Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons from York - Part 1A: What We Saw

The Impact of a Specialized Product on its Core Audience 
(part 1 of a 4-part series)

Dad and I made our trip to York, PA from the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train meet.It’s still a big event, spanning seven exhibit halls in the fairgrounds, and attracting 15,000-18,000 visitors.

As we went up and down the aisles, passing hundreds of vendors selling vintage toy trains and accessories, we noticed some trends. And we always do, we speculated on what those trends were telling us.

This year, there were two types of items we saw on table after table – and two others that seem to disappear completely.

The new Lake Shore set offered by the LCCA. Did this
reproduction cause a flood of the originals on the market?
The meet is run and held for the membership of the Train Collector’s Association. Since Lionel Trains are the most popular brand with this group, it’s not surprising that there’s a significant overlap in membership with the Lionel Collector’s Club of America.

A few months ago, the LCCA announced a special collector’s set for its membership – a recreation of a Lionel passenger set (with all new graphics and color scheme) from the late 1930s. The announcement was made in their club magazine with an article and a beautiful two-page color spread.

A sampling of the original late-1930's small O-gauge passenger cars
from Lionel. Will the new LCCA offering make these more or less desirable?
The cars recreated were modeled after the 1600 and 2600-series small O-gauge passenger cars Lionel made from 1934-1937. The original cars came in three colors: blue, brown and green. They’re certainly not rare, and we’ve seen them before at the York meet.

But this time, these passenger cars were everywhere. Many vendors had them showcased or otherwise prominently displayed.

Did the LCCA offering prompt these dealers to bring out their stock? We think so. But did they do so just because the article reminded them that they had similar cars to sell, or did they want to try to move the original passenger cars before the reproductions hit the market and diluted the demand?

That may be a question best answered with a shift in pricing at the next meet.

Part 1B - The Impact of an Aging Demographic

Part 2A - The Impact of Faux-Collectability

Part 2B - The Impact of Practicality

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