Once again, the spring York Train Show is approaching. It seems that no matter what time of year it is, we are never too far from another York Train Show. Last year I did not go to York, spring or fall. I had not missed both of the annual shows since I re-entered my childhood hobby in 1997. But in 2008, since I live in Florida, it didn’t seem to make good sense to travel that far with gas nearing $4.00 per gallon, when it was much cheaper to buy trains on eBay, and save hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.
Also, prices for trains at the York meet have been creeping up. I recall my first meet in 1998, and the whispers I heard in the falls between train sellers, in effect “did you see how high that train went for on eBay”. Trains were selling for a lot on eBay, and this seemed to influence the prices of trains at train meets, pushing them upward. Fast forwarding to today, with the economy and other factors, I have observed a decrease in train prices on eBay. A lot of sellers now have high opening bids and reserves on their auctions to try and get the old prices, and as a result many are not selling their trains. Just as it is hard to get the price out of our homes today that they were worth 2 years ago, it is also hard to get the peak prices out of our trains, now that the peak has passed, and I believe the peak has passed.
I never had the illusion that collecting trains was somehow an investment. (Investing is for stocks, and lets not go there!) My belief is that the last Baby Boomer train collector to die should have quite a collection, much of it purchased at fire sale prices. Younger people as a whole, do not care much about toy trains. In their middle age they will be collecting Nintendo or Hot Wheels or something else, I would guess. I think we may be beginning to see a trend where the common train items will continue to decline in price, while the rare items will hold steady or even increase for a time.
Since most of my train collection consists of common items, it will be worth less than I paid for it! (Of course I can always apply to Washington for a bailout) But as I said this was never about money or investing to me, only the fun of owning and running trains. So as I look at the upcoming York I realize that there is a value in attending, even if the economics don’t make sense. The trains I purchase may cost a little more than they would on eBay, but I have the advantage of being able to see them up close before I buy.
Of course the York experience is unique, and really can’t be measured in dollars. The opportunity to search through acres of trains until my feet are so sore I can’t feel them anymore. Eating funnel cakes, chicken tenders and those french fries in the paper cups! Also, seeing many of the friends I have made over the last 10 years is priceless, and for everything else I have a credit card!
I hope to see you at York! Chuck