The term die-cast toy here refers to any toy or collectible model produced by using the die casting method. The toys are made of metal, with plastic, rubber, or glass details. Wholly plastic toys are made by a similar process of injection , but the two are rarely confused. The metal used is either a lead alloy (in the first toys), or more commonly Zamak (or Mazak in the UK), an alloy of zinc with small quantities of aluminium and copper. Lead, as previously so widely used for cast metal toys, or iron are impurities that must be carefully avoided in this alloy, as they give rise to zinc pest. These alloys are also referred to casually as or , although these terms are also confused with the lead toy alloys. The most common die-cast toys are scale models of automobiles, aircraft, construction equipment, and trains, although almost anything can be produced by this method.
Die-cast toys and models come in various scales, the most popular ones being:
- 1:12 scale - Very large, highly detailed models; usually about 14 or 15 in (36 or 38 cm) long; mainly targeted at adult collectors. These models are generally much more expensive than the 1:18 models. Many diecast motorcycles are also produced in this scale.
- 1:18 scale - Large, detailed models, usually about 7 or 8 in (18 or 20 cm) long; mostly targeted at adults. America is the main market for these, although some European and Australian companies also produce cars and even trucks in this scale.
- 1:24 scale - This has long been a favoured scale in the USA, due to many construction kits and dealer promotional models being this size. Mebetoys of Italy had a large range of cheap 1:24 toy cars. Franklin Mint and Trax also use this scale.
- 1:32 scale - Intermediate size, most common for model tractors and other agricultural vehicles; Britains has used this scale for decades, and it is also used by Ertland Siku. Vintage car models are also quite common in 1:32 scale.
- 1:36 scale - Popularized by Corgi in the 1970s, a common scale for toy vehicles such as those from Maisto, Kinsmart and Welly.
- 1:43 scale - the most popular scale for model cars worldwide. This scale was made popular by Dinky in the 1930s as it was compatible with O gauge model railways. This scale is the most commonly used in Britain, Europe, Japan and Australia, but less so in the USA. In continental Europe 1:43 is often favoured for model trucks. It is also widely used for handbuilt models in resin and white metal.
- 1:48 scale - Several companies produce diecast model aircraft in 1:48 scale, which is a popular scale for plastic construction kits. Some diecast military vehicles and model train accessories are also made in this scale.
- 1:50 scale - The most widely used scale for trucks, buses and especially construction vehicles.
- 1:55 scale - used mostly by Siku of Germany for its toy range of cars and trucks. The Disney-Pixar Cars Die-Cast Line by Mattel are nominally in this scale.
- 1:60 scale - the scale of the immensely popular pre- and post-war military vehicles series by Dinky Toys (including military Dinky Supertoys), and still used by many military modellers.
- 1:64 scale - popular for farm models and American model trucks. Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Johnny Lightning and model Nascar racers are nominally this size. However, in recent years, Japanese companies like Kyosho, Aoshima and CM's Corp have been producing ranges of highly-detailed 1:64 models, including racing cars and road cars, with CM's Corp mainly producing 1:64 rally model cars.
- 1:72 scale - usually used for military die-cast armoured fighting vehicles due to compatibility with 1:72 plastic construction kits.
- 1:76 scale - scale popular mainly in Britain, Australia and Hong Kong for highly detailed buses and lorries such as those by EFE and Corgi OOC, and Trax Models in Australia. A major growth in this scale was caused when Oxford Diecast entered the market with a range of over 90 different cars and commercial vehicles. These models were originally intended as OO scale model railway accessories, but became collectibles in their own right.
- 1:87 scale - These are compatible with H0 scale model trains, and tend to be more popular in the USA and continental Europe. They are more commonly made of plastic, and German companies such as Herpa and Wiking produce wide ranges of highly-detailed models in this scale.
- 1:148 scale - compatible with British N scale model trains, this scale has recently gained popularity in the UK due to its compact size and low priced models fromOxford Diecast.