By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)
It occurred to me while going through this book that what is required is not one, but two reviews. The first is for the newer collector who hasn't seen a previous edition. The second is for those who want to know if there's enough new here to warrant investing in the update.
Well for the new collector, this remains the most complete and comprehensive collection of information on Matchbox I've seen collected in one place. If you want to learn about casting history, or wheel development, or packaging changes, a little digging around in here will find what you seek. Of course, that was true in the second edition as well, and unless you are very recent into the game, the three years worth of additional information make for very slim reading.
The format of the book doesn't make it easy to root out the new material either. having to continually flip back and forth from the pictures to the text in the back of the book is awkward at best, and because the book is laid out to correspond to the 1-75 line I found I had to lay the second and third editions side by side and go through them simultaneously to see the new additions. Perhaps I am a bit spoiled by the Tomart's format that features the text under the photos and groups the new releases by year. I know it would have helped to have pictures of more of the major variations of each model along with their descriptions to better recognize them when I see them.
I also have a bone to pick with whichever editor at Schiffer Books released this for publication with distorted pictures. I can't believe that a major hobby reference would be printed with several photographs flattened and distorted. Since hobby books live and die on the strength of their photos, allowing these bad pics to reach the stores uncorrected is a major disappointment.
But then, there is much about the layout that feels rushed and haphazard. For this I blame Schiffer more than Charlie Mack, because the problems are all in the design of the book, not its content. My first warning sign was when I noticed there were fewer pages than the second edition. Three more years of info and fewer pages means either or cost-cutting on the layout. The book moves from section to section with barely noticeable divisions to separate different lines from each other. Photographs of larger scale lines like the Models of Yesteryear are reduced to make them look the same size as the 1:64 cars. The more I looked through the book the more it seemed to me the two best words to describe it were contractual obligation. I get the impression that everyone involved felt required to put something out but they didn't enjoy it very much.
I would like to see another book on Matchbox that focuses on just the 1:64 cars, allowing many more pictures integrated with the text, and I would like to see some clearer representation of what came out each year. But most of all, I want to see more effort put into making a book more coherent and readable, and I want to think the publishers take my collecting dollar as seriously as I do. The Encyclopedia of Matchbox Toys is currently the best reference book on Matchbox on the market, but there is room for a much better one.
The Encyclopedia of Matchbox toys Revised and Expanded Third Edition, by Charlie Mack, ISBN 0674315714 is published by Schiffer books and retails for $29.95.