Matchbox Miniatures

Matchbox Miniatures

Matchbox Miniatures

As most collectors of toys and models know, the name 'Matchbox' originated in the early 1950s when the Lesney company decided to make die-cast model toys of a size small enough to fit into a standard matchbox. Earlier Lesney toys were marketed by toy wholesaler Moses Kohnstam whose 'Moko' logo was for a number of years incorporated into the design of the boxes.

Often called 'Matchbox Miniatures' by enthusiasts, the range remembered by most enthusiasts with the greatest affection must surely be the '1-75 Series'. It started in 1953 with the simple delights offered by the (Aveling- Barford) Road Roller, Muir-Hill Site Dumper and a Cement Mixer.

Matchbox Miniatures

The next year saw the introduction of a Horse-Drawn Milk Float, a Quarry Truck and one of the best known models from this range - No.5, London Bus.

This particular delight carries its reference number clearly cast-in on the destination panel at the front, while paper labels stuck to the sides exhorted kids of the day to 'Buy Matchbox Series'. Such an item in excellent boxed condition sells for around £50 in today's market.

In those early days, quality control techniques were nothing like as sophisticated as they are today But then, they didn't need to be - these were only pocket money toys after all. So it was that different batches of them came to have different shades of paint colour thus producing the many 'variations' that delight the determined collector nowadays.

And remember too, that much of the painted detail (on such parts as radiators, drivers, lights, trims, etc.) were applied by the hands of many young lady production workers. You can readily see the potential for ever increasing variety.

Matchbox Miniatures
Then, Lesney decided to use plastic instead of metal for the wheels. They issued widely differing quantities (sometimes randomly) of black, grey or silver- coloured wheels, fitting them to most of the range at different times. This all results in an immense list of varieties for Matchbox enthusiasts to collect.

What effect might this variety have on prices? Well, let me give you a couple of examples.

The Dennis Fire Engine (No.9 in the range) was introduced in 1955 with metal wheels and sold in astonishingly large numbers.

A good example currently sells for around £45. The model was re­introduced in 1958 fitted with grey plastic wheels.

Far fewer were made of this version, resulting in a price in today's collecting market of £250 to £300! Matchbox Miniature No. 16 was, in 1960, a Super Atlantic Trailer and is generally to be found finished in orange and with black plastic wheels at a modest £30 or so. Grey plastic wheels and a tan flight brown) body manages to push the price to £65, while the mixture of orange body and grey plastic wheels would need over £500 to buy it.

The '1-75 Series' acquired 'Superfast' wheels in 1969 to compete with Mattel's 'Hot Wheels' toys though some collectors felt that with this move the range had started to lose the charm of those earlier Lesney creations. 

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