Collectible cars cruise memory lane

Karl Terry

At one time I had a long list of fabulous vehicles in my collection. Ferrari, Camaro, Mustang, GTO, Willys Jeep, and a Ford roadster or two were just a few of the many items in the Matchbox collection that belonged to my brother and me.

A recent question that popped up on my Facebook page asked people what they collect. I thought about it for a little while and decided there were only two or three things I could have answered with: T-shirts (yeah, everyone’s got those), ball caps and Matchbox cars.

I couldn’t reply that I collect Matchbox cars because it’s been decades since I bought one and the collection is still at my mother’s house. I know this because the Matchbox cars as well as the Hot Wheels cars and track came out over Thanksgiving when visiting children became interested in setting up all that orange track.

When I saw the cars so soon after I had thought about them I had to put the carry case up on the table after the pumpkin pie was gone and take a trip down memory lane. Mom says she has some of the better ones saved back for us, but we didn’t get them out Thursday.

Matchbox cars, for those of you who don’t know what they were, were die-cast, mostly 1/64 scale cars, trucks and vehicles of all sorts. The cars were introduced by British toy company Lesney in 1953. The company was eventually acquired by Mattel which made the similar, but not as collectible at the time, Hot Wheels cars.

The original Matchbox collectibles came in a box similar in size and made to look like a pocket size matchbox. The toys were numbered underneath the frame and had the model of vehicle stamped there as well.

I got interested in owning my own Matchbox cars after my older cousins came to visit one year with a whole display case full of the cars. I started buying the cars I liked best at the dime store for 55 cents apiece anytime I had the money. My brother got started too and our collection became one community collection. Birthdays and Christmas we either received new models or spent those birthday dollars for whatever we needed to add to the collection.

We bought a carry case that held 48 cars and before long they didn’t all fit in that. The plastic covered cardboard case probably fell apart years ago because the cars were all in a different box this last week. But back in the day we could take those cars with us anywhere we went and we had a blast playing with them.

That’s right, we actually played with the collection, in the eastern New Mexico sand. We rolled them down the Hot Wheels track and into walls, chipping paint and breaking pieces.

The years and mistreatment show on the cars but I was amazed at how easily recognizable most of them were. Despite the missing wheels and pieces, just the sight of them took me back into the sand around my grandparents’ house where we played with them for hours.

I guess they would be worth big bucks today if we had taken better care of them, maybe put them up on display on a shelf. But then the memories wouldn’t be there, would they?