History of Matchbox Cars
For most young boys, having a large collection of what we called “dinky cars” was a right of passage. I had quite a large collection of them, not all actual Matchbox cars, with my favourite being my A-Team van, but I had others as well. The earliest Matchbox cars can be traced back to 1953 when a company called Lesney Products created a small model of the Queen’s Coronation Coach. Although this wasn’t as small as an official Matchbox car, it gave the company the needed resources to move forward with other models.
Soon after this, one of the owners of the company was presented with a unique opportunity. His daughter’s school only allowed toys small enough to fit into a match box to be taken to school and played with. Seeing opportunity in this problem, the company started to produce a scaled down version of the companies very first dinky car, a 1948 road roller. The cars were indeed small enough to fit inside a matchbox and two other models were built during this first phase, a cement truck and a dump truck. To prove that the cars were small enough to fit into a match box, they were actually shipped with replica matchboxes and thus the Matcbbox car was born.
For many years up until 1982 Lesney continued to market the Matchbox brand until the company’s bankruptcy. Unforuntately competition from larger brands like Hot Wheels hat cut into it’s profitability, leaving Lesney in a poor financial situation. The Matchbox name and facilities were sold to Universal Toys who reorganized the company and formed Matchbox International Ltd. Eventually Universal sought to sell the successful Matchbox brand and Tyco Toys became the new owner. In an interesting twist, the Tyco Toys division that purchaed the Matchbox name was itself purchased by toy giant Mattel, who was also the owner of the popular Hot Wheels brand.