I’ve never been much of a Z scale collector myself, I simply tend to buy and keep what I like. I was wondering recently if the wave of good quality trains available from AZL and MTL haven’t put a dent into the Z scale collector market? This is a purely unscientific observation on my part but it seems some of the prices for older Z scale gear have actually come down in recent years.
One example is the venerable Marklin 8800, the 0-6-0 steam locomotive that is instantly recognizable to all Z scalers. A year or two back these locos, used, would regularly sell in the neighborhood of $125 on eBay, now they can be had for considerably less, even in mint condition.
I recently received an email from a Ztrains reader asking what I thought the value of some late 1970’s Z scale pieces would be. His list began with a never-run, late 1970s, 8800 locomotive. I hated to tell him but the reality is that his never-run 8800 likely wouldn’t run right now if he put it on the tracks due to HOS (Hardened Oil Syndrome). Early Marklin locos came from the factory with oil that would congeal and harden over time. Even if it did run, likely it wouldn’t run well. The chances are good that he’d actually damage the motor if he applied power before clearing that old, congealed oil.
In addition, consider that the older Marklin locos came equipped with 3-pole motors, not the newer 5-pole motors which (ideally) can produce a slower and smoother running train. This also works against old Marklin Z scale gear having higher values.
As with all things, there are exceptions of course: the Micro-Trains Line Moguls, the Marklin Casey Jones and D&RGW Bumblebee are a couple of examples. These locos, and loco sets, command a high dollar value but this is likely because they were produced in numbers that are more limited and their shells are made of brass. Brass is always a magic word in model railroading, as the shell detail tends to be better in brass than with an injection molded version, heavier too which generally means better running.
You can find other examples of collectible trains in Z scale, sometimes from manufacturers that are no longer in Z, custom pieces or very limited brass runs. Largely though Z scale may be simply too young to be a real collectors scale, at least from a financial point of view. Of course, that never-run Marklin 8800 may be worth something in the years to come. Hold on to anything long enough and it becomes harder to find on the open market and by definition, more valuable.
In the meantime, we have some terrific current locos and rolling stock to choose from in Z scale, at prices far less than we originally paid for those steam and diesel locos back in the good old days of Z scale. With $100 locomotives on the horizon in Z scale, I’d argue that these are the good old days in Z scale!