How to sell model railway trains etc?

 
  Dadstrains Beginner

Firstly I apologise for my ignorance - I know next to nothing about model railways and don't have a lot of specific details to hand.   Sadly my father died recently.  For many years he collected model railway trains and associated things required to build model railways.  Based on price tags on the boxes we guesstimate a retail value in the tens of thousands.  There are engines that retailed for close to US$1000 and many around the US$300 - $600 mark.  There are hundreds and hundreds of items that appear to have retailed between $7 and $60 per item.  

I think it is HO scale.  Much of it was purchased online from the US.  Almost none of it has been opened - the very vast majority is brand new and untouched.  He collected it for several decades and always planned to build the model railway of his dreams in retirement - sadly he died before reaching retirement age.

My mother wishes to sell it all, my brothers and I will organise this for her.  

How should we go about it, to maximise the value for her.  Ebay, online forum, model railway exhibition, auction house????  My uncle  (who knows nothing about model railways) tells us we should use an auction house - I am not sure if that is the best option.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
Auction would be the fairest way to all involved but you will still need to set a reserve price though so either way you still need to know what sort of price to sell it for. Beware of secondhand dealers though in general as they will give you a pittance and then on sell the stuff for 5 times what you got for it or more. No law against this, but your Mother will miss out a bit.

Ebay is an auction of sorts but there are a lot of hidden fee's and rules.
  hosk1956 Deputy Commissioner

Location: no where near gunzels
And be aware of unscrupulous sharks that are out there, now that you have posted on here I would put money on someone getting in touch and trying to buy it for well below it's true value.
That is a tough call for you to make as well, your chances of selling as a bulk lot are minimal so you may be faced with dribs and drabs sales for a long time, did your dad have any other railway friends or belong to a club or group? Perhaps somebody there may be able to help if so.
Do you have a model railway shop near you? perhaps you could post your approximate area and somebody could put you in touch with a local reputable honest model railway shop who could sell it on consignment for you.
Selling Ebay can be a bit hit and miss but some unlikely trains are going for ridiculous prices lately, but that could be a long process as well if you have a lot of trains.
But a bit of advice would be not rush into it, do some research on locals sources such as I have suggested, catalog all that you have with a detailed description of what you have, ie, don't write "yellow diesel with 8 wheels, new in box", the box should/will have information on it, so you may have an "Athearn (the manufacturer), Union Pacific (the name of the railroad on the engine), GP40 (the model number of the engine), all this information means a lot to us modellers, and state if its New in box or used, modellers will have a fair idea of it's price.
You won't get new prices for virtually all of your dad's trains, that is just a fact of life, some collectable stuff may be more valuable, at a guess, I'd say 50% of any new marked price max.
If you can get it all listed a good hobby shop should be able to give you an idea of what you likely to get. If you have a list and an idea of prices then you could advertise on here with contact details and the good guys will pass that info on to any club they are involved in, unless you don't want a squillion phone calls
And lastly, when I say model shop, I mean a shop that deals specifically in model railways, not Toys R us or one that only sells model cars or hairyplanes, once again, get back to us here and somebody should point you in the right direction.
Sorry to hear of your loss, and personel issues can be hard to deal with at this time, so I hope we here on Railpage can help you out.

Wayne
  allan Chief Commissioner

Your best return will come from selling on eBay.  That, unfortunately, will require that you do some research, first, and then put in an awful lot of time to sell a substantial collection.

http://www.ebay.com.au/sch/Model-Trains-/479/i.html?rt=nc&LH_PrefLoc=1&_catref=1&_dmpt=AU_Toys_Hobbies_Model_Railways&_fln=1&_ipg=200&_sc=1&_sop=10&_trksid=p3286.c0.m283

As a rough guide, auction everything, and set your start price at half of the price on the box. That may be too high for some items, but, then, they won't sell!

Upload your listings on Sunday night for seven day auctions, or Thursday night for ten day auctions (higher value items).

Good luck.
  SA_trains Deputy Commissioner

Location: ACT
Dear Dad's trains,

Firstly, my condolences on the passing of your father.

Secondly, I don't envy you on settling up an estate. Having done my Mother's estate a few years ago, it is indeed a big job. By the way, as an executor (are you the executor?) you are legally and morally bound to do the best for the estate and consequently, your mother. That is, when selling items, you are "on the hook" to return the best value possible.

With that thought in mind, now, onto model trains....

Model trains are a somewhat esoteric hobby. There are somethings that are very valuable and some that are not worth much at all. Often, it is not obvious which is which! How do you sort the wheat from the chaff? A key hint made by a previous poster, is to make a detailed catalog. As that person stated more information the better. The bad news for you is compiling the catalog takes time and effort by you.

The problem for you is in how do you manage an extensive model train collection? On one hand you have your Uncle that says "just send it to an estate auction". That may not be such a bad outcome as you are then "done and dusted" with the collection. Problem is, an Auction house is probably unlikely to know the value of the item. Auction houses will know the value of items like Hornby and maybe Lionel, but brands like Athearn, Broadway Limited, Trainorama, Austrains et al., will be moderately unknown. You may well say that those items are not intrinsically collectible like Hornby/Lionel. Items from these brands will only be interest to the serious model train person.

With an extensive and valuable collection, selling as a "job lot" probably won't work as you have to find that buyer with $10K in their pocket. Not necessarily that easy. To get the greatest return requires selling piece-meal. Again, time and effort on your behalf. If you use e-bay, you need to be aware of what e-bay charges as well as pay-pal as they will both take a slice of your action! (by the way, I believe that Pay-pal is a subsidiary of e-bay!)

So, your problem is not unique. What you do need to do, is to do your homework and find out a decent estimate of value. Depending on what that answer is may then make your next move much clearer. If not worth much, then sell on consignment through a shop or a model train second hand dealer.If really valuable, then it may be worth your time and effort to sell individually via e-bay or similar.

Good luck! I wish you well.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Firstly, my condolences on the passing of your father.

As the man said .....

A number of thoughts come to mind.  You don't mention where in the world you or the trains are.  The best return for disposal of the collection might be affected by location since you can incur significant shipping costs unless you sell via an auction house / site where you can set a fair and reasonable price for buyers to pay and cover those costs.  If those buyers are in another country that can - depending on the interest level in those items - make them less attractive.

There are those who suggest that items representing a particular country sell best within that country.  For example and since you quote ticket prices in US Dollars then are the items of US origin / style?  The greater interest might lie among collectors in the US.

Do you have access to any local model rail club within which might be someone willing to advise on the best way to describe the items?  Or a shop (scarce though they are) you could show them to for identification?  The more accurately an item can be described the better is the chance it will attract attention and sell for a good price.  "Yellow American diesel" may not interest too many people for example but the manufacturer's brand, if possible the item catalogue number and some idea of its condition will alert more eyes.   By way of example I have searches set up on several auction sites for a specific catalogue number and receive email alerts when one is listed.  If it's only listed as "green train" then I won't get the message and someone won't get my money.

Armed with this sort of detail then consider the various specialist model shops some of which purchase collections.  You might find one willing to offer a fair price for the lot in which case you have done the deal in a single transaction.

If you do use online auctions such as eBay then beware.  There are fees and charges which the seller must pay including Paypal's charges for receiving money.  It's possible to actually make a loss on a sale though not if the item goes for a decent price.  You have no control over who bids and the internet has its share of time-wasters and scammers.   Never ever ship anything until payment has been received and cleared; only ship by trackable signed delivery.  That protects your interests to the maximum extent possible.

For small value items it often pays to group them into "lots" rather than try to sell each one individually.  Either by offering three or four wagons or other small items as a single transaction or by grouping numerous and varied small items together.  Small packs of scenic items are often sold in this way as it's really hard to make a profitable sale on them otherwise

It is also possible to advertise (usually free of charge) via hobby websites of which this is one.  Railpage doesn't deal specifically in models but has its share of modelers.  Others include the UK-based RMweb (www.rmweb.co.uk) which you have to contribute a few comments to before being able to advertise.  The requirement to contribute can be used to seek information on the items.  Introduce yourself, post a few pictures and ask what they are.  When you have reached the  minimum number of posts (set to ensure you are a human and also not a commercial dealer) then list away.  You are also at liberty to advertise in more than one place at the same time though it's sensible to include a comment to that effect in your adverts.

You can also advertise through modelling magazines which might be a useful way to reach an international market if the items are particularly scarce.  Without some sort of advice you may not be aware of what is - or what is not - of significant value.  

Others have advised that you may not recover the new cost of the items as per the price stickers.  That is normal even for unused items.  Just like a car they often (but not always) depreciate in value as soon as they are first sold even if never used.  There are honourable exceptions.  

I wish you well in the invidious task of estate disposal.  There are no silly questions here so please come back if you have any more you'd like answered.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

Firstly I apologise for my ignorance - I know next to nothing about model railways and don't have a lot of specific details to hand.   Sadly my father died recently.  For many years he collected model railway trains and associated things required to build model railways.  Based on price tags on the boxes we guesstimate a retail value in the tens of thousands.  There are engines that retailed for close to US$1000 and many around the US$300 - $600 mark.  There are hundreds and hundreds of items that appear to have retailed between $7 and $60 per item.  

I think it is HO scale.  Much of it was purchased online from the US.  Almost none of it has been opened - the very vast majority is brand new and untouched.  He collected it for several decades and always planned to build the model railway of his dreams in retirement - sadly he died before reaching retirement age.

My mother wishes to sell it all, my brothers and I will organise this for her.  

How should we go about it, to maximise the value for her.  Ebay, online forum, model railway exhibition, auction house????  My uncle  (who knows nothing about model railways) tells us we should use an auction house - I am not sure if that is the best option.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Dadstrains
Trains, planes and Automobiles located at Mt Victoria and Annandale NSW is the only auction house that I know of that specialises in model trains etc. Train Trader NSW claims that it purchases collections but have no idea what sort of prices it offers. I would venture as little as possible as they want to make a dollar on the items also. You will not get anything like retail and USA trains are not all that saleable in Australia now as the emphasis is on Australian prototype these days.

I recall going to the clearance sale of a model train shop whose owner was deceased and at the end of the day it came down to how much you could stuff in a bag for $20.

It would also be helpful to know what the brands are and whether the models are plastic or brass or whatever. It would be also helpful to know your location. eBay is your best bet but do not expect to sell all at once to maximise the best return. These collections are actually a millstone rather than a pot of gold.

With the information you have provided it would be difficult to make a reasonable offer. Why don't you make a list and post it here. You never know, someone might make a good offer.
  Dadstrains Beginner

Sorry to take so long in replying!!  Firstly - thank you so so much for your thoughtful, patient and informative answers - I really appreciate it.

For those who asked - the collection is located in Adelaide.  

My brother and I have begun cataloging it in Excel - it is tricky because we are so unfamiliar with trains, it is hard to decipher model / item numbers from car numbers etc and ensure we are including the pertinent information.  We have spent about ten hours on it, working simultaneously on two laptops and "might" have covered 15-20% of the collection.

Everything is HO scale.  Brands we have seen are Atlas, Kato, Intermountain, Proto 2000 and Proto 1000, Bachmann and Genesis.  Oh and lots of Athearns carriages I think.  There appears to be a lot of older stuff from Athearns and the newer stuff is other brands.  There are probably other brands, but I don't have the spreadsheet to hand right now.  Someone asked if they are brass or plastic - I "think" based on weight they are brass??

I am pretty experienced with buying and selling on Ebay (not trains), so we may well go that route once we are ready.  My mother has also suggested that if my brothers and I are willing to do the work, we can just have them and split the proceeds between us.  We would be happier to let it drag out over a longer period of time if that is the case.

For the time being we will keep plugging away at cataloging it all and at some point I will bring that information back here for further advise and maybe to offer for sale before we go to Ebay.

Thank you again
Georgina
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Knowing where the collection is I have asked a few friends in that area who are knowledgeable in these things if they might find time to help.  If that's of use I can put you in contact assuming I get an OK.

Further to the above two contacts have had their details sent to Georgina by email

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