Playing Mantis

Tom Lowe and his Playing Mantis company acquired the rights to the Johnny Lightning trademark and started producing reproductions of the original cars in 1994. This was about the same time that Hot Wheels introduced a "Vintage" line of cars that were reproductions of original 1960s designs. Sales were moderately successful. Interest soon faded as most collectors were not that passionate about the cars even when they were new. They also revived the "Sizzlers" name with electric cars similar to the original Mattel cars. Currently, they sell a line of 1/64 scale adult die cast cars with more detail. Jeff Koch, formerly of Hot Rod Magazine, briefly acted as brand manager for Johnny Lightning, bringing his unique real automotive expertise to the line from 2001 through 2004.

Lowe reasoned that if there was a market for replicas of these old toy cars then adults would also be interested in die-cast models of some of their favorite real cars from the period. Muscle Cars U.S.A. debuted in late 1994 and soon became the bedrock of the new Johnny Lightning. Adult collectors were thrilled to find miniatures of cars such as the GTO, Mustang Boss 302, and Superbird.

With each passing year, Playing Mantis tested new themes: dragsters, pickup trucks, pace cars, Corvettes, James Bond, police, Mustangs, military, Hollywood, and Coca-Cola, to name a few. Going into the late 1990s the die-cast toy car business grew rapidly in the United States, and Johnny Lightning rode the crest of that wave into the 21st century. Playing Mantis remained in the South Bend, Indiana area for its entire ten-year existence.

Source: Wikipedia.

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Playing Mantis value and price guide

What's your Playing Mantis worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items.

Item Title Date Price
back to future diorama scene johnny lightning playing Back To Future Diorama Scene Johnny Lightning Playing 07/2021 AU $84.34
rare johnny lightning magmas die cast replica nintendo Rare Johnny Lightning Magmas Die Cast Replica Nintendo 07/2021 AU $27.03
sizzlers playing mantis 1989 whistler ford mustang Sizzlers Playing Mantis 1989 Whistler Ford Mustang 07/2021 AU $33.88
lost in space johnny lightning 1998 chariot classic Lost In Space Johnny Lightning 1998 Chariot Classic 08/2021 AU $50.69
sizzlers playing mantis jurassic park rechargeable Sizzlers Playing Mantis Jurassic Park Rechargeable 06/2021 AU $25.75
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices10/2021AU $-.--

Playing Mantis forum

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Comments (2)
Tim - December 1, 2020
Is there any place to buy case of cars zingers mostly
Gary - September 4, 2019
I'm new to the JL Playing Mantis collection, only been collecting them a couple of months. But have managed to get what I believe to be all the funny cars form the line up. Is there a Club or Site available to collectors.Thanks for your help.
Good question! I only found a couple of Johnny Lightning fan pages on Facebook, so you might want to check those out.