Estate Collection Advice?

sonofzell Jan 28, 2019

  1. sonofzell

    sonofzell TrainBoard Member

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    Greetings,

    With the passing of my parents earlier this year, I've been tasked with the significant job of dealing with the handling of their respective estates. This also includes the estate of my grandfather, who passed on in 2010, but whose estate was never even officially opened.

    Needless to say, 2018 has been a busy year! I am just now getting to the final (and most comprehensive) component of my list: Pop-Pop's massive collection of model trains. While the sentiment of my grandfather's most treasured possessions is not lost on me, I simply did not inherit his love for railroading (nor had my father), and his collection greatly exceeds my resources for caring for it. To date, I am still paying for a full-size storage unit in which the majority of the collection still resides while I transfer what I can to my own home to sort through.

    So, guilty conscience aside, the hard fact is that this collection will ultimately be offered for sale, be it piecemeal or to a "bulk" collector or store. The obvious challenge is that, given my lack of knowledge about model railroading, determining the condition, rarity & value of these items will be quite a challenge. I've come to realize that this endeavor will certainly take some time (a lot more than I originally estimated, to be honest), but in the interest of efficiency, I have created a website on which I am adding items as they are unboxed and inventoried. So far, the vast majority of the items are HO gauge, which has prompted suggestion by other trainboard users that I post in this thread.

    Essentially, I am humbly inviting anyone reading this to view the collection as I inventory it. While it's a bit primitive, albertzwilliams.com is up-and-running for public access. As stated, I am not yet in a position to actually offer these trains for sale, so forgive the commercial appearance of the site (it just made sense to me to not have to re-design it if/when they are offered for sale or bid). Please note that, because of the sheer number of items I have to sort through, I have been trying to inventory things as quickly as possible. All items have been photographed exactly as they were found, with no clean-up or staging. If there are any items with obvious flaws, wear or damage to my untrained eye, I will certainly make an effort to illustrate in detail with photos or descriptions. That being said, I do not have a layout set-up, nor do I have the means to establish one anytime soon, so I have NOT tested the operability of any items.

    So, aside from the hope that some of these trains may become "conversation pieces" here (nothing would make pop-pop happier!), I suppose the "advice" I'm seeking would be any identification or supplemental information on anything I list on the website. The dating, models, and in some cases even manufacturer of these trains is being collected via Google, so some inaccuracies are likely, although 100% unintentional. I realize that offering nothing more than the "privilege" to browse through my inheritance isn't really a fair "ask" here; but if there is specific interest in anything listed, you'd certainly be considered "first in line" once I get to the point of selling. I've also added a "subscription" form for anyone that would like to be notified via email when new items are added (the collection posted as of 28 Jan represents just 19 of 100+ boxes).

    Thanks for enduring my rambling here, and thanks in advance for any guidance you may have to offer. Even simple things like correcting a date/model or "pairing" items that may be related would be a huge help, and very much appreciated. In time, I'd also really love to add some content about my Grandfather and his legacy as a true lover of all things railroad (although I do confess - cutting out this monthly storage bill is the top priority for now). If you've got any insights to share, please feel free to contact me here, or via email at kirkkwilliams[at]hotmail.com.

    Thanks for your time!

    Best,

    Kirk
     
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    What he might have accumulated, may for the most part have minimal value. Most frequently, folks are disappointed by sale returns. Usually there are a mere hand full of items collectors might desire. Enjoyment and sentimental value to him might have been the most part of his accumulation. I'll take a look, just for fun.
     
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  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I saw a lot of post-1969 Lionel. Collectible, yes. But less sought than the Post-War, (1945-1945 era), and earlier. I see steam engines, but without a tender. If you have the matching tender, pair them up for better results. I have seen many times where selling them separately irks and turns away some folks. Also many "common" items. Value? Some, but usually low return.

    Condition for what I am seeing, so far, is well above the average. That is a big plus.

    Overall, what you have is better than many accumulations I have seen. You might reach out to the Train Collectors Association and see who they know, doing such as auctions or estate sales. This may be the simplest way for you, should you dispose of these.
     
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  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I noticed that you have two Lionel 2457 Pennsylvania Tinplate Cabooses #477618. One has the expected two trucks beneath and is of normal appearance:

    upload_2019-1-29_10-12-48.png

    The other below has a cobbled-together appearance and is missing its window transparancies, stack and underside details. I'm not a Lionel expert, but this one is likely worth very little.

    upload_2019-1-29_10-10-7.png
     
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  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I saw one which was a home made "flat car". It looked to me as though once the base of a Lionel crane car, minus everything else.
     
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  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Your Lionel 2321 Lackawanna Trainmaster is the grey roof version, made between 1954 and 1956. I see that it has a broken handrail, but these units remain desirable and sell for $100 to $150.

    The good news on Lionel parts for older items is that many hundreds of them are replicated, are inexpensive and of excellent quality. A broken or missing part may reduce a selling price, but won't render an item worthless. Lionel parts for older items can be found on the Internet or at train shows. I buy mine at train shows so that I can learn from the Vendors and have been very pleased with my purchases.

    By the way, I agree 100% with what Boxcab wrote above.
     
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  7. sonofzell

    sonofzell TrainBoard Member

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    Ah, yes - the "matching" of items has definitely been a challenge with my limited knowledge. I won't bore you with the details, but I needed to remove these items from his home very hastily; items that were actively on his layout or on his display shelves were packed up separately, and I'm sure there are a lot of associated items that I just haven't connected yet. There's several boxes of empty boxes likely belonging to those "loose" cars. This is another reason I'm hesitant to start selling anything until I've had a chance to go through it all; if I've mis-matched anything, it's certainly not intentional and I'd like to sort it all out before offering it out.

    Pop-pop was incredibly organized, and loved his trains as much as anything, so if anything I'm actually surprised that some of these aren't in better condition than they are. As his collection shows, he was also a big fan of repainting or customizing cars to suit his fancy - I'm certain that all but kills any "collectible" values. Sadly, the few pieces that I've found to be damaged are almost certainly a result of my hasty cleanout. :(

    Thank you for the suggestion - I will definitely look into this more closely! I am not overly concerned with maximizing the sale value of these trains, but at the same time I'd like to avoid giving away some hidden "gem" simply because of my ignorance of the value. I've been advised over and over to "just take it all to a local train shop", but I can't imagine how anyone could evaluate a collection of this size until I'm able to get everything inventoried.

    Thanks so much for your time and advice - I sincerely appreciate it!!! I have about 100 more items that should be posted in the next 24 hours.

    Best,

    Kirk
     
  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Your Lionel 2360 GG-1 is also a desirable model and was produced in the late 1950s. These sell for $200 to $300 and sometimes even higher depending on condition. It appears that the pilot steps on your model were handpainted with yellow paint which may diminish its worth somewhat.

    Your Lackawanna Tranmaster and PRR GG-1 are two "gems" that you should be aware of. There may be others. I know little about Lionel prewar, but I see some items there that might be worth setting aside for pricing research.

    By the way, if you have boxes for your prewar and postwar trains, they'll further enhance your selling prices.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
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  9. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    When I thinned out our family Lionel, I contacted several collection resellers. I found them to be courteous, but their offers to purchase were 40% to 50% of current retail item worth. They're businesspeople and I respect the need for a margin to cover their risk and cost to resell. In the end, I chose to do it all through eBay and did well. But, the pre-work for eBay selling is time-consuming and is not for everyone.
     
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  10. country joe

    country joe TrainBoard Member

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    I would recommend a price guide like this:

    https://www.some train store.com/ka...MI_eD-jriT4AIVkobACh2uEASTEAQYASABEgIVf_D_BwE

    It will give you an idea of what each Lionel item it worth. The prices listed should be taken as a reasonable suggestion, not an absolute, but it gives you an idea value.

    If you sell to a collector or dealer expect about 40 to 50% of the retail value. The reseller is in business to make money. I would be careful with selling to a local train shop. Some are honest and others aren't. I can recommend Trainz.com. They will offer you about 50% of the market value but they are reputable and won't lowball you. The advantage of selling this way is that you can sell the whole collection very quickly and painlessly. Trainz will pay for shipping to them.

    If you sell on eBay you can get considerably more for the collection but it takes time and effort. Each item must be photographed and accurately described, packed and shipped. This is a big undertaking for a collection this large but definitely doable. Keep in mind that in any dispute eBay always takes the side of the buyer over the seller. I've sold quite a few train and other items on eBay, though not in the last 3 or 4 years, and most transactions were very positive. It is important to accurately describe each item, take good photographs, and list it properly. I've seen items listed in the wrong category and they either don't sell or go for very low prices because most who would be interested never see the item.

    If you decide to go with eBay I would suggest listing your trains individually for most, as sets where appropriate, like a steam engine and tender or a set of passenger cars, and selling by auction rather than for a fixed price. Take some time to learn about eBay and expect to make some mistakes with the first couple of items you sell.
     
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  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Do not further consider such an option. This is a huge mistake, which too many make. Doing so almost absolutely ensures a minimal return for you. They will give you the smallest amount for it, pretending that you are "wholesaling" it to them, or pretending it is almost inconvenient for them to do the work involved with selling on your behalf. If money is meaningless, and what you have is merely a nuisance, then OK. Otherwise, do not accept such ignorant "advice". I will refrain from describing those "people" who offer such a foolish suggestion to you! :mad:
     
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  12. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    It may not be a "foolish" suggestion depending upon the heir's particular situation.
    If the OP wants to stop paying for the storage unit and doesn't have sufficient free space to temporally store the trains and/or wants to get some money for them immediately, then selling the lot to a local train shop may be the best option.
    How much time and effort does the OP want to expend reselling the collection and where upon the risk versus return continuum does he reside?
     
  13. sonofzell

    sonofzell TrainBoard Member

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    Excellent point (no pun intended lol), and I appreciate the perspective. At this time, however, I am inclined to mirror @BoxcabE50's sentiments and avoid a quick, bulk sell-off. Aside from the nagging guilt I'm already shouldering by "liquidating" my grandfather's treasures, I sort of feel like I've already invested too much time, money and effort to take the path of least resistance NOW.

    That being said, my feelings may change at some point, depending on how long and labor-intensive this becomes. I just had a similar experience with my father's collection of firearms - about 55 in total. I felt the pressure of every gun shop owner I talked to (as if I was swimming in a pool of sharks), and avoided them at first. After selling about a dozen individuals, I did finally concede and ended up selling the remainder to a local vet-owned gunsmith who had advised me in evaluating the items (and WASN'T a shark). I estimate that I probably shorted myself a couple thousand dollars by doing so, but after a few months in the amateur arms trade, its a decision I don't regret.

    As intimidating as this task is becoming, at least the trains don't come with the safety and legal considerations of storing a bunch of guns, so hopefully I'll be able to commit to a longer endeavor in finding them new homes. :)
     
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  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I did consider the time and effort factor.

    Also, this is very different from the gun world. In this instance, having at one time been a serious collector and operator of these specific trains, the difference in dollars can be quite spectacular. Something akin to simply throwing away a large portion of what is at hand. Yikes.

    And this is also why I suggested trying the TCA. There are specific professionals, hopefully you can find one nearby your location, very familiar with tinplate and who will take on selling such accumulations. (These persons are also a better route than just going to an every day auction house.) You will pay a significant amount for such work. But far, far less money gone than going the store dump route.
     
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  15. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I see that you have a Lionel 6445 Fort Knox Gold Bouillon Car, which is another neat model that you may want to recognize. These sell for $25 to $50 depending on condition.
     
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  16. sonofzell

    sonofzell TrainBoard Member

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    Again, I want to sincerely thank all of you for taking the time to reply with your helpful advice! As I continue to make my way through this collection (I'm up to 1,000 items and still going strong), I've gathered some random questions that I thought I'd float out here... If anyone has any insight to share, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

    These are in no particular order, and I suspect that some may seem silly (or downright stupid) to experienced rail fans, so apologies in advance if my ignorance bleeds through lol.

    - Railroads/Road Names: Is there a simple source of info on the relationship between similar road names? In order to try to organize this collection, I am attempting to catalog this attribute to allow for searching. As I progress, I've found myself combining similar names (Illinois Central vs Illinois Terminal, Penn vs Penn Central, Erie vs Erie Lackawanna, etc). I suppose a more appropriate question to ask before I do too much research may be "is this something collectors even care about? Should I expect people to come looking for a specific railroad's items?".

    - Price Guides & Catalogs: Thanks to this community, I've got several great recommendations on publications. I've been surprised (and frustrated) however, that I haven't found ANYTHING available electronically. While I have no problem parting with $20 for a useful guide, I'd also love to find something with general descriptions of these items that could be copied to my website - transcribing by hand just is NOT an option considering the length of my to-do list already.

    - Condition: I've also decided to begin offering my "uneducated assessment" of the condition of these trains to better understand what I'm dealing with. I've decided to use the TCA Grading Standards for three reasons:
    1. I've seen these "C-x" ratings used frequently in auction and sale listings
    2. The criteria is simple and seems dummy-proof (I may not know how engines run, but I know what rust is lol)
    3. It does not seem to factor in operability, which is a major challenge as I really don't have the means to test-run anything.
    So the question is: before I invest more in using this grading scale, is using this guide advisable/acceptable?

    - "K" Trains: Kusan / Kris / KMT / K-Line... Are these all variants of the same manufacturer? Which, if any, should I list as unique makes for search purposes?

    - Lionel 6464 "Variations": I've learned a little about this particular series, and I've found a few dozen so far in Pop-Pop's collection. With so many variations of each, I'm curious: Are particular variants something that buyers will care about or that will significantly affect their value/desirability?

    - Lionel Dating: Similar to above, I've found that most Lionel products seem to indicate a manufacture date on the cars themselves. Other than some obvious exceptions (some say "BLT 1-42", but are obviously all-plastic 1990's pieces), is it reasonable for me to use these markings for dating? To date, if I research a product and the stamping falls within the "years manufactured" range, that's what I've been going with.

    - Duplicate Items: Okay, this is really just personal curiosity, but I'm amazed at how many duplicate items I've found in this collection. Is it typical for collectors to have two, three or more of the exact same item, or was Pop-Pop just a fanatical "pack rat"?

    - "Mint Condition": I am trying to be as honest and accurate as possible with the condition assessments mentioned above; so far, I have not graded anything "C10". There are several items that appear (to me) to never have been fully unpackaged or used. They still have cardboard inserts in the wheels and often have small rubber bands around the trucks and/or couplers. I myself have not removed these particular cars from their clear plastic bags, although I have no way of knowing if Pop-Pop did so to admire them when he bought them. Is it fair to assess these as "Brand New", or is it a safer bet to stay with the "C9" designation based on them not being run after purchase?

    - Photography: For rolling stock, I have been simply trying to get legible photos of each item - clearly showing the full item, with a close-up from an upward angle (I've found this serves a few purposes - showing detail of the metal surfaces on the frame, rivets, door rails and wheels, as well as showing more detail of the finish, and finally getting a good shot of the date stamp). If there is any blemish or damage, I also try to detail that as well... the challenge as it relates to my current urgency is that items with more than two images can't be bulk-imported into the website, so the time/effort factor increases significantly. Since I've just recently seen the back wall of my storage unit for the first time since moving day, I'm more determined than ever to empty it and get rid of this huge monthly bill. I guess my question here (and it may be primarily for engines) is if there are any other particular areas of items that I should be paying attention to when taking photos?

    - "Yes, Virginia..." One more, admittedly obtuse question (feel free to laugh if you want): I've found several items with "Viginian" branding. Is this an actual railroad or some product brand?

    Again, I am extremely grateful for this community's help! Sincere thanks in advance for any insights!

    Best,

    Kirk
     
  17. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Kirk,

    Rail merger history gets pretty complex, but you might wish to try this URL to start. It covers past mergers of today's mega-systems.

    http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroad-history?q=family+tree&start=&end=&topics=&tags=

    Your strategy to combine road names is a good one. I've sold a number of such "packages" on eBay and it's worked very well to move a greater volume of cars and engines.

    Yes, there was a Virginian Railroad, a superbly engineered coal hauler. It was merged into the Norfolk & Western in 1959. The N&W is part of today's Norfolk Southern.

    You may want to check your local library for Lionel books. My local system has a bunch. I'm not a Lionel expert, but they're somewhat old and the pricing within their pages is optimistic in this era. Nonethelsss, they'll give you a notion as to what pieces are valuable and you can visit eBay and review Completed Sales to determine current pricing.

    As for current Guides, Greenberg's Lionel Trains Pocket Price Guide 1901-2019 book is only $22.00 and might be of value to you:

    https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/catalog/books?filters=af00a733ff2445e5b63eec01eee6595d
    https://www.tmbv.com/Hobby-Books/products/1010/

    By the way, it's probably the slowness of my Internet connection, but your website takes ten minutes or more to fill in all of the photos. It's okay, but I thought you might want to know.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  18. sonofzell

    sonofzell TrainBoard Member

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    Yikes! That's unacceptable load time by any standard. I really haven't "opened it up" to anyone other than this board and a few select people, but I'll definitely have another look at the speed. I'll have it cached and optimized for sure before I "go live". Thank you for the heads-up.

    The Greenberg guide definitely seems to be the gold standard, and I do have a paperback copy on order that should arrive today. I still expect it to be a challenge, as the overwhelming opinion seems to be that the guide is heavily overpriced but still accurate in terms of relativity. From my limited research and feedback from others, my understanding is that:

    Assuming my item(s) are in "New" or "mint" condition, I can expect my Grandfather's collection to be valued between 60-75% of the Greenberg suggestion. My initial impression is that rarity is not going to be a factor with the inventory I have, which leaves condition as the major variable (and obviously my biggest challenge given my lack of knowledge). Although it remains pretty far down on my to-do list, my plan as of now is to start with a small selection of popular items (with a lot of comparable references sales), use the 60-75% target as my baseline, and adjust accordingly until I get a feel for where I'm at in the supply/demand curve.

    I've also been talking with a woman on the TCA board; I can't yet say exactly how much guidance they are going to offer, but I'm grateful for any assistance I can get.

    Thanks again for the feedback!

    K

    P.S. - I don't know if you've visited the site in the last 48 hours, but I did change some of the code yesterday that seemed to improve the load times (albeit slightly) for me. I've got another 100 or so items going up today/tonight (including some old G scale); I'd be curious to see if your experience remains that slow.
     
  19. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Load speed could be due to the size of your photos. What are they? TIFF? JPG? Do you have lot packed onto one page? Or many individual, smaller pages?

    The multiples in his collection may be a of pack rat. Or he might have just been having fun with it all. Hard to say.

    Variants. Sometimes worth a little more, others a lot more. The original 6464 series, (1945-1969 era), are remain fairly popular.
     
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  20. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    My wife suggested the same thing, thinking that perhaps they might be large size JPGs.
     

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