New and need advice

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by dennis_O, May 15, 2005.

  1. dennis_O

    dennis_O New Member

    Hey all, newbie here...

    I am new to trains (specifically O scale - sort of trying to relive my youth when my father set up tracks for me and my sister). I am always looking for "deals". As I am still just trying to build up a collection and do not know much, I spend a decent amount of time on ebay. I came across the following seller who is selling a variety of different train cars, accessories and stuff....

    (a bunch of different things are listed from this person but the train auctions are what I am looking at)

    I was wondering if anyone can shed some light on some of these. Any possible "deals" here?

  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


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  3. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Hi Dennis,

    Welcome! You're exactly in the spot I was in a couple of years ago.

    Some advice: See if you can track down a copy of O'Brien's Collecting Toy Trains Identification and Value Guide, fifth edition. While it's a bit dated, it'll give you an idea what something is worth, and it gives you a variety of manufacturers in one place. That'll help keep you from getting into a bidding frenzy and overpaying for common cars (which I've done). I still see the O'Brien guide in bookstores and it's in a lot of libraries too. The Greenberg and TM (McComas) guides are more current but also a lot more specialized.

    Also, if you know what you like, try to stick with it. My biggest mistake was running all over the place. Lionel, Marx, prewar American Flyer, Ives... If I liked the looks of it, I bid on it. I won a lot of it. But without knowing much about it, I ended up with a weird mishmash of stuff and not all of it worked together. Buying the stuff you remember from your youth is a good idea. You already have an emotional attachment to it and know something about it. There's plenty of time to branch out after you've tracked down everything on your must-have list within your specialty.

    Be careful with deals. Parts lots tend to attract a lot of bids from people who like fixer-uppers, so there's more competition for parts lots than for common stuff in working condition. A lot of stuff that starts out as a bargain stops being one quickly. I have mixed feelings about items with missing parts. Reproduction parts are frequently available but they usually aren't cheap. It's easy to spend $20 on parts for a common car you picked up for 99 cents plus $4 shipping. That's great if the car is then worth $50, but not so great when the restored car is worth $15. If you have the patience to hoard problem cars and then just fix them out of your growing pool of parts, it can work.

    The best deals for someone starting out are good examples of common pieces you find attractive. Get a couple of working trains, get a nice track plan and put together a small layout (a 4x8 table or two is good) to run them on. You'll learn a ton and then you can start trying to pile up some fixer-uppers and stuff like that.

    If you have a specific interest (Postwar Lionel, late 1930s American Flyer, Marx, post-1970 Lionel, etc.) let us know. I can point you in the direction of more specialized information.
  4. dennis_O

    dennis_O New Member

    Thanks for the advice Dave - I am still new all around and trying to find a good place to start collecting/building. I will look for that book as a starting point. I do like the older "look" so it may help me focus on what I want and can afford. Thanks again.
  5. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    No problem, Dennis. By "old," I presume you mean the stuff from the late 1930s, as opposed to postwar? The late prewar American Flyer like you posted is somewhat affordable--at least the cars are. Some of the locomotives are pricey because problems in the die-casting process caused some parts to deterriorate. But it's possible to find something that'll work without breaking the bank. And if worse comes to worse, you can adapt a Lionel or Marx locomotive that looks the part so that it can pull a consist of AF cars. Marx knew a good idea when it stole one, and came out with a competing line around the same time. The Marx stuff is cheaper still.

    It's an interesting era, and one that's often overlooked, so that helps keep prices down. It does a nice job of bridging the gap between the pure tinplate toys of the 1920s and earlier and the scale realism that was gaining a following at the time.

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