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Does A Model Train Collector Have To Actually Run His Trains?

Mar 12, 2008
Believe it or not there is a difference between Model Train enthusiasts and Model Train collectors. A subtle one for sure, but a difference nonetheless! Collectors are more interested in owning and displaying hard to come by prototypes or items of value rather then the art of recreating a diorama or prototype themselves.

Collectors exist for almost every object and hobby in the world. They're the ones who drive the costs of that first-issue Batman comic through the roof and the ones who simply 'must have' that rare item that no one else really cares about just because of the fact that it is rare.

Collectors are the people who ultimately set values and the standards used to grade the equipment. They spend great amounts of time learning historical facts about the various model trains and other model railroading equipment. They're a good thing for the hobby, and in reality the majority of them aren't satisfied just displaying their equipment - they actually run them on operational model railroad layouts.

Some of the model train companies, such as Lionel Trains, even sponsor collectors groups for their historic equipment. If you're interested in learning more about a particular type of train, there are probably clubs you can join.

One of the things these groups do is create standards by which equipment can be rated. The equipment is often rated separately from the packaging it came in, if the box is still intact, and those that are still in the original box, never having been removed, fetch the highest prices.

Model Train Grading

* NEW - To qualify as new the item must be all original and unused, preferably never removed from its packaging.

* LIKE NEW - This grade indicates that the model train is as good as new, but may have been used and removed from its packaging in the past.

* EXCELLENT - No rust, dirt or other types of damage but almost certainly used at some point.

* VERY GOOD - Could have a bit of wear but no damage, rust or other blemishes.

* GOOD - Could be some minor damage such as scratches, and other signs of normal wear but no rust or major damage.

* FAIR - Some damage and wear, possibly scratched but still working well.

* POOR - Suitable only for parts and possible not working.

How Packaging Is Graded

* NEW - Original packaging in the original condition with no damage or fading.

* LIKE NEW - Some wear possible, but no major issues.

* EXCELLENT - Packaging is complete but may show signs of wear.

* VERY GOOD - Minor damage possible, maybe even some tape for repairs but still complete.

* GOOD - Some elements may be missing, some wear and possibly even minor mildew damage.

* FAIR - Missing pieces, tears and discoloration are all likely.

* R - A non-original or replica.

Knowing these grades and having some money to spend will give you a big headstart on collecting model trains. Pick your favorite era or brand and dive right in. Just keep in mind that a collection's value is in the eyes of the collector - it may not be the best investment!
About the Author
Author Bill Murphy writes about train scenery building and other Model Railway subjects at TheModelRailroader.com. Surf over to http://www.themodelrailroader.com to get your a free copy of my report "Model Railroad Design Secrets"
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