Ambassador Report 15
I am not sure how long the Thanksgiving festival lasts. Some American friends in the UK seem to spend a day or more preparing for and then several days recovering from this holiday. The Matchbox team are enjoying a well-earned restafter the trip to Asia but I hope to have more answers to your questions in the next Report. I do read comments on a number of message boards but I wonder whether I am missing some. I would like to thank those collectors who find the time to respond to the Reports on these websites and it is possible on all of these sites to look back to previous Reports and comments made. Your comments and questions enable me to request further information from Mattel. The list below includes those sites that I am aware of where comments are recorded.
If there are other accessible sites which also include collector comments, I would be grateful for information so that I may include the comments and pass on the questions to the Matchbox team. I learn so much from the comments as well as being able to smile at the various thoughts, written in a variety of ways, pertaining to various issues.
I was not surprised to learn that a new wave has been released in the US with models in the 2014 packaging. Some models are clearly from the 2013 range. I for one find this very annoying as I display the whole year’s releases in the blister packs and a mixture of packaging spoils the overall effect. It is also confusing when previously released models are packaged on the new year’s blister cards. I believe that currently there are 14 waves of Matchbox models designated for a particular year which are projected to include all 120 models as well as the five recolours. To date this has not occurred. All retailers receive boxes or cases of models stamped with a letter from A to P, omitting letters I and O as this may cause confusion with numbers. Once wave P has been issued, the whole system reverts back to Wave A again. Thus Wave A, issued in November 2013, includes a mixture of 2014 models and some of the 2013 releases. One would think that this arrangement might give Matchbox a headache in terms of wave management but the poor collectors, especially those outside the US where small numberless blisters are the norm, are leftcompletely bewildered. I am sorry that I do not have the information relating to the content of the waves and the year and so I rely on collectors reporting their finds.
The images for this Report include a recolour and a new model for 2014, three models from the Construction Zone 5-pack and a Skybuster. Your comments are welcome.
The 2014 models shown are the Ford F550 SuperDuty BDV73MB817 and Rumble Raider BDV79 MB925.
The 5 pack models include the GroundBreaker BDV50MB948, Skidster BFN37 MB789 and Tractor Shovel BFN38MB029.
When I started collecting in the 1970s, the vast majority of UK collectors were only interested in Yesteryears and miniature collectors were treated somewhat disdainfully. The up side of this was that miniatures were usually cheap and plentiful. If only this situation was apparent today!! Fred Bronner was only too aware of the use of displays and whilst wooden and glass displays were charged for and were intended for the larger stores, there were many cardboard displays that were free for the small shopkeeper. These proliferated all over the US and Canada. Later displays were created for the UK and for Germany, the third biggest market, and I am sure for other countries. Eventually, plastic was used predominantly, probably because of production and distribution costs.
The German displays are interesting, especially the one showing DMK rather than DM. It may be that this was designed for East Germany though sales were very small there or the UK designer thought that German coinage was in DMKs rather than DMs. Any information on this difference would be appreciated. The first two images show the ranges for 1961 and 1962, whilst the later display is showing models from 1967. The wooden display reflecting a price of DM 1.30 may have been used for the boxes behind the counter or with models displayed and the boxes stored elsewhere.
How Children Have Changed
Les Smith lived in a grand mansion in north London. Wheninterviewed he was proud to relate that he had a complete set of regular wheels – but in fact this meant just 75 models or so as he saw no difference between the four sizes of Road Roller or London Bus and he had no record of what had been made.
Sales of the first four models were slow. Smith emphasised that children wanted models they could identify with and the first four models in the range were limited because they were not frequently seen. Presumably children of sixty years ago would not have been interested in many of today’s generic offerings. Smith insisted the range was limited until the 5a Bus was made. The first four did not sell well but the Bus sold very well because it was a more familiar sight than the construction vehicles. Once Matchbox miniatures were in full flow, therewere not the production facilities available for large scale models and in any case several parts of the larger Early Lesneyitems were sub-contracted out with production problems and varying costs of parts such as rubber tyres. The Fire Engine(9a) was second in popularity to the London Bus. There was never any market research, just personal feelings, suggestions from the employees and flicking through magazines. Above all, it was concluded that children wanted everyday items that they could easily relate to. Leseny were in the fortunate position of there being few toys available so there was little competition and none in the miniature scale. The after effects of the war were still apparent so any toys would sell and indeed rationing was still evident even in 1953. For the most part, there were not the resources to produce models. Dinky had been making war items and now had to re-start making toys and supplies were restricted, not least when the Board of Trade banned the use of zinc except for military purposes. This ban lasted about a year. However, once the range had expanded to 12 models by 1955 Smith knew he was delivering what children wanted and he was able to move forward towards selling toys across the world. How strange that the US became the largest market with hardly a model being familiar to American children!