Magazine article USA TODAY

Little Wheels, Big Wheels. (What's New? Holiday Gifts Galore)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Little Wheels, Big Wheels. (What's New? Holiday Gifts Galore)

Article excerpt

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Matchbox cars, Mattel, Inc., El Segundo, Calif., has issued a Matchbox Across America collection of 50 vehicles, each representing one of the nation's states. All come with a mini license plate that can be mounted on a Collector Board, allowing you to keep track of which ones you have and which you need. (Since the cars run about $1.50 apiece, collecting is economically feasible without being oppressive, making them ideal stocking stuffers as well.)

The matching of cars and states is sometimes apropos--i.e., Louisiana, whose plate proclaims it the Sportsman's Paradise, has a raft boat on a trailer, while South Carolina's is a golf cart, perhaps in tribute to its famed Hilton Head course. Other states are more arbitrary, the cars having been culled from the Matchbox stock models, and New York, for one, is steaming over the choice (in its case, a tow truck!). Nevertheless, accumulating all 50 models should prove a lot of fun for youngsters, and the license plates can impart a wee bit of history about each state.

While the traditional Matchbox car is built on a 1:43 scale, the company has some big brothers for more ambitious play. For instance, the Rescue Net Super-Blast Fire Truck ($40) is almost two feet long and is equipped with a water cannon that shoots foam water balls up to eight feet, with impressive sound effects and flashing lights triggered when one is fired. …

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