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Brass Trains as an investment

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Brass Trains as an investment
Posted by Mjorstad on Sunday, May 19, 2019 3:18 PM

So as I‘ve online-browsed brass trains that I can’t afford, I’ve been led to wonder.  How do brass trains, as collectibles, fare as investments?  Some invest in classic cars to hold their money (as well as to have the pride of owning a classic car) and I was wondering if brass trains could work in a similar vein in holding value over time.  Obviously, the trend may vary from model to model; a 1 of 10 handbuilt model will accrue more worth than a slowly-rusting piece of crap that doesn’t run, but on the whole, can Brass trains hold or appreciate in value enough to be considered a reasonable monetary investment?

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Posted by parts323 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 3:33 PM

In my opinion, Overall I would say no to brass trains being reasonable investments. The value of brass trains has been in a down turn for several years. Mostly because of the newer locomotives having sound and DCC right out of the box, ie Broadway Limited. If you look at the value charts that appear at the bottm of all the listings on Brasstrains.com, you can see how 90% of the locomotives have lost value in recent years. There are a few locomotives that may hold their value, because they were made in low numbers or a unique style. Sold listings on auction sites will also further reinforce my opinion, plus I have been able to pick up several brass locomotives at train shows for next to nothing. In the end, I do like brass loccomotives because of their good drive mechanisms and detail, but I would never expect to make any amount of money when I decide to sell them.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, May 19, 2019 4:53 PM

Part of the problem is that newer brass is better made, so older brass loses value.  And while they are expensive, they really aren't art in the sense of say Rembrandt - more like collector plates from Franklin Mint and others, which while some may like them don't go up in value for the most part.

I bought the 2 pieces I have, to enjoy them.  Investments are in stocks.

Paul

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 4:54 PM

Brass prices are falling. Now is either the time to "Buy Low", or the market will continue to drop and you will lose all your money. Without a functional crystal ball, who knows.

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I have only been in the brass market for 5 years or so. I have acquired dozens of pieces, and almost all of them can be had now for less than I paid for them.

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Not a good investment as far as I can tell.

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-Kevin

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Sunday, May 19, 2019 10:46 PM

I’d say brass is becoming less and less of an investment. The amount of detail available in plastic nowadays devalues any brass locomotives with higher end plastic equivalents. Only the stuff without another alternative could hold value, but you need a willing buyer. The detail available in plastic today pretty much eliminates the need for anything brass.

Of course you could tell those no-modelrailroaders that you are buying it for an investment just so they don’t act very confused when you spend $1000 on a single locomotive! Big Smile

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by emdmike on Monday, May 20, 2019 11:36 AM

Brass as an investment has passed into the history books for now.  If you had bought models in the late 1960's and early 70's before the prices shot up, even at todays prices you could turn a profit.  But with the rise of brass level detailed plastic with all the electronics, the modelers at large are going that route and less so with brass models.   Much better ways to invest one's money.   But if you like brass models as many of us do, buy the ones that you have interest in, not the ones that "might" go up in value(highly unlikely).  Its a buyers market right now, and many older models need only a basic cleaning, a can motor and decoder to run with the newest on the market.    Mike the Aspie

 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, May 20, 2019 12:12 PM

Mjorstad
can Brass trains hold or appreciate in value enough to be considered a reasonable monetary investment?

In a few cases maybe, but as others have pointed out, brass trains are generally a way to lose money. 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by Howard Zane on Monday, May 20, 2019 4:45 PM

When I was a brass dealer for almost 20 years...Piermont Division which became Brasstrains.com in '05, never once did I tell a customer to purchase as an investment...only buy because you like owning a brass loco, or need to fill a spot on your roster. Some folks did invest prior to 1997 which was the peak of brass activity, and yes many did make substantial profits. Brass models are an art form, and like any form of fine art....have values which could easily appreciate or drop considerably. There will always be people who will appreciate brass trains as they are quite literally hand made works of art vs. a mass produced plastic or die cast counter-part.....me being one of them.

Much can be learned about brass at the new Brass Expo coming up in the fall. There will be clinics on many subjects on what this thread is about (Note to moderator....this is not a plug as I am not involved with the expo)

HZ

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:08 PM

Mjorstad
Brass trains hold or appreciate in value enough to be considered a reasonable monetary investment?

Depends a C&O G9 2-8-0 is still over $400.00 while a lowly U.P 0-6-0  may be had between $200-250.00.

My brass United Santa Fe 1950 Class 2-8-0 cost me $125.00 plus shipping and its already custom painted and decaled for Santa Fe..A very happy bargain for me.

Larry

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:17 PM

I think that if collectibles are to be considered investments, there has to be a group of people who are interested in buying what you have several years down the road.

Unfortunately, with many things once collectible, I think people who want brass are departing this earth.  A ever diminishing pool of buyers.  

Same goes for Elvis memorabilia.  Beatles.    Some day, the popular question will be, "who are they?"

Maybe even the same thing with 1960's era muscle cars.  Who will be around to remember when those cars were popular?

Stuff doesn't remain collectible forever.  At least not at ever-increasing prices.

 

- Douglas

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Posted by cv_acr on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 11:06 AM

Looking at anything model railroad related as an "investment" is probably a bad idea. Buy it because you want it yourself, not with any plan to necessarily retain any real value.

If you want investments, talk to your bank.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 11:12 AM

cv_acr
Buy it because you want it yourself, not with any plan to necessarily retain any real value.

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The same is true for art. I own several large original oil paintings, and I will never care what they are worth. They are meaningful and glorious for me, and they will never be sold. I bought only what I wanted.

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-Kevin

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 1:32 PM

SeeYou190

 

 
cv_acr
Buy it because you want it yourself, not with any plan to necessarily retain any real value.

 

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The same is true for art. I own several large original oil paintings, and I will never care what they are worth. They are meaningful and glorious for me, and they will never be sold. I bought only what I wanted.

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-Kevin

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My late uncle, an Austrian Jew by birth, was a life-long lover of 16th century Dutch Masters art, and invested heavily.  You are correct, he loved his paintings, and could give PhD-level disserations on many artists from that era.  I don't know what he paid for any of them, some of them were in the millions, but I can tell you that, in the smallish community that could play at that level, those paintings WERE investments. To my knowledge, their value grew at least as fast as real-estate in most markets.

Our scale trains are toys.  If you watch American Pickers, the most collectible toys were the Marx brand, some of them very dear indeed.  I think a few carefully chosen brass items could hold their value and even grow some, but the salient fact is...they're toys.

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Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:36 PM

There are a few recent, low production and high quality brass models that actually are appreciating, at least according to the www.brasstrains.com pricing trends.  Compared to all the brass models that have been produced, the number is a rather small minority.

So Howard is right: if you buy brass, buy it because you like it, need the item to fill a vacant roster slot, or just prefer the "art" of the models themselves.  Any profit is generally a happy accident if you actually run and play with any of them, as I do.

I love the models themselves and I like the way they run.

As I have quality control concerns with some of the plastic diesels available today, when I find a good Overland Models/Ajin diesel in my particular roadname, at a price I can live with, I'm buying it.  I just received one yesterday, an OMI BNSF pumpkin GP60M.  It was a reasonably priced "bargain" as compared to other OMI BNSF engines that are bigger models and can sell for twice as much.  I was thrilled to get such a nice example.

John

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Posted by emdmike on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:56 AM

Well said John.  Besides the better quality, to me atleast, I really enjoy that my engines are all hand made, one at a time.  I appreciate this type of "art" be them painted or unpainted.  These ladies and gentlemen, first in Japan, then in South Korea and now even China are real artists.  For those interested, Jeff Lemke has a nice behinds the scenes story of how brass trains are made over in Korea on his website.  Lots of great pictures, and while the company isnt named, I do believe its Ajin Precision.  Who made all those great Overland Models, along with a few for others like Hallmark. And yes, when it comes down to it, these are just toys, abliet very expensive ones.  Proving again, the differance between men and boys are the price of our toys. And for your enjoyment, here is my Overand Models ex CB&Q/BN  EMD GP20 Mike the Aspie

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 10:47 AM

To sort of turn the question around and look at it from another angle...brass locomotives, cars, and structures (along with hardcover railroad books) historically have done the best as far as holding more of their value over the years. That doesn't mean they're necessarily becoming more valuable, since the market for both have declined in recent years, but they do generally have at least some re-sale value.

Unfortunately, most other things related to model railroading, like non-brass engines and cars, structures, track etc. end being worth little to nothing eventually.

Stix
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Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:09 AM

emdmike--

Nice model!  Looks like truly pristine mint condition!

John

 

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Posted by emdmike on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 2:15 PM

Brakie, the C&O G9 holds its price as its only been done by Overland Models, in 2 runs, early run by Rok Am and later run by Ajin.   I have the early run as it was the closest to the Buffalo Creek and Gually engine that was used by the Logansport & Eel River RR in the 1980s for fan trips once a year.  It was gussied up to resemble a PRR H10 during that time and I have modified mine accordingly.  Even though Rok Am isnt thought of as a "good" builder.  Mine has ran smooth and quiet after a total relubrication of the gear box and bearings.  The BLI non brass model is close but lacks the odd driver spacing of the prototype amoung other issues.  Mike the Aspie.

Taken on my old mini layout

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Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 4:00 PM

Neat engine!  Interesting...

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:29 PM

emdmike
Brakie, the C&O G9 holds its price as its only been done by Overland Models, in 2 runs, early run by Rok Am and later run by Ajin.

Mike,Thanks for that information. I always like the look of the G9 and your sweet looking model tells why.

BC&G #13 now resides at the Age of Steam Roundhouse at Morgan Run,Oh. I had the pleasure seeing the 13 under steam and rode behind her when she was pulling OCs tourist train back in the mid 90s..

 

Larry

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 5:41 AM

Hey, all you need is the right buyer.  Got some swamp land in Flordia to sell, just talk to Disney!

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, May 23, 2019 6:22 AM

riogrande5761
Got some swamp land in Flordia to sell, just talk to Disney!

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The land that Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando resides upon was not paid highly for. Walt Disney was very careful during the purchase process not to let people know it was him buying up all that land. 

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He paid reasonable prices for the real estate.

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Almost all the land he purchased was already developed as orange groves. The only wetlands in the purchases were what was already included in the tracts as divided. There were a few undeveloped parcels that were purchased in order to provide as much open space around the park as possible. These were not swamp land.

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Nearly all the land he purchased was already for sale when he started buying it all. There was no premium paid for swamp land or anything like that. He did need to make a few "really good offers" to get some productive tracts of land that were not already on the market.

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Cape Coral, Florida, where I live, was almost all wetlands when it was purchased and developed in the 1940's and 1950's. Supposedly that is where a lot of the "Swamp land in Florida" legends come from.

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-Kevin

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Posted by emdmike on Thursday, May 23, 2019 10:07 AM

I rode behind her during her days in Logansport, and in the cab on one trip.  I was a young boy then.  I can just barely remember it.  But I have pictures and some of the tickets from riding the train at the Iron Horse Festival in Logansport, Indiana.  I miss those days.  The town/line has had a standing offer from AOS to buy back the 13 whenever they want, but the local politicians want nothing to do with a train anymore, despite trying to have a festival centered around the towns railroading history.   Its a shame, the train is what made that festival great, it was packed with people back then.   I have one of the souvineer coaches, you can just see it behind the tender.  I hope to find a few more.  Correct coaches are only done in brass and a bit hard to find, someday maybe.  There are a couple details that are off on my model vs the real 13, I havent found a pilot that is correct yet and she lacks the open space were the second cross compound air pump used to be.  Other than that, she looks really close.  And yes, even in C&O form, the G9 is a nice size Connie.    Mike the Aspie

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, May 24, 2019 11:02 AM

Doughless

I think that if collectibles are to be considered investments, there has to be a group of people who are interested in buying what you have several years down the road.

Unfortunately, with many things once collectible, I think people who want brass are departing this earth.  A ever diminishing pool of buyers.  

Same goes for Elvis memorabilia.  Beatles.    Some day, the popular question will be, "who are they?"

Maybe even the same thing with 1960's era muscle cars.  Who will be around to remember when those cars were popular?

Stuff doesn't remain collectible forever.  At least not at ever-increasing prices.

 

 

Comic books, but that is because with movies about the them have boosted intrest in some of them. Brass trains will never have that luxury however there was a guy who rebuilt a Sukura 0-4-0 with sound and got noticed and the price went way up for a short time.

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, May 24, 2019 4:33 PM

SeeYou190
Cape Coral, Florida, where I live, was almost all wetlands when it was purchased and developed in the 1940's and 1950's. Supposedly that is where a lot of the "Swamp land in Florida" legends come from.

It goes back farther than that, I belive one of the first Marx Brothers movies from 1929 or 1930 references it. In the early 1920's there was a boom in real estate development in Florida, in part due to railroads reaching southern Florida. Although the development was productive, expanding or even creating new communities, eventually some shady land speculators began selling Florida lots sight-unseen to northerners anxious to get in on the boom. When the people got there, they found the land they'd purchased was largely undeveloped swamps (as wetlands were called back then) and virtually worthless - at least at the time.

Stix
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, May 24, 2019 6:07 PM

wjstix
It goes back farther than that, I belive one of the first Marx Brothers movies from 1929 or 1930 references it.

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That would really surprise me.

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According to my copy of "Lies That Came True", Cape Coral did not exist officially until 1957. Leo and Jack Rosen founded the city. Prior to that, some of the area had been sold by another developer under very shady circumstances, but I do not know much about that. It was not called Cape Coral until the 1950s. There might have been a previous development with the same name.

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Prior to Cape Coral, there were several other planned communities in Florida that sold land to northerners as you described. A lot of these communities still exist on GPS maps, but when you drive to them there is barely even a sign of roadways.

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When I was in High School we would drive to these failed communities and party/drag race/camp/hang out/whatever. Now nature has taken them back.

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A couple of the failed communities have been absorbed by Cape Coral as it grows.

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This was way too far off topic. I barely live in Cape Coral. I can literally throw a rock from my backyard and clear the city limits.

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-Kevin

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, May 27, 2019 5:58 PM

Back on topic.

And then there are HO Rio Grande brass shop built brass cabooses.  I'd like more than the six I gave but they sell for quite a bit.  The last new Division Point cabooses I bought were Factory painted and $220 each.  I just watched an Overland painted caboose go for $440 on fleabay.  I saw another go for even more a couple months ago.  Nuts!

So it depends.

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, May 27, 2019 8:00 PM

riogrande5761
And then there are HO Rio Grande brass shop built brass cabooses.

You can add Pennsylvania Railroad flat cars to that list of brass cars that someone is willing to pay dearly for.

I have been watching for years for a pair of tiny, little F22 "gun flats" so I can simulate a loaded 16" naval gun load. They seem to garner the $200 range.

Get into a "Queen Mary" FW-1 or FD-2 or other "multi-bolster" specialty flat and you're looking at $600 to $800! Too rich for my wallet.

I've only paid retail, and discounted at that, for a very few pieces of brass. All the rest I got at what I would consider bargain-basement prices.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by nickelplaterick on Thursday, May 30, 2019 7:02 AM

It is the rare pieces that garner the most return or cost the most outright. Someone mentioned those PRR flatcars, yes those will go high because of the rarity. 

If more than one importer did a certain model that dilutes the market (like multiple Big Boys recently) as opposed to models not done. I had an ALCO MODELS P&LE A-2, that increased in value to what I paid for it because the newest one from Glacier Park Models was 2500.00 so mine was a "good value buy". 

There's was a time not long ago that people were investing in Lionel Trains and were making returns on that investment. Like anything, the less there is of something, the more valuable it becomes. 

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