Thursday, November 05, 2015

Lessons from York - What we didn't see: depth

Dad and I recently returned from our semi-annual trip to the Train Collectors Association (TCA) Eastern Division toy train meet in York, PA. This is the largest such show in the United States and provides an interesting snapshot of the state of the hobby.

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. 

In What We Saw I mentioned that there was a general leavening of toy trains. Both Lionel and American Flyer (the majors) were well-represented, as were the more prominent minor companies, like Marx. There were trains from both the prewar and postwar era, plus examples from the 1970s and later. But there was no depth to any of it.

What does that mean?

Last time I mentioned all the Lionel F3s that were available -- but only of certain road names. And they were almost exclusively offered individually -- not as part of the sets they were sold with. This time there were virtually no examples of Lionel's space and military toys to be found (previously a hot commodity).

You'll find all of Lionel's postwar F3s in this book
-- but we didn't find them all at the show!

American Flyer post-war trains were in abundance, but not their pre-war offerings. Some Marx trains from the 60's were available, but little else -- and not in the quantity available in previous years. It was possible to find the non plus ultras of prewar standard gauge trains -- Lionel State sets and Blue Comet sets -- but mot the mid- and low-end offerings of the same era.


When I first started making the trip to York with my dad, you could pretty much find anything in the seven exhibit halls. If it was unusual, there might be only one or two available, but the possibility at least was always there. This time it seemed like the variety wasn't there. Table after table had the same basic things -- almost as if there was a top 40 for toy trains.

Does that mean vendors are focusing only on what moves the quickest to maximize their profit? Or does it mean that more unusual items have all found homes, and won't be seen again until those collections are broken up? The spring, 2016 meet should be interesting.

One thing more

I continue to search for Industrial Rail rolling stock, and it's still hard to find -- at least the few pieces I'm interested in. But there's been a disturbing trend. When I first started buying this "off brand," the cars were selling for $10-15 (see: The Impact of Practicality from 2012). In 2014 I noted that the price range was $15-$20 (What We Didn't See). This time, Industrial Rail pieces were selling for $20-$30 each. And I still can't find the car I want -- at any price.

Have you seen this tank car?

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