Marklin Trains and Toys: A Price Guide for Collectors

Marklin 55004 gauge I live steam BR44 2-10-0 DB locomotive and tender. Sold for £2,499 via Bonhams (June 2013).

By: Paul Deardorff

What are Marklin trains and toys worth? To understand the value of these in-demand collectors’ items, it’s important to learn the history and breadth of objects that the German toy manufacturer has developed in over 150 years in production. Explore key examples from the Marklin brand below, from its early days in doll accessories to sought-after trains: Marklin z scale, Marklin HO, crocodile, and many more.

A History of Marklin Trains and Toys

Based in Göppingen in the region of Baden-Württemberg in Germany, toy manufacturer Märklin (or Marklin) was founded in 1859 by Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin. In the years leading up to the turn of the last century, the firm specialized in dollhouse accessories and toys for girls. Today the company is best known for its model railroad toys in Z, HO, and G Scale, which is common for garden railways. The company enjoyed over a century of success, surviving two world wars and expanding its product range and technical innovation each step of the way. However, Marklin’s stability as a family-owned toy company would not last forever.

Facing growing debt and slumping sales in early 2009, Marklin filed for insolvency at the Göppingen municipal court. A year and a day later, on February 5, 2010, Marklin announced a return to profitability after the work of the insolvency manager Michael Pluta. In 2013, the company was acquired by the Simba Dickie Group after being owned by the Marklin family since its founding over 150 years before. Since then, the firm has acquired several other famous toy brands including LGB and Trix which have become part of the Marklin family.

Today, Marklin ranks among the top toy manufacturers in the world and produces some of the highest quality scale model trains. Prices for antique and vintage Marklin items vary dramatically, but quality examples demand a premium in the market. Even a simple vintage set might fetch several hundred dollars and a hand-painted tin boat could fetch over a quarter million dollars at the right auction.

The Early Years: Marklin Doll Accessories

After Marklin’s founding in 1859, the main product line of the “Wilhelm Märklin” company consisted of dolls, kitchen dioramas, and other toy accessories designed for girls. The Marklin firm enjoyed success in promoting its toys around Germany and throughout the international market. Some of its most impressive toys at the time included bath houses, carousels, and other hand-painted tin structures often featuring elaborately constructed scenes. Toys like fire trucks or water fountains even had working water pumps that sprayed and splashed water.

While dollhouse accessories and other toys for girls from this period tend to price in the hundreds or early thousands of dollars, other toys from this period can achieve impressive results. Original fire trucks and carousels, for instance, can fetch upwards of $20,000 and some realize well over $100,000 at auction.

Image 1: Rare Märklin Dolls House Cleaning Set
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (19 December 2005)
Estimate: £1,200 – £1,800
Price Realized: £4,800

Image 2: Märklin Doll Carriage, Germany, c. 1905
Skinner, Marlborough, Massachusetts (10 October 2009)
Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500
Price Realized: $3,081

Image 3: Märklin Doll Carriage
James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine (13 July 2014)
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000
Price Realized: $2,073

Image 4: Märklin Painted Steel Miniature Doll Stroller, early 20th century
Skinner, Marlborough, Massachusetts (25 July 2009)
Estimate: $150 – $200
Price Realized: $1,304

Image 5: A Märklin 14cm. Doll’s Bed
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (20 December 2004)
Estimate: £400 – £600
Price Realized: £869.09

Image 6: Contemporary Märklin Carousel, c. 2000
Bertoia, Vineland, New Jersey (28 March 2014)
Estimate: $600 – $800
Price Realized: $1,062

Image 7: Märklin Toy Stove with Accessories, c. 1920
Auction Team Breker, Köln, Germany (21 May 2016)
Estimate: €250 – €500
Price Realized: €278

Image 8: Märklin 16121 Carousel: reproduction (limited edition of 2000 of the 1908 Märklin 8847 model)
Ewbank’s, Woking, United Kingdom (14 December 2017)
Estimate: £150 – £250
Price Realized: £130

Marklin’s Golden Age of Tinplate and Steam Engines

When Marklin acquired Lutz in the late 1880s, their production expanded from strictly toy and doll accessories to include a range of scale model railway toys. Marklin standardized these gauges and produced both steam and clockwork powered train sets. Steam engines were incorporated into toys of all types including steam-powered ocean liners and battleships. Stationary steam plants were sold on their own and often powered an electric dynamo to generate a small current that could power other accessories.

Simple steam engines from this period typically price in the $500 – $1,500 range. More complex steam engines with a pulley rig to power accessories reach into the early five-figures. Some of the largest Marklin steam plants, like some seem in the Marklin Museum in Germany, are worth well over $100,000 at auction. Steam locomotives from this period follow a similar range in pricing, but also often suffer from considerable paint damage due to the high heat during steam operation.

Image 9: A Rare Märklin Spirit-Fired Steam 114cm. Ocean Liner
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (2 June 2005)
Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000
Price Realized: £42,545

Image 10: Early Live Steam Märklin Pleasure/Riverboat
James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine (13 June 2014)
Estimate: $12,500 – $17,500
Price Realized: $14,220

Image 11: Steam Plant with Dynamo by Märklin No. 4128/94, 1919 onwards
Auction Team Breker, Köln, Germany (21 May 2016)
Estimate: €7,500 – €10,000
Price Realized: €8,607

Image 12: Märklin Horizontal Steam Engine
Morphy Auctions, Denver, Pennsylvania (13 December 2013)
Estimate: $2,000 – $4,000
Price Realized: $2,400

Image 13: Märklin O Gauge Locomotive with Clockwork Engine
Noel Barrett Antiques and Auctions, Carversville, Pennsylvania (20 June 2009)
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000
Price Realized: $2,300

Image 14: Large Märklin Steam Engine
James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine (20 May 2006)
Estimate: $2,000 – $4,000
Price Realized: $1,800

Image 15: Early 20th Century Märklin D14 Wertemberg steam plant
Dreweatts, Honiton, United Kingdom (28 October 2005)
Estimate: £100 – £200
Price Realized: £1,000

Image 16: Very Early Märklin Clockwork 1 Gauge Locomotive
James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine (11 November 2006)
Estimate: $700 – $900
Price Realized: $420

The Beginning of Marklin 00/HO

Beginning in the year 1935, Marklin produced 00 scale miniature train sets that were priced much more affordably compared to the larger gauges of previous years. The first locomotives included a steam R 700 and electric RS 700. As the years progressed, the range of 00 scale models expanded and even included special variations for export markets like America and Great Britain, but the onset of World War II set all of these plans off course. In 1938, the last of the LMS and LNER export models for the British market were produced. Plans for an 00 Scale crocodile were scrapped until after the War, and production shifted toward the war effort and generally slowed due to a lack of available raw materials.

Locomotives and sets from this early period of HO/00 scale range from $800 to a few thousand dollars. Some of the rarest trains and sets are special export versions for markets like Britain and America and fetch thousands at auction. The rarest of such export versions is the E 800 LMS locomotive, also sold in a set with three coaches, and has fetched well over $20,000 at live auction.

Image 17: A rare pre-war Märklin 00 Gauge British-export LMS Pacific Set
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (18 December 2006)
Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000
Price Realized: £9,600

Image 18: Märklin 00 TWE 700R Schnelltriebwagen
Dorotheum, Vienna, Austria (1 April 208)
Estimate: Unavailable
Price Realized: €3,000

Image 19: Märklin CCS #800 Crocodile
Morphy Auctions, Denver, Pennsylvania, United States (6 February 2016)
Estimate: $200 – $300
Price Realized: $1,220

Image 20: A rare pre-war Märklin 00 Gauge British-export 352E LMS.1 four-axle Dining Car
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (18 December 2006)
Estimate: £600 – £800
Price Realized: £720

Image 21: Early post-war Märklin 00/H0 Rolling Stock and Track
Christie’s, London, United Kingdom (18 December 2006)
Estimate: £250 – £350
Price Realized: £456

Image 22: Early Märklin HO-gauge Electric Pantograph Locomotive
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, Mount Victoria, Australia (6 December 2017)
Estimate: AUD150 – AUD250
Price Realized: AUD180

Image 23: Märklin ‘HO’ (Allemagne)
COLLECTOYS, Bourges, France (2 April 2013)
Estimate: €50 – €60
Price Realized: €120

Marklin Vintage Sets

In the 1960s, Marklin was known predominantly as a producer of HO scale trains. But in 1969 it revived many of its 1 scale models, sparking a resurgence of interest in this larger scale. This continued with the Marklin Maxi line and was supplemented with G Scale models with the firm’s acquisition of LGB in 2007. Many collectors of the vintage sets from this period enjoy the nostalgia of operating and displaying the toys from their own childhood. Sets produced in Germany during the 1950s and 1960s were often brought back by parents serving abroad in the military in Germany or purchased through mail-order catalogs.

Vintage trains and sets from this period are considerably more affordably price compared to the trains produced surrounding the War period. Some collectors find they are less expensive than newly released Marklin trains and thus prefer to purchase trains from this period.  A savvy collector can acquire one of the more common vintage Marklin sets for under $100.

Image 24: Three Märklin 1-gauge items
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, Mount Victoria, Australia (4 April 2016)
Estimate: AUD1,000 – AUD1,500
Price Realized: AUD750

Image 25: Märklin Maxi Gauge 1 Museum 2002 0-6-0 Tank Loco
Vectis Auctions Ltd., Rugby, United Kingdom (24 July 2010)
Estimate: £100 – £120
Price Realized: £220

Image 26: Märklin Maxi Gauge 1 Union Pacific A Units
Vectis Auctions Ltd., Rugby, United Kingdom (24 July 2010)
Estimate: £300 – £400
Price Realized: £180

Image 27: Märklin 54213 Electric Loco
Lloyd Ralston Gallery, Shelton, Connecticut, United States (12 June 2010)
Estimate: Unavailable
Price Realized: $250

Image 28: Märklin Maxi 1 – 5452 Steam Locomotive G III
Kunst-und Auktionshaus Wiesbaden, Mains-Kastel, Germany (12 March 2015)
Estimate: Unavailable
Price Realized: €150

Image 29: Märklin Maxi Tenderlok aus Werbezug “Alno” 95001
Lankes Auktionshaus e.k., Dohlau, Germany (27 January 2017)
Estimate: Unavailable
Price Realized: €70

Image 30: Märklin Maxi Gauge 1 0-4-0 Tank Loco No.987505
Vectis Auctions Ltd., Rugby, United Kingdom (24 July 2010)
Estimate: £100 – £120
Price Realized: £50

Marklin Digital and Z-Scale

In 1972, Marklin launched the 1:220 Z scale, which was for decades was the smallest scale model train in the world. Railway enthusiasts tight on space enjoy Z scale for its very small size. Vast scenes and layouts fit within a very small space. In fact, some hobbyists and manufacturers produce Z scale layouts that fit within a briefcase. Marklin was also among the first model railway companies to introduce a digital train control system by use of a digital decoder. The Marklin Digital system for Marklin 3-rail AC train layouts was introduced in 1984 and used chips produced by the manufacturer Motorola. Today nearly all Marklin trains are capable of digital operation and sometimes include sound functions. The attention to detail and quality remain a hallmark of all toys that leave the Marklin factory floor.

Image 31: Märklin Z-scale Trains Set, Display Case
Milestone Auctions, Willoughby, Ohio, United States (3 February 2018)
Estimate: $200 – $300
Price Realized: $525

Image 32: 26 Märklin Mini Club Z scale freight and passenger cars
Stout Auctions Toy and Train Specialists, Williamsport, Indiana, United States (5 August 2016)
Estimate: $180 – $250
Price Realized: $325

Image 33: 15 Märklin Z Scale Mini Club Cars
Quinn’s Auction Gallery, Falls Church, Virginia United States (16 September 2017)
Estimate: $200 – $400
Price Realized: $280

Image 34: Märklin Mini-Club Z-Scale Santa Fe Locomotive
Milestone Auctions, Willoughby, Ohio, United States (3 February 2018)
Estimate: $100 – $200
Price Realized: $160

Image 35: Lot of Märklin Z Scale Trains and Accessories
Morphy Auctions, Denver Pennsylvania, United States (6 February 2016)
Estimate: $100 – $125
Price Realized: $122

Image 36: Märklin 8816 Z-Scale DB Powered Railcar / Bus MIB
Smith Auction Company, Coatesville, Pennsylvania, United States (20 March 2018)
Estimate: Unavailable
Price Realized: $90

Marklin Pricing and Authenticity

Three of the main factors for determining the value of Marklin trains and toys are:

  1. Original v. reproduction examples
  2. Condition
  3. Provenance

Pricing for Marklin toys and trains varies dramatically. In recent years the market’s very high prices for Marklin drove considerable production of reproduction items of locomotives, accessories, and spare parts. Condition, too, is a key factor when determining value; items in fair condition often undergo expensive restorations that ultimately pay off because such top pieces warrant a quality restoration. However, as more and more restored and reproduction items come onto the market, some collectors have started paying a high premium on truly original and 100% unrestored items. As such, the prices for pristine, original items have held their strength or improved while pieces in fair or restored condition have softened into decline.

Marklin gauge 1 restaurant car, circa 1914. Sold for £812 via Bonhams (December 2003).

When looking for top quality Marklin pieces, always remember that provenance is one of the most important factors to collectors. Provenance includes the history of previous owners and any stories associated with the piece that can be verified with hard evidence.  Original boxes, factory wrapping paper, sales receipts, special stamps or markings all contribute to a piece’s provenance. Sometimes an original box and instruction sheet can increase an item’s value by approximately 30 or 40%.  In some cases, the original box can be worth as much its contents.

Discerning Marklin collectors should always be on the lookout for restoration, reproductions, and fake pieces. Legitimate, high-quality reproductions do exist from firms like Ritter, HEHR, and Selzer in Germany and are marked and sold as such. Some unscrupulous producers and sellers, however, do not mark their reproductions and offer them as originals to unsuspecting collectors.  When in doubt, consult a toy specialist or Marklin collector and request their evaluation or opinion before you make a purchase. They may have helpful and specific insights on pricing, condition, and special versions that are particularly rare or desirable.

About Paul Deardorff

Paul collects and researches Marklin toys and trains and has focused exclusively on Marklin for over a decade. His interests began with 00/HO Marklin, specifically from 1935 up until the early post-War period. Now his collection and research interests span into nearly all areas of Marklin’s production. Paul has spoken at ETE’s annual EuroWest event on the topic of Marklin and actively maintains where he publishes articles on Marklin.