Sunday - 20 April 2014

The matchless Matchbox toys

24 April 2010Written by Roland Arkell

THE world’s scarcest Matchbox car achieved a record-breaking price at an auction in Harrogate.

The Matchbox Quarry Truck, was designed as a sample for 1955 and is thought to be the only surviving example from possibly six created by the two Lesney Matchbox owners, Jack Odell and Les Smith.     

Measuring 11in (27cm) long it was to become part of a 'Major Scale' collection (originally slated to sell for just £1.5.9d) but never made it to full production.      

Only a Massie-Harris tractor was ever issued in 'Major Scale' before it was decided on economic grounds that Matchbox cars should be just that - able to fit into a matchbox. The Quarry Truck was offered for sale by a Japanese collector Takuo Yoshise who has owned it for over 25 years.

Now in his mid-seventies, he was keen to witness its passing to another collector and where better than at the 25th Matchbox Club Convention where more than 200 of the world's keenest enthusiasts were gathered.

A price in excess of the £7500 bid for a rare bus made for the New Zealand market at Vectis a few years ago was predicted in the run-up to the sale and the assembled crowd was not to be disappointed. Bidding at the sale on March 25, skillfully managed by Bonhams auctioneer Kevin McGimpsey and Matchbox Club member and website editor, reached £10,200.     

It has been a good few weeks for Matchbox toys.     

Timed to coincide with the influx of international collectors for the club convention was the Horace Dunkley Model of Yesteryear Reference Collection offered in 1649 lots by Vectis on March 23-24.     

This market, embracing a much-loved series of diecast toys produced from 1956 to the present day, is all about rare colour schemes and small variations.     

There were, for example, over 40 different variations of the Duesenberg Model J Town Car in the sale. The standard mid-1970s issue in ruby red is only worth a few pounds (you could buy three mint and boxed examples for £20) but model number Y4-4-10, in a factory issued scarlet chassis and white body and yellow seats and roof is generally considered the rarest of all the Models of Yesteryear. A near mint example was estimated at £1300-1500 but sold at £4300 - a record for this collecting class. Two other scarce versions of the Duesenberg prompted bidding well in excess of estimates.     

Although it lacked its box, a rare prototype of this model with a number of changes to the standard casting, was estimated at £40-60 but sold at £2700 while the same two European buyers went head-to-head for a variation with tan seats and green roof (rather than black). Pitched at £70-80, it took £1400.     

In all, this sale proved a real shot in the arm for a market that in truth has been flat for a decade. 

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