Thursday, July 03, 2014

Collecting -- and collecting information 17

The Rosko Santa Fe Set. (click on images to enlarge)
Collect enough information and patterns start to emerge. That's what happened recently in my ongoing research on Japanese toy train manufacturers. I happened to run across a Rosko train set in its original box.

Version 1 set (L), Verions 2 set (R)
As I've noted before, with virtually no documentation about this subject, the boxes are invaluable sources of information.

The set was familiar; a Nomura-made H0 Santa Fe diesel, green Santa Fe refrigerator car and brown Mobil Gas box car (call them Version 1). The cars represented the earlier version of this set; the later version had a silver Santa Fe refrigerator car and a yellow Santa Fe stock car (Version 2).

Version 2 coupler (L), Version 1 coupler (R)
In addition to a difference in lithography, the two versions also featured difference couplers. Version 1 had an elaborate hoop and hook system that was popular among H0 model railroaders in the 1950's. Version 2 had a simpler tab and loop.

Version 2 sets were imported by Cragstan, and sold in the US under that brand name. This Rosko set was different, though. The locomotive had red and green lights on the sides and the roof. I had seen that locomotive floating about on auction sites, always (if not by itself) with the Version 1 cars.

Rosko Steele, Inc. was New York City-based importer. According to a 1964 newpaper profile, the firm was run by George Kolberg, who designed many of the toys himself. He seemed primarily interested in battery-operated toys that featured lots of action.

The Nomura Santa Fe Set. Note how little the
box art had to be modified to rebrand it for
Rosko Steele, Inc.
And perhaps that explains the Rosko version of the Nomura train. The Cragstan version (sold with Version 1 and later Version 2 cars) was a straight-forward electric train. Nomura, like many Japanese companies, worked with several importers. It's possible Kolberg asked Nomura for something extra. The Rosko Version 1 set, though has the later Version 2 couplers -- something that may be significant.

There's still one more puzzle piece. I also have an example of the lighted Santa Fe train set in a box branded Nomura. The artwork is identical to the Rosko set, save where the Rosko brand replaced Nomura's on the top and sides of the box. Looking at the artwork, it appears that the Rosko artwork was added afterwards. In the Nomura set, the both the cars and couplers are Version 1.

So the evolution of this set seems to be:

Late 1950s - Cragstan/Nomura Santa Fe Freight: Version 1 cars, Version 1 couplers
1959-1961 - Nomura Lighted Santa Fe Freight: Version 1 cars, Version 1 couplers
1962-1963 - Rosko/Nomura Lighted Santa Fe Freight: Version 1 cars, Version 2 couplers
1962-1964 - Cragstan/Nomura Santa Fe Freight: Version 2 cars, Version 2 couplers

There are still a lot of questions to be answered. Did Rosko import the Nomura-branded set and later in the run have the box art modified, or did Nomura change the art because Rosko rather than Cragstan was importing the set?

It's difficult to say. But with this new piece of information, it will be easier to know if an assemblage of Nomura H0 rolling stock was sold as a set, or gathered together after the fact. And in terms of value, that can make a huge difference.

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