Fakes/reissues/reproductions/reproduction boxes updated 9/24/99

other pages with Matchbox fakes/reproductions/reissue Information


[some information for this section prepared with permission from information in Lesney's Matchbox© Toys, Regular Wheel Years, 1947-1969, © 1992, and Encyclopedia of Matchbox Toys © 1997, both by Charlie Mack]

pre-Lesney "Matchbox": "[a number of] models using the Matchbox name were actually manufactured before Lesney Products ever existed. These prewar or postwar toys were made in Japan and packaged in a match box. The earliest know use of the word 'Matchbox' for a toy was by Louis Marx in the 1930's for a miniature steel erector set."

prototype: a model that made it to the drawing board or a hand built model. Sometimes these make it almost to full production to be cancelled do to problems such as licensing. [C.M., impossible to catalog variations, and pricing usually determined by what the market will bear. Usually brought to market by employees or factory workers, or donated by the company for auctions]

preproduction: any model made by matchbox before the model is mass produced. Models usually start with a wooden or painted resin model. When the tooling is complete, a blank casting is made and assembled, and may include blank cast bases or partial or full base text. Many times the bases are incorrectly numbered. Once approved, paint trials follow, usually white first, and then sometimes label or color trials. [C.M., impossible to catalog variations, and pricing usually determined by what the market will bear. Usually brought to market by employees or factory workers, or donated by the company for auctions]

fake: any matchbox that has been altered into a code 3 (not as produced by the manufacture and changed by others) version of an existing model. Fakes are more likely for rare models where value is greater.

reissue: a prior existing model reissued in the same configuration [except possibly color] as the original by the manufacturer.

reproduction: an existing model manufactured, sometimes even using the same tooling, to be the same as an "original" model, by other than the manufacturer. Distinguished from a fake by being clear that it is neither an "original" model or a reissue.

others views:

The following prepared from Lesney's Matchbox© "Toys, Regular Wheel Years, 1947-1969", © 1992, & "Encyclopedia of Matchbox Toys" © 1997, by Charlie Mack, reprinted with permission

"A copy of a Matchbox is any model casting made to look like or resemble a Matchbox casting. They can be of any size, from smaller to large than the actual Matchbox model. Many are very well done while some are very crude attempts.

"A pirate model is any model that actually attempts to steal the 'matchbox' brand name. The model may or may not look like a matchbox model… .

"The earliest know copies of Matchboxes were called 'Shadow Box' and are replicas of early regular wheels. Other enterprising companies used matchbox-style packaging without actually calling them matchbox. Clifford Toys are one of these. Polish and Hungarian toy companies are know to have taken Matchbox models apart and to make molds from them. Many are very crude, to the point of brush painting on some models. The entire range of Matchbox has been copied, especially the miniatures. …

"One serous violation included marketing of stolen goods in generic packaging. … .

"Hints for discovering whether your model is a fake is to check for tampering, fingerprints, brush marks. peeling labels, etc."

Ethan – models should be scrutinized by comparing with a known genuine example; which in rare pieces is not an easy job. It takes years of experience, and I know that It is easy to continue to be convinced of a models' genuineness until someone points out a flaw.

Hints from an anonymous and very knowledgeable collector/dealer – Never spent top dollar on a rare item unless you are absolutely sure that the model is genuine (casting/wheels/axles… ). If you are not sure, ask somebody who should know! You would do the same if you are going to buy a Van Gogh painting from the 18th century

common fakes:

fake road signs set A
A-4 Road signs – 2 different sets of fakes were packaged on a card (rather than in a box) made of plastic [rather than metal] & in sets of 6 instead of 8
fake road signs set BFake sign photos courtesy of Roger Gray new 6/30/99

12c gold & silver Land Rovers
photo of models in Charlie Mack's
museum, and are presumably genuine

12C SAFARI LAND ROVER, Issued 1965 (regular wheel) 4. gold body, tan luggage – base snaps out and can be exchanged with Superfast models where gold was "common" color.



40th anniversary originals set"Originals" – Matchbox produced several re-issues of the 1-75 series under the name ""Originals". The first was a 1988 boxed set of five (1A Road Roller; 5A London Bus; 7A Milk Float; and 9A Dennis Fire Engine, in one gift box and without individual boxes, made as close as possible to the original colors. It was labeled "40th Anniversary Collection" and "Commemorative Pack".

orignals set - 1991original number 5 bus
The 5A bus label reads "Buy Matchbox" as did
the original Lesney Moko issue.

In 1991 the same models were issued under the name "Originals" in a blister package with a reproduction box in 4 series of 5 each, but in colors different from the initial 1950-60's cars:

image of early metal wheel, 19Anew original series metal wheel

There were also limited edition 5 packs issued. Besides color difference (except color of the anniversary set) the wheels look very different (at least when issued), not a dull zinc color as the old cars (left), but a shinier almost chrome-like finish (39A, right), and the "detail" of the casting seems a little less distinct (i.e., the "treads" of the tires). The inside is marked made in China rather than England. The boxes are very close to the original and generally would look "too" new.


non-Matchbox reproductions:

Covered wagon: there was apparently a reproduction of the covered wagon in the 1980's, which may have used the original tooling. On an original "MADE IN ENGLAND BY LESNEY" is cast on the top of the brown metal harness between the horses visible when looking down on top of horses

Perfect Toys: available through MICA, several of the original larger Lesney models were reproduced under the name "Perfect Toys". Also produced was the Perfect Toy display [no image available].

MICA reproduction Muir Hill Site Dump Truck
Muir Hill Site Dump Truck

MICA newsletter vol. 10#6, page 222 announced the Muir Hill Site Dump Truck, 8.4cm long & 4.8cm high, in red and green with a metal driver in a numbered box [1999]. Jack Odell apparently purchased tooling for a similar large scale model from his former toolmaker Don Rix, who went into business with Frank Constable trading as Condon Productions, Ltd. When the zinc embargo hit, Don "packed it in" and Odell purchased the tooling for this model. There is some indication the Muir Hill was to be the 3rd model issued, but Lesney never actually produced it in this scale. The Muir Hill was eventually released as 2A and the slightly larger 2B in the 1-75 series.

MICA reproduction Motorcycle and Side Car
Motorcycle and Side Car

MICA reproduction Rag & Bone Cart
Rag & Bone Cart
MICA Road Roller & Ice Cream VendorRoad Roller & Ice Cream Vendor


Matchbox collectors generally do not favor touched-up, restored or customized cars, and seek mint original condition pieces in box pieces (or mint out of box anyway). Some people do actively seek lesser condition cars (see Squid on my dealers page). There is some information on the web regarding restoration (see http://die-cast.com/ [link appears broken 11/29/01 – see
http://www.mboxcommunity.com/cgi-local/dcforum/dcboard.cgi? az=list&forum= DCForumID4&conf= DCConfID3], information on cleaning, etc.). A new message board on "restoration" was formed following some criticism in a discontinued chain of messages on one of the Matchbox bulletin boards regarding restoration of pieces (there were some disagreeable replies to the restoration postings). Some of that thread is as follows:

"Is a altered model ('restored', 'customized' or what ever) still a Matchbox ? In my opinion it WAS a Matchbox model … . As a purist, I only collect 'Matchbox' series models in the same condition as they have left the factory (apart from chips or other problems because they where used as toys). If you for example repaint it, or put new wheels on, it is not made by Lesney anymore, it is made by you! … "

"… if you take a $5 regular wheel and alter its condition, you've now got a model in BETTER condition that is a $0 regular wheel. If any of you also collect coins, you KNOW that is just how it is … ."

In Charlie Mack's books he rates altered (including restored) models as "fakes" suitable only as "fillers" until a suitable model for your collection can be found, and of no value.