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”)

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    

Matchbox Lesney Lot Of 68 Original Empty Boxes Free Shipping UsaLot Of 90 Vintage Original Matchbox Empty Boxes Free Shipping Usa Matchbox Superfast 1970 X 26 Items Lot 1 Matchbox Lesney Pontiac Convertible 39 B1 Purple Red Spw Sc1 Nm+ & Crafted BoxMatchbox Superfast 1970 X 26 Items Lot 2 48 Vintage Mixed Car Lot W/case 70s, Hot Wheels & Matchbox,Johnson Viking Matchbox Antenna Tuner, Manual, BalancedMatchbox Lesney Lot Of 46 Grey Wheel Good To Very Near Mint Matchbox Superfast #25 Ford Cortina W/ Crispy Ob, Scarce Brown, OriginalSdcc Hasbro Marvel Legends Universe Ant Man Mini Matchbox Exclusive 2015 Sdcc 2015 Comic Con Hasbro Exclusive Marvel Ant-man Matchbox 0.75 Mini FigureMatchbox Series By Lesney Gift Set G-3 Building Construction Set Issued 1960Antique Matchbox Holder Match Box Cover Vesta Case Russian Faberge Silver Pl Matchbox Super Kings K69 Jaguar And Caravan In Unpunched BoxMatchbox Lesney Pontiac Convertible 39 B3 Yel Red Spw Sc7 Vnm & Crafted BoxMatchbox Superkings K-7 C Racing Car Transporter W/57 E Htf White Unpunched BoxMatchbox A Lot Of Two Pack Die Cast Vehicles With Wall Mounted CaseMatchbox Moko Lesney Ford Zodiac Convertible 39 A3 Gpw Sc9 Nm+ & Crafted BoxHuge Lot Of 270 Hot Wheels & Matchbox Cars + Playset & 3 Carrying CasesMatchbox - The Dukes Of Hazzard - Cooter's Tow Truck (2006) 2013 Toy Fair Matchbox Routemaster Bus Double Decker Bus Matchbox Lesney #38 Vauxhall Victor Estate Car Grey Wheels & Tow In Original BoxMatchbox Lesney Pontiac Convertible 39 B9 Yel Black Bpw Sc15 Vnm & Crafted BoxMatchbox Lesney Superfast Rolls Royce Racing Mini Opel Diplomat Boxed 24 29 36Lesney Matchbox King Size K-11 D.a.f. Car Transporter No Reserve Big CollectionMatchbox A Lot Of Two Pack Die Cast Vehicles With Wall Mounted Case Rare Matchbox Lesney No. 22 1958 Vauxhall Cresta 2 Tone Car. Rare ColorsRare Lesney Matchbox Bedford Bp Petrol Tanker Truck, Gpw, No ReserveMatchbox Lesney Volkswagen Vw Low Roof Camper 34 D1 Bpw Sc3 Vnm & Crafted BoxRare Matchbox Voltron Lion Force 1980s Die Cast Golion Toei Y&k Japan Robot LotMatchbox Super Kings K102 Race Support Set Porsche In Unpunched BoxMatchbox A-1 Gas Pumps With Bp Sign W/ Crisp Ob, OriginalMatchbox Moko Lesney Aston Martin Db2-4 53 A4 Red Bpw Sc6 Exc & Crafted BoxLot Of 36 Vintage 1970's Diecast Toy Cars With Case Lesney MatchboxMatchbox Mitsu Evo X (mb808) & Subaru Impreza Wrx (mb751) Police Loose Lot Of 5 Lesney Matchbox Garage Showroom And No. 1 Accessory Pack Esso Pumps No ReserveMatchbox Toys Pee Wee Herman Playhouse Figures W/ Scooter Toys Lot Of 12Matchbox Tesla Model S #7/120 Mbx Adventure City E Case ModelMatchbox Super Kings K-23 Low Loader With Bulldozer, Mint And BoxedMatchbox Superfast No.26, No.48 Big Banger,pi-eyed Piper Base,rare, Hard To FindMatchbox Series No.50 Kennel Truck W/ Sprue Great Condition MibMatchbox Lesney Original #65 Jaguar 3.8 Sedan Silver Wheels Tow In Original BoxMatchbox Lesney Original No. 13 Dodge Wreck Truck Bp Tow Truck In Original BoxVintage Lesney Matchbox Cars Set Of 29 Cars No ReserveAmt-matchbox 1/25 Mack Cruise-liner Coe Semi-tractor Model KitVintage Lesney Matchbox 40 Car Lot Trucks / Trailers / Cars / Tractor & Case #1Leyland Matchbox King Size K-6 A Allis Chalmers Earth Scraper Nmio BoxLesney Matchbox 39 B Pontiac Bonneville Regular Wheels With Htf E Type BoxMatchbox Lesney Major Pack M-2 Articulated Freight Truck York Lep Original BoxMatchbox Lesney Lambretta Scooter & Sidecar 36 B1 10x24 Bpw Sc2 Vnm &crafted BoxVintage 1970's & 1980s Matchbox & Hot Wheels Diecast Car Lot Of 24 W/carry Case!Matchbox 13th Annual Dealers Model Ford Bronco 4 X 4 Dealers ModelsMatchbox Lesney Harley Davidson Motorcycle & Sidecar 66 B1 Sc1 Vnm & Crafted BoxMixed Lot Of 150 Toy Cars/vehicles, Hot Wheels, Matchbox & More-0722Early Lesney Matchbox Mercedes Truck & Trailer # 1 & 2 With Original Box LotMatchbox Lesney Ferrari F1 Racing Car 73 B2 White Driver Sc4 Vnm & Crafted BoxMatchbox Moko Lesney Hillman Minx 43 A23 Grey On Blue Mw Sc6 Vnm & Crafted BoxMatchbox Lesney #74 Mobile Canteen Gray Wheels Nice Condition Sdcc 2015 Comic Con Hasbro Exclusive Marvel Ant-man Matchbox 0.75 Mini FigureMatchbox Superfast #64 Mg 1100 W/ Crispy Box, Blue, Original

Recent News: Matchbox Cars

Source: Google News

140-plus vehicles on display at Radisson Show and Shine
The Battlefords News-Optimist, July 28th

There were also 25 vintage snowmobiles on hand with many of them from Alberta. Winning the trophy for the snowmobiles ... Some young boys that brought in older bikes each received a matchbox toy. Playing music for the afternoon was William and the ...Read more

A tale of two extraordinary artists
PrintWeek India, July 21st

Furthermore, he selected calendars, posters, labels of consumer products, greeting cards, playing cards and matchbox labels with Ravi Varma's prints on them. All of these are now on display at the Gallery of Cultural Legacy of Raja Ravi Varma, a part...Read more

Emilio Arenas, Uruguay's Pencil King, Seeks 7th Guinness Record
Latin American Herald Tribune, July 20th

Arenas owns 38,000 keychains, 10,000 pins, 16,000 matchboxes, 4,200 perfumes and 5,000 ashtrays, with the latter collection being the reason why Guinness awarded him a new record. ... After setting his first record, Arenas was invited to visit the...Read more

Small but perfectly formed: models go on show
Otago Daily Times, July 16th

But Mr Brockie's passion for models was clear and he was an avid collector himself, having gathered every Matchbox car available until the 1990s. One of his favourites was a late-1960s orange Spot-On Land Rover made by Tri-ang and valued at more than ...Read more

Comics, coins and banjo to add to RAGBRAI entertainment
Pilot Tribune, July 13th

A customer can pick up 10 international coins for a dollar, have a military antique appraised, or root through the store's collection of over 3,000 vinyl records. Eric has taken over management ... Other items not available at the store entail vintage...Read more

Flexibility, options makes fine dining with toddlers possible
HeraldNet, July 12th

We spread out a plethora of tiny toys on the table, which led to some push-me, pull-you battles over who was going to play with what and some too-spirited Matchbox car racing on the wide windowsill — “Shhh! No vrooming or crashing!” — before they...Read more

Orpington schoolchildren create miniature matchbox art
News Shopper, July 1st

Pupils created intricate designs using the match boxes, similar to the vintage craze of the flea circus, with each year group choosing a specific theme. Youngsters from Year Six chose the theme 'what a performance' for their diminutive creations. MORE...Read more

Barbie dolls, matchbox cars in Planting Fields exhibit
Newsday, March 26th

Newsday takes a look inside the "Heels and Wheels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys" exhibition at the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay. The show on Friday, March 27, 2015, at the Manor House, features Barbie dolls and...Read more