Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21st Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 39


It is with great regret that I received the news of the untimely death of Wolfie Ginsburg. Together with Paul Carr and me,Wolfie wrote one of the major chapters in the Matchbox – TheFirst Forty Years book and his knowledge of King Size and Super King models was unrivalled. Wolfie was an unassuming and cheerful South African who lived in London and was of just a few collectors known to Jack Odell, who he first met in South Africa. Our thoughts are with his wife, Gael, and family.

I would also like to send best wishes from all Matchbox collectors to Michael Heralda, who has long been the chief graphics designer in the Matchbox team, in his battle against prostate cancer. We look forward to him being back at his desk before too long.

Mark Amies drew my attention to the destination board on the latest double decker bus. Mark could not understand why the destination was Union Road. In fact, it should have been Union Row, Edmonton. This was the address for The Rifleman public house where Lesney and Matchbox started. At least the design team should be congratulated for its research and few would have realised the connection.

Apologies for the late submission of this report. Next week will also be published later than usual again because of family commitments.

1.  Can you ask what is happening with the post MOY castings from the Matchbox Collectibles era? Nothing is happening with the MOY Matchbox Collectibles currently. The last iteration of MOY was in 2006.
2.  I am ecstatic to finally see that gorgeous 1963 Mack B Pumper. That truck looks magnificent, in gloss red with gold trim to boot. It is good to see a diecast body and clear windows as well. Also, the rear plastic piece is unbelievably close incolor to the diecast body, and even the texture looks like that of painted diecast. I was even tricked by the first photo and thought the whole entire body was metal, until I saw the last picture. Models like this keep me in the Matchbox running!  That being said, does not mean I do not have complaints. The grille is a problem. It is not flush with the diecast hood, and reminds me of the grille issue with MB695 Utility Tanker. The grille is also not fat enough. Look at a pic of the real truck, and you will see that it is very, very thick, and this model's is very thin. I noticed the grille was off on the Tacoma as far as not being large enough or being flush, either. And, the plastic window insert is not flush with the center-break, which looks odd. The inside of the a-pillars show, and the paint-sprayer cannot quite reach there, making spotty cover. Still, put those two minor complaints aside, and you have a wonderful US collector's item. I would be pleased to hear your comments.
Thanks for your comments on this model.  Do keep in mind that the photos of this model are enlargements. Many of the details you have pointed out become less prevalent when viewed by the naked eye. Some concessions are required due to manufacturing requirements for a toy age graded 3+.
3. Why do you include a miniature of an old vehicle from the 1950s in the range when most kids will never have seen it for real?
Our 1-120 range includes may types of vehicles both modern and classic models because people of all ages and preferences buy our toys. 
4.  Do you work with manufacturers when new vehicles are being released?
Yes always.
5.  Do any of the design team collect Matchbox Toys?
Yes we do.
 6.  Which models were dropped completely from the range, never to be used again, last year? How do you decide?
There are very few models that were dropped from the range, “never to be used again”.  We have explained in other Ambassador reports our criterion for deciding to drop a model forever but to elaborate, tool life, complexity and licensor factors come into play when deciding to end a model. Some decisions are easy and some are complex.
7.  My local stores never seem to have any Matchbox but there are some Hot Wheels. Why is this?
Perhaps you should seek out a different store.
8.   Are new models always decided by committee? If this is so, does it explain why we now have so many generic models as everyone gets an input?
New models are decided by the team.  Many factors come into play.  The decision to make a generic, (non- licensed), vehicle depends on what is needed per segment category.

There are the new images this week.

A Little More History
Lesney New Miniatures 1979  
The Renault 5 and Mark IV Cortina
The #21 Renault 5TL was interesting in as much that it was released in the USA in yellow with “Le Car” tampo, but in the UK and elsewhere it was issued in plain metallic blue. Unlike the #65 Airport Coach the previous year, which was released with different airline labels to suit different countries, there seems to be no good reason for such a decision in regard to the Renault. Eventually both colours became available in both countries.

This model must have more variations than the majority of Matchbox models. The baseplate may be found in matt black, gloss black, charcoal, silver or orange. Rare examples appear to have unpainted bases, but upon closer inspection it appearsthat they had the base sprayed on the wrong side! The interior was light or dark beige, red, white, cream, yellow or orange. The windows came in clear or amber, and apart from a yellow or blue body, it was subsequently released in silver, white, and red. The silver version also had the “Le Car” tampo print,A5” printing or no tampo at all. White versions came with a green and black “4 Koni” tampo with or without “Renault” on the roof, or with yellow and red “21 Roloil” tampo. This version is shown in the 1984, ‘85 and ‘86 catalogues in black, but though several samples were made, it was never released in black, which was a pity as the colour scheme was very attractive.

Although the amber windows never appeared on the white or red versions, the number of combinations of all these variants is mind boggling! The “A5” tampo on silver models is not common and it also came on two shades of silver body. A plain silver version with silver base and beige interior is also quite rare. The white version with Koni tampo is the only version found with a cream interior and only those with Roloiltampo can be found with the yellow interior, though again this is not common. Roloil versions can also be found with the standard beige interior but with an orange base though this isalso a rare piece.
Rarer still are the Japanese edition releases from 1984 which came in red with “Turbo” door tampo and orange or blackbaseplates and beige or orange interiors, though the orange interior only comes with an orange base. All three red variants are sought after and rarely seen. All variations came with an opening plastic hatchback, which matched the body colour and all maintained the Lesney England base into the mid 80s despite the demise of Lesney in 1982. In the 1-75 range the Renault was deleted in 1985. Only the very last release had a Macau base, the silver-grey “Scrambler” model which was only available in a Twin Pack and appears in the 1988 and 1989 catalogues.

Finally, the Renault 5 was one of those selected for issue in Bulgaria. At this time there were few links between the then Communist Bulgaria and the Western world. English was not taught in schools. Hence, when it was decided that Bulgarian models should be enhanced by the application of tampo print, it was not generally understood which words were being printed. Possibly a few King Size models had been left behind by the engineers who set up the machines originally butPOLICEAMBULANCE and even FOLLOW ME from a Matchbox King Size Police Car were used.

Some pre-production models are shown below.

The #55 Ford Cortina 1600GL has long been a favourite release for many collectors. It was originally available in light metallic green with a red interior, opening doors and a plated base though it had been shown in the USA trade catalogue in white with a black interior which seemed a strange choice of colour scheme. This pre-production example also appears to have narrow dot dash wheels in place of the wide variety used on production examples! The white and metallic red Cortinasare colour trial models.

Initially this model did not have a patent number on the base, but this was added very soon after release and so examples without are therefore far from common. As with so many models in 1981, the Cortina had a re-colour to a very attractive deep metallic red shade, and the interior was now changed to cream. Some green bodied models come with this cream interior, but for some bizarre reason every one of these examples comes in a very bright, and heavily metallic, green not found with the red interior at all. I believe these interesting models were only released in the US.
This bright green model is a very attractive piece and not too hard to track down. In 1982 the colour scheme was changed again to a gold colour with black stripes tampo to the top and sides. The 1982 catalogue depicts wide, white side stripes withblack panels, but the actual released model had only a single narrow black stripe. A few of the first gold models released came with the cream interior from the red version, but these are quite rare.
It is found as standard with a white interior, and perhaps a quarter of these are to be found with a silver painted base, which is a far better look as the entire grille section is an extension of the base, which was so often a dull colour that it detracted from the over all appearance, whilst the silver painted base enhances the look and appeal of this model. Examples can also be found with smoke windows, which again is quite attractive and not that common. In the same year, 1982, it appeared in the Two Pack range towing the #57 Eccles Caravan which was painted in rare white colour. A very rare example of the gold Cortina with plated bases can be found in a very few of these Two Packs with wide 5 arch wheels rather than dot dash.
Unfortunately after just four years, the Cortina was replaced in the range by its real life successor, the Ford Sierra. Matchbox had made a special arrangement with Ford to allow them to release the miniature Sierra at much the same time as the real model rolled off the production lines. Whilst quite attractive, this model was largely plastic and was thus very light and was not a patch on the Ford Cortina which preceded it. I remember wishing at the time that Ford had declined the Matchbox request so there could have been perhaps one more colour change to this fabulous model of a Mk IV Cortina in the miniatures range! In fact the model did persist as a Two Pack issue after Lesney had gone into receivership, but still maintaining the Lesney base. The decision was taken to fix the opening doors shut, and the model was now sprayed in a non metallic scarlet.

In this guise it came with a beige interior, plated base and with a black stripe tampo running along the lower edge of the doors. It also exists without this stripe. Further, it was produced with a white interior, and the base can come plated or silver painted, and with or without the black stripe. It was also available in Glow Racer sets in scarlet with white interior, a plated or silver base, and opaque glow windows, though without the stripe. The #55 Cortinas produced in scarlet with white interiors, clear or glow windows, and a gloss black painted base are most sought after by collectors.

After this model ceased being produced in England, the mould was transferred to China. Initially the plain scarlet body was used with clear windows, white interior and a modified silver painted China base. However the last China issues had the addition of a flame tampo printed on the bonnet and such examples are very hard to find. I think I am correct in saying that this model and a Datsun 260Z (MB67) were used by apprentices in the China factory to hone their skills. Only a very small number were produced but rather than scrap perfectly reasonable models, they were packed in a specialblister and sold in the factory shop in China.

When Bulgaria signed a contract for models to be produced just for the home market, they requested that models should have opening parts to enhance play value.

Nigel Cooper    21st May 2014


  1. As Nigel said, best wishes to Michael Heralda. Condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Ginsburg.

    Thank you, Nigel, for putting together the report each week, despite the other demands you face.

  2. I know that nearly all of the small regional supermarket chains in my area do not carry Matchbox. The best way to handle it would be to ask the manager if the store would carry Matchbox.
    I'd say if enough collectors asked enough managers in enough stores, that chain might start carrying Matchbox.

    Why is the Mack Bulldog not on the side of the Mack B's hood?

    Another F-350 Superlift this year? The white one isn't even out yet. I will be getting this one as soon as I find the white one.

    The generic rock crawler looks great.

    The Raptor doesn't look that good. It needs a front tampo badly.

    Why do many stores continue to sell the 9-packs for $10, although they have one less model than they used to? It's annoying to pay a $1 premium for an exclusive model, and some models I wasn't able to find as singles.

    1. Thnak God they did the Superlift in red.


    Uh, excuse me. Sorry. Whoops!

    Anyways, glad to see you again Nig, but we're going to take this short, alright.

    Um, the new releases. Let's start off with 'em.

    So they're all utility vehicles, eh? One Matchbox utility vehicle, and the other 2 are Fords.

    Ah, the Raptor returned. Looks dope great in yellow, and it's got it's renewed rear lights since last year in 2013. But...


    Since that took the head lights back in 2010 with no rear lights (except the rear detailing on the back, that's what else that disappeared) I suppose we should bring them back, Matchbox. But the question is, "Why did Matchbox certainly take out the head light tempos and rear detailing (except rear lights) on the Ford Raptor?" Well, we should take this answer stacked to Matchbox next ambassador report, Nigel. I need this question answered BADLY AS AN EMERGENCY. I want to know why already. But put this up next report, it is certain?

    Anyways again, focusing on the other 2, I bet that is the recolor of the Ford Super Duty Super lift. Correct or incorrect? Anyways again again, it looks really stunning as much as the white in red, but I just don't think it was a good idea to the Super lift as a fire vehicle, but although it do will work as a comparison with the International Brush Fire truck.

    Lastly, annoyed, the Rock Crawler. Unhappy. Terrible. Need some new better interesting stuff.

    Please I really want this question answered stacked? Please? And I haven't see the ideas of my fire livery examples question. I'll probably might find it next report.

    That's all it. So see ya Nigel but you better see the question and get the job done, right? All right. TICK TOCK now.

  4. "Perhaps you should seek out a different store."

    I live in the rural south, within a 20 mile radius there are no less then 10 Walmarts, 4 Targets, dozens of Dollar Generals and a Toys R Us. What store am I supposed to find new product at? I have not seen new stock in 5 months. I have found thousands of Hot Wheels between these Walmarts, whether they sell or not they keep getting more. So excuse me Mr. corporate D-Bag that I can't find that "special" store that sells Matchbox. It's not my job to know when and where to buy your product, especially coming from the biggest toy company in the f'ing world.

    And you know what? I don't even care, in this time span I have found every Auto World casting and was able to build a small collection of these amazing models.

    1. I live in rural southwestern Virginia. Only about half a dozen stores in the same radius carry Matchbox. The nearest Target, an hour and a half away, the nearest Toys R' Us, two hours away. Often, I find that they're either many batches behind (what was available in Jan-Feb can still be found at Walmart and all the other stores, there's stock dating back to last year or earlier in the other stores) or completely depleted of their stock.

      With modern Matchbox going down the tubes, I've started buying classic MB online.

  5. Response: "Perhaps you should seek out a different store."

    Wow... is there any wonder the Matchbox brand is gasping for breath?

    "5. Do any of the design team collect Matchbox Toys?
    Yes we do."

    I was present at the gathering last year in ABQ when a very generous (an infamous) collector offered to assemble a small Lesney / Matchbox collection for a member of the Matchbox team (in part to acquaint the little brat with the rich history, I assume). Said member declined. Not so graciously, mind you... I believe "No, I'm good" was his response.

    I therefore raise and waive the B.S. flag in response to this response; and submit that the Matchbox team - whether driven by ignorance or the whip of the beancounters - is completely out of touch with the proud tradition and history upon which the Matchbox name was built.

  6. "Perhaps you should seek out a different store."

    Incredible! This isn't the first time a member of the Matchbox team has been purposefully rude to a collector here at Lamley. You what, Mattel? You employ some real jerks. They're bad for business. Like, spend-my-money-somewhere-else bad. Buh-bye now.

  7. "perhaps you should seek out a different store"

    Wow! I for one, am through with MB. I read the prior reports and the undercurrent/attitude was always a little more subtle. Now they are just mocking us. Good riddance!

  8. Well, I have said it before and I will say it again, Mattel are cr4p, plain and simple, their attitude towards people that spend vast sums of money on those products they make is laughable, I bet hardly any of them collect Matchbox, they, like us, probably cant locate any.

    It is said every week, for years, that Matchbox is so hard to get hold of, and the question if often asked of Mattel, why this is, and they have NEVER not once, come up with a sensible and coherent answer, you would have thought that after all these requests they might actually be aware of this and try to do something about it, wouldn't you.

    Also, I would not be too surprised if this is the last year for a Matchbox Ambassador, after all, they get so much abuse on here, and every other place the reports are posted, they may just decide not to bother, it will at that point prove, beyond a shadow of doubt that, the real Mattel has at last shown its true colours to collectors and from there it will be a continued slow death to the orange brand.

  9. "perhaps you should seek out a different store"
    It is not a matter of finding another store, is rather despicable and arrogant way they respond to your fans, customers and in the latter case your bosses... Yes your bosses!
    If we all do not buy Matchbox and other products from Mattel want to see what money/salary you take home! Zero!!!
    I live in Portugal ( with Toysrus, anda a lot of portughese supermarkets ans stores) and to buy Matchbox have to go to Ebay ... So I have no problems with the location because in Portugal there is no ...
    Are not you going to answer me I should change my country is it?
    Yes we can buy other brands; Tomica, Majorette, Norev ... etc.. etc ... Some of them much more dynamic and with equal or better product so the market is not all yours.
    Sorry for my outburst but what I do not like is the lack of education...
    Best Regards

  10. More rubbish non-licensed castings released by Matchbox I see. Mattel sure know how to destroy a once well-regarded brand! As for going to a different store to find these rubbish castings, I think not. I will just continue to buy models from their competitors instead of wasting my time looking for the few castings I actually do like and would be prepared to spend my money on.

  11. Thank you for finally releasing a decent fire truck in a normal red color! The white looks nice too, but the red is what we, and kids,'s hard to build a fire department with ugly green and orange fire trucks.

  12. I too have to admit that with some of you that Matchbox doesn't seem to be what it once was,I concur that unlike Hot Wheels that Matchbox is hardly (even in my location) keeping up to date with newer products,in fact, in my hometown (Fredericton,New Brunswick,Canada to be precise) the stores that specialize in Matchbox products tend to be selling models that are months old and I find the quantity is small and somewhat mediocre.

    I was fortunate enough to purchase a 5 pack police set (one of the vehicles was a 2000 Chevy Suburban police truck),2 other 5 pack rescue sets where one package contained a white colored 2006 Ford Crown Victoria fire chief's car and the other package contained a white colored Renault Master Ambulance van which is what I wanted. But what I also desire that I've not been able to locate so far is a blue colored die cast BMW motorbike (forgot its name), Ford Police Interceptor Marshall car and a die cast Dodge Charger Boone County Sheriff car. I kinda wonder if I have to wait by the fall or even winter because last year I desired the white colored Dodge Charger police car and when we traveled to the state of Minnesota (Aug-Sept 2013) I thought I'd find that particular Dodge Charger die cast car in certain stores but I had no luck so therefore it wouldn't be until October or November of the same year that they were finally sold in my hometown so that's why I ain't surprised if I have to wait several months before they're finally available.

    Finally and with all due respect to Matchbox but please for our sake (your customers) get your act together.Since you and Hot Wheels are subsidiaries of Mattel and if Hot Wheels can keep up to date with its products so should you Matchbox.Enough said so have a "good one."

  13. "Mark could not understand why the destination was Union Road. In fact, it should have been Union Row, Edmonton. This was the address for The Rifleman public house where Lesney and Matchbox started."

    According to the 1896 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map of the Edmonton area of north London (available here… ) Union Row *is* actually Union Road renamed Bridport Road sometime before 1913, possibly when the nearby Bridport Hall was demolished. I have no idea why people in the mid 1940's would still be calling it Union anything but maybe if the signs had been changed 30 years earlier, people were using a bastardised form of the original road name rather than its new 'posh' name…? MW