Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Collecting -- and collecting information 9

A beautiful box. But how can you be sure it contains
everything its supposed to?

There are two curious -- and archaic -- rules for the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train meet in York, PA: no photography in the buildings, and no cell phone use in the buildings. So as you wander through the eight buildings of vendors and products, you have to rely on your memory of what you've seen, and whatever knowledge you've already learned to make your buying decision.

On one of the tables I saw a beautiful Japanese tin toy train set. It was made in the 1950's and the box was almost completely intact. The contents contained a full oval of tinplate track, and a brightly lithographed tinplate train. The engine, which took a "D" cell battery, worked, and had a light that also worked. There was a Santa Fe box car, and a caboose. And it was only $75.

Was it a bargain? I couldn't go online and look it up -- even if the rule hadn't been in effect, I had tried to research this particular type of train before. It had taken several carefully constructed searches to find out what little I did know. It would not have been possible to do the research necessary in the limited amount of time I had.

The set was a curious one. There was no indication as to manufacturer. I had run across similar sets online -- and no two alike. So far, I had found the following configurations of this toy train.

Here's a set with the full
complement of rolling stock.
1) A B&O diesel with two B&O passenger cars
2) A B&O diesel with a Santa Fe box car, NYC gondola car, and B&O caboose
3) A B&O diesel with a Santa Fe box car, a Texaco tank car, and a B&O caboose (and an up-and-over figure 8 track)
4) A B&O diesel with a Santa Fe box car, a Texaco tank car, a NYC gondola car, a flat car, and a B&O caboose
5) Two B&O diesels with a Santa Fe box car, a Texaco tank car, a  flat car, and a B&O caboose

This set fit between Nos. 1 and 2 in terms of content: B&O diesel with a Santa Fe box car and a B&O caboose. Did it come that way, or was it a No. 2 with a missing car?

I wasn't sure. And since the box was missing its dividers, I couldn't tell if everything was there or not. But I did know this: Set No. 3 is currently on ebay with a starting price of $20. Set No. 5 sold for $134. So one way to look at it was that $75 was in the ballpark.

What I like: a box with its dividers.
Easy to tell if something's missing.
If I knew nothing about this line of mystery trains, I might have purchased it. That nagging thought that perhaps it wasn't complete bothered me, though. Enough to make me decide to pass on the set.

What I don't like: a box without dividers. Hard
to tell if everything's there.
Having knowledge at your fingertips is convenient, but internalizing it is even better. Especially when there's no time to go online.






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