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Matchbox 1985 and 1986 Toy Fair Catalogs

In the 1980s, and still today, toy makers try to entice retailers to purchase current and possible future toy offerings at an annual trade show called New York Toy Fair. In the pre-Internet era of the 1980s, a toy maker would give printed catalogs to retailers, so that they would be aware of the toys that the company made, how to order them, and other information.

In the mid-1980s, Voltron: Defender of the Universe was a hot toy property, and Matchbox was Voltron’s first licensed toy maker. All of Matchbox’s Voltron toy offerings were modified re-releases of toys that had originally been produced by Popy, later Bandai, for the anime programs that were adapted to make Voltron.

Here are some photos of Matchbox’s 1985 and 1986 Toy Fair catalogs!


Front Cover

What’s that on the cover? Is that Voltron? Yes — it’s Voltron I! There’s not a lion to be found… yet. Given Matchbox’s history with small toy cars, this Voltron does seem to be the most appropriate robot to feature on the cover of the catalog.

Pages 48-49

It’s Voltron I! This mighty robot had five toy offerings:

  • 700211 Voltron I Air Warrior Set
  • 700212 Voltron I Space Warrior Set
  • 700213 Voltron I Land Warrior Set
  • 700002 Voltron I Miniature Space Warrior Robot
  • 700210 Voltron I The Deluxe Warrior Set.

If I were a nitpicker, I would point out that the forearm vehicles are swapped in the photo of The Deluxe Warrior Set — and in the photo of the Land Warrior Set. I’d also point out that the Air Warrior Set, Space Warrior Set, and Land Warrior Set did not have die-cast parts. It’s good that I’m not a nitpicker.

Note the “NEW! TV” markings on each page. Having a television program as a promotional outlet for toys was and still is hugely important to a retailer.

Pages 50-51

It’s Voltron II! This mighty robot had four toy offerings:

  • 700100 Voltron II Miniature Red Gladiator Robot
  • 700110 Voltron II Miniature Blue Gladiator Robot
  • 700120 Voltron II Miniature Black Gladiator Robot
  • 700220 Voltron II The Deluxe Gladiator Set.

These toys are also “NEW! TV” — but Voltron II never appeared on TV, at least not in the Voltron: Defender of the Universe program. To my knowledge, Matchbox never even televised ads for this poor guy, who incidentally is horribly mis-transformed on page 51. As shown in the catalog, the Blue Gladiator Robot’s head seems to be stuck in the ro-butt of the Black Gladiator Robot, whose head seems to be stuck in the ro-butt of the Red Gladiator Robot. It’s a good thing that robots don’t feel pain.

Pages 52-53

It’s Voltron III — or what most people today simply call Voltron. This mighty robot had five toy offerings:

  • 700201 Voltron III Giant Black Lion Robot
  • 700202 Voltron III Yellow and Green Mighty Lion Robots Set
  • 700203 Voltron III Blue and Red Mighty Lion Robots Set
  • 700001 Voltron III Miniature Lion Space Robot
  • 700200 Voltron III The Deluxe Lion Set

Again, it’s good that I’m not a nitpicker, because if I were, I’d point out that, in the photo of The Deluxe Lion Set:

  • The rear feet of Blue and Yellow Lions are pointed incorrectly.
  • The front legs of Blue and Yellow Lions are posed incorrectly.
  • Black Lion’s rear legs (Voltron’s thighs) are posed very strangely.
  • Black Lion’s shoulders (Voltron’s shoulders) are oriented incorrectly.
  • Black Lion has a yellow button on its left shoulder. This play feature was never present in the released Voltron toy.

Voltron III’s “NEW! TV” markings are the most apropos of the three robots, because after the first run of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, “Voltron I” all but disappeared from television, and as I already mentioned, “Voltron II” never made it to TV.


Front Cover

What the heck are those toys? They aren’t Voltron toys, and more strangely, they aren’t the tiny, die-cast toy cars for which Matchbox was best known. Read on, fearless reader!

Table of Contents

Voltron scored two fewer pages in 1986 than it enjoyed in 1985. Then… there’s this thing called Robotech, which spanned 36 pages — whereas Matchbox’s traditional die-cast cars had only 22 pages. What gives?

Pages 30-31

If you’re thinking that these toys look like 1985’s “Voltron I” toys, then you’re thinking correctly. At some point, Matchbox must have gotten a memo from World Events Productions that the Roman numerals became passe sometime between when the TV program’s pilot episodes were made and when the “real” episodes were made. The renamed offerings were:

  • 700211 Strato-Fighter
  • 700212 Aqua-Fighter
  • 700213 Turbo-Terrain-Fighter
  • 700002 Miniature Vehicle Team Voltron
  • 700210 Vehicle Team Voltron

Why was the “Aqua-Fighter” previously called the “Space Warrior?” I have no idea.

Pages 32-33

By 1986, poor “Voltron II” had disappeared even from Matchbox’s toy offerings. Fortunately “Voltron III” was still around, albeit renamed. The 1986 offerings for this Voltron robot were:

  • 700201 Giant Black Lion
  • 700202 Yellow and Green Lions
  • 700203 Blue and Red Lions
  • 700001 Miniature Lion Force Voltron
  • 700200 Lion Force Voltron
  • 700401 Blazing Sword Set
  • 700402 Miniature Blazing Sword Set

The new-to-1986 items, 700401 and 700402, probably came along because someone at Matchbox realized that Voltron had become kind of well known for using a sword.

The Lion Force Voltron toy is once again mis-transformed:

  • The rear feet of Blue and Yellow Lions are pointed incorrectly.
  • The front legs of Blue Lion seem to be posed incorrectly.
  • Black Lion’s shoulders (Voltron’s shoulders) are oriented correctly; however, Black Lion’s lower front legs are sticking out as if whoever set up the toy didn’t know that the lower front legs could be folded inside the shoulders.

Pages 34-35

These pages have nothing to do with Voltron, but they have everything to do with the catalog’s cover, as well as the most prominently featured licensed property in the catalog: Robotech, another animated program made by adapting multiple anime programs. Matchbox put a huge investment into Robotech. The company launched an enormous product line targeted at boys and girls, and it was co-financing the production of a 65-episode sequel to Robotech, called Robotech II: The Sentinels. Unfortunately retailer interest at 1986 New York Toy Fair was well below expectations. This and other factors led to Matchbox abandoning Robotech II: The Sentinels mid-production. But that’s a story for a different website.

And there you have it — Voltron as it appeared in Matchbox’s 1985 and 1986 Toy Fair retailer catalogs.