Don’t take your favourite magazine for granted: A tribute to Model Collector

I was sad to hear that Model Collector, a long-running diecast magazine published in the UK, had closed. It was a reminder that nothing lasts forever and the end of another link to the pre-Internet world of collecting.

Model Collector – originally Die-Cast and Tin Plate Model Collector – was started as a quarterly in summer 1987 with Richard West as editor. The magazine was published by Link House, which also published Stamp Magazine, where Richard – a stamp expert and diecast collector – was also editor. He later received an MBE for services to philately.

I believe the only other UK title in the diecast space at the time was Collectors’ Gazette, a newspaper with more of a trade feel to it, but Model Collector brought something different. There was news and new model previews in the front end, followed by well-researched feature articles and professional photography – mostly black and white to begin with, later full colour.

Model Collector was a big success. It went bi-monthly in 1988 and monthly in 1990. Three years later came the first annual Model Price Guide, which was an invaluable resource to collectors like me, especially in the pre-web age.

I subscribed to Model Collector for a few years, beginning with the third issue – Winter 1987. I was 12 years old at the time! That one had articles on DCMT Crescent, bus conversions, ambulances and the regular Dinky Toys feature, among others. There was also a roundup of new releases – it was one of the main ways to find out about new models in that pre-digital age. There were many pages of adverts for model dealers, too, most of whom are sadly no longer in business. I loved reading it. As a kid I devoured magazines, mostly about cars and aeroplanes, and they inspired me to become a professional writer.

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The first copy that I bought – the third issue to be published – Winter 1987

 

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Q&A from the Winter ’87 issue and a great advert for large-scale Solido and Majorette!

I still have a few dozen copies and refer back to the knowledge in those articles, knowing that it’s often material I won’t find online. Model Collector attracted some great writers, like Mike and Sue Richardson (world authorities on Dinky Toys), Roger Mazillius (who ran Vectis Models and founded Vectis Auctions, whose shop I visited a lot when my Dad took a job in a bank on the same street) and Nigel Cooper, the ninth Matchbox Ambassador.

“I was sorry to hear of the demise of Model Collector,” says Nigel, who kindly agreed to share some memories of the magazine with Lamley readers. “I wrote many articles as well as the Matchbox section of the price guide for more than 20 years. I also tried to answer Matchbox-related questions from young and old.

“Richard West and I were members of the Maidenhead Static Model Club. As my particular interest was Matchbox miniatures, as opposed to Yesteryears, which [at the time] appealed to far more collectors, he asked me if I would be interested to write some articles.

“I attended a monthly meeting at a pub in London called The Savoy Tavern where collectors and ex-Lesney employees gathered to meet. This was a rich source of material for articles as a preproduction model could usually be found at a very reasonable cost. Tales from [the former Lesney factory at] Lee Conservancy Road also abounded.

“Richard wanted me to send models from my collection to his Croydon offices to be photographed. When the first batch was returned to me poorly packed, I refused to send any more, as these were often some of my rarest models. He then asked if I would write several articles and he would bring a photographer to my house for a day! Shortly afterwards I would receive an envelope with hundreds of tiny negatives that I would have to hold up to the light and choose which were most suitable. This lasted for several years.

“One popular series featured Regular Wheels from 1953 until 1969, with each magazine dedicated to a specific year of issue. I tried to include colour schemes that had not been issued, often known as colour trials, and a photo of the complete range from that year in an original display from that year. By this time Tom Hadley had taken over as editor.

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October 1998 issue featuring Nigel’s piece about Matchbox in 1961

“I later wrote several more articles when appointed to be the Matchbox Ambassador, but I have missed writing for Model Collector. Especially in its early years it had very high sales – 30,000 springs to mind, but I could be wrong. The articles generated plenty of responses and I was particularly pleased to hear from ex-Lesney employees.”

I’ve no doubt that Model Collector – by now published by My Time Media – found life tough in recent years, as many consumer magazines have done since people started looking online for free-to-read news and information. Its demise may come as no surprise in an age when blogs, Instagram and Facebook are the first places to look for diecast news and the latest prototype pictures. This blog is one of many examples of resources that didn’t exist in Model Collector’s heyday.

Latterly, it felt like there were often articles on topics that might appeal to a shrinking audience of older British collectors, like buses and OO-railway-scale (1:76) models, rather than new trends like JDM and Gassers, but I still enjoyed reading them and would always find interesting details. I guess growing up with Model Collector makes me an older British collector!

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Fast forward 21 years, and Model Collector had my story on Matchbox’s plans for 2020

I will miss Model Collector, and not only because the final editor, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Lindsey Amrani, was kind enough to publish a handful of articles that I wrote on Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Perhaps I’m biased when I say that good journalism doesn’t come for free. But that is why magazines, newspapers and many of the best websites charge for content. We all have our favourite sources of information online – and the Lamley blog is a great one – but please don’t assume that magazines will always be there when you want them. The dramatic reduction in sales during COVID-19 is but the latest challenge that publishers have had to face.

I’d urge you to go out and buy a magazine about something that interests you, or subscribe to the digital version online. Magazines are still places where you’ll find expertise and thoroughly researched feature articles about your favourite subject – whether it’s Diecast Collector (which followed in Model Collector’s footsteps, and thankfully continues to be published), Scale Auto, Gardeners’ World or Muscle & Fitness! Farewell, Model Collector, and thanks for the memories.

Find back issues of Model Collector magazine on eBay

Graham Heeps

7 thoughts on “Don’t take your favourite magazine for granted: A tribute to Model Collector

  1. The other sad reasons are even manufacturers and companies don’t promote their products like many years ago. Eg , Mbx…strangled to nothing for availability. Yet play on UK’s historical moments .No fairs in my local area as was. Nothing now it seems. Out of range and Price. Why should UK pay more?… Nothing for any newly collectors and old. Sad for the magazine. I used to get them.year’s ago and certain ones. Sorry to hear. Take care.

  2. I used to love reading Model Collector when I was younger. I believe I have a big stack of magazines at my parents house still. I used to get them all as they came out for many years. Sad to hear it go.

  3. Sorry to see MC go. However, Graham has forgotten about Model Auto Review (MAR), which was around in print when MC started up and is still around, albeit only in digital format, on Facebook and as a website marline.org.uk MAR was a more serious enthusiast publication compared to MC and DCC which are both very much commercial ventures.

  4. i had the magazine for years, however, after the last few months of lies, lies and more lies as well as illegally selling data i am glad they have gone.

    I received the magazines dated January and February, as usual no issues, then March’s never arrived, i emailed the link to enquire, nothing, did it again, nothing, then my other half did it as they paid for the sub for xmas, for me, again no reply, i asked on their no defunct FB page, nothing, so when Aprils, never arrived, i wrote, and had no reply to that either, May’s never appeared, so i called to say that “due to covid they had stopped producing them and were unsure when that may start again” LIES, my mate had all three missing ones, as i read them, i then called again for June only to be told the exact same thing, and once i said that was lies and i had actually read them, they miraculously, had my missing ones to hand to send me, which they did eventually i asked about July, and they stated that due to covid, they were pausing production, LIES, the content providers had already moved over to the other magazine by then and were producing content for them.

    They assured me that i would hear something by the end of that week 26th June, Nah, never happened, so LIES again, then i received the magazine from Diecast Collector, a magazine i never subscribed too, and how did they get my details, i never gave it to them, under the new laws this was in breach of privacy, to pass on private details and no doubt banking details too, to ensure continued delivery, is in breach of all sorts of UK laws, NONE of which were addressed by MC before they had decided to close some months before, as this would not have been a last minute decision, so as far as i am concerned a good magazine ruined by idiots that couldn’t run a tea party, I hope that the regulators find out about the selling off of customers info without permission, and fine them appropriately……

    1. That’s not good. Having worked on magazines for many years I know this stuff is often out of the control of the editorial staff. It’s a pity that it ended this way for you.

  5. Sad to learn that the mag is no more. Some years ago now I co-wrote an article on the Matchbox/White Rose NASCAR models with Nigel for it, and then a couple of my own on the same series of models for the Motor Sport spin-off they had for a time.
    The publishing world has been hit by the pandemic as much as any other business. While readers have been able to pick up the new issues through subscribing – although the experience noted above sounds horrendous – or through ordering single issues online, publishers have been seriously hit by the fact that W.H. Smith stores, by far the biggest point of purchase in the UK, have generally only been open where they have a Post Office sited in store.
    One of the magazines I contribute to on in an entirely different subject is closing its doors at the end of the month as publishers tighten their budgets. Sadly, they – and Model Collector – won’t be the last.

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