Sweet Memories of Childhood Cars: A Matchbox Retrospective


Who would win in a drag race between Matchbox and Hot Wheels?

I wrote an article last week about Hot Wheels cars, but upon posting it something started gnawing at me. While talking about Hot Wheels, I had completely neglected to mention Matchbox, the opposing brand. What makes this worse is that as a kid, I couldn’t distinguish between the two as both brands made little toy cars. They still do of course, so it’s only fair that I give you the other side of the story.

The Other Big Name In Toy Cars

What is the key difference that separates Matchbox cars with Hot Wheels cars? As far as I can tell, one has an imprint on the bottom that says “Matchbox” and one has an imprint that says “Hot Wheels.” This does not by any means imply that I believe one to be a knock-off or inferior or anything. Heck no, both brands are awesome and as a kid I was perfectly happy getting either. I happened to get most of my toy cars as hand-me-downs though, so it didn’t make much of a difference as long as the cars had wheels.

If I had to make a sweeping generalization about the differences, I’d say that Hot Wheels tend to be more fantastic in nature, emphasizing designs that are impossible such as a stegosaurus or a torpedo car, whereas Matchbox was more concerned with real world vehicles like ambulances and police cars. The playsets seemed to reflect this as well since I remember having Hot Wheels tracks meant for jumps but Matchbox sets like a city landscape or a triple-decker parking garage.

Don't ask me why, but I always thought realistic cars were just as cool as dragon cars.

The important thing about all of this is that more brands mean more variety, and I already noted Hot Wheels’ incredible number of different vehicles to choose from. Matchbox may have even more than Hot Wheels if we’re talking variety of collectibles, but either way, it makes it even easier to have a collection entirely original to you and no one else.

One thing that I find really cool about Matchbox is the official website makes reference to the 100 new cars released this past year. Yes, 100 new cars to collect. They even provide a checklist for the hardcore collectors, and with a 20-car pack being priced at $19.99, that sounds like a fair challenge for the year. You’d be so lucky to only spend a C-note on toys each year.

I remember the time my uncle gave me an old tackle box filled with all the Matchbox cars he had as a kid. Some were busted pretty badly, but the majority were in perfect working condition. This equaled an awesome time of taking each car out of the tackle box and checking out what it was. Parents, make sure to pass down your toys as soon as possible to your kids. Few things are more enjoyable for the kid.

There is certainly something to say for simplicity.

Do you have a favorite Matchbox car from your youth? Can you tell the big difference between Matchbox and Hot Wheels from a distance of twenty feet? Do you prefer one or the other? I want to know your thoughts. Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you once I’m done checking out my collectibles.


About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.


  1. Just like you I’ve always liked the more realistic feel to matchbox than hot wheels. Unfortunately my son does not agree and has fallen into the hot wheels trap 😀

    Wrote an article comparing the two and several other die cast toy cars: Matchbox vs Hot Wheels vs Majorette Toy Cars

    Also, the other reason I dislike hot wheels, or should I say, prefer matchbox is that matchbox die cast toy cars have different and IMHO better hubcaps where as hot wheels toy cars all have the same boring hubcaps and wheels.

  2. Matchbox cars are much more detailed and realistic than hot wheels. I always preferred them because when playing with them it was easier to pretend they were real cars.

  3. yesteryrarcollecting since 1961. have hundreds of matchbox and hot wheels and lots of other brands solido etc and want toi find a buyer for it all. aslso big tonka, buddie etc. i yesteryear.big mb. you guessed it,im a big kid all my life and i dont want my kids to give it all away in yardsale i havent got a list yet. recovering from a stroke but willing to talk.

  4. I’m 48 and I remember when I was a little boy,playing all day
    long with my little collection of Matchbox cars….I still have a few of them after all those years…

  5. pearl veikens on

    i am 42 now when i was very young me and my sister brought matchbox cars everyweek i still have them to this day
    what joy they brought

  6. well hotwheels are more kiddishly fantastic and unreal whereas matchbox is a realistic look on toy cars

  7. You would not believe how long ive been looking for something like this. Scrolled through 8 pages of Google results and couldnt find anything. Very first page on Bing. There this is…. Gotta start using that more often

  8. Huh, I never knew the difference in racing quality, but you’re quite right. Now that I think about it, half of my cars as a kid were awful when it came to the loop-de-loop and the other half were champs. The mystery is solved!

  9. The main difference in Matchbox vs. Hot Wheels is just what you pointed out, style. Hot Wheels are more fantastic and frankly, less realistic, even the real-world cars. Matchbox cars are far more detailed than HWs and match their real-world counterparts much better.

    I also tend to view Matchbox as more of a “collector’s” car whereas I see HW as more of “play” line. That’s probably because I just had more HW when I was little, but whatever. 🙂

    I also have to say that Matchbox are inferior when it comes to racing. Hot Wheels cars are built for tracks and speed, Matchbox cars just aren’t. There are just enough differences in construction that make HW better suited for play. If you have to pick on in a race, always go with the Hot Wheels.

    Great article 🙂 I always love talking toys…especially Hot Wheels!

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