The tale of the accidental collector

I have never been a collector of model railway equipment. Or anything else for that matter. This is not because I do not find pleasure in vintage objects. Quite the contrary. In fact, I try to avoid becoming a collector because I fear that I can become quite obsessed, and develop a habit. (I also regard myself a smoker that never have started smoking. I guess you could say that I do not trust myself when it comes to certain things. )

But this is the tale of when I almost became a tinplate collector by accident. At our local model railway club every now an then people stop by carrying boxes of what they think are remarkable antique models. At best, it is Märklin equipment from the seventies, at worst it is plastic junk of dubious heritage. More than often the models are impregnated with an ugly smell of sigarette smoke. I never knew that the smell of nicotine sticks so well to plastic models!

So when I received a call from an elderly gentleman that said he had some old Märklin model trains that might be of interest to our club I was not too thrilled. I repeated our standard reply that we appreciated the donation, and would accept it if it was OK to sell it to raise funds for the club. Our benefactor had no problems with this, so I went to collect the loot.

To my big surprise this was not the usual Märklin H0 stuff. This was something far more rare; it was in fact Märklin, but 0 scale pre-war tin-plate models. I was not immediately thrilled by this, I had never seen models like this at Norwegian swap meets, and I my first thought was that it would be very hard to sell something like this in Norway. Almost out of politeness and not wanting to disappoint the gentleman I accepted the gift after admitting that I had absolutely no idea how much the models might be worth.

Back home I started to examine the models more closely. They were in remarkable good condition considering that they had been used as toys by generations of kids. The engines had working headlights and they ran fairly well right out of the box. Not mint condition, but definitively well-kept.

Märkin tinplate 0-scale model (anno 1936)

To get an idea of the value I turned to eBay. My pulse increased a notch or two when I saw what prices this kind of models fetched. We had been donated a little pot of gold!

But I did not only discover the monetary value of the models. During the cleaning and sorting of the models I started to take a liking to them that I had not expected. And after photographing the models I started to wonder if I should buy the models myself and start a little collection. There were something with the size of the models and their ruggedness that was very appealing. It was easy to imagine the joy these models must have caused when they were unwrapped that Christmas eve back in 1936. And that resonated well with my own experience of receiving a Märklin trainset for Christmas when I was a kid. To put it sort, the models gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Märklin steam engine, anno 1936
Märklin steam engine, anno 1936

In the end I came to my senses and decided that I just could not afford to start a tinplate collection.  Fortunately, a Norwegian collector gave us an offer for the lot that we simply could not refuse.  The contribution to the club´s coffers was bigger than all membership fees that year.

But I really enjoyed my few weeks as a collector. And I know that I will get a little bit more excited the next time I get one of those calls from people with trainsets they want to get rid of!

Märklin steam engine, anno 1936
Märklin 0-scale tank car (anno 1936)

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