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View DetailsThe Hamilton Collection Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmastown Express Collection.
Every so often I get contacted by someone who has accumulated or inherited an extensive train collection of unknown value and who has no interest in keeping the trains. First of all, if you are a survivor of a train lover, please accept our heartfelt sympathy. You will have the least hassle and recoup the least income, if you sell the whole collection without doing an inventory first. If you just want to recoup any significant financial renumeration from the collection (even a tax deduction), you need to create an inventory of each piece (brand, model number, and condition).
To achieve the absolute maximum value will usually require maximum hassle (for example documenting, photographing and posting each item online separately). Though it's not exactly scientific, I have created a sort of chart to illustrate this principle. Hopefully, you can see that the collection doesn't even begin to accumulate any value to speak of until you know what you have. The truth is, unless you have specifics, no one trustworthy will make you an offer worth considering. In addition, some trains never gain in value, or at least enough to keep pace with inflation. Another dynamic is that the collector's market for many traditionally collectible trains (like mid-century Lionel and American Flyer) has slowed, and is showing every sign of reversal. The first thing you need to know is that most of the values recorded in published guides were set when the economy was good and interest in collecting those trains was at its peak. What the guidebooks ARE useful for is showing the relative value of certain pieces within traditionally collectible lines. Though we've talked a lot about Lionel, things are even worse in Large Scale (garden trains). The other Large Scale (garden railroad) trains tend to drop in value the older they get, because most people buy them to run on their railroads, often outside - a far cry from the hermetically sealed vaults of the professional collectors.

To add to the confusion many people call any trains that run on 45mm track "LGB," the same way they call Puff facial tissues "Kleenex." But confusing Puffs with Kleenex will not cost you real money.
The "take-away" from this section is that the odds against you having a truly rare collectible in your "collection" are pretty high.
You probably don't want to slap a $50 price tag on an unsorted box of trains and always wonder if you gave away something valuable.
If you really don't need the money, or if it's worth any loss of income just to get it out of your way, consider a thoughtful donation to a train club, scouting club, or other charity. Most train clubs are not tax-exempt, but many set up temporary Christmas railroads at, libraries, nursing homes etc., so your donation could help them bring pleasure to others. If you need a tax deduction, Scouting chapters offer Railroading Merit Badges and some have scout leaders who would appreciate gifts of equipment that would help the youngsters earn them. If you're just interested in getting it out of your house, organizations like AmVets, GoodWill, or Salvation Army will be glad to pick up the trains for you, but you will have to do the inventory for yourself for your taxes.
If you want to recoup some cash value, the easiest way is to sell the whole thing to a collector or reseller (someone who buys train collections to resell).
Without Inventory - If you don't have time or energy to do an inventory, contact the local hobby shop and train clubs to see if there are any collectors who'd be willing to come over, see what you have, and offer you a fair price. With Inventory - Ask the local hobby shop and clubs whether they'd permit you to post the inventory in their store or pass it on to their members. Either way, you need to understand that few people who buy collections will can afford to pay much more than 30% of the maximum potential value of your trains if he or she cleaned them up and sold them individually. You will definitely need an inventory, and it will really help you to learn the actual market value of the pieces. As mentioned earlier, you maximize your income if you clean up each piece and sell it separately, say on eBay . If you DON'T want to liquidate your collection at "wholesale" pricing (or less), your first step is to do a detailed inventory of your collection, including brand, model, model # if you can find one, and condition of each item. If you CAN'T find a particular item that you think looks like it might be worth something, Google that item and see if you get any hits.

If you want to break up the collection and try individual sales without going through eBay, a "middle road" might be contacting the appropriate train clubs in your region (Google them) and sending them your inventory, with asking prices set at 60-75% of the final ebay prices you noticed. A Craig's List entry that included your inventory would DEFINITELY get interest, although you might just get "cherry pickers" who would want to take one or two desirable pieces and leave you with common stuff that would be hard to find buyers for. If you discover that your equipment is worth enough money to take seriously, but you don't want to bother with individual sales, you could send your list to a collector, quote a price that is a total of 50% of the total value, and let him negotiate from there. If, after all your research, you decide that what you have is not really worth that much money, or if you've got a bunch of stuff left over after selling off the best stuff, you might think again about the deduction option.
Parts of this article may sound a little harsh, and hopefully your experience will be more positive than most, but I wanted you to be aware of the market dynamics before some circumstance or less-than-transparent person blindsided you. In the meantime, take time to appreciate the pleasure these trains once gave, and remember their collector thougthfully (even if it's you at an earlier age). And the next time you're in the attic, you might think about whatever "collection" your own heirs may wind up sorting through.
To read more, or to look at recommended Garden Railroading and Display Railroad products, you may use the search button below or click on the index underneath it. To read more, or to look at recommended Garden Railroading and Display Railroad products, you may click on the index pages below. All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Paul D.
The box has some minor flaws from storage, but the trains are still new in box.2006 Lionel Santa Fe Express Wooden Train Set, Collectible.Factory Sealed! That said, you probably wouldn't be reading this article unless you hoped to - or needed to - achieve some value out of the collection you've inherited (or maybe just accumulated when you had more money and energy).

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