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Antique model trains are one of the most popular items coveted by antique collectors. They are popular not just with collectors though, but also among modelers. Over the years, there are several types of antique model trains that have emerged in the market. These model trains are designed to mimic the function and design of the trains that they are trying to model. Hence, it is a must for those who are fascinated by trains in general.
The hobby of model train collecting has a long history. You can choose from a wide range of antique models that are considered highly valuable in today’s market. Whether you collect them with the intent to sell later, or to simply add to your collection, you must learn the in’s and out’s of collecting antique model trains and their corresponding value.

Types of Model Train Scales

When buying antique train models, you need to know the scale. The scale will determine everything else about the train model’s build – from the accessories to the parts. Below is a guideline on the common scales available for antique model trains:

  • N Scale – This is perhaps the most popular type of model train that is available during the vintage era. Therefore, it is highly sought after by collectors. The N Scale model trains come in a variety of engine types, accessories, and sceneries. Most of the models are recreated in great detail. It is therefore coveted by serious collectors of vintage model trains.
  • TT Scale – This is a 3mm scale, which translates to “table top” model. The actual size for this model will vary depending on which country it was manufactured in.
  • HO Scale – The “Half 0” scale is the most popular model train scale that is collected worldwide. Due to the wide scale popularity, it is also widely available and might not be as valuable as other scales on this list.
  • OO Gauge – In the UK, this is the most popularly collected scale of model train. Just like the model train, the accessories that come with it such as the scenery, carriage, and track are also readily available.
  • G Scale – The G Scale train models cover a wide range of sizes. It is popular with garden railways and outdoor sets. Since steam power sources are more easily integrated into larger scale models, many of the G Scale models are steam powered too.
  • O Scale – The O Scale model train will vary in size depending on the country where it was manufactured from. Since this type of scale is often manufactured as toys, they are not as detailed as the others on this list. However, they are designed to be durable to withstand repeated use.

How Is it Powered?

The type of power source used on antique model trains can have a direct impact on its value. In addition, it will also determine what other accessories are needed in order to operate it. Here is a general idea of what the different types of power sources are available:

  • Clockwork is the most common and oldest methods to power a model train. Therefore, many of the antique models use this power source. It is also a good indicator when trying to authenticate an antique model train. In recent times, the manufacture of clockwork model trains has stopped. In fact, the accessories for this particular model are rare to find. This particular type of model train is therefore rare and more expensive.
  • Steam-powered model trains are the new standard for manufacture of model train sets. However, you can also find steam model trains such as those that are manufactured in a large scale. You can therefore find plenty of steam powered vintage models of train sets and train kits.

Model Train Accessories

The presence of the accessories in a model train kit or set can add to its overall market value. When you are trying to sell an antique model train, you must check if all of the accessories are present. Otherwise, it could directly impact the value of the kit or set. Below is a list of the common accessories that are available in model train sets:

  • Track: This is where the model train runs. Each track is unique for the model.
  • Carriage: This can add a great deal of value to the model train set.
  • Scenery: These are not directly linked to the performance of the train. The scenery includes trees, shrubs, buildings, and stations.
  • Cylinder oil: This accessory is suited for the steam engine models. It is needed for maintaining the performance of the engine.

The Value of Antique Model Trains

Model trains and train sets might look the same. However, there are several factors that can influence the cost of antique model trains. To help determine the value of the model trains in your possession, you can use these factors as guideline. It is also important if you can find expert appraisers to check these factors so you can get a more accurate assessment of market value.

  • Condition – The condition of the model trains can have a direct impact on its appraisal. The condition of in-box models versus the reassembly models can differ significantly. With that said, the collector’s willingness to pay can also vary significantly. The quality of the models can also affect the condition and the price. Some model parts are more resilient and therefore maintain their condition over the years.
  • Rarity – How rare is the antique model train that you own? Is this a one-time model? Or has it been in production for many years? The fewer units are available, the higher the cost! The idea is if it is something that a lot of people already own, no one would be willing to pay for one (or at least, not as high of a price as the rarer models).
  • Variations – There are antique model trains that had a long production. However, it does not mean that they are lower in value. Some can yield prized collectibles, especially since there could be many variations to these models. If you can get your hands on these rare variations, you can fetch a higher price for those.
  • “It” Factor – This can be evaluated by the appraiser or based on the consumer demand. It speaks to the universal appeal and the overall demand for that particular model train.
  • Modifications – The amount of modification that a model train has undergone during or after production can largely impact its market value. It will vary according to the type of modification work done on the model train, though. For the serious collector, even minor changes such as a new paint or adding details can taint the originality of the model unit. This will also consequently cause the value to go down.

Appraising Antique Model Trains

Ultimately, an antique model train’s worth is determined by demand. As long as someone is willing to pay for it, then it costs something. Toy trains and antique model trains will be one of the most in demand antique pieces sought after by collectors.
You can therefore work with a professional appraiser to help determine what the actual value of your antique model train may be. Before you bring your model train to an appraiser, it pays to clean it. You can also test the models prior to ensure that it is running efficiently. At Mearto, you can find licensed appraisers that can honestly and accurately appraise your old model trains before you sell them into the market.

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