Ambassador Report 23
It seems that some markets now have the full complement of 2013 models less the two which have been delayed until this year. A few models have only surfaced in 2014 packaging which spoils the effect for those collectors who attempt to collect one of each blister pack in a particular year’s style. Now three waves for the new year have been issued and so Matchbox are well up to schedule in terms of releases.However, in the UK only a few lucky collectors have found the whole range as availability is very limited.
I was talking to a well-known UK dealer of Matchbox models and I was surprised to learn that the regular wheel prices I had listed in Ramsays and Model Collector for 2004 were considerably below those levels that he would expect today. For instance a metallic red Aston Martin might have fetched £300-£400 then but today only around £150-£200. Conversely, Superfast models from the 1970s have rocketed in price and amazing figures have been realised for models that only a few years ago would not have attracted much interest. How fickle we collectors are, though such trends may of course be related to the age group who collect Matchbox models and what was current in the years of their childhood.
MATCHBOX ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Unfortunately there are no answers this week. I hope to have more answers next week.
Up first is a 2014 new tool called the Trail Tracker which was first shown at the gathering last year in New Mexico. Here isthe pre-production image.
These next two are from the 2014 “Rescue Duty” 5 pack which includes the Ambulance and Blaze Blaster.
Next is the Blizzard Buster which was replaced in the 2014 5 pack but also available in mainline singles.
Lastly we have a 2014 Sky Buster Stunt Plane.
A Little More History
This week’s look back in time features responses from Les Smith. Of course, having a completely different role from Jack Odell, Smith has a different outlook on some aspects of the company.
Why were there different release dates in Australia, USA and Britain for some models?
As time went on and markets became more sophisticated we were very careful regarding release dates. For instance a new model in the UK had to be available everywhere for if, for instance, a model was not issued simultaneously in Scotland,wholesalers or large retailers would send someone down to London to present an order at the factory, even bringing down the money with them so that they could take models back to Scotland to have ready for sale before other outlets.
In order to avoid someone’s time being wasted at the factory, sometimes new models were stored in a warehouse pending the coordinated release over the whole country. This was not feasible for a world release and Matchbox did not bother so much if one country had models before another. Sometimes, especially in the early days, there could be months between the release of a model in the US and the United Kingdom. However, there were still problems because if retailers in the US heard of a new release in Britain, which had not been issued in the US, he would establish a link with a retailer or wholesaler in the UK and have them shipped over just to be ahead of the competition. This also happened in reverse when a new model became available.
Why was the first saloon car, the Vauxhall Cresta (22a)painted in two-tone and how was it done?
The paint scheme was to make the model more interesting and to follow the example of the real car which was often in two colours. Children liked to have a model of what they saw on the roads or their fathers owned. A die-cast cap was designed to fit over the upper part of the body and Smith said that it was unique and the first time that two tone colours had appeared on a toy car, though I am not sure that this was true. Unfortunately, there were problems in manufacture because the cap expanded and a shadow around where the two colours met was sometimes visible. It was a reasonable standard at that time though today it would never be acceptable. Furthermore, the two-toning made the model expensive to produce because of scrap rates, the need for more paint and the regular cleaning of the cap. A much better job was made of the replacement Vauxhall Cresta PB (22b). Les Smith thought that the first Cresta probably never made any money forLesney but it was never a consideration. Provided that the company was always making money, an expansive model was included in the range, not least to make the competition wonder how it could be done economically. Of course , the answer was that the other cars produced at the time were of one colour and those that were just a body casting, base and wheels were far more profitable for Matchbox and balanced out the more expensive models.
We did not try out the two-tone scheme for a little while until we had improved the process. Then we were more successful with the Hillman Minx (43a) and the Thames Estate Car (70a). However, it was probably used to the best effect on the FordThunderbird (75a) which was of course very popular in the USA and the second Vauxhall Cresta.
The Vauxhall Cresta PB (22b)
The American influence was obvious when the VauxhallCresta “PA” Series saloon was released. Both the bonnet and boot were longer and flatter than previous Vauxhalls with slightly raised, angular wings which unfortunately became mud traps. Poor ventilation in the wings often led to moisture build up and thence to serious rust problems. The model, which quickly followed the real vehicle in 1958, (22b), captured these design features and was more accurately representative than its predecessor, the “E” Series Cresta, had been.
The model proved to be very popular and it remained in the range until June 1965. It has been a sought after model with collectors, perhaps partly because the “PA” Cresta has become something of a cult car in Britain but also because of the comparatively large number of colour variations. WhenLesney announced the inclusion of plastic windows as a feature of the range in 1960, this Cresta and the Victor were two cars chosen for uprating. Certainly the fitment of green plastic windows to the Cresta emphasised the wrap around windscreen design of the real car.
There is a real problem in describing the colours for this model as paint shades vary so much from model to model. Although an artist’s impression of the model in the 1958 catalogue revealed a green body, the initial release was painted a creamy pink. This was Lesney’s attempt to copy the “Mountain Rose”colour available on the real car. However, there were problems with maintaining the exact colour balance for models have been found ranging from pale pink to pure cream. There is a debate among collectors as to whether the cream version was an intended colour variation or simply a version which has been coloured in a paint mix which has had no pink pigment added. I believe that the cream variant is sufficiently different from the creamy pink models to warrant a separate colourcoding and therefore seven distinct colour schemes may be listed. However, markedly different shades also exist and so the listing may be enlarged further.
In 1961 it was decided to repeat the two-tone colour scheme. The painting process had obviously been developed and improved to the extent that a Chevrolet Impala, (57b), an Austin Cambridge, (29b), and now the Cresta all featured as highlights of the miniature range because two-tone paint schemes on real vehicles were in vogue.
The first “PA” to have oversprayed lower body sides was the aforementioned pink version which benefited from turquoise sides. It is unknown whether the turquoise paint was intended to be used with the next body colour of metallic brown and the last few remaining pink models were made into two-tone variants or whether Lesney decided that the turquoise and pink was not a good match and turned to another paint combination. In any event the pink and turquoise model has become one of the rarest Matchbox models despite being shown as the current No. 22 in both the 1961 and 1962 “Matchbox” catalogues. The company was never too concerned about model colours and so any colour scheme would serve to illustrate their models. At that time Lesney paid no attention to collectors and did not concern themselves that later collectors could be searching for a model which was shown in the catalogue for two years with precious little chance of finding one.
The metallic brown and turquoise version was available during 1961 and 1962 but before the end of 1962 it was decided to change the colour scheme again. A light or dark grey body was enhanced by lilac side stripes. This model was shown on the first fully coloured picture box for this number and remained until the model was withdrawn from the range despite the fact that single colour paint schemes were reintroduced from 1963 until 1965 when gold and then metallic copper paint was used.
The second Vauxhall Cresta probably had more colour schemes than any other model but it was not clear why this happened. Some of the colour schemes are included below together with a pre-production metallic blue on a body which was not pursued.
Next week will see a focus on the 1970s.
Nigel Cooper 27th January 2014