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A common theme I keep seeing in the vintage audio community is awesome things found at yard sales, thrift stores, or Goodwills. People will show off their Technics 1200 turntable or Sansui 881 reciever that they bought from a thrift store or a yardsale for merely dollars. My question is have you ever found some seriously nice train stuff at places like these? Especially for cheap prices where the seller just didn't know what they had? Personally I have not except for the usual "junk" such as an old caboose or worn out track.

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I have been garage saleing for about 35 years. Over that time I have found a Lionel 134 station, a Lionel 262 steamer, a Lionel 2046 steamer, a 675, a 2025, Lionel freight station, a culvert loader. etc. etc. Three years a go I found a K-Line 15" Hiawatha set and a K-Line Plymouth.

I am interested in several areas of collecting, so if I don't find trains, I'll probably find something from one of the other areas.


Yard Sales are too much work.

Craigslist and local "antique" flea market sales have more options and vendors in a smaller area, less gas and shoe leather.

I look for box and bundle deals from non-train dealers, they just want fast cash for stuff they do not normally sell.

I do miss train shows for higher end items, most all have been cancelled in my area, even outdoor shows.

This Forum's Buy & Sell Board, Ebay and Craigslist have to do for now.

Happy Turkey Day

True Story: I attended a garage/yard sale in Potomac, MD where Lionel trains were advertised for sale.  When I arrived there was a box of "run-of-the-mill" postwar freight cars/027-style passenger cars...nothing that screamed "$$$"!  A woman was also looking at box which had no price tag on it.  The gentleman running the sale came over to us and asked if we were interested in buying the trains.

I asked him what his price was for the trains and he said, "Make me an offer." 

I said, "$100."  Immediately the woman turned around to leave.  He said, "No way, I think they are worth more than that."

The woman heard his reply turned around and said, "Listen, I am an antique dealer...his offer was spot on, that's why I walked away."

So I asked the guy, "How much do you think they are worth?"

He replied as if asking a question, "$1000?"

I shook my head and walked away.

At a flea market in Kentucky I picked up the MPC absolutely lowest end kit with the plastic bodied 0-4-0, the cheesy cars, the log loader thing (not sure it had all the parts), track and the goofiest transformer I'd ever seen. It was cheap and I bought as a goof to setup for Christmas. My daughter liked to jump over the train when it went by her. That was the start of my O gauge affliction.

More recently we stopped at a "antique mall" 1 large building with different rooms, lots of consignment items. Lots of railroad related advertising letter sized print type things but they also had the Coke train from the MPC era. NW2, cars and caboose. They were in great shape. No track, transformer, etc. I think I paid about $80 or $90. It runs well, I'm going to add it to my Christmas trains. If only I could find an O sized Coke Polar bear or two.


I can attest to finding lots of vintage and current audio gear at garage sales mostly in the 2000s and finding a couple of bargains has lead me into frequenting GSs.  I have few of 100 plus watt receivers bought for $10 to $35 with receivers going for over $600 then and now up to $1500 on eBay now.  I also have found as well as lots of speakers, turntables, RTR tape recorders, cassette, CD and DVD players, etc.  Vintage electronics are more in demand than trains.

Around here trains are much rarer and the perception is all old Lionel trains are valuable.  I have found a couple ZWs and a Marx 999 boxed freight set at thrifts and flea markets, and a Lionel  520 and Lionel Freight set, 2-8-4 Lionel Berkshire 756, Nichol Plate Road and a Z transformer at garage sales.  I got a Williams F7 ABA 4032 at a warehouse sale with hundreds of trains from a collector going out of trains.

I agree is not worth going to garage sales if trains is all you want.  I look for lots of stuff like tools, electronics, LPs, DVDs, CDs, books, yard stuff, house hold stuff, you name it.  I have also purchased some good furniture.

I find my best source of reasonably priced train gear is the local TCA train meets.  I have quit going to distant big city train shows.  I will seldom buy train stuff on eBay etc.


I have to chuckle at Greg's story because that's been my experience, and not just with trains. So many people think that if it's old, it's gold. When you run into a seller like that, all you can do is walk away. Nothing will budge a dreamer from his/her outrageous estimate of an item's value. Just this week, I saw a craigslist ad for an entry-level postwar starter set in really rough condition with an asking price of $1,000.

I'll bet garage/estate sales were a good source for trains back in the 1970s, when postwar Lionel trains were still considered to be just toys. I've heard stories about people in the 1960s and 1970s putting boxes of nice trains out for the trash man because they didn't think anyone wanted them.

With garage/estate sales run by professional outfits, I wonder how many have arrangements with serious collectors to let the serious collectors cherry-pick the inventory before the sale begins.

Last edited by Joe Connor

My older daughter found a big box of ‘misc trains’ for Christmas 2013 that she found at the local St Vincent DePaul Thrift Store.  It turns out it was two complete sets, one a 2026 set and a 621 set complete with track and transformers.  I wanted a train set for Christmas back in the ‘60s but Dad said they were too expensive.  I finally got 2 sets 45 years later.  BTW, she paid $10 for the whole kit and caboodle!

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