Help identifying and valuing a 400E Blue-Comet

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Help identifying and valuing a 400E Blue-Comet
Posted by Miserlou57 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 2:36 PM

Hello,

I bought a Lionel 400E Blue Comet awhile back as part of a big collection. I’ve searched around  and in some Greenberg’s literature to nail down what I’ve got here.

I am somewhat familiar with what it is, but I could use some help in identifying more specifically the authenticity of this, and of course all the nuances to such a thing. Ultimately I'd like to sell the item.

Here’s what I know:

  • Lionel 400E with 400T tender.
  • Nickel Domes / Trim - supposedly pretty rare
  • Turned handrail stanchions 
  • Tender ladder has small gusset attached
  • Previous owner claimed 1935. Literature says likely 1936

 

Known issues:

The boiler paint has some blotchiness to it. Perhaps this is due to temperature in a warm garage? Maybe sunlight? The tender does not have it, as I know the two were stored separately for a bit.

The paint is also scratched here and there on the light blue boiler and cab. There is no evidence of coats underneath, so hopefully this is original paint.

The darker blue Frame piece paint is nearly flawless. There are maybe only one or two scratches on it, so I’m starting to believe this has been repainted. I don’t actually know though.

The tender is missing one of the handrail stanchions, and one has come out. Looks easy enough to put back in. I *THINK* I may have the missing handrail stanchion somewhere. Need to find it…

The two sheet metal tabs on the stack that hold the stack in place…. One of them has broken off. Interestingly, this reveals the material to be copper. Were the nickel trim domes similar to the copper ones and just plated?

The latching smokebox door is difficult to latch. It’ll work, but I think the sheet metal has been bent ever-so slightly.

Known Unknowns:

I haven’t run it, so not sure how well it works. Would prefer someone who is more familiar with operating these to okay it before I do it. I don’t want to damage anything.

Unknown unknowns:

Other items replaced?
What do you think?

 

All in all this is a beautiful model, but I would like to sell it, and obviously I’d like to get the most value out of it. I have other hobbies (relax, still trains) and don’t want to spend too much time on it. I’m fine with some things, like cleaning it up. 

So, I could use some advice to help identify / inspect / confirm exactly what I have here and perhaps what it’s value is. An in-person inspection would be good too. I’m located in San Jose, CA if that helps. (The Train Shop in Santa Clara couldn’t help)

Any advice on this forum / recommendations would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks,
Skip

Photos below:

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 11:09 AM

That's a really nice engine!  Are you sure  you want to sell it?

If so, I'd say don't do a thing to it, leave it as is.  Let any future purchaser mess with or replace parts as they see fit.

For pricing, you can check a current Greenberg's guide, or go on E-bay to see if anyone's on there selling one and what they're asking for it.  It's a place to start.

Or, if there's any auction houses in your area you can try to sell it through them.  Many auction firms have specialists in various areas (Furniture, toys, jewelry, and so forth) who keep up with market trends and pricing.  You'll probably  have to pay a fee to the auction house though, and an auction may or may not bring the price you're looking for, it all depends who's in the "audience" and what their interest is.

One other thing, once you've established the price you'd like to get The Train Shop might  be willing to take it on consignment for you for a cut of the price.  That would be between you and them but I think 25% would be reasonable.

Keep one thing in mind, the antique toy market is a bit "cold" right now.  Only the mint condition pieces are bringing top dollar.  Lesser condition, not so much.

So, you have options.  Good luck!

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Posted by Penny Trains on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 7:28 PM

According to the "Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains: 1900-1942" by David Doyle, Krause Publications, 2005 printing, this is a Type IX 400E.

The desrciption reads: "During 1935, the boiler bands on the blue locomotives, both with and without cream stripe, began to be painted the same medium blue color as the boiler.  Previously they had been brass.  At the same time, the wheel centers began to be painted black rather than red.  The nameplate on the tender, which has nickel trim, began to have a red background painted on it."

The descriptions of condition in this book follow the TCA standards.

  • FAIR: well-scratched, chipped, dented, rusted, warped.
  • GOOD: Small dents, scratches, dirty.
  • VERY GOOD: Few scratches, exception ally clean, no major dents or rust.
  • EXCELLENT: Minute scratches or nicks, no dents or rust, all original, less than average wear.
  • LIKE NEW: Only the slightest signs of handling and wheel wear, brilliant colors and crisp markings; literally like new.  As a rule, like new trains must have their original boxes in comparable condition to realize the prices listed in this guide.
  • MINT: Brand new, absolutely unmarred, all original and unused.  Items dusty or faded from display, or with fingerprints from handling, cannot be considered mint.  Although Lionel test ran their locomotives briefly at the factory, items "test run" by consumers cannot be considered mint.  Most collectors expect mint items to come with all associated packaging with which they were originally supplied.

For the Type IX 400E the book values are VG $2000: EX $2500: LN: $3100  RARITY 5

So I would say the previous owner may be correct in saying it was 1935.  Be aware also that Lionel dipped a lot of their products in paint so there can be an unevenness, inconsistency or even drips or runs on prewar pieces.  You'd need a standard gauge expert to evaluate the paint properly.  (Auction houses often have them.)

Not being an expert, I'd guess you could realize the values of a Very Good locomotive.

As for operating condition, the wheels and rollers are dirty, but not damaged.  Early diecasting involved impurities that can cause wheels, frames and other parts to swell, crack and break as the metal ages.  I see no signs of that in your photos, but if you want to see her run, check to make sure the wheels are true and the frame is straight.  Otherwise the E-Unit (Electronic reverse) may be your biggest headache.  They get dirty from use and it may need a thorough cleaning.  Otherwise, clean the wheels and rollers, grease and oil the gears and axles and have at it!  Be aware though that you may need a bit of AC voltage to get it going.

I have other books:

  • Greenberg's Guide To Lionel Trains 1901-1942 1994 printing.
  • Lionel, A Collector's Guide And History, Standard Gauge, 1993 printing.

The only version I see in any of the 3 books specifically linked to 1936 is the gunmetal gray loco.

That's what I know about Blue Comets.  Hope it helps!  Big Smile

And Welcome aboard!

Becky

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Saturday, August 10, 2019 8:06 PM

So here is the same loco currently on the Bay of E. This will give you an idea of what some are willing to pay. You have to be a Bay member and watch the item to see what it finally sells for as bids can run way up in the last 2 seconds for a desirable item (I have lost several items as a low ball bidder to see the bids go nuts). 

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F143351314493

Having some real experience with electroplating gold, silver, nickel, nickel does not directly bond well to other metals. A copper 'strike' of a few micro inches provides a bonding  layer as copper plates well to many metals (I.e steel). So the copper layer under the nickel is likely normal And the nickel loves to bond to copper.

Regards, Roy

            

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, August 10, 2019 9:58 PM

I just checked Mr. McClellan's link to E-Bay and saw the last bid on that Blue Comet was $366.

No-one's going to get that thing for $366!  Either the bidding's going to take off once the word gets around it's available or the seller's going to pull it.

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Saturday, August 10, 2019 10:27 PM

5 days left to bid. The only time to see what really happens is the last few seconds. Low activity/bids may/will linger until then. No one shows their hand early on. I have lost many bids on Std Ga and other desirable items in the last few seconds when the bids go way above my maximum I am willing to pay. Like many, I wait until the last minute or less to see if I want to up my max if I get outbid. But others (currently 7 bidders at this time on this item) may already have an auto-bid max higher and all you see is your bid failed and you might get a chance to raise it again. There are many times a watcher that has not bid is lurking and if things look reasonable will try to enter a last moment bid. Kinda fun and irritating.

The E-B auto-bid function can go so fast you will not even see where they are coming from.

Looking again at the photos, the item on E-B looks to be the same As described above.

Regards, Roy

            

KRM
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Posted by KRM on Monday, August 12, 2019 3:04 PM

For me Roy has the right idea but I would go a step farther.
Go to Ebay and do an advanced search on it as sold items and you can see what they have fetched over time and condition. I don't see you retiring off it.
 
 

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Kev, From The North Bluff Above Marseilles IL. Whistling

 

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Monday, August 12, 2019 10:27 PM

Kev

12 bids now and $396. 3+ days til the real fun starts.

Regards, Roy

            

KRM
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Posted by KRM on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:19 AM

Roy the last 1/2 hour will be fun!

 

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Kev, From The North Bluff Above Marseilles IL. Whistling

 

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Posted by rtraincollector on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 9:31 AM

Last 2 minutes actually lol

 

Life's hard, even harder if your stupid  John Wayne

http://rtssite.shutterfly.com/

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 8:42 AM

Hmmmm...real interest on this bad boy...up to $537, 21 bids, this am and two days to go yet!

edit - a few hrs to go, $730

Regards, Roy

            

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Posted by rtraincollector on Friday, August 16, 2019 1:48 PM

Went for $860.50

 

Life's hard, even harder if your stupid  John Wayne

http://rtssite.shutterfly.com/

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, August 16, 2019 3:17 PM

rtraincollector

Went for $860.50

 

 

That's all?  I thought it would fetch at least $1,000.  I guess the toy market's softer than I thought it was.  

Not such good news for the seller, but on the other hand it could be good news for the rest of us who'd like an original and don't mind a bit of wear on it if it's priced right.

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