toy train pricing guides published today generally adhere to grading standards established
by the Train Collectors Association (TCA). Those standards are:
- Brand New all original, unused and unblemished.
C-9 FACTORY NEW
- Brand New all original, unused, may evidence factory
rubs and the slightest evidence of handling, shipping and having been test
run at the factory.
- Complete all original, no rust, no missing parts,
may show effects of being on display and/or age, may have been run.
- all original minute scratches and paint
nicks, no rust and no missing parts. No distortion of component parts.
- Minor scratches and paint nicks, minor spots of
surface rust, free of dents. May have minor parts replaced.
GOOD - Sign of
play wear with scratches and minor paint loss. Small dents, minor surface
rust. Evidence of heavy use.
FAIR - Scratched,
moderate paint loss, dented missing parts, surface rust. Evidence of heavy
- Requires major body repair. Heavily scratched, major rust and missing
parts. Restoration candidate.
- Restoration required.
- Junk, parts value only.
Condition and Grading Standards apply to ALL toy train and
related accessory items. The items that are being evaluated may or may not
include the original box. Boxes and other paper are subject to a separate
set of grading and condition standards. Standards for all toy train related
accessory items apply to the visual appearance of the item and do
not consider the operating functionality of the equipment.
The Standards have been expanded with the introduction of a separate
designation for restored/refinished items. Restored/refinished items
must continue to be marked as such using the pressure sensitive
labels available from the TCA. The Association
provides these labels through members of the Standards Committee or the
National Business Office.
Grades for grading paper (such as Catalogs, Instruction Sheets) and
P-10 Individual pages/box flaps appear
to have been never opened. All edges are crisp and the item is free of
all flaws. Original folds are crisp with no signs of damage. No rusty
staples, creases, tears, fading, and/or wear marks are present. The item
is totally and absolutely "unflawed"!
Note: Items that have printing that is offset, smeared, double images,
odd cut pages, and/or etc. are considered errors and shall be noted as
Paper: Item may have been touched by human hands since leaving original
Boxes: Original contents are contained within, and if applicable, sealed
box. All applicable sealing tape, plastic
wrap, and/or staples are present and undisturbed.
P-9 Same as P-10 with the following
exceptions or additions. Item may have store or dealer stamp
Paper: Item has been touched by human hands since leaving original
factory. Individual pages have been
opened. Original paper folds are crisp with no signs of damage if
folded by the factory; i.e. still unfolded.
Boxes: Box may have a hand-written or affixed price tag indicating the
"original price" of the box's contents.
P-8 Same as P-9 with the following
exception or additions:
Paper: Notations from an auction, dealer, club member on the cover or
interior page may be present.
Boxes: Original contents of box may be missing; i.e. box has been
opened. The "This Side Up" part of the box has the original sealing tape
carefully and neatly cut and/or staples may have been carefully removed
to expose the contents. Box is complete with all inner liners and/or
P-7 Same as P-8 with the following
exceptions and/or additions. Item shows signs of moderate usage and is
100% intact. Original paper folds show minute signs of damage. Item may
have rusty staples which have not affected the paper.
Paper: There may be some evidence of bending and folding or unfolding if
original factory folded. All pages must be present.
Boxes: Box shows moderate signs of being opened and closed.
P-6 Same as P-7 with the following
exceptions or additions. Item shows signs of usage and is 100% intact.
Edges are minutely damaged. Original paper folds show signs of damage.
All printing material is legible, however, the item may have some wear
marks such as weathering, slight fading, unoriginal pencil or ink marks,
and/or a foreign substance on the item such as rust, grease, oil, and/or
etc. which minutely extends onto the printed material or is confined to
the unprinted areas of the item.
Paper: Page(s) may show additional (unoriginal) fold(s) or "dog-eared"
page(s). Page(s) may have tears. Such tears greated than two inches may
be closed with archival tape.
Boxes: All liners and/or flaps are present and intact, however, inner
flaps may require some strengthening with the use of archival tape. The
box can still safely store its original contents.
NOTE: Any paper or box item repaired with a non-archival Scotch® or
equivalent tape can be graded no higher than P-5.
P-5 Same as P-6 with the following
exceptions and/or additions. Item shows high signs of usage. Edges may
be damaged. Original folds are heavily damaged. All existing printed
material is legible; however, the item is heavily worn with severe wear
marks extending well onto the original printed material and may have
extensive color fading. No water damage or signs of paper/cardboard
deterioration is evident.
Paper: Page(s) may be missing or loose and shall be so noted. The item
may still be useable as reference material.
Boxes: All exterior flaps are present; however, they may require some
mending or reattaching with transparent tape. Box liners and/or inner
flaps may be completely and/or partially missing; however, inner flaps
may be reattached with transparent tape. Exercising caution, the box can
still store its original contents.
P-4 Same as P-5 with the following
exceptions and/or additions. Some or all of the existing printed
material is illegible.
Paper: Item is so heavily damaged that it has little to no use as
Boxes: One or both of the exterior flaps are missing. Box will no longer
safely store its original contents.
Condition and Grading Standards are subjective, at best, and are intended
to act as a guide. It is important and logical that wishful thinking not be
allowed to influence the choice of grade.
These are rigid standards, which are monitored and enforced by the TCA on its members in their
dealings. Be aware that merchants who are not TCA members are not bound by these or
any other standards, and all too frequently an unwary novice is sold, for example, a
Mint item that may in reality be in Like New or even poorer
condition. This is another area where membership in TCA has its advantages.
Its admittedly sometimes difficult to be objective in grading a treasured train item
that is in your possession. Nevertheless, a sellers credibility is on the line in
such transactions, and every collector is well advised to err on the side of conservatism
and to disregard sentimentality in grading each piece.
Warning: Many reproductions and repaints have been
created of the more desirable toy train locomotives and cars. Many are not clearly
identified as such. The TCA requires all members who are offering for sale, items that
have been repainted or restored, to be labeled with a sticker identifying them as being
restored. With demand increasing for antique toy trains by collectors, there are
unscrupulous persons who will go to any length to create and sell fakes of valuable items.
The Train Collectors Association has published a guide to identifying reproductions and
fakes. This guide can be a useful tool to collectors who are suspicious of items they are
considering for purchase.
The TCA has a Standards Committee made up of members who are long time collectors and are very knowledgeable on this subject of grading. The Standards Committee has created detailed presentations, with examples of each grade classification, using photographs of trains in each condition.
To watch the Post-War Trains presentation click here.
To watch the Pre-War Trains presentation click here.
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