The Love of Vintage Matchbox Toy Cars

The Love of Vintage Matchbox Toy Cars
My first Love was a Matchbox

It was my 6th or 7th birthday party and there was a table with a cake and several little boxes.  The excitement when I opened those boxes and saw those minature replica cars is still felt today.  And then there was the small suit case like matchbox carrier which would stow every individual car or truck. 

Most every boy who grew up in the 60s and 70s has a special connection to Matchboxes. Remember the euphoric feeling when you opened those little boxes and a miniature car or truck came out.  

50-60 years later, many of those ten year old boys are collectors reliving the priceless experience of adolescence.   On any given day you can find hundreds of vintage match boxes on eBay, mostly beat up examples.   With the original boxes makes them more desirable.  But what has been particularly Hot in Demand are the Unopened Blister Card pack matchboxes of which are quite Rare.

 Within the niche of blister packed Matchboxes , the most desirable are the Fred Bronner 59 and 65 cent packages including the original boxes,  that were issued between 1964-1969.     And this is where dating them gets confusing.  Many collectors assume the 1964 copyright date on the bottom of the blister pack is the date that particular matchbox was released. But that would be Incorrect.  The true issue date is identified by the year of the catalog on the back.

 Now after several years of collecting unopened Matchbox blister packs,  I realized that about 95% that appear on the market are from 1968-69.     The 1966-67 Unopened blistered Matchboxes are far more Rare.   For example, recently I counted all current Unopened blister packed Matchboxes for sale on eBay, which was 15.  Then I did a search for all Completed blister Matchboxes and over the past 3 months, 53 were sold.     So out of 68 blister card Matchboxes, ALL of them were from 1968-69.  Not a single one was from 1966-67.   

 Another way to immediately differentiate them is the 1968-69 Matchboxes have a blister card price of 59 cents, whereas the 1966-67 matchboxes are prices at 65 cents.  You'd think the older ones had the lower 59 cent, but the price went down after 1967.  However, the Mega Rare 1964-65 Matchbox blister card packs had a 59 cent price.    So the price started at 59 cents in 1964, then went to 65 cents in 1966-67, then went back down to 59 cents in 1968-69.   This can make your head spin!

Also, many of the original 1964 series models were discontinued and replaced in 1968.  For example, the elusive Ambulance #14 discontinued in 1968 has been Nonexistent in a blister pack.  I’ve searched for over 10 years and none of the seasoned blister pack collectors and sellers have ever seen one.

 Most collectors have never even seen a 1964-65 blaster card pack Matchbox with the 1964-65 Catalog on the back.   And the number of 1964-65 issued models that have surfaced on the market is probably less than five times in the past 5-10 years.

In addition, there are certain blister pack cards that are relatively common and worth less.  Seasoned Collectors know exactly which Matchbox blaster card packs are common and appear for sale regularly.    For example the Horse trailer a very common one will sell for less than $100 in the blister pack whereas an Ambulance will sell for over $500.   The more Rare blister packs even more.  I’ve seen the most rare and desirable sell for over $1000.

Side Note:

*The only other early 66/67 Matchboxes I’ve seen are the "Yesteryear" Matchboxes that have an International Catalog on back,  which for whatever reason are not very desirable by collectors.  Maybe because as kids we never really saw these, compared to the regular series Matchboxes.   I never knew "Yesteryear" existed until seeing them on eBay.   

My own opinion they are not as popular collectibles and never really caught on back when we were kids, is because ”Yesteryear” Matchbox Cars were NOT actual cars of the day.  They were all car makes  from 50-60 years earlier when our Great-grandparents were young drivers.  Whereas the popular regular Matchboxes were cars and trucks our parents were  currently driving and that we saw driving down the road everyday.  So it was a more Real and exciting experience to be playing with Miniature life-like cars of our childhood.   The “Yesteryear” Matchboxes like the cars of 1904 were more appealing to our Great-grandparents.

What also makes a huge difference in value and desirability is the Card's condition.  Much like baseball cards,  Collectors will pay much more for blister cards in Near Mint condition.  Yes, the blister cards are worth Much more then the cars themselves.   I suspect it’s just a matter of time before grading services like PSA  add high grade Matchbox Blister Cards to their service offering, and auction houses jump on the Matchbox /Hot wheels Blister Card bandwagon. .  

A $20,000 Matchbox Unopened blister card pack is inevitable, maybe in the next few years.  Even highly likely for the most Rare Gems.    Like my favorite Ice Cream Truck from 1967,  discontinued after 1967.   As far as I know  (based on over ten years following all the Matchbox auctions),  the Only blistered one in existence

Some Matchbox History:
The history of boxes is a project in itself, and they are of great interest to collectors and a strong element in determining value of a particular piece. Some box variations are extremely rare, and in some cases value of the rare box has exceeded the model contained in the box, with hundreds of dollars being paid for rare examples. The first blisterpacks with the contents displayed in a sealed plastic bubble or blister appeared in 1963, with blisterpacks from the 1960's generally also including a box until sometime after the introduction of superfast models. 

New York salesman Fred Bronner was conducting American sales in 1954, and by the late 1950's became the sole US importer (US price was typically sold for 49¢). In 1964, Lesney Products (USA) was formed as a division of the English company, and purchased Fred Bronner's inventory and installed him as president. By 1962 Matchbox was knocking out a million toy vehicles a week, more than the number of real cars made by all the world's major automakers combined. By 1966 more than 1,000,000 models were being sold a year. More than 75% of Lesney Products’ output went abroad (the models were immensely popular in the US and Japan). In 1969 the Fred Bronner Corporation became the Lesney Products Corporation in the US.


So what do serious collector of vintage Matchbox Cars look for?

1.  Rarity  (Includes limited and discontinued models and the much more Rare 1964-67 issues).
2. Condition of the Card and Blister:  Much like Baseball cards Matchbox collectors pay much more for high grade condition cards and blisters. 
3.  More popular models like the Ambulances and Occupational Issues (i.e. Taxi, Police Cars, etc).   The  BP Oil Tow Truck always commands top dollar in NM-Mint Condition blister card. 

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