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Collectors are sometimes pleasantly surprised to open a Marklin box and see a bright, shiny silver seal attached to their loco or loose inside the box. What are these special tags?
Marklin has always been known for quality, but one way that they insure quality before locomotives leave the factory floor is by testing each one. This practice is still done today with digital locomotives that travel through a special test layout with all possible curves, turnouts, cross-over tracks and more. And after they’re fully tested they are packed carefully into their boxes and ship off to their final destination to a Marklin enthusiast’s layout or display case.
Early Geprüft Tags for O Scale
The earliest Geprüft or “checked” / “tested” tags were first seen on O scale locomotives from the 1930s. These tags were red/white and made out of a paper material instead of a silver foil like the later tags for 00/HO. They are extremely rare, and as such it’s difficult to form any patterns on how these tags were used at the factory. Certainly they were not applied to all O Scale locomotives because many mint-in-box locomotives have come up without these tags. We have seen large “Super-Model” locomotives of the 1930s with these tags such as the SLH and ME and so perhaps only the larger, more expensive locomotives were given these special tags.
The First Geprüft Tag for 00
During the beginning of the 00 range in 1935, Marklin did not tag their locomotives after testing. The first possible tag surprisingly comes from around 1949, if the tag is indeed original. The tag has an “SK” stamp on the back and was sold as part of an auction for an empty SK 800 N box with date stamp from 1949. As always, we have to be careful with assessing the originality of such scarce pieces like this tag. The auction came up in Germany where many items are faked, including boxes and tags. However, here it seems the seller did not know what they had and so possibly the tag truly was just found with the box. Another example of this round paper tag is seen in Christie’s Fine Marklin book on a DL 800 which also dates from the 1948-1949 period roughly.
Update: after posting this article, several collectors wrote in confirming the originality of this style of paper circular tag. The tags appeared in 1948/49, even during times when silver tags existed and were perhaps used when silver tags were not in stock.
Silver and Colorful Geprüft Tags for 00
The earliest shiny, silver tags that are more commonly seen today were a dark red color. Over the years there were several different colors and variations in the font and script. The colors do seem to coordinate with the year that the locomotive was produced. As always when doing our research we focus on finding examples that we know are 100% original. As such, in this review we do not include any examples from auctions, especially those in Germany where the wrong tags are added with replica boxes and instruction sheets. Instead, all examples shown here were sourced from collections in the United States and come directly from the original owners. Because Marklin is not as popular in the US and many Marklin trains were brought over from Europe and never used, they are the best source for studying Marklin trains in their original condition as they left the factory.
Tags from 1950-1955
This is the earliest style, and featured on the RSM, RET, and G in the pictures below. On the RSM tag, for instance, you will notice a wider letter-form “geprüft” font and barely separate “F” and “T.” Also, the circle and stem feature a larger “fillet” – the round concave blend curve in the outline shape.
The back of the tags were commonly stamped with model numbers and we’ve seen serif (vestige of paper circle stamps) and sans serif stamp (similar to early box labels) fonts. Beware that replica tags can have these model stamps too.
Tags from 1956-1963
This is the second design of the tags, featuring joined “F” and “T” letters.
The final design
In 1962, and then from 64-73 is the third and last tag design. It is the most commonly found, and features a narrower font with a (more) open “F” and “T.” There is a shift from a more rich metallic foil to a later, cheaper foil that has some grey-black color to the surface – a “splotching.” The best color sequence reported puts in 1962 a Purple/Red, (recall 1963 reprises 1956 “Orange with closed “FT”), and from 1964-67 a Red/orange. In 1966-68 a Red, in 1969 Purple, then 69-73 a red with splotchy foil.
Seeing the tags in action!
A short Marklin video shows the tags as they are waiting to be added to the tested locomotives!
Beware of Reproduction Tags
An example lot came up at auction with some obscure tags. Seemingly one is marked with “SLR” which was a model only produced in the pre-war years when such tags have never previously been seen. Although they look old – worn and yellowed – we doubt the authenticity of these tags.
A special thanks to collector Xavier for investigating how different colors have shown up over the years. Also John for his help with some corrections and analysis of the fonts. And the forum post on the German FAM.
When it comes to collector highlights there is none more rare and sought after than a prototype or first series. A locomotive like the CCS 800 might be rare in any version, and if an earlier version is rare, then a first version or even a pre-series is an absolute top rarity. Marklin produced various types of prototypes – some that were actually pre-series and distributed to early customers and others that stayed on the factory floor and were meant to instruct and shape the design and manufacturing process.
Why were prototypes made?
In almost any production or manufacturing process, usually before expensive molds and tooling are made, master craftsmen made a prototype first. This helps the designers and engineers understand how the real model might perform before investing heavily into the manufacturing process. For instance, with model trains, the designer must understand if the locomotive has the proper weight to both pull cars and not slip or derail on the tracks. Too many wheels, too close together, might mean the locomotive cannot handle a certain radius of track.
How were prototypes made?
In the early days, most prototypes were made almost entirely of brass. Brass is rather easy to work with as a metal because it conducts heat well which makes it good for soldering and it is a fairly soft metal so it can easily be shaped. Even with these properties it is strong enough to handle tapping for screws and holds its shape well.
While the E 800 LMS locomotive was not a prototype in the purest sense for HO Scale Marklin, it could be seen as a pre-series because of its very limited quantity and the construction of some of its parts out of brass.
The brass and tinplate construction required incredible precision and the Marklin craftspeople were certainly up for the task. Each piece would have to be cut, filed, and soldered into place. This is an incredibly time consuming process. Certainly with the aid of forms, jigs, and other tooling production could be sped up, but since prototypes were made in small quantities most of the world was done by hand.
700/800 Series Prototypes
Although not every locomotive has a known prototype in existence, it’s most likely that each locomotive or train Marklin ever produced did indeed have an original prototype. Today many of the prototypes are in the Marklin museum such as the CCS 700, TW 700, etc. Below we can see the prototypes for the RSM 800 (1), the English Pytchley locomotive (2) which was never made, the E 700 (3), a coal car based on the O Gauge design (4), and TW 800 (5).
Such models are highly sought after by collectors because they very rarely left the factory building and certainly were not sold in any main products catalog. As such, there are in many cases wonderful stories to go along with how a prototype did in fact leave the Marklin factory. Many times Marklin employees would be allowed to keep them or they were given as special gifts.
Prototypes in the large gauges have equal craftsmanship as the smaller 00/HO scale prototypes. They too are built out of brass and sometimes regular tinplate. They are not painted, most likely so that the pattern-maker could then accurately measure the dimensions of the metal without having any interference from the paint. The primer, paint, and lacquer coats would have added millimeters to the measurements and Marklin probably did not tolerate such discrepancies!
The prototype below is for one of the largest gauges of Marklin, Gauge II (or Spur 2 in German). On the steam boiler side we can see the “II” insignia to denote the gauge. The prototype is for the American market and is such even more rare. The locomotive was acquired from the family of the original owner who procured the piece in Germany direct from Marklin. In such a case the prototype was probably sent to America to be shown at a toy store to the American market. Although it was probably never for sale it would show the fine quality of Marklin toys and trains to the American audience. (see correction below)
Correction/Update: several astute collectors noted that early large gauge Marklin locomotives could be ordered in brass, instead of the normal painted versions. As such, the term “prototype” for these locomotives is not fitting because they could be ordered through the catalog. They are, however, still rather difficult to find.
After additional research we also found the above Gauge 2 locomotive finally pictured in an advertisement flyer from FAO Schwarz (at the time commonly called Schwarz Toy Bazar). The flyer is from 1901 and pictures the locomotive, without tender, available in Gauges 1 & 2. Among other small details, the railing looping around the boiler as a single piece distinguishes this version from later ones. The catalog photo does not show the locomotive outfitted for the American market, however, as is sometimes common. The cowcatcher seen on the Gauge 2 locomotive above is in our opinion the earliest known cowcatcher – with thin soldered spokes. Later cowcatchers were made of a single piece of stamped tin.
First-series: a crocodile
The Swiss crocodiles from Marklin are generally rare and sought after – and most rare in the 00/HO range is the first version (or 0.1) CCS 800 locomotive. The locomotive was made in a very small production following WWII in 1947 for distribution to dealers around the world. Although we cover crocodiles extensively in Marklin Crocodiles: Genealogy of the Swiss CCS 800 Locomotive we want to highlight the first series here specifically.
The first series CCS 800 is fairly similar to the second version, but there are several important differences to note. First, and arguably easiest to notice, is the round screws on the pairs of linkages instead of the hex-pattern screws on later versions. Because some unscrupulous collectors and dealers might switch out the hex screws for round ones, it’s important not to rely on this characteristic alone. The paint is perhaps the most difficult but important to judge. The paint on a first series CCS 800 is slightly lighter and more gray than a second series crocodile.
A myth recently circulated of an “American crocodile” that supposedly has red lights on each end and a black-painted buffer. This myth originated in Europe and of course the best way to test its validity would be to analyze the American markets to see if ones has ever shown up there. And of course, over the last several decades none have surfaced. All first series from the US are just the same as those in Europe, so we believe with relatively high certainty that this “American crocodile” is a fantasy creation by a previous owner and not from Marklin originally. In the photo above, however, we do see that some of the early version prototypes of the CCS in the Marklin museum do indeed have red lights on each end – the top light out of the three is red.
In the 1947 black and white catalog for the Swiss market, we also see this special crocodile described:
Of course, in a black and white photograph it’s difficult to tell whether the buffers are black or not. We will leave that up to the viewer to decide for themselves, or wait until a confirmed original shows up on the market. But from the photo we can certainly tell that this is a prototype, and distinct even from a First Version CCS 800.
Marklin collectors are sure to know the “Brockmann” name for Marklin – from its long history in the auction business and also the production of spare parts. With the more recent auctions from Münchner Spielzeugauktion we see that the business has new ownership directing the auction house. As the tradition continues there are many wonderful lots in the latest auctions for collectors to enjoy. We are especially pleased with the accuracy of the descriptions and attention to detail in the presentation of the lots. The auction house’s website can be found here:
As a side note, it is believed that the spare parts business from Brockmann was taken over by the company Ritter years ago.
In their latest auction we are pleased to see many wonderful treasures including a rare E 800 LMS. The piece’s provenance (history) is incredibly important as it was sold by the auction company in 2001 for 40.000 DM. While some Marklin pieces have fallen in price recently, top rarities such as the E 800 LMS have not only held their prices firm but also gone considerably higher depending on condition, originality, and the provenance of the piece.
Another lot includes the rare Marklin 416 station which in some versions bears the controversial symbol of the Nazi party leading up to WWII. The particular lot in this auction does not show the symbol, and the auction house is prudent to point out that the flag is a replica. Many Marklin sellers on eBay and elsewhere do not always accurately describe their pieces, leaving out that certain parts are reproductions or repainted. We are pleased to see here that this auction house pays particular attention to accurately describing such details.
The auction also features some larger gauge items (O and I Gauge) including a French Mountain steam locomotive ME 70 12920. The “70” in the model number means the locomotive is equipped with the improved remote reversing system as opposed to the hand-reversing of the “66” series.
This particular model was sold in several different varieties. The black version came with wheels that were either the typical red or black as seen in this lot. It is not known what caused these variations – there is perhaps a correlation with more red-wheeled ME locomotives showing up in the American market. Here again the auction house is careful to point out that the box is a replica. Since the box is slightly used and worn this could be particularly difficult for collectors to discern from an original box. However, with careful examination of the box labels, particularly the colors and stampings, the label is an obvious reproduction.
In O Gauge is a fantastic reproduction by the company HEHR (or similar manufacturer) which is known for producing quality reproductions of many of Marklin’s models from the 1920s and 1930s. HEHR only reproduced this locomotive in Gauge O, which Marklin never originally produced. Marklin only produced this locomotive in Gauge 1, which HEHR scaled down. Twerenbold, however, did product a replika of this locomotive in Gauge 1. The Rheinuferbhan is a famous railway in Germany that connected the cities Bonn and Koln (Cologne).
All in all, the Muenchner Spielzeugauktion presents yet another fantastic auction for collectors. And this time, the auction is at the Hans-Peter Porsche Traumwerk in Germany near the Austrian border, which we covered in another article. The museum shall be a wonderful venue for an auction with such incredible pieces.