model train set on track

American Flyer Prewar Dealer Display Equipment

e*Train Issue: Apr 2014   |   Posted in: ,

By Leon Sweet

In 1929 American Flyer offered its dealers a new line of factory-produced display equipment in a dealer-offered catalog titled “Complete Merchandising Service 16 New Tie-Ups for 1929”.  The merchandising catalog discusses the new catalog; envelope enclosures; a large foldout; a national advertising campaign in magazines and newspapers; equipment displays; window cards, and streamers; a truck banner; master catalogs; color catalog inserts; a sample case; and a catalog layout service, as well as discussing packaging; instructions and providing pictures of individual sets with their name and catalog numbers.

I noted that these dealer display items were shown in the dealer price lists for 1929; 1930 and 1931 and apparently discontinued after that, or at least not shown in the dealer price lists after that.

Many of these items are very unique and incredibly rare today, with some of the items largely being unknown.  The truck banner is something that I am not sure any have survived.  I have seen at least one store banner sell for a high price on eBay and have heard of another selling back in the early 1990s.  I saw a 1930 counter display (which is a cardboard backed 1930 catalog cover with a foldout leg for displaying on a store counter) at York in October 2012.

Other items in the merchandising catalog, such as the dealer display equipment are also very unusual and interesting.  The train equipment panel boards and illuminated set display stands are also something that to my knowledge have not survived intact (i.e. “as sold”).

There were five Train Equipment Panel Boards shown in this catalog, catalog numbers 4161-4165, which had a variety of train equipment attached to the display boards.  These boards could be mounted to a wall or displayed on a countertop.  The catalog indicates that these boards were made upon the order being placed and that the buyer was only charged for the equipment on the board, not the board cost itself.

I know that at least some of these boards were sold, as I have seen at least one example, with no equipment on it, at the National Toy Train Museum.  I guess that it would make sense that at some point the equipment would be outdated and the dealer would detach the equipment from the boards and sell the equipment separately.

There were four different “Illuminated Train Set Display Stands” shown in the merchandise catalog and a fifth being described.  These items were cataloged as the 4167 Wide Gauge Train Tower; the 4168 Narrow Gauge Display Stand; the 4169 Wind-Up Display Stand; the 4170 Combination Narrow and Wide Gauge Train Display Stand; and the 4171 Wide Gauge Display Stand (not shown, but described as having the same appearance as the 4168 display stand and the same approximate size as the 4170 display stand and having an electric illuminated globe included).

The four Illuminated Train Set Display Stands that are shown in the merchandising catalog each appear to have a different illuminated display sign.  It is not clearly shown in the 4167 Wide Gauge Train Tower, but the “American Flyer Trains” rectangular placard shown in the display tower must be illuminated.  The description of the tower indicates that “The Flashing Sign and following merchandise is included:” I have never observed one of these lighted signs.

The 4168 Narrow Gauge Display Stand shows a simple racking system above an operating O gauge layout.  At the top center of the display racking is a rectangular “American Flyer Trains” sign.  There appears to be a cord coming out of the display racking and going to the side of the sign.  There is no description as to if this is a solid illumination or flashing sign.  I have never observed one of these signs.

The 4169 Wind-Up Display Stand is a similar, but smaller sized racking system with wind-up layout, as compared to the 4168 stand.  There is an “American Flyer” sign on the flat layout portion of the stand that is partially obscured by the wind-up train on the layout.  I am assuming that the sign states “American Flyer Trains”.  The description for the stand indicates that “The Electric Illuminated Reflector and the following merchandise is included:” so apparently this sign is illuminated.  I have never observed one of these signs.

The 4170 Combination Narrow and Wide Gauge Train Display Stand is comprised of a 4 foot wide 7.5 foot long train table with O and Standard Gauge operating layout with a 47 inch high racking system, without the globe, and 56 inches high with the globe.  At the center top of the racking system a globe lettered “American Flyer Trains” is shown.  The description for this item and the 4171 Wide Gauge Display Stand, both indicate “Electric Illuminated Globe included”.  The globes from these displays are uncommon, but does come up for sale on occasion.

I think it would be neat to find a complete Illuminated Train Set Display Stand and I think the Wide Gauge Train Tower would be the most interesting item to see.  However, I have never heard of an intact factory Illuminated Train Set Display Stand being found.  All I am aware of existing is the globes from the 4170 and 4171 display stands.  I have not observed any of the illuminated signs from the 4167, 4168, or 4169 display stands.

Interestingly enough, the lettering on the globes that I have observed does not match the lettering on the globes shown in the catalog.  That makes me wonder two things: 1) did the catalog represent an artist’s rendition, with the actual production differing? And 2) what do the actual lights on the 4167, 4168, and 4169 stands look like, if different from the catalog?

Anyway, here is a globe from a dealer display stand.  This globe is reported to have come out of a hobby shop in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area.