One thing I like to do here on Lamley occasionally is get another collector’s perspective on collecting. We all collect for different reasons. The might change a lot, but we all got into this goofy mess for our own reasons. There really is no wrong way to collect.
That is why I love learning about other people’s collections. Some are vast, others very specific. It is always fun to learn how gaps are filled, that one unexpected find, etc.
That is one of the reasons I enjoyed this article written by collector Graham Heeps from Canada. Graham has been on a mission to fill in specific gaps in his Matchbox collection, and he breaks down his approach here. Oh, and he has a killer IG feed as well:
I enjoyed this read, and I hope you do too. As always, if you have an idea for a feature, shoot me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission 800, or how I got my Matchbox collection under control…
As with many collectors who grew up in the UK, my toy car obsession started with Matchbox, in particular the No.60 Lotus Super Seven and No.23 Atlas Tipper. By the early-80s I was spending my pocket money on them at my local hobby shop in Portsmouth, and was soon subscribing to Model Collector magazine and collecting semi-seriously – at least, as far as my limited childhood budget would stretch.
In the intervening 30 years or so my collection has veered off at various tangents – Models of Yesteryear (still great, now largely worthless), Royal Mail vans (sold to fund a custom-builtdisplay cabinet), Corgi Juniors, Tomica, Majorette, Schuco, CMs rally cars and – especially since I moved to Canada two years ago – a few Hot Wheels, too. But Matchbox miniatures will always form the bulk of my collection, which currently stands at around 3,000.
In my early-20s I finally had the money to spend that I’d wished I’d had in my teens. As the inventory expanded rapidly from the late-1990s, it was time to focus again. I started to target one of each Matchbox casting – the MB numbers that began to be allocated following the change of ownership to Universal in 1982. For a few years I was trying to keep up with the new releases and backfilling the ones I’d missed. Then, when the MB numbers hit 800 with the Road Roller in 2010, I arbitrarily decided that it was time to call a halt.
It was pure luck that this turned out to be a great place to cease the pursuit of every new casting number. I had no way of knowing that Matchbox was reaching the end of its most recent ‘Golden Age’, and that many of the next 150+ numbers would be allocated to some uninspired generics and cost-reduced rebodies of existing designs. I’ve continued to buy new models that take my fancy, just not all of them. It’s buy-what-you-like, but manageable.
The cut-off also meant I could devote more attention to filling in the blanks in the earlier castings – a task that, for the sake of a snappy title, I’m calling Mission 800.
Pursuing one example of every casting is an education, fun, and frustrating. The different shapes of roof light on police cars like the Ford Crown Victoria (MB304/459/466) take on a disproportionate level of importance. You learn how to tell the difference between several, near-identical NASCAR Chevy Luminas (MB221/224/267), and start looking for cranes and dump trucks with small plastic levers fitted, in among the oceans of ones that don’t.
It also adds fantastic variety to your collection. The 1-800 set encompass classic carryovers from the Lesney era (MB003 Porsche Turbo); mid-80s Universal greats like my all-time favorite, the MB176 Skoda 130 LR; special releases for the US-, Japanese-, Australian and other world markets; gaudy Tyco-made models; White Rose promotionals; Premiere, Collectible and other premium releases; the realism of early Mattel designs like the MB322 ’70 Boss Mustang; the delights of Hero City (I have all the Ultra Heroes now, including the hard-to-find MB640 Go Rolla); and finally into the ‘Golden Age’.
The first few years of my hunt were spent in the UK, rounding up the easier-to-find models at toyfairs and on eBay. By the time I moved to Calgary in 2015, I was missing about 120, many of which weren’t originally sold in Europe. Being on this side of the Atlantic has made finding those much easier and cheaper.
Late last year I struck another 20 or so from the list when former Matchbox Ambassador, Larry Scaduto cleared out some of his duplicates. Larry’s one of a number of fellow collectors who’ve provided information and missing cars along the way, either in person, in print or online. Special mentions go to Charlie Mack’s Matchbox Superfast books, mbxforum.com (John Nijhuis & co), mb-db.co.uk, Chuck Wiersma and David Tilley.
I’m now down to 80 and from here on in things get tricky, and more expensive. The hitlist contains items like the MB109/110/114 Red Alert models from the mid-80s, the hard-to-find MB414/5 Premiere military trucks, and one-offs like the MB467 Ford LTD without roof lights (Ace Ventura Character Car).
Harder still to obtain will be the models that were allocated casting numbers, but never reached production – the MB264/5 Viper TV show models detailed here by Chuck Wiersma back in 2014, for example, or another personal favorite, the MB243 Toyota Celica GT4, which to the best of my knowledge exists only in resin prototype form.
Given that I’ve always taken the approach of picking up missing castings when I see them for a good price, rather than buying them at any cost, it could take me another decade to reach 800, if indeed I get there at all. Whether I do or not, doesn’t especially matter. Hunting what you’re missing is part of the fun of collecting.
This kind of ‘mission’ is a longer-term undertaking than rummaging through a Walmart dump bin, but the satisfaction you get from finding what you’ve been looking for, is just the same. Feel free to follow along by looking for #MBMission800 on my @diecast215 Instagram feed. And wish me luck!
1336 – My first Matchbox (No.60 Lotus Super Seven) and MB001 Dodge Challenger
1338 – MB100 Peterbilt Tanker and MB200 Corvette Grand Sport
1339 – MB437 ’56 Ford Pick Up with diecast base (MB300 has the plastic base) and MB400 Mercedes-Benz CLK Convertible
1343 – MB500 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special (Elvis Graceland diorama)
1345 – MB600 Checker Cab and MB700 1963 Cadillac Hearse
1349 – Three flavors of Chevy Lumina stock car, from top to bottom MB224 (Cole Trickle’s Mello Yello from Days of Thunder), MB267 (Dale Jarrett’s Pic n’ Pay, 1994 White Rose NASCAR) and MB221 (Dale Earnhardt #3 from White Rose NASCAR set)
1350 – Hard-to-find MB640 Go Rolla
1352 – My all-time favourite, the MB176 Skoda 130LR
1353 – MB184 Ford LTD Florida Highway Patrol from the Premiere Police Collection
1354 – MB304 Ford Crown Victoria with low-pro roof light (Visteon TacNet promo)