Matchbox Lesney Cars

The avid collecting of miniature die cast models all started with one company back in 1953. With a simple creation of a toy car for his daughter, Jack Odell of Lesney Products kicked off a completely new niche of toys and collectibles that are still as popular today as they were over fifty years ago. Unfortunately, Lesney Products, the original creator of the Matchbox car, is no longer in business but Lesney Series Matchbox cars from its day are still highly sought after.

From their inception, Lesney Series Matchbox cars ruled the miniature die cast market. When originally introduced, they were untouchable. Lesney Products was the very first manufacturer to recognize the market niche for small die cast cars and no one had introduced anything yet to fill that need. The first car ever released was a green and red road roller designed to fit inside a matchbox so Jack Odell’s daughter could take it to school. An instant hit and using their clever matchbox marketing, 2 more cars were introduced. Those were a cement mixer and dump truck. With these three miniature replicas, a new age sprung about catapulting Lesney Products to the top of toy manufacturing. The line was quickly expanded to become known as the 1-75 Lesney Series Matchbox cars.

At this time in their history, Lesney Series Matchbox cars were being marketed by a company known as Moko to develop the Moko Lesney Series. All of this grew to become the golden age of British die cast. The three global players each had market share and were profitable. They were doing great and would play off each other on advancements in their technologies. They were exclusive enough from one another that they were not in dead competition so it seemed all was well and none of these companies could do wrong.

Lesney Series Matchbox cars quickly hit direct competition from the States when Mattel introduced their line of Hot Wheels cars. Even though Matchbox cars were often fantasy vehicles and not replicas like Lesney offered, they were flashier, faster, and had a working suspension. Their wheels allowed them to roll faster on tracks and hard surfaces. Lesney reacted as quickly as they could but it wasn’t fast enough. In only two short years, Lesney had lost their US hold on sales. Soon, the UK followed. They slowly recovered for a short stint in the mid-70’s but by the end of the decade they were in dire financial straits. Lesney went bankrupt in June, 1982. As a result, the cars manufactured before this become much sought after collectibles and still are today.


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