The Marx State of Maine boxcars are colorful tin representations of real, prototypical cars that ran on the Bangor and Aroostook and New Haven railroads.
The real cars were insulated and heated box cars that hauled potatoes from Maine to New York City. But the red, white, and blue paint scheme made the design appeal to the rest of the country, not just the New England region.
Marx produced versions of these cars in both its 6-inch and 7-inch line. They weren’t the only ones. American Flyer had an S gauge representation of this car, and Lionel included it in its popular line of 6464 box cars.
The Marx State of Maine: Affordable patriotism
The key difference was Marx included this colorful and patriotic car in inexpensive sets, where Lionel’s 6464 was intended for Lionel’s most expensive sets, or sold separately, at a Lionel price. Well, the other difference was Lionel and Flyer made theirs out of plastic, while Marx used tin lithography. Tin litho was cheaper at the time.
It was a smart move for Marx. Including the car in inexpensive sets meant you could get something resembling the look of a high-end Lionel set at a fraction of the price. And offering the car for separate sale made for an easy upsell at retail. “Hey, you are pretty patriotic, right? You can add this car to your set for just 39 cents more.” Nobody likes having their patriotism challenged.
These cars aren’t rare, but they are popular.
Marx’s patriotism came in full size and fun size!
Marx never made a plastic version of this car, but did include it in both its 7-inch and 6-inch lines. I guess the 7-inch cars are 16% more patriotic? Or maybe the smaller fun size is more patriotic since it has 16 times as many road numbers to collect.
Production years are a bit tricky to pin down. We know that the six-inch version was produced in 1958, possibly earlier, and the 7-inch version entered production in 1955 and ran through 1958. The 6-inch version remained in production through 1967. The 6-inch versions had road numbers between 4485 and 4500. The 7-inch version had road number 4484. Marx printed cars in sheets, so they would sometimes vary the road number depending on the car’s position on the sheet. In this case, they did with the 6-inch version but not the 7-inch version.
This makes the fun size more fun to collect since there are 16 variations of road numbers. Or at least more challenging.