When it comes to collecting diecast toy cars, there are only really three brands to consider, Dinky, Matchbox and Corgi. All three makes came into their own after the Second World War. Before that, the alloy used for diecasting was of inferior quality and as a result there are few pre-war pieces in good condition available. But new alloys after the war meant that toys could be made to a higher quality and were more durable. For collectors, the most valuable items usually come from the 1950s, 60s or 70s.
Toy manufacturers Hornby launched the Dinky brand in 1934, and the cars were originally intended as accessories for the firm’s train sets. Production mostly ceased during World War II, but after the war it reached full throttle again.
Lesney Products started the Matchbox brand in 1953 and had an early success when they sold a million models of the coach that Queen Elizabeth used on her coronation day. Matchbox models used a smaller scale than both Corgi and Dinky.
Toy company Mettoy launched the Corgi brand in 1957. Corgi was the first maker to introduce detailed interiors and to add transparent plastic windows to their models. They were also the most adventurous in making special toys such as a Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, a Batcar inspired by the 1960s Batman TV show and a Lady Penelope car from the Thunderbirds TV series.
The value of these toy cars is highly dependent on condition. Models with signs of wear and tear may have some value, but those in pristine condition are the ones to look out for. The highest values are achieved when the cars come complete with their original boxes, and again the boxes should be in perfect condition.
Special editions linked to TV shows or movies can be especially valuable. For example, a set of six Corgi James Bond cars from 1965 in original wholesale packing recently fetched £5,500 at auction. Rarity can also add a lot to value. In 2008, a Dinky delivery van from the 1930s with the livery of a cycle maker, W.E.Boyce, sold for a record £19,975. That model originally sold for four shillings, 20p in today’s money. A Matchbox white 1930 Model J Duesenberg car from 1976 went for £4,935 in 2010, showing that later models can achieve premium prices.