The Matchbox line of miniature diecast vehicles was unofficially launched in 1953 when British toymaker Lesney Products created a 15 3/4-inch-long replica of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation coach. The coach came in either silver or gold, and was pulled by a team of eight white horses and four red-jacketed riders. Lesney’s coronation coach sold well, but a miniature, 4 1/2-inch version sold even better.

Coincidentally, around the same time, Lesney partner Jack Odell had scaled down one of Lesney’s first toys, a road roller, for his daughter Ann, whose school only permitted children to carry toys that were small enough to fit into a matchbox. Ever the engineer, Odell made his daughter a matchbox-compliant cast-brass road roller, which he painted red and green. Naturally, all of Ann’s friends wanted one, too, and by the end of 1953, Lesney had trademarked the name Matchbox as the brand for its new line of 1:75-scale cars and trucks.

The first Matchbox vehicles sold poorly, in part because shopkeepers could make more money off larger toys that sold for higher prices (they were loath to fill their shelves with goods that would generate less revenue). But kids loved Matchbox toys, and they were priced low enough that many children could afford to buy them with their own pocket money. The line’s slow start was soon forgotten—by 1960, Lesney was producing approximately 50-million Matchbox vehicles per year.

Contemporary collectors love these vintage Matchbox toys. Models from the first year included green-and-red cement mixers, road rollers, and dump trucks. The orange milk wagon featured a black horse with white fetlocks and a metal milkman riding up on top. Cars were also offered, from a red-and-white Vauxhall Cresta sedan to an all-white MG Midget TD.

Even though the objects were small, Odell lavished lots of attention on their details. Cars had dashboards, and their wheels looked like real wheels, not just generic discs. Headlamps were spray-painted silver—later, molded plastic would be squeezed into the interiors. Some of Odell’s most ambitious re-creations boasted more than 100 die-cast parts.

The next Matchbox series was called Models of Yesteryear. Launched in 1956, these nostalgic toys included a 1925 Allchin 7-NHP Tractor Engine, whose green body offset its red, spoke wheels. A traditional red London double-decker bus, patterned after one from 1911, was also released in 1956, as was a London Tramcar from 1907. A brown-bodied, white-roofed Leyland Lorry with a "W. R. Jacob" decal on its side came out the following year, and in 1958, Matchbox offered a 1929 green Le Mans Bentley racecar.

The Models of Yesteryear series continued until 1982. Between 1960 and 1974, silver or gold versions of 1911 Model T Fords, 1906 Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts, and 1923 Type 35 Bugat...

Matchbox Major Packs was another series from the 1950s. Slightly larger than the regular 1:75 Matchbox line, these vehicles continued Odell’s interest in heavy machinery and trucks. The inaugural pieces were a yellow Caterpillar Earth Scraper, with silver metal wheels and black plastic tires, and a Bedford Ice Cream Truck, whose light-blue cab pulled an off-white trailer advertising "Wall’s Ice Cream." This series continued until 1966.

For collectors, Matchbox cars in their original boxes are always more highly prized than loose ones. Another wrinkle to watch for is cars made from 1954 to 1960, whose boxes bear the phrase "A Moko Lesney Product." This refers to the business relationship between Lesney and Moko, a company Lesney partnered with to help with Matchbox’s marketing and distribution.

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge to Matchbox’s dominance of the small-die-cast-toy-vehicle market was the 1968 launch of Mattel’s Hot Wheels. It is generally agreed that Matchbox was slow to respond to these faster cars, waiting a full year before introducing its line of miniature Superfast Wheels. In 1970, the Major Packs were retooled as Super Kings, and a line of Speed Kings was sold from 1971 to 1978.

But that was not enough. Lesney went bankrupt in 1982, after which it was run by various business enterprises from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s. Ironically, perhaps, it finally became of part of the company that had been its undoing, Mattel, in 1997.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Matchbox.de

Matchbox.de

This gallery of Matchbox model cars and other vehicles from the 1970s is worth cruising if you ever had (or wanted)… [read review or visit site]

1up Diecast Collection

1up Diecast Collection

Daniel Beckett's gallery of over 6000 collectible diecast vintage toy cars from the 1960s through the 1980s. Includ… [read review or visit site]

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

VW Toys and Models

VW Toys and Models

A comprehensive site completely dedicated to miniature Volkswagen vehicles. Browse hundreds of toys by country, man… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Group Lot 32 Vintage Matchbox Lesney Toy Car Boxes Empty 1950s 1960s MokoLesney Matchbox Rw Red Wheel Ford Gt 40 Racing Car Red Wheels Boxed622 Matchbox Large Scale Moko "muffin The Mule" Junior Diecast Puppet1960s Vtg Lesney Matchbox Car Lot 34 + Case Greyhound Bus Jeep Gladiator Mustang60s Lesney Matchbox Huge Lot 36 Mib + 100 Total Very RareLesney Matchbox Superfast Rolls Royce Factory Error Pre Pro Not A Fade Out623 Matchbox Large Scale Moko Cement MixerMatchbox Lesney A2 Bedford Car Transporter - Rare Red And GreyMatchbox Twin Pack Tp-31 Citroen & Motorcycle TrailerVintage 39 Lesney Die Cast Cars Bus Truck W/1965 Matchbox Series Carrying CaseSolid Silver Lovely Matchbox Holder 1899 By Matthew J Jessop Hallmark BirminghamMatchbox King Size Massey Ferguson Tractor And Trailer K-3 Near Mint In The Box#k59*matchbox Superkings/speed Kings*ford Capri Mk11(mark 2)" Mint/in Mint BoxLot Of 13 Vintage Hot Wheels 1960s Red Line & Lesney Matchbox Corgi Toys CarsLesney Matchbox Superfast Original Empty Box Lot Lotus Europa Ford ThunderbirdFerrari Racer - Matchbox Series No 73 - Made In England By Lesney White DriverMoko Lesney Matchbox Major Pack Model M-8 Guy Warrior Car Transporter VnmibMatchbox Superkings K-16 Dodge Tractor With Twin Tippers A25"matchbox" King Size K-12 Foden "bp" Wrecker Metal Hub Wheels Mint BoxedMatchbox Lesney Volkswagen Vw Caravette Camper 34 B3 Bpw Nm+ & Crafted BoxMatchbox King Size No 8 Scammell 6x6 Tractor & Trailer & K 17 Case Tractor 60's624 Matchbox, Early Moko Horse Drawn Covered Western Wagon - Original EditionStellar Condition~l@@k~huge Lot Mip Vintage Hot Wheels~matchbox~extras~6 PackMatchbox Lesney Mb 41 B D Type Jaguar"matchbox" Speed Kings K-57 Javelin Drag Race Pack Ford Pinto Dragster Nr MibHuge Lot 84 Matchbox Lesney Linberg Redline Hot Wheels Cars TrucksMatchbox Lesney Cadillac Sixty Special 27 C5 Red Base Green Spw Nm+ &crafted BoxMatchbox Gift Set G-5 - Fire Station With # 29, #54 & 59 - All Excellent - Box617 Matchbox "models Of Yesteryear" Y-4 1905 Shand Mason Horse Drawn Fire EngineMatchbox Twin Pack Tp-9 Field Car & Racing Car638 Matchbox "major Pack" M-8 Thornycroft "mobilgas" Petrol TankerOriginal Matchbox Lesney Caterpillar Tractor No 8 Gold Grille Vgc / Excb Scarce.Vintage Amt/matchbox Autocar Dump Truck Kit 1/25 Scale Pk-84032 - Unusual Old Ho Slot Cars Chevrolet Corvair Possibly 60's Matchbox?#k16(1970s)*matchbox Superkings*petrol Tanker"shell" Mint/in Undamaged BoxFreshly Open Factory Box 144 Vtg Matchbox Cars Blister Packs New Old Stock 1980Matchbox Limited Collection Jack Daniel's Replica 1948 Diamond T Tractor TrailerLesney Pre Matchbox Moko Covered Western Wild West Wagon With HorsesMatchbox Moko Lesney Volkswagen Vw Microvan 34 A1 Mw Vnm & Crafted BoxMoko Lesney Matchbox Model #13 Dodge Wreck Truck With Htf Gray Hook NmibMatchbox Twin Pack Tp-7 Jeep & Glider Set625 Matchbox "king Size" K-10 Scammell Contractor Pipe TruckMatchbox Convoy Tc-10 Fuji Racing Set1:25th Amt Mack Cruise-liner Cab Over Semi Truck (factory Sealed) MatchboxAll Size Lot Replacement Tyres-parts Restore Dinky.corgi.solido.matchbox.gama Matchbox Twin Pack Tp-15 Military Truck & TrailerMatchbox Lesney Ford Fairlane Station Wagon 31 B8 Crimson Spw Nm+ & Crafted BoxJob Lot Of 40 Diecast Cars: Dinky, Matchbox & LesneyVintage 1964, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69 Matchbox Series Carrying Case Full Of Cars Matchbox Major Pack M-9 Cooper Jarrett, And M-6 Pickfords Lowboy 634 Matchbox "accessory Pack" A-2 Bedford Pullmore Car Transporter - Mw605 Matchbox "models Of Yesteryear" Y-8 1914 Sunbeam Motorcycle & SidecarMatchbox Lesney 55c Ford Galaxie Police Car Blue Dome Light Near Mint In BoxMatchbox Rare NMatchbox Convoy Superfast Racing MinisMatchbox Twin Pack Tp-1 Mercedes Truck & Trailer#45(1970s)*matchbox 1-75(superfast)"bmw 30 Csl"*mint&mint Box*Matchbox Limited Collection Jack Daniel's Replica Ford Model A 1930Matchbox Moko Lesney #23 Berkeley Cavalier Caravan Pale Blue Vnm W/original BoxMatchbox Ltd. Jack Daniel's Replica Ford Aeromax Tractor Trailer Model

Recent News: Matchbox Cars

Source: Google News

Steven Spatz named new president of BookBaby
Talking New Media, September 18th

Prior to serving as AVL's chief marketer, Spatz worked with several leading direct marketing businesses including Matchbox Collectibles, Mattel Specialty Retail and Hasbro's GI Joe Collectibles. He got started in direct to consumer retailing through...Read more

Hudson Valley: small towns, artists, farmers, fall color
The Idaho Statesman, September 15th

Yes, that's New York's Hudson Valley, a land of artisan farmers, artists and small towns that boast centuries-old history, art galleries, antique shops, award-winning restaurants, cozy B&Bs, farm stands, a famed culinary school, hiking, biking and...Read more

Pépite vidéo : Paul McCartney jamme avec des bluesmen et Johnny Depp
Francetv info, September 6th

Ils y jouent nombre de classiques, dont le rockabilly "Matchbox" de Carl Perkins, souvent repris sur scène par les Beatles à leurs débuts. ... Un making-off officiel de "Early Days" sera inclus dans l'édition collector de "NEW" à paraître d'ici la fin...Read more

Education, family fun at Carlisle Sports and Outdoor Show
Reading Eagle, September 5th

“There's a wide variety of stuff, having matchbox cars all the way to the Native American stuff and then you've got a lot of stuff for the kids, so it's great.” ... There are a couple of new things this year, including Frisbee dogs and a vintage camper...Read more

Watch Extended Footage of Paul McCartney's Blues Jam from "Early Days ...
WFJA Classic Hits and Oldies 105.5 FM, September 5th

After finishing that song, McCartney jokes a bit with his fellow musicians and then kicks into a folk-blues rendition of Carl Perkins' “Matchbox” — a song The Beatles covered during their early years — which goes on for about 10 minutes. The...Read more

Hoard of cars has become a 'monster'
Otago Daily Times, August 23rd

Allen Mill knows the make and model of each of his 6500 Matchbox cars and the year they were released. And the collector knows where each car is placed in custom-built cabinets in his shed. ''It's an obsession that's a bit over the top. I have run out...Read more