Matchbox Toy Cars - Buying, Selling & Collecting Today

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Lesney Matchbox Models - Buying, Selling, Collecting & Investing, Today

- Updated : 2010-0208  by Kenieth Baker, Curator, Australian Toy Car Museum, Boggabri NSW Australia.

Although these notes apply to the whole range of Lesney Matchbox (LMB) models, our genuine focus are the models produced prior to 1970, generally known as 'Standard Wheels'.

The phenomenon of investing in toys is not new. However, the advent of Ebay in most countries has opened up old toy boxes from around the world to meet the incredible demand for selected toys. The most outstanding investment is Lesney Matchbox models produced prior to 1970. Many things contribute to its leadership. Firstly is the gem like quality of the early models. They were relatively cheap to buy, small and generally fairly accurate models of real vehicles. The issue of them in small robust cardboard boxes and the early advent of collector cases, meant that millions of them have survived nearly 50 years or more in good to original mint condition. Of course more than a billion were made and they found ready buyers the world over. However it is the timing that is critical to their success.

Many of the collectors today, and there are possibly 25 - 60,000 of them world-wide that are actively buying today, have or are just in the process of retiring ... and retiring with enough money available to them, to indulge themselves in this absorbing hobby. We see new collectors entering the market every week, setting new price records that at times are unbelievable. One such collector recently launched an attack on the Matchbox Catalogues market that was astounding. In late February of this year, he set a whole range of record prices for catalogues ... over A$400 for the 1958(2nd) catalogue,  nearly A$200 for 1959(3rd) and nearly A$170 for the 1960(4th) catalogue. This of course has already been followed by the release to the market of many of these often unobtainable items via US Ebay.

As with everything, condition, condition, condition is everything. The top quality we refer to is Absolute Museum Quality (AMQ) or Stunning Mint (SM). The standard quality descriptions are those used by Vectis in the UK, the home of the best there is to offer in LMB collecting ...

Topics covered in this guide are -

Grading of Auction Items
Where to Buy and Sell
Best Place to Sell
Best place to Buy
Spares and Transfers
Fake Rare Models
Pre-production Colour or Model Variations
Silver Plastic Wheels
Variations Guide
Best Investments for 2009
Best Investments for 2010
The Best Price Guide

Grading of Auction Items
Absolute Museum Quality (AMQ) ... An outstanding example that cannot be bettered
Stunning Mint (SM).......................... A visually stunning model               
Mint................................................. The item is in perfect condition
Near Mint ....................................... Almost perfect, any imperfections will be extremely minor
Excellent ......................................... The item will have had very careful use, with only small imperfections
Good .............................................  The item will have had more use, showing obvious imperfections
Fair ................................................  The item will have heavy signs of wear, showing major imperfections and may include repaints
Poor ..............................................  The item will be in a very distressed condition, with many faults
+    ................................................  Plus may be used if an item is better than its classification suggests, eg, NM+ means the toy is better than Near Mint, but not perfect, ie 
                                                          Mint. or a model in near mint to mint condition in an excellent box will be described as NM+IEB.

Best Places to Buy.
There are four places the Museum buys ...

    1. Vectis UK
    2. Ebay Australia
    3. Ebay UK
    4. Ebay US

You would think Ebay Canada might be a good place to check-out, however that is not the case. Almost all models offered there are from the US.

Ebay NZ is a good place to sell a few models as the demand there always exceeds supply, but it is not a good place to buy as prices are inflated by the higher demand than supply can meet.

Other Buying Strategies
Next to the famous boot sale, for unboxed models in the UK, UK Ebay offers superior played with models for less ... but watch the postage. If you are canny, the best buys are in bulk on US Ebay. Collector cases full of cars (25-72) from the US often sell for less than US$3-00 each landed in Australia or the UK. The best place to buy boxed models is to buy them in bulk lots on Vectis in the UK. Often 8-9 models will sell for £120+20% Buyers Commission which works out to A$30-35 each ... often half or less than the price they will re-sell for on Ebay Australia.

Best Place to Sell.
Undoubtedly the best place to sell an outstanding model is with Vectis in the UK. It is at their regular auctions that the best prices are obtained for the very best models. For all other models and items, Ebay Australia is best. The price you can get on Ebay will generally increase with the period the model is listed. The best should never be listed for less than 10 days. Prices are generally higher in the UK, then the US and finally Australia for boxed models. The order is reversed for unboxed. We usually deal in un-boxed models.

As I noted above, Ebay NZ is worth further study. The difficulty there is that so few models are offered, that it is generally over-looked..

The inclusion of an original box, especially an appropriate one (ie correct wheels & picture) will triple or more, the price obtained for a model. The only exception to this rule is pre-production colour trials, which were never released officially in boxes.

The best place to buy original boxes is definitely UK Ebay ... quite often under A$10 including post if you buy 5 or more from the one seller. The worst place to buy them is Ebay Australia.

Reproduction boxes are best bought from the UK Ebay. I recommend prw252golfdog who sells from about A$8(ie £0-99+post) including post to Australia for 40+ different boxes... and the boxes are great quality.

Spares and Transfers
Models are easily enhanced with replacement doors, tyres, drivers or transfers. The best place to get these is UK Ebay yeomar12 who sells most spares for just over A$1 each + post and transfers for A$2-3 each set + post. Naturally it is smart to make a shopping list and buy all at once to save postage.

There will always be the perennial argument as to whether you should repaint models that have substantial paint loss or not. I and many others use gold and silver paint pens from the newsagents for under $5 for retouching lights, grills and attachments. It's easy ... usually makes a great enhancement to any model, and doesn't detract in any way from a model's value ... unless your a tad clumsy that is.

Repaints are however another issue. My experience is that I'll buy a repaint for more than a shabby though complete model ... and so do many collectors. Air brush kits are just over A$20 from roy7463 Ebay UK ... though they come from Taiwan. The only other thing you need are the paints, lacquers and propellant which have to come from a hobby shop. Colour matching however is an important issue. Suggest you contact or join the Vintage British Made Diecast Toy Collectors at  in order to get the the right advice.

Fake Rare Models

This is a very important topic, as most of the real money is mad and lost in this area. I recently spotted a very near mint 13d Dodge Wrecker with the 'Reverse Colours'. If it wasn't for the advice and guidance given to me by my fellow members of the Vintage British Diecast's Website ... see above ... I would have purchased a fake in a reproduction box for double its worth. My best advice is join the Vintage British Made Diecast Toy Collectors at . They are a great bunch of guys. It's only been operating for about 6 months, but it has some of the most knowledgeable members who visit daily.

What do you do if you've placed a bid on a model, then discover it is a fake. If the auction hasn't closed, ask the seller if he is aware that the model has been tampered with, repainted or changed to resemble the rarer model. If he doesn't respond, then you can cancel your bid on that basis. If he answers in the affirmative you can ask him to remove your bid; if he answers in the negative or if you don't cancel within 12 hours of the auction close, you can ask Paypal to Open a Dispute for you. This effectively shuts down the sellers use of Ebay until the matter is resolved.

Before we leave this topic, let me guide you to Mick's Advice on Spotting Fakes . Though Mick is a dedicated Yesteryear Collector, what he has to say in detail, applies to the Lesney 'Standard Wheels' range.

Pre-production Colour or Model Variations
Wow ... this is where the real money is. So long as the model is genuine then the price obtained ... and only sell such an item with Vectis in the UK ... the sky is the limit. Prices can multiply 10 to 50 times that of a good boxed equivalent model. Beware however. Most very rare models offered for sale on Ebay are fakes. Take precautions.

I recommend to new collectors that they compile their own picture library of the rarer models. This isn't hard to do and is a lot of fun. Use the info and pics on . You can even setup searches for the rare models and have Ebay email you when they are offered for sale.

Silver Plastic Wheels
These models generally will bring a premium over other models, but not always. This was because often fewer of them were actually made than the others.

Variations Guide
There is no better place to look for pre-1970 models than the web pages of Nick and Debbie Jones in the UK - or join the the Vintage British Made Diecast Toy Collectors at .

We use Nick & Debbie's guide exclusively to identify variations and a lot more. His pics are superior to most that are available. The amount of research and preparation that has gone into his web pages makes it the mecca for LMB enthusiasts who focus on the pre-1970 models. Another good site is - - especially for the early MOKO models. Becket definitely has the best pages in the world on these models and possibly the Matchbox Collector series.

Yesteryear  models are best seen at -

Best Investments for 2009
Without a doubt, the best area to invest in are genuine Matchbox Catalogues. Firstly because there are so few relatively, still available in mint or near mint condition. In less than a year, the three earliest catalogues have doubled and trebled in price. Secondly, for the astute investor, original boxes of 100 catalogues, still in their original packing box, are turning up on US Ebay. The Museum recently bought 100 1979-80 US edition catalogues for less than A$0-55 each. These absolute museum quality (AMQ) items will resell on Ebay between A$15-25 each. Similarly, the Museum recently bought 15 x 1970 US Edition catalogues for less than A$3-00 each. These AMQ items will resell for between $25-45 each in due course.

The next best area for investment are the collector case lots from US Ebay. For excellent to near mint models(basically because they have been protected in their cases for so long) you can expect to pay US$3-7 each. With the fast rising quality of reproduction boxes from Germany and the UK, these will no doubt find their way back onto the market, though I don't approve of the practice myself, as original near mint in mint boxed models, selling for 10 - 25 times the cost of acquisition, in the years to come. The bonus of course is the case. These themselves will resell empty for as much as A$20-70 each depending on size, quality and rarity.

Best Investments for 2010
Wow, the catalogues market took a heavy dump towards the end of the year. However, long term, they remain a solid investment.
There are over a billion matchbox cars to collect world wide, and maybe less than a million catalogues. They contain a lot of valuable information and will only continue to rise and rise.

Collector Boxes from Ebay in the US remain the place to obtain mint models in bulk. There is at least one Australian dealer who makes a living, buying them by the case and then reboxing them in either original or reproduction boxes. He's not hard to spot if you look. If you are after a particular model, he's one to watch.

If you have the time, go to  and start looking at the Price Guide section. You might like to start making your own picture collection of what are the rarer models. My simple rule is look carefully at any model with Silver Plastic Wheels ... SPW, as these are often the rarer models to collect.

Once you know what to collect, start checking out Ebay in the UK, USA, Australia and even Canada and South Africa for some rare models. You will notice that many items on Ebay Canada are duplicated from Ebay USA.

Personally, I look forward to the day when someone in the Matchbox Community starts an auction site that solely deals with our interests. It will be the only way to start shutting down the many dealers who are faking the rarer models.

The Best Price Guide
There really hasn't been a current price guide for collectors and dealers that hasn't been out of date the moment it has been printed, let alone hit the book shops. Nick & Debbie's price guide, which is based on Vectis UK, is the best source for top quality toys.

If you'd like to know a little more about what we are doing in the LMB world, check out our page on Ebay.

Thank You.
Kenieth E Baker
kenieth999 -
Matchbox_Australia on

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