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    LEGO Trains: An On-Track Investment or an Investment Derailment?


    As I was sitting on my couch one day watching Robert Zemeckis's, The Polar Express, with my two-and-a-half-year-old son, I got to thinking about trains.  The Polar Express is my son's favorite movie and he knew how to say “choo-choo” before he could say “Daddy.”  What is it about trains that cause children(and some adults...LOL) to run around the house and yell, “choo-choo, choo-choo” before they can say their own name?  And does this same passion for trains cross over into other hobbies and worlds, say LEGO train sets and accessories?  I decided to take a look and see how much interest there was in LEGO train sets and accessories and if there was any investment value in them.  
     

    Lego train sets go back as far as 1966, with sets like the Small Train Set(114) and Motorized Train Set(113).  While these sets were early examples of Lego train sets, the newer versions(and the versions we will be discussing in this article) are quite a bit more complex a   nd definitely more accurate in appearance to actual full-sized trains.  The subtheme of LEGO trains that most resemble full-sized trains are the '9V' variety, which stands for 9 'volts.'  They can either be standalone models of  train engines and cars, or used together with multiple train models and tracks to make complete and operational train sets.  These 9V LEGO trains have been in existence since 1991 and some run off of 9-volt track setups that have a speed regulator, train motor and electrified track(K4548-Train Accessory Collection) to make them “mobile” if so desired.  Other LEGO 9V train sets can be made mobile through the use of LEGO Power Functions motors.  
     

    I find that the Lego 9V trains are very accurate in appearance and are some of the best designed Lego sets.  Sometimes, I have a hard time telling if the sets are models made from LEGO bricks or are they actually Lionel Trains?  There is also a huge variety of 'custom' train instructions and models on EBAY that can enable the train fan to use their own LEGO collections to build complete working train sets with multiple engines and cars.  Like real toy trains, complete worlds can be created with LEGO bricks, with towns, bridges, people, modular homes, landscaping, etc... making up fantastic displays...  
     

    One of the best features of LEGO trains in my opinion is their appreciation potential.  Here are some LEGO 9V trains that are appreciating nicely from their original MSRP...  
     

     

    IMAGE SET YEAR MSRP CURRENT VALUE % INCREASE
    10194: EMERALD NIGHT 2009 $100.00 $161.00 66%
    10183: HOBBY TRAINS 2007 $100.00 $167.00 67%
    10173: HOLIDAY TRAIN 2006 $90.00 $338.00 276%
    10170: TTX INTERMODAL DOUBLE STACK CAR 2005 $40.00 $125.00 213%
    10133: BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTE FE LOCOMOTIVE 2004 $40.00 $212.00 432%
    10025: SANTA FE CARS-SET I 2002 $35.00 $189.00 441%
    10022: SANTA FE CARS-SET II 2002 $35.00 $247.00 606%
    10020: SANTA FE SUPER CHIEF 2002 $40.00 $223.00 458%


    So, as the reader can see, the LEGO 9V trains are not only interesting and accurate in appearance, they are 'on track' with their appreciation as well.  Several of these sets sold for as little as $35 less than ten years ago, are bringing back hundreds of dollars consistently on auction sites.  Newer sets like the 10194 Emerald Night are increasing in value nicely, even after just a year or two of being discontinued.  Look for similar new LEGO 9V trains, such as the 10219 Maersk Train, to continue the trend of accurate and appreciating LEGO sets.
     

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    Oh man, where was this site like 2 years ago. Seriously I unloaded a bunch of these train sets. It's always that way, you think they have no value, or you sell them on ebay for next to nothing so you can buy a new set and look at how popular they really are. I would never have guessed. You learn something new everyday!

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    @plasticbrix I know what you mean. I had some of these sets when they were new, but I am a buy it, build it, sell it, buy something new. I just like building them. I don't have the room to keep them all. But looking at the data here sure makes me think twice about unloading them so quickly. I have been looking at Emerald Night for a while, I think I may have just discovered my next purchase.

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    I wish I would of held on to set 10020. I sold it, thinking it was ugly. But I guess back then I was not really collecting as an investment just collecting the sets I thought looked good. Today I learned.

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    @ tiyx...I never paid attention to trains until about 3-4 months ago, when I saw them appreciating like crazy. I could have bought the 10020 for like $50 a year or two ago. No more.

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    I missed out on the Emerald Night but I wil be getting a couple of the Maersk Trains (10219) as it is a very handsome set and should be a solid investment. So far I have no plans to get any of the other trains or motor equipment but that could also change.

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    I think the "Ghost Train" which probably isn't a "real" train will do nicely. It is getting a lot of buzz from the lego community. I think it looks pretty cool.

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    After seeing the Ghost Train in person it is not in the same class as the Maersk train or Emerald Night. It is a toy pull train and seems geard towards a very young audience. I do not think it can be motorized either.

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    @timinchicago Yep, definitely a different kind of train but I noticed you will get a certain type of collector that only collects a certain item. One of the big ones is trains. I am not a train collector but I think the sets looks pretty neat. I see some investment potential.

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    This makes me very happy to have some of the sets that I do. Thanks for the info. Does anyone know if this applies to the non-electronic trains, too?

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    I noticed that when I left that comment, I kept getting an error saying that I was answering the problem 9+3+1 wrong with 13, but when I used 14, it was right. Just a heads up!

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    I love trains and the fact that they are a good Lego investment makes me love them just a little bit more. I too will probably be getting some of the Maersk train sets.

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    Trains in any theme seem to do well. I've noticed that the Hogwarts Express is worth more now than Hogwarts itself. Too bad there are no trains in Star Wars!

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    Trains hit a nice intersection between train collectors and Lego collectors. Be warned, those who have tried to electrify the Ghost train say it can't be done. Therefore the Ghost train attraction might be limited to Lego collectors. The newer power function trains are great for the automation/robotics/technic crowd, however they carry all the inconvenience of being battery powered. The 9V track trains are advantageous to train folks since they can operate many hours without battery changes and the disassembly that is sometimes required. At Bricks Cascade, you'll get to see an outstanding MOC train which was built after about $1500 of brick investments and months of effort.

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    What about the City theme trains? I think the 3677 and 7939 are very good looking trains with numerous possibilities for playtime or just display. They also have a tigh bond with 10219 all of them beeing freight trains. Ed, if you have time, please do un update of this article and include ALL trains.The blog says LEGO Trains, but very few trains are in it :)

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