Unique Arts tinplate trains

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Unique Arts tinplate trains

Postby deezlfan » Sun Aug 28, 2005 10:35 am

Anyone know anything about Unique Arts tinplate trains from the 50s? I think Marx bought them out, but not much more.
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Postby Lehigh Valley Railroad » Sun Aug 28, 2005 12:17 pm

Any examples pictures or anything?

Could you mean Ives?
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Re: Unique Arts tinplate trains

Postby Aa3rt » Sun Aug 28, 2005 1:49 pm

deezlfan wrote:Anyone know anything about Unique Arts tinplate trains from the 50s? I think Marx bought them out, but not much more.


Unique Arts was a metal toy producer, like Marx. The Unique Art trains were sold through the Jewel Tea Company, among others.

(Anyone here besides me old enough to remember when the Jewel Tea man used to peddle door-to-door? They sold a lot more than tea, including toys.)

The limited line had an 0-4-0 steam engine (in electric and clock-work [wind-up] versions) with tender, box & hopper car & caboose. The freight cars also came decorated as circus and passenger cars. Unique Art also produced an eight-wheel diesel (very ugly, IMHO) lettered for the Rock Island.

I don't believe Unique Art was bought out by Marx-however, Marx countered Unique Art's offerings with the line of 7" cars of their own in the mid-1950's.
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No not Ives........

Postby deezlfan » Sun Aug 28, 2005 2:10 pm

No, not Ives. These are very similar to Marx but bigger in size slightly, probably by an inch or two. There were electric three rail and clockwork two rail versions. There is also a cab unit loosely based on an F-7. [Also larger than Marx.] Hoppers, cabooses,and boxcars all sharing the same four wheel base like Marx but different in it has a truss and queenpost arrangement between the wheelsets. The company made tinplate wind-up toys like Unique Artie, a clown riding in a jeep-like vehical similar to Marx's Jumpin Jeep. They also made a typewriter and a bunch of others. They had a factory in Newark, New Jersey and a showroom at 200 5th Avenue in New York. Strangely the same address as Marx. The logo was a clown juggling 6 balls that spelled out Unique. All cars are labeled Unique Lines with a small logo displayed somewhere on the car.

I am have trouble posting photos so go here for a couple of snapshots. http://www.geocities.com/vsrweblog/uniquearts.html?
One webpage mentions Dorfan dies? But their stuff was cast, not litho, correct? Another mentions a Circus train version. Also found this: http://www.msoe.edu/library/whats_new/model_trains_display/unique.htm The tender in this photo is the Electrified version as the clockwork engine is a different color.
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Postby Aa3rt » Sun Aug 28, 2005 2:22 pm

Yeah, that's them. I had both the electric and clockwork steam engines. The electric version was painted like the one in your photo, the clockwork version was a lighter grayish-blue.

I read the part about using Dorfan dies but haven't seen anything that resembles Dorfan.

While these pieces may be unusual, I don't know if they're really "desireable". At least I didn't fare very well when I sold mine on Ebay. (I had collected these as "curiosities" to display with my Marx collection.)

I do have mention of these in a Marx Guide as well as another collectors guide but have been unable to find anything on-line. If you're seriously interested in learning about them you might try the Toy Train Operating Society or Train Collector's Association.

I'd tried finding some on-line photos of Unique Arts trains after reading your initial post but so far have come up empty handed.
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Sorry for the confusing post.....

Postby deezlfan » Sun Aug 28, 2005 2:30 pm

Sorry for the confusing post.....
I must have been writing a response at the same moment as you, Art. I don't remember Jewel Tea because I inherated my uncles train set. I do remember S&H green stamps and The A&P Is that close?

They had a factory in Newark, New Jersey and a showroom at 200 5th Avenue in New York.


I read in a toy collectors guide [while 'browsing' at Barnes and Noble!] that Marx bought out Unique. The same business address seems to connect them somehow. Unique supposedly quit production after 1951.
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A bit off topic, but...

Postby Aa3rt » Sun Aug 28, 2005 3:26 pm

Jewel Tea Company was based in Chicago and was a route business selling tea, coffee, spices, etc. The business expanded and became the "Jewel Home Shopping Service". Don't know how far they branched out but I remember the Jewel Tea guy making his rounds in my hometown in northwest Pennsylvania in the 1960's. Here's a link to a brief history on Jewel Tea:

http://www.4sullivans.com/jtsgeneralstore/jewelhistory.html

I only learned about the Unique Art train line in the last 15 years myself. I started doing a little Marx collecting, (Marx trains were primarily made in Erie-my first toy and HO gauge trains were both made by Marx) and saw these Unique Trains listed in the Marx collector guides. I still have a rheostat (?) the was made by Unique, looks like a small switch tower and had a speed control on it-these control handles are classic for breaking.

PS-see my PM to you.
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Postby Aa3rt » Tue Aug 30, 2005 9:36 am

Deezlfan-I found a writeup on the Unique Art train line in the book Greenburg's Guide To Marx Trains by Eric Matzke, copyright 1985.

Marx developed a small line of 7" tinplate locomotives and cars to counter Unique's offerings. From Chapter XV, "Seven Inch Cars":

"Louis Marx and Sammy Bergman had been close friends for many years. Sammy directed Unique Art, a New Jersey toy manufacturing company. Marx both sold toys for him and purchased Unique Toys to resell, and it was not uncommon for tools and dies for toy parts to be exchanged between the New Jersey and Girard plants. Imagine Marx's surprise when, in 1948 Unique Art developed an 0 Gauge lithographed train set that would directly compete with the Marx line. The Unique Art line was marketed both as a boxed set and as individual circus animal cars through the Jewel Tea Company.

Unique Art trains shocked the New York office. To squelch the competition, Marx immediately began developing a line of seven-inch cars to be marketed for the 1949 Christmas season. In January development began; by March tooling and die-making decisions had been made; in May , lithographic patterns were selected; by early summer production was underway! As it turned out, the Unique Art toy train line was more of a tempest in a teapot than a full scale tinplate onslaught. In fact, Unique's toy typewriter proved to be a more serious competitor, which Marx succeeded in overcoming only by having his toy typewriters produced less expensively in the Orient."

I guess this explains why you found the same address for both Marx and Unique in New York City.
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Re: Sorry for the confusing post.....

Postby james1787 » Tue Aug 30, 2005 1:18 pm

deezlfan wrote:[color=red]

They had a factory in Newark, New Jersey and a showroom at 200 5th Avenue in New York.


I read in a toy collectors guide [while 'browsing' at Barnes and Noble!] that Marx bought out Unique. The same business address seems to connect them somehow. Unique supposedly quit production after 1951.


200 5th Avenue is the address of the International Toy Center. It is easily likely that Marx, Unique and many other toy manufacturers had addresses here as this building houses many many showrooms. The company I work for has a showroom here (I work next door).
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Toys

Postby deezlfan » Tue Aug 30, 2005 2:02 pm

Are there still toy showrooms there? Would be interesting to visit........
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Postby james1787 » Tue Aug 30, 2005 2:35 pm

I think it's LGB that has a showroom up on the 9th floor. I only know that because if I walk across the bridge on the 9th floor from 1107 broadway to 200 5th you walk right past the place. You can see all the latest stuff and they have a layout up there. I'm not sure what other Toy companies are in the building.
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Postby Dave Farquhar » Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:07 pm

As far as Unique Art's connection to Dorfan, Unique did use the Dorfan tooling (with modification to reduce the cost of production) for its passenger cars. Dorfan's locos were die cast, but its rolling stock was pressed tin litho like everyone else was making in the 1930s.

I found one picture online of Unique's trains:

http://www.msoe.edu/library/whats_new/m ... unique.htm

As far as rarity, they're definitely less common than Marx or Hafner, but interest in anything but the circus set and the Rock Island diesel is limited.
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Postby Aa3rt » Tue Aug 30, 2005 9:37 pm

Dave, thanks for joining us here and lending your insight.

I once had an opportunity to purchase a set of the diesels at a fair price but passed up on them because they were so ungainly. (Should I be kicking myself? :wink: )

I had the common freight sets, will admit that I've never seen the circus or passenger cars "in the flesh".

I will have to compare the photos of the Unique passenger cars in the O'Brien book against the Dorfan offerings. Thanks for clearing that up.
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Postby Dave Farquhar » Wed Aug 31, 2005 8:02 pm

No problem. I like a friendly train forum. Can't have too many of those.

There's a Unique Art Rock Island diesel at an antique mall near me. It's been there at least a year. I've been contemplating buying it for at least a year. It's just the powered A unit, no dummy to be found. They want $70. I'm told $150 is a fair price for a pair these days.

I like the unit, but I just haven't convinced myself yet that I want to pay $70 for it. I can see why some people would think it's ugly.

It's maybe worth what a comparable (but much less common) Lionel unit would be worth.

I'll own one eventually, but there are other things I need to pay for first. Maybe the difficulty the booth owner is having unloading it should tell me something, but maybe it's a marketing problem. It is sitting next to a bunch of Marx pieces that cost a lot less, and to the uninitiated, it looks like a Marx.

I'm probably thinking too hard. :-)
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Re: Unique Arts tinplate trains

Postby bamabelle » Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:14 pm

I have located in my parents' attic a toy train. It is in a box with the Unique Art Manufacturer name on it. The train set appears to be complete. Is there any value here? I have a brother who is 65 and it was probably bought for him.
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