The Lionel Model Train – How Much is Your Collection Worth?

Are Lionel trains worth a pretty penny? Well, the answer to this question depends on various factors. For instance, the value of the train will depend on which era the train was produced and also the condition that train is in. So before you sell that train on eBay or at a local garage sale, consider these factors first.

First, the value in collectible Lionel trains depends on the era in which they were produced. Lionel has been manufacturing trains since 1902 when it first introduced the Electric Express model as a retail store display. However, the models that are most prized by collectors are the “original Lionel trains” made between 1940 and 1959. The trains produced during this post-World War II era are considered to be some of Lionel’s finest products and coincide with the company’s rise as a juggernaut in the American toy industry.

The trains produced after 1969 are considered Lionel’s “modern era” trains. These trains have not retained as much collector interest or value especially the ones that are not in pristine condition and in the original packaging. In addition, some critics argue re-issues of vintage Lionel trains decrease the value of the original models.

Now that we’ve established the type of Lionel trains that are highly sought after by collector, it is important to discuss the single factor that most influences the value of a particular collectible train-the condition. Unlike hobbyists, collectors care less about how the train operates compared to how the train appears. In fact, the appearance of the train determines the value because dents, scratches, and damaged parts decrease the value to a collector. Trains that are in “mint” condition or brand new condition will command the highest price whereas those that are beat up will fetch the least amount.

So how is value actually determined? With regards to Lionel train collecting, there are two guides that are published annually-Lionel Price & Rarity Guide and Greenburg’s Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains. However, keep in mind these price guides only provide a guideline for pricing. The true value of a train depends on the buyer and seller. In other words, how much is the seller willing to offer in order to part with the train and how much is the buyer willing to pay to obtain the item.

There you have it. Not all Lionel trains are the same. Look carefully and you may not only find a small piece of American history, but you may also have an antique collectible sitting in your attic or someone else’s garage sale. Even if you’re not a model train enthusiast, that train will be worth a pretty penny to a Lionel train collector.