December 9th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…

Ambassador Report 16

In a week that has seen the release of some Burger King models manufactured by Matchbox, somewhere in size between miniatures and Real Working Rigs, which of course are plastic, the first wave of 2014 packaged models have found their way into some US stores. Upon purchase of a kid’s meal, children were given a Matchbox toy in a plastic bag with the meal. Shabbir Malik, a previous ambassador, had no idea about the Matchbox gift and so it was a pleasant surprise when his son was given a toy. He asked the lady how many different ones were out there but she only had one (a yellow Bulldozer). However, when he looked around there was a sign that said collect all six though there were girls’ toys as well and so he was not sure if there are 6 Matchbox toys or 3 Matchbox and 3 girls’ toys.
Some collectors have been confused as some models currently in the stores are from 2013 but are packaged in the 2014 new design, some have already been released and packaged in 2013 blister packs and are now in their 2014 guise whilst others are from the 2014 range. Collectors who only have access to the smaller blisters do not even have the model number printed anywhere on the packaging. An answer regarding the size of the model number is given below.
The general reaction to the 2014 packaging has been very positive and welcomed by collectors. One of the rarest blister packs is shown below. One wonders how many complaints there might have been if this were to have been the norm. Any detail on this packaging from 1971 would be welcomed. The other image is for a box that was designed but not used subsequently, though it would have been easy for an old man, such as myself to read the number without carrying a monocle or magnifying glass.

  • Why is the number on the packaging so small? You need a magnifying glass to see that number.
Apparently many older adults are having this problem. We have heard complaints about the size of the package fonts before from them. We haven’t received complaints from younger folks as of yet. For now carrying a magnifying glass is a good idea.  We will however forward these concerns to our packaging team.
  • As Premium models are intended for collectors seeing that costs are often four times that of the single, would Mattel consider consulting collectors as to what they would like in the premium range to enhance and maximize sales? 
We are always happy to hear suggestions about what would be appealing for a premium line.
  • I also hope modern sports cars are NOT left out. The Lesney Edition Line was great, but there were too many old cars in there. I like them, do not get me wrong, but modern cars are much more attractive, and I do like them better. Besides, we rarely see modern sports cars get premium treatments because they are simply modern, and we seem to think that heritage vehicles are the only models that should get a premium treatment. I, on the other hand, would be screaming and shouting if the BMW 1M, Alfa 4C, Fisker Karma, Caterham R500, or any other modern sports car of the sort were to be placed in this premium line. Please, Mattel, include some of these fun, modern sports cars in this premium line!) 
Thanks for your suggestions.
  • We are told that models have a 4 part limit (w/o including wheels). However, the Terrainiac has 5 parts not including wheels. Also, there is a third wheel on the truck, which counts as an extra part (as the wheels are typically two), so this truck technically has 6 parts w/o the two average two wheels. What is up with that? 
Actually the Terrainiac has only 4 parts excluding the 3 barbells.
  • About the running changes, none have happened. The Quarry King 60th? Nope. The Ford Raft Truck? Nope. The Hydroplane? Nope. The Highway Hauler? Nope. A lot of the modified models were not changed over. 
We have already answered this question in the Ambassador’s previous report but to reiterate, The Ford Raft truck and Hydroplane tooling have been modified.  The Highway Hauler is out of production and won’t be used again. 
  • Where was it said that an Alfa Junior Zagato was coming for 2015?! Awesome! T34 looks great, of course. 
We never said we were doing an Alfa Romeo Zagato in Matchbox nor have we announced our models for 2015.
  • It’s time we had another horse trailer. The other’s design is from more than 40 years ago.  Are there plans for more trailers? 
This question was answered in a previous Ambassador report.
  • I like the Hazard Squad Fire Truck’s design. It looks like it’s WAY better than other versions throughout the years. But can’t Matchbox rename it for this year? Like Fire Rusher, or, uhh, whatever Matchbox renames it. 
There is no need to rename it.
  • Everyone talks about license fees? Can we get an example of the cost? I’m curious!!! Surely if they do a casting that is quite popular they recoup the cost of that fee pretty quick with sales. 
Sorry we cannot comment.  This is confidential information.
  • Do you remember Mattel planning to do a Bike Trailer back in around 2005/6? I remember seeing a catalogue picture of it but can’t find it anywhere now, it was gold. I’m just wondering if Mattel would consider thinking about that one again as it would work brilliantly with the Adventure theme. It would be interesting to know why it never materialised, couldn’t have been licensing issues as it was a generic! 
This was not done as a trailer at that time because we did not have a universal fit for trailer hitch dimensions on all of our vehicles if it were sold as a single. The design was changed to the Motor home Toy Box. It would however work brilliantly if we were to expand the Hitch n Haul line where we could have a dedicated vehicle to tow it. We have no plans to do this at this time.
  • From 1952 till at least 2002 Matchbox had some sort of Catalogue that was available.  Yet we see Hot Wheels has catalogues every year since its inception and retailers are too willing to give this out. Mattel since 2002 has not produced one single catalogue for collectors and the toy market and is there a reason behind this.  Shops in Australia have been crying out for a catalogue and your Mattel hotline according to the workers who man it say they are getting around 50 calls a day from irate customers wanting a catalogue.  You would have thought Mattel would have done a Matchbox one to celebrate 60 years of Matchbox Cars but it never did. Can you tell us why it seems like Matchbox or even Mattel have not produced a Catalogue since 2002??? 
We understand your frustration that catalogues and posters for that matter are no longer available. Economic challenges dictated this decision. However, The Matchbox Marketing team is looking for new ways to rectify this situation in the future. I can give no further details on this.
Here are four models that some collectors will look forward to in the mainline 2014 range which are sure to generate a wide body of opinion.
Oshkosh MATV BDT74 
Terrain Trouncer BDT37 
Quick Sander BDT36 MB767
Cliffhanger BDT35 MB 795
Though these models might not appeal to all collectors, in the 1970s and 1980s there were models that were not universally well received, and yet sales to children must have been high as some of these models, even in issued form, command quite high prices today.

A Little More History
Although Les Smith had experience of sales, he did not have the knowledge to sell Matchbox models around the world, though he had a good knowledge and important contacts in New Zealand and Australia. Thus he always assumed responsibility for these areas. Most toy manufacturers used a factor, who had intimate knowledge of sales and the markets as well as many contacts around the world. Smith decided that once the range had reached 12 models, there would be enough to export outside of Britain’s shores and this started in 1955. The toy factor used by Lesney centred upon the Kohnstam family. MOses KOhnstan gave his name to the company. The family were of the Jewish faith and had emigrated to England as troubles in Germany grew to sell toys. 
After the war Jack Odell and Les Smith would visit Germany or France to attend Toy Fairs. The stand was just a tent and the pair would be happy initially for an order for ten gross of Matchbox models. There were language barriers both ways. Indeed, Smith had some fear of travelling to Germany in the 1950s. He had enjoyed holidays in the south of France and so was happier to attend French Toy Fairs. Thus when the the range was expanded to twelve models, a factor could replace the pair at some Toy Fairs and would often be able to speak the language and generate further sales. The factors were able to seek out wholesalers and other buyers to become the distributors of Matchbox throughout the world, except in Australia and New Zealand. The factor was so important because Kohnstam paid within 7-10 days whereas several months’ credit might be demanded by certain other account holders. Kohnstam dealt with the invoices, customs declarations, packaging and transportation – skills that the Lesney personnel did not originally lay claim to.
When asked about the nature of the range, Smith unashamedly admitted that Lesney just copied Dinky models. The Aveling Barford Road Roller, Dumper and Tractor were all copied. The Cement Mixer and Milk Float were just reduced scale versions of Early Lesney Toys. He explained there was not much variety in post-War cars, and most new vehicles involved just minor titivating of pre-war cars. Thus Smith and Odell both felt that cars were too small and not substantial enough in a “Matchbox” and there was little that was exciting in early 1950s cars. Even when the first MG was made, Smith said, “We realised that we had made a mistake for the original MG too small”. Odell went further, “That’s no bloody good, it looks hungry, we’ll make a bigger one.” Thus began the policy of making the same model in a bigger scale. When I asked why some models were in the same colour. I was told that they probably could not think of any other colour scheme. Sometimes it was necessary to make the box bigger because the new model would not fit, though the old, smaller boxes were always used up first, thus the first issue of the Vauxhall Cresta, 22b, was always packed in a 22a box, even though it did not fit. The original price of 1/6d (7.5 pence) and 49c US was maintained year after year as more sophisticated manufacturing processes, no discernible inflation and increasing sales combined to keep costs down. 
By 1959 Smith and Odell realised they had a unique product but there was now a slight pressure on prices. In a meeting with Kohnstam, Smith told the factor he wanted more for models – another 2/- a gross. Kohnstam was working on a margin of 22% but was not keen to pay more for the models. The meeting involved further announcements. Smith had seen an advertisement in a magazine that Kohnstam had registered the name Matchbox in 1957 without informing Odell or Smith. Legally, the pair could do nothing about this. In retaliation, Lesney stopped putting MOKO on models but had to continue with the name on the boxes until in 1959 the pair were financially viable enough to buy Kohnstam out.

The display shows the UK range from 1991 and shows there were opportunities for children just like Daddy’s.

8 Replies to “December 9th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…”

  1. Hello Nigel, it is good to see you again.

    Um, why was your ambassador report on Sunday? I noticed the date shown on the top of the post.

    But anyways, the Oshkosh looks excellent. I will collect it so it can come to a comparison with my International MXT\MAVA (which was driven on the rock of Fast & and Furious 5 or 6.).

    Nigel, since there has been lots of questions from me, I have 2 questions again for you and mattel (If they are certain questions, they're OK to put up for next ambassador report, but if not certain, I'd say it's OK.

    Question 1; Why did Matchbox stop the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, the Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren, the Mercedes Benz CLS550, the new Jaguar XK, the Volvo C30, the Bentley Continental GT, and the other models that have been in 2008 to 2010?

    Question 2; Again, is the 2014 Chevy C7 Corvette, 2013 Ford Escape, and the 2013 Dodge Dart going to be in the 2014 mainline? Is it true or it's not true (false)?

    Now see you Nigel next ambassador report.

    John, you're up.

  2. The M-ATV, looks great. For a little while, I actually thought it was the MXT-MVA from this year.

    I really see no need to rename Hazard Squad either. Its name to me stands for what a heavy rescue truck is usually used for, “Hazard” ous Materials and Rescue “Squad” , plus Hazard Squad's been used for both.

    I've noticed that the No. 25 “Chevy” ambulance continues to be used as a promotional model, with the most recent being issued by ASAP for Najo Emergency Products this year. I understand that these are Code 2 issues, but is this model still being produced even though its last official release was about 14 years ago?

  3. The Oshkosh does indeed look great in tan. I think every picture I've seen of the full-sized vehicle has been some variant of desert tan, so it fits the model. I'm glad to see the Cliff Hangar is still in the line, too. I'm still trying to decide if I like the pale yellow paint on it or not. I think I'll have to see it in person. I do appreciate the black interior and grey windshield, which do a lot to retain a sense of realism. I can't say the same for the Terrain Trouncer in red and black…I've enjoyed the casting, but this color scheme doesn't hold a candle to the zamac with black we got this year or the two-tone green of the original release.

    A few thoughts unrelated to the current ambassador's report:

    I finally got my hands on the new dark green release of the Sahara Survivor. It looks absolutely great. I am really happy with the paint job; it complements the other features of the casting quite well. As far as I am concerned, this is the best paint job I've seen on one of my favorite castings from recent years. Thank you, Matchbox!

    I also found the Mound Mover this weekend. There are two things I'd like to point out on this model:
    1) it's the first model I've gotten with the new construction tire (I think people are calling it the “two-ringed 8-dot tire). The tire looks really good, and surprisingly rolls quietly with very little resistance. I think this tire is a definite win.
    2) I was very pleased to find that the blade/scoop out front is not fixed in place, as I feared from the early release pictures. It can pivot around its mounting bar, and has detents in two locations: with the blade straight out and with the blade raised about 45 degrees. That feature makes the vehicle a lot more fun than it would be otherwise.

    I'm not sure I like the idea of using forced perspective (shrinking the upper portions of vehicles) for a whole lot of the vehicles, but I think it really works on the Mound Mover. Even if you don't like the way it turned out as compared to a regular bulldozer or loader, think of it in terms of the low-profile equipment used in subterranean mining applications. It really fits in that context!

  4. Cody, listen.

    The Hazard Squad looks like it's already a weird name now. So mattel, I don't know why any of the designers who designed it named it like “Hazard Squad”. But that model should have another name. Agree? Or whoever designed the model and named it so weirdo, so you have agree one of the sentences.

  5. The OshKosh looks great in Tan, much better than the orange variant released recently, the 'Trouncer'… no thanks. The Quick Sander is okay, and I feel like I used to be a bigger fan of it until the recent unending onslaught of recolors which has cheapened it to me… I think the Quick Sander and Cliff Hanger are due for retirement.

    Despite my low amount of love for generics… I foresee an upcoming visit to Burger King, I am curious about these 3 kids meal toys…

  6. This is kinda weird for my taste, but I think I'm feelin' that MATV. Looks like something that I could buy just to play with my nephews in the sand with. But nothing more than that, though.

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