In 1938 and possibly 1939, Marx produced its 6-inch cars with plain tin-plated frames, rather than lithographing or painting them. But these silver frame Marx cars were short lived. As such they provide a challenge for collectors today.
Silver frame Marx cars are a bit difficult to find because of their short production time but are also easy to fake. Don’t pay a heavy premium for a frame that looks too good.
Problems with silver frame Marx cars
The problem with silver frame Marx cars was that the plating was extremely thin. The shine literally wore off very easily as kids played with them, even from just picking up the cars by the base to put them on the track or to take them off the track and put them away. The frame is stamped and formed like the much more common black-frame cars, so some people fake silver frame cars by stripping off the black paint, then polishing the base.
Marx was in the business of selling toys that provided good value, not just toys that were cheap. So the black frames displaced the silver frames in short order. Marx’s black frames held up to wear much longer.
For this reason, you don’t want to pay a steep premium for a silver-frame car, especially a shiny one. Any legitimate silver frame is going to be somewhat dull. When buying a silver-frame car, if you’re buying to collect, be sure to examine the car for any telltale signs of tampering. Even in photos, you may be able to see scratches on the metal near the tabs or scratches on the tabs from prying them up.
Another tell-tale sign is the wrong couplers. They generally should have sliding tab and slot couplers with the tabs, rather than the punched dimple. You don’t typically see the type with the punched dimple and you don’t generally see riveted couplers either.
I’ve also seen numerous silver frame cars come up for sale that looked just a little too good. Examining the photos more closely, I could tell they had been painted with a metallic paint.
If you’re buying the cars to run, there’s nothing wrong with these altered cars. But don’t pay a premium for them unless you’re buying in person and can examine the car very carefully.
List of Marx silver frame cars
Marx produced 11 of its cars in the silver frame variation:
- 551 NYC tender
- 552 Rock Island Gondola
- 553 Middle States Oil tanker
- 554 Northern Pacific hopper in red
- 554 Northern Pacific hopper in blue
- 555 Colorado and Southern box car in red
- 555 Colorado and Southern box car in blue
- 556 NYC caboose
- Pullman Bogota coach
- Pullman Montclair coach
- Observation car
It is possible to remove the paint from a base and make any 6-inch car into a silver frame version. But these 11 are the ones that have been authenticated and documented so far.