Die Cast Toys

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, Dowst Brothers (TootsieToys) in the United States and Fonderie de précision de Nanterre (Solido) in France. 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 alloy to result in zinc pest; the casting would distort or crack for no apparent reason. As a result, diecast toys made before World War II are difficult to find in good condition. The later high-purity Zamak alloy avoided this problem.

Lesney (Dinky Toys) 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.

The popularity of diecast toys as collectibles developed in the 1950s 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 in their models.

In 1968, Hot 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. Because 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.