The year was 1953, and the British toy company Lesney Products came out with the first so-called Matchbox car. It was then that they saw one of their biggest sales - a model of the Queen's Coronation Coach. This led the company to begin producing other scaled down versions of different vehicles - cars, dump trucks, cement mixers, and more. It was always important that they meet that special size requirement - that they fit in a matchbox. Thus, the brand was born. Those early models were (quite naturally) all British vehicles, and they quite primitive - no interiors, doors didn't open, and they were generally a solid piece of metal.
By the late 60's, the Matchbox cars had truly entered their Golden Era. Now there were many more models, and they were becoming quite articulate - doors that opened, and so on. This is also when they expanded their lines to include the Models of Yesteryear - renditions of vehicles from long ago. Also, accessories were added - petrol/gas pumps, garages, and so on.
The Trials of Competition
Of course, success breeds imitation. The American firm Mattell came out with their Hot Wheels line, and quickly took over the U.S. market. Well, Matchbox was not about to take that lying down. They responded with the creation of their Superfast line, these were new, sleeker cars; and the addition of other lines. Soon there were Matchbox planes, trains, and ships. Their success led to still new lines - Battle Kings (military models), Sea Kings (different ships), the Adventure 2000 science fiction line, and the Two Pack series. However, these lines proved less than completely successful; only the Two Pack and Sky Busters (airplanes) continued for any length of time.
Death, and Re-Birth
The 1970s saw tough times for Matchbox, and other British toy manufacturers. Eventually, Lesney was forced to declare bankruptcy in June of 1982. The Matchbox brand then sort of drifted for a time, moving from company to company until - almost exactly ten years later - Tyco Toys bought it in May of 1992. Then, in a truly ironic twist, Mattel acquired Matchbox in 1997. To say that loyal Matchbox fans/collectors were concerned would be an understatement. After all, the Hot Wheels / Matchbox rivalry had been raging for years. Would Mattel simply kill the line, revamp it to be like the Hot Wheels or stay true to its roots?
Initially, Mattel did revamp the Matchbox cars. In 2003, they brought out the Ultra Heroes line, which was a complete disaster! They were discontinued a year later, and the company decided to try another tact. A new team, dedicated to preserving the classic style of the cars, began producing realistic looking models with a high degree of details. The one major change from the classic Matchbox cars was that these were based largely on American vehicles. Today, the line has grown to nearly one hundred models, and they show no signs of fading away. Children - both boys and girls - continue to enjoy playing with them; and there are more than a few adults who also take pleasure in collecting them.
Come check out our entire stock of model cars and diecast cars today.