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 at the bottom of this webpage 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. A list of a few resellers we know of are listed toward the bottom of this webpage.
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?
7) The Potomac Division of the NMRA has compiled an extensive report on ESTATE PLANNING and DISPOSITION. The 31 page report can be downloaded from this URL:
The list above may not have all your answers but it is primarily there to give some perspective on the task and a few ways one might proceed.
Below 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 and buyer of brass models. They also advertise that they buy estate train collections including non-brass items.
• https://resourcedrails.com/ -- ReSourced Rails is a reseller and buyer of model trains. 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: email@example.com 847-913-1205
• Mike Carlson -- is a collector and buyer of model trains.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 262-370-9321
• Mike Hirvela -- is a collector and buyer of model trains.
Contact: email@example.com 847-360-9579
• 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.
• 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.