Thursday, February 17, 2005

Greenberg Books?

I'm just curious.... I have been watching the Greenberg books on eBay over the past couple of months. The great reference one's that either go over American Flyer Standard Gauge or the catalogs (prewar especially) or Lionel Standard Gauge.

What happened? Why are these books commanding such a huge premium? All of these books are commanding over $100 a shot. Some way higher. I know collecting all of the original catalogs might be a hassle for some folks (I know I have a ton of them and still like the Greenberg reference materials) but still, $200 to $300 for a book?

I know, I know, before you log into your ISP and send me an email, "it's scarcity you idiot." As Aprochek said to me the other day in an email, how many of us in a pre-50 year old demographic are collecting this stuff? I am 39 and so is he. Most of the "younger" kids after me had video games. All of the children in my kids classes have never seen a steam engine (that's just stupidity on their parents part). And as Aprochek so amply pointed out in an email, current TCA Conventions look like World War II reunions. Most of the TCA and train collecting populace seems to also collect Social Security. I have a feeling that a small cadre of wealthy collectors are really jacking up prices across the board, although I could be wrong. And not just for books.

Ok, enough ranting, back to something useful.

Hopefully Kalmbach will sit up and take notice and start reproducing some of these books. They are great, they will sell out and I think Kalmbach would make a hefty profit. I'd like to see them produce the Lionel Catalog books and all of the prewar reference materials. Most of the recent toy train picture books (racked with nostalgia but not much meaningful content) as of late have been mediocre.

I have enough coffee table books. Print me up something that I can use!


PS The web has been woefully lacking in this area. The amount of toy train reference material is zilch on the internet. Now before you go trying to say I should compile this, this BLOG sucks up a huge amount of time but is a good outlet for me and hopefully entertains all of you. I think it is incumbent upon the manufacturers to chronicle their history. I hear a whole lot about 100 years of this and 25 years of that but I haven't seen much on the websites except short bio's on the companies. Perhaps it's time for some of these companies to have an online chronicle that is more than marketing fluff. I know they put their history's into books to be bought and sold, however books can't be easily updated. That's the whole point of the web.


Anonymous said...


I've always found the Kalmbach model mindboggling. It seems designed to give staff members a means to reselling their copies of the books on Ebay for a princely sum.

I agree that the books need to be in print. I've watched several over the last few weeks zoom well past my high bids.

Things seem to be coming along quite nicely for the hobby though. The OGR forum adding a Tinplate area where discussion can grow and flourish is nice. Traffic here and on Yahoo is also encouraging.

Keep up the good work!

Jim (aka Yojimbo)

P.S. My son wants to know when are you going to publish his picture. He's awfully proud of that new Ives set. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Book publishing is a very fickle business. My publisher never gave me figures (it doesn't give anyone those) but I estimate the book I published in 1999 probably had a run of about 5,000-6,000 copies, which is probably about the minimum you can do and expect to be able to turn a profit. Is there enough demand to be able to sell 5,000 copies of each of these books? Hard to say.

It'll be interesting to see how David Doyle's upcoming prewar Lionel book does. If it sells like his postwar book did, then maybe we stand a chance of seeing some of the old Greenberg books back in print.

I'd like to see the stuff released on CD-ROM, if book form isn't practical. The cost of pressing a CD is pennies (versus dollars for printing a book) and the minimum run can be much smaller. It's a lot less convenient, but a CD I own is a lot more convenient than having to fight for the lone copy of each Greenberg book that happens to be in the local library.

And as far as age... I'm 30. But I know I'm fairly unusual.

Dave Farquhar

Clint said...

Over on the CTT forum, Bob Keller himself has stated that we probably won't be seeing anymore prewar guides coming from Kalmbach. He has stated this at least twice in the last six months or so. You can read the most recent thread about this here. More is the pity...

Anonymous said...

Ditto with the Greenberg's Guides to Erector Sets, Vol. I & II - they are great books that will also probably never be reprinted. They go for a lot on EBAY now just like the rare toy train reference guide books.

Jim Kelly

Gilbert Ives said...

The more basic information available on websites, blogs, "groups" the less need for the actual reference books. And the books themselves will appear in a matter of time as the collector libraries are dispersed. Thousands of copies are out there so I'd say this is a temporary, and likely artificial "scarcity".

Anonymous said...

Up until two years ago, I saw the 6 volume Catalogs of Lionel 1902-1969 (6 volumes) go for 90 dollars each for 1,2 125 for Vol 3,4,5. Even last year you could still find an unsold or remainder volume for less than the 110 dollar list. No more.

I don't understand the price on postwar because the catalogs as originals cost about 250 -300 for each 10 years...and I realize that it is convenient to have the complete run in one spot.

I think the even as the hobby absorbed the books initially, the early volume was not as popular (maybe fewer collectors active at the time?)and stayed available for several years. Now I think it is in the 200 and up range.

All of these books were limited run. The opportunity to sell to a large group of interested persons was the impetus to publish originally. Now there is a rekindled demand, but it is not as big as the first wave. hence the active secondary market. I bought volume 1 at discount by the logic of I would never get most of the originals...(I still don't have any from 1900-1922.) TCAQ in 1993 discovered an early 1902 or 1901 that was unknown before. And the "pretrain" catalog of flashlights and other devices of the embryonic Lionel was discovered as well. So all this is out there now.

An inexpensive way to get hold of some of this stuff is a Greenberg guide 1902-1945 (published in 1977 and 1979. That would be a start if you don't have any material at all. Chasing down the TCA year by year is a good reference and history of the hobby as well. There are reprints of 1955-60, and the difficult years are 1961 to 1967 to come by. Some of them were still mimeographed or offset in B +W. Indispensable, tho. Peter /rrrocky