Monday, December 2, 2013

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

Ambassador Report 15

I am not sure how long the Thanksgiving festival lasts. Some American friends in the UK seem to spend a day or more preparing for and then several days recovering from this holiday. The Matchbox team are enjoying a well-earned restafter the trip to Asia but I hope to have more answers to your questions in the next Report. I do read comments on a number of message boards but I wonder whether I am missing some. I would like to thank those collectors who find the time to respond to the Reports on these websites and it is possible on all of these sites to look back to previous Reports and comments madeYour comments and questions enable me to request further information from Mattel. The list below includes those sites that I am aware of where comments are recorded.,,

I know that the Matchbox Club in England(www.matchboxclub.comand Matchbox USA( and board at print the whole or part of each Report.

If there are other accessible sites which also include collector comments, I would be grateful for information so that I may include the comments and pass on the questions to the Matchbox team. I learn so much from the comments as well as being able to smile at the various thoughts, written in a variety of ways, pertaining to various issues.

I was not surprised to learn that a new wave has been released in the US with models in the 2014 packaging. Some models are clearly from the 2013 range. I for one find this very annoying as I display the whole year’s releases in the blister packs and a mixture of packaging spoils the overall effect. It is also confusing when previously released models are packaged on the new year’s blister cards. I believe that currently there are 14 waves of Matchbox models designated for a particular year which are projected to include all 120 models as well as the five recolours. To date this has not occurred. All retailers receive boxes or cases of models stamped with a letter from A to P, omitting letters I and O as this may cause confusion with numbers. Once wave P has been issued, the whole system reverts back to Wave A again. Thus Wave A, issued in November 2013, includes a mixture of 2014 models and some of the 2013 releases. One would think that this arrangement might give Matchbox a headache in terms of wave management but the poor collectors, especially those outside the US where small numberless blisters are the norm, are leftcompletely bewildered. I am sorry that I do not have the information relating to the content of the waves and the year and so I rely on collectors reporting their finds.


The images for this Report include a recolour and a new model for 2014, three models from the Construction Zone 5-pack and a Skybuster. Your comments are welcome.

The 2014 models shown are the Ford F550 SuperDuty BDV73MB817 and Rumble Raider BDV79 MB925.

The 5 pack models include the GroundBreaker BDV50MB948Skidster BFN37 MB789 and Tractor Shovel BFN38MB029.

The Shovel Nose Tractor was originally included in the range in 1977. It has been through a considerable number of colour schemes with yellow predominating. The first issue is shown here together with a colour trial model. Unfortunately I cannot easily remove the other versions from the displays but some versions in other colours are shown. I am sure the designer of more than 36 years ago would have no idea that his creation would still feature as a Matchbox miniature today.

The Skybuster is called GeeBee_BFW04_SB118.

For years I had displayed my collection in numerical order so that all the No. 1 models, starting with the very first Road Roller in 1953 and progressing through to the Mercedes Truck and Mod Rod when Superfast wheels were fitted. Complications set in with various regional releases and when different numbers were used by Matchbox  for the same model. About 20 years ago I took the decision to change to a chronological approach and to have each year displayed in line with what was actually included in the basic range in the UK for that year. Of course, regional variations had to be displayed separately. However, I have a strong nostalgia for original Matchbox displays and I wanted the range to be displayed in its original setting as far as possible. Of course this leads to some duplication though there are usually enough variations to avoid this. The problem is more what to do with the larger number of variations that do not fit into the display. I fill up other displays with these.

When I started collecting in the 1970s, the vast majority of UK collectors were only interested in Yesteryears and miniature collectors were treated somewhat disdainfully. The up side of this was that miniatures were usually cheap and plentiful. If only this situation was apparent today!!  Fred Bronner was only too aware of the use of displays and whilst wooden and glass displays were charged for and were intended for the larger stores, there were many cardboard displays that were free for the small shopkeeper. These proliferated all over the US and Canada. Later displays were created for the UK and for Germany, the third biggest market, and I am sure for other countries. Eventually, plastic was used predominantly, probably because of production and distribution costs.

The German displays are interesting, especially the one showing DMK rather than DM. It may be that this was designed for East Germany though sales were very small there or the UK designer thought that German coinage was in DMKs rather than DMs. Any information on this difference would be appreciated. The first two images show the ranges for 1961 and 1962, whilst the later display is showing models from 1967. The wooden display reflecting a price of DM 1.30 may have been used for the boxes behind the counter or with models displayed and the boxes stored elsewhere.

How Children Have Changed

Les Smith lived in a grand mansion in north London. Wheninterviewed he was proud to relate that he had a complete set of regular wheels – but in fact this meant just 75 models or so as he saw no difference between the four sizes of Road Roller or London Bus and he had no record of what had been made.

Sales of the first four models were slow. Smith emphasised that children wanted models they could identify with and the first four models in the range were limited because they were not frequently seen. Presumably children of sixty years ago would not have been interested in many of today’s generic offerings. Smith insisted the range was limited until the 5a Bus was made. The first four did not sell well but the Bus sold very well because it was a more familiar sight than the construction vehicles. Once Matchbox miniatures were in full flow, therewere not the production facilities available for large scale models and in any case several parts of the larger Early Lesneyitems were sub-contracted out with production problems and varying costs of parts such as rubber tyres. The Fire Engine(9a) was second in popularity to the London Bus. There was never any market researchjust personal feelings, suggestions from the employees and flicking through magazines. Above all, it was concluded that children wanted everyday items that they could easily relate to. Leseny were in the fortunate position of there being few toys available so there was little competition and none in the miniature scale.  The after effects of the war were still apparent so any toys would sell and indeed rationing was still evident even in 1953. For the most part, there were not the resources to produce modelsDinky had been making war items and now had to re-start making toys and supplies were restricted, not least when the Board of Trade banned the use of zinc except for military purposes. This ban lasted about a year. However, once the range had expanded to 12 models by 1955 Smith knew he was delivering what children wanted and he was able to move forward towards selling toys across the world. How strange that the US became the largest market with hardly a model being familiar to American children!


  1. Looks like the F550 Super Duty has not a lot of detail on it. But anyways, what series did mattel put the Super Duty in?

    But anyways again, the Ford is really strange that no vinyls are on it. But still, I only have 2 questions for mattel and you Nigel. Question 1 is "Why did the designer of the 2014 versioned Ford Super Duty made a plain design like that?" And question 2 is "Who is the designer of the 2014 versioned Ford Super Duty?"

    So those are my 2 questions, and are they certain questions for mattel to answer?

    But so, so, these ambassador reports are starting to get weird. It looks pretty bad no one gets to see new models that are supposed to appear sometime in 2014 instead of 2015. But is the Matchbox company doing that? Examples of models that no one gets to see in 2014 instead of 2015; 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500, or the Range Rover Evoque. That's for sure either some new models appear in 2015 instead of 2014.

    So... you can answer my questions or you can just save your answers for mattel to answer if they are certain questions.

  2. I actually like the paint job on the Super Duty quite a lot. I have a hard time wanting to buy it because of the plastic bed, but I think the color scheme works well.

    There are quite a few of the Matchbox Original designs that I like a lot (e.g. Sahara Survivor, Jungle Crawler, Cliff Hanger, Terrain Trouncer), but the Rumble Raider just doesn't speak to me. Again, I guess I'm not the target market.

    I like the green on the Skidster. More than that, I'm just glad the Skidster continues to be used in the mainline--it is metal top and bottom, and is a lot of fun to roll around.

    The most exciting one for me in this set of pictures, though, is the GeeBee. It's an authentic paint job on a really amazing airplane--it's exciting to have a new casting of such a classic. From what I can see, both the wings and the horizontal stabilizers are plastic, which is a bummer. I think it will feel very light for its size.

  3. Yet another great report Nigel! The F550 is everything a Matchbox should be, the model following it, it is not worthy of words. As far as the 3 construction models, they are all pleasing and I am particularly fond of the Skidster and glad to see a new colour scheme with the shade of green shown.

    1. Additionally, the GeeBee is spectacular, and is without question a Sky Busters model I will purchase; which says a lot as I currently own only 2. Given that the real world one is quite small & short in length compared to other planes it seems it has afforded it a decent amount of accurate detail. If Matchbox continues to produce accurate planes like this, I'll be in line to buy them!

  4. The color of the Ford is OKAY, but why can't more detail be added?

  5. Nigel...can you PLEASE provide the following thread to the Matchbox team and ask why Matchbox can not do what Majorette is currently doing with their brand. Tell them to look at the passion that is sprinkled throughout those 7 pages discussing emergency Vehicles from around the world. This is the way you market to the ROW+ markets. Matchbox used to do it, they could again if only they wanted to.


  6. don't think children have changed that much. In the 90's when I was a kid a had more 1/43 scale and Corgi 1/76 busses stuff as it looked like the cars I saw everyday than the few Matchbox and even less Hot Wheels I had. My little sister loves seeing real cars that we have in miniature and yeah she likes the shark cruiser, but anything that's not realistic, has opening features (hairy hauler is one of her favourites) or is relatable like an ice cream van from what I've gathered goes over head.