Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lionel 752E and the Market Reality

Doesn't matter what you collect -- you should do it because you're interested in the subject, not because it's a good investment. Even in the current market, you're better off buying stocks.

Case in point: Ken's Lionel 752E streamliner set. As you may recall, his wife inherited this 1934 Lionel set in its original boxes. When we looked at the train a couple of months ago, the value was appraised at $2,500.

As with any collectible object, that value is a function of condition, availability, and desirability. Last month I attended the semiannual York Meet, one of the largest toy train show and marketplace in the world.

I saw a fair number of Lionel 752E's on the dealer tables in comparable condition to Ken's train -- at an average price of $1,500 (and that was negotiable). What happened?

Lionel and Mike's Train House are working together to reproduce some of Lionel's classical trains with the same quality and materials as the original. One of the first offerings is the M100000, otherwise known as the 752E (and its later incarnations).

(click on image to enlarge)

Now the toy train market consists of two basic and sometimes overlapping groups; operators and collectors. The latter want to display their acquisitions, the former want to run them. The rerelease of the 752E set (with some nice upgrades) basically split the market for the original 1934 train. The reproduction, though, only costs $800. That's about a third the original's market value -- which makes it a better choice for operators.

So let's say I had offered Ken $2,000 for his train when he showed it to me, and he accepted. If I had purchased the 752E because I really wanted it, I'd still be happy.

If I had hoped to score a $500 profit by reselling it at York, I would have been sorely disappointed and probably have taken a $300-$500 loss. And chances are that the value won't significantly increase over time, but the reproduction might go up in value once it's no longer available on the market -- depends on demand.

In our hypothetical case, if I make the purchase because I want the train, then I'm still happy after it loses value. If I'm in it for the money, then I'm not. But either way, Ken's happy with his (hypothetical) two grand.

- Ralph

Day 44 of the WJMA Podwatch.

1 comment:

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