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Marx windup 490: An unexpected rarity

I’ve written before about the Greenberg Pocket Price Guide for Marx, and I frequently recommend it, especially to newcomers, because it’s very easy to end up spending $30 on a car that’s only worth $10. I know when starting out we prefer to spend our train money on trains. But by saving you from overpaying, the guide quickly pays for itself. Here’s how I use mine. The guide isn’t perfect, though. One of the items it omits is the Marx windup 490 steam locomotive.

Marx made clockwork locomotives longer than anyone else and they typically aren’t worth a lot today. But the 490 is different. There are always exceptions with Marx.The 490 was Marx’s basic no-frills plastic-bodied steam locomotive from 1962 until the end of Marx train production in 1975. It mostly came in train sets with a few cars and track, sold in discount stores for $15 or less.

Marx set 452

Marx set #452 came with the elusive 490 windup. It was only available in 1962. This one doesn’t have the rubber bulb smoke unit.

Since Marx made the 490 for so long and the sets were sold in practically every discount store, the 490 is one of the most common Marx items available. I’m pretty sure if I went to a big train show and bought every 490 in sight, I would run out of money or room in my car before I ran out of 490s to buy.

The situation is similar with Marx windup trains. Marx made windups for almost 40 years, sold them for even less than its low-end electric sets, and those were available everywhere.

The Marx windup 490

So it would seem that the windup 490 isn’t worth mentioning, and the Greenberg book doesn’t mention it. According to it, a 490 is worth $15 in good condition and $20 in excellent condition, with no distinction between clockwork or electric, and no mention of the clockwork existing.

So if you ever see a clockwork 490 for $20, buy it. They are one of the rarest Marx pieces, and the easiest to overlook. The very similar-looking 400 clockwork locomotive is exceptionally common, but Marx didn’t make very many clockwork 490s. They were only made in 1962, and came in two varieties: with and without a rubber bulb smoke unit that puffed baking soda.

It took me 10 years to find a clockwork 490. When I did find one, it was at an estate sale. If you really want a challenge, try tracking down both varieties, with and without the smoke unit.

I have a hard time estimating pricing because these come up for sale so rarely. I think $100 seems like a fair starting point for a clockwork 490, as uncommon as they are. It’s rarer than a WM Crooks, which can reach those prices even if it’s broken. But of course you’d have to find the right person to get that price. Only the very most dedicated Marx collectors even know it exists, and only some of them know it’s something special.

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