In 1999, Lionel cataloged the #19667 Wellspring Mint Car. This car was manufactured in May 1999. Later that year, Lionel’s parent company, Wellspring Capital Management (Wellspring Associates) wanted to give their employees and investors a Christmas gift. Wellspring decided to give out the #19667 Wellspring Mint Car, however, by this point, Lionel was sold out of the #19667. To fulfill Wellspring’s order, Lionel needed to produce a second run of Wellspring Mint Cars. Although Wellspring was expecting the regularly cataloged version of this car, the second run was slightly different than the first.
A new 5-digit SKU number needed to be assigned to the Employee Version. Lionel choose #19673 to keep track of the additional work of setting up the special run, the operation of packing each car in its own individual mailer, and for the inclusion of the Wellspring corporate Christmas card in the package. While the exact quantity of #19673s is not known, it is believed that only a few hundred were produced.
Of course, even though the two items were supposed to be identical, anytime things are manufactured 6 months apart, there are bound to be some differences. While these comparisons are far from exhaustive (2 of each version were compared), the findings were consistent. On the box label on the #19667, the word Wellspring is incorrectly printed as two separate words (WELL SPRING), however the spelling was corrected on the #19673 production run (WELLSPRING). While Lionel bothered to correct the spelling of “Wellspring”, they forget to update the SKU number on the label, and the #19673 was printed with #19667 on the label. Even though some parts are easily switched with other Lionel products, it is worth noting that the windows on the #19667 are slightly cloudy (very slightly) whereas on the #19673, the windows are absolutely crystal clear. Likewise, the uncoupling armature on the #19667 utilizes the (then new) all-metal armature, while the #19673 has the MPC era designed plastic armature with a metal thumbtack. This would seem appropriate as Lionel probably didn’t have enough of the older plastic armature trucks for a standard production run, but did have enough for the small #19673 run.
Of special interest is the Wellspring logo in the upper left hand corner of the car. While the same decorating plates were used for both production runs, apparently they were damaged between the two runs. The logo on the #19667 is crisp and exhibits clear sharp edges. On the #19673, the upper right corner of the logo is rounded off. The placement of the lettering is slightly different, but that can happen within any given production run, so it is not necessarily an identifying feature.
For a Lionel Mint Car Collection to be complete, both Wellspring variations need to be included.
I'd like to give credit to Joe Endicott for assisting me with the research for these comparisons.
#19667 vs. #19673 Comparison Table
19667 Cataloged Version
19673 Employee Version
Spelling on Box Label
Number on Box Label
Number on Mailer
Date Stamp (varies)
11419, 11449, etc.
13219, 13229, etc.
May 21, May 24, etc.
Nov. 17, Nov. 18, etc.
Die-Cast, All Metal
Plastic with Thumbtack
Upper Right “Wing” in Wellspring Logo
Yes, Dated 12/13/99
TCA MINT CAR COINS: By Newt Derby
There are only two TCA coins that went with mint cars. The first was a footed aluminum coin from the twenty-fifth convention in 1979 that was given to each attendee at the convention to place in their Convention mint car #9319.
With respect to the 25th Anniversary footed coin, there were a bunch left over and some were melted into a blob with one sticking out of the blob. I believe that is now at the National Toy Train Museum.
The second was a gold colored coin that went with the Banquet Table New Orleans Mint car #7522 which was specially heat stamped on the windows of the regular issue mint car for the 1986 Convention banquet. There were only 115 of these made by some guy named Newt Derby. There were also three pure silver coins, several hundred bronze colored coins, and thousands of aluminum coins that were part of the Mardi Gras that was a part of the convention banquet.
All the coins for the #9319 were made from the same dies. Of the three silver coins, one was presented to Bill Tunstall, former TCA National President; one was presented to Dom Schwab, the then TCA National President; and one was auctioned at the convention banquet by auctioneer “Mr. TCA”, Lou Redman. And the buyer was that same guy, Newt Derby.
There were two new coins issued at the TCA 50th Convention in 2004:
TCA National Convention/Ft. Pitt Division coin, 2004
In our Post 9-11 world, Lionel developed the “Spirit of America Super Value Program.” Current members of either, or both, the Lionel RailRoader Club and Century Club II were eligible to receive a free U.S. Savings Bond Car. The stipulation was that one must purchase from a list of qualifying items from a Lionel Authorized Value Added Dealer between October 1-December 31, 2002.
If you were a member of both clubs and made two purchases from the list, you were approved to get two free cars. One of the only other times that I can recall the consumer getting anything free from Lionel, was the #19559 MKT STOCK CAR, the so-called make up add-on car for the #31700 GIRL'S SET.
The scheduled shipping date for the Savings Bond car was estimated to be June 2003, but in yet another surprise, #19696 arrived in mid May 2003.
THE INLAND EMPIRE TRAIN COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION: By Mike Stella
The IETCA was a small group of Lionel collectors and operators based in Southern California, just east of Los Angeles. This organization is not in any way connected, despite its name, to the TCA. Between 1979 and 1986, the Club offered anniversary cars to its members, usually redecorated by professional repainters Pleasant Valley Process Co. (PVP).
In 1984, the Club issued its 6th annual anniversary car, a standard issue #7518 mint car with four decals applied to the clear windows stating “6th Anniversary IETCA 1984”.
This is the only IETCA car in which the original production model was still visible, and about 50 were made.
SELECTED FACTORY ERRORS: By Bob Mintz, Shannon Sikora and Charles Janiga
A factory error usually occurs sometime during the painting, decorating or assembling process. It is more often than not the result of an inadvertent oversight. Some mistakes are more obvious than others, such as the graphics boo-boo shown here.
Considering the shear number of items produced, stamping errors are bound to exist, such as shown here for the very same item from above.
I have provided the regular issue item as a reference. Like we used to do for Highlights for Children (“What’s wrong with this picture?”), see if you can find the two graphics errors in the second image shown of the Monopoly mint car.
The Lionel and Richard Kughn auctions have produced even more variations. Some shells that were produced for what was thought to be only special production runs such as the QVC sets, or factory overruns that were sold to Lionel Top 10 dealers, have turned up in the hands of private collectors.
One such item was reported by Charles Janiga who told me that the regular version of the Lionel Mines mint car #19672 looks pure red. He has yet another deviation that has light gold lettering over-spray on a less red color, as well as the “built date” having thinner lettering. Also the metallic finish car does not have sprung metal trucks.
We present here the regular version as well as the so-called “gold dust” variation.
THE MINT CAR TRAIN: By Bob Mintz
"All New Limited Edition Series 6-18300 Pennsylvania GG-1 Electric. What locomotive is stately enough, powerful enough, and exciting enough to pull the most expensive train set of all time?
The Pennsey GG-1 returns, coated in rich bronze markings to pull the most precious cargo in history, thousands of bars of gold and silver aboard Lionel's spectacular, continuing Mint Car series.”
The year 1987 would bring an interesting self-congratulatory homage to this continuing mint car series. Little did Lionel ever realize that even “two of the mightiest Pullmor motors ever developed, plus Magne-traction” would probably never be able to keep up with the sheer size of this ultimate freight train.
Why make a bronze colored engine and caboose when the mint car was guarding bars of gold?
Not really sure of the answer, I would have had a gold-plated engine, and “whassup” with that caboose?
Wouldn’t a matching security car have worked and been more appropriate considering the cargo?
TO ALL MINT CAR COLLECTORS OUT THERE…
The TCA 50th Anniversary Gold mint car is meant to be a companion piece to the TCA 25th Anniversary Silver mint car. The fact that the 25th anniversary mint car was in Lionel blue and the 50th anniversary mint car is in Lionel orange, is intentional.
According to Matt Irvin, 2004 Convention Car Chairman: “A PERSONAL hint to you is to make sure you attend the 50th Anniversary convention banquet next year because you never know what might be the very, very, limited banquet car!”
#0845 Gold Bullion Transport Car/Fort Knox Reserve (0845) painted silver on clear plastic, 1962-67
#6445 Fort Knox Gold Reserve, gold bars, Silver, 1961-63
#7515 Denver Mint, silver bars, Light Gold, 1981
#7517 Philadelphia Mint, silver bars, Bronze, 1982
#7518 Carson City Mint, gold bars, Black, 1983
#7518 IETCA decals on regular production Carson City Mint, gold bars, Black, 1983, uncataloged
#7522 New Orleans Mint, silver bars, Dark Blue, 1986, uncataloged
#7522(B) TCA National Convention/Lone Star Division, decals on regular production New Orleans Mint, silver bars, coin, Dark Blue, 1986, uncataloged
#52338 TCA National Convention/Ft. Pitt Division, TCA 50th Anniversary, gold bars, Golden Express Celebration, Orange, 2004, uncataloged
#19649 Disney Scrooge McDuck Mint Car, gold bars, Green, 2004, uncataloged
#19697 U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, $1000 Notes, Reddish white, 2004
#19698 San Francisco Federal Reserve Mint Car, gold bars, Silver, “Last of the Series”, 2004
#52338 TCA National Convention/Ft. Pitt Division, TCA 50th Anniversary, gold bars, Golden Express Celebration, Orange, 2004, uncataloged prototype as seen at the Pittsburgh convention signed by then Lionel President Bill Bracy, part of raffle prize.