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Guide to Selling your Trains: Where to Sell Model Trains By Scott Griggs and Ken Cummings Print

Guide to Selling your Trains: Where to Sell Model Trains

There are a surprising number of ways to sell your trains. Educating yourself is the first step to making sure you find the option that works best for your specific situation. The process can be complex and confusing, we hope this guide makes it all a little easier to understand. We can't promise we can answer every question, but if you still have some, let us know!

We've broken the decision down into the three factors we most often discuss with our sellers and then rated the different options on each of those factors.

Deciding What's Important To You


Price Received

Obtaining the best price for your collection can mean more work and slower returns.

If you're willing to spend the time and effort, it can absolutely be worth the investment.

The impact of price on the amount of work and the time it takes to get money in hand can be quite significant



How much time and effort you’re willing to invest can be a huge deciding factor in selling your collection

High effort options usually deliver the highest price, while compromising on price could leave you with nothing to do but collect a check.

Every option takes some effort, and you're taking the first steps now in researching your options.


Payment Speed

You can have money in hand right now, a little later, or a lot later!

How fast you want the money will impact the price you'll realize for your collection. The good news is that there are fair options for almost every scenario.

If you're looking for a fast return someone else will probably be taking the risk on your collection... they'll be considering price and the amount of work involved.


Sell Your Trains Yourself At Train Shows

Price Received
Payment Speed

Good Prices, But...

The great thing about Train shows is that you get to set your own prices. The bad thing about Train shows is you have to wait for someone willing to pay your price. Waiting can be very expensive. If you're traveling to shows your expenses will add up quickly... Fuel, mileage, hotel rooms, table fees, food... It's all coming out of your sales at the end of the day.

When there's no show, you'll have no sales at all. Your sales will depend on your competition from show to show. What competitors have and the prices they offer will force you to be more competitive if you want to make the sale.

Shows tend to provide a good number of buyers, but it's impossible to predict what it is they'll want to buy. Even the weather can take a bite out of your sales on any given day.

Insanely High Effort...

You'll spend the entire weekend packing up your collection, traveling, setting up tables and displays, standing for hours on end, and then repeating the process when the show closes. Large collections can take an extremely long time to sell through, and you'll need to be prepared to lower your prices to keep things moving.

You'll also need to spend some time educating yourself on what you have if you don't already know. The buyers at Train shows know exactly what you have, and they won't tell you if it's underpriced.

Slow Returns...

Every day you work 10 hours or more will be a pay-day. Some will be good, some will be bad. Many people will give up on the shows after their first low sales day where expenses are higher than what they earned.

On the flip side, if you're looking for a way to supplement some cross-country travels, this could be just the ticket. 

Sell Your Trains Yourself On eBay

Price Received
Payment Speed

Usually Good Price Results...

Your price results will vary based upon the bidders on-line that week. eBay and PayPal fees will cost around 13% to 15% of the final sale price if you sell with no reserve. If you set reserves or high starting prices, your fees will be even more. Reserve prices will also alienate some buyers and you may have items that never meet the reserve, leaving you to decide if you should relist them lower, or with a reserve at all. Price guides aren’t realistic for most items, so expect to spend a good amount of time researching the value of your items online if your goal is to maximize your prices.

Overall eBay gets good price results. The amount your items bring will be directly proportionate to the amount of time you spend listing them. The items that consistently sell for the most are the items with the best photographs and descriptions. You may take a short-term price hit if you’re new to eBay and don’t have a strong feedback history.

Very High Effort...

Before the sale, you’ll need to take pictures, write descriptions, research prices, fill out auction forms, pick categories, manage correspondence with bidders, get boxes and packing material, pack items, fill out labels, and drop your items off to be shipped. After the sale, you’ll need to handle complaints, tracking requests, damage claims, and returns.

The eBay route can work and does work for lots of sellers, but it is a lot of effort if you expect reasonable results. For sellers with a large collection, this can add up to a full-time job for months or years.

Mixed Payment Speed...

How quickly you get paid will depend on how fast you can get your items listed. If you work at it full time, you can expect to get around 20 items listed per day in conjunction with managing your other open and sold items.

Spend some time researching how eBay payment terms work, and how to manage disputes, these will both be critical to receiving timely payments from buyers. 

Sell Your Trains Using a Live Auction House

Price Received
Payment Speed

Mixed Price Results...

Getting the best price results from an auction house depends upon your collection and the auction house itself. Auctions do best if you have high-end items like Mint or Like-New Postwar and Prewar trains. You will also get more if you enlist an auction house that specializes in toy trains.

Auction houses generally keep 30% to 40% of the sales price, 15% to 20% from the seller (you), and another 15% to 20% as a buyer's premium. You're very much at the mercy of the crowd the auction house can gather, though some auction houses also have internet bidding which will increase the crowd size.

If you have a lot of "inexpensive" items like freight cars, expect them to be sold in lots of 10 to 20 cars with a total lot value of $200. Those lots are very attractive to dealers who are looking for items to resell. Unfortunately, they often reduce the value of the individual items contained in the lots. Some auction houses aren’t even interested in Modern era Lionel and other manufacturer’s items for their auctions.

Usually Low Effort...

If your collection has a high enough value, an auction house will usually come pick it up for you. If not you may be left figuring out how to get the items to the auction house on your own.

Slow Payments...

Auction houses depend on planned events to draw larger crowds. Depending on how busy the auction house is you can find yourself waiting 4 to 12 months for your collection to go to auction. After the auction, the accounting process usually adds at least another month before you’ll receive a check. 


Sell Your Trains Through an Online Auction Service

Price Received
Payment Speed

Good Price Results...

All things being equal, selling your trains through an online Consignment Service will return slightly more than selling them to a Train Dealer, and returns the highest price of any low-effort option.

The largest online Train-specific Consignment Service, sells thousands of items every week. With their enhanced consignment service, most of your items will be sold one at a time. Years of sales data allows Trainz to sell your items for the optimal price to maximize your return. Trainz markets to tens of thousands of buyers every week and advertises on, OGR, the Google Ad Network, Classic Toy Trains, Garden Railways, Yahoo, Bing, and through affiliate partners on hundreds of other websites. Every item listed includes complete functional descriptions, grading, and photographs. The ability for sellers to combine shipping rates encourages bidders to buy multiple items at once.

Low Effort...

If a Train Dealer offers a full-service consignment, they will either come to your location and pick up your collection or arrange for you to ship it to them and handle the entire listing and sales process from there.

With the Trainz Consignment Service, your collection will be picked up, or you will be provided with prepaid FedEx shipping labels. Trainz will handle photographing, grading, and describing your items, listing them to and multiple other Marketplaces and marketing your collection once it is listed. Trainz also manages sellers’ questions, shipping, and returns. With most of the hard work out of the way, the amount of effort you invest will be very minimal.

Slower Payments than a Cash Offer...

Trainz will typically list your first items for sale within a few business days of receiving them. You’re paid 30 days after each item sells, so your first payment will come rather quickly.

Sell Your Trains To A Train Dealer or a Single Buyer

Price Received
Payment Speed

Middle Of The Road Prices...

When you sell your entire collection to a Train Dealer or buyer, you’re paid wholesale rates. While it can be a bit of a sting, you have to consider the amount of work the buyer now has to do to sell your collection. Most buyers are going to sell through one (or many) of the options outlined in this guide, so they still have to do all the work that you’re bypassing.

Trainz is a Train Dealer/Buyer. You can review the Trainz Buying Guidelines to see the types of collections Trainz buys. To get the overall picture of what Trainz can do for you, check out the How it Works page.

Overall you’ll usually receive a price close to what you would get with an auction, but you’ll get paid much quicker.

Usually Low Effort...

Sometimes the Train Dealer will require you to provide an Inventory List, especially for a smaller collection. If your collection has a high enough value, a buyer will usually inventory it and/or come pick it up for you. If not, you may be left figuring out how to get the items to the buyer on your own.

Trainz provides several convenient options for obtaining your collection including picking up at your location for larger collections and sending pre-paid FedEx shipping labels for smaller collections.

Fast Payment...

Absolutely the fastest way to get paid! Most buyers will typically pay you when your trains are picked up, or for smaller collections when the trains are received and inventoried.

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