The Story Of Matchbox Toys – Part 2

Matchbox started the 1950′s in a world with a new war looming in Korea. At the start of this conflict the metal “zinc” was banned by the government for use in toys. This was a serious setback for Lesney as zinc is an ingredient of the mazac metal used in die cast toys and consequently the company fell on harsh times. The irony was that the company had stockpiled tons of zinc but could not use it.

It was at this time that Rodney Smith, thinking that the die cast toy business was on the way out, decided to leave the firm and he offered his part of the company to the two other partners. He was bought out by Leslie Smith and Jack Odell for the sum of £8000 … a large sum in those days.

After Rodney had left the company something had to done to use the tons of zinc the company had stockpiled so Odell, using his contacts, secured a contract to produce castings that were used in motor car production and from this stockpile of zinc a large profit was made for Lesney.

With the end of the zinc ban Lesney started to produce for Moko a model called Muffin the Mule which was based on a very popular British TV puppet of the same name.

The royal state coronation coach was then produced and this was their biggest selling die cast model to date and sold over a million units of the miniature coronation coach. This catapulted the company to the forefront of British diecast toy manufacturers.

The idea of holding the toy cars in match boxs came from the fact that Odells oldest daughter could only bring one plaything to school providing that the toy would fit in to a match box.
Jack discovered that his new small toys could fit quite snugly in to a matchbox from the Norvic Match Company Ltd from Czechoslovakia … and the name ‘Matchbox’ was born.

Copyright Roger Cantrell 2008