The Plasticville brand of model buildings from Bachmann Industries of Philadelphia, PA, was created to accompany toy train sets (Lionel & American Flyer) since 1947. Most Plasticville buildings are 1:64 scale in with 1:48 doors, a compromise to meet to meet the needs of both scales. Later in the mid-50’s, some of the Bachmann toy train buildings were replicated in 1:87 HO scale.
The Bachmann toy train building line was also retailed in Lionel and American Flyer packaging which yields better values than the traditional Bachmann line. In the early 1960’s age of race car sets, short-lived slot car themed structures were added but did not endure as the regular product line did.
In the late 1960’s, a line of 1:160 N scale line of assembled buildings was created that replicated the original Bachmann toy train buildings as well as those created by Revell, Inc., of Venice, CA, in the late 1950’s. These assembled structures frequently had warped bases. These were in production less than 5 years; they are usually not considered collectible.
Plasticville buildings are a simple design, made with walls that snap/lock together, and would be characterized as “shake-a-box” that can be assembled in 5 minutes are less. Assembly without glue and easy disassembly facilitates space saving storage. Glued kits without original boxes have diminished values. Most Plasticville buildings have walls of one color and the doors, windows and roof molded out of a different colored plastic. The color combinations vary and some are rarer than others.
Not all Bachmann toy train buildings were manufactured every year, although the Plasticville line has remained available since the 1950s. There was some sharing of components between various kits, especially the side and roof of various businesses, as well as doorways and exterior lamps. Original packaging is the only way to accurately date most Plasticville model buildings for train sets. An interesting note is the addition of black and white “Disneyland” stickers promoting the attendance to Uncle Walt’s new attraction, probably 1954-1956.
As best I can recall from the early 1950’s, I probably had the school house, store, train station with platform extension, turnpike toll booth and gas station kits. My personal favorite is the 1957 hospital, as I am a RN. It came with and without the interior floor with hospital furniture. Today, new and assembled from China, this is a $65 building. Today, the hospital floor and interior set starts at $15 on eBay.
In 1984, Plasticville was taken over by Kader Industries of Dongguan, China and now made entirely in China, uses the same molds today as in the 1950s. The plastic used varies in texture from vintage Plasticville. The new Bachmann varies colors in an effort to not diminish the collector value of its old pieces. Re-issues produced after 1997 are marked “Made in China.”
In the last 3 decades, values have been declining, and serious collectors are becoming somewhat scarce. An organization known as the Plasticville Collectors Association (PCA) was created to promote a sense of fellowship among Plasticville, USA, collectors and to serve as an accurate source of information regarding all aspects of Plasticville collecting for its members and the general public.
The PCA information on price guides includes:
Plasticville: An Illustrated Price Guide (Out of Print)
Plasticville: An Illustrated Price Guide published by Iron Horse Productions. Three editions were printed, the first in 1981, the second in 1989, and the third in 1993. These guides contain general information, such as the names of all buildings made, black and white pictures, catalog numbers, and color variations. They each include pricing information as well. This series covers Littletown, Marx, Skyline, Lionel Plasticville and Storytown. Prices and pictures are available only for individual items and not boxed sets or special items.
Bill Nole’s Classic Guide to Vintage “O” Plasticville (2002)
Bill Nole’s Classic Guide to Vintage “O” Plasticville. Published in 2002, includes basic information for all items (catalog numbers and color variations) and includes extended information for a number of items. This guide includes color pictures and pricing information for items in various conditions (mint, like new boxed, no box, glued).
There is also the history of Plasticville, rare items, boxes, and more. Additionally, this guide includes information on Storytown, Make ‘N’ Play, King Distributing Plasticville and Lionel Plasticville (it does not include information on Littletown, Skyline, Marx, or K-Line).
The Plastic Village Gazette Pocket Price Guide by Mike Cedro, published in 2001, is exactly as its name implies. This is a pocket size guide whose focus is on prices. There is a listing of items and catalog numbers as well as prices for various conditions (mint, excellent no box, and fair/good). There are small illustrations, but no pictures. The guide also includes information on Littletown, Marx, Skyline, K-Line, Ideal, King Distributing Plasticville and Connecticut Hobbies, but does not include Storytown.
As one can see, other than K-line, Plasticville is the survivor among many competitors. By studying these reference guides, one can discern some of those buildings that were adapted and included in the Bachmann toy train building product line. K-line buildings, which are very similar to Bachmann, have been purchased and marketing under the Lionel line.
I have the Plasticville: An Illustrated Price Guide purchased on eBay and find it helpful for general information including introduction dates, kit numbers and color variations. However, as with most guides of this vintage, pricing information is useless.
At Arizona train shows, glued Plasticville buildings are worth about 50-75% less than an unglued kit. In fact, some unassembled model train buildings without boxes have sold for as little as $2-$5. There is little interest in collecting Bachmann HO or N structures.
About the author:
Dan Napoliello is a retired military nurse (30 years including Viet Nam) and retired Senior Healthcare Internal Auditor. He has been in the hobby since the 1950s and has been selling at train shows since he arrived in the valley in 1987. His expertise is in HO & N gauge trains and as a rail photographer, he has had a dozen photographs printed in national rail magazines. He and his wife Sally live in Peoria.