Is there any brand that is as historically synonymous with toy cars as Matchbox? After all, the Matchbox name has been around since the early 1950s, when it was introduced by British die-casting company Lesney Products, and it’s continuing to fare strongly today – albeit now under Mattel ownership. Between those stages, it’s been quite the journey.
A brand of enduring appeal to kids and adult collectors alike
The Matchbox name first came about due to the first toys under the brand being sold in boxes of a similar style and size to the boxes in which matches were sold. This was very much on account of practical considerations, Lesney co-owner Jack Odell having learned that his daughter’s school only allowed children to bring toys that were capable of fitting inside a matchbox.
The resultant model car – a scaled-down version of Lesney’s green and red road roller – helped to spur on the early success of Matchbox diecast cars. Those first years saw the replication of an assortment of vehicles, largely British, such as the Vauxhall Cresta, MG Midget TD and Ford Zodiac, although foreign manufacturers were also increasingly represented as the collection grew, such as Volkswagen, Citroen and various American marques.
Years of turbulence and subsequent revival
With a distinctive niche established, Matchbox diecast cars went on to be strong sellers throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, even after the 1968 introduction of the Hot Wheels brand by the American toy maker Mattel. However, difficult economic conditions in the United Kingdom by the end of the ‘70s left Lesney in dire financial straits, which eventually became bankruptcy in June 1982.
The Matchbox brand name was subsequently sold to Universal Toys and – in the early 1990s – Tyco Toys. From 1997, Tyco Toys became a division of Mattel, bringing together Matchbox and Hot Wheels under the same corporate banner.
Sustained relevance for today’s diecast model fans
Today, Matchbox continues to evolve in line with the preferences of 21st-century enthusiasts, without losing the essence of its appeal. Such series as ‘Best Of’ and ‘Globe Travellers’ have freshened up a brand that might have otherwise been at risk of going stale, showing that Matchbox diecast cars remain as relevant as ever, despite the world having profoundly changed since the 1950s.
Purchase from our own in-depth selection of highly collectable Matchbox diecast cars today, and provided that you have spent more than £10 on one order, you can look forward to free delivery to most parts of the UK mainland.