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Thursday, July 9, 2015

#565 LESNEY TOYS - VARIOUS MODELS I (1955, 1957 and 1958)

I have collected my oldest Matchbox/Lesney to finally write the story of the origins of Matchbox.

Lesney was founded in 1947 by Leslie and Rodney Smith. Despite their names, these men were not family. LESlie and rodNEY gave name to the company. Shortly after their foundation the engineer John "Jack" Odell joined the company. He was a friend of Rodney, both had worked previously at DCMT (Die Cast Machine Tools Ltd.), the die-cast company famous for "Lone Star" die-cast models.
Initially, Lesney facilites were an old pub called The Riflemen. They changed location several times until they finally moved to a factory in Hackney. In 1947 they recevied a request for toy gun parts, and they started considering toys as a new alternative to the other items they produced. In 1948 they started producing toys themselves. That first toy was a die-cast road roller similar to another one made by Dinky, followed by similar toys including a cowboy wagon and a soap box racer (from 1949, probably the most sought-after model ever in the history of Lesney/Matchbox).

Rodney left the company in 1951 because he thought there was no future in producing toys.
Only two years later, in 1953, Lesney produced the Royal Stage Coach used in the coronation of Elizabeth II in two different scales. This was an amazing success and provided capital for future expansions. This success plus a bit of luck would definitely determine the brilliant future of the company. Jack Odell built a miniature road-roller in 2 to 3 inches size for his daughter, who was only allowed to take with her to school toys in the size of a matchbox or smaller. This scale was somehow revolutionary, and we all know how successful this "scale" has been. Opposed to the classic 1:43, 1:87... scales, this new scale is sometimes referred as 1:box, because all models are around 2-3 inches long, independently of the size of the real vehicle.
That road roller would later become Nr.1 of the Matchbox 1-75 series.

Until the late 50s, Lesney toys were distributed by Moko. Moko was founded by MOses KOhnstam, and from there its name. Toys distributed by Moko were marked Lesney/Moko in the boxes. At one point, Lesney bought Moko, and started distributing their own toys.

From there on, a great expansion would follow until the first bankruptcy and receivership in 1982. Then, the company was reformed as Matchbox International Ltd. (a division of Universal Holdings/ universal Toys) and started producing in Macau. Jack Odell founded then Lledo (the surname spelled backwards).

Nr. 1c - Aveling Barford Road Roller (1958-1962)
Nr. 2b - Muir Hill Site Dumper (1957-1961) - Probably Reedition
Nr. 18a - Caterpillar Bulldozer (1955-1958) - Reedition

More Information:

  • Name: Aveling Barford Road Roller (Nr. 1c), Muir Hill Site Dumper (Nr. 2b), Caterpillar Bulldozer (Nr. 18c)
  • Scale: Unknown
  • Year: 1958, 1957, 1955
  • Company: Lesney (Great Britain)
  • Size: approx. 6 cm

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