The train collections or the madness of railway modelism

Hello everyone and welcome to this new issue of the Bidtalk. Feel free to follow us on Facebook, twitter and instagram and react on social networks during the show. Today, we go back to childhood in the Bidtalk. We will talk to you about old toys and in particular about trains. 


We all remember a Sunday afternoon playing electric trains while invading the family lounge or finding a locomotive in an attic. But how do we know if these old toys are valuable? Wouldn't auctions be the solution to find the missing piece in your collection? And who are these big collectors of little trains? We will answer all these questions and many others with our guests on this set. Jean-Claude Cazenave, I turn to you first. You're an expert in toys. 


FInd here our Marklin on sale 

When did the first train toys appear? The first train toys appeared around the same time as the first existing trains. So they were completely contemporary with the real ones. So, does that mean they weren't electric trains at first? Electricity already existed anyway. But it must also be said that the first trains that were known were pulled trains, they were simply on the floor.


 So they were pulled to the ground. So very quickly, we made the live steam trains, we made the electric trains. We made the pulled trains and we made the mechanical trains. There were four possibilities to have the same locomotives. I turn to you Clive Lamming, you are also a specialist and author of many books in the railway field. Were these toys originally intended for boys? 




I think it was still quite distinct as "boys" because at the time, we wanted his son, if we were in a bourgeois environment, to become a technician. It was therefore necessary to interest him in the techniques. This need for high-level technical knowledge existed then we gave technical toys, i.e. fixed steam engines, as well as railways, since they were running. And then there was the concern about the development of a technique that, in my opinion, concerned boys. Mr. Lelièvre, you are an auctioneer in Chartres. 


You are in an auction house that specializes, among other things, in the sale of antique toys and electric trains. In the buyers, do you also see that it is a rather masculine audience or not? Looking back, I think that the toy collection as a whole, whether it is the train or the doll, is perhaps the collection that is most often made in pairs. It is often one of them who is motivated, the woman for the dolls to be a little stereotypical or the man for the trains. But the spouse often accompanies with pleasure and gives his opinion on the collection more than in other collections such as cameras or books, perhaps because it is a playful field and everyone regains a little of their childhood, both men and women. 


To return to what was said earlier about the appearance of the "toy" train at the same time as the "real" train, the toy and the doll's style are the reflections of the time. When the rocket, the first rocket was launched, we made toy rockets. When the woman freed herself, we created the Barbie doll so the toy is a reflection of the time, of her time with style, with techniques. Today, toys are made with electronics, with computers. Like details of historical testimonies. Marc Léger, is that your feeling too? Absolutely, I think that the toy has indeed accompanied what existed in reality. 


We are not going to talk about cooks but about cooks you find throughout the 19th century until the 20th century. There were even electric "toy" stoves since we were talking about electricity. The first ones had indoor candles to heat and now you can't find any more. You're really talking about the reflection of society at a time, at a time and what's happening there... So now you're telling me that it goes further than just the toy. Yes I think that most of the toys were built on this principle and it is also a little bit the raison d'être of all these construction toys after all, which allowed to... the mechanic being surely the most famous but there are many of them in wood or metal...


To imitate reality, to imitate parents, like Daddy Mom anyway, like Daddy maybe for the train as we said a little bit. Mr. Lelièvre, have these specialized sales been around for a long time? For our part, I described my first toys in 1973, so the first small sale, can we call it specialized, in 1973 and which was only for that purpose. Six months later, there is another sale which is a little more important and then from 1975, it multiplied as well in Paris as in Chartres. And I even remember a sale that took place at Orsay station, which replaced Drouot, where I went to see, so it must have been in the 1975's of memory. Where it was a great expert, who was the great specialist of the high era and archaeology, Jean Roudillon, who presented a toy sale. 


At the time, it was not necessarily taken seriously, our colleagues called us "Doll Men", with a somewhat contemptuous air. A somewhat pejorative and expensive side that would not be the case today. That's right, considering some of the prices we reach at auction. Mr. Cazenave, how were these toys, these old trains made? 


Look, the manufacture of a train is first and foremost a metal plate, a metal plate that is simply pre-drawn, stamped, hooked, welded quite simply. Today, therefore, there are collectors, as we have on the set, but there are also periods that are perhaps more sought after, that are worth more than others, in the trains? The further back in time you go, the rarer the train becomes. Already in production and then in a state of preservation. 


So if you find a train, as I did, to find a train absolutely, practically in new condition dating from 1860, you are looking at an archaeological piece. It's no longer a toy at all. You have little characters in plaster and flour that are painted with the costumes of the time. You have the 1st class 2nd class cars, as the case may be, that were, or were discovered or covered. You have the famous "brake car" which was at the end of the train for, when it was over 50 km/hour, you had to brake absolutely because otherwise everyone would fall down in the train. So we were also planning a brake car with a big brake at the rear to slow down the train. Okay, so now you're talking about models... This is really the first of the trains. So here, I'm going to address Mr. Lamming, there are also brands that are different in "train toys". 


Yes, there were different brands because at the beginning the production was quite artisanal but there were immediately big brands and in particular household products, pots and pans and for example, when we cut the pots, there were these pieces of sheet metal, which were finally used by stamping to make characters... So it was actually scrap. It was initially falls, so the production of the toy was often linked to large companies, I think of Jep in France, but also Maklin in Germany, these large companies which itself had extremely important manufactures in other fields and the toy was an area, I would say accessory, but which a little bit, for example at Jep, became essential when the industry specialized in this field. 


So obviously the big brands bring a kind of signature. It is a situation in history, in chronology and also in techniques. Then there is this myth about the pre-1914 periods that finally remains extremely strong in the world of collecting. Because it is estimated that before 1914, nothing will be the same as before and everything is over. We have the impression that an era is turning and we are switching to the industrial world. Moulding techniques, then plastic, wet metal. So, do you agree to mass production? The designs were totally different, before, you needed a tool, a twist of the hand. They were workers who did this from father to son who were tinsmiths, who had a coat, a beret. 


Who were in small workshops, in the east of Paris and even in very small shops. People like Fernand Martin started out that way. In an almost homemade way. You Marc Léger, in your collection, you have trains from before 1914 or after 1914... I have toys from before 1914.It should also be noted, since we were talking about Jep, that the first French electric train did not appear until Christmas 1913 and Maître Lelièvre sold one 25 years ago, which was still in his box set and we had so little confidence in electricity at the time, that in the box set, there was both the electric locomotive and the mechanical locomotive, in case the electric locomotive smokes too much. Mr. Lelièvre, is it common to have these complete sets of trains? Running not because the toys could be dispersed by the children, put in the attics because it was considered secondary. But there are still things in closets that have remained. 


There are also collectors who, at the time in the 1960s, were still interested in toys and saved things that could have been dispersed. Unfortunately, there are collectors who think they are smarter than others and who reconstitute lots and who unfortunately slaughter the sets a little bit. Because he's actually wrong? They put the wrong car with the wrong locomotive? You know, we don't have the knowledge of the history of Jep oud e Hornby as our friend Clive Lamming can have.


So you can put a bad car or a bad tender and so for the last 30 years, maybe collectors have done more harm to the authenticity of some sets than children did at the time. But there was such contempt for the box set that at one point they were even removed from the boxes. There were many reasons to sell. I bought empty boxes to reconstitute my models. Yes, but a box set is not fun. You can't put a box in a window. 


On that point, I turn to you, Mr. Cazenave. For example, for the Dinky Toys, the emblematic yellow box is also almost part of the price I want to say. It is part of the price it is a fact but like the pink Hornby box -it will increase the price but with equivalent vehicles. That means you have a box with a bad car, 

-Yes, or the empty box.

The empty box is sold. But you will sell two identical vehicles better, one with a box, the other without a box. And the one with the box will be sold for more.


 But it is still important the condition of the car first. I see you lifting your finger Marc Leger. I wanted to say one thing: it is rarer to find boxes or boxes on low-cost items. The objects of great value, if I may say so, proportionally, of course, must not be made into a truth. But the objects that had a certain price, where the family had bled themselves to death in the four veins to pay for toys for Christmas, for the children, were very careful. So for example, we find beautiful Jep trains in a box while on a bazaar toy in general it is rare to find, finally, it is rarer to find your box in correct condition. First because the cardboard was not of the same quality as the cardboard of the expensive train and then because people played on it and so on, these trains are, given their quantity manufactured, much rarer than the top of the range, if I may say so. All right, so we really talked about the trains....


As a side note, there are not only Dinky Toys boxes. In our last sale, I sold empty boxes for more than 1000 euros! All right, so here we are, we really showcased the box, the importance of the box. For the collector! To get back to the trains later, there are two train collectors. The one who displays with aesthetics or history and the one who drives, with a circuit. And do you, as a collector, play with it? I myself, yes, I'm a roller, I roll. "I'm a roller" That's why I'm finally only interested in the periods, the Hornby trains of the 1930s. 


Because they drive well. It's technically very advanced, and it reproduces the railway, the switch cabins have levers, you can control the switches, the signals. So it's a real game. You sound like a talking child. You have stars in your eyes. I remained a child. And it was by the toy train that I came to work for the real railway. It was my front door. And you, Marc, you're a roller? No, he's a glazier! We just invented this neologism. I do a little circulation with my grandchildren, my granddaughters. Ah, you see, girls have their places. I would say that it's not really the heart of my collection that's on track. Maître Lelièvre, there are also trains that are not fully booked at auction? We find pieces of trains, we find some rails too? In auctions and collections people can either buy the perfect object, the historical object, or complete it. 



We have a locomotive where the tander is missing, we have a train set where there are first class and the van and the other second class car is missing. I think that the collector too, it is valid for all collections, the main thing is perhaps not to have something but to search for it, to find it. And the act of buying... Oh yes, the act of buying really rewards that search. After that, it's sold out. How many collectors have entrusted me with the task of selling their collection and have told me: "I have covered the whole issue, I have the whole category of objects. What I don't have, or I'll never find them, or it's too expensive for me. So I sell my collection and I'm going to make another one. "We're going to come back to something very concrete. Let's say, I go to the attic and I find a crate where there's an old train. What to look at first. 


You already have to look at its condition, visually, know if it is not too dented, know if it is not too scratched, know if it is in good enough condition to be able to make it a collector's item. To know if it is collectible. You will tell me, they are all collectible. You have to find the right collector, but each collector has his own type of collection train, that's a fact. But the state is still very important. The brand is also very important. So it finds where it is, it's underneath? 

It's marked on it in general in general it's marked on it...... Not always In this case, how do we do it? Except! It is marked on it except for the oldest trains which were not marked or very little. Nine times out of ten, we see in the immediate future to which brand it may belong if it is not marked. 


So people come to us to ask us for some clarification. And you're also in charge of the estimation? Yes of course the estimate is made according to these criteria. That is to say, it is certain that the same mechanical steam or electric locomotive will not have the same estimate. And the state is also very important for the estimation. And there is also a market price. The estimate is also based on the market price. Yes, which can be volatile. We are talking about the market price. Mr. Lelièvre, what is the most expensive train you have ever sold at auction, if you remember? 


Two years ago, a small Marklin locomotive, Marklin being a German brand, which is the Rolls Royce of the toy for a quality of shapes, sheets, paints, varnishes, which are superb and in addition it was a 0 scale that is aesthetically beautiful. We'll come back for those who are watching us We'll go back to the 0 scale after... There was the small locomotive plus two small cars, blue and cream Marklin, which were the cars that were intended for kaysers. And there were the two small wagons and the locomotive train and the two small wagons reached, I no longer know the exact figure, but around 150 000 euros.


We already have a nice locomotive and many Hornby cars in 0 of the years 1930 - 1950 are worth 20 - 30euros, cheaper than the current model making. The current model making is beyond price. Give us a definition. Model-making is the exact mathematical reproduction strictly on the scale of reality as it exists today. Even the children's toys are in spite of themselves. They don't know that they are scale models. These are toys used as toys but they are also for modelers of scale models that will run. But today's prices reach with the electronics inside, with the finesse of assembly reach absolutely very heavy prices that make them much more expensive than the Hornby toy trains of the 1930s to 50's. In the toy, there is a dream part. A toy is not necessarily a faithful reproduction, whereas model making is a faithful reproduction. I am surprised, there is a big show that takes place every year where all the creators and model train manufacturers come to exhibit from France and Europe. 


This show was held in Pontoise and for the past two years it has been held in Chartres, a little by chance, so I've been there twice and I'm surprised at the variety and importance and the number of collectors who are interested in scale models. They say: "Yes, but you see the wheel of such 141Ps, it is not exactly as they were... Oh yes, the comparison game I would like to come back to a definition a little with you Mr. Cazenave, we talked about rails with a scale, we talked about "H", "O". What is it actually? Let's explain a little. You have different gauges in the rails. You will start with the NZ gauge, i. e. the very small one. It should be about 8 mm apart. Then you go to the HO which is 16 mm. You switch to "0" which is 35 36 mm and you switch to "1", "2", "3", "4' as the case may be. The further back in time you go, the wider the gaps are. And that allows a match between the brands? You know of all the brands have made several splits. 

You have both German and French. You know the French toy was, before the war in any case was particularly based on the zero. Then the HO arrived at Jep's house but just after the war, among the Germans, a little bit before the war, so that's a little bit overlapping. You have the supporters of zero because it is still the gap that is most easily accommodated. Mr. Lelièvre, I would like to clarify a little bit the buyers who are in the auction room or on the Internet but in any case the buyers of your sales. Are they collectors with a profile like you can see on this set? There are no types of collectors. Everyone has their own personal feeling. Everyone has their own way of buying. There are those who buy knowingly because they know the whole history of the brand, because they know the object they want that object. But isn't that a French specificity? No, it's more like, and my blood is half English, half French, it's more like English from the beginning. There were some very serious old gentlemen in 1912 already in London who founded the first model railway club. Moreover, model railroading was at the time practiced by force of circumstance with toys. But very quickly brands created models, more serious toys that started to look like real rau so they were the pioneers, if I can say so, of this transition from toy to scale model. And then with the steam technique that the English with the industrial era... And then in France, the movement was extended in the 1920s, with people like Robert Marescaux, with the French association of friends of the railways which had a model section that it still has. The networks are under the East Station. 


This association exists and which has therefore practiced one of the pioneers of model making but always from toys often reworked. There were people sawing Marklin cars that would have been worth a fortune today. With 3, they made only one car of the correct length because it was outrageously shortened; there were others who sawed locomotives in two or three, like the141 Jep which was a 120. To make a real 141, they added wheels, cut etc.... There were some who sawed along the LR cars that were smaller to re-widen them. These were crimes that today would give the most jaded auctioneer goose bumps. But in other words, at the time, we started from the toy as a material that we used reluctantly for lack of anything better to make models before the industrialists themselves made real, completely authentic models.

So it has been a long process and today in sales for example in Chartres where there is often a part called model making. And where we find a lot of models that are sort of transitions between the toy and the reduced model that is therefore mathematically more accurate. In your collection, could you give me a budget per month or per year of what you spend, do you have an idea of it? I have no ideas but I can tell you that it is a modest budget because I have the honour of being a professor of national education so in no way related to an emir, I am not in oil, I am in ideas and the public service so these are not things that pay off very well. I have never ruined myself and yet I have an extremely beautiful collection and in addition it is argued by many railway works that I use to write my books. All we have to do is want it not to be ruinous and we will have to behave in a much smarter way. 


For people with a modest budget, you can find quality things on auction? I encourage people to buy anyway. Just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's beautiful. You can have a bazaar object that will be much more charming than a locomotive of the latest technology. It's an exchange. The object is an exchange with yourself. When you meet an object it is as if you were meeting a person. You know within 10 seconds whether you want to see her again or not. The object is the same. You know if it's yours or not. Okay, so in fact it's statements that apply as much in a collection, we're talking about old toys, we've talked about trains, it may be the same for dolls? I'm not going to do the same thing. It's even more so for dolls because the doll has a face. And almost a look. And we all have our facial preferences even in people Yes, in human beings. So, a doll that has a face that matches your ideal face will have much more interest for you. Okay, there will be more resonance after all. 


The brand, the state, all this will come later. First of all, it's the first look. If it's a very beautiful doll but if her eyes are badly put on, it's not going to be okay. Are there any other trends at the moment on auction for antique toys? We talked about trains, we talked about dolls... Of course, you have the cars you have the bicycles, the mechanical toys, the mechanical toys that were found on the boulevards at the beginning of the century, which was the societal reflection of the time. You have the little lead soldiers. You have the automatons. PLCs are something else. You have all the recent toys, the toys that my son collected, i. e. electronic toys, Star Wars I am unable to tell you about them, the Goldorak... But they are also toy collections. There are the first models that are sought the first electronic games also yes quite yes, the consoles etc....., 


There are some who are really wanted because they are the first ones who opened the door to other things and who correspond to a time. The toy is a reflection of his time. That's exactly what we were saying. The toy is a reflection of his time, that's all. We'll keep this sentence here, this punchline. In any case, thank you very much, gentlemen, for your very passionate participation. 


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