All About Postage Stamp Trains
Freight cars are probably the most frequently misrepresented Postage Stamp items sold. People often just sell whatever they found/bought/received in the box, regardless of whether or not the car was ever offered by Aurora.
The problem is three-fold. First, many box inserts only identify the generic car type (right), with no road name or road code, so people assume whatever is already in the box is what originally came in the box—if they even bother to read the insert, that is. Second, Roco supplied cars to multiple importers, and many of those cars were similar, if not identical, to the ones they sold to Aurora. And third, Trix released more cars than Aurora imported; consequently you'll see such impossibilities as wood-sided reefers and triple-dome tankers in Postage Stamp boxes every single day, all assumed to be legit because the cars are branded for Trix and match the generic car types on the insert.
Not to mention that cars have been re-released countless times over the years, and unless you pay strict attention to specific little details such as the color of the wheels or the shape of the bolster pins, it may be a later-vintage car in that Postage Stamp box you just bought. Then there's the fact that the vast majority of cars for sale today are used, presenting the chance they've been repaired or altered in some way—say, upgraded with new(er) trucks and couplers.
Due to the long production history and broad distribution of these cars, there will be those that match all of the prerequisites, yet aren't truly "genuine." There's no practical way to determine this, nor is it really worth the effort. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter, because these days the cars are a dime a dozen. Indeed, the boxes may be of more value to some collectors than their contents.
What To Look For
At the very least, genuine Postage Stamp freight cars will:
Trucks provide some of the best indicators of a car's authenticity, and there are two vintages. 1967-era cars will have:
The wheels on later trucks have black plastic insulators that are flush with the wheel backs (2). Also, the example above is a mint, unopened, unused car. Below is a used car; note the discoloration of the parts.
Effects of Age
As these cars age, the plastic shrinks slightly. Consequently, wheels may come loose from their insulators (the top right wheel in the first photo above has done this). Bolster pins will also tend to come loose, and trucks will drop off—this can often be seen in still-sealed train sets. Wheels will get darker and duller, and the coupler retaining clip may become slightly rusty. Black plastic may turn a dull, mottled dark grey.
These products weren't meant to be heirlooms; they're merely mass-produced toys.
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Postage Stamp Trains is a Trademark of the Aurora Plastics Corporation.