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Value of Model Train Equipment

As regular readers will know, this blog does not do buy/sell/swap of used model railroading trains and accessories. We leave that to model train shows, and websites like eBay and Craigslist etc.

That said; we are often asked to put a value on how much second hand items might be worth. That’s not something we do. Obviously there are potentially a lot of factors at play including the condition of individual items, the location of the buyer and seller, the likely demand for each item, the cost of shipping etc.

The only real answer is that a secondhand item is worth what someone is prepared to pay on any given day. That’s why a visit to a local hobby shop, or model train club is often a worthwhile way to ascertain the level of interest in an item. Even if they don’t want to purchase the product, they can at least see its condition in real life, maybe test how well it works, give an estimate of what they think someone might pay, and perhaps some advice on how to go about selling it. Talking with vendors at model train shows is another way to gain a better insight.

From a buyer’s perspective; buying second hand goods can be fraught with danger without actually seeing the product and testing it out. But it could also be a golden opportunity to grab a real bargain.

Here’s an example of a recent email from John K. Obviously to protect the privacy of readers we don’t publish email or physical addresses or phone numbers, but readers can post an opinion on this blog of what they think these items might be worth if sold privately.

John who models 3/16 scale wrote: “I have one instruction book 1954, 20 curved sections of track, 6 strait sections, 2 696 track trip, 1 704 manual track trip, 1 overpass 24 pieces, 1 steam engine and tender needs repairs, 1 flatcar with logs, 1 empty car, 1 caboose 938, 1 industrial crane browning hoist 944, 1 road sign with sound, and 1 transformer. Is there any value to this set and how much should I advertise it for?

5 Responses to Value of Model Train Equipment

  • Rick Guerciosays:

    as an avid AF collector, I’d say just off hand, you would be lucky to get $25 for the lot

  • David Stokessays:

    I have just lost a very good friend, a life long railway modeller and full time Train Controller for full sized railways in Australia.

    While assisting to “clean out” a life of modelling we were unable to put a value of more that $2,000 on his collection which was mainly off the shelf and kit built HO/00 Aussie outline. He did not have a layout.

    I have three pieces of advice – firstly make sure your nearest and dearest KNOW what you have, it’s value and how best to quit it, and secondly just ‘cos it’s old doesn’t mean it’s a gold mine and thirdly, look out for sharks. Most of our “stuff” isn’t worth a king’s ransom, but by the same token, it’s not junk either.

  • Nigelsays:

    As the original narrative said, an item is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. A good start point for an instant valuation is eBay – just search for the item and select ‘sold listings’ and you’ll see what has recently been paid for the item.

    Ultimately, what drives the value is a combination of:

    – desirability. In other words how badly do people want the item
    – rarity. In other words, how plentiful is the supply of the item
    – condition. Self explanatory

    To give an example, in the UK, Locomotion Models commissioned a model of the APT-E. These were made to order by Rapido and cost £225 for DCC ready and £325 for DCC sound fitted. The two latest examples sold on eBay went for £450 and £595. Both were in new condition, are highly desirable models and, because they were built to order, are in short supply.

    Conversely, take the Tri-ang Hornby Britannia. My dad paid £16 for mine in the mid 1970s and they’re now selling for less than that without even adjusting for the RPI change since. Here, of course, the models are old and generally in poor condition, there are plenty of them and they’re not very desirable as 1970s models were fairly basic when compared to today’s equivalents (and, of course, it’s possible to buy a new Hornby Britannia with levels of detail and reliability that we could only dream of in the 1970s). Interestingly, whilst the high cost of locomotives is getting a lot of flack at the moment, the £16 paid for my Britannia is equivalent to about £145 in today’s money compared to the latest Hornby version which sells for £160.

  • David Broadsays:

    Unfortunately its very difficult to value model railway items. This can be good (for probate etc) as a shed full of models can be listed as a “Train set” value £25. Bad if the shed burns down and the insurer offers £25. I bought some bits off Ebay for about £11 and re sold them for just over £100. Generally the smaller the lot the better the unit price, but the greater the hassle. Accurate description and offering free collection is the key to good prices. Lots of local bidders will be put off by £10 + postage who would otherwise have bid. You need their bids to up the price so offer free collection and hope they are not the high bidder or it could be me knocking on your door!
    I have bought “Horby” locos real cheap on Ebay, Trang , Scalectrixs etc.
    If its a relatives old train set consider giving it to a kid down the road. Seeing his (her?) happy face is better than getting a few measly quid. Or maybe put it on Freecycle and give it to a good cause

  • Jay Rosssays:

    I have been buying, and selling model train items for around 30 years. What was said earlier, that items are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them, is true. Back before the internet became a major player, it was much harder to find great, rare, items. The only way then was shopping at Hobby stores, trains shows, garage sales etc, and want adds. The internet (Ebay etc) has leveled the playing field. Now, with great ease, you can find just about everything online, new & used. Items are not so rare as they used to be, now that so many are showing on Ebay etc. I basically use Ebay as a price guide because you can see what items have sold for. As time goes on, and we are all getting older, tastes change for the kind of trains people want. The newest stuff is technically superior in detail, electronic bell & whistles. As populations grow, more modelers may not have a big house or place for large trains due to housing costs. The influx of new people coming into the hobby, and those leaving the hobby is a big factor of demand and tastes. I have seen much of the old Lionel & American Flyer stuff being passed over by buyers at trains shows, while shoppers are seeking the newer stuff, or brass or narrow gauge. I have seen clubs trying to sell off HUGE collections from members that have passed away, who had so much stuff that there just wasn’t enough local takers. The items were basically sold off dirt cheap, just to clear them out.
    I loved to collect all of the old HO die cast stuff, thinking I had a gold mine. It was always hard to find, but now, online, the values are disappointing to me. I still love to run them, so I’m happy. I went out of my way to study DCC, to keep up with the times. I have converted much old stuff to DCC, I can also buy, and sell and repair all DCC with ease, that keeps me in business. The model train world is always changing, we just have to keep up.

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