A long time ago in a country far, far away I collected Royal Mail models. The mid-1980s was the time when I transitioned from buying toy cars to play with, to buying toy cars to put in a cabinet and look at. Looking back, that doesn’t sound like such a great plan, but I was about 11 years old, so I’ll forgive my younger self for not knowing what I was getting into!
On a family holiday to Norfolk, UK I picked up a set of collector-focused Lledo models of different Royal Mail vans. I guess I just liked the bright-red colour, plus my grandfather spent almost his entire working life in the British post office, so there was a family connection.
As it happened, the mid-80s was a boom time for Royal Mail licensed models: loads of Lledos and many Corgis in both large, 1:36 scale and Matchbox-sized Juniors. To learn more about what was out there, I got on the mailing list of Roxley Models, which still exists in Great Bookham, Surrey. In those days it specialized in Royal Mail models and even launched its own range of white metal vans.
Over the next 20 years my buying waxed and waned as I went through school, university and my first jobs, but the Royal Mail collection grew steadily. In the meantime, I was still collecting other stuff, notably Matchbox, and eventually I was all out of display space. I decided to commission a huge display cabinet built from a local carpentry firm and to sell the Royal Mail trucks and vans – some of which were quite valuable – to partially fund the build. By a strange coincidence, I was now working in Dorking, just seven miles (11km) from Great Bookham. Roxley was keen to buy my collection, so many of my models went back to the original source!
For old times’ sake I kept a few models that fitted in with my Matchbox and Corgi Junior collections. Most of these have never been out of their blister packages, until today!
To begin with, here are some Corgi Juniors. These were among the many promotional models made for Royal Mail in the mid-80s.
I saw Richard Longman’s Escort race in the BTCC (back then known as the BSCC) at Snetterton in 1984, so that’s definitely a keeper. From memory there are #66 and #77 versions, plus LHD, RHD and wheel variations for the completists.
The Leyland Terrier and GMC Van were both issued in many different decos at that time.
One notable absentee from these photos is the Corgi Juniors Land Rover van. That casting was later reissued as a Hot Wheels after Mattel bought Corgi Toys Limited in 1989.
On to some Matchbox. The three-model, Graham Ward/Promod-commissioned set of Royal Mail models was a hit with collectors when it was issued in 1987. These were Code 1 promotionals, i.e. made by Matchbox (in Macau). My set was on display in the packaging for many years, which faded massively as a result, so I figured it was high time I opened it up for Lamley stardom!
This version of the Sauber Group ‘C’ is based on a real Swiftair racing deco that was worn by a Cosworth-powered Ecosse C286 in 1987. It’s pretty cool. Last time I checked, you could still buy this set direct from Promod!
Since moving to Canada, I’ve picked up a few local promotionals and other Canada-themed models, including this Canada Post MB38 Matchbox Model ‘A’ Ford van. Here it is with the Promod Model ‘A’ in a UK Royal Mail scheme, and with a recent Greenlight of the modern Canada Post LLV.
This Promod promotional Matchbox 1921 Model ‘T’ Ford van from 1990 is nice, too, and has the all-red box in the style of the Lledo models that kickstarted my post office collection.
I also kept this Convoy, a DAF Box Truck.
Other manufacturers have done Royal Mail in 1:64, of course. In the collection I sold were an Efsi Model T, an ancient Morestone/Budgie parcel truck and a couple of different ERTL Postman Pat models from the animated TV series.
Now to the model that prompted this amble down memory lane. Mini GT’s Land Rover Defender 110 was one of my favourite models of 2020. When I saw that a Royal Mail Post Bus version was in the offing, I got swept up on a wave of nostalgia and placed an order.
As we’ve come to expect from this brand, it’s beautiful. I’m not 100% sold on the colour – it might be a little pale but it’s a long time since I saw a real one of these so I’m not sure. Still, it’s close enough.
Finally, here’s a little UK post office memorabilia. These pin badges were given to me as a kid by my grandfather. The oldest items in my Royal Mail collection with the newest!
This wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive round-up of all the Royal Mail models in 1:64 scale/Matchbox size, but if you’re not familiar with this collecting theme then hopefully it’s given you a flavour of what’s out there.
If Matchbox ever does another licensed Royal Mail livery then I’ll be first in line but, fun as it was, for me this particular collection is otherwise consigned to history. Our tastes change over time and the good (or possibly bad!) news is that there are always models out there to respond to those changes. Whisper it quietly but one day, we will no longer be as excited about Gassers and JDM as we are today… Happy collecting!
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215)