How modern is the "Modern Era"?
By Mike Stella
I have been looking over my Lionel catalogs from the early 1970s.
I started collecting Lionel in 1970 and these were the first trains
I purchased new. It took several years for me to find my first
club to join and by then everybody was calling these new trains
MPC. I don't think there were many members that actually "collected"
MPC back in those first years. I don't really think there are
many toy train folks that collect it today.
Your loss, my gain.
I strongly believe that a great disservice is being perpetrated
on the "O" gauge community by those publishers that
refer to anything made by Lionel after 1969 as "Modern Era."
To my way of thinking, "Modern Era" trains are those
being made today, not those made over 30 years ago!
Too many people that control the toy train print media are simply
too lazy and probably too ignorant to set a few new dividing lines
when it comes to Lionel production. The "Postwar Era"
ended in 1969 when the rights to manufacture Lionel trains was
sold to General Mills.
The "MPC ERA" begins in 1970 and runs into 1986 and
includes production by Fundimensions and the short-lived Kenner
group. This 17 year period is filled with sometimes remarkable
products, thousands of items both new in design and remakes of
classic Postwar. You can see many
trends emerging, retooling of many items, changes in the way graphics
were applied. This 17 year period in the history of Lionel deserves
to be emancipated from the Lionel of today, a Lionel that is no
longer even American. The "MPC ERA" ended when Lionel
was sold to Richard Kughn. I would like to see all Lionel collectors
and operators join in honoring this man by naming the next 10
years in Lionel production as "The Richard Kughn ERA."
It is very easy to separate the Lionel trains made in this era
from all previous eras because Lionel went to a 5 digit numbering
system. Innovations continued. A partnership with Mike Wolf was
started and then ended. A showroom layout was once again available
to visit. And once more, thousands of new Lionel trains were manufactured
for the collectors and operators.
More modern? To be sure, but what we considered as modern Lionel
10 to 15 years ago is practically ignored today. Again, your loss
and my gain. I still manage to purchase some new (Modern Era)
Lionel today mainly because I joined the Century Club II. But
I cannot consider myself a "Modern Era" collector as
I find little interest in the vast majority of today's production
by Lionel or any of the other importers of Asian toys. I do consider
myself a Postwar collector, an MPC collector, and a partial LTI
(Richard Kughn era) collector. I know there are a few MPC collectors
out there… they keep outbidding me on eBay. I think the
time will soon arrive when the "MPC ERA" and "The
RICHARD KUGHN ERA" take their rightful place alongside the
Postwar and Prewar eras.