Buried Treasure - Vintage Matchbox cars
When I was a little kid, I remember playing with my beloved Matchbox cars - banging and smashing them around on the floor and generally loving them! I loved the 70s Superfast series in particular but these were hard to find in op shops and flea markets - but I did manage to find myself some old banged examples. Mainly I collected Matchbox cars new from the shops because it was very hard to find rare vintage examples (and still is).
But one day I hit gold! I was around 10 years old and was rummaging around in a box of useless old Matchbox toys covered with dust and debris. It had a large sign "10 cents each" so I thought I'd give it a go. I was always a 'give it a go' type of person even back then. But as the rummaging continued I remember thinking "what a waste of time". The whole fun of it though was this searching around but this particular box did not seem very promising and neither did the stall, full of weird old junk! But as I worked my hands through the pointy and banged up little Matchbox cars in this large box, my hands touched something quite smooth. Amongst the scratched up and scruffy toy cars there was a box. "What's that doing in here", I thought, before I realised what it was - a boxed 1960s Lesney Matchbox Lincoln Continental...today these go for upwards of $30-$40. Lesney examples are highly prized by collectors due to their rarity. Well sir, I grabbed that car and its box and decided on stealth. Hiding the object in my hands I assessed the stall holder. He was busy cleaning some assorted junk in his Toyota Minivan but I knew that he must've accidentally mixed up this item in that large box of toys. Casually, I walked up to him and gave him the 10 cents...and it was mine! It takes pride of place in my collection today.
Reminiscences + buying/selling guide
Matchbox cars captured the imaginations and hearts of many young kids living in the early 1980s, before and beyond. Their industructability coupled with their cute appearance and attention to detail gave kids a taste of owning the real cars themselves and a versatile toy for all occasions. Did I mention their toughness? You could hurtle these things down the stairs and they wouldn't break. You could step on them. Sure, the wheels would be bent but the actual toy would often be unscathed. My favourites were the 70s Superfast cars such as the Ford Cortina and Ford Capri Rolamatic (the silver engine bay 'click clicks' when the wheels move...adorable!). The Superfast range was arguably the gem of the Matchbox range.
Basically there are four series of Matchbox cars spanning decades:
- Matchbox Lesney-era (1950s, 1960s)
- Matchbox Superfast (1970s)
- Matchbox made by Mattel (1980s)
- Modern Matchbox cars (1990s to now)
Have a good search around the home because you never know what the older ones will be worth even in chipped condition. When you do find one log on to eBay and do a search using the info on the base of the car. This will give you a rough price estimate to start with. The value goes up according to rarity and if the car has its original box or not, and then what condition bith the box and car are in.
Did you know that the boxes are sometimes worth as much as the cars themselves? This is because most kids (including me) threw away the boxes first thing, so that now there are a lot of collectors looking for boxes! You can buy vintage, mint condition Matchbox cars now but just be prepared for the price. And also be wary of eBay examples, a number of these I have noticed seem to be repainted and have fake reproduction boxes - which significantly lowers the value. Yes, there are fake boxes! There's a cottage industry out there of hobbyists who like to restore these toys which is fine so long as the ad declares it and the price is much lower.
Overall I treasure my 10-odd collection of vintage Matchbox cars; they provide a window into another era, a time where kids played outside, TVs and portable technology were primitive and life was more simple. Nowadays vintage Matchbox cars still have the power to win over new generations with their psychadelic colour schemes and tough build quality. Here's to Matchbox cars!