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Frequently Asked Questions

What the Buying Team Does

  • Does Trainz make cash offers for *any* train collection?

    Although we buy a whole lot of trains, you may be surprised to hear that there are some train collections that don’t make sense for us to buy. If we are not interested in buying your collection, we will try to be helpful by providing tips and information on other ways to sell your trains. Some of these tips can be found in our archives of our Selling Your Trains Newsletter. If you would like to receive a monthly email containing train buying stories and tips on how to sell your collectible trains, go ahead and subscribe to our free newsletter with no obligation and no strings attached.

  • Does Trainz buy collectibles other than trains?

    Yes!  Although Trains are our bread-and-butter, the Trainz Buying Team purchases Star-Wars collectibles, promo cars and a smattering of other collectibles such as die-cast toys and plastic model kits. See our Buying Guidelines.

  • What countries do you buy from?

    We purchase model train collections and other collectibles across the continental United States and Canada. We can do mail-in deals from Alaska, Hawaii or other US territories like Puerto Rico. Typically, we do not buy from outside of North America, but if you have a large collection, it’s worth it to Contact Us; because there’s a first time for everything!!

  • Can you provide Guidelines on what types of collections Trainz buys?

    A good rule of thumb is that Trainz will typically offer to purchase collections only if we can offer at least $1,000.

    • In general, if a collection is worth substantially more than $1,000 then Trainz is interested.
    • Trains buys model train collectibles (our bread and butter) and some other non-train collectibles. 
    • We are usually interested in looking at *all* train collections that are Brass, O Scale, Standard Gauge or G Scale.
    • We are sometimes interested in collections if they contain just a few valuable pieces. Conversely, we sometimes choose to pass on collections if they contain many common or inexpensive items where most of the items in the collection are worth less than $30 each.
    • Lower-value collections where there is a lot of box-matching labor required are tough for us, and we will sometimes choose to pass on these collections.

  • My collection is very large and very valuable. Is it too large for Trainz?

    No! There is no collection too large for Trainz. Over the years, we have purchased many collections valued at $500,000 or more, and several collections worth over $1 million. We’d love to talk to you about purchasing your collection!

  • What scales and manufacturers does Trainz buy and sell?

    We've bought and sold toy and model trains of every scale and manufacturer, and sometimes purchase die-cast toys, model kits, and other collectibles. Our bread and butter is O Scale Trains (Lionel in particular), but we also buy a ton of G Scale, Standard Gauge and Brass, and a fair bit of S, HO, N and Z Scale trains.

    Just to name a few manufacturers, we regularly buy: Lionel, MTH, K-Line, LGB, Marklin, American Flyer, Atlas, Weaver, Williams, Aristo-Craft, Bachmann, Marx, USA Trains, Athearn, Walthers, Plasticville, Life Like, Kato, Industrial Rail, Roco, Pola, Rivarossi, Model Power, Proto 2000, KMT, Gargraves, Roundhouse, MicroTrains, MRC, 3rd Rail, Con-Cor, IHC, AHM, S-Helper, American Models, Fleischmann, Spectrum, Delton, Crown, InterMountain, McCoy, Mantua, Ives, Tyco, RMT, Overland, Lima, Piko, Pride Lines, and many more!

  • Do you buy Brass Trains?

    Yes! We absolutely buy brass trains, especially in G, O and HO scales. We recently purchased a gorgeous HO brass trains deal in California, and a rare museum-quality Sn3 brass trains deal.

  • How can I tell if Trainz will be interested in my collection?

    The easiest way is to fill out our Get a Quote web form. The web form streamlines the buying process and contains logic which will tell you if your collection is likely to meet our Buying Guidelines.

  • Will Trainz appraise my collection?

    If you have a train collection that you are considering selling to Trainz within the next 12 months, you can provide an inventory list, and if the collection meets our Buying Guidelines, we will value the collection in order to make a Cash Offer. Except for Estate Planning and Estate Sales we typically do not provide appraisals as a service.

    For Estate Planning and Estate Sales, we will inventory and appraise medium to large collections for a fee when the estate is considering selling the collection to Trainz. If the estate ends up selling Trainz the collection, we will refund the appraisal fee.

  • Does Trainz buy collections from Estate Sales or assist with Estate Planning?

    Yes, it makes sense for Trainz to assist with an Estate Sales or Estate Planning if there is a substantial and valuable train collection. Trainz is experienced in working with an Estate at this most difficult of times and will handle the sale of a train collection with the appropriate sensitivity and discretion. Please Contact our Buying Team to learn more. Also feel free check out our Estate Planning Guide for Train Collectors.

     

Valuation and Pricing

  • What is Market Value?

    Market value is what a collection will fetch at auction or via another sales method that turns it into cash quickly, without months or years of holding the inventory.

  • How does Trainz determine the value of their Cash Offer?

    We typically pay 50% to 60% of the current Market Value, depending on what is in the collection. We use our sales history and historical sales prices on TrainzAuctions.com and eBay to value a collection.

  • Why don’t Train Dealers offer full Market Value?

    When selling to a dealer like Trainz, you are selling it for a wholesale price, since the dealer reselling your collection incurs all the costs of labor for traveling to train shows and/or cleaning and repairing, photographing, copywriting and selling it at Auction, packing it for shipment as well as the costs of carrying the inventory, advertising it, and paying auction/credit card fees. As a result, dealer prices are typically about 50%-60% of the Market Value of an item.

  • Why is your valuation different than what’s listed in my Price Guide?

    Even the best Price Guides become inaccurate very fast because collectible prices change constantly.

    We do not use price guide books, especially for modern-era trains because we have found that most modern-era items will not bring "book" prices at auction. Unfortunately, buying most modern era trains new is like buying a new car, they depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot, and Modern Era prices are declining in general. We also know that many clean prewar and postwar items will bring prices higher than what is listed in a price guide because the prices for some clean postwar items are rising.

  • Why is your valuation for this item different than what my friend got for his?

    When comparing sale prices or valuations for collectibles, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Relatively minor differences in color or manufacturing date can result in wide differences in prices, especially in Postwar or Vintage trains. For example, a postwar Lionel 3464 ATSF Operating Boxcar in a rare color that we recently sold at Auction went for approximately $1200, whereas these normally sell for around $10 to $30. Minor differences in variation or color can cause swings in price of one hundred times or more.

    Trainz.com is the largest buyer and seller of Collectible Toy Trains in the United States and has a detailed Sales History that goes back more than a decade. containing thousands of sales of these minor variations, and as a result, we are experts and estimating the value of a model train collection.

  • Can I get 100 percent of Market Value for my collection?

    If you travel to train shows to sell your items and sell through your personal network of trains enthusiasts, you can get close to 100% of the Market Value of your trains, but it will take you months or years, and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in train show fees. Although it might be fun, it is a long road, and speaking purely financially, this is not a winning strategy.

    It is a ton of work, but if you really want to maximize your return, you could also list your small collection via an Online Auction site such as TrainzAuctions or eBay. If you list your items on TrainzAuctions.com, you will receive as much as 94% of the selling price using this method. TrainzAuctions takes 7.95% percent of the selling price in fees, or if you opt to pay a membership fee and become a TrainzAuctions Powerseller, you pay 5.95%. See our Guide to Selling on TrainzAuctions.com. If you list your items on a major online marketplace such as eBay, you will typically pay about 14-20% of the sale price in listing and final value fees, leaving you with approximately 80-86% of the selling price. Please keep in mind that there are still times when selling on an online marketplace makes sense.

Selling your Trains via our Cash Offer

  • How do I get started selling my trains via a Cash Offer?

    The easiest and best way to kick off the Cash Offer process is to fill out our Get a Quote web form. This will qualify your collection, letting you know if it is something we are interested in and will facilitate getting the Quote process started.

  • Should I provide photos of my collection?

    Yes!  Photos are a great way for us to get an idea of what you have in your collection, and usually one of the first things we ask for. Don't worry about getting super-detailed photos of every single piece, we just need a few photos to give us an idea of the type and number of items. The easiest way for us to get your photos is for you to send us digital photos over email, but you can also mail in hardcopy photographs if you prefer.

  • Do I need to prepare an Inventory List?

    Yes!  Once we have determined that we are interested in your collection (typically via our Get a Quote web form or by looking at photos you have sent us), we will ask you to provide us with an Inventory List of your collection. We provide an Inventory List template that shows the information we need to accurately price the collection (primarily Quantity, Manufacturer and Model Number), but we also accept (but do not encourage!) hand-written lists. You can download the Inventory List template in Excel format (for filling out on your computer) or PDF format (for filling out on your computer with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader or printing and filling out by hand).

  • What happens if I don’t have an Inventory List?

    If you cannot provide an inventory list, we can help with one of the following options.

    • For large collections, we can arrange to perform an inventory for you at your location. We charge a reasonable fee to cover our travel and time. If you decide to sell your collection to us, we'll refund that fee.
    • You can ship the items to us at your own expense and we can perform an inventory at our warehouse. If we can't make a deal, you'll also be responsible for the cost of return shipping to your location.
    • We can sell your train collection without a list via our Model Trains Auction Service.

  • Do I have to sign a Purchase contract?

    Yes, we will draft a Purchase Agreement contract when you accept a Cash Offer, and ask you to sign it prior to shipping or picking-up your collection.

  • How will I receive my Cash Offer?

    Typically, we reach out to you via phone to deliver your offer. If we are unable to reach you, we will leave a message. When you accept the offer, we typically:

    • Send you an email containing the details of the offer.
    • Draft a Purchase Agreement contract, and send it to you for your review.
    • Call you to arrange shipment or pick-up of your collection.

  • What is the payment schedule for a Cash Offer?

    It depends. For some medium to large collections, especially when Trainz prepares the inventory list, we will pay 100% of the purchase price at pick-up. When there is no opportunity for Trainz to inventory the collection prior to pick-up, we typically pay 50% at pick-up and 50% once the collection has been verified at our warehouse. We very rarely need to make an adjustment, but a few times we have had to reach back out to the seller to increase or decrease our offer based on extra inventory or missing inventory from the list.

    Smaller collections that are shipped to Trainz sight-unseen are typically paid for after they have been inventoried. We usually inventory collections within 30 days of arrival at Trainz.

Our Model Trains Auction Service

  • What is our Model Trains Auction Service?

    We offer a full-blown Model Trains Auction Service. All you have to do is ship your trains to us (or if it is a large collection we can pick it up). Every other aspect of the process is taken care of. We unpack the inventory, then research, photograph, grade, describe, copywrite each item individually. We have a train expert review everything and unlike a live auction house which sells collections in large boxes or lots, we only lot certain types of low-value items. Once approved, the items are listed, either on our private label TrainzAuctions online auction platform or on eBay, depending on which marketplace will generate the best profit for you. Once an item sells, we ship the item to the buyer (handling returns internally) and pay you via weekly or monthly checks. We send you a full inventory list once the collection has been inventoried at our location, and we send you weekly reports on the sales along with your checks. For more information on how the process works, see the Model Trains Auction Service section on our How It Works page.

  • How do I get started using your Model Trains Auction Service?

    The easiest and best way to get started with our Model Trains Auction Service is to fill out our Get a Quote web form. This will qualify your collection, letting you know if it is something we are interested in and will facilitate getting the Auction process started. After we are in contact, often the first thing we will ask you to do is to send us some digital photos of your collection.

  • Do I have to sign an Auction contract?

    Yes, once we have determined that we are interested in your collection (typically via our Get a Quote web form), we will reach out to you to discuss the Auction terms and draft an Auction Agreement contract, and provide it to you for your signature.

  • When I use your Auction Service, how do I get paid?

    Weekly or Monthly (depending on your Auction Agreement), we compile a report of all the items that were sold in the trailing reporting period, and we make payment on those sales per the Payment Term described in your Auction Agreement. Please note that if the Auction Agreement specifies a Pick-fee or Shipping Fee (which will depend upon the size and location of your collection), such a fee will be deducted from the first payment(s) owed to you under the agreement. For more details, see How It Works.

Shipping and/or Pick Up

  • How do I get my collection to you?

    We provide pre-paid FedEx Ground labels, so you can send your collection to our warehouse.

    We can also arrange to pick up medium to large sized collections. We're on the road several times a month and typically are never more than a few months away from your area.

  • When are you coming to pick up my collection?

    In general, we schedule a trip to your area when there are multiple deals in to be picked up in your local vicinity. Depending on your location, we can typically get to you within a few weeks, and almost always within a few months.

    While Trainz will sometimes make special accommodations if you have an urgent need to have your collection picked up, this can increase the amount of the shipping allowance we need to charge.

  • Do you charge shipping or pick-up fees?

    It depends. If Trainz incurred expenses for pick-up or shipping, then usually when we make a Cash Offer, the offer amount includes a reasonable allowance for these expenses. In the case of our Auction Service we typically deduct this from the first payment(s) we make to you. Either way, this will be spelled out in the Purchase Agreement or Auction Agreement contract.

Selling to Trainz via Cash Offer versus Auction Service

  • What are the Pros and Cons of selling via a Cash Offer?

    Advantages of a Cash Offer Disadvantages of a Cash Offer
    • It is the fastest way to get money for your collection.
    • Trainz takes on the risk of valuing your collection. If we over-value your collection, we are the ones who lose out; you get paid the offer amount.
    • You get paid for your collection up-front, which some people find comforting.
    • The Cash Offer provides certainty; you know what you’re receiving up front.
    • It requires that you create an accurate inventory list, or have Trainz create it for you.
    • If Trainz under-values your collection, you miss out on the financial benefit.
    • When you sell your entire collection to a Train Dealer you’re paid wholesale rates.

     

  • What are the Pros and Cons of selling your collection via an online Auction Service?

    Advantages of Selling via an online Auction Service Disadvantages of Selling via an online Auction Service
    • It is the least amount of work for you, and no inventory list is required. Pretty much everything is taken care of.
    • All else being equal, you will receive the most money from your collection at Auction, typically a few percent more than a Cash Offer.
    • Our Auction Service is the preferred option if you are one of those enthusiasts who is positive that your collection will auction for a lot of money.
    • It is common for enthusiasts to over-estimate the Market Value of their collection, resulting in disappointment at Auction prices.
    • It requires you to deliver your collection to an Auctioneer without any up-front payment, which makes some people nervous.
    • Depending on the site, the auctioneer may collect a Buyer's Premium, usually 15-20% of the Sale Price, from the shopper who purchases from you.
    • Selling your collection via an Auction Service is slower than selling via a Cash Offer.  The money comes in a little at a time, as the individual pieces sell, which can take several weeks or months, depending on the Consignment options that you choose. From the time an item from your collection sells to the time you have money for that sale in your hand is typically slightly more than one month. Although this is faster than selling at a Live Auction House, which can take several months to process your first item, it is a considerably slower method of getting paid compared to a Cash Offer purchase.

Selling your trains yourself

  • Should I sell my collection myself?

    It depends. If you have a small collection and lots of time, you can do pretty well selling your trains if you travel to train shows or sell your trains through your personal network of train enthusiasts. It will take you months or years, and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in train show fees. Although it might be fun, it is a long road, and speaking purely financially, this is not a winning strategy for somebody with a medium or large sized collection.

  • Should I sell my collection myself via an Online Auction platform?

    It is a ton of work, but if you really want to maximize your return, you could also list your small collection on TrainzAuctions.com or another Online Auction site like eBay. If you go this route, you will be responsible for cleaning and repairing, photographing, copywriting the items, managing the auction listings, keeping track of payments, and packing the items for shipment. If you have unsatisfied customers, you will have to accept returns, often paying for return shipping.

    If you list your items on TrainzAuctions.com, you will pay a flat percentage of 7.95% or 5.95% when your items sell. If you list your items on a major online marketplace such as eBay, you will typically pay about 14-20% of the sale price in listing fees, final value fees, and credit card fees.

  • What are the pros and cons of auctioning your collection yourself on TrainzAuctions.com versus an Online Auction site?

    Advantages of TrainzAuctions.com Disadvantages of TrainzAuctions.com
    • Our gauge specific auctions provide a narrower focus for our buyers. Combined with our regular auction schedule we only ask for two hours of the bidder’s time. Bidding doesn't become a week-long investment.
    • Buyers are never outbid in the final seconds of an auction. Last second bids (often called “sniping”) are great for snipers, but ruin the auction experience for everyone else. When someone bids within the final seconds of an auction we automatically extend the auction to give the original bidder a chance to increase their bid, and this can benefit you the seller by increasing the sales price.
    • We protect prices by starting items at around 75% of the price we expect to realize based on our sales history, and only reduce this when items fail to sell multiple times, protecting your margins.
    • Targeted e-mail notifications are sent to over 60,000 potential bidders every week.
    • TrainzAuctions partners with MTH and the Train Collector's Association, adding even more visibility to our auctions.
    • TrainzAuctions works hard to provide a simple buying experience, without the complexity and rules of some other auction sites.
    • The seller fees paid for TrainzAuctions are a flat 7.95% or 5.95%, far less than for other online auction sites, allowing us to pass those savings on to you.
    • For some types of items (N Scale and Z Scale trains are good examples), TrainzAuctions has not built up the customer base sufficient to get competitive prices when compared to the largest of the online auction sites. As a result, we infrequently sell these items on TrainzAuctions, instead choosing to list them on eBay.com.
    • eBay.com gets millions of eyeballs per day, so it is an excellent platform for selling uncommon non-commodity collectibles.

  • What are the pros and cons of auctioning your collection yourself via an Online Auction site?

    Advantages of Online Auction Sites Disadvantages of Online Auction Sites
    • Top Online Auction sites receive millions of views per day, so they make an excellent platform for selling collectibles.
    • For some scales of collectible trains, this large audience translates into consistent auction prices, making it the preferred platform for certain scales (N Scale and Z Scale trains are good examples) for which TrainzAuctions has not built up the customer base sufficient to get competitive prices.
    • Listing fees, market fees and credit card fees can add up to as much as 20% of the Sale Price.
    • When fees are considered for O Scale Modern, G Scale and some HO, you will receive more money selling on TrainzAuctions than on other top Online Auction sites.
    • eBay Auctions end at all times throughout the week, so bidding on eBay items can be an intensive time-investment for your shoppers.
    • Most bidders will bid via last-second bids (often called "sniping") to win items at a bargain price.
    • Placing a reserve price (or higher starting price) on an auction can drive up the listing fees, especially if an item does not sell.
    • Items listed without a reserve price will sometimes go for the starting price, which can be as low as 99 cents.

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