approve the prototypes, a black model and a purple model, sent to them by Mattel.

"They're still in the packages because that's what you're supposed to do with collectors' items," Wolfinger said.

Mattel introduced Hot Wheels in 1968, and 44 years later, the line is still going strong, among a wide age demographic.

Paul Biddle is the owner of The Toy Peddler, an online site for buyers and sellers of collectible toys, primarily diecast cars. With more than 20,000 members, Biddle, of Grants Pass, Ore., said his site is the largest of its type, and features many Hot Wheels models.

"The average demographic, guys that are paying thousands of dollars for cars, are from 45 to 60 years old, around the age range of guys who were kids when these came out," Biddle said.

Depending upon the condition of the car, and whether it's in the original packaging, the cars on Biddle's site, www.thetoypeddler.com, are going from a few dollars into the thousands.

The highest price ever paid for a Hot Wheels car, Biddle said, is $71,000. The car, known as the "Pink Rear-Loading Beach Bomb," is a Volkswagen Bus with surfboards loaded into the rear.

"I've held that one in my hands," Biddle said.

In addition to serious collectors, many adult purchasers go for certain models they like - a '55 Chevy because they own a full-size, or another model that's special for some personal reason.

"It's pretty amazing that after all these years, that is still going on to this day," Biddle said. "Mattel decides what kinds of cars they're going to make. They put a lot of research into it, so if they picked your community's car, that's kind of cool. I'd say that's positive."

Wolfinger said he's not sure when the Kootenai County cars will be available in area stores.

They can be found for sale online now on eBay and Amazon, priced from $1 to $8.

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