Train Values

People ask what Lionel trains are worth. For me value is in the fun with the family.   I tinker and fix.  I get many non running and make them run like new.  Grand kids love to run the train.  Many adults love to run the train also.   

For economic value I see there are 3 factors.  Condition, Availability and Demand.  I call it C.A.D. 

Condition is key.  Too many people forget this.  Oh it's old, it's Lionel, it's valuable, well maybe. As condition goes down from the top level "New In Box" class, price drops dramatically.  Even small scratches may drop the value of an item quickly.   Think of an old used car.  If paint is bad and not running, you may not be able to give it away.  

Availability.  I list availability since scarcity and rarity are very subjective when it comes to Lionel.  People start inventing reasons things are scarce. 

Example a current trend is to find out if the painted tender body has a single color plastic underneath or "multi-color" thinking the multi-color is something special.  Nope.  Lionel was a business.  With plastic injection molding you have leftover plastic in gates and sprues.   The same as the plastic pieces that held the model car or airplane parts you used to glue together as a kid.   When you get enough of this left over plastic, you put it all in the melt and use it.  Since it could come from 1 or more colors, you end up with a multi-color plastic body.  Paint over it and who cares, until someone thinks it is special.  

Demand.  If 50 people want an item and there are 49 or less available, demand may be high.  If 50 people want an item and 51 or more are available, demand is low.   Demand varies.  Lionel was a top "toy"maker in the world in the 1950's.   Availability is still strong, Lionel made a lot of trains. Many people took care of them or lovingly stored them away.   Supply is still abundant for many items after 1946. 

Collector value is a never ending study and like the stock market, you can get burned.

Why does a scale model 1950 773 engine and tender rate a high value?  That one is obvious, it is a top end engine only supplied 1 year.   Why don't the newer versions rate a similar value? They aren't the original and the original was a "better" quality in most cases.

Why does a cheap 1959 Black Lionel Lines tanker with a Circle L that came with an Alaskan set demand up to $100 or more? Many of the other tankers from the period are worth $15 or less?

Availablilty and Demand.   People want to recreate the Alaskan set and the car was made only 1 year. 

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Last update Mar 21 2022