The 12th International Matchbox Collectors Gathering of Friends is now less than three weeks away.
For us, it is the best diecast convention there is. Not too big, not too small, always in the same place (Albuquerque, New Mexico), and extremely well-run. Not to mention it is Mattel's adopted event for the Matchbox side, and they always send members of the design and marketing teams to hobnob with collectors and present the line for the next year.
It is not just for Matchbox nerds though. I have always returned home with a plethora of diecast. I have purchased a ton of Matchbox and Hot Wheels of course, but also Kyosho, Tomica Limited Vintage, Majorette, and a slew of other brands. Like we said, a diecast junky's paradise. If you can make it to New Mexico in July, you really should. And if not this year, then next. The Gathering never disappoints.
Oh, there is one other thing. The models. As stated earlier, Mattel has adopted the Gathering as their Matchbox event each year, and they produce the exclusive models for the event. And they go ALL OUT. Typically a Dinner Model and a Dealer Model are produced, with a special 75-count variant produced for the first 75 registrants of the event. They are must-have models to say the least.
(In fact, we have gotten word that the models for this year's Gathering are off-the-charts cool. We may even be lucky enough to get a bit of a teaser pic here in the next few days, so stay tuned...)
So to help prepare for the Gathering, we decided to show a few off over the coming days. Many have already been shown here, but why not a fresh set of photos for each?
And why not start with what has become the signature Matchbox model, the Routemaster Bus. The Routemaster started as a mainline model, but its heavy metal content has made it impossible for Mattel to produce as a $1 toy anymore. So it has become a premium model only. Think of it as the Matchbox equivalent to the Hot Wheels Drag Bus. We saw it as a 60th Anniversary Toy Fair model, as well as a standard and chase model for the 60th Anniversary line.
And it has had quite the presence at the Gathering as well. It was a Dealer Model for the 5th Gathering in 2007, and then reemerged last year as the Dinner and Early Registrant Model for the 11th Gathering. And beside that, a special one-off is produced for that year's outgoing Matchbox Ambassador, and presented at the dinner.
We have them all, so let's have a look...
We will start with the first, the Dealer Model from the 2007 Gathering. Upon first look, it seems like a great promo model decked out in Matchbox colors, but there is a lot more to it:
Have a looksy at these old photos:
Those photos are just way too cool. What you are looking at are the employee transport buses that the Lesney Factory in the UK used to haul its employees to the factory and back home. Lesney was Google before Google. Mattel paid homage to Lesney in such a cool way with this model. (Incidentally they did it one more time with the Routemaster, but that is for another article.)
As great as that first model was, no one complained when the Routemaster returned last year to the Gathering, this time as the Dinner Model in green with a 75-count early registrant model in zamac. Those in charge decided to bring the Routemaster back to help celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Matchbox. The Routemaster was used quite a bit in 2013, first as a Toy Fair exclusive, then for the 60th Anniversary line, both as a standard model and as a chase model, and finally these two. Note the very nostalgic Matchbox logo on the sides.
Finally, there is one more Routemaster handed out at the Gathering, but this one is a little different. It is handed out at every Gathering, but only one example is made, and it is given to only one person. It is the Ambassador Bus, always done in gold, and given to the outgoing Matchbox Ambassador.
If you are unfamiliar with the Matchbox Ambassador, it is a position that was created by Mattel about 10 years ago. The Ambassador is chosen by Mattel from the collector ranks, and for one year that collector serves as a liaison between company and collector. The current Ambass, Nigel Cooper, is finishing up his tenure at the Gathering, and hopefully you have all enjoyed his weekly reports, which we are fortunate to post here every week.
At the Gathering, Nigel will be given the 9th Ambassador Bus made, and his time will be over. Mattel will then announce the name of the 10th Ambassador. Nigel's bus will most likely look a lot like this one pictured below, which belongs to the 8th Ambassador. Only Nigel's will obviously have his name on it, along with No. 9. It is a stunner to say the least:
So that is the Routemaster. A model that never disappoints.
While we wait with bated breath to see what this year's models will be, we will continue to show some other Gathering gems. Stay tuned...