A Buyers/Sellers Concern-Ethics

BarstowRick Mar 5, 2019

  1. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member


    I do not know what you got for them in the end, but, I was amazed at what I got for my Atlas Minnesota ore jennies. I would post them in lots of five, six, or ten (as I found them) for three dollars the car, many with loads, in the box. I would get three to four times that. Sometimes, the lot would be mixed, containing MP or TRIX versions of them, but, still, I got those prices.

    In fact, I saw a guy at a show who was selling his late brother's collection. It had some nice stuff, but, when I was the twenty Atlas ore jennies, I negotiated a price for the lot of them. It was a straight up negotiation, using time approved tactics. I ask if he will consider a price for the lot of them; he asks what it is; I offer an amount; he turns up his nose; I start to walk away; he says to wait a minute, how about_____________?; I say still a bit too high, what about______?; he says no, but I will take____________.........you get the idea. We agreed on the price, I got them home and put them up on FeePay for fifty cents per car more than I paid and fetched a nice profit. I do not run Minnesota railroads, so , the things are useless to me. I am, however, amazed at the prices that they will fetch even used.

    Not always..............I have been amazed at what some of the junque that I have put up on FeePay fetched. This was stuff that I even labelled as "JUNK" and repeated this several times in the text of the auction. At the same time, I have been amazed at how little some nice stuff that I have sold there fetched. I once sold several C-C Hudsons that did not run at all or did not run properly. I was amazed at what they fetched. I sold one that did run well that fetched less than what some of those junque Hudsons fetched. The last was actually painted and lettered NEW YORK CENTRAL and had a correct J-3a number. Unbelievable..........I would have understood had it been a Penn or Great Northern, but one actually lettered properly?
  2. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    I basically agree that the "ethics" of an auction buyer/seller relationship are only that the seller properly describes the items, so that the potential buyers know what they are bidding for, rather than being disappointed that it is not as expected once they actually shell-out their high bid $.

    On the other hand, the highest bidder is not really setting "market value" because there is only one of him/her (for that moment, anyway). So, no manufacturer could expect to sell a large number of the same items at that price point.

    As another poster has already observed, the high prices paid by some bidders at auctions or train shows is really driven by scarcity of the items because they are no longer manufactured, so are not easily found, so pricing competition is limited. And, some older buyers may feel that they now have the money to buy items they want, and have limited lifetime left to acquire them and play with them.

    Inflation is another factor that is not really dealt with properly in our judgement making. Even the government's "cost-of-living index" is not really adequate, because it is an average over a lot of commodities, and those commodities are not all changing price in the same way, or even in the same direction. Plus that index is shamelessly manipulated by political considerations. (For example, the computed "cost" of a new car is not increased when the actual selling price is increased due to a government-required change, because the government argues that the product is now "better" and that comparing the new car to the older car is "apples-to-oranges", despite the problem that, if you need a new car, the only car that you can buy does cost more, so your cost of living really did increase.) But, that is yet another "ethics" discussion for another thread (elsewhere, please).

    So, the point is really more to why the availability of the models we want is so limited that people are willing to buy old items at inflated prices, either to bash them into better products or to run them as-is. And, that has more to do with both the current cost of production (etc.) and the current mentality of how much profit is worth how much effort on the parts of the many players in the manufacturing and retailing businesses. That last part of the equation calls into pay the competition of N scale models with all of the other things that hobbyists and non-hobbyists are buying these days, which must be manufactured and sold, too. The RC cars and robots compete directly, so noticeably, for space in our hobby shops. But, our hobby shops are also competing with other recreational and non-recreational products, such as boats, cars, medicines, clothing, makeup, and such.

    Some of that is driven by government policies and laws. For examples, cost of manufacturing is driven by employer requirements to pay minimum wages, provide benefits like health care, paid leave (for many reasons), day care, government-driven accounting requirements, etc. etc. etc. Some is driven by the cost of capital to invest in new manufacturing enterprises, which is really a comparison of how much money (overall) is to be made from a particular N scale item vs every other possibility (including new medications, snazzier automobiles, etc. etc. etc.). Even the people who really want to make N scale products in a "cottage industry" and sell them for just enough to live on are still faced with many of these issues.
  3. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

    How is this entire topic an 'ethics' question/discussion?
    No seller 'owes' ANYTHING to a potential buyer as far as it concerns price.
    MK and mtntrainman like this.
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    I don't think its 'unethical' for a seller to ask any price he wants for an item. Its also not 'unethical' for a buyer to try and get the best price he can for an item.

    HOWEVER...A seller knowingly misrepresenting anything physical about an item is 'unethical'...IMHO.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    No seller owes anything to any buyer. It is up to the potential buyer, as I noted previously, to do their "due diligence".

    The above being said, a seller who lists a commonly sold item of around fifty bucks, for seventy nine is fishing for what the "market will bear". A "seller" who lists that same item for $539.41, is not fishing for what the market will bear, they are fishing for a sucker. A victim. And such pricing being not just ridiculous, is also unethical.
    Onizukachan and Hardcoaler like this.
  6. NtheBasement

    NtheBasement TrainBoard Member

    I don't see a problem as long as the item description is accurate.

    And generally if something doesn't lose value, its worth more today due to inflation. In the 80's I could buy a very nice car for $10k - prices today are doubled and doubled again, though to be fair today's cars are far advanced tech-wise.

    When I started out in N scale in the 80's I could get cars for anywhere from $3.50 for say a Bachmann cattle car at ToysRUs to $6 for an Atlas 90 ton hopper. Currently a newly-minted same-mold hopper, rebadged as "Atlas Trainman", retails for $20 and can usually be had for $16. But when an older road number comes up on eBay it usually sells for more than new ones, presumably because someone is looking for a road number that they don't have.
  7. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

    Or the person maybe collecting. We often tend to think of collectors as people who collect brass locomotives and rolling stock regardless of the scale or people who collect Lionel trains. But there are a growing number of people who now collect early HO scale and N scale trains. Who'd ever thought TYCO HO would have become a collectors item? But it has along with many other older brands like Revell, Athearn window box and early Blue Box, Lionel HO, AHM / Rivarossi and IHC.

    Yes the person could be looking for a specific road number or they could be collecting a specific type of car, in which case if it has the original Rapido couplers in the original packaging, it becomes a collectors item.

    This is why we are now seeing Aurora Postage Stamp Train Sets sealed in the original package being listed for $200.


    Or Lone Star Treble O trains in the original package for just a locomotive and passenger car being listed for $53.


    N scale now has a growing collectors market for older N scale trains, so buyer beware.
  8. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    You make a good point about Tyco HO. They were toys, and so were Lionel. Now they are worth more 2019 dollars than they were worth in 80’s or 50’s dollars.

    They really unethical ones are the ones selling trains for ridiculous asking prices, I saw someone selling something you can buy new for $250 OFF eBay for $550 on eBay, and I don’t know how many of them we selling reservations for the 4141 for 50-100% over value in those couple of weeks after GHWB passed, or how many “Funeral sets” of 1943, 4141, and the excursion set (which isn’t even the correct consist) for about a 50-75% premium. But as PTBarnham said, there’s a sucker born every minute.

    I paid over list for my 3rd release ac12, for two reasons. 1: manufacturers like to offer reserve for next release, and not release after all, and 2: you never know what the quality of the next release will be with all the Chinese factory hopping going on recently!

    I paid $15 for a model power box car that needed conversion. Why? I wanted to compare it to the MT I was also buying.
    It photographed better than the MT, but looks 90% as nice in real life, and cost more in reality. So no more, lol.

    A $10 box car in the late IS a $20 boxcar today. Of that there is no doubt.
    The question becomes, is that $20 NOS a better value than a $20 modern box car? Usually the answer is no.

    However, keep in mind also, the US modeller is big on micro trains, but most of the rest of the world still runs on Rapido.
    Your U.K., Japanese, SouthAmerican etc modeler is used to paying double the price for anything imported, but probably can’t get that car for even double the price locally, and having Rapido is simply not a problem. At least Rapido had metal wheel sets, so you don’t have to upgrade your upgrade. And if they want to model American RR, and not pay 40, 60 or even $80 a box car... $25 for a nice older US box car may be right for them.
  9. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

    Let's not forget that Unethical is not limited to Online, particularly with Fishing for Newbies.

    Case in point: A recent live show (an iteration of what I call the "Traveling Circus," and I don't mean that in a complementary way) with most prices of HO and N Scale equipment OVER list price. These were recent releases that are still readily available. $29 for a Trainman caboose sticks in my mind as an example.
    Hardcoaler and Onizukachan like this.
  10. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    It all depends. If it's eBay, the seller expects the bids to drive the price. If they set the starting bid too high, no one will bid on it, and it's up to them to lower their starting bid when they re-list it if they want to sell it.

    If it's a train show, and their price is too high, best thing I can recommend is to approach them at the end of the show and offer a price for that item. Sometimes they don't care and it's one less item they have to pack, so they'll let it go for a lower price. If not, well, they don't get a sale and you don't get ripped off.

    I personally have no interest in any N scale item manufactured before 1990, so I don't really have this problem. But I understand in this hobby there are many items that get a limited run and are hard to find. So in that case, a higher price may be justified.
  11. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    I have a number of Atlas PRR 90 ton three bay hoppers (about 100). Atlas has been making and I have been accumulating this car for about forty years and outside of adding Accumate couplers and new car numbers the car is basically the same one that they did 40 years ago. The price has risen and is now about ten times the price that I originally paid for these cars. I believe the retail price back then was $2.25. Today it is about $20.00. Have these cars depreciated in value or have they appreciated in value? Bear in mind that the car numbers (to the best of my knowledge) have never been rerun. New cars get car numbers not used previously. If I decide to sell these cars is there anyone, in their right mind, thinking I should list these at 1980 prices???
  12. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    I once paid $120 for a long tank car that should have cost $15. Why? I dunno, the other bidder annoyed me, and there wasn’t anything but reruns on TV and I was bored. It was very satisfying. :)
    MK likes this.
  13. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

  15. Pete Steinmetz

    Pete Steinmetz TrainBoard Member

    There is a seller at the few train shows in Southern California. He has a lot of very old N Scale and marks it up to very high prices. Then he advertises 50% off. The final price is higher than it should be. I feel a little sorry for the people that buy his junk, then get it home and find out it doesn't run very well. He must be making money because he is always there.
    I would not buy from him on principle.

    Pete Steinmetz
    JMaurer1 likes this.
  16. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

    Pete... I agree in principle because you stated that the product is old and possibly not in working order. However, those who buy the products should educate themselves before attending these events. I've seen the same thing at events in South Florida. As far as 'marking-up' prices... take a look at MSRP's for current models... specially Bachmann. These 'asking' prices are usually generously discounted by most online vendors... not quite so much by small 'brick n mortar' hobby stores. That vendor you are writing about is just playing the same game... just with older merchandise.

    Sent from my SM-J737T using Tapatalk
  17. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    I don't think there is an "ethics" problem with asking whatever the market will bear. For one thing, the prices you paid in 1980 were in dollars that are "worth" more than a current dollar (and the Government's "inflation index" is purposely under-representing the actual inflation rate).

    The ethical problems that I see come from misrepresenting the product for sale. Sometimes the misrepresentation involves how it runs. Sometimes it is just trying to make a gullible newbie think something is "rare" when it is really readily available at a much lower price. Both types of lies were quite apparent when I looked at eBay this morning.

    Asking more than the going price for frequently available items in not actually unethical as long as the item is not misrepresented. Usually, the seller just doesn't make a sale. But, sometimes, an uneducated buyer or a buyer who just doesn't want to wait will buy an item at a price well above "market value." If a seller wants to sit on an item until that happens, it really doesn't hurt anybody, People who are buying things have the responsibility on their own shoulders to know both what the market is like for the items they want and what their own budget limitations are. It is not like we are selling addictive products (well, at least it's not heroin).
  18. Thomas Davis

    Thomas Davis TrainBoard Member

    The seller has an obligation (moral and legal) to accurately describe the product. They can charge whatever they wish. If the price is above "what the market will bear", the item will not sell. On "the big auction site" I don't understand how it is that Dealer A thinks they can sell a given month's Micro-trains baggage car (MSRP say $30) for $34.50 plus $12 shipping, when there is a listing just below their's from Dealer B for the same car for $23 plus $4 shipping, but that is their call.

    The buyer has no obligation to purchase. And I pay the mortgage, heating bill and set aside some for groceries before I buy any trains. If I had more money, I would have more trains. I work from a budget, and make compromises accordingly.
  19. trainman-ho

    trainman-ho TrainBoard Member

    I believe it is easy to confuse Ethics, or the lack there of, and lack of knowledge.

    When I look through the listings on auction sites I always click on "sellers other items". If the other items are all in the same category as what I am looking at, I assume the seller "should" know his product, and price it accordingly.

    If however I find the seller listing a large variety of item, I assume that the seller is taking a stab in the dark, and probably inflating the price, and description. Of course the words "Antique", "Collectors Item", "Out of production", "Must have" cause me to go to sites of the original seller, Walther's, Kato, or what have you, and then decide it I think the seller is honest or just trying to get as much as he can for what he is selling.

    There are many sellers that when I find they are selling the thing that I am interested in, I back away...I won't deal with them because they are unethical, of greedy! But that is just me!!

    Have a great day!

  20. Mopar4wd

    Mopar4wd TrainBoard Member

    Yeah There are lots of semi junk buyers out there who go to estate auctions etc and resell things. A friend of mine runs estate auctions, lots of retired guys and a few younger guys bid on random boxes of stuff to ebay. I saw a box of old HO stuff Athern and Tyco 70's and 80's stuff sell for $160, I wouldn't have paid more then $45. Saw it on ebay later that week with ambitious pricing. My favorite is a few guys work full time buying and selling from different auction houses because they now which buyers are at which auction. example buy boxes of antique glassware on Monday sell it another auction Friday for 25% more.

    I have been both types of seller honestly sometimes I sell what I know other times someone gives me something and I throw it on Ebay and see what happens.

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