(updated April 2006) article and photos by Robert I. Mintz and Frank Samaritano
Lionel, at the 1973 New York City Toy Fair, first issued their Toy Fair cars. However, not all of the cars were boxcars. For several years, a refrigerator reefer was produced instead.
For the years 1973 and 1974, a slow selling regular production model was used with the only difference being an overstamp to mention the New York Toy Fair of that particular year.
Starting in 1975, a special issue car was made for dealers. Inevitably, the dealers sold these to collectors, sometimes for exorbitant prices.
The early years may, or may not have had boxes included. The 1976 box was consistent with that year’s Bicentennial celebration; a red, white and blue box. In other years, a label was used on the end flaps, rather than having a box specifically printed for this car.
Most notably, the 1996 box was all blue, a rare variation considering the usual orange, or orange and white boxes. Only the dwarf signal, and possibly one other item came in a similar all blue packaging.
The 2000 boxcar was similar to a car produced that year, sans the electronics and illumination.
Not all toy fair cars commemorated the NYC Toy Fair, traditionally starting on the second Sunday in February. Two items that are to be included in this category include the 1976 Canadian Toy and Decoration Fair held before NYC Toy Fair and a Preview for Toy Fair 2000 actually held on October 4-6, 1999.
All in all, the Toy Fair cars are an interesting group to collect.