Beanies & Choo-Choos
I never thought I'd see the day that cute little stuffed animals would take up
valuable table space at a national train show. Well, it's true. During the
past year, a growing number of big-time train dealers have added Beanie Babies
stuffed animals to their inventory of items to sell at trian meets and in
their retail train stores.
I've tried to analyze this strange phenonmenon and have come up with a few
thoughts for consideration.
There is no relationship between trains and Beanie Babies except for the fact
that both are collectible. Over the years I've seen comic books and baseball
cards appear at train shows but never in large amounts.
Even so, I would understand some connection between these items and trains
sicne the guys who collect trains may also have been avid comic book readers
or baseball fans in their early years. But Beanie Babies? No way, Jose. So I
looke for other reaons these little cuties would appear among E-units and
Many wives and daughters accompany their husbands and dads to train shows and
train shops. Most of them are bored to death while doing this, so Beanie
Babies are the perfect excuse for Mom and sis to begin attending train shows
while Dad blows the family budget on a new Santa Fe passenger set.
There may be one other reason why "Beanie fever" has crept into the train
collectors' arena. The need to forage is always a motivator for any collector;
I've always said that it's the "hunt," not the "kill," that is the lifeline
for any collectible hobby. The thrill of the hunt combined with the
ever-present greed factor is fueling the Beanie boom for many train collectors.
Four-dollar Beanies selling for many times that in a matter of weeks menas
quick profits and fast turnaround. That's something that train collecting
hasn't had in a while. I guess some guys miss the action and it's another
way for them to supplement their incomes so that they can buy more trains.
I think this Beanie business is a fad and will soon become an expensive memory
for some people. Of course, that's just my opinion; I may be wrong.
Speaking fo train meets, I had a chance to talk with two young lions in the
business at the April TCA Easter Division meet in York Pa. I am speaking of
Mike Wolf of MTH Electric Trains and Neil Young of Lionel LLC. Both men
impressed me with their enthusiasm and with the direction they are leading
their companies. Mike is hot on his new transformer and accessories. The MTH
fire station, gas station, and drive-in feature action and plenty of colorful
details. Mike is a fiery guy who seems to be up to the challenge of meeting
the needs of the new train buyers.
In my conversation with Neil Young, I found a genuine interest in imporving
Lionel's products. he said that two out of three Lionel buyers are operators
and that his company is trying to make products to meet their demands.
Neil was operating a train equipped with the new "LionelVision" an invention
that wowed the crowd. On a display layout inside the Lionel tent, two
locomotives equipped with color television cameras continually provided an
"engineer's eye" view of the trains' progress around the layout. The images
appeared on a huge screen, complete with thunderous Railsounds. It was a very
The bottom line is that I feel both of these companies are honestly concerned
for the operators or users of the trains. This is wht train collecting should
be all about. Hoarding high-priced trians that are never taken out of the box
is no fun, and neither are the people who collect them. I like operators that
use the trains, share them with kids, and get them interested in the hobby.
It appears that Mike Wolf and Neil Young see this and are setteping up to meet
the need for good operating trains and accessories at fair prices.
Good luck, guys. We'll be watching.