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I know, somewhere in the 2,773 pages of comments here, somebody has asked this question, probably multiple times, so let's update it.  Is Greenberg's price guide accurate?  For example, when a crossing gate is listed at $8 if in exc condition, and I am guessing if it has the track relay, the  box and instructions it will demand a higher price.  But, $68 for just the gate and nothing else?  Is the seller just totally unaware?  How about a loco that is common, but the seller lists it as rare, price check shows 70-100 good to exc, and it is listed for 130 with no box and instructions, and is scraped and dinged?   I have watched enough of these to know they never sell, but some of the prices lead me to believe folks see old Lionel and it appears gold plated to them.  And don't try to suggest they might be a bit high on their price when a $100 engine on a good day is listed for 500, and maybe a 'make offer' selection would help.  Sometimes you get a cordial, didn't know, to literal both barrels.  And their item sits there forever.  You have to wonder if they  are thinking, "Why won't anyone bid on this?"

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The Greenberg price guide will help with major product variations and magnitude of price (tens, hundreds, or thousands), but the precision is lacking. Condition can be subjective, and the pocket guide side-steps this by having very few (two!) grades. This is in contrast to the more precise TCA grading scheme (which still is subjective). Regardless of the grading scheme, I've seen too much "condition is great for its age" translate to what the seller considers essentially C9 when it is C4 or so... Back to the guide, it does not take into account private sales vs retail vs auction, nor geographic location and more, all which influence price. Generally speaking, from what I have experienced, if something is priced at Greenberg priceing, it won't sell quickly and any seller who defends their pricing with the price guide is usually thought of as a dunce.

Last edited by bmoran4

As @bmoran4 noted, the prices in guides are essentially worthless.  SOLD listings on auction sites can be of some value, but it's hard to judge condition unless you see the item in person.  Keep in mind that the recent prices of postwar on auctions such as Stout's are for items in prime condition.  Most MPC in any condition, and anything but the rarest postwar items below a legitimate C8 have plummeted in value in recent years.  As we get back to in-person meets, it will be easier to shop around and find operator-grade stuff at reasonable prices. 

And remember that some people are still stuck in the mentality of "but I paid $$$ for that in 1995" and can't wrap their heads round the fact that demand for "collectibles" has fallen.  Unless you're a mental health professional, when you encounter such folks, just keep moving. 

I find the Greenberg Guide very helpful, particularly if you are selling engines that are factory-sealed, NIB. For engines that have been used, there are too many variables in play for it to have as much value, such as the accuracy of the TCA Grading Standards rating for the engine, how well the engine runs, etc., However, even in those situations, at least it provides a point of reference.

Pat

@Mallard4468 posted:

As @bmoran4 noted, the prices in guides are essentially worthless.

Mallard,

Thank you for putting words in @bmoran4's mouth.  He absolutely did not say that they were worthless.

Pat -- I agree 100%.  That's what I use it for, and then perhaps as one of many other reference points, including actual sales prices from online auctions, and before the pandemic, what I see at in-person auctions and train shows.

Mike

Mallard,

Thank you for putting words in @bmoran4's mouth.  He absolutely did not say that they were worthless.

Pat -- I agree 100%.  That's what I use it for, and then perhaps as one of many other reference points, including actual sales prices from online auctions, and before the pandemic, what I see at in-person auctions and train shows.

Mike

I will step in and give it straight from the horses mouth - I believe, based on my experience, that the price guide falls short of the typical unsuspecting user's expectations. I would wager this equates to "essentially worthless" for those most typical users intended purposes.

Last edited by bmoran4
@bmoran4 posted:

The Greenberg price guide will help with major product variations and magnitude of price (tens, hundreds, or thousands), but the precision is lacking. Condition can be subjective, and the pocket guide side-steps this by having very few (two!) grades. This is in contrast to the more precise TCA grading scheme (which still is subjective). Regardless of the grading scheme, I've seen too much "condition is great for its age" translate to what the seller considers essentially C9 when it is C4 or so... Back to the guide, it does not take into account private sales vs retail vs auction, nor geographic location and more, all which influence price. Generally speaking, from what I have experienced, if something is priced at Greenberg priceing, it won't sell quickly and any seller who defends their pricing with the price guide is usually thought of as a dunce.

bmoran4,

When I read them I didn't take your original comments (above) to be that decisive.  However, now that you've clarified them then I guess "Useless" applies.

Sorry for my misinterpretation.

Mike

I've seen this dismissive logic before. However, in point of fact, reputable price guides are not worthless, especially to the amateur. They are guides, not gospel. For those of us who pay little attention to, say, Post War items, but appreciate them on occasion, a price guide helps us understand the difference between a $40 item and a $400 item. It gives the uninformed occasional buyer a starting point.

For you experts they probably are not very relevant, and everybody understands (one more time...) that a thing is only worth what the buyer is willing to pay - but that has little to do with  being "guided" into the general ballpark.

Guides are not "useless". They are tools. Me, I use eBay as my national marketplace price guide. I don't take it as gospel, either.

I am upgrading my insurance in light of the various comments about Hurricane Ida and its aftermath. I plan to use Greenberg's Guide as a partial basis for insurance purposes.  I have a pretty good "feel" for train prices, but its always good to back it up with something objective in case there are questions. Mark

@Mallard4468 posted:

As @bmoran4 noted, the prices in guides are essentially worthless.

Take it you are not saying the guides themselves are not worthless, just the prices.  I have found them very helpful compendiums over the years in locating detailed information about products.  For example, if I have a product number but don't know what it is, want to know if an item was cataloged, part of a set or when it was produced, pop open the price guide and there's the answer or at least a bread crumb to follow the trail.

What, me worry?

Greenberg's Guide to Lionel, etc. Trains are very useful for information, pictures and details of model trains.

Greenberg's Price Guide to Lionel, etc. Trains,  Year ? are limited for a short amount of time near the year mentioned in the title.  They are about as useful as a 1 year old newspaper as far as information as to the price of a train.

Charlie

Ideally, it is best to have the most recent copy of the guide. That said, I have rarely seen significant changes from one year to the next. Frankly, IMHO, it is a waste of money to buy a new version every year.

Pat

Take it you are not saying the guides themselves are not worthless, just the prices.  I have found them very helpful compendiums over the years in locating detailed information about products.  For example, if I have a product number but don't know what it is, want to know if an item was cataloged, part of a set or when it was produced, pop open the price guide and there's the answer or at least a bread crumb to follow the trail.

What, me worry?

My comment was limited to prices (and I thought I was clear on that, as "prices" was in the first sentence).  Aside from pricing, there is a lot of useful information in guides, and I never suggested otherwise.

I've always looked at the prices in guides as what I would expect to pay a dealer in a shop.  The shop's overhead is built into those prices, and shops are one of the sources Greenberg uses for prices.  I sell at York, and I price my stuff below guide, and it works for me.  I just use the guide to determine if I have a rarity, and as a guide to help me set prices on my stuff.

Andy

Thanks for all the comments on Greenberg's.  If folks would use the 'make offer' option on sell sites, you might get a good deal, or at the least, if the seller sees multiple offers many dollars below their asking, they should get the idea they are overpriced.  All the folks unfortunate enough to live in a metro area but with the plus of train shows and train swap meets, and maybe more than one hobby shop within a 50 mile radius,  us in the boonies, in addition to shipping,  have to factor into an online price, the price of gas to get to a show 250 miles away, so what might seem higher to you is actually a deal in the long run. 

Here is a case in point about things selling on ebay and Greenberg's pricing.  I did not want this car, but stumbled upon it up for auction, a Lionel #6368 in blue, with a $16-42 list in 2021 Greenberg's.  It sold for $56, and from the 19 bidders on it, looked like a sniper appeared out of no where and got it.  There is an identical car in just as good of shape for sale right now with a BIN of $40.  So why aren't those fellows who bid that car into the 40 dollar and up range, and lost the auction, not  jumping on this one for 40 bucks?

Very interesting discussion.  The price guide issue comes up in many different hobbies.

In the used firearms arena, the price guides list notoriously low prices for all grades of used firearms (a good 15 to 20% low), and are primarily used by dealers to cheat folks when they sell their used guns to the dealers.   ("Look right here, your gun is only worth X, and it says so right here in this book!")

If you are a buyer, you will never see any used firearm for sale at the guide book price.  They are really low wholesale prices, not fair market value.  The dealer at a show who buys as a used firearm will normally not put it out on his table for sale at that show.  Why?  Because he is going raise hat price by 20% and put it on his table for sale at the next show, arguing with a buyer that the piece is actually worth more than that and that he is getting a deal!

So, in the train world, is it really the case that used locomotives and rolling stock (even in the upper grades) are way overstated?  Is there an objective or nefarious reason for this?

At least the little guy at our local flea market train shop is honest.  When you bring in something used, he looks up the price in his book, shows you the price, and then says that he will only pay half of that.  :-)


Mannyrock.

I lease buildings to small business people making the leap from their garage/bedroom to having a storefront.  I try to explain to them that the money they are making every month that they believe to be profit will disappear once they move to a store.  Actually that and more will disappear.  They generally do not believe it until the second or third month comes around and rent, utilities and other costs of business come around again.

If business people do not understand the cost of business it is not to surprising that someone selling their train, gun or whatever can't understand why they cannot get retail when selling to a dealer.

@CALNNC posted:

Here is a case in point about things selling on ebay and Greenberg's pricing.  I did not want this car, but stumbled upon it up for auction, a Lionel #6368 in blue, with a $16-42 list in 2021 Greenberg's.  It sold for $56, and from the 19 bidders on it, looked like a sniper appeared out of no where and got it.  There is an identical car in just as good of shape for sale right now with a BIN of $40.  So why aren't those fellows who bid that car into the 40 dollar and up range, and lost the auction, not  jumping on this one for 40 bucks?

I assume the term 'sniper' refers to someone who bids late in the auction.  I have found over the last fifteen years or so bidding on ebay that it is pointless to bid before the end of the auction.  I decide what I am willing to pay for the item and then wait till the end of the auction and bid that amount.  Sometimes the price has gone higher than I am willing to pay so I pass and move on.  It is a very small number of items that do not reappear at a later date.

If business people do not understand the cost of business it is not to surprising that someone selling their train, gun or whatever can't understand why they cannot get retail when selling to a dealer.

Bill,

If business people don't understand the cost of business then they're not really business people.  They're just pretending to be.

M.H.M.

@CALNNC posted:

Here is a case in point about things selling on ebay and Greenberg's pricing.  I did not want this car, but stumbled upon it up for auction, a Lionel #6368 in blue, with a $16-42 list in 2021 Greenberg's.  It sold for $56, and from the 19 bidders on it, looked like a sniper appeared out of no where and got it.  There is an identical car in just as good of shape for sale right now with a BIN of $40.  So why aren't those fellows who bid that car into the 40 dollar and up range, and lost the auction, not  jumping on this one for 40 bucks?

There was one person who just had to have that car for whatever reason - nostalgia, lack of knowledge, tired of looking, drunken bidding, who knows... maybe the other bidders were impulsive or came to their senses.

There are a lot of people who haven't been able to go to meets and have spent more time and money on their trains in the past couple of years.  This will pass.

As someone who overspent for a few (cough, cough) items 20-30 years ago when everybody was chasing stuff, I'll just take a deep breath, sit on the sidelines, and wait for the madness to run its course.

Bill, you make some excellent points. Yet in some hobbies (such as firearms) the problem is, that the Guides don't say "The values stated in this Guide are only what would be expected to be paid by the average dealer for the item from a private seller."  Instead, they say that they are fair market value, or simply the value of the item.

And, the dealers actually try to scam the sellers further by Starting at that "value", and then discounting downward from there, saying, that they can only pay much less than that because "they are a dealer".

Why don't the Guides state what in fact they are?  Because then, 9 out of 10 people wouldn't buy them, only dealers, which is a much much smaller number. 

I never have a problem with an honest dealer who says, "Well, as you probably know, these items in this condition generally sell at retail for around $X, but because I am a middle man dealer, I have to make a profit too, and I can only pay $Y."

I have been going to shows for more than 50 years, and this is what I seen over and over and over.

If the Greenberg price guide is actually listing estimated retail price, then I fully applaud that!    And, as mentioned, anyone who sells to a dealer should know that he will be getting less than that.

But, in my experience, the large majority of sales of used items in a hobby often occur between two private people, and a dealer is not involved.   Perhaps it is different in the train world?

When one goes to a large train show, and there are folks there with  primarily used items on their table, are they generally dealers?  Or, private people who just paid for a table to sell their old stuff?

And, do the people with just used stuff on their tables "travel the circuit" of shows, going from show to show with their old cardboard boxes of used stuff?   (Unfortunately, very common in the firearms world, and it is not usual to see the same worn out rifles for sale by a guy at 3 or 4 different shows, with ridiculously high prices on them.)

I'm guessing now that if I ever get to York, I'm only going to be looking at the old used stuff in boxes "under the tables."  Stuff so worn out, that a dealer doesn't want to take up his table space with them.  :-)

Mannyrock

I live at the end of the world in south Texas.  There are no train shows.  I am sure there are some train guys but there is not much way to know.  In the northeast apparently every third house has a layout and every weekend there is a meet within walking distance.  If the TCA meets here were actually happening, the closest would be 250 miles.  I admit, this is Texas and that is not considered very far for a drive.

99% of my buying is on ebay unless it is for something new then we probably all go to the same list of dealers.

I guess my point is that I do not have the same selection options that the midwest and northeast collectors have.....but I get to live in Texas....

I am upgrading my insurance in light of the various comments about Hurricane Ida and its aftermath. I plan to use Greenberg's Guide as a partial basis for insurance purposes.  I have a pretty good "feel" for train prices, but its always good to back it up with something objective in case there are questions. Mark

Thats exactly what I use it for - a guide for insurance valuation.   

@CALNNC posted:

Here is a case in point about things selling on ebay and Greenberg's pricing.  I did not want this car, but stumbled upon it up for auction, a Lionel #6368 in blue, with a $16-42 list in 2021 Greenberg's.  It sold for $56, and from the 19 bidders on it, looked like a sniper appeared out of no where and got it.  There is an identical car in just as good of shape for sale right now with a BIN of $40.  So why aren't those fellows who bid that car into the 40 dollar and up range, and lost the auction, not  jumping on this one for 40 bucks?

Cal.....I was intrigued with the number 6368 in blue......I suspect you meant 6468, the B&O blue double door box car.

Thank you for starting this discussion. It brings up excellent points and I always an interested other points of view when determining prices of older trains....

As I go to York next week, I will refer to the Greenberg guide and use the prices to determine value.....I use the lower price as the floor and see if the seller will deal, always having a stop order point in my brain for what I'm willing to pay.....

Peter

Last edited by Putnam Division

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