Friday, April 30, 2010

Lessons from York - The Girl's Train revisited

The last post I presented a puzzle from the TCA Eastern Division Toy Train Show at York, PA. An exceedingly rare and valuable set suddenly appears on the market in quantity. The set, Lionel's 1957 Girl's Train, is one of those items that's desirable only because it's so rare.

I speculated that perhaps the core demographic for this set was beginning to age out of the market and downsizing. But there might be more to the story.

The Girl's Train sold very poorly when first offered, and for a long time wasn't particularly desirable. The toy train hobby heavily skews male (and conservative males at that), so a bubblegum pink locomotive didn't top anyone's "must have" list. But then investors entered the hobby; folks interested in buying low and selling high. The value of the Girl's Train climbed.

Strangely enough, demand was such that there were several reissues/homages to this fabled set. Williams created their version with a different engine, and even a passenger train in pastel colors! K-Line also produced a pastel "girl's train." (pictured, left)

None of these impacted the value of the original, though. But Lionel has now reissued the Girl's Train, using the original dies. In book collecting, first editions are everything. But what about train sets?

Some older toy trains are desired for their operation. Not so the Girl's Train. I seriously doubt anyone has put this on their layout and run it. This is trophy item that only maintains its value by minimizing handling (scratches affect condition, y'know).

So what caused the sudden appearance of all of those Girl's Trains at York? Downsizing? Need for cash? Or an anticipation of falling value?

Anyone know of something similar happening in other hobbies? What were the causes there? Your thoughts are welcome!

- Ralph


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