Athearn Model Trains



2015-06-26 11:19:03

Athearn Model Trains are toy trains produced by the American manufacturer Athearn.


Brief history and description

Athearn Model Trains began life in 1938, when founder Irv Athearn began to make and sell model trains direct from his parent’s home in America. He made his first sale for $10, 000, a huge sum of money at the time, and a task even more impressive given the huge economic downturn which his country had just experienced.

Throughout the 1940s Athearn continued production from his family home, and by 1946 he had assembled a small production team, before eventually opening his own factory in California in 1948, from which to manufacture and sell his wares in more spacious surroundings.

The ‘HO’ scale-type model trains were his first major export, followed swiftly by the ‘Ready To Roll’ model train kits, which were cheap both to manufacture and purchase.

Irv Athearn died in 1991, having managed to remain ahead of the curve in his industry throughout much of his life. The company was subsequently purchased by Horizon Hobby Incorporated, and continued to expand and uphold their good reputation, whilst Athearn is enduringly regarded as a pioneer in his field.

Guide for collectors

Athearn’s model trains are hugely sought after by collectors, given their accessible price range and the quality of the items themselves. They can be purchased for slightly varying prices, dependant largely upon the condition and scale of the train or accessories in question.

eBay frequently lists items in the range, with bidding often beginning as low as £6-£10 and certain ‘Buy It Now’ items listed at around £10 inclusive.

They are also available from several auction houses, generally at auctions specializing in collectables. Amongst the most collectable items are in the HO ‘Ready to Roll’ form, due to their great quality and attention to detail, as well as their vivid colouration and general value for money, as well as their notoriety within the Athearn range.

The trains hold great allure for fans of the craft, and are frequent topics of discussion amongst hobbyists at online forums such as, where enthusiasts can exchange tips on upkeep and usage of Athearn products.

Notable auction sales

Athearn model trains are primarily to be found at online auctioneers such as eBay, where collectors will often sell their wares for lower prices than may be found at more conventional auction houses, though auctioneers do from time to time offer them for auction.

The most expensive recent sale of an Athearn model train was at an auction on 21st August 2011 at Ken Frecker Auctioneers, Inc in New Haven. The train in question, a boxed, mint-condition Athearn locomotive, sold for $80.

In a similar price range, another Athearn locomotive sold for $60 at the same auction, with other locomotives selling there also at price points of around $25-30.

Elsewhere, an Athearn Milwaukee FP45 Locomotive sold from Walther & Hawkins Auctioneers for $30 on 18th November 2005, and the same auction featured the sale of three boxed model train-compartments dated from 1980, which sold for $5.

Additionally, Dennis Auction Service, Inc. sold a box of six miniature Athearn train cars for $40 on 12th June 2009.

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