Monday, February 12, 2007

A good idea twice....

Joe F. had liked the 1910 for a while but didn't have one. He liked it in Standard and O gauge.

Here they are, fresh from a metal press in standard gauge and o gauge. It's kind of nice how this design translated into another language (O gauge).

While not the most sophisticated of engines, it certainly is elegant. There are two sitting out on eBay right now and I guarantee they aren't as shiny as these two.

Slight topic change:
I am enjoying the discussions on pricing going on right now in the Yahoo Standard Gauge Groups. I've noticed that newbies (people that are new to the standard gauge hobby) tend to gravitate more towards the Tinplate O Gauge forums and the older folks gravitate towards the Yahoo Group. I've also noticed that the discussion on the Yahoo Standard Group is more operational. The forums tend to focus on what Lionel/MTH is making next. There's an occassional blast of an eBay price on both.

What's interesting is how the opinion and information is getting rolled out in the hobby. I tend to like hardcopy, meaning I like reading lots of old stuff and use it to influence what I read and see now. I post and reply sometimes on both the Yahoo Group and the forum. I've noticed in both venues that some old myths still live on. I think in one forum or another I've seen the old myth that JC Cowen threw the Ives dies into the Connecticut river (never happened). Or that Mike Wolf uses old Lionel tooling for standard gauge manufacturing (never happened).

The internet does tap into a part of our brain that is different from the rest of our brain. My Dad used to say people would call him on the phone and say things they would never say in person. He was 6 foot 1 without his shoes on and was a drill sergeant before I was born. Usually if you cussed at him it was best to do it while running in the other direction and you better be smiling. I don't remember many folks trying to argue with him face to face. I think the whole face to face part of the hobby is suffering at the hands of the internet. Toy trains are visceral and nobody will ask for a high/outrageous price for a friend or someone that you know in person. Having them removed through an electronic firewall tends to suspend reality; "if I can't see them than they are words on a screen or in an email and not real people"is the thought. Hopefully the mentality will change and we can use the net for more practical things that extend the hobby beyond commerce. We're already going in that direction anyway, I just hope it continues to foster more friendships and less dunning notices.

I periodically get notes from eBay sellers and from other train people that carries an "attitude". And that's not limited to just individuals, I've seen it from auction houses and toy train businesses. The communication is typically not civil. I'm always fascinated that people will say things to me and threaten me without even knowing who they have on the other end of the email. Who's the customer anyway? I thought I was the guy with the money paying the bill?

One thing I like about all of the print I've read from toy trains past is that it is almost completely civil, even if it is angry. Price seems to be one of the more emotional issues in the train world. I worked for a large tobacco company many years ago. They had almost 100 years of customer buying data compiled. I remember attending a meeting where the VP of Marketing told us that the primary buying impetus for tobacco products was not necessarily personal preference but price. He said people ultimately and always think with their wallets.

Now I don't take that as gospel because toy train people will pay alot of money for crap. But it does explain a bit. I know I myself have gotten into some stupid money quarrels. I feel bad about them afterwards and I try to learn from them so I don't get into them again. When I read TCA and TTOS literature from days past, there are interesting little tidbits to suggest that prices were not all they seemed even when they weren't all that high. There's always an article or two about counterfeit trains and about how this or that was stolen off of a table. At first reading, I thought to myself "Why the hell would anyone steal a State Car or a 392 if they could buy it for $20?"

I asked an old TCA guy at one point several years ago when someone had blantantly insulted me about some pricing (that's a story for another time). Ok, I'll tell the story:

I had a dealer that I used to buy items from coming to deliver two items I had purchased. He said he was in my neighborhood and that he could drop them off. I knew him but not very well. He came over to my house and asked to see my collection. Upon seeing my collection, he seemed to like it but wasn't particularly overwhelmed. On leaving my house as he was walking out the door, he said to my wife that if I ever died, he would give my wife $60k in cash for my whole collection. He thought he was being charitable. There are so many problems with this, I wasn't sure what upset me more:

My potential demise.
The fact that he said something like that to my wife.
The fact that he offered roughly $.08 on the dollar to my wife for my collection.
The fact that he was trying to take advantage of my wife and death long before I planned on leaving the planet.

It was just plain offensive. Needless to say, I am no longer his customer.

Back to the point: when I said something to my TCA friend, he said that $60k to most of his original TCA and TTOS colleagues would have seemed like a fortune. I reminded him that one surgical procedure in a hospital could run up to $60k. He agreed but he reminded me that "if you don't got it, you don't got it. $10 bucks might as well be $10 million.

Trains will always be out there. If they're too expensive at any one point, wait. The one screw up I've had in toy trains is that I have not been patient enough. It's a big regret I have. There's a reason patience is a virtue. There's an old Russian proverb that goes something like this: “Little drops of water wear down big stones.” I know it may seem silly when looking at high eBay prices but it isn't when looking at toy train collecting. Let's save anger and annoyance for that pesky wiring under the layout that seems to undo itself eventhough we haven't touched it for over 10 years.


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