What Sells: Model Trains

Model railroading is a huge hobby, dating back to the 1800s. Today, millions of collectors around the world join clubs, attend conventions, and buy and sell trains and railroad accessories online. As with any hobby, the quality and variety of equipment available varies wildly. When deciding what to sell, focus on quality.

There are two distinct types of model railroad equipment available. Those that are produced for the serious model railroader and those that are produced for the “toy train” market. Unfortunately, most of the model railroad equipment visible in toy stores, department stores and many local hobby shops belong to the “toy train” group that is designed to be sold cheaply and runs accordingly.

What Sells

Top-selling brands include:
Research Resources

The following websites have photos and detailed information that can help you identify and describe trains and accessories:



For the grading standards for trains, accessories and boxes, visit the website at http://www.traincollectors.org/standards/.


Look for these signs of wear and tear:

  • Scratches and scuffs
  • Chipped paint
  • Rust,
  • Dents
  • Missing or replaced parts
  • Missing or damaged boxes

Locomotives designed for the “collectors’” market will have flywheels, higher quality motors, and usually will have metal frames, most, if not all of the wheels will pick up electricity and/or will be gear driven. Most will also be evenly weighted, enabling the train to move relatively smoothly along the track as long as the track is clean. Look to see if all the wheels are metal. Plastic wheels do not pick up electricity. Try turning each wheel with your finger. Those that do not turn or only turn slightly before locking are gear driven. If the locomotive has to be pushed to start after the power is turned on, it will not be as valuable to collectors but might sell well on craigslist as a child’s toy.

Key Details

Include these details in your listing:
  • Brand
  • Model name/number (e.g., type of car and name of railroad)
  • Scale (S, HO, Z, etc.)
  • Material (if made of brass)
  • Age (if known)
  • Accessories
Storage and Shipping

Keep model trains in their original packaging in a well-ventilated room, away from children, pets, smoke and cooking odors. Don’t place items in direct sunlight or next to heating vents or air conditioners either, since temperature and humidity changes can cause damage.

Wrap each item individually in plastic to protect it from moisture, bubble wrap it and place it in a sturdy box in a bed of packing peanuts for shipment to the buyer.

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