How and where to sell Hornby trains and model trains


It takes much hard work, effort and dedication to create a model railway collection. Loved and cherished by those who have them, they come in all shapes and sizes and often contain a wide variety of makes or models.

As one of the leading international providers of model railway valuations, we are frequently asked about the best place to sell model trains by new and old customers.

Whether you want to sell Hornby trains or models that have been manufactured by other well-known brands, we know that choosing to offload them has probably been a very difficult decision.

We often field enquiries from people who have inherited a much-loved collection or a large quantity of items who simply do not have enough space to display them. On other occasions, we are contacted by collectors who recognise that the time is right to pass their model railway collection on - so that someone else can cherish and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

Whatever your reason for selling, we hope this article will provide you with some helpful and authoritative advice about how to sell model trains for the maximum possible realisation.

Know what you’re selling before you do!

Before deciding on where the best place to sell your trains might be, it’s important to have some knowledge about the items that are in your possession - and what they could potentially be worth.

Note down the manufacturer and the model, which can usually be found on the bottom, and try to determine its scale. Now you can use the internet or a specialist book like Ramsay’s British Model Trains Catalogue to get a rough idea of its value.

Regardless of where you eventually choose to sell, some simple research of this nature will go a long way to helping you achieve the best possible return.

Eight popular ways to sell your model trains

There are a number of possible places where you can sell model trains. Each avenue has its own pros and cons – and not all of them will be suitable for your needs.

In our experience, it’s a good idea to research all of them thoroughly before making an informed decision based on your own personal preference.

Online auction sites

Popular auction sites like eBay are good for making sure your items are exposed to an interested and extensive audience.

Depending on your viewpoint, and how much effort you want to put into a sale, you’ll either think online auction sites are brilliant or a chore.

Basically, this type of sale involves you doing all of the work including taking photographs, writing a description, setting a suitable price, corresponding with any prospective bidders before the auction finishes, liaising with the buyer afterwards, wrapping the item and arranging the postage or courier service.

After doing all of this, you may end up getting a good price for a rare piece, but more common items often sell at moderate levels.

To stand a fair chance of getting the best possible return you will need to be absolutely accurate and honest in your description – especially regarding condition. Specify the type of motor your train has (engine or tender drive), indicate how it runs, whether it’s been serviced or repaired and upload at least four photographs (front, rear, right and left view) of the item.

Online auction site buyers appreciate honesty, so always list the faults, damage or shortcomings of all your items – no matter how minor they may be.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when you sell model trains via an online auction site. Sometimes people will enter into a bidding war for certain pieces, on other occasions, valuable items struggle to find a buyer. You just never know. If you don’t want to lose something for 99p, it’s vital to place a ‘reserve price’ on your pieces – this is the minimum amount you’re willing to accept.

Even if you don’t want to sell your Hornby trains online, you can use eBay and other auction sites as a research tool to see how much people are asking for items similar to yours.

Dealers and hobby shops

Dealers are a great way to offload model trains quickly and easily but bear in mind that this ease comes at a cost – and you’ll need to be willing to sell at a price that gives the buyer a healthy profit margin.

A good dealer or hobby shop will normally offer less than half of an item’s true market value and, if they offer 50 per cent you’re getting a good deal! This is because they have to factor in any repairs or work that may need doing, parts, their time (to clean and test run it) as well as any other general overheads.

It may be possible to get a slightly better deal if you accept a store credit instead of a cash exchange, but do not expect to achieve the best possible realisation when using the services of a dealer. Convenience is their main competitive advantage.

Advertise in the model railway press

Taking out an advertisement in the ‘small ads’ section of Railway Modeller or Hornby Magazine can be a good way to reach like-minded collectors and enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, these are expensive and you may have to field enquiries from time-wasters and dealers who want to acquire your items for a fraction of their true market value. On the up side, there are a lot of genuine buyers (trade, retail and collectors) who read these publications.

Advertise in local press

Although local papers can be a good place to list items for sale (often for free), they’re not aimed specifically at model railway enthusiasts so it may be difficult to achieve the best result.

Model Railway Exhibitions & Toy Fairs

Model railway exhibitions are always guaranteed to attract an enthusiastic audience - as well as a number of dealers who are willing to buy quality second-hand model trains.

If you want to sell your Hornby trains or any other items of model railway memorabilia, toy fairs and events often see the public turn out in force. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that they will put their hands in their pockets.

Below are five of the most popular model railway events in the UK:

  • Exmoor Coast Railway Modellers
  • Irish Railway Record Society (London area)
  • Ivanhoe Model Railway Society
  • Leamington and Warwick Model Railway Society
  • Stowmarket Railway Club

Even if you are not able to successfully sell your model trains at an event like this, they’re still a great place to meet like-minded individuals who might share your passion for the railways.

They are also another good place to discover the retail prices being asked for various makes and models in a range of conditions.

Specialist internet forums

Forums are frequented by specialist collectors on a regular basis, but a lot of these people are often looking for newer models at low prices or seeking cheap deals. As a result, older items can sometimes be ignored.

If you do plan to sell in a forum, it’s important to know what your model trains are worth and stick to it - otherwise you could end up giving your items away for next to nothing. It’s also worth remembering that, unlike most reputable internet auction sites, forums are not safeguarded by any sort of payment protection policy.

Public auctions

There are a number of auction houses throughoutinthe UK, but only a few conduct specialist toy auctions. This is a service we offer here at Warwick & Warwick, and we will be pleased to include your model trains in a sale.

Having been in business since 1958, we are frequently told by our customers that specialist auctions are the best way to get the best possible return for model railway items.

By combining live auctions with internet and telephone bidders, auction houses offer a high level of exposure to specialist collectors who will be keen to acquire your model trains.

Unlike online auction sites such as eBay, the auctioneer will do all the work for you in return for a flat fee or a percentage of the sale value.

Some auction houses will charge a seller’s fee to place an item in a sale. We charge a 17.5% commission charge plus VAT for a sale by auction, a total deduction of 21% of the hammer price.

Even after taking commission into account, it is usually possible to yield a better return by selling your trains in an auction because it allows you, the seller, to be much closer to the retail situation.

In our experience, for example, it is not uncommon for bidding wars to break out and pieces which were estimated between £200 and £400 to realise upwards of £1000.

Here at Warwick & Warwick, we have been valuing and selling Hornby trains and used model railways for decades. We have an extensive database of customers, collectors and dealers from the UK, Europe and all over the world who are interested whenever we have items for sale.

If you have any model trains or are selling a model railway collection and you want to receive a valuation, please get in touch - we will happily carry this out free of charge. There is no obligation to part with your items afterwards, and the consultation you’ll have with one of our experts can often prove to be a worthwhile investment in itself.

Private Treaty Sale

If you want to remove the uncertainty associated with the auction room, a Private Treaty sale will allow you to know exactly how much you could receive for your model trains.

This type of sale, which is offered here at Warwick & Warwick, is based upon a fair and accurate current market valuation - and is not subject to the same commissions or seller’s fees as at auction.

If you choose to accept our figure, the sale is underwritten by us. Once you have signed an instruction form, a cheque is sent out for the agreed amount.

Always make a decision that’s right for you

Whichever way you choose to sell your trains, bear in mind that condition is of paramount importance. Trains that are in mint condition and boxed will obviously be worth a large premium, but even the condition of the box can influence how much you will receive.

Before selling anything, conduct some research and try to learn the current retail and trade prices of your items. If you can, refer to Ramsay’s British Model Trains Catalogue - a great book for novices and experts alike.

Another thing that’s worth remembering is that it may take some time - and a lot of effort - to sell your trains.

Something as simple as cleaning your model trains may help you to improve their look and value. It’s not essential to replace broken or missing parts, but lubricating and removing any dust will make them more appealing. If you can, test each model so that you know how well it runs as this may help to negotiate a better price.

If you need to sell your model trains quickly, a Private Treaty sale may be the best option.

If time is on your side and you’re willing to be patient in a bid to get the best return, why not place your items in an auction? If it generates interest from two or more passionate collectors, its price could increase significantly.

Ultimately, a model train or collection is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. Before deciding how and where to sell it, take into account all the factors mentioned above and make a decision that’s best for you.

Should you need any free advice, please get in touch – one of our experts will be more than happy to help.


Back to Guides