The Lionel Corporation is an American toy company best known for their toy trains and model railroads.
The Lionel Corporation was established at the turn of the century in 1900 in New York by Harry Grant and Joshua Lionel Cowen. It was founded as an electrical novelties company, producing a variety of electrical products. In 1901 they began producing the toy trains and model railroads for which they are famous. The production of these toys continued until 1969. The company reached its peak in the 1950s, when it sold $25 million worth of toy trains per year.
Today, trains and model railroads from Lionel Corporation are collectors’ items and can fetch high prices on auction. It is the authentic details and solid construction of these trains that drew such admiration for them and made them into the sought-after products that they are today.
Guide for collectors
As the most enduring brand name that people associate with model trains, Lionel trains are now prized by collectors both in the United States and worldwide.
There are a number or organizations dedicated to collectors of model trains and Lionel trains in particular, including: METCA (Metropolitan Division Train Collectors Association), the Lionel Collectors Club of America (LCCA), Lionel Operating Train Society (LOTS), CLRC - Chicagoland Lionel Railroad Club, and the National Association of S-Gaugers (NASG).
Collectors can also read up on the trains in two books: Greenberg's Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains, 1901 – 1999; and TM's Lionel Illustrated Price & Rarity Guide, Vol. I: 1901 – 1969 and TM's Lionel Illustrated Price & Rarity Guide, Vol. II: 1970 – 1999.
Notable Auction Sales
In 2006, Stout Auctions sold a Lionel 20th Century Limited State Set consisting of a 400E black loco, 400W whistle tender, 412 California Pullman, 413 Colorado Pullman, 414 Illinois Pullman, and 416 New York Observation for $230,000.
Recent auction sales include:
• In 2011, a Lionel SF Gold Stripe Aluminum Pass Set was sold by Stout Auctions for $13000.
• An Ives Peacock Passenger Set was sold by Stout Auctions in January 2011 for $775.
• A Lionel Corporation 263E set with Proto 2 sold in August 2011 for $350 through Stout Auctions.
• Stout Auctions also sold a Lionel Corp. Blue 263E with Proto 2.0 in February 2011 for $275.
• A Lionel prewar 700E full scale Hudson prototype in brass sold in December 2004 for $70 000. The starting bid was $10 000, and the train was estimated to sell for $10 000 to $40 000.
It is not only trains from Lionel Corporation that can fetch high prices at auction. IN May 2011, a Lionel Corporation Annual year report was sold by Stout Auctions for $2500; a 1949 Lionel Corporation Annual Report sold for $1300 in May 2011 through Stout Auctions; and an Annual Report from the 1950s was sold by Stout Auctions for $1550 in May 2011.
Collecting Lionel Trains is a popular pastime for thousands of people worldwide because there are a number of exciting Lionel Corporation purchases one can make.