The ‘Models of Yesteryear’ range was first produced in 1956 when Lesney Industries presented four historical diecast vehicle models designed by Jack Odell (later of Lledo fame) at the British Toy and Hobby Show at Harrogate in the United Kingdom; a show that still runs to the present day.
The yesteryear range was produced in a much larger scale than previously produced models; this meant that they could display a lot finer detail on each model. Each model was die-cast from solid zinc and then carefully hand finished. The models were sold in toy shops all over England and eventually the world, and soon became loved by children and adults alike.
In 1992 when Tyco Toys Inc. brought the company, they changed the range into mail-order and subscription sales only, targeting adult collectors and loosing forever any remote idea that these are toys. By doing this, they also lost many of the collectors that they were targeting, by making the range more thorough and therefore more expensive for someone to collect all released models and its inherent variations. It was this change that lead to the creation of ‘Matchbox Collectibles’.
Collectors will often talk about “1st Series” and “2nd Series” Yesteryears, but apart from the first issue of 16 models there is really no justification for the word “Series”, having said that, even amongst the first 16 models the scale and style changed considerably when the larger-scale veteran cars were introduced. Models were continually deleted and new ones introduced, sometimes with old numbers, sometimes with new, and the range expanded.
The coding used on this website is based on the original number each model was released under (eg: Y12 for the Ford Model T Van). The next number in the code is the release or series number (eg: Y12-3 Ford Model T Van) means that it is the 3rd series or 3rd time the code of ‘Y12’ has been used. The final number is the issue or variation number (eg: Y12-3-17 Ford Model T Van) means that this model was released as Y12, it was considered the 3rd series and the particular example being shown or discussed is issue (variant) number 17.
Of course this became difficult when in 1992 models started to be released under the banner Matchbox Collectables in a series or groups of vehicles; a prime example of this is the ‘Great Beers of the World’ which were released with a number beginning with YGB. Eventually the decision was made not to even provide a three digit series number and models began to be released with either a ‘YY’ number which mainly was based on the original Y number (eg: YY012 is a Ford Model T, just the same as Y12-3 is) or they were released with a ‘YYM’ number which had no reference at all to anything that was previously released, whilst you can search under all of these numbers, the code taken is that of the original models release.
Other models listed may have a ‘DYM’ number, this signifies that the model was released as a ‘Dinky’ brand car, even though it was made from a Yesteryear die.
NB: Models Y48 to Y60 inclusive, were never allocated to any models and hence nothing was ever produced under those numbers.
Check out the complete list of the core Yesteryear range issued prior to the conversion to the Mail In editions.