It has been said that "an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure." Here are a few thoughts on that topic as it applies to the model railroading hobby. The information is only intended to offer basic elements of planning - and it should not be viewed as a complete solution. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU CONTACT LICENSED PROFESSIONALS BEFORE MAKING ANY FINANCIAL OR LEGAL DECISIONS.
Collection Insurance: The NMRA has an insurance program that is tailored to model collections and layout ownership. It will avoid potential hassles associated with dealing with an insurance company that is not familiar with model railroading. For more information on this program, and the various types of coverage available, please click to link to the NMRA Insurance Program web page. This is a valuable benefit of NMRA membership.
Estate Planning: The serious modeler should maintain an inventory of the collection and keep it in a safe location available to the estate executor when the time arises. A simple table listing each piece of equipment, manufacturer, date of purchase, retail cost, and recommended disposition (a specific person or club you would like to direct the model toward) should be prepared and updated regularily. Be sure to include the layout and all its various elements - like the DCC system, etc. This inventory is important because the chances are your estate custodian will know nothing about what you own or the details of your hobby. You may want to reference this document plus any specific directives in your will or trust. Consult an estate planning expert for specific advice.
Estate Disposition: Our division is frequently contacted by relatives of a deceased modeler about what to do with the modeler's equipment and layout. Here are a few ideas:
• Donate some or the entire collection to a non-profit organization such as the Boy Scouts of America or Girl Scouts of America. Some troops have modeling groups and could possibly benefit from the use of the donation. It could also be the spark of inspiration of young future modelers. Also consider a donation to a local town or county museum. There could be potential tax advantages to these types of donations. Consult a tax professional before proceeding.
• Donate some or all of the collection to a modeler who is just starting out. This will insure that the equipment is displayed and continued to be enjoyed.
• Sell the collection. This is perhaps the most difficult and time consuming thing to do. Please understand that some equipment in the collection may be of value but some will be very common and not have much (or any) residual value. There are various ways to proceed. A few are listed here in no particular order:
1) Find a broker-reseller. This could be a professional or a friend of the deceased modeler. Typically they will charge a fee to assess the value of the equipment and then collect a percentage of whatever is received from the eventual buyers. Another approach they may take is to make an offer to purchase the entire collection and then resell it keeping the proceeds.
2) If the collection contains collectible brass locomotives or cars, consider using a consignment reseller for those items. Such resellers will charge a fee to assess the items and then list them on their website. When they sell they will keep a percentage of the sale price. You will need to ship the collection to the reseller for assessment and resale. You will receive funds when the individual items sell.
3) Contact a local hobby shop. They may have the names of people interested in purchasing certain types of hobby equipment.
4) Contact a club that is focused on a particular type of hobby equipment. For example, antique Lionel equipment may be of particular interest to one of the Lionel clubs or a member in your area. Use the web to locate them.
5) Sell the equipment on E-Bay, Craig's list, or any of the other web market places. This will require the most time and energy to accomplish. You will have to research market prices, photograph and list the item, deal with the auctions and finally pack and ship the equipment when it is sold. There are some companies that will do all this for you for a fee or percentage of the sale price.
6) Sell the equipment at a Swap Meet. These are basically flea markets dedicated to model railroad equipment. Most operations charge a fee for a table at their market. Here's where an updated inventory is handy. Otherwise you will have to research the market price of the equipment and spend the time at the meet selling the equipment. Perhaps a friend of the modeler might be interested in helping out with this process?
This list is not intended to be exhaustive but to give some perspective on the task and a few ways one might proceed.
• Here are a few contacts for potential disposition of hobby equipment that we are aware of. This list is by no means exhaustive. Note that the FVD does not receive any financial benefit from any of these resellers. If you are a reseller that would like to be listed, please Contact Us.
Brass Trains.com -- is a web consignment reseller of brass models. They also advertise that they buy estate train collections including non-brass items.
The Chicago Kid -- is a collector and buyer of trains and old toys.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 847-913-1205
The Great Midwest Train Show -- is a Model Train swap meet in Wheaton, IL.
The Tri-City Swap Meet -- is a Model Train swap meet in Racine, WI.
Contact: (262) 488-0193
The Lionel® Club of Milwaukee -- is a Model Train club dedicated to Lionel® style trains.
The Chicagoland Lionel® Railroad Club -- is a Model Train club dedicated to Lionel® style trains.