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.
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.
“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!
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.