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What are the systems used to identify the condition (grade) of new and used toy trains, and how do I use them?

There are two systems in current use for grading/determining the condition of toy trains and related accessory items. In 2005, the Train Collectors Association (TCA) developed a new set of standards. The old standards, while still in use by such organizations as the Lionel Collectors Club of America (LCCA), are not as accurate or descriptive as the TCA’s. Printed Price Guides are currently using one system or the other; most Auction Sites are using the TCA Standards. To help the reader, both can be found below. It should be remembered that grading of an item DOES NOT include its operating functionality.

In most cases the box (if there is one) does not have a major impact on the value of the item. Of course, there are exceptions. To help the reader/buyer, the current Box Grading Standards as used by the TCA can also be found below.

Regardless of which Standard you use, it is suggested that the buyer does not just buy the “grade;” rather, the buyer should want to buy the item(s) that they are looking at because they like what they see and the price appears realistic. In some cases, the seller will grade the item higher than will the buyer. That’s called, “One ‘C’ for Ownership.”

The following are GUIDELINES; the buyer/reader should expect variations in grading, especially in the grading of Pre-War Era boxes. In some cases (usually C1-C6) an item may not have all the deficiencies of the grade but will have enough of them to “earn” the lower grade and price.

TRAIN COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION Standards (based on a scale of C1-C10)

C1: Junk—parts value only.
C2: Restoration required.
C3: Poor—requires major body repair; heavily scratched; major rust; missing parts; major restoration candidate.
C4: Fair—scratched; moderate paint loss; dented; missing parts; surface rust; evidence of heavy use.
C5: Good—sign of play wear; scratches and minor paint loss; small dents; minor surface rust; evidence of heavy use.
C6: Very Good—minor scratches and paint nicks; minor spots of surface rust; free of dents; may have had minor parts replaced. (MOST USED TRAINS FALL INTO THIS AREA OF THE SCALE.)
C7: Excellent—all original; minute scratches and paint nicks; no rust; no missing parts; no distortion of component parts.
C8: Like New—complete and original; no rust or missing parts; may show effects of being on display and/or its age; may have been run.
C9: Factory New—brand new; all original and unused; may evidence factory rubs and slight evidence of handling and shipping; may have been factory test run.
C10: Mint—brand new; all original, unused and unblemished.

LIONEL COLLECTORS CLUB OF AMERICA Standards (based on a scale of P-N)

P: Poor—heavily scratched, dented and warped; usable for parts only.
F: Fair—well worn and used; rusted and/or warped.
G: Good—some scratches, dents and/or minor warpage/rust.
V: Very Good—(sometimes VG); some scratches, no dents, warpage or rust.
E: Excellent—minute nicks and scratches; no rust.
L: Like New—little sign of use; no nicks, scratches or blemishes; original condition throughout.
N: New--absolutely all original and new.

TRAIN COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION BOX GRADING STANDARDS

R: Reproduction or non-original box.
4: A “5,” but one or both exterior flaps are missing
5: A “6,” but exterior flaps may require mending; box liners and/or inner flaps may be missing; with caution, box can still store its original contents; any box repaired with non-archival Scotch or equivalent tape cannot be graded higher than “5.”
6: Complete; a “7,” but inner flap(s) may require strengthening with archival tape; can still safely store its original contents.
7: Complete; an “8,” but moderate usage; minor damage.
8: Complete; a “9,” but box has been opened; original contents of box may be missing.
9: Complete; a “10,” but with handwritten or affixed price and/or dealer stamp.
10: Original; complete; includes inner liner (if there was one issued); no fading, wear or water marks; flaps appear never to have been opened.

The grading of Toy Train items and boxes is an art, not a science. If you have questions or comments to add to these standards, please contact the NAOGRRC Web Master.  

 

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