An unusually colored sea green 1966 Opel Diplomat, a 1968 crane truck with a 360-degree swing arm radius, and a Swinging London double decker bus are only a few of the rare Matchbox cars that collectors worldwide dream of adding to their miniature car collections.
The First Matchbox Car
Shortly after World War II, Leslie and Rodney Smith began Lensey Products and were soon joined by Jack O'dell, a tool and die maker. From 1947 to 1953 the company manufactured larger die-cast vehicles and other toys to market to the London shops for Christmas. Their first die-cast toy was a road roller manufactured in 1947. It was this toy that became the first Matchbox vehicle, when Jack O'dell made a smaller version of it for his daughter to take to school. The school had a rule that only toys allowed in school had to be small enough to fit into a matchbox. From there the idea of marketing the little vehicles inside a box similar to a matchbox began.
The miniature road roller is #1 in the original 1-75 series. Released as a three-model set the other two miniatures were a dump truck and a cement mixer. These three matchbox vehicles are extremely rare. Recreations of these and other early Matchbox cars have been released.
What Makes a Matchbox Car Rare?
There are several criteria that determine the rarity of a Matchbox car.
- Limited editions
- The number of cars that were produced in a specific year and model
- A model being canceled after a limited first run due to technical manufacturing problems
- Original production year
- First and last runs of a model
- Any variations that exist such as the use of a different color paint on the body or interior
- Any variations that exist concerning the type of wheels or car body die used
- Overall condition of the car
- Condition, type and style of the original car box
Rare Matchbox Cars
- One of the rarest Matchbox cars is an unusual color version of the Opel Diplomat, painted a beautiful turquoise which is also known as sea green. Introduced in 1967 as part of the car transporter gift set, G2e, this highly coveted Matchbox commands prices of approximately $9,000. The common metallic gold colored Opel sells for approximately $25.00. This 1964 Lincoln Matchbox car shows the color of the turquoise paint.
- This Dodge crane truck sold at auction for approximately $13,000.
- A beautiful chrome double decker bus with Swinging London label valued at approximately $1,000 from the Matchbox Superfast Series.
Matchbox Car Resources Online
The Internet has many valuable resources for Matchbox car collectors including:
- Gasoline Ally Antiques
- Rarities from Charlie Mack's Museum
- Matchbox Series 1 - 75 series 1953 to 1970
Collecting Matchbox cars is a fun hobby that the entire family can enjoy. Although the hopes of most collectors of adding rare Matchbox cars to their collection may be financially out of reach, they always have the dream of finding that special car at a garage sale or flea market.