Sales among experienced model railroaders tend to be quick, because both buyers and sellers are familiar with pricing, so a “good deal” is easy to recognize, as is a super-bargain, and as is a “non-starter.”
But sellers of “found” or inherited equipment tend to over-value their collections simply because they are old or have an intriguing or even “cute” appearance. Barring the most exceptional, rare, museum quality items, “vintage” is rarely an advantage. The market of buyers is, for the most part, made up of operators. That is, people who run the trains. To them, “vintage” means there will be a cost to upgrade the equipment. And that cost may be from $2 to $5 for a simple boxcar.
Vast collections and entire, built up layouts present a special set of problems all their own. With rare exception, finding a buyer who will somehow cut the layout into sections and cart it away is nearly impossible. It presents the same physical challenge as selling an in-ground swimming pool, complete with the water, pumps and filtration system. It can be done, but the cost of so doing factors heavily on the sale price because a quick, clean, and competent take-down is a valuable service, even if the equipment is put in storage and not on the market.
So, assuming that you lean toward a “wholesale” transaction with a reputable buyer, how can you get your best price? We’ll assume that your equipment is, for the most part, in good condition: the locomotives run well, the scenic structures are well assembled, etc. If such is the case, the most important actions you can undertake to assure a prompt sale at a decent price are these:
- Do the take-down yourself.
- Organize and classify equipment.
- Do not worry about cleaning off debris from track or dust from locos and car. The buyer will handle those tasks.
- Prepare an accurate inventory. Include photos of engines and rolling stock, which may show them in groups of 6 to a dozen or so.
- Pack the equipment properly to withstand shipping, or facilitate a local pickup.
The most tedious part of this work is the inventory, but it need not be a detailed item-by-item census. The experienced hobbyist will instinctively know what to mention. Below is a chart of key points which may be helpful. These are not etched in stone – just suggestions.