You can’t collect everything

There’s been a fairly spirited discussion lately in the always excellent Yahoo Marx Train group about the merits of Marx tin trains versus plastic ones. Some people like them all, some people prefer one or the other, and almost everyone with a preference is apologizing to the people who prefer the other.

That’s part of what makes that group great–the lack of elitism and looking down on others whose preferences differ–but in my mind, there’s no apology necessary because very few hobbyists have the time, space, or budget to collect everything.

When I wrote a feature article way back in 1996 on video game collecting, one of the brothers I featured said he concentrated on pre-1984 systems. He had nothing against post-1984 systems, but he was a college student, he only had a part-time job, and it was much easier for him to afford pre-1984 systems than the newer stuff. The average Atari cartridge at the time sold for 50 cents, and the average Nintendo cartridge sold for a few dollars.

It’s natural for us to want other people to like what we like, though there are certainly advantages to not talking much about it. Jerry Greene went from being just another Lionel Postwar collector to having perhaps the greatest train collection of his generation by staying under the radar for a couple of decades and collecting something that few other people ever thought to collect. By collecting what most people ignored, he eliminated competition, and he sure has no shortage of affirmation now.

I personally prefer Marx tin over plastic. I’m not 100% certain why, and the reason doesn’t matter. I actually need to sell off most of my Marx plastic because I have more trains than I ever run, so it’s time to give someone else a chance to enjoy them.

There was a time when I’d buy any train I found, as long as I could afford it and it ran on O gauge track. And there was nothing wrong with that–it helped me come to a conclusion about what I liked best.

And it’s not like I’m married to what I like best right now forever. No one is. Jerry Greene amassed a nearly complete collection of postwar Lionel, then decided to start over and go back a generation or two and across the Atlantic for his next collection. I can’t get into his head, so I don’t know if he was bored, or wanted to do something completely different, or both, but the result was brilliant.

So that’s why I don’t see any need for apologies. Two decades ago, all the cool kids were buying postwar Lionel, because that was the desirable toy from their childhood. Some people were happy continuing to do that. Some people decided to go do something different.

If we all collected the same thing, there wouldn’t be as much to go around.

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