With Lionel Trains, there is a simple answer and a more complicated answer. Considering that Lionel Trains have been around for over 100 years, that there is competition from MTH (Mike’s Train House), K-Line (recently purchased by Lionel), Williams (recently purchased by Bachmann), Marx (long out of production) and improvements in technology and detail create a demand for newer trains, your old train set may command less. Most hobby shops tend to have a minimal selection of Lionel trains, and few carry them used or consignment. Today, an un-discounted, new set usually costs $180-300.
One could purchase the Kalmbach Publications
“Greenberg’s Lionel Pocket Trains Pocket Price Guide” (www.KalmbachHobbyStore.com) at about $23.00. This over 400 page comprehensive guide includes well over 11,000 entries and is updated annually. While it includes ”Excellent” and “Mint(which include original box)” prices and year(s) of manufacture. It requires you to know the product number (imprinted on the side or rubber stamped on the bottom) and has little other information.
The Krause Publications 3 volumes of Lionel Trains catalogs are more expensive, but have excellent color pictures, help identify variations and are organized by the equipment type. The Krause prices are more inflated and not updated as frequently.
Another resource could be your local “brick and mortar” hobby shop or dealers/vendors at train shows. Using eBay, Craig’s List, and auctions are options.
During the year, Arizona train shows include 2 in Tucson (just reduced from 3), 1 in Prescott Valley (“Beat The Heat Meet,”), and 6 in Phoenix plus two Region National Model Railroad Association serious modeler meets (much smaller venues). Show flyers are often available at your local hobby shop.
Dealers often are telling me that the market for Lionel trains is getting much softer. At shows, I have been able to buy Lionel cars listing at $25-35 each for $5-10. At yard sales, it is not uncommon to buy a set (locomotive and 3-4 cars) in the original box for as little $25-40.
The complicated part of the Lionel Trains value equation is the regional variables (Arizona vs the Northeast) and the condition variables. You may expect more from your train if it is clean, is lubricated and runs well, shows minimal use, has no broken or missing parts, and has the original boxes with minimal wear and tear. In the end, your Lionel Trains’ value or price is what you are willing to negotiate with the buyer.
About the author:
Dan Napoliello is a retired military nurse (30 years including Viet Nam) and retired Senior Healthcare Internal Auditor. He has been in the hobby since the 1950s and has been selling at train shows since he arrived in the valley in 1987. His expertise is in HO & N gauge trains and as a rail photographer, he has had a dozen photographs printed in national rail magazines. He and his wife Sally live in Peoria.