It can also hint at the current state of collecting in general. As is our tradition, we spent a lot of time discussing what we saw a lot of (and what we didn't) -- and more importantly, the reasons behind them.
As I explained in Part 1, shifting demographics seem to be affecting the toy train collecting world. I think it's safe to say that folks in their late 50s and early 60s are the last generations to receive a toy train set as a child. I think that also means they'll be the last generation to be driven by nostalgia to collect toy trains.
Prewar Flyer and More
In addition to seeing an extraordinary amount of American Flyer postwar trains (see Part 1), we also saw an interesting trend in prewar offerings. While Lionel was the dominant force in the toy train market in the 1920s and 1930s, they had plenty of competition. American Flyer was one, as was Ives and Dorfan (to name a few).
|American Flyer, 1930. Yes, we saw these at York.|
While most prewar collectors are primarily interested in Lionel, some have branched out to include examples of the other manufacturers in their collections. It's important to remember that Lionel still held the majority of the market, so most collectors who are trying to retrieve their childhood trains are seeking Lionel.
Why is that important to remember?
Because when it came to prewar trains, what we saw were an overwhelming amount of non-Lionel products. Ives standard gauge sets were readily available, as were American Flyer standard gauge and O gauge sets and rolling stock. And there was even a good selection of Dorfan rolling stock, too.
(Dorfan was never a very big company. The metal they used for their locomotive body castings had a flaw that caused them to break down and turn to dust after a few years. I'm sure many Dorfan sets were simply discarded after the engine disintegrated. Intact Dorfan locos are extremely rare, their rolling stock a little less so.)
|Dorfan train sets. You can find the rolling stock, but not the locomotives.|
Most of their cast metal bodies have turned to dust.
|Ives was a luxury brand. It did not survive the Great Depression. Its name|
and assets were purchased jointly by Lionel and American Flyer, who
kept the brand alive until inventory was used up.
That's my theory, anyway. Next time I'll share what we didn't see -- which also relates to the decline of the hobby.