Matchbox Monday heads back home

It’s that time of the week again. This week I have not obtained these items through my usual Wheel Collectors channel, as this is a UK exclusive set of models. Well half of the UK exclusive set. There are 12 models in the series and the first 6 have arrived in batch A with another batch coming later in the year. However, I just want to make sure, before I dive into the models, that people understand the reasoning behind creating these country exclusive sets. UK and Germany have already started appearing, and we have a few more countries coming later in the year too. Some people are under the assumption that this is some type of reward for a country achieving great sales of Matchbox. For example, people in Australia may be wondering when their set of models is coming. But it is actually slightly different. Mattel are purposely aiming these at areas where they want to try and boost sales. Areas they believe by adding in some exclusive content for them it can help to build the brand higher.

The UK used to be one of their biggest markets. Recently quite a lot of people know that things have declined sharply. Being in the UK myself I have seen it. We used to walk in many stores to check out Matchbox. Morrisons, Sainsbury, Asda, Tesco, Toys R Us, WHSmith, The Entertainer, Toymaster, Woolworth, small independent toy stores. The list goes on. They were everywhere. Sadly, Woolworth went bust, Toys R us went down the pan, and other toy stores just started dropping them. A few years back they became an Asda exclusive. That was it. One store. The only exception were the Jurassic World items as these were officially marketed as a different entity in the UK, that just happened to have some of their items fall under the Matchbox branding. Then all of a sudden Asda decided to drop them. The UK had nothing. For 6 months no outlet whatsoever, for a brand that actually started in the country. Eventually Tesco popped up and said they would take them. That was a year and a half ago. As it stands, we still only have Tesco selling them. And they don’t sell a lot of toys, so take singles, 5-packs, 9-packs, Skybusters and now the new small Action Driver playsets. Sales are still not where Mattel would like them to be. So bring in a country exclusive set. Try and boost these sales with something specifically for the UK market. Try and get people more interested, talk up the brand, hopefully leading to more avenues for selling them. I would love to hear of a new batch appearing, and do a hunt around all the local stores. I used to do that, visiting many chains of stores all at once to see what each one was selling. One store gets too many of one particular batch, it’s okay another store will get the following batch. We never skipped batches until recently. A single outlet is tough. Tesco over-ordered 2020 batch A, and took a small order of B, a tiny order of C, then skipped D & E completely jumping to 2020 batch F to catch up. Those trying to collect the entire 1-100 series in the UK will have been very frustrated.

Will this work? I hope so. I am keeping my fingers crossed that giving the UK their own series of models will help to build the image back up. At the moment, it is still only Tesco selling, so they are the only place we will find these Best of models officially. Of course you will find some hobby dealers are able to get them as well, and supply them through their avenue. But if you were to visit a store, at the moment you will be looking at just Tesco. Hopefully, if this works, we could be adding a second store outlet, maybe a third. Who knows. They could start appearing in numerous places again. We just need to keep plugging away at them. Keep buying them up and hopefully stores will get wind of them doing well at Tesco stores and request to take them on again. I know Mattel get just as frustrated as we collectors do over not having them in numerous stores in the UK. Weirdly though, I have heard this batch is also being sold in Walmart stores in Canada.

But with all that out of the way, I should concentrate on the models themselves shouldn’t I. Taking the number 1 slot out of the 12 models we will get this year in exclusive UK packaging is the MB1086 Scania P360 Fire Engine.

Now I know some may be saying this is not a British made Fire Engine. Again, just as the whole series had a reasoning that was different to how some people thought it was (increasing sales, not a reward), the vehicles themselves do not have to be British made vehicles. The majority are, but the idea behind the series is a look that is seen in the country. Therefore, to children in particular (as remember they are the priority for this toy brand) the fire engine looks like the style of fire engine you would see in Britain. It has a very British feel to the tampo design. This is what they are looking for. Many fire engines in Britain will be from other non-British manufacturers, and Scania fire engines are a common sight around Britain. I think personally it is a great choice.

The model even sees 3 sides of tampo printing as both sides and the front receive tampo. The front in particular is again very good. A classic “Fire Rescue” backwards, because you know, a honking great big fire truck coming down the road behind you sirens blaring, lights flashing, when you look in your rear view mirror and see Fire Rescue now corrected, that is the only way you would know it is a fire engine and helpfully move out of the way to let it past. It is how they come in the UK. Same with Ambulances, Police Cars, and some other vehicles. Write the type of vehicle across the front so that you can read it in the rear view mirror. I can see it with some of the smaller ones, but a fire engine stands out. You see one barreling down the road behind you, you know what it is before you read anything. I always found that funny, and seeing it on the model just gives me a huge grin on my face. Thank you Michael Heralda.

I noticed the little A58 on the door pillar. This is a Michael Heralda special.

You see the Scania may be Swedish, but when you add in a tampo design it gets a different feel. the debut look was very German. Feuerwehr on the sides gives this a totally different look. A British fire engine, a German fire engine. It was MB56 in the 2018 basic range.

Of course we also saw 2 promotional issues at about the same time. A triple whammy of a debut so to speak. A red, as well as a Breast Cancer pink model were created for Everett Marshall’s 13th annual golf tournament that year.

The only other issue we have had is the 2019 MB46. It took 2020 off, so I am happy seeing the casting return. Plus that too had a front print alongside the 2 sides. I have to admit after 2019, seeing nothing for 2020 I was wondering if it was going to have the same fate as the previous new fire engine casting.

Or I should clarify, the last one that actually made it. So sad we never saw the Volvo FL6H Fire Engine casting at all. But the one before that was the MB964 ’75 Mack CF Fire Pumper. It arrived as MB55 in the 2015 basic range. It also serves as its last outing in the basic range.

It saw 2 lots of promotions that year too. It was the dinner model at the annual Matchbox Gathering in Albuquerque NM. The difference between the first 75 early birds and the rest was to do with whether it had a roof print.

It was also Everett’s 11th annual golf tournament model in either green or Breast Cancer research pink. a busy start.

But then for 2016 we saw a single Best of issue in gold, which if you hunted around you could find in lighter or darker shades of gold. But after that, there was nothing. An older ’63 Mack also stopped in 2016. Whether there is an issue with Mack itself I do not know. But this model arrived and a year later departed. Glad to see the Scania didn’t follow the same pattern.

I just threw in a random MB35-A Merryweather Fire Engine picture as the Scania does remind me of this Lesney classic. I am not sure if London Fire Service exists. Maybe an opportunity for a retro look at some point.

Taking the number 2 slot in the range is the MB1167 ’11 Mini Cooper Countryman. Although Cooper was not included in the artwork on the package.

Definitely included on the car though. Clearly the logo is on the back, and across the rear numberplate too (I say numberplate as this is British so I should say it the British way).

The model is in solid grey for this release. The official name for it is Moonwalk grey. It is a proper Mini Countryman colour choice.

Not the first solid grey release in 2021 either. But just in case you were wondering, the MB1168 Dodge Charger that was in batch A of the basic range is a much lighter grey.

So obviously the Mini has not been around for too long. It made its debut in the 2019 basic range as MB1 in green.

Although if you looked around you could find shades of green.

The model was also included as an extra in the 2020 Convoy series, but again the shade of green was noticeably different too.

We also saw a Top Gun Maverick 5-pack issue in green. But this time it had added white stripes across the front. And black wheels, just like the new one has.

BTW that series also had a grey Dodge. These solid greys are getting quite common now. the MB759 Dodge Challenger was in the other 5-pack though. This one appears to be a much closer shade than the new Charger though.

For 2020’s basic range, we saw an MB11 in red.

But what direction should I take this in for a throwback? Could I go with the MB579 Mini Cooper S? Well, I only recently did a bunch of Minis. I think I am going to go completely radical with this. Throw people way WAAAAAY off with my choice. Because you see, the Mini Cooper Countryman is officially classed as an SUV. A Sports Utility Vehicle. But just what is an SUV? In a way they can be traced back to the 1930s. But during the 1970s ideas started floating about for something in between the 4x4s and cars again and alongside the Minivans that were known came a breed of new offerings in different styles. SUVs were born out of these. An early side step was the LAV. The Leisure Activity Vehicle. One of the early ones was this.

The Matra Rancho. Ha! I bet you didn’t see that coming. Some say that this was one of the first crossover SUVs, although the term SUV has such ambiguity that you could throw quite a few vehicles in there. But an LAV and a Mini as an SUV are a match made in, well, I haven’t got a clue. But I did say that some of my bounce backs could become quite radical. Please let me know if you would like me to stop doing these. I go shooting off subject a lot as I enjoy pulling out random models for my articles. But if people prefer me to just stick to the current items I honestly don’t mind, as it will save me a lot of time (I mean loads), and make for a much shorter and easier read. If not, you are going to see more radical departures like this Matra and Mini combo.

Of course you may be wondering which release of the Matra Rancho this is. Well, it isn’t one. The model was being released as MB37 in the ROW market for 1982 and initial pre-production samples were painted red with a black tailgate that opened (a lot, I mean it literally just falls open as you walk by).

The model came with an incomplete date on the base. ©19…

The …82 was added later.

When MB037 was finally unleashed as an ROW exclusive casting (it wasn’t sold in the US market) it was blue with a blue tailgate.

And that first year did throw us some shade variations on both body and tailgate.

In 1983 it turned yellow with an orange side stripe.

Yellow was sold in the basic range in ROW countries for 2 years and during that time you did find some that would come with golden wheels instead of the usual chrome ones.

The black tailgate returned too. However, this was not some leftover pre-production samples they just cleared out the factory, the model was also being used in twin pack production and some late basics got the twin pack model’s black rear before the casting was finally shipped off to Macau for production in 1985.

So let me get my head around twin pack issues. In 1984, upon the return of twin packs to the Matchbox range, they changed from starting at 1 to starting at 101. that first issue in the first year was the Matra Rancho towing a Pony Trailer. But during the 1 year of production they mainly used blues, just like the regular 1982 basic range issue. The only difference was that bases were now black.

It still had a blue tailgate on the back.

But the factory would mix and match a few things. Twin packs in particular used to get a lot of mix-ups and the blue issue could be found with the yellow base and yellow tailgate of the basic range issue at the time.

As seen with this shot. You could even find a complete yellow model in the twin pack. There is a blue, with yellow base/tailgate and gold wheels I am still trying to hunt down too. As I said, things got mixed up a lot.

They also released a TP-110 Matra Rancho and Inflatable on Trailer. This one was a different look as it was dark blue with Surf Rescue and R tampo printing on top, white stripe down the side. Early issues had a light blue tailgate. But a late run saw it change to black, the same black as appeared on the yellow basic. I actually don’t have the blue with black tailgate TP issue yet.

But I do have the 1985 issue. As I said, production moved to Macau in 1985 and the dark blue became black. They also decided to just use this as the basic range issue too, and the MB37 for the final year on ROW markets turned into this black version too. They just didn’t want to make a yellow one in Macau.

I am amazed I don’t have the late English made blue TP issue yet with black base. It is actually easier to find than the yellow. But hey, still being on the look out is half the fun.

In 1986 the model was dropped from basic issues, but continued on for 3 more years as a twin pack issue. In 1987 saw a new look in the TP-110 pack as the Matra was now orange with a Surf 2 design.

After that, the model saw only sporadic uses in worldwide areas. In 1992, we saw a white model turn up in the Graffic Traffic series.

And the EM-82 Emergency packs saw a fluorescent yellow Matra in a Marine Rescue/Rescue 1 design.

Early looks for that design (making use of old stock at the R&D Centre) had additional roof designs that were eventually shelved for release.

But after that we saw a single random issue. It was in a 3-pack in 1996. These were usually just random models pulled from other ranges, but this was exclusive. It had the same design as the 1992 EM-82 issue, but now the model was blue and the tampo colours were all different. I wonder if there was a plan that got cancelled so they just used up the model in whatever they could.

It had a yellow base, but a blue tailgate, so not quite the same as the 1984 TP-101 issue which which had both.

Now officially, that was it for regular issues. But this model was sent to Bulgaria in 1991. At that point, Bulgaria did not need to send castings back after a year and so the model stayed in Bulgaria where it saw loads of production over many years. Early issues were plain, like this white (similar to Graffic Traffic) or blue (similar to debut) issue.

Then they started adding tampos. At first most simply had Rancho down the sides and Tourist across the front.

Or they tried a camouflage approach. I think. I just lost those models….

We saw emergency themed looks too, like the Fire 160 or Ambulance + models.

And as time went on, they started getting into more regular tampos, like Coca Cola, or celebrating Matchbox 50th Anniversary in the early 2000s. I always liked the Matra. It was just a bit different. Just like a Mini as an SUV is. Boom! Did it again. Managed to reiterate my stance of going wildly sideways with my Matra Rancho rundown.

And this brings us to the 3rd model, and last of the new issues in the set. Number 5 of 12 is the MB975 ’15 Jaguar F-type Coupe. You may notice that the set is not being released as the first 6/last 6 in the set, but numbers are randomly taken from the overall 12. The gaps will be filled in with batch B

To me this looks like it is the new Reims Edition of the F-type. I could be wrong. It could be aiming for Ultra Blue as Jaguar call it. Either way it is a striking shade of blue.

And as all Jag F-types have seen so far, this contains simple front and rear detailing only.

Talking of which, shall we go through them? It all started with the 2015 MB4 debut in black.

Which if you looked closely you might have found a slight window tint variation. Some were almost clear, others a little more smokey.

It 2016, it appeared in a much more striking “atacama orange” as Jaguar call it. It was MB15 in the basic range that year, before going on a small hiatus.

It took 2017 and 2018 off before finally returning in the final 9-pack of 2019 in British Racing Green.

And in 2020 it returned to the basic range as MB52 in a much darker shade of blue. Something that Jaguar refer to as “constellation”.

And that is it. Moving on. Oh maybe not quite yet. Having 5 issues so far leaves me a little short, as the remainder of the blog is short and sweet. So I might just randomly sidestep into another model. Because, this is me, and I often randomly go way off topic. In this case, something that the Jaguar reminds me of.

The Tesla Model S. MB903 has been with us the same length of time. Red was the 2015 MB7 debut. I remember when I saw both models, they reminded me of each other as once shrunk down to miniature size, they both featured the window section running all over the top of the model.

And although fairly similar in shape, obviously in real life they are 2 totally different cars. For starters one is fuel-driven and the other electric. One is a 2-door and the other a 4-door. One is British, the other US. One is blue, the other red. Oh wait, I am just concentrating on that one picture too much.

So the Tesla. We had a red debut. After that it was in the 2016 range as MB24.

Although I found the blue fairly consistent, I also found the smoke windows on this varied a little. I guess having a large window area makes it more noticeable.

But this one did last a little longer in the basic range. Where the Jag went on hiatus for a few years after 2016, the Tesla kept coming. MB26 in 2017 was this iridescent white one.

Although 2018 was its final basic range issue. It lasted twice as long as the Jag. Although you never know, after this MB29 in grey we may see more basics in the future.

The only other appearance for the model was when it was included in the 2020 Convoy series as a regular issue included with the Tesla Box Truck set.

Although supposedly a carry forward (as Mattel call them), the shade of red was quite significantly darker.

Talking of carry forwards, this is a part of the Best of series. Models for all countries will follow the current trend of basically having half new designs, half carry forward models. The other 3 in the set will be of models that have been seen before. The first is the MB1213 ’71 MGB GT Coupe. This is in the 9 of 12 slot in the range.

I have checked my new example to the previous 2020 MB61 issue, and I have to admit I cannot see any differences.

The good news is though, this batch at the time was skipped in the UK (it was in batch D which I had already mentioned was skipped in the UK) so the MGB was not seen. So for UK people personally, this is a chance to finally get this debut look for the MGB. Early indications are that it is working, as my local Tesco store is not holding on to this casting.

The next number in the series is 10 of 12, which is the carry forward MB697 ’97 Land Rover Defender 110.

This particular issue was originally a part of the 2016 Land Rover set in green.

Having a little more time between production runs gave me more hope with this one.

So let’s bring in the 2016 to compare.

The shade of green is pretty close, but I see a small difference in it.

But what I notice more is the grid pattern on the front tampo print being quite a lot different. These are the things that can happen with a number of years between production. Small changes for sure, but enough to warrant getting again if you are crazy like me.

Which brings us to 11 of 12. A repeat of the MB1208 LEVC TX Taxi that was originally in batches E and F in 2020. Oh dear, we are only 1 batch away from that in essence.

Which does mean that I have been unable to find anything unusual in the model. I have heard the rear plate’s shade of yellow can vary a little, but I did not find anything between this and the one I had already.

But for those who missed it first time around it would be a nice addition. It is very British after all, and you see loads of them on the road. Let’s be honest, half the ones (if not more) in real life will be black. You could have a fleet of these all the same and they would not look out of place. So I do not mind seeing this in black. I do hope for different looks going forward too.

Which brings us to the end of this report. Best of Germany will be showcased soon as I prepare my photos of those models.

But next week I have a different release I am going to tackle from 2021. Something I think is really cool. Until then, have a good and safe week.

15 Replies to “Matchbox Monday heads back home”

  1. Another very interesting article David. I must admit I was under the impression this UK series was designed as a thank you for increased sales so thanks for setting the record straight. I can imagine Mattel now regret ever letting Matchbox become exclusive to just one retailer ie. ASDA who then subsequently dropped them for no apparent reason. I do wonder though how sales can be increased massively by being available through other retailers large and small if the independent importers and distributors don’t have access to them?

    1. Yes, I just wanted to make sure that people knew the reasonning behind the Best of series. They were heading in the wrong direction with their thoughts so I needed to make sure they knew why. USA being the biggest market will obviously not get a Best of US set. They don’t need it. Australia, as mentioned, are doing well, so also will not get one. They are looking at other markets where they see potential to increase sales and try to come up with a plan for them.

  2. It’s nice to see an MG returning, specially in this scale. However, how did they come up with its name?! It is officially called, MG MGB GT.. (MGB GT on the car..) Coupé is a typical addition from the US market, where everything 2-door is supposed to be a Coupé..

  3. I was pleased to see and get all first 6 UK series. I hope this brand can branch out as was here in the UK. Tesco are doing great prices etc…but.. 1 box per 250.000…. My local Tesco still hasn’t put out any singles for 5 weeks. Case A?…. Mbx has changed so much again to the REAL theme. Keep at that and this brand will thrive here. Great stuff. Great write ups as ever. Hope any other country issues make it here.

    1. I very much doubt we will see other country exclusives appear in the UK as it sort of defeats the object. Although saying that Canada appears to have both UK and Germany for sale at Walmart, so who knows for sure.

      1. USA soon I’ve read. But if true?. The series are a nice touch with nice packaging. Hope they open doors to other outlets.

  4. As a collector from the other side of the pond, I’m sending positive thoughts into the universe that our friends in the UK see better distribution and options for acquisition from the orange brand going forward. I imagine it’s been very frustrating lately, especially considering the brand was born there. I’m trying to imagine living here in the US and having Hot Wheels all but impossible to find, and I think it’d drive me crazy. This is a nice set, and hopefully it gives some of you a chance to grab models you missed in their regular mainline releases.

    1. Thanks. I have been to USA on mulltiple occasions and see just what is for sale in the toy aisles in general. Not just the expanded Matchbox selection. So much better. I doubt the UK will ever be that good, but I do hope we can increase and expand.

  5. I am bemused to read that Mattel are frustrated about a situation that was all of their own making. Cutting the dealers and the small retailers out of the picture many years ago was the start of the brand’s downfall. Still, nice to see another attempt at launching what is essentially a Best Of British series again. Some good choices and a nice report as always David.

  6. Mattel didn’t cut them out as such. Theres was an agreement in place that if a store wanted an order, they had to order so much. Smaller independent stores would get their stock through a middle company that would take these large orders, and then re-sell them through to the smaller outlets. But when that middle company went bust it cut out that avenue. The larger stores all decided to cut out the Matchbox brand themselves one by one, and Mattel sort of ended up stuck in a corner, as Asda wanted out, but they did all they could to stop it. Asda were the ones who wanted the exclusive thing as a means to continue to sell. Mattel reluctantly agreed as if they didn’t Matchbox would have stopped in the UK much earlier. Asda even started putting stickers on the packs to state their exclusive brand. It wasn’t what Mattel wanted, but at least they were still being sold in the UK. When Asda turned around and stopped again, it was all of a sudden and took Mattel by surprise, meaning it took them a while to get the brand elsewhere. Mattel are still trying to open more outlets, but the stores are the ones saying no thanks. We, as consumers, need to be the ones to keep bugging other stores to request them and hope that eventually they see that what little there is, is selling well. Then they will ask for them too.

    1. Can’t Mattel sneak matchbox into hot wheels cases?!… They seem to never have problems in every outlets…. Infact replaced….

    2. But they also stopped attending the UK toy fair many years ago because they just wanted to deal with the big box retailers. The minimum order stipulation was where they lost a good deal of the business certainly Lesney and Universal had enjoyed. Tyco not so much.

Leave a Reply