First, a small technicality. This Matchbox Austin Mini Van was released a few years before the “Lamley Era”. Honestly I can’t remember the actual year, but it was well before I started the Lamley Blog in 2012.
But as I work through these 10 significant models, hopefully it has become clear that these all represent something bigger than the models themselves.
So let’s get into why I picked a rather plain looking Austin Mini Van.
It’s the story.
A refresher, in case you missed the first time I wrote about this model 10 years ago. The Matchbox Design Team had let collectors know that they should keep an eye out for a green Austin Mini Van. It was initially slated for some line – they never specified which – that was cancelled, but enough of the models had been made that they needed to find a place to put them.
They mentioned it would be an upcoming 10-pack release. At the time, Matchbox 10-packs included one exclusive and 9 models pulled from recent Basic and 5-pack releases. This green Mini would be mixed in with the standard models and essentially be a second exclusive in one pack. The Austin Mini was a popular casting among collectors, so the search began.
10-packs came and went. Release after release, but the green Mini never appeared. The model was forgotten by most collectors, but a few of us inquired, and finally the Matchbox Team revealed that there weren’t enough to fill an entire 10-pack release, so collectors should instead turn their attention to randomly released 3-packs. Yes, those 3-packs that seem to find their way to specialty stores, grocery stores, and the occasional pharmacy. Once again, those of us interested started looking, to no avail.
Finally, well past a year from the initial announcement, a collector in Chile, Ramon Rivera, mentioned he had seen the packs in a mall. In fact, he saw quite a few, all with the same assortment: the green Mini Van sitting below a red Audi R8 and Nismo 350Z. But he didn’t buy any.
That was until he finally inquired on the Matchbox Forum about them, and those of us who remembered told him to go back and buy a few. When he did return, what was once a bunch had dwindled down to a few, and he bought them all.
This is where the guessing game starts for a collector. Do you pony up extra cash and pay to have a couple shipped from Chile? Or do you take a chance and see where else the 3-packs might appear and hopefully get one there?
I decided that I wanted the model badly enough to pay for the shipping and have Ramon send a couple over. And I am glad I did. Ramon never saw them again in that store, or at any other store. And for that matter, outside of ONE pack reportedly found in Europe, no one ever saw the packs or the green Mini again.
That was it. A green Mini Van in a 3-pack that was only found in one store in Chile. And then it was gone. Surely there are a few long buried in toy boxes and yards of some Chilean kids, but there are only a few in the hands of collectors, all from what leftovers Ramon pulled from that store in Chile. Hence, the “Chilean Mini”.
I have one. Tilley has one too, and there were a few others sold to collectors, mainly through the charity auction at the Matchbox Gathering Convention. I think I remember one selling for $500. That was over 10 years ago. It is hard to know its value now, considering none have come up for sale that I know of in the last decade, and it really isn’t a very well-known model.
But that story is fascinating.
And that is why the Chilean Mini is on this list. It represents the joy of telling stories. Storytelling is a vital, but often overlooked element of the hobby, and it is an essential part of what I do at Lamley.
The blog started as a place for me to house my diecast photos. Over time I realized that writing something about each model made sense, and it needed to be something more than “Isn’t this cool?”
So in those early days I would take photos, edit them, and then write basically anything that would come to mind about the model. Maybe a detail that triggered a memory. Maybe where I found the model. Anything. Even as I sit here typing this I realize how much I enjoy sitting and typing something.
As Lamley moved to YouTube, the storytelling continued. A little different, but I have always tried to find some angle about a particular model I am showcasing, whether it be a history of the casting or a story I was told about its creation from the design teams.
I have made this argument with Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunts. I’ve been asked why Mattel doesn’t just make them a mail-in or a slightly more expensive model that could be purchased online or elsewhere. The answer is because doing that makes no sense at all. Collectors wouldn’t want them.
Supers work because you have to be lucky to find them. It is the thrill of finding one that makes people search at ungodly hours for them, and others pay big money on the secondary market to have one. It is what creates the adrenaline rush that occurs when you randomly come across one.
And it is surely the story you get to tell. Even something as simple as an Instagram post saying “I went to Walmart for bananas and pop tarts and came across this Super!” That’s a story. And we like telling them.
“I thought the pegs were picked over until I found a Super at the back of the last peg. Glad I looked!”
“I was visiting Mom for Thanksgiving and she sent me to Safeway for a couple of last minute things, and I left with two Supers.”
“I was traveling with a coworker and we decided to take a walk after dinner and ended up in a Kroger store that had a sealed shipper in the seasonal section. We got permission from the manager to look through it, and we found both a Super and a Car Culture Chase! This is the third time my work partner has found a Super with me. She has had insane beginner’s luck!”
“Did you hear about the guy who found a few Matchbox models in a store in Chile, and after he did, like Keyser Söze, just like that…….they were gone.”
We love stories. I love stories. Diecast is full of stories. The Chilean Mini is a great story. I love to tell it. And I hope I can tell a ton of stories over the next decade.