How To Sell Inherited Model Railway Trains & Inherited Train Collections

Mon, 09 Oct 2017, Jamie King

How to sell a model railway train collection for best value price

If your looking to sell your model railway collection, or you have inherited a model train collection and wondering how much it is worth, it's value or where is the best place to sell your inherited model railway train collection then let us give you our first hand experience of asking the same question and exploring the many possible answers to how to sell a model railway collection and where is the best place to sell model trains?

  1. Introduction
  2. Model railway valuation
  3. Sell to a high street store
  4. Sell to a 2nd hand trader
  5. Send to an auctioneers
  6. Sell on eBay
  7. Sell on other selling sites
  8. Sell on Facebook groups
  9. Sell to public at toy fairs
  10. Sell to traders at fairs
  11. Sell at car boot sales
  12. Sell to private collector
  13. Build your own website shop

Back in 2016 we inherited our late fathers model train collection, you can read our story about it here. Knowing this model railway collection had a value, we began the long road of exploring how to value our train collection, obtain valuations of what it might be worth and where the best place to sell this railway collection might be, assuming that we were going to sell it and not keep the whole inherited collection for our self. We discovered numerous possibilities each with their own suitability to specific situations, such as if you wanted a quick sale, the minimum amount of fuss or whether you wanted to maximise return. So exploring these options was merely part of the process and allowed us to make the best informed decision for our selves, with our ideals and goals in mind. I'll explain the options we had on the table and how we assessed them below.

2. How To Value A Model Railway Collection?

Because this is the most commonly asked question, we'll quickly cover it before we explore ways to sell model railway below. There's no quick and easy answer to this, apart from "its worth what someone is willing to pay for it at that time".

Model Price Finder Tool: We'd like to recommend taking a look at and using their
scale model price finder tool to get a broad idea of model prices from over 1300 model shops and 150k models (as of Sept 23). Please visit It is also a good tool for finding the best price for a model at the time.

It depends on condition, how rare or common items are, if they are boxed, what brand, what models they are of, special or limited edition. Cosmetic condition and motor running condition are different things, so it's worth test running model locomotives if you can.
You can check websites across the Internet for similar or the same items, simply search by model code, and look for online retailers of model trains or model shops across the UK. Some sites might say 'out of stock' and show no price, so check a few websites if you can.
Check the auction website eBay for items by product code and brand, importantly try and use the "Advanced search" method (look for the small text "Advanced" next to the blue search button on eBay), and tick the box "Completed listings" under the "Search including" section. This will show you realised / sold prices for items, rather than listing prices which have not yet sold. This is a much better way to get realistic prices from eBay. It's worth noting also, you might not find the item your searching for on eBay and other websites, which might lead to it being quite rare, so do a little bit more research if needed.

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Options For Selling Inherited Model Railway Collections

Below are the various options we explored while trying to decide what to do with our late fathers model railway collection.

3. Sell To A High Street Model Railway Shop

There are many high street model railway shops across the UK and Ireland, many of which make offers to buy inherited train collections. They would typically look at making an offer on your whole collection, at a rate that allows them to make a profit from selling on, which of course includes time sorting and testing the collection. Locate five or so high street model shops either locally or in the UK and ask them for an offer on your inherited model railway collection. They may ask for a list of items by email, or if they are local they may even visit you and make an onsite assessment.

  • What you need to do: Get 5+ quotes. Make a list of each model item and email to the shops, or arrange for them to visit you and make their own list.
  • The Deal: Offers will vary from each shop.
  • Benefits: Quick, whole or part collection sale. Buyer would likely collect as well.
  • Considerations: Don't take the first offer, get a few and take a few days to consider them carefully (even consult with family). Buyers will be looking to make profit from selling-on.
  • Which Shops: Try local shops near to you, otherwise buy a Hornby Magazine or Railway Modeller magazine where you will find many adverts for shops looking to buy. Also see Culcheth Model Railways, Hattons of Liverpool, Rails of Sheffield, or see this directory of UK Model Shops.

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4. Sell To A Mobile or Online Model Railway Trader

There are many model railway traders around the UK, who mainly sell at toy & train fairs or online through a website or places like eBay. Similar to high street shops, but without the physical location. You may get slightly better offers than from high street shops, but we quickly found offers varied dramatically from 'not bad' to 'you must be joking'. Traders work similar to shops, by that they buy unwanted model railway from collectors at a reduced rate with the aim of making a profit after selling on. Many deal solely in second hand stock, so offers will reflect this.

  • What you need to do: Get several offers. Make arrangements for them to visit you and make a list of the collection, or make your own list and email it to them (perhaps with pictures).
  • The deal: Offers will vary dramatically between different traders.
  • Benefits: Swift single transaction to off-load a collection, buyer would collect.
  • Considerations: Be weary of on the spot offers by visiting traders, we suggest making a note and getting back to them after receiving several other offers for consideration. We found offers varied considerably and some traders were pushier than others, taking assumption that we had little knowledge of what we had available. Some were very helpful and genuine, your own interpersonal skills are quite important here.
  • Who to consider: Best way is to attend a few local toy & train fairs and speak direct to traders. Also check model railway magazines for ads, sellers on eBay with eBay Shops or online model shops that don't have a high street premises. If you have models produced by Wrenn, also try Wrenn Model Railways or Andy Dayton at Wrenn Specialist.

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5. Send To An Auctioneers

You can find specialist auction houses in the UK that deal with collectable toys and models and attract a good audience to their auctions. Many of them even run their auctions online at the same time, so the potential target audience "in the room" is far greater than the actually auction house room. For highly collectable model railway trains, like Wrenn for example, auction houses will have a good history of their value and ensure they are selling at the right prices. Buyers are after a good deal on parts of large model railway collections and you may see prices exceed expectations. You can set a reserve on items, or the auction house will do this for you. Collections are often split into small groups of items and auctioned, this makes them more manageable and generally achieves a better return.

  • What you need to do: Make a highly detailed list of every single item, then arrange for the auction house to collect the whole collection, or arrange for it to be transported to them.
  • The deal: Typically Auctioneers take commission rates on the 'Hammer Price' from 15% to 25% + vat on that 'Commission Amount'. But they all vary so read up on the small print, or ask for an explanation. Their terms are usually 25 to 30 days after an auction for payment to arrive. It's also worth a note buyers of auction lots, pay a commission on the hammer price as well, which ranges from 20% to 25% + vat on that commission amount. So it's a double sided commission ratio.
  • Benefits: Collection is sold directly to the target audience in a vibrant auction setting, as well as nationally online via Live Auctions. There's a good potential to exceed expectations if timing and audience are right at the time. Some auction houses offer free collection and valuation right across the UK, or you can drop off / collect your items if you decide not to sell at auction.
  • Considerations: You'll need to make a list of everything you send to/drop off at a Auction house. Some auction houses say this is not essential and that they operate a honest and respectable business, which I have no doubt they do, but for peace of mind I'd write a full list. Auction commission rates will influence your return. Payments to you are made via their terms of service and not instantly (typically 25 to 30 days after auction date).
  • Which auctioneers: Here are some of the auction houses we spoke to, in no particular order: Warrick & Warrick, Vectis Auctions, Tennants, Cottees Auctioneers, Specialist Auction Services, . Also check; The Sales Room, where you'll find many auctioneers listing similar items in one place, you can contact them from there. If you have model railway items by Wrenn, you may want to find specialist auctioneers or advice from experienced Wrenn dealers.

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6. Sell On eBay

eBay is a huge selling site, probably the most used. It offers a massive audience for what your selling and all the facilities needed to list, sell and manage items your selling. There is a popular model railway section on eBay, full of deals on model trains and a broad following of buyers behind it. Your quite sure to sell on eBay if the price is right, especially if you use the auction style and start at £0.99p. However not all items will be highly sought after, so there's always a risk with low starting prices.

  • What you need to do: Photograph, price and list each item (or groups of) on eBay. Answer any questions from potential bidders, dispatch and post any sales.
  • The deal: eBay will charge you 10% of the final value (the amount it sold for), and 10% of the postage rate you set. They will also charge fees for each listing and any upgrade you applied to your listing. PayPal will then charge you £0.20p for each transaction on your account, plus 3.4% (or higher if a different currency to GBP) of the whole sale amount (sold amount + postage).
  • Benefits: Huge target audience on eBay, auction listings very popular. You can obtain high values for highly sort after models through competitive bidding.
  • Considerations: Fee's charged can be around 13% to 15% (give or take) of the sale value which includes eBay and PayPal. Buyer disputes and returns can become a hassle, even traumatic since PayPal will hold your money until its resolved (some people on eBay love to complain, and eBay loves its buyers). Listing items can take considerable time. Always send with a tracked postage service as you will need to prove the item was sent and arrived, so charge accordingly.
  • Where to sell: of course.

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7. Sell On Other Selling Sites (Gum Tree, Shpock, Preloved etc)

These days there are many other online selling platforms, we did not use any of these simply because we ruled it out as an option for us. This doesn't mean its not worth it, by all means explore the numerous online selling sites available but do some research first and see what similar items are for sale and how well they sell for.

  • What you need to do: Photograph, price and list each item (or groups of) on the site. Answer any questions from potential buyers, dispatch and post any sales.
  • The deal: It varies with each site, do some home work on each one your considering to see if its right for you.
  • Benefits: Could find local buyers easily with geographical targeting.
  • Considerations: You can get let-down from buyers not paying, ending up in wasted time. You need to find the right place to sell as some sites might not have big model railway followings.
  • Where to sell: See Gumtree, Shopck, preloved etc

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8. Sell Through Facebook Groups

Facebook is a highly popular social space, it encompasses communities of like minded people and you'll quickly find model railway trading groups on Facebook where people meet (virtually) and list items of model railway they have for sale, or want to buy. Its a niche community of exactly the target audience your after, some members will also help you with valuing items for sale or give you advice on anything you might need.

  • What you need to do: Take some pictures and make a list of the brand, model code and condition of the collection / or parts of the collection. Abide by any group rules that may be in place.
  • The deal: No fees, direct sale with the buyer. Unless you use PayPal invoicing system (£0.20p + 3.4%)
  • Benefits: Niche target audience specifically looking to buy model railway items. Low or no fee's depending on your payment preference. Good community following.
  • Considerations: Buyers can pay you as you please, be weary of using bank details. Consider using PayPal for money transactions, we suggest using PayPal invoices (fees would be £0.20p per transaction and 3.4% of the total value), however many of these groups posts will mention PayPal Friends and Family payments, but use this at your own risk since it gives you/the buyer no protection. Abide by each groups rules, otherwise you could get banned and loose a valuable platform for selling.
  • Which Facebook groups: Try Model Railway Trading | ABCD Model Railway Trading. There may be other groups, so do a Facebook search as well.

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9. Sell At Toy & Train Fairs

Toy & Trains Fairs are specialist events where people meet to buy and sell models, collectable toys, model railway and sometimes slot cars and scalextrics. They usually happen in local towns, in large venues like sports halls or community halls, attended by a far travelling number of model railway traders and an audience of railway enthusiasts looking to buy some model trains for their collection. Its a great social community event and usually well attended by the ideal target audience, simply looking to buy. Similar to a car boot sale, but specific to model railway and collectable toys. You can usually book a table for a small fee, setup your items and buyers will flock with offers in mind, you can negotiate or have fixed prices you want to sell for. Either way there are plenty of sellers there so its good to have some flexibility.

  • What you need to do: Transport some of your collection to the train fair, have an idea of prices you want to achieve or price mark each one before hand. Pay a fee to book a table in advance.
  • The deal: Pay to book a table. Cash in hand on the day, no other fees apart from travel.
  • Benefits: Direct access to target audience. Selling condensed to a single morning/afternoon on a specific date.
  • Considerations: People will likely make offers. People may ask questions about items, which you may not know the answers too. Know a rough price for items or you could loose out.
  • Which toy or train fairs: First check the UK Model Shops Events page, you might find some events near you. Also search the Internet for "Toy & Train Fairs" or "Model Railway Exhibitions" in your surrounding area. Chris Dyer Fairs host many events across Wales, Bristol and Ireland so check them out if your in that area.

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10. Sell Direct To Traders At Toy & Train Fairs

Like the above option, Sell at train fairs, but sell direct to the traders at the event who are always looking to gain fresh stock.

  • What you need to do: Take your collection (or parts of) early to a train fair and speak to traders. Have some idea of what sort of money your looking for on items or boxes.
  • The deal: Will vary from trader to trader and day to day. You may need / want to pay the event organiser a table rate as part of being given the opportunity to sell to the traders there before the event starts.
  • Benefits: Off load a great deal of item in a single morning. Cash sales in your hand.
  • Considerations: You'll be offered a reduced rate of your collections value, as traders buy in goods and markup later to make a profit. If there are a lot of traders there you may get multiple offers all at the same time, so good people skills would help otherwise it can be overwhelming. You may need to pay the event organiser something for the opportunity, but certainly contact them and ask if its ok to visit and talk to the traders - its just good ethos.
  • Finding a toy or train fair: See the above option 'Sell At Train Fairs' under 'Which toy or train fairs'.

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11. Sell At Car Boot Sales

We all love a car boot sale and model railway enthusiasts do too, especially when there's model railway around! Depending on where you are and what the model railway following is like in your area you could quickly grab the attention of would-be buyers at the car boot. While the nostalgic sound of this has a echo from the past, this way be a very slow way to off load an inherited model railway collection and it may take many car-boots and rainy days to get shot of. Your return might vary based on how good at negotiating you are and how popular the items are. For us car boots and dodging the rain wasn't our cup of tea, so we ruled this one out, but it is of course another option.

  • What you need to do: Get up early, setup a stand and have an idea of an asking price for items. Negotiate with would be buyers. Plan how many car boots you want to attend and until when (until the collection is gone or just some of it)
  • The deal: Likely cash sales, made over the table, so the sky's your limit! Cost of pitch likely.
  • Benefits: Low cost, good return potential.
  • Considerations: Sounds simple, but preparation is often under estimated. Early starts, often outside locations. May take you a long time to sell a large collection. Strong negotiating skills ideal.
  • Where: Look for a car boot sale near you.

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12. Sell To A Private Collector

You can of course find a single individual who doesn't have enough model railway trains and sell the whole lot to them [humour; because no true model railway collector has enough trains already!]. If you ask any railway modeller they will likely tell you they can never have enough model trains (their partners usually disagree). If you can find such an individual with some money to spare you might get a good deal, since your selling to a collector who understands the value and its a trader looking to just resell and make a profit. Equally the collection would be going to someone passionate about model railways, which of course has a nice ethics behind it. (If you need to create your own invoice to keep a record of a sale, perhaps this free PDF invoice template will help. Its one I made myself, just visit the website, download the PDF invoice file and fill in the details needed.)

  • What you need to do: Find someone, that's likely the hardest part. Arrange for an inspection of the collection and start discussions.
  • The deal: Could vary between collectors.
  • Benefits: Selling to someone who already collects model railway, single transaction and off-load of collection, going to a good home (hopefully).
  • Considerations: The smaller the collection, the easier it may be to find a collector wanting to buy. Don't just sell to anyone and take the right steps and pre-cautions before handing over goods / money.
  • How to find collectors: We found this difficult at first, but once we sang 'Model Railways' through the streets we attracted the odd enthusiasts like a magnet. This is really about knowing the right people, so may require some networking and socialising. Talk to model shop owners who'll know their customers, visit a train fair and speak to the organisers or people buying, track down some model railway community groups and clubs and ask if you can visit on a club night.

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13. Last but not least: Build Your Own Online Shop!

Finally, all else fails, do what we did!
It was our decision to sell our late fathers inherited model railway collection through our own online shop, which we built and marketed ourselves. Fortunately, one of us was a web developer by day and understood Internet based marketing. We launched this site in 2016 and has grown steadily since.

  • What you need to do: An online shop (you can employ a web developer to build you an online shop - or you can build your own using a DIY Site / Shop Builder), photograph items, list items, price items, manage stock, post and pack orders, manage customers, market the website on the web.
  • The deal: If using PayPal to process your payments its £0.20p per transaction and 3.4% of the total value (stc). Cost of setting up a website and purchase of domain & hosting.
  • Benefits: If you can build a website yourself (and there are many self builder apps these days, as well as simple 1-click installers) you can reduce the setup cost and minimise your online payment processing fee's. You can create a family business that can generate a small income over a period of time. You will achieve one of the better returns on the inherited collection. Stock control system so you can digitally log everything you have and manage it appropriately.
  • Considerations: Building an online shop isn't an easy task, despite being very rewarding. It's a great deal of work and an understanding of how web stores, computers and search engines work will be a benefit. You will have to comply with distance selling acts and customer data protection. You could hire a professional web designer, ask a friend who can design websites or build a website yourself using an opensource web building software like Wordpress & WooCommerce, OpenCart, Magento, or use a Web Builder App like Shopify, Wix, GoDaddy or similar.
  • Where to build your own website: You could hire a website designer, which would cost a considerable amount of money. You could setup your own website using a 'website builder' like Shopify, Wix, or GoDaddy who provide user friendly online systems to self build websites.

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We hope you found this article useful and informative. If you have any feedback or suggestions of other places to sell, or people, shops, auction houses etc that are worth a mention please let us know. We based this article on our own experience of inheriting a large model railway collection and going through the motions of figuring out where and how we could sell it. We explored each of the options above and have provided our own accounts from that experience. We encourage you to make your own opinions and decisions based on your own experience and understandings. 

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