How to Find Out How Old Your Lionel Train Is

By Matt Browning
Never ask a train its age -- use dedicated collectors' resources instead

Lionel has been making toy train sets since 1901. Lionel reports that collecting vintage Lionel trains is a popular pastime among hobbyists and antique toy dealers alike. Sometimes, though, it is difficult to determine the exact age of your vintage train. There are a few ways to find out how old you Lionel train is.

Find your Lionel train's four-digit model number by checking the bottom or right side of the train. Collector's resources such as Greenberg's Pocket Price Guides or Lionel Manuals catalogue Lionel train sets by model number, which indicates type of train as well as year of manufacture. These books are usually available at bookstores or online, or you could also check your local library's reference section.

Use buyer and seller resource guides for vintage toys, such as Ebay's buyer's guide for Lionel trains. These guides help both expert collector and amateur hobbyist date a particular Lionel train set. Online sellers also categorize vintage train sets by year of manufacture and type of train, and they usually include photos of trains to allow you to determine a match with your train. Although it will require some time and dedication to comb through lists of vintage Lionel trains and their model numbers, the process will not only help you find your train's age but also give you an idea of the range in value for vintage train sets.

Ask a fellow collector or an antiques dealer in your community for help. Because collecting Lionel train sets is such a popular pastime, many communities feature groups of collectors and vintage toy dealers who specialize in Lionel trains. Not only can these experts help you find the age of your train, but they are good resources if you decide you want to sell your train, or start collecting more of them. Lionel's web site features links to online communities for collectors and train enthusiasts; reaching out to online community members for help will also help you find the age of your train.

About the Author

Matt Browning has been writing about health, science, food and travel since 1990. His career has spanned advocacy, medical communications and public relations and his stories have won awards from the Virginia Press Association. Browning earned a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from the University of Virginia.