Why Are Model Trains So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, with a degree in economics and HR.

If you have a child or collector in your house, you might be thinking about buying them a model train, but may be wondering, why are model trains so expensive?

I have been looking into this topic and wanted to tell you about all of the factors that determine the price of model trains, so continue to learn all about it!

Why Are Model Trains So Expensive?

Model trains are expensive because some are worth a lot of money and are considered collector’s items, which increases the value of model trains. Additionally, reputable brands like Lionel will be expensive because of the history behind them. However, supply shortages and inflation also help drive up the prices of model trains.

Are you looking for even more reasons why model trains are expensive? If so, I’ve got even more details to share with you below, so keep reading!

1. Reputable & Iconic Brand Names

One of the big reasons model trains are expensive is the name of the model train company, such as Lionel, which is one of the most iconic and reputable names around.

Therefore, if you’re looking into purchasing model trains, you’ll be paying a lot more for them if you go with a brand such as Lionel because of its history and reputation in the industry.

2. Time & Money Developing The Model Train

There is quite a bit of time and money that goes into developing the model train, and it’s a time-consuming process, so you will see that reflected in the prices for model trains.

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3. High Manufacturing Costs

Not only does it take time and money to develop the model train, but there are also high manufacturing costs that go into making the model trains.

4. Small Number Of Model Train Collectors & Enthusiasts

Model trains are expensive because it’s a niche with only a small number of model train enthusiasts and collectors.

Therefore, since it takes time and money to develop and manufacture the model trains, the prices have to be high since only a small group will purchase them.

For example, you may have only 1,000 people interested in the product, so the profit you make from the model train isn’t going to be as high as a product where millions want to purchase it.

That said, this means that the price will be higher to account for the smaller group so that you’re still making a profit on the model trains.

5. Devaluation Of The Pound

5. Devaluation Of The Pound

In the UK, model train prices have increased over the past couple of years due to the devaluation of the pound, which has caused retail prices for model trains to skyrocket!

6. Inflation

Inflation has impacted everything within the past couple of years and even affects the model train industry, which means it costs more money to manufacture the model trains.

Therefore, if it costs more money to produce the model trains and get the materials to make them, the consumer will pay more for the model train than in years past.

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7. Supply Shortages

Supply shortages have impacted the model train industry, including the small components required to make the train’s engines, coaches, and other parts.

In addition, supply shortages make the price of those components go up, which is passed onto the consumer in a higher price tag.

8. Some Model Trains Are Worth Thousands

Model trains are expensive because some model trains, such as older Lionel brand model trains, are worth thousands of dollars.

For example, one Lionel train sold for more than $250,000, which was produced in 1934, and others have been sold for more than $70,000 or $15,000!

Therefore, you’re going to be paying more money because some are valuable or could increase in value years from now.

9. Better Technology In Model Trains

A lot better technology is being incorporated into the model trains made these days compared to decades ago, so you’re paying a hefty price for this better technology.

Furthermore, the more technology used in the model trains, the higher the prices will go since these chips and other components cost more money to manufacture than old materials.

10. It’s A Rich Man’s Hobby

Model trains have been considered a rich man’s hobby for years, so the fact that it has a reputation of being an expensive hobby only wealthy people can afford factors into the price.

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For example, there is no need to decrease the price of model trains when you have a certain part of the population that can afford to continue purchasing and collecting model trains.

11. Skilled Labor To Assemble The Model Trains

Regardless of what country the model trains are being produced in, it takes skilled labor to assemble them, and you’re paying for this skilled labor and craftsmanship.

Furthermore, not only are you paying the labor wages of those putting the model trains together, but part of that is the costs to the employer to staff the assembly line.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why swinging sticks are so expensive, why Pokemon cards are so expensive, and why Nendoroids are so expensive.


Model trains are expensive because it’s a niche hobby where there is a small group of people willing to pay for model trains, but the costs to make them are pretty high.

In addition, you need skilled labor workers to assemble the model trains, and introducing new technology into the model trains increases the price.

Also, the devaluation of the pound, inflation on a global level, and the history of the iconic nature of brands, such as Lionel or Bachmann, are part of what makes model trains expensive.


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