Valuation of Antique Lionel Trains
Old Lionel Trains Price Guide & Selling Tips

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Are you looking to sell your antique Lionel trains? Perhaps you have found a goldmine at your neighborhood garage sale! Or maybe you've discovered a box in the attic filled with these antique Lionel trains. How do you determine their the prices of your vintage trains?

1. Appraising The Value Of Your Model Train Set

There are three major factors to appraising the worth of your model train collection. Of course the first thing, like any collectible is the rarity of the object in question. Production numbers can be used to do this quite well, but it's not the only way and probably not always the best way either.Old Lionel Toy Trains Image 1

A train is rare if only a few were ever produced, but the price also goes up on supply and demand.

If there is no demand for this type of train, then it won't sell or fetch a high price. So you see, production numbers can be used, but it's not alway the best way to value you model train or model train collection.

Simple business principles apply here. If there is a high demand for a model train and there are only a few of them around and it's hard for people to find and buy one that they actually want, then this is where top dollar will be paid to you. It's only human to want something you can't have and want, and knowing someone else has that you want and cannot have!

The next factor to look at is the condition the model train is in. Bad condition trains rarely sell for a high price. This is probably not something you will be able to determine yourself especially if you are attached to the train. Try and get an objective opinion from someone you trust and get them to grade the train.

2. Find Motivated Buyers

When it comes down to it, their worth, or their selling price, will depend on several things, not the least of which is how much the buyer is willing to pay you to get it. The most motivated buyers will naturally pay more than someone who is not passionate about it.

The last person you want to sell your antique Lionel train to is one of those people who post ads saying "I buy trains!". These people are in the business of paying the lowest possible cost, and then selling as high as possible. You most likely will not get a good price here.

3. Identify The Market

Who you DO want to talk to is true collectors of antique Lionel trains. They are most likely to give you a fair price, and in this group of people is where you are also most likely to find a motivated buyer.

You may have a local group of collectors in your own area. Hobby shops that deal in antique Lionel trains, or provide parts and accessories for them, can guide you in finding the true collectors.

Now that you know where to find a buyer, here are some tips to help you put a price on your antique Lionel train.

4. Know The Market Price

The Train Collectors Association has strict grading standards that are followed by the true train collectors in determining valuations.

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Below are a list of grading values if you want to value your model train. It's pretty self explanatory and easy to read. You should be able to find out exactly what your model train is in terms of condition by looking at the guide below. Make sure you also get someone with an objective view on things to have a look at this guide and then view your model train or model train collection.

Mint Condition - This means its more then likely brand new. Must be all original and unused with no marks at all

Factory New - This is used to describe something that is unused and all original parts. It may how ever have a few marks from handling or shipping the item.

Like New - Must have all original parts, but may have slight age marks. No rust at all either.

Excellent: Must have all original parts. Might have a few nicks and scratches, but has no missing parts or distortion of parts.

Very Good: Has some minor scratches or paint damage. May have slight surface rust and may have had some minor parts replaced.

Good: Has been used and looks like it has been used occasionally. May have surface rust and minor dents.

Fair: Scratched and some paint loss. Could be dented have missing parts and will likely have rust on the surface. Looks like its had heavy use

Poor: Major work needed to be done on the body, major scratches, lots of rust and missing parts as well.

Junk: Only useful for parts.

In addition, there are two excellent guides published each year that can help you to determine a value for your antique Lionel train. These publishers are well respected in this field, and have been publishing these guides for many years. The two guides are:

- TM's Lionel Price and Rarity Guide - Volume 1 or Volume 2, depending on the date your Lionel train was manufactured

- Greenberg's Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains



There are certain things you can do which can make a big difference in your selling price. If your train is in mint condition, plus you have the original box, you will get the highest price possible. So don't ever throw away the box if you have one.

Also, clean your train so that there is no dust, grime, dirt, or old built up oil on it. A clean and shiny train that doesn't move can often command a higher selling price than a dirty one that works. In addition, sometimes just cleaning it up and making minor repairs can restore that old train to a more valuable condition.

You can get an excellent guide for repairing your antique Lionel train at The guide is actually 2 CDs full of instructions, blueprints, parts lists, and detailed diagrams for every Lionel train manufactured from 1906 through 1986. It makes restoring your train easy, and can easily double or triple the price you can get for your train. With some of these collectible trains, doing the simple repairs can actually bring you thousands of dollars more when you sell it.

5. Determine The Popularity

This is sort of hard to predict to make something more valuable. You see, when a model train model is popular, it means there would have usually been lots of that particular model created, so popularity is important but also a killer of your price.

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There are still some very popular and highly sought after model trains that were produced in rather large numbers. A good example of this would be the model of train made by Lionel called the Santa Fe Super Chief. There were many produced but still values highly today. So there is hope for your model train even if it's not rare.

Now if you take in everything I've said in this article you should get a fair idea of what your model train would be worth to the right collector. Again though, people will only pay what they want to pay regardless of what you had it valued at. Good condition, rare model trains will always fetch high prices.

If you want to get an idea of example of prices. Look on Ebay and see what your model of train is selling for. Look on model train forums and ask people what they think your model train or model train collection is worth.

So you see, there is a lot that goes into putting a value on your antique Lionel train. Your best bet to get a great selling price is to

  1. Do your research on your train,

  2. Check the established guides & find out the market price

  3. Make contact with a collectors club & target potential buyers

  4. Determine the popularity and rarity of your collection.

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