Matchbox is widely recognized for its 1/64 scale miniatures. But how did this veteran brand originate? Let’s briefly review some points of its history.Show More
Lesney Products , Great Britain and the postwar period.
Matchbox is the trade name adopted by Lesney Products, a company formed in 1947 in the United Kingdom by two partners, Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith, who would also be joined by Jack Odell, who would really take forward the project of producing miniatures to scale. By then, Britain was recovering from a post-war situation, trying to reactivate industrial potential and return to economic normality. From a small London workshop, the founders of Lesney initially sought to engage in the manufacture of consumer goods by smelting and moulding on a smaller scale. Various metal items such as fishing hooks were marketed under the Lesney Products brand. Its first approach to the toy was the realization of a miniature rammer clearly based on a model of Dinky, at that time, the leading British company in the manufacture of toy vehicles, and later, one of its major competitors.
Jack Odell’s daughter, the designer.
But the origin of Matchbox miniatures comes from Jack Odell’s daughter, who asked him to design a toy she could take to school, as children were only allowed to bring small toys. The idea was to create a toy that would fit inside a matchbox and could be carried in a pocket. That’s how Lesney’s Matchbox Series was born. Despite the fact that the first models were construction vehicles such as a rammer, a dump truck and a concrete mixer, made entirely of metal and without windows and interiors, was a sales success, which allowed to compose a range of 75 models.
The packaging that gave rise to the name.
Part of the charm is that the miniatures came in the interior of matchboxes illustrated with the model it contained. A formula that popularized an attractive and affordable toy for children. This is how Matchbox was consolidated as an international brand, bringing Lesney great benefits beyond the British market.
Over time, the models evolved (with more detail, plastic parts in interiors, etc.) and diversified into several series. Towards 1969, the innovative “Superfast” line was presented, which implanted an improvement in the wheels that reduced the friction in the axles so that the vehicles rolled much faster.
The crisis that would change everything. Mattel, Matchbox and Hot Wheels
In the late 80’s, the company faced economic difficulties, as did its competitors, the manufacturers of Corgi and Dinky. To avoid bankruptcy, Lesney was bought in 1982 by Universal Toys who moved Matchbox production to Asia. Ten years later it passed into the hands of Tyco Toys and from 1997 to the present, Matchbox is owned by the American Mattel, also owner of Hot Wheels.
Vintage is cool and Matchbox knows it.
Over the years and to the present day, the memory for the miniatures in the matchboxes of the Lesney era lives on, which encouraged Matchbox to claim Lesney’s legacy and launch nostalgic series – such as “Models of Yesterday” – of reissued models much appreciated by collectors.
Come on, Friki Collector, get all of them!