The "Code" System 12/1/98[prepared with permission from information Encyclopedia of Matchbox Toys © 1997, 1999 [2nd Ed.], by Charlie Mack]
The "Code" system was originally developed in 1977 by Ray Bush, editor of UK Matchbox and redeveloped over time to distinguish models made or approved by Matchbox & those altered by third parties.
CODE 1 – any model originally manufactured by Matchbox, including alterations at a Matchbox owned or leased facility.
CODE 2 – any model altered in whole or part (relabeling, repainting, etc.) by a third party with full written permission of Matchbox (including "blanks" tampoed or relabeled with blanket or specific approval).
MICA has added "models not available to the general public" to Code 2, and some, including Charlie Mack, do not recognize this addition, believing it is an "excuse" to lump some "really" rare Code 1 models into a category so that collectors would not be disappointed at having no hope of obtaining one for their collection.
In 1994 Matchbox in UK offered short run (as few as 300-500) promotions on a selected set of models using "blanks" from the orient tampo printed in England. In 1996 a similar program was set up in the US with a private company called ASAP, offering orders as small as 144 using 12 all white blanks. Tight controls by Tyco prevented release to collectors and only the company doing the printing knows what was released.
CODE 3 – any model altered in any manner without Matchbox approval.
[Charlie Mack says these are models collected by some and not generally cataloged (specifically not by C.M.) and he classifies Code 3 as a "fake" with no value].
Value is what someone is willing to pay for it.
CODE 4 (added 1995) – any model manufactured by Matchbox, but usually one-of-a-kind used in auctions or awards presentations