How to Identify an Antique Toy Train

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How to Identify an Antique Toy Train

If you are thinking of becoming an antique train collector, it's important that you learn how to identify an antique toy train. Up until 1891, toy trains did not run on tracks. That year, the Marklin Company in Germany made the very first standardized toy train sectional track. From then on, toy trains running on tracks have captured the hearts of people throughout the world.


Step 1.  Purchase an antique toy train identification guide. This is your reference source for identifying and dating antique trains.

Step 2.  Determine the gauge, which is the width of the track, to help identify the age of the antique toy train. Gauge measurement is the distance between the inside edges of the rails.

Step 3.  Check the configuration of the toy train's wheels, called the wheel alignment.

Step 4.  Compare the antique train you are trying to identify to pictures and information you have in your antique toy train identification guide, price guides, antique reference books and catalogs and online resources.

Step 5.  Learn as much as you can about the antique toy trains. Being knowledgeable on the subject will help you to identify those that you may come across.

Step 6.  Bring your antique toy train to an antiques dealer or appraiser who has knowledge in the field of antique toys or antique toy trains.

Step 7.  Visit toy museums, or seek the help of private collectors, to help identify an antique toy train.

Tips & Warnings

*  It is very unusual to find a complete antique toy train set available for sale at one time. When it does occur, it is usually because an old, established train collection is being sold off.
*  Trains from the late 19th century and 20th centuries can often be identified by the gauge.
*  Standard gauge, which was popular in the early 20th century, measures 2 1/8 inches across.
*  Most 0-gauge trains were made after the that time.
*  Antique toy trains are generally less expensive than many other antiques of the same era.
*  Be aware that there are many fakes and reproductions in the market of antique toy trains. Knowledge is your best defense against fake antiques.

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