Sell Your Trains

Sell Your Trains


There are a several ways to sell your train collection. You have to determine which way is best for you depending upon your circumstances and time frame. Here are some ideas for you to consider. I am trying to give you some options of ways you can sell your collection with as much unbiased information as possible. Possibly selling to Graham's Trains would be your best option, but that would depend highly on your circumstances. Graham's Trains is one of the largest and best model train buyers so I do sincerely hope you will consider selling to us when the time comes.

We do not offer an appraisal service. Please do not ask us to give you a "value" of your trains. If this is what you are looking for, there are many guide and price books available for this information. Check out or If you truly are wanting to sell your trains, please read on.

Selling to Graham's Trains is probably one of the more secure ways to sell your trains.  We have a constant need for new inventory. We pay very competitive prices for electric trains for this reason. If we run out of trains to sell, we are out of business. There are several ways you can sell to us. If you live locally in central Ohio, or you don't mind a nice drive, you can arrange an appointment with us. You can send us your trains through the mail for evaluation and an offer. You can send a list of your train collection for an offer. Keep in mind that the better the descriptions are and the more detail that you include, the more accurate and better my offer price will be to you. If the descriptions are sparse, I will tend to be more conservative with my offer price. See below for a sample form for listing your trains. Digital pictures usually don't help much as I cannot see the detail needed to determine grading. On larger collections in central Ohio, I may travel to you to purchase your collection. This is a personalized business and I like to speak in person when making offers to purchase collections, so please include your telephone number and where you are located (so that I know the time zone) in your e-mail so I can call you to discuss your trains. I will not make offers via e-mail. We actually do receive packages all the time. What I do when I receive your package is inspect and evaluate your collection. I then come up with a retail value of your collection, and then make an offer based on that retail price. Most guide books state that most dealers pay 50% of retail. There is a difference between book price and retail in many cases. Book prices are always only someone's opinion of what retail is. We use a combination of our knowledge of the current market and guide books to evaluate collections which is based on actual past sales. Books many times use estimated values, and with ever changing prices, books become out dated quickly. My goal in every case is to come up with as close to an actual retail figure if at all possible. 

Unfortunately, for most modern era trains from every manufacturer, they are like buying a new car, they depreciate as soon as your drive them off the lot. Then as newer models come out with more electronics and more features, and at a lower price, that further weakens the demand and correspondingly the price for the models that came out only a couple years earlier. Most modern era trains are not yet considered "collectable". They just aren't old enough yet and there were many of them made. So, when you are selling a modern era collection, you are selling it wholesale, since the dealer reselling it incurs all the costs of carrying the inventory, advertising it, traveling to train shows, printing lists, cleaning and repairing, paying auction fees, credit card fees, packing it for shipment, etc. I mention all this, just so you know that if you are thinking you can sell your collection of modern era trains that you paid $10,000 for and expect to get 75% of that in a single sale, you will no doubt be disappointed. "Book" prices on modern era model trains are somewhat inflated. For New and Like New modern era trains, you should expect to receive approximately 25% to 35% of original catalog price from a dealer for your modern era trains.

If you just send us your trains, and do not accept our offer, we will return your trains (you pay the shipping plus an appraisal fee) just as we received them. If you are shipping trains to us though, please don't ship just for an appraisal, as we do not offer an appraisal service. Please ship only if you are seriously interested in selling the trains.

  • On-Line Auctions You will realize more money if you auction your trains. These would be sites such as eBay. There are also several online auctions that deals exclusively in trains. Of course there is always a payment you pay in the higher price, which is your time.  It can be time consuming to upload the auction information and pictures, then do administration work in notifying winners, collecting money, and shipping the trains. This can become very time consuming especially with a medium to large train collection. However, as I said, you will realize more money for your trains this way. The bottom line is, the more work you put into selling your trains, the more money you will realize.
  • Auction Houses Auctions are a great way to sell your collection, especially if it is large. Be extremely careful who you deal with though. Make sure they are reputable by checking their references. Try to find out how knowledgeable they are about trains, have they sold any train collections in the past?  Make sure you get an exact date of when they will hold your auction and that they have a safe, dry, secure place to store them prior to the auction. If you find a good auction house, they usually do a good job, and I believe the fee is 20-30%, which is better than you will realize selling to an individual. However you will be risking your collection as you have to hand them over to the auction house usually months before they are sold so they can be catalogued. Make absolute certain that the auction house has a good insurance policy against theft, fire, or other damage that could be incurred while in their possession.
  • Local Dealers If you are lucky and have an established train dealer near you, this is the easiest way to sell your trains. However you have to be very careful whom you are dealing with. I have purchased many collections around the country where the seller told me that their local bids were substantially lower than mine. If you are exploring the possibility of selling to a local dealer, you should also get a quote from a non- local dealer for comparison. If your local dealer is small with a low volume operation, chances are he will not be competitive with a more substantial dealer who does higher volume, mainly because the larger dealer usually has a constant need to replace his inventory. Avoid like the plague fast talkers, or people who talk everything you have down. I have dealt with such dealers in the past, and before you know it they have you believing that they are doing you a favor for taking your trains off your hands, while they are actually stealing them. If you feel uncomfortable with a dealer or individual, do not hesitate to ask them to leave, or pull back from the deal and maybe re-evaluate what you are getting yourself into. It is your choice, they are your trains, don't ever let a person force or talk you into selling to them. Explore all of your options, or you could be out some serious cash. Of course if this is the case, you won't know how much you are loosing, but wouldn't it be better to stay away from this type of situation and realize as much money as possible?
  • Garage Sales and Flea Markets  Unless it is just a very small amount of trains, I don't recommend selling train collections this way. You want to deal more with people who are knowledgeable in trains so that you will realize a fair value. Not that people who attend garage sales and flea markets couldn't be knowledgeable, however I believe that most people in that buying atmosphere are looking for bargains, which is not in your best interest.
  • Selling Piece By Piece There are a number of ways you can sell your train collection piece by piece, if you have the time and patience in doing so. Probably the best way is using an on-line auction as mentioned above, however if you want to set fixed pricing and are member of the Lionel Collectors Club of America, or Toy Train Operators Society, they publish a great bimonthly magazine where you can list individual items.  They are mailed to the entire membership, and get great readership. I've never used them, but am told as long as you keep your prices reasonable, you will get results. Train shows are also a great way to sell trains, however don't expect to sell everything unless you offer the whole table for a very cheap price. You can also advertise in magazines such as Classic Toy Trains, however your initial cost will be great, and you had better have some good merchandise to sell to make up for the ad fees.
I hope these tips are of some help to you in selling your collection. I'll leave you with my spiel to buy your trains below. If you need more information from us, please click on that "Contact Us" tab above.


If you prefer to mail or ship your collection, please package your trains very carefully, and insure them for at least the value you expect or my offer amount if I have made one. Number each package, include your phone number, address and an inventory of what is being shipped. Below is a sample format to use for your list, a great way to develop your list is to use Microsoft Excel so you can attach the file to an e-mail. This list should be located in package #1. If items are graded correctly and/or we come to agreement on price for over graded items (see grading standards below), You can email us anytime at:

ORIG BOX Y/N BOX GRADE DESCRIPTION (include all defects)
11711 EX Y 10 Santa Fe F-3 ABA set, one small scratch on roof
145 LN N   automatic gateman missing contactor, includes instructions

Grading: I purchase items at the same grade I sell them. Correct grading is absolutely essential for the price I am quoting you. I grade according to the standards of the major model train clubs such as TTOS and TCA. The following is how I grade:
  • New : Absolutely never used. No scratches or dents. No sign of use. Always with the original box. (note that we do not use the term "Mint" as that term is most often mis-used)
  • Like New: To look at the item you would say that it looks new except for light wear on the wheels. No dust from sitting on the shelf, and no signs of dust being removed.
  • Excellent: Exceptionally clean. No major chips or problems. Minute scratches. (if it needs to be cleaned, it cannot rate excellent)
  • Very Good:  A few scratches, light dust, no dents, or rust. (Light surface rust is acceptable if it can be easily removed.) A nice, clean item.
  • Good: Scratched, some dents, dirty.
  • Fair: Well scratched, chipped, rust, or not very pleasant to look at.
  • Parts: incomplete items or inoperable items.
  • Boxes: Grade 1 - 10 with 10 being new, 8 is very solid, minor shelf wear with no tears, writing, stickers or missing flaps, 5 is missing flaps and/or with a lot of wear, 3 is just a sleeve, 1 is falling apart.

If after looking over my grading you feel possibly you have over graded some or all items, please give me a call anyway. I am still interested, but this would alter my offer price. If I receive your trains and grading is a problem, I reserve the right to return all or a portion of your trains at your cost for shipping. I also reserve the right to refuse payment to you for your shipping charges. I am not concerned that much if one or two items are over graded. But if there is a general trend of over grading, this will cause a problem which will have to be adjusted by a lower price, or items involved being returned at your cost. Please be accurate with your grading and don't waste your time and mine. If you choose not to accept the final offer after inspection, you will also be responsible for an inspection fee based on the amount of time spent to unpack and inspect your items.

Items should be packed in as few number of cartons as possible to hold down the shipping costs. For safest shipping, carton weights should be kept below 35-40 pounds.

I do not pay travel expenses for personal delivery. However if this would be your preference,  to deliver your collection in person, please e-mail, and we will make special arrangements that will be convenient to both of our schedules.

If you have any questions at any time, please go to the "Contact Us" page and send your question.

P. S. Please keep in mind that due to the number of offers I receive, I normally hold lists on file for a limited time after my reply. I reserve the right to withdraw any offer before confirmation has been established.

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