History on the term Die-cast Toy
toys are made of metal and plastic, the metal used commonly
is ZAMAK (or Mazak), an alloy of zinc and aluminium. Zamak
is also referred to as white metal or pot metal. The most
common die-cast toys are scale models of automobiles,
equipment and trains,
although almost anything can be produced by this method.
A Die Cast Boeing 747 model in 1:400 scale. Diecast
(or die cast, or die-cast) toys were first produced early
in the 20th century by manufacturers such as Meccano (Dinky
Toys) in the United Kingdom and Dowst Brothers (Tootsietoys)
in the United States. The first models on the market were
basic, consisting of a small car or van body with no interior.
In the early days it was common for impurities in the
Zamak alloy to result in metal fatigue; the casting would
crack or decompose for no apparent reason. As a result,
diecast toys made before World War II are difficult to
find in good condition.
began making diecast toys in 1947.
Their popular Matchbox 1-75 series was so named because
there were always 75 different vehicles in the line, each
packaged in a small box designed to look like those used
for matches. These toys became so popular that "Matchbox"
was widely used as a generic term for any diecast toy
car, regardless of who the actual manufacturer was.
popularity of diecast toys as collectibles developed in
as their detail and quality increased. Consequently, more
companies entered the field, including the Corgi brand,
produced by Mettoy, which appeared in 1956
and pioneered the use of interiors and clear plastic windows
in their models.
Wheels were introduced in the United States by Mattel,
to address the complaint that they had no line of toys
for boys to balance their line of Barbie dolls for girls.
Due to the fact that they looked fast and were fast (they
were equipped with a low-friction wheel/axle assembly),
Hot Wheels quickly gained an important niche in the diecast
toy market, becoming one of the world's top sellers and
challenging the Matchbox 1-75 series in popularity.
various companies began to use diecast vehicles as promotional
items for advertising. The idea that children can play
a large part in a family's decision as to what products
to buy came into wide circulation. In addition, by the
it was apparent that many diecast vehicles were being
purchased by adults as collectibles, not as toys for children.
Companies such as McDonald's, Sears Roebuck, Kodak, and
Texaco commissioned toymakers to produce promotional models
featuring their names and logos, or licensed their use.
One early example was an American Airlines London bus
produced by Matchbox, an idea other some airlines quickly
in the mid '70s trucks
and other commercial vehicles took a lion's share of the
diecast market. Matchbox started the trend when they re-launched
their Models of Yesteryear range. They made a score of
different versions of their Y-12 Ford
Model T van, along with other trucks in colorful liveries
such as Coca-Cola, Colman's Mustard, and Cerebos Salt.
They also made promotional versions for Smith's Crisps
(potato chips) and Harrod's department store. Some models
were made exclusively for certain markets and immediately
became quite expensive elsewhere: Arnott's Biscuits (Australia)
and Sunlight Seife (soap, Germany) are examples.
copied this idea when they expanded the Corgi Classics
line in the mid-'80s, producing more than 50 versions
of a 1920s
era Thornycroft van. Some collectors disparaged this development
as "collecting paint," as the castings were
identical; only the decorations were different. Other
collectors created what they called the "10-Foot
Rule" when the collecting of minor variations of
the same vehicle got out of hand. The idea was that, if
you couldn't differentiate between two versions of a model
from 10 feet away, it wasn't worthwhile to collect both
their popularity, many diecast manufacturers went belly-up
in the 1980s. Meccano (Dinky), Matchbox, and Corgi all
went bankrupt within a three-year span, which essentially
reflected the economic climate in the UK at that time.
It had become virtually impossible to manufacture in England
and compete on the world market. (Mattel had also long
since shifted most of their production from the USA to
the far east.) Matchbox was purchased by a Hong Kong conglomerate
named Universal Holdings, which moved production from
England to Macau. Later (1997),
Mattel bought Matchbox, essentially making Hot Wheels
and the Matchbox 1-75 line sister brands. The two brands
continue to sell under their own separate names.
Corgi had been acquired by Mattel, which moved the office
from Swansea, Wales to Leicester, England, and moved manufacturing
to China. Matchbox also bought the Dinky Toys name, long
after the Liverpool factory was closed. Manufacturing
resumed in China. In a series of subsequent shifts, a
group of Corgi executives bought back the Corgi Classics
line from Mattel, and portions of the Matchbox line were
sold to an Australian company named Tyco (no relation
to the Tyco line of HO scale trains, originally made by
Mantua Metalworking in New Jersey, USA).
from the ashes of Matchbox's bankruptcy arose Lledo, a
company created by former Matchbox partner Jack Odell.
Odell believed that British collectibles for British collectors
could still be profitably produced in England. Lledo took
over part of the Matchbox factory in Enfield, Essex and
introduced their "Models of Days Gone" line
of diecast vehicles in 1983. The first series of Days
Gone models included re-makes of some of the most popular
and respected first and second-generation Matchbox Models
of Yesteryear. Lledo models were very popular collectibles
in the '80s, leading to a period of diversification (incl.
the Vanguards line of classic post-war British vehicles),
but by the '90s they were eclipsed by other brands, and
Lledo went broke. Parts of their line were purchased by
Corgi, which moved production to China.
addition to trucks, Corgi produced hundreds of versions
of their 1/64
scale Routemaster bus
in the '80s and '90s. Like other collecting and promotional
model trends, it started as a trickle and soon became
a flood. Many versions were made to be sold exclusively
in the stores whose advertising appeared on the buses.
Harrods, Selfridges, Gamley's, Hamley's, Army & Navy,
Underwood's, and Beatties were among the British stores
employing this idea. A South African chain called Dion
was one of the few overseas firms to follow suit.
1/76 scale buses became very popular in Britain in the
late '80s and early '90s, with competing lines from Corgi
(the Original Omnibus Company) and Gilbow Holdings (Exclusive
First Editions, or EFE) fighting for the market. The 1/76
scale fits in with British 'OO' scale model trains.
the 1990s NASCAR
enjoyed increasing popularity and a large number of racing-related
diecast cars and trucks, painted in the colors of the
different racing teams, appeared from various manufacturers.
Racing Champions was a leading brand of such models, but
there were many others.
addition to cars, trucks, buses, agricultual implements,
and construction equipment, diecast aircraft and military
models were popular. While Dinky had made such models
decades earlier, new companies entered the field in the
'80s and '90s. One producer was Dyna Flites, which went
bankrupt in the 1990s, but their market share was quickly
taken up by their competitors, including Schabak, Gemini
Jets, Herpa, and Dragon Wings.
1:50 scale and 1:48 scale metal diecast models together
Diecast toys and models come in various scales, the most
popular ones being:
scale - large models often targeted at adults
scale - very common size sold in toy stores - similar
to G scale model trains, which are 1:22.5 scale
scale - made popular by Dinky and Corgi, popular with
collectors - similar to O scale model trains
1:48 scale - aircraft sold in this scale to match plastic
model kits - same as O scale model trains
1:50 scale - trucks, buses, construction equipment, promotional
models, military vehicles - similar in size to O scale
scale - Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars are nominally
this size, as well as truck and tractor models - same
as S scale model trains
See also: List of scale model sizes, Scale model
Items such as toy restaurants and filling stations are
sometimes sold separately from the cars, to be used as
playsets. Toy raceways are also sold for use with die-cast
cars, which have become more complicated in recent years,
usually involving loops and complicated curves. Also produced
are luggage bags made specifically for children to be
able to travel with their cars.
of diecast toy brands/diecast manufacturers (past and
American Highway Legends (AHL) - see Hartoy and Tonkin
Brookfield Collectors Guild
Conrad: Germany maker of construction, truck and bus models
in 1:50 scale
Crown Premiums: Manufacturer of diecast promotional cars
Diapet: Japanese cars, mostly in 1/40 scale.
Die Cast Promotions (F.F. Ertl III) also know as Highway
Exclusive First Editions (EFE)
Husky/Corgi Juniors/Corgi Rockets
JLE Scale Models (Joseph L. Ertl)
Lledo: Models of Days Gone, Vanguards
NZG: German maker of construction models, trucks, buses
in 1:50 scale
Precision Engineered Models (PEM) - see Hartoy and Tonkin
makers of Joyride Entertainment, Ertl American Muscle,
Ertl Elite, Ertl Authentics, Ertl Collector
Tomica: Japanese diecast about Matchbox size.
Trofeu: Made in Portugal 1/43 scale.
Vitesse: Wide range of 1/43 scale European and Japanese
Understanding 1/18 Scale
Understanding 1/24 Scale
ALL 1:18 scale diecast model cars (in stock and out
only IN STOCK 1:18 scale diecast model cars