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Author Topic: My first post here....  (Read 22098 times)

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« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2011, 12:20:38 AM »


Welcome to model railroading and this Board. I know I can speak for every one in hoping that you'll feel right at home here, the disappointing news about the value of older trains notwithstanding.

The truth is that there are very, very few old model trains which are worth anything. I cannot overstate that principle. Old Bachmann sets commonly trade at train shows for $20-25, sometimes less, sometimes a little more if the condition is outstanding. And that's the key: condition.

I had an old, barely post-war Lionel steam engine. The lights and smoke worked just fine and it pulled well, but it had been played with alot, including trying to recreate the near miss scenes from Lionel Christmas commercials from TV. Well, we sold that train in 1959 and I later heard how valuable such trains were. It turned out mine had a catalog value of $600 by itself but we had sold the loco and all the rest of our Lionel for $50. For a while I felt like I had been a fool. Then I found out that the $600 was for my loco and tender brand new in a brand new box with no shelf wear whatsoever. Later, I found my loco at a train show in similar played with condition and with operating headlight and smoke for $15. The Moral of the Story? Condition is everything even on the old trains which actually have some potential collector value. Things like train sets, which never had high-quality components to begin with, sell for almost nothing now, even when they are in mint condition. Other than the rare person who wants the train set s/he remembers from childhood, there is a very limited market for these things.

People don't collect junk; they collect things which were valuable, desirable, utile and of high quality when they were new, probably rare now, or with historical significance. Train sets are neither rare, high quality, useful nor historically significant. They were mass market, marginal quality, cheap toys so they had (and today's sets, too, have) essentially no value. Ergo, they have no significant value today.

I hate to beat you over the head about this but your posts sound to me like you haven't really believed what others have written. You will not run into a very unusual set with some special value which you'll be able to make a mint on because NO such set exists. True, Marklin and one or two other European manufacturers sold expensive trains which are still expensive today but they prove my point. They are the rare exceptions which had value in the first place. And even these won't make you much money because you are highly unlikely to find one rusting in a basement at an estate sale. Estate sales are not virginal when you see them, you know. The lister has already perused the merchandise and taken the truly valuable items out for auction where they will obtain prices commensurate with their true value. House and estate sale merchandise is essentially leftovers and things to large or awkward to remove to a better sales venue.

Also, don't think for a minute that a $20 house sale set will sell for $150 on ebay. Are there $150 train sets on ebay? Sure, sometimes lots of them. When you check in completed listings, however, you'll find that they didn't sell for much more then the yard sale price if they sold at all. And, at least with a yard sale, there's no packing and shipping to pay for. I can tell you with absolute certainty that you cannot pay $75 for a $25 train set at an estate sale and then peddle it on ebay for $150.00. Oh, you might hit a freak deal where someone just has to have a train set like the one his/her dad bought the weekend before he died, but you'll have to put 200 sets on ebay to do so and you'll lose most of the $75 (or, God knows, $100-125!!!) on the other 199.

Trust us. Don't try to play this game. You will lose, and lose big. None of us have anything to gain by giving you this advice. It's like the lottery, except there is no chance for a big payoff. By the way, the illegal mob numbers rackets in Chicago used to pay a larger portion of the money bet back to the players than the states do with the lotteries. So the modern lotteries are a worse gamble than betting with the mob, and they are still a whole lot better than trying to make money on old toy trains.

You can buy a few old Marklin sets and some old brass steam locomotives (but no where near all of them) at a good price and maybe turn them around for a modest profit, but only if you operate as a business. That means investing significant cash in inventory, high advertising costs, long hours and customers who expect A LOT when they pay you $400 for a brass loco. Are you willing to invest many thousands of dollars and the time it takes to run such a business? My hope is that you have a life and you're not willing to give that up to sell used trains, especially in a market which already has lots of competition and a declining customer base. Oldster hobbyists, like me at 63, with the money and time to spend on trains, are rapidly falling out of the ranks. Our eyes are growing dimmer, our fingers don't seem to handle tiny pieces as well as they used to and our backs complain way too much when we hunch over a model project all evening after supper. Younger hobbyists  don't have the money yet, are there in much smaller numbers, and aren't interested in the same models. There are exceptions, of course, but not enough young customers who have that $400 for your $250 loco, or even know it's for sale unless you spread some advertising bread around a mature "industry." And lots of those newer potential customers have children to feed, braces to buy and family vacations in competition for what little spare money they have left after the mortgage, insurance premiums, car payments, utility bills, gasoline fill-ups, pension investments, food, medical care, clothes and the other niceties of 21st Century life are paid for.

As I said, trust us. Stay out of the used train set business. Learn A LOT about model trains, especially brass models, and you might be able to occasionally find something on ebay or at a garage sale that you can resell at a reasonable profit. But don't expect it to happen with "rare old train sets in mint condition." And remember, that lokie you got on ebay at such a great price could have been purchased by millions of other people on ebay, but it wasn't. What makes you think you can relist something which other buyers didn't buy for more than before? The only exception might be a brand new Buy-It-Now listing from someone who just wants "to get rid of this stuff." Sadly (maybe), there aren't many of those listings to be found.

Well, I'll retire from my soapbox with the hope that you take our advice to heart. If you do buy train sets, don't do it to profit. Do it to play with your kids for a while and then junk them and open another set.
                                                                                         -- D



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« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2011, 12:34:53 AM »

more valuable trains can sometimes be the odd ball locomotives like shays climaxs and hieslers. or narrow gauge trains can be worth a lot or you could try and collect scratchbuilt or kitbashed locomotives and trains cars as these can be worth a lot of money. i  just recently got into the collecting of mdc/roundhouse locomotives because they made trains in the era i model and they look great too. everyone has their opinions and your is always different than someone elses i a way and a great way to be in this hobby is making layouts because they are fun just to build. if you want to collect trainsets and sell them i recamend collecting Lionel or American flyer sets because these are normally the most valueable old scale trains you could get.


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« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2011, 01:40:00 AM »

Yes Doneldon, the more I study auctions ending, the more I see just how true all you stated is.....

Plus, I have mostly bought train sets that are brand new and never ran, short of a great looking old Lionel set that I display....

I take many purchasing gambles. I bought 2 grand worth of Japanese/Chinese old die-cast robots, like Voltron an such from the early 80's. All real nice hand picked by me, 100% complete, as I have OCD and only buy what I consider close to mint items. It tried to sell the robots in one massive lot an failed (many more have 500 to spend, then two grand these days), but it was great advertisement, as I turned around an sold everyone solo. I sold them all for 3200. I did loose about 500 to eBay, paypal, shipping, but I cleared about 700. I have did well on all vintage toys from everything form Star wars, to G.I.Joe, to Disney Black Hole, to transformers. And I have never had an item not sell, even though that did mean taking a lose a couple of times and breaking even as well from time to time. But that was o.k., as your not gonna win them all, and I have been able to stay in bus for two years now.

I don't expect to make anything like that with the trains....

I am sure you guys get sick of the guy that comes along for a few posts, just hoping to make a buck on trains, with no real interest of trains themselves. That is not me, as I am a true hobbyist/collector at heart and am real lucky to make a four or five extra thousand a year on eBay, and most of that from gold or silver sells. I also bartend for my day job, and I am real lucky to scrape out 25 grand a year, with both the ebay an work, so I certainly am at the bottom of the barrel so to speak, and just happy to enjoy all that I do tremendously....

Like a wise fellow once said...."Find a job that you love, and you will never work another day in your life".....
« Last Edit: October 30, 2011, 01:52:45 AM by BachSetCollector74 » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2011, 02:26:28 AM »

I did a search for Lionel brass trains on eBay, an found 112 items, an two trains. One was like 350, and the other was a rare 2000 dollar one....

Then I searched Brass trains, and found 4184 items, many company's many great trains, way more expensive. Now then, you guys have me looking in the right spots now, as I see these guys bringing way more money. The first page had buy it now train an coal cars for 350 to 700 or so on buy it nows....

Again, I did get a nice O gauge Union Pacific Berkshire for 175 total. The other 3 or 4 I found on ebay were all listed right at 325 with shipping. This train only has some minor wheel wear, and is a solid C-9, with great chip free paint. Box is real solid as well, and the seller who had many 1000's of solid feed-backs said it ran great. Only year it was made was 1980 I think. I really like the size an detail of this Lionel O scale train, an man it looks great on my display shelf, real happy with that train....

I also checked the Z scale Marklins, and was like wow I like these instantly! This one below here is a 425 dollar set and way over priced I imagine. These Z scale seem smaller, and I like that. Don't get me wrong I like the Berkshire I mentioned above, but nothing I like more than small with great material an detail. Like die-cast, brass etc., on a smaller detailed scale, an this Z scale size may be what I am looking for....

I am gonna search all that Mr. Shay suggest as well, an all other suggestions, as there is much research involved here, as is any hobby that literally has millions of items out there on the market for sale, from trees to train sets.....
« Last Edit: October 30, 2011, 02:33:27 AM by BachSetCollector74 » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2011, 09:26:46 PM »

Well, that Old Tyme set sold for 90 bucks, an I payed 25 for it, my first train sell. Not getting rich again by any means with free shipping an ebay, but I moved it along to someone who will enjoy it....


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« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2011, 11:53:35 PM »

Good Job the christmas season is being good to you...


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« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2011, 05:52:13 AM »


The Marklin Mini Club set didn't sell. I'm a little surprised. I can't speak authoritatively about Mini Club prices but I know they are dreadfully expensive. I guess this item shows that even the things with huge opening prices don't always have a market. But that's the way it goes. The set will eventually sell at some price, either this price or more or less. Yes, everything will sell sooner or later. The problems are how long it has to be held in inventory (non-productive investment) and what do you get when the sale comes along.

Good luck with your endeavors.
                                                   -- D

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« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2011, 07:47:10 AM »

just to give you an idea of how out of line some of the prices on ebay can be, i was on amazon this morning and came across a listing for an atlas layout plan book for n scale. the seller wanted $293.98 for it, it sells in any hobby shop worthy of the name for under $10. the edition listed has an older cover and probably hasn't been updated for dcc, but still we are talking about a book no more than10-15 years old, that is still in print. nothing rare about it, and he isn't going to get anywhere near that for the book. he'll be lucky to get $10-15.

that said, older railroad books can and do fetch enormous amounts. but those are the well researched historical books, not the common coffee table kind you find in barnes & nobles. try and find a copy of tumult on the mountain, which was a history of shay locomotives, and you'll see what i mean.

Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Woody Elmore

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« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2011, 10:15:05 AM »

Some collectors focus on a railroad or engine type. I spoke to a guy at a train show who collected GG-1 models - Lionel. AHM, whatever company made them. He also collected pictures of GG-1s. Why? His dad was an engineer and had started the collection.

My advice to anyone looking to seriously collect is not to look at Ebay prices but get one or more of the collector's guides. Also, a visit to a train show can be an eye opener!

Incidentally, the Lionel Blue Comet standard gauge set is the most highly sought after set of trains. In the next to last episode of the "Sopranos" Bobby B is killed in a train shop buying a set. A set in good condition, complete with little wear, can sell for $5000.

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« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2011, 11:00:37 AM »

just to give you an idea of how out of line some of the prices on ebay can be, i was on amazon this morning and came across a listing for an atlas layout plan book for n scale. the seller wanted $293.98 for it, it sells in any hobby shop worthy of the name for under $10. the edition listed has an older cover and probably hasn't been updated for dcc, but still we are talking about a book no more than10-15 years old, that is still in print. nothing rare about it, and he isn't going to get anywhere near that for the book. he'll be lucky to get $10-15.

Yes the prices on eBay are out of line....but that goes both ways. A person could be selling off an estate and have no idea that they have a beautiful piece. They start the bidding low and you snag a bargain. Disclaimer: You have to be very careful doing this! If the person doesn't know a lot about trains then it is hard for them to accurately describe their item.

Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2011, 05:31:21 PM »

Watch what the pros do on eBay.  They have low starting bids just to get people interested.  Once you have several people bidding, they will often follow the auction right through to the end.  The favorite spot often starts auctions at 1.  By the end of the auction, the price often exceeds the Buy it Now price for the same item in a different auction.  Go figure.


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.
Jerrys HO
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2011, 06:18:11 PM »

Your so right Jim I recently won an auction from TFS and did good as the same item sold on another listing from them for $12 more than the buy it now price. When I bid on something I tend to check LHS and buy it now prices to see what I am going to put as my max bid, just like the auction hunters do.

« Last Edit: October 31, 2011, 06:42:58 PM by Jerrys HO » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2011, 07:30:58 PM »


The price on that book is so insane I have to wonder if
the seller was careless with his keyboard.
                                                                 -- D
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