How should I go about selling a 1950s Lionel Train set?
January 23, 2013 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I have a large storage tote full of Lionel train cars, still in their boxes that I'm tired of storing.

This set is from the late 40's & early 50's. The cars are all still in their boxes, and seem (?) like they're in good condition. They were very well cared for and have been stored in a temperature and moisture stable closet for the past decade.

I tried contacting the antique shop that I've sold things to in the past, but they don't deal with this sort of item. My ad on craigslist didn't get any bites. I do not have a built up selling portfolio on ebay, and wouldn't have much idea of the appropriate value. While I don't really want to pay 40% to the services who will list it for me, that seems like the only option. Am I missing some obvious solution?
posted by Nickel Pickle to Shopping (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

The Lionel Collectors club puts out a publication that is effectively a pricing guide for Lionel cars. Considering what you have, it may be worth a $35 one year membership to get an idea what your collection is worth. It may be worth quite a bit, and it'd be a shame to sell yourself short on this. This would also give you a possible venue to sell some of the train cars.
posted by azpenguin at 7:49 PM on January 23, 2013

You don't have to have a long history to sell on Ebay. Do you have any feedback at all, even as a buyer? Your best bet for research is to put similar items on your watch list and to see what things sell for over a period of time. The pricing guide will give you a good idea, but you may also want to undersell by some percentage in order to just get rid of the stuff. The stated value, and what you can actually get for an antique or collectible of any type, depends on the availability of buyers. You will have more buyers available if they perceive your auctions as a "deal" that is unlikely to be repeated. One approach to this is to list the item initially at the standard guide price, and to decrease the price if the item fails to sell in the first auction.
posted by decathexis at 7:55 PM on January 23, 2013

These are highly desired and worth good money. Just describe them as accurately as you can and list them with a ton of pictures.
posted by Miko at 8:42 PM on January 23, 2013

Most areas of any size have a model train club or society of some sort that you could contact to ask about putting a notice in their newsletter or on their website/bulletin board.

If you decide to sell on eBay or a similar auction site, I find it helps to list a few interesting individual items WITH information in the listing that you will be listing a LOT more train things to get on the "check this seller" lists of a number of buyers/collectors. Do your best to put as many key words/phrases in your listing as you can, similar to tagging. You want to draw in as many people as you can when they do searches of the ocean of eBay listings. I STRONGLY suggest that you NOT just dump a huge group of items into the marketplace without doing the groundwork. It will sell, but this is the type of bonanza sharp buyers search for because the prices will be way below fair value, especially if you haven't structured the listing(s) to draw attention.

If you do a little work to build up a following, which doesn't really take very long with good things, you can usually rely on the market to set decent prices for you. Setting fairly low starting prices can be scary, but it draws lookers and draws bids, which has the effect of drawing more lookers and more bidders. Serious collectors, which your stuff should draw if it's in decent condition, know values and are realistic.

As said, pictures are extremely helpful, but so are careful and accurate descriptions. Give information about things like markings on the cars and pieces. Model numbers and/or serial numbers can make huge differences in values. Do not overstate condition of items. I always find that being overly careful about pointing out flaws and problems helps both build confidence and avoid hassles.
posted by uncaken at 9:02 PM on January 23, 2013

I wonder if anyone at St. Charles Model Railroad Club would be interested. They're in Missouri and have a wonderful track.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:10 PM on January 23, 2013

maximizing your profit on ebay:
take clear, bright pictures...AGAINST A WHITE BACKGROUND...they will sell for surprisingly more.

list on a thursday, ten day auction, that way it gets two full weekends of exposure and ends on a monday, when people don't feel like working at's their busiest buying day

sell them separately...up to 5 or 6 a will get more than in a huge lot...people will bid crazy money trying to keep the set together...if you use scheduled bidding (which is like 25c extra) dont start/end them all at the same instant...stagger them every 15 min or so (of course if your time is an issue, go ahead...but the smaller, more groups the better)

no minimun bid, no reserve, no 'buy it now'...i know thats scary, but trust me...getting those first bids ASAP is THE MOST looks like a super-bargain...and then they get ATTACHED...also, items with more bids move up in the rankings..even if the first bids are for pennies it will get them noticed more

every time i've used this technique, i've sold at %20 or more ABOVE retail/amazon happens

and yeah, as much information as you can provide, and end with the phrase 'Good Luck, and Happy Bidding!' (that phrase adds like 5% IIRC)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:58 AM on January 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

« Older Recommendations for therapists in the Bay Area   |   Apps for sleeping the old-fashioned way? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.