login   |    register
Histoire & Collections [ MORE REVIEWS ] [ WEB SITE ] [ NEW STORIES ]

Book Review
11
Story of Matchbox Kits
1973-2000 The Story of Matchbox Kits
  • move

by: Jan Etal [ TREAD_GEEK ]

Introduction

This book, by Jean-Christophe Carbonel is based on his contemporary notes and observations and thorough current research. All of this is supported by the recollections of his colleagues, some of whom were involved in the retail hobby trade during the Matchbox (MBX) period and who were, therefore, ideally placed to be able to monitor consumer reaction to the then “new” MBX product. Other sources who provided valuable insight include some of the original staff at MBX and at Revell. Review and commentaries from leading contemporary magazines (eg. Airfix Magazine, Scale Models, Modelworld and Maquettes Plastiques Magazine) allow a fairly accurate picture of the modeling community’s reaction to the manufacturer and its products.

Considering that the text was written in French and then translated into English, the language is very good. There are some errors in grammar and usage but nothing too obvious and certainly, given the book’s origins, all tolerable.

Overview

“1973 – 2000 - The Story of Matchbox Kits”

Jean Christophe Carbonel

ISBN : 978-2-35250-0188-6

Published by Histoire and Collections
5 Avenue de la Republique
F-75541 Paris Cedexll France

82 pages (79 colour and 3 black and white) – heavy gauge, high gloss finish containing over 300 photos in excellent colour, and of decent size.

The binding is adequate – 5 stitched books glued into the soft-cover spine. Unfortunately, not very flexible. Some separation occurring on the review sample.

Review

Overall, the book is well-designed. Page layout is generally very attractive but, at times, somewhat overpowering. There is a lot of colour here, ranging from photos of kits and parts, to reproductions of kit-box artwork. Not all photos are captioned and regrettably, photos do not always match the text. (eg photos on pages 6, 7 accompany text on pages 10, 11) This may be due to the difference between English text and French, which tends to be longer. (Perhaps the translation is responsible for getting things “out of sync”). Nevertheless, this is an interesting and entertaining read.

The book is designed to have a very brief introduction followed by four major sections, each of which has subdivisions detailed by year.

The major subdivisions:

• 1973 The Range

• The AMT-Matchbox Era

• The Twilight Period

• Under German Control

The introduction falls short because, although mention is made of the original Matchbox die-cast toys, there are no photos of them or, more significantly, the trademark boxes which resembled the typical matchboxes of the day. Many younger modellers will have never seen these toys or their boxes and may be left with a question or two.

The four sections of the book detail the introduction and establishment of the brand, including initial references to the origin and rationale behind the use of brightly coloured plastic. There are several references to the multi coloured kit parts and the negative press that this generated in Europe. Other details include interesting glimpses into master pattern production (eg the use of plexiglass) and the figure sculpting process, as well as a “behind-the-scenes” look into the selection of kits for production.

An overview of the expansion of MBX, as they incorporated AMT in 1978, and subsequent slide into difficulty as parent company Lesney filed for bankruptcy in 1982, provides a sobering reminder about how rapidly things can change.

The third section, “The Twilight Period”, describes the gradual reduction in Matchbox’ output and sets the stage for Section 4, the company “Under German Control” – by Revell – by 1991. This marks the beginning of the end for MBX as in 1995 “The pedigree of the kits became increasingly mixed”: Matchbox boxes contained kits produced by various manufacturers and it became difficult to know “who produced what?”. The last true Matchbox catalogue was produced in 1998 and by 2007 the brand had virtually disappeared, swallowed up by Revell who continued to produce MBX kits but under their own name.

Of major interest to many may be the contents of the Appendix of the book. Represented in tabular form, this section lists all kits marketed under the Matchbox banner. Surprisingly, no less than eight other manufacturers’, originally released kits that eventually found their way under the Matchbox name. Also listed are the kit’s that Revell has reissued under their own brand.

There is one final interesting piece of information provided by the author. In 2005, at the beginning of Revell’s reissues, the author found out from one of Revell’s representatives in France that “the marketing department” pushed for their release to provide simple cheap kits for beginners who were likely to move onto Revell’s better quality military kits. Apparently the success of these reissued versions surprised a lot of people at Revell.

Conclusions

Matchbox produced kits in a wide variety of subjects besides armour and figures. Subjects ranged from cars to ships to aircraft, motorcycles, trucks and armor to name a few.

Overall, this is an excellent little book, full of surprises and useful information. It provides an entertaining and nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. Highly recommended.

Acknowledgments:
My thanks to H. B. Skitch and Co. for providing the review sample. Special thanks to IPMS Canada member H. Gilliland for his references, resources and knowledge about the Matchbox company.
SUMMARY
Highs: A well thought out and informative look at the history of this notable company. Beautiful colour images and lots of them.
Lows: None that stand out other than the binding.
Verdict: A wonderful companion reference for those interested in the subject. Recommended.
Percentage Rating
95%
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN : 978-2-35250-0188-6
  Suggested Retail: $15-$20
  PUBLISHED: Jul 24, 2012
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 84.51%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 88.83%

About Jan Etal (tread_geek)
FROM: ONTARIO, CANADA

I've been building models since about age 10 with the occasional hiatus due to real life events. First armour model was a 1/76 Airfix Tiger I and was followed by a 1/72 Revell F4U Corsair. I've built primarily 1/76 and 1/72 armour and aircraft but occasionally have tinkered in other larger scales....

Copyright ©2018 text by Jan Etal [ TREAD_GEEK ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Many thanks for getting this up, James. I appreciate all the effort that went into getting this one ready. Cheers, Jan
JUL 24, 2012 - 10:47 AM
Nice review Jan, and looks like an interestingly detailed book. Vividly recall seeing the series of ads they ran featuring the Sdkfz 251 and the Panzer II as built by top modellers of the day. I see that it does mention Bill Farmer who sculpted their figures, both the soft polythene ones and those included in the armour kits. Here is his rather interesting website: Figuresculptor.com I see he worked on figures for other companies, as well as Cindy dolls and Captain Scarlet action figures, before working at Ford Motors. Like the photo of him in the sixties, he looks a bit cool in his white coat... ah, yes, and that's the pic I recall of his wife and daughters... To use a phrase well-known in the UK: "Didn't he do well!!??"
JUL 25, 2012 - 05:14 AM
Thanks, Matthew, I'm glad that you found it interesting. The book is filled with anecdotes about those early years plus many historical details. The more I read the harder is was to put it down but also rather daunting to decide what to include in the review. I must say that I was rather pleasantly surprised by the price. Compared to many recent books this one appears more reasonable. I even saw it on Amazon UK for Ł12.74 with free delivery. For the Canadian viewers of this thread, Amazon.ca has it on sale for CDN$14.75. Cheers, Jan
JUL 25, 2012 - 09:15 AM
Very interesting review Jan, but I wish you went into even more detail! The pictures look great and I find my curiosity suitably peeked and at the price you quote may have to get this. I still see a lot of old Matchbox kits in the sale bins in some hobby shops (usually more aircraft than armour). Wondering, are there many pictures of sprue shots or finished models? Regards, AJ
JUL 27, 2012 - 06:32 AM
Nice review! I'll be picking this book up for sure. Matchbox kits bring back some fond memories. I recall going through the 1982 catalog and putting a check mark next to each kit I built. I think I was churning out a kit every week back then!
JUL 27, 2012 - 06:52 AM
Trust me AJ, it was all I could do to not replicate the entire book, or most of it, for the review. But that would defeat the purpose of the review and get me sued. To the extent that many might desire, the answer is basically no. There are a number of pictures of kit sprues and a sprinkling of built models but mostly they are kit boxes and advertising copy from the various eras. Thanks Graeme and I think that you will find the book fascinating. I don't want to give away too many secrets as that might ruin your enjoyment but be prepared for a few enlightening anecdotes. I think that there are many of us that more than enjoyed the Matchbox experience. BTW, for those that don't know, there is a Matchbox vehicle campaign to start on Armorama in September. You can find all the particulars on the Matchbox Campaign Page Cheers, Jan
JUL 27, 2012 - 07:36 AM
Damn, those armor kits with small base, really bring some memories
JUL 27, 2012 - 07:22 PM
We broke our quick reply box. Working on it. Until fixed go to topic to reply.
Thanks.
   

What's Your Opinion?


Photos
Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move