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The History of Matchbox Cars

In 1947, English die casters Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith founded Lesney Products and along with partner Jack Odell, began to make small toys to fill the demand during wartime. In 1952, Odell created the Matchbox car after being inspired by a rule at his daughter’s school that stated students could only bring toys that fit inside a matchbox. So, Odell scaled down Lesney’s road roller toy and packaged it in a matchbox! Soon after, the company rolled out a cement mixer, a double-decker London bus, and a palm-sized racecar. Sales in America began a few years later, at which point the company added a Ford Customline Station Wagon to its formerly all-British product line. In 1968, Mattel debuted Hot Wheels and although Lesney countered with the Matchbox Superfast line, the company eventually went bankrupt. However, Universal Internal Ltd. acquired the product, formed Matchbox International, and although they moved most of the production to Asia, they continued creating Matchbox cars. Matchbox cars are now a part of the Mattel family and remain a popular toy to this day.

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