Should you sell your model trains on eBay? Here are the pros & cons.

Key takeaways:

  • Pros & cons to selling your model trains on eBay
  • Other platforms to sell your model train collection, like Etsy
  • Train shows can be a more personal, local option

So you’ve decided to sell your model trains.

Maybe you want to sell an entire model train collection, or perhaps just a single HO scale locomotive.

Whatever the case, you have options.

Here we’ll cover the pros and cons of two of the most common ways you can sell your model trains: online and at local train shows.

Sell Your Model Trains on eBay: What You Need to Know

Founded in 1995, eBay has a long history in the ecommerce world and has established itself as the platform to buy and sell all kinds of goods online.

From its early days when sellers sold collectibles in an auction-style format, this multibillion-dollar titan has morphed into a massive online marketplace featuring sellers from all over the world.

The ever-changing, always fresh inventory and large volume of sellers is a major attraction to buyers.

Pros to selling on eBay? Here are the top 7 advantages:

  1. eBay is a trusted, well-established platform that most everyone has heard of
  2. Given its long-time reign in the ecommerce world, it boasts a high traffic volume & well over 1 million active users
  3. You don’t need any special skills to get started – eBay makes it pretty straightforward to start selling asap
  4. No worries about figuring out taxes, how to accept payments, or even how to setup your listing – eBay’s got that covered
  5. It’s easy to generate a shipping label when your item sells, and eBay takes care of updating the buyer on your behalf
  6. You can easily research “Sold” and “Completed” listings to set your pricing
  7. Leverage eBay’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) superpowers – eBay often appear at the top of a Google search, meaning, your listing could be seen by thousands of potential buyers searching online.

Cons to selling on eBay? Here are the top 3 disadvantages:

1. Fees can be prohibitive. Although eBay fees are always changing, as of this writing, they charge about 12.9% of the total sale up to $7,500 (2.35% on the portion of the sale over $7,500). What exactly is the “total sale amount”? Per eBay: “The total amount of the sale includes the item price, any handling charges, the shipping service the buyer selects, sales tax, and any other applicable fees.”

The state sales tax eBay is legally required to collect – whatever that amount is for your item – you pay the final value fee on it. Many sellers don’t realize this. There are also insertion fees, extra costs if you want to maintain an eBay store, and so on.

Additionally, your funds can be put on hold if for any reason a buyer files a claim – or even worse – a chargeback with their financial institution. The funds you thought you made selling that old HO locomotive can quickly be eaten up.

2. It’s a buyer’s market. eBay has gained a reputation for not being supportive to sellers, instead favoring buyers. Returns are easy, and even if you say you won’t accept a return – you’ll quickly discover that you must, for instance if a buyer states the item wasn’t as described or photo’d, or it arrived damaged. You’ll be forced to accept a return and yes, return shipping is on you, too.

3. You’ll need to put forth the work to sell your item. Do you have the time, really, to list an entire model train collection on eBay (or anyplace else)? Yes, eBay makes it easy to get started, but at the end of the day, you – the seller – are responsible for taking photos, potentially repairing the item (or at least accurately inspecting & describing any faults), creating a listing with an accurate description, then packing and shipping out the order.

Is eBay the right marketplace to sell your model trains? It might be. Only you can weigh the pros & cons to make a decision that is aligned with your goals.

Where else can you sell your model trains?

There are many other platforms to sell on, from Amazon to Etsy and smaller niche platforms, depending on what you have for sale. A full rundown of every online platform to sell your model trains is well outside the scope of this article, but here’s a very quick summary:

If you thought eBay was a competitive platform for sellers, you haven’t thought of Amazon. Amazon boasts an even larger market share, and it is uber-competitive. Many sellers consider it very challenging to figure out even how to sell on Amazon, and there are strict condition codes and selling requirements to follow. If you’re selling used or vintage collectible model trains, Amazon is not likely a viable option.

Selling a collectible model train? Etsy could be an option, but

If what you’re selling is strictly vintage (or handmade), Etsy can be an option. It’s grown a lot since the early days where it was strongly associated with handmade goods and true artisans, with a smattering of vintage items. Today, it’s morphed into a larger, more dynamic marketplace, but still, the traffic volume just isn’t there, especially when it comes to selling model trains.

Etsy was a source of much controversy in recent years over the implementation of their “Offsite Ads” program, where sellers are opted in to forced advertising. You can learn more about it here, but suffice it to say, if one of your sales comes from what they claim is via their advertising efforts, you’ll shell out an additional 15% commission in addition to their other fees.

Like eBay, Etsy also charges listing and basic selling fees – currently at 6.5% plus payment processing fees. Learn more about Etsy’s fees here. If you are charged for an “Offsite Ads” sale, your fees can quickly soar to become some of the highest in the industry today.

No matter where you sell online, be wary of giving away free shipping to buyers – unless you’ve factored that into your pricing model first. With shipping costs at some of the most expensive they’ve ever been, you could quickly lose out on any profit…or even end up giving your model train away. The bottom line: Plan carefully and be strategic if you’re considering offering free shipping to entice buyers.

Sell your model trains at a train show

You can also try selling your model trains at a local train show. If you enjoy connecting with other folks in the model railroading hobby, this can be a great option to meet others who may want to buy what you’re selling.

Of course, a local train show is just that – local. Unlike pulling out your phone to get your model train listed quick on eBay, you must be willing to pack up everything and travel to a train show. There is of course, no guarantee that you’ll sell your items, just as there isn’t on any online platform.

If you’re ok with the extra time and travel effort, and you enjoy the socialization of a more personal, local event, then selling your model train collection at a train show may be a great option to try. This may not be a viable option if you’ve only got one or a few locomotives to sell, but if you have a larger collection of trains, it can be worth the effort.

At the end of the day, consider the pros and cons to determine what option best suits your needs. If you’re looking for a fast way to get a fair market value for your model train collection, eBay is probably your best bet with an instant, “Buy-it-Now” pricing option to close the deal fast.

Nothing is guaranteed – whether you’re selling on a major platform like eBay or popping into your local train show.

While you’re mulling it all over, get a quote to sell your HO scale model trains here: