Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2nd Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Nigel Cooper is back with his second Matchbox Ambassador Report:

Ambassador Report 2

Thank you for all those who took the trouble to write a comment or two regarding the first report. Thanks also to all who ensured the report reached the various message boards. I hope I did not miss anyone out. I will pass on all of your comments and publish responses. There is certainly a huge cross-section of opinion proving you cannot satisfy all of the collectors all of the time, though most comments had something positive to add!

I promised more new liveries last time and here are three emergency vehicles. Your views are welcome. The multi-coloured decoration certainly makes the Ford F350 Ambulance (MB771) more appealing to both adults and children. This will be the 2013 standard issue. The Ford Explorer (MB860) with Police livery looks very different from its previous colour schemes and certainly stands out in the bold Police livery. Is this the sort of vehicle that is used in the US as a Dog Van? The third model is the Police Interceptor (MB821). I am sure it will sit well with the other emergency vehicles.

Responses from Mattel

In the first report some of the models for this year and next year were mentioned. Two models designated for this year have unfortunately been delayed. The Range Rover Evoque and BMW R1200 tools are not ready and so they will be 2014 releases. I am sure both of these will be popular models and so will be well worth the wait. Samples of the MBX Coupe have been received and it is on schedule for later this year.

I listed the latest MAN numbers last time. There does appear to be an issue with the MAN number for the 2000 Corvette so I will keep you posted.

I am a fan of the Real Working Rigs. They remind me of the old Major Packs and King Size. However, it seems that latterly most of the large chain stores in the US did not share the view. I do not know whether they were sold outside the US. I spent hours in the US driving from one Kohl’s branch to another. Unfortunately, it appears only Kohl’s, of the nationwide chain stores, has stocked Real Working Rigs on a regular basis and the collector has had to be quick to find both the singles and the expensive Mission Force sets with one RWR before they were gone.

Presumably the other large chains have decided not to stock RWR any longer, hence the demise of this excellent range. I asked Mattel whether it would be possible to have some different tampo designs on the popular models. The answer was that only the Mission Force versions could have exclusive decoration and not the singles.

I am certain I am not alone in lamenting the fact that some 5 packs and all 10 packs no longer have completely unique colours. The 10 pack with all exclusive models was the most difficult to find and presumably the most popular and must have generated considerable sales. Given the fact that sales of 5 packs and 10 packs have always been high, I wondered why Matchbox could not simply change the base colour of the model and leave the regular series decoration.

Mattel explained to me that if a change is made to the actual colour of a model, it will create a new SKU (This refers to a Stock-Keeping Unit which is a unique identifier for each distinct product) for that model. Mattel allocates Matchbox a given number of SKUs each year to utilise across all their ranges. I presume this includes singles, 5-packs, licensed 3-packs, 9/10-pack exclusives, Mission Force,Skybusters, Big Boots, Critter Creatures and basically anything that uses a Matchbox logo. Thus, there is always a choice to be made and not recolouring all items in a 5 pack enables something else to be recoloured. On top of this, there are also financial issues and requirements that have to be met and planned for.

Collectors may feel hard done by the fact that a SKU is not used to change a miniature model but it must be remembered that Mattel exists, as did Matchbox in the past, to sell toys and that the vast majority of these toys are purchased for children and collectors are a very tiny but vociferous minority. Nevertheless, I askedif a change did not involve a SKU issue, could there be a change in decoration colour, for then collectors would have more to chase and sales would increase.

I was told that changes to wheels are done at will depending on demand but changes to interior colours and windows do affect the cost and can only be done as a running change and only if necessary since moulded colours are pre-ordered in advance. There are also licensor issues if colours etc. are changed. Matchbox arewell aware and understand that variations drive collector interest. Running changes are necessities that often happen on their own and list of variations in any year show how many changes are made.


It seems that sixty years of Matchbox miniatures is passing off without too much of a celebration, especially in England where the range has its roots. If all of the moulds during that time had been preserved I wonder which 24 models would be chosen to represent these sixty years.

I had a quick look at the new models released over the past sixty years in ten year blocks. As a child and then as an adult, I wonder what your comments would have been regarding these models manufactured then. Would you have been thrilled or critical? In the hope of making this more interesting I have included pre-production Superfast models rather than the issued versions.

1953 The Cement Mixer (3a) was one of the first three Moko Lesney castings but Jack Odell told me it was a bad choice as it had little play value, beyond being able to turn the barrel. He said it was one of his first mistakes but it could not have been that bad a seller as it stayed in the range for eight years!

1963 The Scammell Mountaineer Snowplough (16c) proved to be a popular model though it stayed in the same body colour scheme for the six years it was in production. Nowadays it would have been recoloured several times. Odell said it sold well enough in that colour scheme so saw no reason to change it.

1973 The Turbo Fury (69d) was one of seven Rola-Matic models released this year. The appeal of this model centred upon rotating turbos. This hot pink version had an orange base. There was just as much discussion at that time between collectors in the form of diehards and those welcoming a new direction, as there istoday. Rola-Matics appealed to children as witnessed by the number of models with this feature that were manufactured.

1983 The Ford Sierra XR4i (55r) has a particular importance to me as there was a link between Matchbox and Ford in the form of a competition to win the real car and I won it! (There were fewer than 1000 entrants and not even 20 answered the questions correctly as I learned later). I really enjoyed driving that car with itsover the top spoilers and I often said a silent thank you to Matchbox. The model, like the real car, had a plastic spoiler. What was happening to Matchbox?

1993 Jaguar XJ 220 (239 – 26i/31j) This model first appeared as a Showstopper and was produced from 1993 until 2002 in more than 20 different liveries. The chrome model is pre-production but the blue version showing “Old Eight Whisky” gold print was a very rare promotional for a Brazilian Whisky. Jaguars have always figured prominently in the Matchbox range. There are several new Jaguars as real cars which would make excellent additions to the miniature range.

2003 Trash Truck (57k MB542) This model is very close to the released issue except that it has a blue elephant but to cut costs, the blue was not applied and it remained in the background colour. It featured a tipper for enhanced play value.

Comments on Message Boards

The response to the photos of the Ford F1000 panel truck in a fire department livery was overwhelmingly positive, though there was considerable debate regarding authenticity of the livery. Some claimed it would be more fitting if it were marked as a rescue unit rather than a Fire Chief. It was argued that in the 1950s most Chiefs had cars, but panel trucks were commonly used as the first rescue trucks for many Fire Departments during this era. One suggestion for the future was to see the F100 in Civil Defense markings.

Comment was made that the blue tinted windows contrast well with the red livery and would sit well next to the 2013 Show Fire Chief Buick. One collector took the trouble to back up his comments with a beautiful photo of the real vehicle.

Here is a local Fire/Rescue Vehicle retired from service. Year in service was 1950.

Finally, I think these reports should be two way. Mattel like to know your views and clearly there is a limited amount of research possible into the best and the poorest selling models. I think it would help if you would identify the current peg warmers or perceived poor sellers and also report the fastest sellers. Maybe there is a model that you have found difficult to find – possibly the Buick Police Car or the BMW Motor Cycle. Maybe there is an unexpected model that you have still not found from last year – for me it is the 30 Garbage Grinder on a small European blister, though I know it was issued and it is easy to find on the large US blister.

Thank you again for your responses. Keep them coming. I can take both comment and criticism!

Nigel Cooper

September 1st 2013


  1. This Sierra - but in yellow and black - was my first Matchbox ever. I restored it and now my Sierra looks almost like new. All in all - great Matchbox car!

  2. What happened to the orange cross livery on the Ford E-350 for 2013 ????

  3. The all-terrain crane and Jeep Willys Concept have been peg warmers in Georgia. I haven't seen the Dodge A-100 or the Sahara Survivor (dark green) at all, and I thought they were both out by now. Not sure when the '43 Willys (red) is supposed to come out, but I haven't seen that one either.

  4. I like the E-350, but I don't like the gold trim (should be chrome) or the orange warning lights (should be red). Couldn't there be the rod of Asclepius, instead of the checkerboard on the Star of Life. Can't the checkerboard pattern continue onto the cab?

  5. Those two fords are the same because the writing "police" are the same.

  6. Hmm... the comment immediately above seems to have fallen upon the wrong blog...?

    Moving on, the livery on the ambulance is nice, I agree with some of the critiques, but overall a nice, agreeable paint scheme for all.

    The 2 Ford police cars, while nice that they were somewhat matched as a set, and the slight 'K9' writing on the corner of the Explorer is a nice touch, the razor straight design certainly seems over-simplified and from a time when more complex designs and printing wasn't possible...?

    Beyond that thank you Nigel for a greatly detailed, diverse, and educational write up on Matchbox past and present, I especially like the information about your XR4i, have any photos of the real one to share? My discerning uncle had a Merkur XR4Ti here in the states and always loved to talk about it's handling, performance, and notable looks... double spoiler included!

  7. Great article, Mr Nigel. The new emergency vehicles look good and simple, nothing too over the top. As for the old stuff, it was fun looking at stuff way before my time while taking a trip down memory lane. That XJ220 was one of my favorite cars back in the day. That Ford Sierra was pretty neat little car as well.

    Again, great article. I sincerely enjoyed it.

  8. Real working Rigs are an unfortunate victim. They were the silver lining of a silver cloud - realistic and licensed. There was playability for the kids, and enough realism for the old(er) kids. As companions to the once good mainline, it really felt like Matchbox was finding its way back home. Funny, during that era a few years ago, many of the classics in the mainline suffered the most. Never mind them and their horrid chrome interiors, there were still gems like the Unimog, Prius and Bentley. Paired up with the Rigs, Matchbox had a glimmer of charm akin to the golden era of the 1960s.
    It's a real shame that the rug of good taste has been pulled out from under us. The mainline has taken a big hit, and now it time to pay our respects to the Real Working Rigs. Sure, as the series aged, they started dressing funny with too-bright plastic bits. And, they started to lose their sense of identity with the handful of generics. Never mind that, the majority of this fun series was well executed. It's a collection of trucks I am proud to display.
    With their passing, is there really anything left for the discerning collector? The Ambulance suggests there might be. The metal base, metal cab, clear glass and tan interior are all positives. Stop putting the words MBX and other Matchbox titles on these emergency vehicles and it would be hard to fault.
    Pity then about the other two emergency vehicles. If I had a license to produce a well known police unit, I would protect my standing with the licensee and give them headlights and tail lights. These faceless vehicles are like R.I.N.G. (go ahead, google it). Raise the price if you have to by a slim dime and give the world something decent. While my dollars don't seem to matter to Mattel, I would have bought both if they showed a little more pride and a bit more realism.


  9. Incredibly, and articulately well said 66Alfa_GTV! I think many of the past RWR you speak of will continue to appreciate in value in coming years. My personal favorite is the Osh-Kosh Snow Plow which I was fortunate enough to find 2 of each in stores, one for my collection and one for a friend who isn't much into diecast versus the real thing but still mentions how cool they are to this day.

  10. Those two Ford polices look great! If I noticed, how come mattel or Matchbox puts the word "police" in the same printing?

    And so so, also like that Ford Explorer in its next police livery. Is it the 2012 or 2013 year model?

    So I had some questions. And I have something to say so WEIRD.

    You made a mistake that the Ford Explorer was a VAN. But it isn't a van. It is an SUV (sport utility vehicle), so it isn't a police dog van. Well if Matchbox designs a police VAN instead then it would be the FORD PANEL VAN (the one that was used in a superman pack in maybe 2003 or 2005?), or a new model such as the 2010 DODGE GRAND CARAVAN, or anything else. But all you have here is a Ford Explorer SUV.

    And better yet, not that I only like the Ford Explorer, I do also like the Ford Taurus police interceptor, and that Ford ambulance.

    So that's it for now. I'm sorry I comment late.