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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
1up Diecast Collection
DFW Elite Toy Museum
The Show Room
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Matchbox Cars
Source: Google News
'Nascar Tom' has a PhD in Earnhardt: Torrance resident's Nascar collection of ...Easy Reader, April 28th
For example, one area has only the bobbleheads, while across the room has only cereal boxes. In his bedroom, a large case full of matchbox cars covers an entire wall. Organization is dictated by the year raced so that he recognizes the cars he is...Read more
Alexander Girard: Design for the World — and Just About Everything in ItHyperallergic, April 23rd
WEIL AM RHEIN, GERMANY — Sometimes an exhibition can be so packed with information and ideas that it can send viewers racing home to try their hands at their own creations. That's the kind of pay-off that can feel as rewarding as examining a deeply ...Read more
Clifton's Thali Cafe still serving authentic taste of India after refurbishmentBristol Post, April 14th
The rest of the design pays homage to Indian matchbox art and the country's street painters. The aqua blue and dusky pink walls are also dotted with vintage Indian posters including one for the 1969 film Jigri Dost. Thali Cafés have always offered...Read more
In parched Marathwada, all water flows to two DeshmukhsDaily News & Analysis, April 13th
Questions like who granted permission to this sugar mill or why or how did a dam's waters become a private resource elicit only silence from Osmanabad collector Prashant Narnaware. He denied any political pressure, and said: “Cutting off water for...Read more
LGBT Community Center hosts annual red dress partyThe Desert Sun, April 9th
Jus Chillin, Koffi, Lulu California Bistro, Matchbox, Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill, Three-Sixty North, and Trio. For dancing, DJ Bob Scatch was recruited to create the party vibe. It was “dance till ya drop” with vintage disco music mixed with...Read more
Where Are the Worst Parking Lots in Pleasanton?Patch.com, April 8th
Spaces that fit little more than a matchbox car, the lot with a fraction of the parking spaces needed for the number of businesses in the shopping center... or maybe it's that lot known for car burglaries or door dings, confusing signage, speeders...Read more
COLUMN- You can't put a price on nostalgia - or buy it onlineThe Star, April 5th
A browse round the shops, vintage markets or the Pedlar's Corner carboots and the dusky scent of an oak welsh dresser or the sight of a matchbox toy will spark murmurs of 'that brings back memories.' Although, rare and valuable finds are possible...Read more
Tasha's KRLD To Do List March 31-April 3, 2016CBS Local, March 31st
Comic Books, Collectible Toys, Transformers, Matchbox cars, Star Wars, Batman, Marvel Legends, DC Comics, Star Trek, Pop Vinyl, Sci-Fi, Horror toys, Trading Cards, Die cast cars, Happy Meal Toys, Vintage toys, all types of collectibles and much more!...Read more