I thought we should go back this week and see how Matchbox cars started. It was in 1953 when an England based company, Lesney Products & Co. Ltd, started to produce a new toy line known as Matchbox cars. Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith were the co-founders. The two are not related but have been friends since they had been in school together and joined the Royal Navy in World War II. John Jack Odell joined the two partners and became the engineer responsible for the unique designs of Matchbox cars. Odell designed an old steamroller in 1952 for his daughter who took the toy to school and this proved to be a big hit among her friends.
Another milestone is when the company released a replica of the Royal State Coach in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. It came in two versions; a large scale model and a smaller one. It became a massive success at that time and profits of the sale gave valuable capital for further investments.
A Moko Lesney product appeared eventually. Lesney partnered with Moses Kohnstam to market and distribute its toys. But that did not last since Lesney bought Moko after a decade. In mid-60s, Matchbox was the largest brand of die cast model vehicles all over the world.
However, England went through economic recession in the 1980s. The strong reversal of fortunes in the British economy also brought the global economic crisis. Lesney Products & Co. Ltd was among the many businesses that got affected. Lesney went bankrupt. The Matchbox brand was sold to and became a division of Universal Holdings/Universal Toys, where the company re-formed as "Matchbox International Ltd." Production was moved to Macau. At present, Matchbox brand is owned by Mattel, the creators of Hot Wheels.