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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mattel, we want Matchbox back...


Ok, you are going to have to bear with me while I get into a "get off my lawn!" mode.

I was in Target today, and encountered what has become a very familiar site in the diecast aisle.  So instead of just passing by like I normally do, I decided to take a few pics.

Here are the Matchbox pegs at Target, with each photo in the sequence showing what is left as I take one model off from each peg until they are empty:








Do you sense a theme?  A dreadful theme, but a theme nonetheless.

There has obviously been a lot of models purchased, but look what is left.  There is not a licensed model in the bunch.  And of all the unlicensed models hanging, most of them are unrecognizable in terms of the types of the vehicles they are.  One is kind of a fire truck, another is kind of a police car or truck, one is kind of a sled or a car, one is kind of a van, and one is kind of a...uh...a...um...well it's called a Coyote 500.

This scene seems to be duplicated at retailers all over.  Lots of Matchbox hanging, and most of it unlicensed stuff that doesn't look like much of anything real.  And as my friend Brian puts it, more plastic than a cosmetics aisle.

Contrast that with some of the many Matchbox models I was encountering as I went through the collection to prepare for my move.  And mind you, almost all of these came out in a 5-6 year period starting in 2005, and it is only a tiny smattering:










Like I said, these were only a small fraction of all the models released at the time.  There were current cars, classic cars, domestic cars, Japanese cars, European cars, South American cars, and Australian cars.  All in realistic colors and liveries.

Back when most of these models were being released, from about 2005 to 2010, I was bypassing the Hot Wheels section to hit the Matchbox section.  There were gems galore.  It was mighty fun collecting Matchbox.

And you know what?  Those days need to return.

I have always maintained that Mattel can do what they want with their brands.  Collectors are still a fringe group compared with the general toy consumer, and Mattel needs to target the group that was meant for these toys, whether we like it or not.

And currently with Matchbox that means that the powers that be decided to turn the brand into a more "imaginary" line for kids, creating models that supposedly mimic the way a kid would look at a large industrial vehicle.  That meant a turn from realistic cars and colors that has been a Matchbox hallmark for so long.

Thankfully, through all of this Matchbox has still produced the occasional realistic casting, and fantastic models at that, like the BMW 1M, Dodge A100, and the megapopular '93 Ford Mustang Police.  And when they do, collectors get excited to see something not garish, and clearly toy consumers buy them as well.  This year's A100, for example, I have seen on the pegs only once, and the Mustang only a handful of times, and only right after a store was stocked.

So while my observations are not by any means scientific, it seems realism is still the way to go, or a very good option.  Hot Wheels and Matchbox coexisted just fine back in the 2000's with both producing realistic models.  Where the differentiation occurred was in the style.  While Hot Wheels would do a stanced muscle car, Matchbox would do a stock Vista Cruiser Wagon.  Hot Wheels would do a Ford GT LM, while Matchbox would do a Ford GT.  Hot Wheels would do a tricked racing Golf GTI, and Matchbox would do one just like you saw on the street, or even a more obscure hatchback like the fantastic Volvo C30:



Think how great it would be now, even with red-hot JDM.  While Hot Wheels is producing tricked out RX-7's, Skylines, and Supras, Matchbox could be doing, say, a stock Mazda Cosmo using their fantastic disk wheels, or maybe that stock NSX we have been wanting to see.

We could go on and on, but needless to say things are better when both Hot Wheels and Matchbox are producing great models in their respective wheelhouses.  Hot Wheels has been on a tear, while Matchbox has been an anchorless ship lost at sea.  The design talent is there, it is just up to the people with the checkbook to look a little deeper at what might work for the orange brand.

So, to do our part, we are starting a series looking at the models of the last great Matchbox era - 2005 to 2011.  The models are being sorted, the photos taken, and the articles written.  It is time to remind the older collectors, and teach the newer collectors, how awesome Matchbox can be.

In the meantime, just search "Matchbox 2006", "Matchbox 2007", "Matchbox 2008", and "Matchbox 2009" on eBay and see what comes up.  Diecast porn, for lack of a better term.  Those were the days...












54 comments:

  1. Good article, however, I think it is just high time we all stop treating this like a collection and realise that these are just toys - collectors make them something they are not and are disappointed when the wants are not turned into reality.

    Move on and embrace, rather than lament.

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    5. Sorry but collectors make up the majority of the buyers. Without the collectors this market would shrivel up and die

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    6. Yes, there are just toys, aimed at children first and foremost, and children aren't buying them, so maybe shifting the brand's focus to fantasy vehicles wasn't the smartest idea ever. I honestly doubt any kid who's into toy cars would prefer those monstrosities over a real car, because if they did, they wouldn't give two shits to toy cars in the first place.

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    7. So...If you're not a collector then what are you doing on this site?

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  3. Correct, these are just toys, and let's think outside of the collector universe: What do you think, a parent - who paying and in many cases, choosing the toy - what would prefer? These "mostly made of plastic, does not look good at all" stuff, or choose something what he/she can recognize? The answer is on the picture. The kids and/or the parents leaves the ugly stuff behind, and picks those made after real vehicles.

    I am living in Hungary, Central Europe. I can tell you, the Matchbox section in supermarkets looks exactly the same here as well, as on the picture. In our country the word "Matchbox" is the synonym of "die cast vehicle" - just like the "hoover" for the "vacum cleaner" for you american guys. When I was a kid, the "Matchbox" was the top noch in die cast. The brand still have that old reputation in the heads of people in their 30's and 40's - parents of today's kids -, but this is fading away fast.

    I witness it every time when we goes to shopping: in supermarket those guys turns away from the Matchbox wall with disgust and saying: "Okay, this is not what Matchbox used to be..." and buying something made by asian manufacturers, such as Majorette, Welly, Maisto and the alternative brands of those manufacturers. And you know what? They are right!

    Have a look on that Realtoy, W212 Merc! It is brilliant:
    http://matchboxmemories.blogspot.hu/2014/08/matchboxon-kivuliek-tescorealtoy.html

    Or the Majorette, E46 BMW M3, with OPENING doors:
    http://matchboxmemories.blogspot.hu/2014/07/matchboxon-kivuliek-majorette-no-257.html

    This is exactly the detail and quality I would expect from Matchbox today as a collector or parent who is looking for a cool toy!

    And I think the current situation is a shame and this is all Mattel's fault. They does not learn from the mistakes of the previous owners of the brand they possess. Actually they do the same mistakes which force the previous owners of the Matchbox brand to sell the brand to Mattel. Ironical but still sad...

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    1. For me Majorette is the best alternative to MBX. Many models have SUSPENSION or opening doors or hatch.....they are what MBX should be. If Mattel wants to continue with this garbage, ok....I'll buy Majorette

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    2. The thing is that kids who'd prefer fantasy vehicles over real ones probably don't even care about toy cars to begin with. When I was 5, I looked for toy cars that looked like my parents' real cars, or cars that I saw on the street, or in books and magazines, and I doubt I was the only one to do that.

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  4. I am so tired of this "they're just toys" argument. Yes they are toys but collectors are the ones who buy the majority of these toys. There is no way anyone can tell me that parents buy more of these cars than collectors. Take Kmart days for example. Kmart sells more Hot Wheels on that one day than they do in months. Without the collector most of these toy companies would go under. If Mattel would switch their focus to the collector: their sales would increase, we would get better castings and the kids would still have plenty of toys to play with.

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    1. Agree. Plus if - as you say - Mattel would switch their focus to the collector, it would not hurt the sales of those toys purchased for kids.

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    2. I'd add that children want things with wheels, to roll'em on floors, walls and even make'em fly like a DeLorean time machine. There is no point on making fantasy cars for the kids, they actually don't care if it's a real cara or a fantasy car.

      Give'em no choice and they'll be playing with Maserattis, Mustangs, Jaguars, Toyotas...

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    3. "Give'em no choice and they'll be playing with Maserattis, Mustangs, Jaguars, Toyotas..."

      Exactly! The ones that don't care if it's a real car or not probably don't even like toy cars to begin with.

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  5. I had a bunch of Matchbox as a kid, from the year I was born in 1996, until 2006 , when I was 10. I started collecting in about 2009/10. In the late '90s Matchbox had introduced a TON of cool and everyday stuff, like the Jeep Wrangler, Grumman LLV mail truck, as well as various fire and emergency apparatus, like the Ford E-Series ambulance and the excellent British fire engine, the Dennis Sabre in both engine and ladder truck form. Even back then, the features were the same as previous generations, dating back to the Regular Wheel era. Now days, we get designs that make me wonder if the designer was on drugs or something, as they're so "far out" and impractical in real life.

    There have been some great stuff made in the 2012-present era, like the Mustang SSP, Mack B, and the upcoming Mack CF Alfa, etc., but that's "small change" compared to previous eras.

    Until Matchbox gets their "rear in gear", and starts producing well-made feature packed models, bye-bye Matchbox and hello Tomica and Majorette.

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  6. Also why doesn't MBX come out with more detailed lines, i.e. the new Supreme heroes line, so MBX can utilize their more realistic castings? I am sure Mattel is gun shy after the 60th anniversary rollout debacle which was their own doing and frustrated many collectors. The castings in MBX's library could be put to great use in a more detailed line.

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    1. I for one don't think that's necessary. I guess they should have a premium line with metal bases sold in boxes instead of blisters, but that's about it. There are enough brands making small scale replicas already, but very few making small scale toy cars that actually look anything like real cars, but are still toys. That's what Matchbox is, the perfect combination of toy car and model car.

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    2. You have a good point about replicas versus toys. Autoworlds, etc. look very nice, but I wouldn't put them up to the rigors of being a well-loved toy. That's what Matchbox does--and the ones that my son, my nephews, and all the other little kids I know are actually interested in are the ones that are based on real cars. That's the combination you're talking about.

      Now, as a collector, I'd shell out a little more for a premium line if the cars in it were metal on metal versions of cars I like. But the majority of my purchases are still going to be mainline cars that I can get out and play with. (Yes, I play with my toy cars.)

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  7. Good article, I agree 100%. Now I wish I'd purchased every MB Jaguar XKE I saw in stores. Never expected them to STOP selling it.

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  8. I think that those that make these decisions are thick, totally and utterly thick, i used to buy multiples of most models, i loved to see all the new cars that came out, ones that we all know from magazines, TV and on the street - matchbox has gone so far away from that now, that the odd one or two great castings pale into insignificance, i just don't understand how they think that models left on the pegs are acceptable, and models that people want, are just not available.

    The range needs to be taken back to 75, at least 50 must be proper licenced cars, the diecast must be brought back, and the plastic only placed onto the generic rubbish.

    People go on about buying them for a "buck", we would love to be able to buy them for that cheap, the UK sells them on average between £1.50-£1.99 or $2.25-$3.00 thats more than three times what the buyer in the US pays, even with VAT (which i dont think is applicable on childrens toys (i am sure i will be corrected here)) we are still paying far far far too much for them. but hey, no one at Mattel listens so why do we bother making comments like these.

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    1. Yeah, I used to buy multiples of the multiple colorways every car came in, just so I knew I'd have enough for a nice display. Now they don't even sell Matchbox in Brazil anymore, and they don't even make a lot of models Worth collecting either.

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  9. A great message to Mattel. Hope this has some impact. Thank you, Lamley.

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  10. A great message to Mattel. Hope this has some impact. Thank you, Lamley.

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  11. Kids don't want that garbage either

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  12. I just came back form a lunch hour hunt and the crux of this article rang so true! At both WM and TRU the only MBX singles hanging were fantasy castings with multiple of each. All real car castings were gone. Wake up Mattel!

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  13. Lamley group, can we have a poll conducted on this topic in Facebook and have it presented to Mattel? Will that help?

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    1. The poll can be great for us collectors to see how one another thinks about real vs un-real models. It would really become a benefit if Mattel takes it into SERIOUS consideration, but the deal is to convince or influence them to take our views and implement them into product their lines!

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  14. These photos look almost exactly like the stock at my local Wal Mart today. Although I did see a Ford F350 stake truck, a couple of Caterham 7's, and a Lambo police car, but very little in the way of licensed models. It's a very poor state of affairs for the collector. I'm getting sick of Hot Wheels, everything has flames or stupid racing stripes. When I was kid in the early 70's, Matchbox was King, Corgi was second as far as I was concerned. Hot Wheels a very distant third. Too bad. If Mattel is not going to put any effort into the Matchbox program, than why not just cancel the whole line?

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    1. I agree. Some of the stripes on HW's are a bit confusing - as if they detract from the lines of the car they're on. Some look very, very busy and don't compliment. (Your avatar/photo make s me thirsty for a brew right now, though)

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  15. I often think back to the days when I was bought 70's superfast models, and how disappointed I was to have received some a fantasy model with no working parts. They were unrealistic and you really had to use your imagination to incorporate them amongst my favoured Corgi and Majorette cars. They have a charm now, even the Gruesome twosomes and soopa coopas have a nostalgic warmness to them. It's quite possible that these new models will have the same significance in 40 years time. It's still good to see that kids are being bought matchbox toys perhaps by desperate parents looking to steer them away from ipads and xboxes? As collector I have to agree though, that early 2000's era of Matchbox is only matched by the Renault 11's and Opel Vectra's era models of the 80's.

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  16. Couldn't agree more! Every time Mattel gives Matchbox a license to play with, they knock it out of the ballpark. I honestly can't remember a licensed model that was done poorly by them recently. Hot Wheels' results, on the other hand, have been dubious at best, with all the upturned chins and disproportionate monsters they've been putting out. The only truly good cars they're making right now don't count, because they're the ones people look at and think "Ooh, nice, this could almost be a Matchbox!", like the Aston Martins, for example.

    Mattel should let Hot Wheels take care of the kiddy stuff that nobody buys, while Matchbox deals with the licensed models.

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  17. You know, we should pool our Money and buy Matchbox off Mattel before Mattel actually suceeds in killing it.

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  18. True, they are just toys - but don't children deserve quality toys? I bought only bought my children (now 22,25 and 28) decent toy cars. I didn't buy the daft ones then. ( and there were a few)

    However I'm hopeful that the good times will return again, after all they did last time - remember the gorilla based road roller?

    Chris

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  19. Funny.. i was in a Target today also and your photos look almost exactly like the shelves I saw. There were plenty of real world models available the last time I was there, but this time it was a little bare and the realistic vehicles were mostly gone. There were plenty of fantasy ones though!

    I'll give a quick thought.. my 10 yr old boy loves cars (I intro'd him to video games when he was 5) and he took a magnetic liking to the cars from video games. Now with Supercars and such (i.e. Lambo Aventador, Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT), he won't gravitate towards "fake" cars, he wants REAL cars!

    I think the fantasy stuff Matchbox is whipping out is great for 3-5 yr olds, but it seems when they get a little more grown up, they prefer realistic cars. Cars you see on TV shows (Top Gear) and in magazines (Motor Trend) and course, at shows and on the street. That is where it's at.

    I wonder too if the upper level game players at the top try to impose more superiority towards Hot Wheels by making MBX inferior. I love to know how they make decisions that affect the way certain models make to the market and why fantasy models take precedence over realistic ones.!?!

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  20. I find myself baffled by the direction Matchbox is taking, almost as if Mattel has no idea what do with Matchbox. MBX is the logical place for real car models and realistic diecasts, particularly Euro & Japanese, not Hot Wheels - they should take it back to how it was, and I suspect they'd get more sold. I barely have any interest in industrial vehicles as it is, and find made-up ones even less appealing. They should also do some MBX-only series, taking a cue from what's worked for Hot Wheels. MBX should also have some exclusives-to-the-line, perhaps as simple as MBX-only wheel designs. As it is, seems to me the line is floundering, and that's a pity, but Mattel needs to get it back to where it was - it used to have it's own appeal, and be distinct from Hot Wheels. Frankly, right now, if you stuck everything MBX has in Hot Wheels packaging, with what they've thrown into Hot Wheels, none if it would seem out of place - which is a real shame. Time for Mattel to re-delineate the two brands, I hope they do.

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  21. You know, I do hear you guys loud and clear and I will direct the new man in charge of Matchbox to this thread, so he can see what everyone is saying. I for one would love to see the return of more realistic models to the line. And it might just happen sooner than you think. There's been a BIG change at Mattel with regards to the Matchbox brand and the direction it has been going. When they are ready to talk about this, I will be posting the information in one of my upcoming reports. Thank you all for your input.
    Best Regards, Larry Scaduto (ambassador #10)

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  22. It seems like both Hot Wheels and Matchbox has gone through a "Freaky Friday" switch. Hot Wheels is now producing super-realistic propotion sports cars (Lotus Esprit S1, '15 Ford Mustang, etc.) while Matchbox is producing monster-truckified fire trucks. It needs to be switched back before it's too late. Personally, I don't mind seeing more construction vehicles or emergency vehicles in the lineup, but some of them are way too goofy to keep me off.

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  23. I would suggest that if Mattel wants Matchbox to appeal more to kids, they should give them stronger axles and return to using shocks in more models. Fantasy models might appeal to kids (although there is strong evidence to the contrary when you look at the peg-warmers), but realistic models appeal to the kids, their parents, and collectors. The main difference is in how they're used. A collector may or may not open the packaging, but the model typically sits on a display shelf or in a box. Kids get them out and play with them. The real disappointment for kids is when a toy breaks, and a toy car that doesn't roll isn't much good as a toy car. If this thread had a spot for user-uploaded photos, I would include pictures of my son's toy cars. They are well-used and enjoyed, but there are some really sad-looking axles in there.

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  24. Today's secret word is: money. I believe it costs more to have more licenses in the line. I see about 1/3 of Matchbox being licensed, so of course we're going to see more generics on the pegs...and of course from collectors to parents to well-informed kids will snatch up the licensed cars over generics. Me included. I think it's unrealistic to think that a brand that Mattel wants to keep in the shadow of Hot Wheels will shell out more money to make licensed cars, where probably they're really selling just fine according to their numbers sheets. It's also unrealistic to think that going back to realism is going to fix everything. Again, we don't know the actual sales. Remember these are being sold worldwide, so to get a proper estimate as what is going on with Matchbox and/or Mattel is beyond us. Honestly, I believe they'll continue the 1/3 ratio for each case that comes out, with the line edging more towards make-believe (i.e. playsets or other concoctions to use their cars). I believe the old fashioned mantra of bringing back the past Lesney editions isn't going to happen because they've already tried it. They've also already tried these monster truck wheel garbage trucks, and next up they'll do something else with the line. It's a toy company that produces a dollar car, primarily sold at toy stores, not hobby shops or Home Depot. I believe Mattel will do whatever it takes to get the most out of the Matchbox brand. As long as Hot Wheels is there, Mattel will look for alternatives to use Matchbox cars. That's just the plain truth.

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    1. Well cut the range back to 75 then - SIMPLE, they make some great castings, the new F-Type coming up, would be a great addition to the Jaguar range of cars they have produced over the years, SO - why not get a manufacturer on board, and sell a range of models from a brand or more, like NOREV does with Peugeot and Citroen, they are stunning examples, of what can be done - and i am happy to pay more for them, same with Land Rover, and many others, i am sure that given the chance, some car makers would like to have these for sale via their websites, as most already sell diecast, I know, I buy them.

      Get rid of 45 models, have at least a majority of the models real cars, and made of metal, and then have a a couple of dozen plastic rubbish for those that want them - or better still, cut the range back to 50, and have all licenced products, with opening parts, suspension, better decals, and proper lights, pay a few pennies more (not that we don't already pay over the top in the UK already) and hey presto, everyone is happy.

      Lastly, what is missing, are the cars on everyones street, VW's, Fords, Vauxhalls/Opels, Renaults Fiats and so on, cars that kids can relate too, can aspire to, have a lot of models and have a play mat that looks realistic, a garage, car wash and so on, all priced to appeal, and not look stupid - But hey, i very much doubt anyone from Mattel will actually look at this thread and actually do anything about it, all they care about its the bottom line, and that bottom line is fast approaching the loss leader mark....

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  25. Thx Larry...and ask them to get off the stick in regards to Mercedes Benz....even the cheap China made brands can afford to put that stupid hologram on their packaging...something a large corporation such as Mattel should be able to do.

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  26. Great article! I just hope that the people at Matchbox take a look at this and reconsider their current direction.

    You at least saw a few Matchboxes on the pegs, licensed or not. I am seeing nothing. NOTHING. Most stores in my areas have stopped stocking Matchbox, while Hot Wheels still shine brightly. The same stores that 4-5 years ago, when licensed cars were in plenty in the line up (pre 2011), had just as many Matchboxes as Hot Wheels. And I'm talking about a whole aisle dedicated to Hot Wheels and Matchbox, not just one or two pegs.

    I rest my case.

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  27. I think most has been said already, but there are still some points I'd like to stress. HW and MB are sold as toys and seen as toys by Mattel. They're not (HW & MB) collector itens. Nevertheless I fully support any talkings with Mattel to force more of the non-licensed models to the blue brand and keep the licensed models to the orange one. Please another important point. "Please no tampos" unless they're part of the car/details (symbols, front & tail lights etc). If anyone with access to Mattel could tell them that, it sure would help us, the collectors.
    best regards
    MMN

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  28. Matchbox should atick to real life cars and leave the generics to Hot wheels cos matchbox started with real life cars and they should just keep doing what they are good at

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  29. Please, make this article get to Mattel / Matchbox people and ambassador.. And make sure the comments are read by the MBX's CEO (or whoever responsible there).

    I'd like to add two topics:

    1- I am 24 years old, and as of now, I have a clear preference of buying well-proportioned miniatures with proper decals (i.e. front and rear lamps).
    I'm buying miniatres since I was a kid.
    And what kind of miniatures I bought back when I was 8, 9, 10 years old? The same kind of miniatures I like to buy nowdays: well-proportioned miniatures of real cars, with a high preference for models with painted front/rear lamps.
    That said, I'm buying miniatures for about 15 years. And, follow my thought here Mattel/Matchbox, I have way more money nowdays than I used to have when I was a kid with no job. However, I have to say I've been spending less and less money on Hot Wheels/ Matchbox miniatures..... and why is that?
    I love to buy, collect miniatures. And now I have the money to take home tons of models.
    But no. I'm not buying that lot of cars I'd like to.
    Reason is, the miniatures I always liked to get (well-proprtioned real cars with painted front/rear lamps) are almost impossible to be found. Not only Mattel has taken away Matchbox from Brazil, MBX is littered with generic models that don't attract collectors nor kids.

    Mattel! Collectors are born kids!
    If you don't attract kids now, it's hard to imagine grown-up collectors appearing out of thin air in the future! You don't need to kill the 'generic models'. Just give the real cars more care and more space on the line.

    2- This topic is something I saw back when I was 6, 7 years old, and I still see today. And from what I've read over the years, I'm not the only one who think in this way:
    Hot Wheels is targeted towards crazy designs and wild tampos.
    Matchbox is targeted towards miniatures of real cars.

    A lot of kids out there like thier diecast cars looking the same as a real car: well-proportioned miniatures with painted front/rear lamps.
    Mind you, I had my share of friends back then who had their tons of toy cars. And I happen to be working at a daycare in the past couple of years.
    And what I see is: kids do care about details such as the abovementioned. And kids (and most of their fathers) do prefer miniatures of real cars with painted front/rear lamps.

    I'm probably getting a bit tiresome. But, once again again, Mattel and Matchbox, DO GET MY POINT PLEASE. What the market out there wants is simple:
    Well-proportioned miniatures of real cars, with painted front/rear lamps.
    The photos shown in this post say it all. It's just a matter of seeing it.

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  30. The generics are over produced that is why they are stiil there. I said it before they want the brand to fail. They put out a great line like SHs and limit the quantity and placement. They make licensed models but quantities are limited. These generics in most cases are dangerous for small children. The plastic is flimsy, just a little pressure on these can cause breakage that can splinter into small pieces that can be swallowed. Just remember when you hear the tragedy you heard it here first. Mattel makes me mad as hell. MB was a great competitor and competition breeds sales. Marketing and PR suck at Mattel. They have no clue what they have.
    To the comment of their toys, yes their toys and baseball cards are thick paper what is your point?

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  34. Good luck taking photos like these at Target today.. all they carry now are the 5-packs. :(

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