Yesteryear Copycats

Due to their popularity, Lesney models have been copied by many companies over the years. Lesney were not averse to this in their early years as it was a huge cost saving on a new model when someone had done all the legwork for you. Their early road roller was a copy of the Dinky version.

You see many of the small 1 to 75 regular wheels copied in plastic mainly but there seems to be a lot fewer Yesteryears copies around or perhaps I just haven't been looking hard enough. here are a few I have found.

Top left is a Guisval copy of the Y8 MGTC. The large one in the middle is a hugely scaled up Y14 Maxwell by Blue Box with a smaller Made in Hong Kong model in front. The Y11 Packard and Y4 Opel are also just marked Made in Hong Kong. The Y6 Cadillac copy is from Poland I think, but definitely an Eastern Bloc country and this one is in diecast metal. If I find anymore I will add to them as I go.

Here is a recently acquired Packard copy in two forms from Russia I think

Some more from Steve Brown. These are Cragstan plastic models and came on blister pack style cards. I love the Y14 Maxwell in that colour scheme which they seem to have reversed with the Y11 version colourwise.




On this page we come to the nasty bits and pieces of collecting Yesteryears - yes believe it or not there are those out there selling models that are, to say the least, very dubious and hopefully this page will help you as a collector to recognise them. Nothing replaces experience, but sadly the days of the old swap meets are gone where you could handle models and get a 'feel' of a real paint finish or even check a rare model out for the day when you were ready to buy one.

All auctions carry one warning 'CAVEAT EMPTOR' basically' buyer beware' and this even applies to Ebay who still claim they are not an auction site but a selling provider. You get what you see, so do your homework - if it looks to good to be true then it probably is. There are bargains to be had, but you must know your hobby to find them, so learn, learn, learn and you will avoid being ripped off. 


Back in the late 70's -80's the name 'Yesteryear' became synonymous with fake. These models were possibly the most popular on the toy collecting scene at this time and collectors would buy up any variant found.  Some were genuine (or deliberate to boost sales) made by the factory at the time but others were made by unscrupulous sellers to make a handsome profit on models that were normally selling at around GBP 3 to 4 each.

For reasons that are obvious I will not reveal how these things were done as it only fuels the fake models out there already.

1.    'THE WHEEL SWAP'  (goto)

The old basic wheel swap was found on any model and as a result I would not purchase any that I found at a swap meet - the only ones I purchased were ones found at a regular retail shop who only sold these and other models. This got to the stage where models would turn up with the new Cord solid type wheels when they had been made years before these were ever issued. Yes collectors still paid a premium price for these!

2.    'THE LABEL SWAP'   (goto)

Next up was the label swap - remove the old label and stick it on to another colour body - same for tampo printed models - wipe old one off and reapply new label.. Many models are offered as preproduction versions in standard body colours with either tampo labels on the side or decals from another model. These are generally termed 'FRIDAY LUNCHTIME MODELS'  They have been produced by various employees at the Lesney factory and sold privately after being stolen from the factory. Factory produced - yes, genuine - no. Some collectors like to collect these models for the variety they show but they are not genuine factory issued items.

3.    'THE TRIAL DECAL'  (goto)

Trial decals are another item touted around and a lot of standard decals were removed when the factory closed. These turn up on auction sites as 'TRIAL DECAL' models. You will find a standard colour model but with decals from another model version, again in my opinion not genuine.

4.    'THE FAKE LABEL'    (goto)

 Fake labels are created and stuck on to original models and this seems to affect the original Code 2 models more than anything else. The quality is never as good or some little detail is different. There is always a difference so know your label details as these are invariably expensive models.

5.     'TRIAL PLASTICS'     (goto)

Trial plastics - unplated plastic parts in one all over colour such as black, red or any other colour. These were made in a basic plastic colour and then plated with chrome or a gold finish. Colour of the plastic was not important as it would not be seen afterwards although I suspect various base colours gave a better effect to the final plated finish. It is very easy to remove this plating by submersing the model in a normal household ingredient and reveal the bare base plastic colour underneath, usually black, red or clear plastic. The model remains unaffected but now sports all red plastic parts, apart from this everything else is normal on the model. Again not worth an increase in price. Most of these are described as preproduction models.

6.    'THE REAL FAKE'      (goto)

The out and out fake - probably the worst of the lot as these models are usually faked on very rare models and so carry a high price. Main culprit on these is generally the plastic parts. These are very easy to make from a new mould but the plastic is never the same. Older plastic parts are hard and brittle, have a good gloss shine to them and a 'solid' looking colour. Fakes tend to be of an inferior quality plastic and are 'Translucent and waxy' in appearance. Newer fakes are made from the newer Polypropylene compounds which is a lot softer to avoid the plastic going brittle.

In all it sounds horrible and a minefield for the unwary. Rivets can be redone or anything else if the money received for the model makes it worthwhile. There are Regular 1-75 models that now command prices around the $10,000 mark and even $2000-$3000 is not unheard of for some Yesteryears so beware. Even paint can be tested for a small fee compared to the price of these models and will tell you if it matches an original  Lesney formula and even how long the paint has been on the model. Well worth it if paying these sort of prices.

I appreciate that to pay these sort of prices you must be a dedicated collector and are thinking 'I will never pay that for a model' But that is how we all start - how much did you spend collecting this year 10 or 20  models @ $20 = $200 - $400 what happens when you have them all and only the rarer stuff left. Do you stop collecting or do you buy instead one rarer model per year at that $400 ???? Food for thought.

7.    'The Useless Ebay Sellers'    (goto)

These are the sellers who I have found to either overcharge on postage, not send the right item, or just generally crap


8.    'Repaints'     (goto)

Another 'nasty' in the line up



Below I will post pics here of models found by fellow collectors that would fall under one of the headings above

click on the thumbnail to enlarge them

Please be aware that there are special models that do not fall under these categories and these are termed PREPRODUCTION or TRIAL models. A genuine preproduction most times has an incomplete date and Y number on the base so they read '197 and No. Y-  without the model number there. There are others with this info in full but termed colour trials and these were models that went through the spray process with whatever was being used at the time to test the riveting jigs and so ended up in some weird colour scheme. Most of these are very well known so there is no problem in identifying them and an excellent book on these is the 'Yesteryear Companion' book shown on the Book page.


The most common fake on Yesteryears around. If it's not in the book then in all probability it didn't exist but there are always exceptions not in the book as it is not infallible.

This one is pretty bad and so obvious but gives you an idea of what is out there. Check the axle ends carefully - they have been hammered over flat on this model. Matchbox never made axles like this as all were either domed/ crimped  on the ends. This model never came with metal wheels either as only plastic ones were used, and before you say possible prepro, yes the prepro did have this style of wheel but cast in PLASTIC !

Domed axles take 3 forms that I know of:

(a)    The flat dome - this has a very shallow dome, almost squashed down appearance and these were bought in at the start fron outside companies.

(b)     The true dome - These were made by Lesney themselves and just imagine a ball cut in half with a small flat area on the top. Also look for 'striations' - lines running down the dome caused by the machine that domed them.

(c)     The Early toy dome - these are basically nails in the true sense.  Not so much a dome but more tapered from top to where it joins the axle shaft. All these were 'crimped' one end

(d)     Crimped - Before safety standards came in most Matchbox models had a dome one end of the axle and were crimped the other end. This is where the axle end has been hammered flat by huge pressure. I have tried and found it almost impossible to reproduce them properly so if you check that they are uniform, with a slight bulge to the tip and look for a clean cut off then you can almost be assured they are genuine. Remember nothing is infallible and if they can get a good quid out of you then anything can be done.

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The label is removed from one model and then attached to one of another colour. Easy to do and fakers have even been known to scrape the sticky glue from one label to use on the fake one so if tested they are the same as used in the factory. One of the old chestnuts is the Captain Morgan van - I have lost count of how many different colours I have seen this van come in but most popular seems to be red as below. Another good one on Yesteryears is the 'Ever Ready' label - same comments as previous

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Before a label is made, they are tested as decals - this means the common waterslide transfers we all know about. It is no good getting rolls of labels made up if the logo is wrong so a few are made for testing purposes. When Matchbox closed stacks of these left the factory and now turn up much like label swaps, on models they never appeared on. The model is most probably a standard model but a different decal attached. Easy to produce with today's technology



These are labels that have been reproduced, easy with to-days technology, and put onto other models. Most of the affected models in this category seem to be the original Code 2 models that command a premium price nowadays.

A good test on early models to see if the decal has been replaced is to run the top of your finger over the decal. Matchbox decals from these days were printed differently and they have a raised feel to any lettering etc. If you look under an eye glass you will see the thick ink used which give a pronounced raised effect. Today's printers no matter how good, even laser produces flat print - very easy to tell

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Here is a blatant example kindly supplied by Mike Thomas. Not a cheap model, usually going for around a 100 plus. The box for this model also carries a label stuck to the lower front across it. This label should have rounded corners, most fakes are square.



Trial plastics are usually described as most models had plastic that was plated either in chrome or brass finish. The plastic used could be any colour as it was covered afterwards but mostly found are red, black, clear or yellow plastic. Prepro models are done with any colour plastic and most of these are well known. However it is a very easy job to drop a model in a well known  chemical and within a couple of hours the plating will be removed and the model will be left unharmed.

This gives rise to models with all one colour plastics instead of the normal chrome or brass. Be wary of these items as they usually look very attractive.

bleached.jpg (34362 bytes) Look carefully at this little Y1 Jaguar - a  rare preproduction trial model, all black plastics and clear wheels - not really I made this one 15 minutes ago with an easy well known process. As before do your homework so you don't get fooled by these faked 'trial' models, this way you won't lose your hard earned money. Not sure - then ask, there are many who can help you on various boards and no need to be embarrassed - its your cash after all.



The real nasty of the fake list as usually sold as a high cost item.

Just to show you collectors that even the best of us get caught out - This one was a recent purchase on Ebay, the rare issue number one Y12 Thomas with rare yellow seats and grille. The model looked fine in the pics shown but sadly as soon as I opened up the package it was obvious that the seats were fakes. These had been cast from a mould taken from the original seats and cast in a sub-standard type polypropylene plastic.

As this model is now nearly 50 years old the seats should be hard and brittle with a high gloss finish and sharp edges to them but as you can see from the close up pics they are most definitely not. They are soft, flexible and translucent with badly finished edges.

The photo on Ebay (1) b660_3.jpg (90526 bytes) e599_3.jpg (77347 bytes) f07d_3.jpg (71257 bytes)  What actually arrived (2) Copy of Y12a.jpg (51289 bytes) These are seats taken from a Y9 Simplex, issued around the same time as the Thomas - I actually broke them getting them out ! Compare them with picture 2.IMG_1922.JPG (641476 bytes)

This piece of faked junk cost me the sum of around AUS$1825 and complaints to the seller went nowhere, just the usual comments that I had damaged the model, or swapped the seats for genuine ones so I could resell at a vast profit to one of my friends. I don't care if the seller knew nothing about these models and to her it was a yellow seated Thomas as per the description in the book. She should have respected my knowledge and refunded the cost.  I had paid by Paypal so thought I was ok - boy was I ever wrong !!!!

Mailed Paypal saying why I thought model was what it was - chance for seller to reply with all the accusations as previously stated. Replied back and eventually got a reply a month later saying Paypal needed an independent report on the model to be able to assess the claim - you have 10 days to submit it - fair enough and finally found a guy who lives almost a State away from me and got ready to send - easy ! NO !!!  Paypal says do not send through normal post as may get damaged so had to get it couriered all the way there and back.

Paypal finally found in my favour after submitting a 4 page report by an independent expert, but then another surprise. When you look at the ads on Ebay it will say Paypal buyer protection to X amount, (for Australia this I have found is either $400 or $1500) the latter figure only kicks in if certain specifications are met by the seller and I advise all who use Paypal to read the fine print. Result was they stated that they had got back $375 for me ($400 minus their $25 charge for doing all this) . Whether they got this from the seller or refunded themselves I do not know - all I know is that out of $1700 I got back $375 minus ($100 for report and $85 for courier) giving me a total of $190 refund, a loss of $1635 without the insurance and postage of $50 that I included to get the model. It still sits at the top of my Paypal account as an unresolved dispute and Paypal chasing it as far as I know , whatever that means.

You would think a one off - think again as this seller sold in the same period the following - another Thomas the same at $200 more than what I paid, which also turned out to be fake after buyer had it checked by the world's best experts at the UK MICA convention, a Y8 Sunbeam with black seat that was fake (went through the same process as me above and received the same) and another Y8 Sunbeam with red seat that I never heard what occurred with it. A grand total of around nearly $5500 - not a bad living if you can get it. The seller is no longer listing items , although she did pass on the mantle to her daughter who sold a few more 'rare' ones but I was way past chasing these up to find out if genuine or not. On all their sales the bidders are hidden and private so no way of knowing what poor sucker gets taken next time but you can find out as only so many are prepared to pay these kind of prices.

If I post their Australian Ebay ID's here, Ebay will ban me but I am quite prepared to give you the ID of the husband, the wife and the daughter from Victoria if you ask nicely and I know you from somewhere that I post. I must admit that in all my years and transactions on Ebay this is the first time I have ever been caught (to the best of my knowledge). I have dealt with people from all over the world in Matchbox circles and  all have been honest and pleasant to deal with and have made many great friends around the globe. It is just a shame it was spoilt by a bunch of greedy, arsehole countrymen of mine - kind of leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I know it is tempting and not sure what else you can do to check a model on Ebay but it is definitely 'caveat emptor' (buyer beware). In this case the photo's were good, a previous buyer seemed to be satisfied so I thought OK. Perhaps the best way on high priced items is to use your credit card as they will issue a charge back for you - far easier than the Paypal system.

Anybody want to buy a great fake Y12 Thomas with yellow seats  - only joking as I don't sell trash - amazingly the casting on the model is absolutely correct, a hard version to find at anytime, so it sits here on a shelf to remind me that the crooks ( and that is what they are as honest sellers would have just refunded instead of protesting and making allegations about my honesty and integrity) still abound in this hobby.



7   'The Useless Ebay Sellers'

These sellers make your life a misery. They pervade Ebay now and just basically don't give a stuff. Paypal is no protection unless of course you wish to be out of pocket. By this I mean, if you wish to return something then it is at your expense and has to be traceable in the postal system. On a small cost item it just is not worth it. Higher cost item - just the same, if the seller has withdrawn funds then you have little or no chance of ever seeing your money back again. You will probably get a token payment back but only after a long winded process.

I currently have  some sellers in Australia and now one in France. I cannot for legal reasons post ID's here but a quick mail will suffice. I am currently setting up a private chat board and all will be posted there but unless I know you or you are recommended by someone I know then you cannot view certain boards.



8.    'Repaints'

This one is a hard one. You can get a feel for normal paint after years of handling models and even then it is hard sometimes. Look for tampered  base rivets or trim that isn't quite right. Check to see if the casting is right for this colour scheme and if two tone finish is there an over-spray line between the 2 colours. Lesney were not precise in their paint spraying as mass production. For a very rare colour model I would thoroughly recommend paint testing - this can be done for a fee and will match samples to the paint on a model - no damage is done and will give you a yeh or ne on what paint has been used and can even tell you how long it has been there - well worth it on big ticket items and a good bit of provenance if you wish to sell later on with no hassles.