When it comes to toy collectors, Lionel Trains rank at the top of the "must have" list for many collectors. These trains are frequently sought after by collectors and the value of each individual car can vary greatly. Typically, older pieces are the most sought after due to the rarity, age and nostalgia associated with train sets. Complete sets as well as individual pieces that were manufactured before 1969 are the most desired pieces. Pieces manufactured after 1969 are often difficult to authenticate between those made by the Lionel Corporation and American Flyer, which is the next most valuable train sets. In 2006, the National Toy Hall of Fame inducted the first two electric toys, one of which was the Lionel Electric train.
The Lionel Corporation was founded in 1901 as a company for electrical novelties and although the company produced a variety of unique products, the toy trains and model railroads were their most popular item as well as what they are primarily known for. Lionel trains that were made from 1901 until 1969 are the most sought after collectables, because of their attention to detail, solidly built construction and authenticity compared to the actual railroads at the time. The highest peak in sales was during the 1950's, when the Lionel Corporation sold $25 million in train sales during each year.
The Lionel Corporation has undergone several setbacks in sales, with the worst being during the Great Depression when sales dropped by more than $400,000, because the Lionel trains were thought to be a luxury item. During the height of the Depression an extravagant Lionel locomotive, cost as much to buy as a used Ford Model T. In order to recoup some of their losses and to compete with other brands, the Lionel Corporation manufactured a line of less expensive electric trains under the name, Winner Toy Corp. or Winner Toys, which were sold for two years, from 1930 until 1932. Each set sold for $3.25 and included a transformer. Although the Winner Toys helped to pull the company back up, the product most known for saving the Lionel Corporation was a Mickey and Minnie Mouse wind-up handcar, which operated on an 0 gauge track and sold for only $1.
In 1942, the Lionel Corporation stopped all toy production in order to manufacture nautical items specifically for the United States Navy during World War II. Following their nautical item phase, the company began to introduce the "paper train", which was detailed sets of cut and fold models to replicate Lionel trains. The company began to produce their toy trains in 1945, but they replaced the original pieces with pieces that were less colorful, but more realistic and primarily were O-gauge trains. The newer trains also included a smoke feature, which was made by dropping a special oil or tablet into the smokestack.
The Lionel Corp sold the die for their trains in 1969, to General Mills. Although the name continues as Lionel and the company is owned and operated by Lionel, LLC, collectors and train enthusiasts alike consider 1969 to be the last year of production for authentic Lionel trains.
Mercedes Busick wrote:
Recently I picked up my Mercury Capsule Launcher car no. 3413 mib nos vintage lionel train rare on Amazon.Shawnna Devlin wrote:
Just last week I found my Lionel Trains - Absolutely New - 6-26769 - Santa Fe Command Control Crane Car at a yard sale.Edith Twitchell wrote:
Just yesterday my son-in-law bought my Lot of 7 Lionel trains-6656,25000,3461,6112,536417,6415,6465 & more at garage sale.Roxy Malson wrote:
Got my Lot of 12 Lionel trains-6819,6062,1002,6062,6826,6057,6017 and more years ago and am totally pleased with it.Lurline Reneau wrote:
Recently my son picked up my 108714 2014 Greenberg's Lionel Trains Pocket Price Guide Brand New on eBay.Inez wrote:
Recently I found my Lionel Trains at a yard sale.Martha wrote:
Got my LIONEL TRAINS PENNSYLVANIA FAIRBANKS TRAIN MASTER LOCOMOTIVE 18307 (Made in USA) some time ago and am totally pleased with it.Hilma wrote:
Got my LIONEL TRAINS - PART - STEAM ENGINE LOCOMOTIVE LIQUID SMOKE UNIT PUFFING O GAUGE years ago and am totally pleased the transaction.Denice wrote:
Got my LIONEL TRAIN 6-31742 SANTA FE SUPER CHIEF SET (TMCC EQUIPMENT years ago and am totally pleased the purchase.Brent wrote:
Got my LIONEL AMERICAN FLYER TRAINS #594 ANIMATED TRACK GANG 6-49808 NIB some time ago and am totally pleased that I got it.Mabelle wrote:
Got my VINTAGE LOTMENT OF LIONEL TRAIN CARS,TRACK,MANUALS,AND LOTS MORE hours ago and am really happy with the price.Sina Whitney wrote:
Last week I bought my 9820 Lionel Train Set Sears Allstate Postwar Trains on eBay.Rachael Levan wrote:
Got my 1988 LIONEL Train Operating Cattle Car 6-19800 Minty In Box years ago and am totally pleased the purchase.Lucilla Lecuyer wrote:
Last week I picked up my LIONEL TRAINS NO. 7602 SPIRIT OF '76 PENNSYLVANIA BOX CAR - VERY NICE at garage sale.Chiquita wrote:
Got my Lionel Trains 6-26769 Santa Fe Operating Crane Car TMCC LN/OB years ago and am totally pleased the transaction.Yetta wrote:
Got my LIONEL TRAINS POSTWAR NO. 460 PIGGY BACK TRANSPORTATION SET - VERY NICE hours ago and am really happy with the price.Christeen wrote:
Just last week I picked up my LIONEL TRAINS PREWAR NO. 752E-753-754 CITY OF PORTLAND TRAIN SET - VERY NICE on Amazon.Devorah Byerly wrote:
Got my Lionel Trains #2025 Locomotive 2-6-2 Aluminum Smoke Stack & Tender 6466W some time ago and am totally pleased how much it cost.Gilbert Ocampo wrote:
Got my Lionel train set weeks ago and am totally pleased the quality.Mercedes Busick wrote:
Recently my kids found my Lionel Train Track Ready to Run O Gauge Electric Train Set on eBay.