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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Matchbox - Toy Soldiers

Matchbox is actually the name of a brand, rather than the name of a company. The brand was introduced by a British company called Lesney Products in 1953. The origin of the brand name is due to the fact that one of the co-owners designed a series of toy cars that would fit into a small matchbox. He did this for her daughter as her school only allowed children to bring toys that could fit into a match box. The brand has been used primarily for die cast vehicles, but in the late 70s, Matchbox also produced a set of WWII soldiers which competed directly against Airfix. Matchbox offered more poses per set, but fewer figures per box. And even though toy soldiers were not their main focus they did a pretty decent job. I am grateful that they deviated from their standard products as these were some of my favorite figures growing up. In 1982, Lesney Products went bankrupt and the brand has since changed hands several times. It is not clear to me who owns the molds these days. I have seen recasts of the original figures so they must still be around. 

Matchbox German Infantry
One of my favorite sets ever. Note that to the right there is a bazooka/panzerschreck guy which to my knowledge is not part of the original set. It came in a bucket of clones, but it must be based on Matchbox figures as the sculpting and all his equipment is just like that of the other guys.

Matchbox US Infantry - Part I
Another really nice set. The machine gun could have been done slightly better as the legs of the tripod are a bit unrealistic. The bazooka guy is actually a clone, but I've never seen the original figure that it's been copied from. I really like the guy running with the sub MG.

Matchbox US Infantry - Part II
Another good, solid set. The poses and movements all look real and well proportioned. Note that the matchbox figures in general offer some heavy weapons like flamethrowers or bazookas that the Airfix guys sometimes lacked.

Matchbox British Infantry - Part I
The Bren gunner is one of my favorite ones. I really like how he is leaning back. The flamethrower guy tends to be harder to find than the rest.

Matchbox British Infantry - Part II
A few more heavy weapons. From this set I also like the prone man in particular. The officer with the sheepskin coat is turned out nicely when the paint job was done.

Matchbox British Commandos - Part I
I think this is one of those sets in which Matchbox outdid Airfix. They also have a very good variety of poses and weaponry. The only thing missing is some heavy weapons, but then again, these are commandos. I like this set in particular as it was brought back to me by my old man from a trip that he made to England. It was my only set of British Commandos growing up and I still have some of them today.

Matchbox British Commandos - Part II
The guy with the ladder is a nice touch, but I have to admit that I don't have much use for him in most battles. They do offer a good selection of prone guys. The guy in the middle is very similar to the Airfix guy. I wonder which one came out first. The kneeling guy is going to be my overall commander once I have them all painted.

Matchbox British Commandos - Part III
Here is a nice combo. The boat and rower are Matchbox figures. The bren gunner is an Airfix guy providing support. I guess there is some advantage to him not having a base after all. Like the ladder guy, this raft also requires a very specific scene.

Matchbox Afrika Korps - Part I
Matchbox, gave us a bit more variety in poses, but the sculpting is a notch below that of Airfix or some of its other sets. On the plus side, they included a couple guys with short pants, and they also included an important mounted heavy machine gun. My favorite guy in this set is the one on the very left. I really like that running guy, holding his weapon with one hand.

Matchbox Afrika Korps - Part II
Is that Rommel that we are looking at? He could very well be.
A few of these guys illustrate the point I was making about the sculpting. The charging guys' running seems a bit unnatural and the grenade man does not seem to lean back enough to be able to throw that thing as far as you'd want to.

Matchbox Afrika Korps - Part III
Painted as regular infantry... I needed them to complete 100 unique poses of painted German Infantry.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part I
Matchbox gave us 13 poses in this set. Almost twice as generous as most of the other manufacturers. Their figures are mostly in good action poses. Casualty figures are not my favorite ones, but the guy in this set actually looks pretty authentic.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part II
Even though the bagpipe guy is not an action pose, I have to admit that he will probably look really nice once he's painted.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part III
It looks like this batch contains Monty. The quality of the sculpting in this set in on par with that of the German Afrika Korps. Not Matchbox's best, but as I said, they made up with the number of poses. Also, note the mix of helmets and berets -or more precisely, Scottish tam o'shanters, as contributed below by one of our readers-. That will mix things up nicely once they are painted. 

Click here to see some US Infantry in action
Click here to see a post about Airfix Toy Soldiers


  1. Just a note on the British chaps; those aren't berets, but Scottish tam o'shanters, only worn by a Highland regiment. If you trim the bobble off the top they would pass as General Service Caps, a sort of less-rigid beret often worn in WW2.

    Great figures and great blog. Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing that bit of insight. It's that type of input which enriches this forum! And that's also for the good words re the blog.

  3. Also these moulds are now owned by Revell and the GIs, British and Germans are being re-issued. I can buy them in the UK right now, not sure about the US.

  4. I had noticed some new production Matchbox figures pop up on eBay and such. I have not bought any yet and had no idea that Revell was behind them.