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The rare Abba dolls that went for money, money, money

PUBLISHED: 14:27 09 December 2017

This rare and mint condition set of Abba dolls, made by Matchbox, were sold recently by Bigwood, Stratford-upon-Avon, for £930 inclusive of premium.

This rare and mint condition set of Abba dolls, made by Matchbox, were sold recently by Bigwood, Stratford-upon-Avon, for £930 inclusive of premium.

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Collectables: Mike Hicks on a rarity of the Matchbox range.

The story of Matchbox Toys is a fascinating one. From a very humble beginning in a derelict pub in north London, two Mr Smiths and a Mr Odell started producing die-cast items, originally for industry but they soon turned their hand to producing toys. It is a fascinating story of how the word Matchbox came to be their trademark, a name internationally recognised and still functioning today, although not under the same ownership (these days the name is owned by Mattel).

Apparently, Mr Odell designed a toy for his daughter that she could take to school. The only thing was the school only allowed children to bring toys that would fit inside a matchbox, so Mr Odell crafted a scaled-down version of a Lesney green and red roller and it fitted in the box and she was able to take it to school. So, the original Matchbox toy was born!

This first toy spawned the 175 model range of miniature toys, which captured the imagination of not just Great Britain but the whole world.

The company moved onto greater things in Hackney Wick, London, where, at one point, they employed something like 7,000. It actually got the Queen’s Award for Industry by the mid-1960s and was the largest brand of die-cast toys in the world.

You’ll know their die-cast models but they also produced dolls. In 1978 they set out with a range of dolls, one set of which was based on the pop group Abba. You would have thought the pop dolls’ success was assured, but it appears that there were not that many made. Consequently, when the group of four turned up at auction recently, in a mint and unplayed state, the price soared to £930.

Other Suky dolls, which were produced by Matchbox are also collectable but very rarely seen on the open market. They also produced a range of other small dolls called Ginny. These are not so rare as the Abba dolls, and make anything from £15-£50 each.

Long before Matchbox made their name with the familiar toys that we know contained in the replica matchboxes, they had the brilliant idea of casting a Royal coach to coincide with the Coronation of 1953. The State Coach sold extremely well; so well, in fact, it helped to launch Matchbox into the future.

With this financial backing, they were able to diversify, and more and more products followed until Lesney, as the company was known, and its Matchbox products were probably found represented in every home in the UK.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.

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