Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lessons from York - Part 2A What We Didn't See

The Lionel/MPC Coke Set from 1974. This year, this
"collectable" was conspicuously absent from the vendor tables.
The Impact of Faux-Collectability
 (part 3 of a 4-part series)

In part one and part two I shared what items we saw a lot of (and our best guess as to why) at the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train meet. it's one of the largest events of its kind, with attendance of around 15,000 - 18.000. So what trends at this show can be significant.

One thing I could always count on seeing was a Lionel/MPC Coke set. This train, initially offered in 1974, was instantly snapped up by collectors and put away. The purchasers were convinced that they had grabbed a rare collector’s item that would only increase with value over the years.

Well, over the years I’ve seen mint-in-the-box Coke sets, and seldom priced higher than $125 (close to the original selling price).  Last year it seemed as if everyone was trying to dump their set, without much apparent success.

This year, there was not a single Coke set for sale anywhere on the fairgrounds.


I don’t think it’s likely that the sets previously offered all found new homes. There has never been any real demand for the things – at least among train collectors. I have two theories.

First, it could be that vendors simply got tired of lugging the things to York and then packing them up to go home again. Even if you’re an amateur seller, there comes a point when you realize that large box that sits there meet after meet is just taking up limited table space that could be used to display something that’s going to sell.

Second, I don’t know much about the Coke memorabilia market, but it’s possible that those collectors have given these sets new homes. Before the rise of eBay, there wasn’t a lot of interaction between various collector’s markets. Now it’s easy to simply put the item up for auction, where any number of specialty collectors can find it.

I’m not sure which is the case with this item, but I’ll be on the lookout for it next show. If they all show up again, it may mean no one bid on them online either!

Part 1A - The Impact of a Specialized Product on its Core Audience

Part 1B - The Impact of an Aging Demographic

Part 2B - The Impact of Practicality

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