Matchbox cars were first made in England by Lesney Products, a company formed by Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith (not related to each other). The company had made other products – including toys – before the first Matchbox models were produced. In 1953 the first Matchbox Cars were made. Introduced in 1953 were MB1 Diesel Roadroller, MB2 Dumper and MB3 Cement Mixer.
Each year new models were added, with some being replaced, until there were 75 in the range – thus the range was kept to 75 models at any one time, and was known as the ‘1-75 range’.
The Moko company originally distributed the cars. Early Matchbox boxes had the banner “A Moko Lesney” across the box. This lasted until around 1959 when the banner was changed to “A Lesney” product. In 1969, the Superfast range of models was introduced to combat the new threat from Mattel and the ‘Hot Wheels’ die-cast range. The 1-75 range also included Rola-matic models.
The vehicles continued be produced and trademarked under the Lesney name until late 1982 when the company went bankrupt. Universal Toys bought the Matchbox line in 1982, which began producing and marketing the Matchbox vehicles from Macau and China.
Universal continued to produce the Matchbox line of vehicles until late 1992 when Tyco Toys acquired the Matchbox line and produced them through 1997. The Tyco was then acquired by Mattel, and have continued the range to date, introducing different models and changing the branding of the Matchbox name.
Under the guidance of John Coyne, Mattel returned to ‘Back to basics’ in 2006 with the re-introduction of the Matchbox lozenge logo. Although this is almost identical to the old Lesney lozenge logo, it can be seen as a modern day interpretation of the original lozenge logo, but note the removal of the speech marks from the word Matchbox.
The Matchbox lozenge continued to be used, and in 2010 there was a slight update on the style, but still keeping within the traditions of the orginal Lesney design. What really pleased many collectors was the return of model artwork to the blister packs, which nodded to the hertiage of the Lesney era and enhanced the visual appeal of the product.
In 2012, and much to the disappointment of many, Mattel decided to re-brand Matchbox once more under the theme of ‘rugged adventure’. And with the re-brand, went the lozenge. In lieu the Matchbox logo was re-coloured in white. It should be noted that within the spin-off range for 2013, the 60th Anniversary models have the revised Matchbox logo within a lozenge, but not with the traditional colours.