cocktails & conversation
the little car
that Could F
or 60 years, Matchbox toys have delighted kids and adults all over the world.
The story of how Matchbox vehicles became both a legendary toy and a coveted collectors’ item is a fascinating one, with elements of masterful business “pluck” mixed in with some good oldfashioned luck. The Matchbox line of toy vehicles was introduced in 1953 by its original owner, Lesney Products, a British-based diecasting company. Over the next several decades, following a series of business ups and downs, the Lesney company changed hands four times. Eventually, the Matchbox brand and all its rights ended up belonging to the famous U.S. toymaker, Mattel, which owns it today. But how was the legend born? It all began in the 1950s, when Lesney Products co-owner Jack Odell created a diminutive toy
car for his daughter, Anne. Her school had a rule that students could only bring toys that were small enough to fit in a matchbox. So Odell fashioned a scaled-down version of one of his company’s popular die-cast models, putting it in a matchboxsize package for Anne to take to school. Of course everyone in her class wanted one, too! At first, Matchbox “cars” were only replicas of British models, but through the years the line was expanded to include a much more global assortment. Matchboxbrand die-casts have branched out into a vast array of segments, including airplanes, racing “slot” cars, scale-model soldiers and even action figures. What always distinguished Matchbox cars—besides the clever matchbox-style
Story | bruce farr
Published on Mar 7, 2014
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