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A Hidden Tresaure – Model Trains


If you have a model train collection, whether it be a full layout of diesel and steam combinations or you have them on display as collectibles, you may have a potential train gold mine available if you fall into a financial hardship. Although, this might be something that you would prefer not to part with, it is worth at least looking into the value of your collection should the need arise.

The train in the photo above is a collector’s vintage Lionel Scout locomotive and tender, built between 1959 an 1961. It is worth about $35.00 in the condition shown. If this was a mint model, the price could well be $75.00 or more. If you have a few of these or a variation of them, your model train value could be in the hundreds of dollars, just for the locomotives themselves.

How to Estimate the Value of Your Train

  • Condition

    The condition the model train certainly affects its value, but this is only one factor. Whether it is “New in Box” or “Some Reassembly Required” makes a big difference. These distinctions have a huge impact on how much a collector would be willing to offer.

  • Rarity

    Do you know if your model train is the result of a one-time run, or if it was in production for forty years? If everyone and their brother bought one, your chances of getting top price are low. Yesterday’s mistakes can turn into tomorrow’s valuable collectible. This is why you need to learn and understand the market.

  • Variations

    Even items in production for many years can produce a prized collectible. If a particular model always had a black roof, but one year they painted it red, you can be sure the model with the red roof will fetch a premium price.

  • Modifications

    Any change made to a particular model after it was produced changes its condition. Some changes help it to operate better, like modifying the motor, but other changes can cause it to lose value for a collector who wants the original. You can add certain details, change the paint and it may make a rare original less valuable, or it could boost the value on a common model.

Here is how you can find out their worth. You may be presently surprised of the market value of these items:

If you are one of those folks who have a box full of trains that grandpa left you, but you never bothered to look at them, now is the time. Whether you fall into this category (and quite a few people are) you should know that there are train clubs full of enthusiasts that would love to give you tips on the value of your train collection. If you are a collector, you are probably already familiar with these clubs and chances there is one nearby your home. You don’t have to join (typical fees are about $30.00 per month), but you can stop by and they can give you an estimate of you the items in your collection (or box).

Another method of determining your train’s value is by going on the Internet. You can also join clubs such as the Lionel Collectors Club of America or you can just Google model train values. This link will take you to one of them that can give you a decent estimate of the trains that you have. You also can search Facebook, where there are many groups that buy and sell trains. You should take into account that, just like baseball cards and old coins, the condition of the model train is important. Additionally important is the age of the train, so if you have a vintage pre-war steam locomotive in mint condition, it could possibly run up to $1000.00 or more.