So, things are still a little unusual and people are not being able to go anywhere far. I thought why not go on a virtual tour through Matchbox. I have not had anything new from Wheel Collectors as yet, so I thought I would dive into the Across America series.
But first a disclaimer. This is extremely long. My longest and most elaborate blog post yet. Feel free to pop to the toilet, make a cup of coffee and get comfy. If you make it through this one you will be here a while.
The year was 2002. Matchbox, a recent acquisition from Mattel through their purchase of Tyco in the mid 1990s, wanted to do something big to celebrate their 50th anniversary. However, Matchbox was first sold in 1953, and so a 50th anniversary would naturally take place in 2003. But they were unable to do it that year, so they used a technicality in that Lesney started making toys slightly earlier, and only when they were shrunk down to fit in a matchbox did they get their name. So they celebrated in 2002. Apart from having a 50 logo on each package, and the first 10,000 of any basic range model also sporting a 50 logo on the model as well, they wanted to do a little more. If you lived outside of USA itself, they did do just a little more.
Mixed in with the basic range models randomly were 4 different models in a unique package (I show the window box, but in markets that had large blisters they were sold in large blisters instead). We had the MB038 Ford Model A Van which had been around since 1982 but not seen since 1998 in white.
There was the MB174 Taxi FX4R (as it states on the base, company name ambiguous) London Taxi in yellow. A casting that had been around since 1987, 2002 proved to be it though and it was never seen after this and a white Coca Cola themed issue that year. Full disclosure, this was a real taxi at the time. It had been painted up like that, and was driven to the UK convention in April that year. I took some photos of the real one, but sadly I lost everything pre-2005 when my computer blew up at the end of 2004 and I had not backed anything up.
There was also the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle in green. First seen in 1999, this casting is still tinkering away.
And the MB488 Ladder Truck also in white. A casting with a very short shelf life. Debuting in 2001 it was only used for 3 years and not been seen since 2003. That was it, 4 models in a spacial package. There were a few collector items too through the Collectibles branding, but I won’t get into that.
But if you were in USA, boy oh boy did you have fun.
It was called Across America. A set of 50 models in exclusive designs, each coming with a mini license plate. There was also a collector board you could obtain to store them in.
Opening up in tri-fold, there was a slot for each license plate, all done in alphabetical order.
Between April and August 2002, a truck went around USA K-Mart and Toys R Us parking lots advertising the series too, and this folder contained the press releases for the event.
Full itinerary and various press releases about what was happening, as well as 4 film negatives.
These would show various items that were being produced for the 2002 anniversary.
Which included a lovely Collectibles Seagrave Meanstick Fire Engine. Billed as the ultimate collectible, it was definitely the most intricate casting ever made.
They were made in burgundy (25,000) or gold (5,000) especially for the event. They were never used again. Except, there was 1 single example made of 18 karat gold with 6 diamonds, 24 rubies and 4 golden sapphires for the lights and details, all mounted in a velvet lined wooden box which was auctioned for charity. It sold for $27,450 in 2002 with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
But I digress. We are going on a road trip….
Luckily there is a guide to help us. A small booklet was created with details of all the models that were part of the Across America series.
Which also included some information about the series and a picture of what they would look like in a blister (because I don’t have one of those). So let’s get started.
I am doing this in order of admission beginning with the original 13 colonies. I begin with Delaware. The First State. Named after Thomas West, the 3rd Baron De La Warr. You may notice that for each page of the collector booklet are some fun facts. So I will include them here too.
Fun Fact: According to Delaware’s website, the state’s official legislators chose the lady bug as the official “state bug” after an intensive lobbying effort by second grade students from the Lulu M. Ross Elementary School in Milford.
So it was a pretty obvious choice to have some sort of Matchbox bug as the model. The MB287 VW Concept 1 Beetle was therefore chosen as the Delaware representative in miniature and even had a picture of the lady bug on the side too.
The next state (or should I say commonwealth here) is Pennsylvania. The Keystone state. Did you know that Pennsylvania was the only one of the original 13 colonies that did not border the Atlantic Ocean?
Fun Fact: Benjamin Franklin, the famous scientist and statesman, concluded that lightning was electrical after flying a kits in a thunderstorm.
So with using Franklin as their fun fact, it was pretty obvious the design on the model was going to incorporate that fact into it. You may also note that the tampo designs also include their state number and name in them too. This particular one was on the MB325 Chevy Tahoe Police in blue. A casting that had originally debuted in 1999 and was last seen in a 5-pack in 2010.
Next up is New Jersey. The Garden State. Named after Jersey, the largest island in the English Channel, where 1 of the 2 founders came from originally, the model chosen was the MB170 Ikarus Coach. A pre-production sample mock-up for the picture shows that they were looking at changing the wheels from the dot-dash it always had to flower wheels. They didn’t in the end though. After debuting in 1986, the casting hadn’t been seen since 1999, but after this 2 more popped up in 2004 to finish it once and for all. And still they had the dot-dash wheels.
Fun fact: When New Jerseyans plan to visit the ocean, they almost always say that they are headed “down the shore”.
So now it makes sense why they chose a coach for this slot. A tour down the shore. Of course, many people know of the Jersey Shore now. I think a certain MTV show from the late ’00s made sure of that.
Georgia. Known as The Peach State. It was pretty obvious that was going to incorporated into the logo of this one. The most southerly of the original 13 colonies, it was named after King George II of Britain.
Fun fact: Among the 50 states, Georgia ranks first in the production of peanuts, pecans, poultry, eggs and rye. The states is best know, however, for its large crop of delicious peaches.
And those peaches are being carried in the MB405 VW Delivery Van. Originally the casting was sold between 2000 and 2007 but problems with the roof of the casting caused it to stop production. However, in 2019 it was re-worked, re-tooled and re-entered the tooling database again. More peaches please.
State number 5 in the list is Connecticut. Named after the river of the same name, it was an English variation of the French translation to “the long tidal river” which in original Mohegan was “quinetucket”. The Mohegans being the earlier settlers of the area before the Dutch arrived.
Fun fact: One of Connecticut’s nicknames is “The Constitution State”. Some historians claim that Connecticut created the world’s first written constitution in 1968 & 1639.
So as they were going with Constitution State (ah nutmegs) they incorporated the look into the side of the MB427 Mercedes Benz ML430. The casting had originally launched exclusively in Germany in 1999 before going worldwide in 2000 and running until 2006 in a Superman themed 5-pack.
This brings us on to Massachusetts. State number 6. The Bay State. Although, just like Pennsylvania, they do refer to themselves as a commonwealth rather than a state.
Fun Fact: The Boston Tea Party took place in 1773 when colonists protested a new British law which adversely affected tea traders in America.
The tea party design therefore features prominently on the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle. A casting that has been around since 1999 and due to a few tweaks in 2018 looks like it will still be with us for a while.
Next up was the 7th state, Maryland. Old Line State, as it is known. Named after Henrietta Maria, the wife of King George I of Britain.
Fun fact: The Chesapeake Bay, located in Maryland and Virginia, provides and abundance of tasty blue crabs.
A rather crabby fact, terrible pun intended. The MB407 was chosen with the Sea Rescue Boat featuring a crab side design. The casting had been around since 1999 but after this was only used one more time in a 2004 5-pack before being retired.
Moving down to South Carolina now. State number 8. So the wife of King Charles I of Britain had a states named after her, as just mentioned. But the king himself. He got 2. Because there are 2 Carolinas. It was derived from the Latin Carolus for Charles. Known as The Palmetto State, it incorporates palm trees in many different insignia including flags and license plates.
Fun fact: Visitors from all over the East travel to South Carolina to play golf. The Myrtle Beach area features more than 100 courses.
It was pretty obvious the MB449 Golf Cart was going to be the casting of choice here. It featured a lovely design on the roof and a palm tree related logo on the side. As I said, palm trees. Big in South Carolina. Which was nice because this particular casting just didn’t get used. It debuted in 2000. That was it. Apart from a plain white run for code 2 blanks which was made around 2000 as well, the casting never had any further outings, except this one. It’s second of only 2 official releases.
So from South Carolina we don’t just pop over the state border. Their numbers in the state list are from when they signed the US Constitution, which for the first 13 were over the course of 3 years. Next to sign it was New Hampshire. Less than a month after South Carolina did. Named after the county of Hampshire in England, the Granite State or White Mountain State nicknames come from the huge supply of granite found there and the fact that the White Mountains cover about a quarter of the state.
Fun fact: The race for the presidency begins in New Hampshire, which holds its primary elections earlier than any other state.
Mind you, that wasn’t the case in 2008 when Mayor Quimby moved the Springfield primary to before NH. What do you mean, it was a cartoon series, and The Simpsons was not based on real life?
So ignoring The Simpsons then, we have the MB254 ’93 Chevy Camaro Z-28 Police depicting the primary race. A horse or an elephant? Which is your choice? The Camaro was one of the few Matchbox castings that confused us regular people. Like the later Dodge Magnum, both civilian and police versions sported the same manufacturing numbers. Most models would have a different number if there was a police variant, and in some cases multiple numbers depicting the different roof lights they were sporting. This was the lo-pro light, and the triang light was also used on this casting at other times throughout its 12 year run from 1995-2006.
This takes us to number 10 in the list. Virginia. Named after Elizabeth I of England, who had the nickname the Virgin Queen, Virginia is another commonwealth rather than state. Nicknamed “The Old Dominion” by King Charles II of Britain, it stuck. It is still known by it today.
Fun fact: The famous Blue Ridge Mountains, which cross western Virginia, are popular with hikers, campers and motorists.
Okay, I’m not that old, but I have “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” by Laurel & Hardy stuck in my head now. “In the blue ridge mountains of Virginia, on the trail of the lonesome pine…”
Rather unusually, this side design doesn’t have anything to do with mountains or hikers, campers or anything from the fun fact. It was a bit of an oddity. Instead they chose the MB420 Chevy Impala Police and just had a Virginia Police design on the side.
This one’s a bit different. New York. State number 11. The Empire State. You may notice something a bit different about the model in the picture. It doesn’t quite match the one in front. Apart from being yellow, the biggest giveaway is that it only has 2 axles. I will get to that in a moment. But first….
Fun fact: Known as “The Empire State”. Includes New York City, where tow trucks are often used to removed disabled and illegally parked vehicles.
This gave us the MB481 Wrecker Truck. It was in white with a “serving New York” logo on the side. The Wrecker Truck itself had only just debuted in 2001 so was still pretty new, and it went on to be used until 2008 in a final Pop Up Auto Center playset.
But let’s get back to that yellow one. Strictly speaking, it is not a Matchbox. They did not make it. However, they licensed a company to make it on their behalf, and it does sport a Matchbox logo on the base. You see, in April 2002 McDonald’s in USA ran a promotion for their kids meals and included were 1 of 6 Across America models. But due to legislation around toys and food, the actual Matchbox castings could not be used. Therefore 6 copies were made in a visually similar appearance, but with a few safety aspects for health reasons to make sure that nothing could accidentally be eaten. As these were prepared earlier than the actual Matchbox models, they decided to use the McDonald’s models in the pictures for the states.
The models actually came blank, with the license plate in a little bag.
On the back of the license plate was a small sheet of labels for you to stick on the models. Of course there were instructions on the correct places to put them, but kids being kids, they could have stuck them on anywhere.
The license plates themselves were almost identical to the main ones from the series, although different shades were found on most. In this case, the New York plate was a much darker blue than the standard one.
If you did place the labels in the correct places, the finished model would look pretty much the same as the regular issue.
But you do find that these castings are built a little different. Apart from losing an axle, the towing section was completely reworked to make sure that the pivoting section would in no way break off. The regular issue you can pull that hook off if you wanted to.
Now the McDonald’s promotion did run in Canada too, but the stickers on the models were not Across America related, and therefore completely different.
And here’s North Carolina. Both in number and alphabetically after New York. Of course if you use the 2-letter codes then it is nowhere near (NC — NY has 6 others in between). And again it was also in the McDonald’s promotion so that version was shown on the picture. The Old North State, also the other one named after King Charles I of Britain.
Fun fact: Portions of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains occur in the western portion of this state.
Oh jeez, that Laurel & Hardy song is back in my head. I just got it out….
So where Virginia didn’t have the Blue Ridge Mountains in any way depicted on the model, the NC one did. The MB111 Snorkel Fire Engine was in dark blue featuring a Blue Ridge Rescue theme.
For the McDonald’s promotion it was a new similar casting with no moving parts in light blue. The license plate for the promo was a darker green to normal.
As I said being a food related toy, this particular Snorkel did not feature an actual moving snorkel area. It was a single piece that was fixed to the model. You may notice that the standard dark blue only had a 50 logo on one side. The sticker set for the McDonald’s promotion had 2 stickers, so I put one on the other side just to create a little symmetry. As I said, the instructions were a guide, but there was no law to say they had to be followed to the letter.
The last of the 13 original colonies, and still the smallest by area. Rhode Island. Or to give it it’s full title, the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It’s not an island. There are some islands in among it, but it is mainly solid land. However, it is known as “The Ocean State” because around 1/8 is water inlets and large bays. The origins of its name are a little mysterious. Some say it was down to being likened to the Island of Rhodes, off the coast of Greece. Another story is that a Dutch explorer, Adriaen Block, said that when he passed, there was an island with a reddish hue (believed to be the autumn, or fall foliage, set against the red clay base which can be seen from the sea). This island, Aquidneck Island, is actually officially called Rhode Island. But because the state is called the same, attempts have been made to to change the name since the 1930s. It is the largest of the actual islands in the state. So you can sort of see why the state has a longer name.
Fun fact: Newport, Rhode Island, calls itself “the sailing capital of the world”.
As it is the ocean state, and the fun facts were about the sailing capital of the world, and also because Matchbox had a number of boat castings they went with a Land Rover. Obviously. The MB406 Land Rover Freelander did look really nice in a Rhode Island Yacht Club design which in this case was across the front as well as the sides. The Freelander casting had debuted in 1999 but only ran until 2001 in the basic range. Since then though, it has seen a number of sporadic uses all the way until 2016.
After the 13 colonies set up the first 13 states of USA, it wasn’t long until more were added. Vermont was first to jump on board less than a year after Rhode Island had finished the initial 13. The Green Mountain State as it is known (also on the license plate) is pretty much its name. In French. “Vert” is French for green, “mont” is French for mountain. Mind you, if you wrote it in French you would have actually written it as mont vert. So they just basiaclly used the French name the wrong way round and somehow lost a “t”. Maybe it ended up in Massachusetts.
Fun fact: Skiing, hiking and mountain climbing are popular activities in Vermont.
With that in mind, they also got a Land Rover. This time it was the MB524 Land Rover Discovery. This one fitted in pretty well with a forest rescue theme. Forest designs have been a recurring theme of this casting ever since it first debuted in 2001. As with the Freelander, it saw its last use in 2016.
Next up the state, or I should say again, the commonwealth of Kentucky. Just over a year after Vermont joined the initial 13, Kentucky, named after the river that flows through it, split from Virginia and formed its own independent commonwealth. Knows as The Bluegrass State, it had a rather unusual species of grass initially, until seed cultures were taken and mixed in with other grasses around the world.
Fun fact: Kentucky is known for its fine horse farms. Many racing thoroughbreds are raised in the state.
It was pretty obvious where this was going for a casting. The MB743 Pony Trailer. It had been in the basic range from 1968 until 1971 and then returned for multipack use in 1976 where it still lives to this day, albeit heavily modified. But I do love daft facts. This is the only other time after the initial basic range run finished in 1971 that it was sold on its own. It was also the last time it had horses inside, as the next issue in a Hitch ‘n Haul set didn’t have any. It was also the only time the horses weren’t black or white. They were brown for this release, matching the design on the side of the model.
So after an initial 3-year period of signing up between December 1787 and May 1790, we saw a yearly addition for 2 years, but it was 1796 when Tennessee joined the statehood of USA. The last state to do it in the 18th century. Tennessee took its name from Tanasi (which goes by a number of spellings), an Overhill Cherokee village that was originally there in what is now Monroe County. Known as The Volunteer State, its nickname came from all the volunteers who joined up from the state in the early 19th century.
Fun fact: Many of the nation’s country singers record their music in Nashville, which is often call “Music City”.
The model chosen for this was the MB543 Nissan Xterra. Funnily enough it had debuted in 2001 as an offshoot of the earlier Xterra with surfboards, with a musical them in the 2001 School Spirit 5-pack. After 2007 the casting went on hiatus and was retooled and re-released in 2018. This design was pretty clever in that as mentioned the state numbers were included in the designs, and this was incorporated in to a fictitious radio show. 16.0FM, all country, all day long.
The first state to join in the 19th century was Ohio, in 1803. It is named after the Ohio River, which flows through it. That name itself came from an old Seneca word “ohi:yo” which roughly translated into good (or great) river, as the indigenous people of the area named it first. This was another McDonald’s promotion state, and therefore the picture for the model shows the McDonald’s version instead.
Fun fact: Ohio is known as the “Buckeye State”. (State tree is the Buckeye.)
The Ford Crown Victoria Police was chosen as the model for this state with a Buckeye Police livery on the side. This is the MB304 version of the Crown Vic, as it sports a lo-pro light on the roof. A vee-light on the roof meant it was MB459 and a triang light on the roof meant it was MB466. Manufacturing numbers rules are very flexible as I noted above with the ’93 Camaro civilian and police which all went by the same number. This Crown Vic ran from 1997 until 2009, at which time the later ’06 Crown Vic was permanently installed as its replacement.
As I mentioned this was the third of the McDonald’s models. A similar looking model was created, although it has no interior, and the light section was re-crafted in a way that means it would be impossible to pull it off. The license plate was also a much darker blue.
Out of all the sticker sets, I believe this had the fewest. 2 stickers per side to add to the police car.
Louisiana. Admitted in 1812, 9 years after the last state had been, making it the 18th out of 50. Named after King Louis XIV of France. It is officially known as the Pelican State, after it’s state bird, but many often refer to it as the Bayou state, due to the small rivers that wind through the swamps there.
Fun fact: Southern Louisiana calls itself “the crawfish capital of the world”. The animals, which look like small lobsters, are found primarily in swamps and marshes.
The MB422 White Water Raft and trailer was chosen to reel in the crawfish on the Cajun Bayou. I wonder how many people see LA in the design and think Los Angeles before Louisiana? The White Water Raft had been coming off a 3-year stint in the basic range after debuting in 1999 and this was the last time it was sold as a single issue as after this it has only been seen in multipacks. Funnily, this is the second of 2 trailer units used in the series, and both were alphabetically next to each other.
Next up is Indiana. This was the first of 6 states that were admitted on a yearly basis to the United States. This happened in 1816. Literally, the land of the Indians was where the name came from, as it was first inhabited by the Paleo-Indians around 10,000 years ago. Known as the Hoosier State, nobody really knows where that came from. But people from Indiana are known as Hoosiers, and have been for coming up on 200 years now. Some think it may have been John Finley’s 1833 poem “Hoosier’s nest” that really got the ball rolling on that name.
Fun fact: One of the nation’s most famous auto races, the Indianapolis 500, began in Indiana’s state capital in 1911.
With Corvettes often being used as pace cars at the Indy 500, it was obvious that with no racing car tooling available, it was the next best thing. The MB295 ’97 Corvette which had been around since, strangely enough 1997, was shown in yellow with Hoosier written across the front. It proved to be its final showing as it has never been used since.
And now we get into a fire engine run. Mississippi. A fun word for including in word games, I remember having lots of fun with that one as a kid. Mississippi joined the USA in 1817, the year after Indiana (almost to the day). An English translation of the Ojibwe name for the “great river” that ran through it (misi-ziibi), as the native population called it when they first arrived. It is known as the Magnolia state because both the state flower and state tree are magnolias.
Fun fact: Natchez, Mississippi, is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. The city boasts more than 600 pre-Civil War buildings.
So yeah, there wasn’t much in that fact to go on for a design, and magnolias don’t have too much to lend themselves too, so here’s an MB188 Oshkosh Fire Engine. Of course it never stated it was an Oshkosh, but there was no denying it. Running from 1984, this had a good life, as it finally retired after the 2006 Superfast issue.
The next fire engine for the next state admitted to the union. State number 21, admitted in 1818. And you may notice a yellow International Fire Pumper as the model, but a red one in the picture. Yep, it’s another McDonald’s one. Adapted from a French name given to the Illiniwek, Illinois is known as the Prairie State, due to their efforts to make sure that the prairies are not destroyed. They also have their slogan, Land of Lincoln. Nothing to do with cars, but due to Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of USA who was living in Illinois at the time of his journey into politics.
Fun fact: Legend holds that a cow owned by Mrs Kate O’Leary started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 by kicking over a lantern in a barn. The resulting blaze stripped bare 2,600 acres of city land.
Okay so that deserves a fire engine. The MB379 International Pumper had been around since 1999 and morphed into the MB877 version in 2013, although hasn’t been seen since 2015. It sports a lovely side design of Windy City Rescue, a great nod to Chicago too.
Being in bright yellow for the main issue, the McDonald’s one was a more traditional red. The license plate was only a little darker than the normal issue too. Illinois was specifically chosen as one of the six states to include because that is where McDonald’s comes from.
Again, we had a case of including 2x “50th” logo stickers, even though the normal issue only sported it on one side. So again, I put one on the alternate side in the same spot.
Third fire engine in a row. This one is for Alabama. The alphabetically first, but number 22 in the list of who joined the union. 1819. Another name clouded in mystery, it is believed that Alabama came from the Choctaw name for the area “albah amo” which translates to thicket clearers. The Yellowhammer State, as it’s nickname implies is after the state bird; the yellowhammer. Although quite often people refer to it as “the heart of Dixie”. This was down to Montgomery, the state capital being the capital of all the confederate states during the short-lived war (1861-65).
Fun fact: Engineers at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville create and test rocket engines for America’s spacecraft.
So yes, this is the third of 3 fire engines in a row, but the MB487 Airport Fire Tanker is being re-purposed as a rocket recovery engine. This casting debuted to a lot of noise in 2001, and for 3 years was everywhere. Then it vanished, only to pop up twice in 5-packs in 2007 and 2009 before fading away for good.
Which brings us to Maine, and a non-fire vehicle. Still part of the yearly admissions, although technically this was only 3 months after Alabama (December to March). It is the first state to split from another state (Massachusetts). Another state whose name is a little blurry in a historical sense. The furthest north in the eastern side, Maine’s name is thought perhaps it came from the explorers who came from the province of Maine in France, or perhaps after Ferdinando Gorges, who helped set up the province in the 17th century, even though he never went there. He lived in Broadmayne, in Dorset, England. It is thought perhaps they got their name from that. Known as the Pine Tree State, it gets its nickname from the state tree.
Fun fact: Nine of ten lobsters caught in the United States come from Maine’s coastal waters.
So we need a vehicle that would be able to cart of the lobsters. This MB300 ’56 Ford Pick Up will do. This casting (as well as the temporary MB437, which was just a change to a metal base – I told you the rules for MAN numbers change constantly) ran from 1997 until 2007 before they created an offshoot MB733 Ford Panel Van from it. However, it did make a brief reappearance in 2018.
Which brings us to Missouri. The last of the yearly admissions, this one being in 1821. Missouri translates roughly to “town of the large canoes” as the native American people (Missouria) who used to live there were renown for the canoe-making abilities. The Show-Me State as it is known, is widely believed to have originated from Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver who coined the phrase in 1899. During a speech in Philadelphia, he said “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
Fun fact: Proud of their mild skepticism, Missourians call their home the “Show Me State”.
The MB205 Mercedes TV News Truck was chosen, as it has the ability to show people things (on TV). It had a Show Me News Channel 24 design on the side, with a backdrop of St Louis, in particular the Gateway Arch. Running since 1989, the picture in the preview showed it with the new flower wheels in prepro form, but it was sold with the original dot-dash style. The flowers made their debut on this casting in 2004. It ran until 2008 before retiring, long after the TN series of Mercedes Vans had been discontinued.
So after a flurry of states signing up, it took 15 years before Arkansas became the 25th state in 1836. However, it took them until 1881 to decide what to do with the last “s” in the name. Arkansas had been derived from a French spelling of the native American tribe that had been in the area since the 13th century. The French had called the Quapaw people Arcansas and with most words in the French language not pronouncing the last letter, you didn’t pronounce the “s”. Except many did. In 1881 they passed a decree dictating that you don’t pronounce it. However it took until 2007 to decide that if something belonged to Arkansas, then it was Arkansas’s. It’s just a natural occurrence for the Natural State. A nickname it has due to the abundance of natural beauty and the nation’s “first” natural river (the Buffalo National River).
Fun fact: At Crater of Diamonds State Park, visitors can search for diamonds and other gems – and keep whatever they find.
Ooh. Going to need some good lighting for that. The MB229 Mack Auxiliary Power Truck will be good for that. Mind you, with an Ozark Fire Rescue them on the side of it, they went a slightly different way. The Mack had been a popular choice of model running from 1991 until 2009.
Seven months after Arkansas signed up, Michigan joined in too, becoming the 26th state. Taken from the Ojibwe word for the area “mishigami” which translates as “large lake”, Michigan is the only state to feature 2 peninsulas. Plus, as it is known as “The Great Lakes State”, because it has ties to 4 of the 5 great lakes in USA.
Fun fact: Home state of America’s two largest auto companies. U.S. and foreign-owned auto plants throughout America produced over 13 million vehicles in 1999.
To celebrate, they went with the MB213 Ford Model T. The most influential car of the 20th century, obviously was made in Detroit in Michigan in the early 20th century and was the first affordable motor car for the masses. This casting (as well as the MB293 “metal base” version) were made by Matchbox from 1990 until 2005. Original pre-production models sported a small oval window in the side, but it was filled in for production. It also came with its own unique wheels which it used for all non-premium issues. Premiums had a similar unique wheel with a rubber outer edge.
Florida begins the next flurry of admitted states when in 1845 they joined as the 27th state. Florida come from the Spanish word “florido” which basically just means land of flowers, as that is what the explorer, Ponce De Leon, called it in 1513 when he first discovered it. Known as the Sunshine State, which is quite funny as they have the most lightning strikes of any state in the country and one of the most average yearly rainfall too. However, on average they do eke out the most sunshine in a few places, partly due to the massive coastline which covers most of the state (the largest coastline in the contiguous states) and the flattest land too.
Fun fact: There are about 107 million citrus trees in Florida (more than 6 trees per Florida resident). The state leads the world in grapefruit production, and its orange crop is second only to Brazil’s.
Which gives us the “orangemobile”. Okay so it is not an actual orange, but I mean there is a banana car now, does an orangemobile sound that far fetched? They chose the MB366 ’98 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible to showcase the oranges as it is a convertible so fites in with the sunny theme. It’s a shame this casting never got more attention. Debuting in 2000 as a US exclusive in the basic range, that was it for basic range issues. Apart from Across America and some multipack issues as well as a few premiums, it got one final Superfast release in 2004 and retired. To Florida!
Which brings us to the biggest state, Texas. Also an 1845 joinee to USA, it took its name from the Spanish explorers who first met the native Caddo people of the area who refered to them as “teysha” which meant friend. The Spanish thought they meant the people who inhabited the area were teysha, which became “teja”, then “texa”. It then got pluralized to Texas. Friendship is their motto, although they are known as The Lonestar State. It is a part of their state flag and other items too, but only became official in 2015. It was about time, people had been calling it that for hundreds of years.
Fun fact: Texas is the largest of the 48 mainland states and is known for its oil and natural-gas production.
They went with the MB186 Dodge Dakota to represent Texas. Personally, I would have chosen this casting for one of the Dakotas. You know, the Dakota from Dakota. But I didn’t choose them. I don’t know who did before anyone asks. It simply has a Marshall design on the side. Having debuted in 1987, the Dakota casting was nearing the end of its production with only a couple of SpongeBob SquarePants related models appearing after its use in Across America. Funnily these SpongeBob models depicted Sandy on the side, who is supposedly from Texas, as well as a picture of the state of Texas. So the Dakota really went all in on a final Texas flurry before retirement.
You may have noticed it was another of the McDonald’s models. The casting that was created for legal reason had the rear roll bar with lights removed entirely, and a set of lights coming out of the roof instead.
It gives the model quite a different look without that roll bar.
Iowa was next to join, becoming the 29th state almost exactly 1 year after Texas, in 1846. The state was simply named after the Iowa people who populated the area originally. However, its nickname, the Hawkeye State is actually after Chief Black Hawk, leader of the American Sauk tribe, who moved to Iowa after in the 19th century.
Fun fact: Iowa is known for its rich soil and large corn crop.
So with a large agricultural basis, it was pretty obvious that a farming vehicle would come into play. This was the MB218 Mercedes-Benz Trac 1600 Turbo. Debuting in 1990, this was its final showing before heading off to retirement. The last time we ever saw a licensed tractor in the Matchbox range.
Oh I always get “That 70s Show” vibes whenever I see this name. Wisconsin! Yeah I shouted it out in the way they did at the end of the title sequence. Arriving as the 30th state in 1848, Wisconsin’s name roughly translates as “river running through a red place” (the red place being the sandstone bluffs in the Wisconsin Dells). Known as the Badger State, which is now their state animal, appears on their flag, coat of arms, seal etc, it derived from early European miners who would dig tunnels to hunt for lead and often would just camp out in them. It reminded others of the badger, and the name stuck.
Fun fact: Wisconsin is known for its dairy farms. The state produces 14 percent of the nation’s dairy goods.
So it was pretty obvious where this was going. The MB100 Peterbilt Tanker. Sporting an Eagle River Dairy Farm design for this release, it was the latest in a line of milk related liveries on this model. In fact it started off as a milk truck in 1982, in the US range only and when retiring in 2003, had seen quite a bit of milk action.
Next up we move to the west coast for the first time. California joined in 1850 becoming the 31st state. Part of the original Las Californias area that the Spanish first colonized, which included Baja California which is part of Mexico, and Alta California which was all of present day California, as well as some parts of neighboring states, the name itself came from an initial belief that the Baja California area was a separate island. The Spanish called it Califia, after a legendary queen who ruled over an island in the book “Las Sergas de Esplandián” which had not long arrived when they set out from Spain to explore. Known as the Golden State due to the abundance of golden poppies in the state, as well as you know, gold. The Californian Gold Rush is quite well known.
Fun fact: Surfing is popular among along many of California’s beautiful beaches.
For this they chose the MB359 ’55 Chevy Bel Air Convertible in a surf shop themed livery. This was another of those castings that just never saw a lot of use. Debuting in 1999 as a US exclusive basic range issue, it never saw basic range usage again. It was retired after 2004. There was also an alternate hardtop variant (MB358) that had about as few issues from 1999 but did eke out usage until 2008, and the MB501 police variant which saw one use in 2001.
It was 8 years before another state joined. Minnesota arrived in 1858 as the 32nd state. Translated from the Lakotan word mnissota which literally translates as cloudy water (mni is Lakotan for water, and many place names around the area use it in their names), it was what the Minnesota River was affectionately called. Officially it is know as the North Star State, which is on the flag, but is often known as the Land of 10,000 lakes, due to the abundance of lakes in the state.
Fun fact: The source of the Mississippi River is Lake Itasco, Minnesota. The river runs southward for 2,340 miles and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
So all that talk of water, there was bound to be something water related to go with it. But not a boat this time. The MB499 Ford F-series with raft was the model chosen. However, the eagle eyed may have noted in the booklet it was referred to as the Ford F-series “Fire Truck” with raft. I don’t know where they got the fire truck bit from. The MB499 (as well as the MB581 and MB870 alterations) has been going since 2001. It was last seen in a 2018 5-pack.
This brings us on to Oregon. Admitted in 1859, shortly after Minnesota, the origin of its name is clouded in mystery. I could give an abundance of possible theories about this one, but sometimes a little mystery can be a great source of debate. The Beaver State, as it is known, got its nickname from the beavers that used to be hunted in the 19th century when fur hats became fashionable. Beavers would flourish in the rivers and streams of Oregon, and so this was the go-to place to find them. Of course now the opposite is true. Revered as the state animal, and respected with prominence on their state flag.
Fun fact: Mount Hood, at 11,239 feet, is Oregon’s highest peak.
We that, we get another fire truck in a Mount Hood Fire Rescue livery. This is the MB402 Dennis Sabre Fire Truck which had debuted back in 1999 and running until 2013.
We’re not in Kansas anymore. Oh wait, we are. Arriving in 1861, 2 years after Oregon, Kansas got its name from the Kaw tribe that would originally populate the area. The translation for Kaw would be southwind, and the French traders would often refer to them as the Kanza or Kansa. They are known as the Sunflower State, which is their flower. They also called their highest point Mount Sunflower too, even though it is not an actual mountain.
Fun fact: Although fans of The Wizard of Oz may associate tornadoes with Kansas, the storms occur frequently in many part of the U.S.
Storms? Tornadoes? Oh there was only ever going to be one model to depict that successfully. The hugely popular MB523 Radar Truck. Officially sold in the basic range between 2001 and 2005, I still remember seeing pictures as late as 2008 of Radar Trucks still sitting on pegs. I even remember from personal experience walking into my local Toys R Us store and seeing Radar Trucks from 3 different years all being sold side by side. I used to wipe the blisters as I felt sorry for them. The casting was retired after 2007, but occasionally the Matchbox team would threaten to bring it back.
Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads. Getting a little John Denver in there. West Virginia was formed during the American Civil War when delegates from the north-western counties of Virginia decided to switch sides and separate from Virginia. The Wheeling Convention of 1861 saw the 2 sides hash out a deal and in 1863 West Virginia was officially admitted as its own state. It is known as The Mountain State, simple because it is mainly mountains and hills. The opposite of Florida!
Fun fact: West Virginia is known for outstanding whitewater rafting, particularly along the Gauley and the New Rivers.
For that we get the MB442 Jeep Grand Cherokee with raft. Matchbox had 2 vehicles in their tooling bank that came with rafts on them. But did you know it was the same raft? They either put it on the back of a Ford F-series or on the roof of this Jeep. Of course the Jeep can be found without the raft too (as MB471) but more raft versions were made than non-raft versions. Plus this had a much longer timespan of use (1999-2016) compared with 2001-2004 of the non-raft version.
Nevada. The only other state to be admitted during the American Civil War. It was admitted in 1864. The name derives from the Spanish for snowy, which was originally for the Sierra Nevada. Sierra being Spanish for mountain range, and [originally] nevado for snowy. It changed to Nevada. It is known as the Silver State due to the discovery of silver in the deserts in the mid 1800s and the ensuing silver rush. The area was picked clean of silver over a few decades.
Fun fact: Nevada is best known for its elaborate hotels and casinos at Las Vegas.
So with that fun fact, it was pretty obvious the MB446 International Armored Car was the model chosen for it. Oddly, the side design spelled it a non-US way, with a “u” in Armored. The model was also painted silver(ish) due to it being the silver state. It’s amazing how this little Armored Car just keeps on going. Debuting in 2000 it was last seen in 2019, although has been material swapped (metal/plastic) into MB873.
After the American Civil War ended it didn’t take long for another state to be recognised. Nebraska. Joining in 1867 as the 37th state, Nebraska takes its name from Nebrathka, an Otoe name for the Platte River. Literally it means flat water. It does sound weird, but I guess it was more likely meaning no waterfalls, or any sudden changes in the levels, as all water is inherently flat as a mass. Known as The Cornhusker State, when people first arrived there as the land was being given away free, they discovered vegetation was very limited. They farmed the land and built it up from basically nothing to become quite the agricultural epicenter of the country.
Fun fact: Chief crops include corn, soybeans and wheat. Nicknamed the Cornhusker State.
This gave us the MB450 Ford F-series Dump Truck. Based on the same casting as the raft version, with the dump on the rear being the only difference, this casting sadly did not quite have the same shelf life as the raft version. It debuted in 2000 and finished in 2005. During that time it briefly became MB590 (sans interior) before reverting back for its final outing.
They did actually give it its own base though but because it is inherently the same base as the raft version, they did get mixed up occasionally.
Next up in the list is Colorado. Admitted in 1876, 9 years after the last state, it is basically Spanish for “coloured red”. The Spanish gave the river there (the Colorado River) the name because of the red sandstone soil it had and the name eventually depicted the entire region. As I said, it was admitted in 1876, exactly 100 years after the signing of The Declaration of Independence, so for that it has the nickname the Centennial State.
Fun fact: Colorado is known for its excellent ski trails. Popular ski destinations include Vail, Aspen and Telluride.
So it was no easy stretch to discover they were choosing the MB418 Snowmobile. This casting had been around since 1999, but after 2003 it only ever saw one more use. As I mentioned a few weeks back it was in a 2006 Dino Egg.
It’s the turn of the twins. The Dakota Territory had been around since 1861, but after splitting off 2 sections into other territories, in 1889 the decided to split what was left into 2 halves, North and South Dakota and admit them both into the union at the same time. The Dakota tribe originated in the area, with Dakota meaning friend, or ally. Known as the Peace Garden State, it originated when the International Peace Garden was opened in 1932. Stretching across the US/Canadian border (the other half is in the Province of Manitoba) the state Department of Motor Vehicles decided to add the name to license plates in the 1950s. People liked it so much it became official.
Fun fact: North Dakota sometimes calls itself the “Rough Rider” state, a reference to Theodore Roosevelt, who owned ranch land in the state. Roosevelt founded the Rough Riders in San Antonio.
So they chose the MB222 Highway Maintenance Truck with plow to service the rough roads. MB222 (or MB652 without the plow) has been around since 1990 and after being converted into a solid plow/base section with a new number MB954 for 2014, still pops up occasionally. I always wondered with this particular release though. Did they forget to include the number initially? I do feel that the ND39 printed on the hood was a bit of an after-thought.
The other twin, South Carolina. As stated previously, both North and South Dakota were admitted to the union on the same day. The only time this has ever happened. South Dakota is known as the Mount Rushmore State. I wonder why?
Fun fact: The images of four U.S. presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – are sculpted into the side of Mount Rushmore, a 5,700-foot high mountain near Rapid City.
Ah that could be why….
The MB486 Jeep Wrangler with luggage is the vehicle chosen as a tour vehicle for anybody wanting to visit Mount Rushmore. First arriving in 2001 as an offshoot of the earlier MB369 Wrangler, this casting has been fairly popular over the years. It was last seen in the 2018 Globe Travelers series.
Our next stop on the tour of USA takes us to Montana. After the twins joined, it was less than a week before Montana joined up too. Montana is literally Spanish for mountain (minus the tilde over the “n”). This is because a lot of Montana is covered by mountains. In fact, it is the 4th largest state, yet 8th least populated because of it. Sometimes known as the Treasure State due to having so many mineral reserves, it is sometimes referred to as Big Sky Country too due to a State Highway promotion in the 1960s.
Fun fact: Montana’s Glacier National Park offers visitors panormaic views of Rocky Mountain glaciers and glacial lakes.
Whoa! They didn’t tell you about the grizzly bear though did they? One of the largest communities of grizzlies is in Glacier National Park. The species is classed as vulnerable now, as they are slightly different to the usual brown bear. Larger, bigger claws, and a hump over their shoulders to facilitate digging. They are now the state animal of Montana, so take pride of place on the side of the MB187 Ford Bronco II. First arriving in 1987, this casting with it’s little opening sunroof only ever saw this release in the 21st century. It had last been seen in 1999 before this swansong appeared in this set.
This brings us to Washington. You know what? They went from 38 states to 42 in 9 days! The biggest influx ever in such a short period. Three days after Montana had joined the twins in being admitted, Washington also signed up. Named after the first president of USA, George Washington, whose family tree dates back to a small town in England called Washington. First settled under the name “Wasindone” which translates from old English as “people of the hill by the stream” over time it evolved into Washington as it is today. George Washington’s family originated there, taking the town name as their surname as was the custom in England. Many took their surname as meaning where they were from, or what they did for a living (this is why there were so many Smiths). Washington in England actually celebrates American Independence Day each July 4th too. Washington state is known as the Evergreen State due to the abundance of evergreen trees.
Fun fact: Washington is known for apple production, aircraft manufacturing, and software publishing.
I guess a lot of apple pickers get injured as they seem to have their own specialist ambulance. The MB498 Ambulance was a recent casting at the time, as it had only just debuted in 2001. However it was short lived. It was never seen again after 2003. At some point I will get the variation on this particular model. I don’t have everything. A late production run saw the dome wheels swapped out for lace. I keep meaning to get it, and keep forgetting.
But what I do have is the McDonald’s version. This was in a more traditional white colour scheme, although you still got the same design if you applied the labels in their correct places.The license plate was black. There’s not a lot of variation in black. But the printing on the sticker on it was much lighter for the McDonald’s promotion.
I’m not sure why this ambulance was dropped so quickly. A new casting was created for 2004 to replace it. Another appeared in 2006 but was used alongside the 2004 one for a number of years. Perhaps this casting broke. It does happen occasionally.
After a brief flurry over 9 days it was less than 8 months before Idaho came a-knocking in mid 1890. Joining as the 43rd state, Idaho…. was a made up word! Supposedly invented by George M. Willing who claimed it was a native American word for “gem of the mountains” nobody fact-checked. By they time they realized he had made it up everybody was using it. It just stuck. What a gem! Oh wait, that’s the state nickname; the Gem State, due to the abundance of natural resources and scenic views.
Fun fact: Idaho’s annual Spud Day, held in Shelley, celebrates the state’s large potato crop. Events include a parade, music and a cook-off. Idaho produces more potatoes than any other states (about 28% of the national crop).
So we get the Annual Spud Day Parade Truck in the way of the MB436 Chevy Suburban. First released in 2000, this casting just keeps trucking. Of course it did receive a mild modification into MB857 in 2014, but was still a part of the 2019 basic range.
Wyoming is alphabetically last of the US states, but 7th from last (as it currently stands as of time of writing, who knows what the future will bring). They joined exactly one week after Idaho did. But this state did have a story behind their name. It is a contraction of the Native American word “mecheweamiing” which the Delaware people used to the refer to the place as. It meant “at the big plains”. They are known as the Equality State. This was down to the fact that Wyoming were the first area to grant women the right to vote. They passed this ruling in 1869 as a means to bolster the requirement for having enough voting people to apply for statehood. At first it gave them the nickname “the Suffrage State” before changing it to “the Equality State”.
Fun fact: The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, includes memorabilia from the career of outdoorsman and entertainer William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose traveling “Wild West” shows entertained audiences for three decades, beginning in 1883.
Now had it been 1983 I am sure he would have been traveling around in something a bit more like this. The MB417 Truck Camper. Maybe not quite this, as it was only created in 1999, but something a little similar. This model had a bit of a sporadic life popping up in various ranges until finally retiring in 2013 in a Hitch ‘n Haul set.
Utah. The last state to be admitted in the 19th century. They signed up in 1896. Coming from an Apache word “yuttahih” which basically just means higher, the Europeans thought that it referred to those living in the mountains. They started referring to them as Utes which eventually became Utah. Utah is known as the Beehive State. The Mormons were early settlers and in “The Book of Mormon”, Deseret was a honeybee. Through their hard work and industry they were likened to a beehive, and in 1847 it became their emblem.
Fun fact: Utah’s mountain peaks are among the tallest in the United States, many reaching over 11,000 feet. Popular ski destinations include Park City Alta, and Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Games.
One of my favourite castings, the MB485 Ford Explorer Sport Trac. I was such a big fan of the opening rear tailgate and netting that could swing over to cover the end. It was such a cool play feature. Hence me putting up 2 pictures to show it off. I was so disappointed as it only ran from 2001 until 2003 before being cost-reduced in 2004 to seal the tailgate and remove the netting. The cost-reduced version did continue until 2012. This particular issue was in the livery of a Ski Patrol vehicle.
And now we move into the 20th century. With OOOOklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…. A little bit of Rogers & Hammerstein to keep us going. In fact, this song is now the official song of Oklahoma the state, as they adopted it officially in 1953. Oklahoma itself became a state in 1907. Adapted from the Choktaw words for “okla” meaning red and “humma” meaning people. Known as Native America as there are still many native Americans there, and also as the Sooner State. When land was first offered to newcomers in 1889 they had to prove over the course of 5 years that the 160 acres they received was being improved on. People tried to cheat the system and lay claim to land without going through the proper channels. They were referred to as “sooners”. Over time the name went from being a negative connotation to a positive one.
Fun fact: Oklahoma’s livestock production includes cattle, hogs and sheep.
Well if there is cattle involved, then it was time to dig out the old MB071 Dodge Cattle Truck. This casting had a very long life. It first debuted in 1977 and ran until 1993. It then came back in 1999 for a couple more years. This proved to be its swansong after 25 years. Mind you, the MB071 was actually an amalgamation of the MB4 Dodge Stake Truck which ran from 1967-1971 with 3 axles and the stake rear, as well as the MB37 Dodge Cattle Truck which sported a different rear but had cattle inside on its 2-axle base. So this model actually had its roots back in 1966.
Okay we are on the home stretch now. There were 2 states that joined in 1912. The first of those was New Mexico. Its name can trace its roots back to the Aztecs. The Aztec empire that were in the middle of the American continent were under the Mexica dynasty (who got their name from the century plant, as in the Nahuati language of the Aztecs, Mexitli means place in the middle of the century plant). When the Spanish came and built upon the whole of the Western side of North America (USA and Canada), across the south of USA and through Mexico and into South America. The Spanish Empire took the name and applied it to a large area calling it Nueva Mexico. When Mexico fought for independence from Spain, they Mexican Empire covered much of what is now lower USA, but after the Mexico-American war, Nuevo Mexico was handed over to USA. They anglicized the name in 1850 as an incorporated territory. When it finally was admitted to the union in 1912, it stood as the longest serving incorporated territory (62 years). It is known as the Land of Enchantment, which appears on license plates too. This is down to the scenic beauty and rich history of the land.
Fun fact: The famous Rio Grande River flows south from Colorado, through New Mexico, and along the Texas-Mexico border.
The MB489 Ford Expedition Police was chosen as the vehicle for this. It sports a Rio Grande Rescue livery on the side. The Ford Expedition originally started in 1999 as a civilian vehicle with the MAN number MB390 before branching out to a police variant in 2001. The police version saw usage until 2012, but did spawn its own spinoff as the color changer MB1060 appeared in 2018. The original MB390 though is still carrying on as a civilian, although did see a recent alteration into MB1132.
Only a month after New Mexico arrived in 1912, Arizona was also admitted completing what is known as the 48 contiguous states. Stemming from a Spanish translation of an original O’odham word Arisona, this is where the Tohono O’odham Native Americans originated (well through what is now Arizona and Sonora in Mexico). It meant “place of the small spring”. The stats is known as The Grand Canyon State. Something to with a big hole.
Fun fact: Arizona’s spectacular Grand Canyon is 217 miles long, 4 to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. Many visitors tour the canyon by mule train, observing many different rock layers as they descend.
Okay correction: very big hole….
The model chosen for this was the MB273 Isuzu Rodeo. Now anybody who read any of my recent blog reports may have thought “wait I thought he referred to it as [blank]”. This casting has a bit of a strange history. When it first arrived back in 1995, the area on the base where the name would go would be left blank. Depending on which market it was destined for would determine what name would be tampo printed on to the base. For the US market, it saw Isuzu Rodeo. For ROW markets, it saw Vauxhall Frontera, except for German specific releases where it saw Opel Frontera. Although there was one worldwide 5-pack issue where they just didn’t bother at all. It just had no name. But collectors informally went by the Isuzu Rodeo name purely as that was the one that hit first. But when this model came out, Matchbox decided to just go with it themselves.
They finally officially named it Isuzu Rodeo in 2002. The updated base, as it sported the oval logo instead of the lozenge it had been using until then, saw Isuzu Rodeo officially put on it. They were still tampo printing things, as at the time date codes were being applied (or in the case of mine, applied twice due to messing up the first attempt). However, after this, it only saw 1 more outing, as a Hitch ‘n Haul model in 2006. So we only have 2 officially named Isuzu Rodeo models, and many tampo printed with what they felt was appropriate (or not in the case of that 5-pack).
So now we move further afield. Alaska. To get to Alaska from any of the 48 contiguous states you either have to drive through Canada, or get on a boat/plane. It is not connected to any other US state physically. This was the first of 2 unique areas joining statehood in 1959. Purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7.2million the name Alaska came from a Russian translation of an Aleut word Aleyska, which literally translates to “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed”. The Aleut people would be living on the Aleutian islands in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. It has the nickname “the Last Frontier”due to its distance away from the mainland.
Fun fact: Alaska is known for its vast, snow-covered wilderness. Exports include oil, timber, minerals, and fish.
Well as Alaska is known for being a snowy place, it was pretty obvious we were going to get some sort of snow-related vehicle for it. The MB480 Arctic Atrack Truck had just arrived in the 2001 range, so was a good choice in the Alaska Snow Tracker design. The casting was retired after a 2005 Easter Egg appearance.
The final state (as things stand at the moment) that also joined in 1959 is Hawaii. Captain James Cook discovered Hawaii in 1778, naming them The Sandwich Islands, but locals took back the name in 1819 when King Kamehameha I united the islands under the name Kingdom of Hawai’i. However, at the end of the 19th century, the archipelago was annexed to the US. In 1959 they became the 50th state. Hawai’i itself is supposedly homeland in their native tongue. It is known as the “Aloha State”. Aloha has many meanings – love, affection, peace, compassion, mercy etc. It has a deep and significant cultural and spiritual significance to the Hawaiian people. Many think it just means hello, but it doesn’t. In fact there is no English translation for it.
Fun fact: Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches and tropical climate. Exports include pineapple, sugar, nuts and coffee.
We get another Jeep Wrangler for this state. However, this is the original MB369 casting, which debuted in 1999 and was last seen in 2017. It also spawned the MB1064 Color Changer offshoot in 2017 which was last seen in 2019. Brightly coloured in fluorescent yellow with a lovely beach theme, and a big pineapple on the front.
So there we go. The 50 state Across America series and one completed board to boot. I hope you enjoyed the journey.
But wait, there’s more. They issued 3 different 3-packs too, and each one contained something unique.
One had a unique MB042 ’57 Ford Thunderbird representing USA included, on top of the Pennsylvania and Georgia issues. The Thunderbird being a mainstay of the Matchbox series since debuting in 1982. In fact, it has had its latest release in the 2020 series.
They also included a Canadian model, the MB427 Mercedes-Benz ML430 in silvery blue with a polar bear theme and a Canadian license plate in a pack that also contained the Florida and Montana models. I mentioned the ML430 previously as it was also the Connecticut model.
Finally, the MB180 Land Rover Ninety also appeared in a Mexican themed design as well as a Mexico license plate in a pack that also had the Arizona and New Jersey models. The Land Rover (through its MB180 number, then MB721, then back to MB180) has been a mainstay of the Matchbox toolbank since it debuted back in 1987.
As well as the 3-packs, a special limited edition model on single pack was created for Puerto Rico. Packaged just like the original 50, this was supposed to have been a K-Mart exclusive, but if I recall they were extremely difficult to find. There was going to be a Guam issue too, but they never made it. This was the MB438 VW Concept 1 Beetle Convertible. Debuting in 1999 the casting ran until 2011.
And we are still not done.
If you were to collect so many models you could mail in for some bonus ones. The West bonus model revisited California, giving us another version of the MB359 ’55 Chevy Bel Air Convertible. This one though, instead of a surf shop theme gave us a California Legend Tour design as California is well known for its film scene.
Central came back to Texas, and another of the MB186 Dodge Dakota. This one though was just a simple Lone Star design on the sides and a set of horns emblazoned on the hood. Considering this was also a McDonald’s model, we did get a lot of Texas Dakotas (as I mentioned it finished in 2003 with Sandy from SpongeBob also with Texas maps on it).
If you picked up the South bonus model, you saw another of the MB366 ’98 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible casting for Florida. Except this time it wasn’t showing off its oranges, this one was in a Joe’s Alligator Corral livery.
Finally, it was the North East. Massachusetts returned and along with it the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle, except this time it was sporting a Patriot’s Day parade.
But if you were to collect all the models, you would receive a unique “Capital” model. As Washington D.C., the capital of USA is not officially in a state. The Residence Act of 1790 approved the creation of this unique area under the jurisdiction of the US congress, and therefore outside of any state. George Washington was the first president, and approved this himself. It was named after him. The District of Columbia was was named because Columbia was a name given to the “new world” when early explorers found this new land. When the United States was born though, the name Columbia was not chosen for a country name. But they decided to utilize it in the capital’s full name.
So there you go. A full run down of the Across America series.
50 states, and if you got all the extras, these 9 license plates (or 15 if you include the McDonald’s duplicates which are basically just shade variations). A total of 59 unique license plates. However, there is a 60th plate.
In June 2002 a toy fair took place in Palm Springs in California. It featured the MB512 Robot Truck that had just arrived in 2001. But inside the box was a 60th license plate.
The Robot Truck, with its extending aerial and opening door revealing the robot had debuted in the 2001 basic range and was last used in 2007 in a Haunted House playset.
So there you go. One extremely long (sorry about that) insight into the Across America series. Now you know so much more (or you fell asleep, one or the other). I really hope this was not too much for people. I promised I will make a shorter blog report next week. 500 words max.
So that’s it. I need a break. Right I’m off to the Kentucky Derby.