Matchbox Monday: "My Favorite Matchbox" by 2011-2012 Matchbox Ambassador Shabbir Malik…

Matchbox Monday already?

Yes, and this obviously is a special Matchbox Monday, as it is Gathering Week.  My guess is by the next Matchbox Monday we might all be a little Matchbox’d out.  But we have a ways to go before we get there.

One of the highlights of the Gathering every year is the selection of the Matchbox Ambassador.  Someone from the Matchbox collecting community is selected by Mattel to serve as a liaison between the Matchbox team and the collecting community.  That person will have regular communication with the team, will pass along questions from collectors, and will distribute info on the line and upcoming models as Mattel releases it.  The tenure of the Ambassador is one year, and at the end of that time Mattel presents him with a fantastic 1-of-1 gold Routemaster Bus, like this one:

Our current Ambassador, Shabbir Malik, is the seventh.  The list of Ambassadors past looks like this:

2005-2006 John Yanouzas
2006-2007 Jim Gallegos
2007-2008 David Tilley (model pictured above)
2008-2009 Terry Ozima
2009-2010 John Nijhuis
2010-2011 Chuck Wiersma
2011-2012 Shabbir Malik

It will be great to see Shabbir deservedly get his bus this Saturday, and we all look forward to the selection of the new Ambassador.

Because his term is coming to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to ask Shabbir to contribute to our “My Favorite Matchbox” series.  Shabbir does not disappoint.

Congrats Shabbir on a great year, and many thanks for the contribution…

My Favorite Matchbox, by Shabbir Malik

I was about nine years old, growing up in Karachi, Pakistan when my mother bought me
the first Matchbox toy. It was the Regular Wheel # 11 Scaffolding Truck purchased in
the hot summer afternoon of 1974. My mother was buying something at the drug store
when I saw this truck and fell in love with it. Although a little expensive, my mother still
bought me the toy I wanted. It quickly became my favorite toy not knowing that it would
lead me to a passion of collecting Matchbox Toys.

During my early days in Pakistan, collecting Matchbox was not easy. They were difficult
to find and were very expenses. I used to save money from my lunch and school bus
allowance so that I could purchase Matchbox Toys. My first Superfast model was #51
Citroen SM in bronze color. I used to have big toys to play with but since I bought the
first Matchbox; 1:64 scale models became my favorite size. I would not buy anything
but 1:64 scale models. At that time I did not know the difference between Matchbox and
other brands. By the end of 1974 I had about 8 models in my collection. One of them
was from a company called “Zylmex.” I added a few more non-Matchbox models to my
collection. However, by the summer of 1975, I realized that the quality of Matchbox
Toys was much better than any other brand.

In summer 1975 my grandfather passed away so we stayed in my uncle’s house for a
week. There I made two new friends in the neighborhood who were also into Matchbox
Toys. One of the boys had Matchbox #14 Iso Grifo in baby blue. He liked my Citroen
and I liked his Iso Grifo so we played with each other cars. There was no concept of
trading in our little minds so at the end of the day I would take my car and he would take
his car back and we would go back to our families.

When we came back home, I missed playing with the Iso Grifo. I started looking for that
model to be added to my little collection. Soon, I found one at a store near our house.
However, it was a little expensive. I had no money to purchase the model and I did not
have the heart to ask my mother to buy me the Grifo as she had just bought me #18 Field
Car about two weeks ago. I went back to the store owner and asked him if he could save
the model for me until I have the money to buy it. He said that he would try but did not
promise. Two months later when I had the money, the Grifo was gone. I asked the store
owner when he would get it again. He said, “do not know but may be soon.”

Over the next ten years, I played hide and seek with Grifo. The model was not available
when I had the money and was available when I did not have the money. In March 1985,
it was time to leave Pakistan and migrate to the US. I was a grown up boy by that time
but still very much into Matchbox Toys. I had about 200 models, but no Iso Grifo, in my
collection when I left Pakistan. I thought I was the biggest collector in the world.

In 1987, I joined Matchbox USA and started getting the monthly newsletters. Then I
discovered the catalog “Matchbox Toys” by Schiffer publishers. There I saw the picture
of my long lost love “Iso Grifo” after many years. The memory of summer 1975 came
back to my mind. Between 1987 and 1990 I had learned a number of things about my
favorite brand. However, I would only buy Lesney models with their original picture
boxes. Anything other than that did not have room in my collection.

1990 was my first opportunity to attend the Matchbox USA toy show. This was the first
time I had seen so many Matchbox toys in one place. The very first stall I visited had
the Iso Grifo but it was in a blister pack. Now, I had a dilemma. I have been waiting to
get this model in my collection for the last fifteen years but it did not meet my criteria of
picture box. I did not know what to do. I did not want to lose it but I did not want to buy
it without the picture box either. I asked the person if he had a box for it. He said he did
not have the boxed version but pointed me to another table that had tons of picture boxed
Matchbox models. He said, “Try that table.”

That table belonged to Late Ray Sych. I asked him if he had the model. He pulled out a
Dark Blue Iso Grifo. I remember seeing this model in the Schiffer publisher’s catalog but
I was looking for the baby blue version. He did not have the version I was looking for but
asked me to come visit him at his house. He guaranteed that his basement would change
my collecting habits. Two months later, I visited him. This visit was the turning point.
That visit changed my collecting Matchbox into a hobby and into a passion. I learned a
lot about Matchbox Toys on that visit. I learned that there is a lot more to the collecting
than the picture boxes. I learned about the variations and a lot more. However, the best
part of the trip was finding the Iso Grifo that I had been looking for over 15 years.

Today, I have six different variations of this model in my collection. I know there are a
few more variations, which will find their way to my collection one day.

Photo from Dan’s Matchbox Picture Pages

Today, I have over 22,000 pieces in my collection from different Matchbox ranges.
Miniature line has always been my favorite. I like Matchbox models from all eras. Over
the years, different models came into my life as my favorite models but Iso Grifo was
the one that I waited the longest. Another model I wanted in my collection, when I was
young, was #23 VW Microbus. This was another model that I did not find until I visited
Ray Sych’s house. Field Car, Vauxhall Guildsman, Soopa Coopa, and Renault 17 TL
were among my other favorite models from the old days. In the post Lesney era, Dodge
Viper RT10 and from the most recent days, Mercedes 500 CLS has been my favorite
models. I am also in love my Website Color Comp models (VW Camper) and of course
my Ambassador Vipers. It is very difficult for me to pin a model that is my favorite
today. I love my Matchbox Toys. I am an incomplete person without my toys. To me
there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of collecting Matchbox and discussing it with
other collectors.

Happy Collecting….

Shabbir Malik
Matchbox Ambassador 2011-12

One Reply to “Matchbox Monday: "My Favorite Matchbox" by 2011-2012 Matchbox Ambassador Shabbir Malik…”

  1. I enjoyed your history of Matchbox cars. Just recently I noticed an Iso Grifo and purchased it becaue it was a Lesney model. and without any real dsire for that nodel. Needless to say I was intrigued with your story about your search for that model and to think I just happened upon it.

Leave a Reply