Of Matchbox and Hot Wheels

Ahmed Shatil Alam writes about the groups of miniature car lovers who collect and trade such cars through social media platforms

Photos by SOURAV LASKAR

006There are very few young people of the 80s and 90s who were not engrossed by the ‘Matchbox car’ phenomenon during those times. Plenty of people used to collect these toys which were basically miniature models of actual cars.
In fact some of these cars-enthusiasts are still involved with such hobbies, says Rubab Momen (36), a Dhaka-based businessman.
Matchbox is a popular toy brand introduced by British company-Lesney Products in 1953. The toy line is now owned by Mattel Inc. The brand was so named as the original die-cast matchbox toys were sold in boxes similar in style and size to those in which matches were sold.
According to Momen, many people are still collecting these toys in Bangladesh as they are passionate about this. Rubab Momen is one of the pioneer toy-car collectors in Bangladesh. He shares that besides the teens of the 80s and 90s, many young people from the new generation is also involved in this unique hobby of collecting matchbox cars.In Bangladesh, there are about 400-500 car toy collectors, mostly based in Dhaka, says the collectors and car toy enthusiasts. ‘There are hundreds of people who are collecting such toys over the past few years, like me,’ says collector Alvi Haque, who is also a student of a private university.
When asked why he chose this as his hobby, he shares that since his childhood he was always enthusiastic about cars and motor vehicles. This drove me toward collecting miniature replica of world famous car brands like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW etc.
007‘It is a hobby like stamp collecting, pen collecting…’ he shares. The young boy, who has around 200 cars, also shares that some of the collectors are also involved in trading such toys.
In this regard, Momen who has been collecting cars for thirty years and has more than a thousand of these toys, says, ‘The trading occurs between collectors’.
As many collectors are professionals and remain busy with their jobs, they cannot go to the markets to buy these car toys. Therefore it is easier to buy from other collectors, says Alvi Haque. He also says that such trading trend is very useful for him as it helps him earn some pocket money every month.
The Dhaka based car collector shares with New Age Xtra that the collectors of the country are mostly connected through some Facebook based groups like Die-Cast Car Collectors’ Club Bangladesh, Die Cast Model Car Collectors Bangladesh etc.
‘Although we have been collecting car toys for many days, the scope has widened for communities ever since the emergence of Facebook,’ Momen adds. There are thousands of members in each of these groups. Sellers exhibit their collections through the social networking platform. ‘We do not only exhibit rather discuss about the global trend of car toy collection in these groups,’ says Haque.

Rubab Momen shows off one of his favourite cars that is a replica of the vehicle used by the infamous couple Bonnie and Clyde.

Rubab Momen shows off one of his favourite cars that is a replica of the vehicle used by the infamous couple Bonnie and Clyde.

The Die-cast toys were first produced in the early 20th century. They were named in this manner as the products were produced through the die casting method.
The toys are made of metal, with plastic, rubber, or glass details. Matchbox became the first ever successful brand to produce toys through the die-cast method.
In Bangladesh, most of the car collectors are collecting 1:64 scale car toys as these are available in local market, while some also collect 1:24 and 1:18 scale car toys, says Momen. The cars, depending on their scale and brand, can be sold anywhere between Tk 100 to 15,000, he informs.
Most often the collectors collect their 1:24 and 1:18 scale car toys from abroad as these are not as easily available in Bangladesh. Recently some shops in Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Baridhara and other areas are selling such product to local customers.
The collectors are diversified in Bangladesh as their age range from 12 to 65, claims Rubab Momen. The collectors also organise frequent get-together programmes in different locations of Dhaka where they also exhibit their cars and hang out.