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 bascule bridges.
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 everpresent 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 impressive show.
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 settling up to meet the need for good operating trains and accessories at fair prices.
Good luck, guys. We'll be watching.