This truly is nuts. I am showcasing two Matchbox models with opening doors. To some, this means nothing. And that is ok. If I am being totally honest, opening parts never have done much for me personally as a diecast collector.
But this is significant. Really significant. And it is part of a very interesting evolution over the last five years. The current Matchbox Team has revisited all options when it comes to making the brand better, and it is quite phenomenal to see what has transpired.
If you have only been collecting for a few years, you may not be aware of the zigs and zags the Matchbox brand has taken this century. The brand known for realism has always had to be “what Hot Wheels is not” since Mattel bought it, and that has been defined in all kinds of ways over time.
In the mid-2000’s it was Hero City, a debacle of a brand direction that had Matchbox catering to little kids with police cars shaped like whistles and weird stuff like that. Then around 2005-2006 it shifted back to realism, starting what I, among others, have dubbed the Last Golden Age at Matchbox, when classics to sports cars to pickups filled the range. That ended around 2011, when a push to younger kids grew again, and Matchbox models started sporting crazy colors and designs, while new castings shifted to exaggerated off-road vehicles. It may not have been a whistle-shaped police car, but it was an off-road school bus, and almost as bad. I remember a designer at the time saying the theme of the designs of that era revolved around the perspective a little kid would have looking up at a vehicle. A bit of overthinking if you ask me.
By 2013/2014, licensed vehicles were a tiny minority in the basic range, and while gems were still being made, they were few and far between.
This back and forth not only hurt the brand in general, but it also fractured the Matchbox collecting world. It is hard to collect a brand when it goes in all kinds of directions, and in today’s social media-dominated collecting community, the most negative voices tend to be the loudest. The next thing you know the vitriol is high, the quieter collectors retreat, and a community splinters. It has been sad to watch. The brand wasn’t good, and neither was the community.
But, that is all changing. While still dominated by Hot Wheels, today’s collector is far more open to other brands as long as the car is cool. Make a cool car, collectors will pursue it. And in 2018, Matchbox has been making cool cars. Lots of them. That goodwill among today’s newer collector has drown out the old grumps, and Matchbox is generating a lot of excitement again.
It is that abundance of good vibes that Matchbox is building on, and it is amazing to see what has transpired. Compare what Matchbox will be in 2019 to just a few years ago:
- Only four unlicensed New Models in 2019, and even those four are replicas of real vehicles. All the rest are licensed.
- New realistic card art, and the Power Grabs continue.
- A return to realistic colors and decos.
- Two new lines – Basic Plus and Premium Plus – both featuring all new tools, and all with opening parts.
Honestly, Matchbox might be something completely different five years from now, as that is the pattern, but right now it is pretty darn good. Instead of overly critiquing, we should enjoy it. There is a team at Matchbox right now, severely understaffed, that still takes time to listen and create a brand that kids and collectors can enjoy. And yes, differentiate itself from the blue brand.
And it starts with these. Matchbox Basic Plus, a $2 line hitting stores later this year, will debut with these two models, the Volkswagen Fastback and Pontiac Grand Prix. And both are based on classic Matchbox models from the early days of the brand.
We saw these first previewed on the Matchbox IG feed, and then they were at the Gathering in July. These two were sent to me for a preview, and yeah, dig them. The opening doors are solid, and open and close nicely. Simple colors that are a total throwback to the originals.
And there will some of the throwback themed, and some of the brand new. We have already seen some early versions when Abe previewed them:
Just think that these opening-parts new models outnumber the total amount of licensed new models released a few years ago. And these are ON TOP of the licensed new models coming to the basic range. 2019 will be an incredible year for Matchbox.
So here are the first two models, coming soon. More to come.