After 60 years in business and too many models to count, Matchbox has produced plenty of die-cast miniatures now considered valuable by collectors. Here’s a shortlist of the most rare (and most expensive) Matchbox vehicles ever.
1953 Aveling Barford Road Roller
From 1947 until 1953, Leslie and Rodney Smith were in the business of producing large die-cast miniature toys to sell in London shops during the Christmas season. That soon changed when the pair hired tool and die maker Jack O’Dell. In trying to make a school-permissible toy for his daughter that would “fit inside a matchbox,” O’Dell scaled down the company’s popular road roller even further and the rest is history. Though it was released as part of a three-model set in 1953 (the other two miniatures were a dump truck and cement mixer), the Aveling Barford Road Roller is considered the first and, not surprisingly, one of the most collectible Matchbox vehicles ever.
1967 Mercedes Benz 230SL
Matchbox cars are roughly 1:64 to scale of the vehicles being modeled. But where $35,000 (more or less) might buy you a real, road-worthy version of this Mercedes classic, the $6,765 auction price paid in 1999 for a Matchbox 27D Mercedes-Benz 230SL in apple green made it one of the most valuable Matchbox miniatures of all time.
1966 Opel Diplomat
Behold the color of die-cast gold. In 1966, the “sea green” Matchbox Opel Diplomat cost just 48 cents. Today, this super-rare collectible is consistently valued in the neighborhood of $9,000.
1961 Magirus Deutz Crane
When it comes to discovering Matchbox treasures, few stories top the one involving a collector named Charlie Mack, who one day in the early 1980s stumbled upon a brown “No. 30” crane truck at a neighbor’s garage sale. He supposedly bought the toy for $10 and sold it three years later for a whopping $10,000. Another renowned Matchbox collector, Jim Gallegos, who at last estimate owned over 150,000 die-cast miniatures valued at over $1.4 million, reportedly purchased a brown No. 30 crane in 2004 for $13,000.
1965 BP Dodge Wrecker
There’s nothing like a factory mistake to get the blood pumping in a collector of rare Matchbox cars. Last year on ebay, this circa 1965 “reverse color” Dodge wrecker—a die-cast truck described as the “Holy Grail” of Matchbox collectibles—was one such example that set off a ferocious round of bidding that ended with sale price of $8,499.
You can read about more valuable old toys you might have lying around the house somewhere over at Cooter’s Place in this entertaining blog post.