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About TCA

The Train Collectors Association

Benefits of Membership

Train Meets

The various Divisions and Chapters of the TCA sponsor train meets where members may buy, sell, or trade trains, or just enjoy the fellowship of collecting. Over 150 of these are held each year. A schedule of these meets appears under News & Events on this site and in the National Headquarters News. Each June one of the Divisions hosts the Train Collectors Association's National Convention, which is one of the highlights of the year and provides an opportunity for fun-filled family vacations in various parts of the United States.

The Train Collectors Quarterly

Members receive The Train Collectors Quarterly, a magazine dedicated to tinplate trains. Articles on the history of toy trains, and the firms who manufactured them make this one of the finest magazines in the collecting field. Members are urged to contribute articles for the magazine. Members may also consult over fifty years of archived copies online. (Membership login required.)

National Headquarters News

This periodical is also mailed to the members five times a year, and contains listings of the various Chapter and Division meets, names of new members, and other important information. The "Interchange Point" is part of the National Headquarters News and is the place where members list items they have for sale, trade, or want to buy.

The TCA Directory

Members at their option receive this Directory annually. It contains an alphabetical listing of all members

Collection Insurance

The Association, through an independent insurance agent, has available for members' consideration a plan through which they may insure their collection.

Toy Train Reference Library

The Association is continuously updating the Library that is housed in the Museum and Headquarters Building. This Library is the most extensive resource center for researching tinplate toy train history. On file are catalogs, magazines and books devoted to toy trains from 1900 to the present. The Library also maintains copies of commercial price guides for a number of popular manufacturers, but does not provide appraisals or evaluations.

Gift Shop

The National Toy Train Museum Gift Shop is stocked with toy train and railroad related items and has most of the current books on toy trains.

National Toy Train Museum

The National Toy Train Museum, located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, houses one of the finest collections of toy trains in the world. There are five operating layouts and a continuously running video. Displays are changed periodically. Members are admitted free to the museum and are encouraged to visit the museum. If a person desires to loan or donate a unique article to the Museum, they can do that as well.

TCA Standards

Standards - Importance

"Preserving the Integrity of the Hobby"

A hallmark of TCA membership is the observance of ethical and fair practices when engaged in determining and representing the condition of toy train items offered for sale or trade. Such is helpful to persons considering a transaction, and reflects the principles of the Association's earliest and current leaders.

Several sets of standards have been promulgated:

  • Condition and Grading Standards
  • Paper and Box Grading Standards
  • Restored / Refinished Items Standards
  • These standards are monitored and enforced by the TCA on its members in their dealings, but not on non-member merchants. Standards Committee Members are present at most TCA functions to enforce the rules and regulations pertaining to the proper identification of toy train restorations, reproductions and related items. A large part of a Committee Member's responsibilities includes instructing the general membership on how to recognize fake and reproduction items.

    In addition, certain standards in effect regarding reproductions apply to manufacturers and vendors:

  • Rule Concerning Reproduction Trains and Parts
  • Standards - Condition and Grading

    The following Condition and Grading Standards apply to ALL toy train and related accessory items. The items that are being evaluated may or may not include the original box. Boxes and other paper are subject to a separate set of grading and condition standards. Standards for all toy train related accessory items apply to the visual appearance of the item and do not consider the operating functionality of the equipment.

    The Standards have been expanded with the introduction of a separate designation for restored/refinished items. Restored/refinished items must continue to be marked as such using the pressure sensitive labels (Ident Tags) available from the TCA. The Association provides these labels through members of the Standards Committee or the National Business Office.

    Condition and Grading Standards are subjective, at best, and are intended to act as a guide. It is important and logical that wishful thinking not be allowed to influence the choice of grade.

    Toy Train & Related Accessory Items

    Grade Description
    Mint: - Brand New, all original, unused and unblemished.
    Factory New: - Brand New, all original, unused, may evidence factory rubs and the slightest evidence of handling, shipping and having been test run at the factory.
    Like New: - Complete, all original, no rust, no missing parts, may show effects of being on display and/or age, may have been run.
    Excellent: - all original, minute scratches and paint nicks, no rust and no missing parts. No distortion of component parts.
    Very Good: - Minor scratches and paint nicks, minor spots of surface rust, free of dents. May have minor parts replaced.
    Good: - Sign of play wear with scratches and minor paint loss. Small dents, minor surface rust. Evidence of heavy use.
    Fair: - Scratched, moderate paint loss, dented missing parts, surface rust. Evidence of heavy use.
    Poor: - Requires major body repair. Heavily scratched, major rust and missing parts. Restoration candidate.
    Restoration required.
    Junk, parts value only.

    Standards - Paper and Boxes

    Grades for grading paper (such as Catalogs, Instruction Sheets) and Boxes

    Paper and Boxes

    Grade   Description
      Individual pages/box flaps appear to have been never opened. All edges are crisp and the item is free of all flaws. Original folds are crisp with no signs of damage. No rusty staples, creases, tears, fading, and/or wear marks are present. The item is totally and absolutely "unflawed"!

    Note: Items that have printing that is offset, smeared, double images, odd cut pages, and/or etc. are considered errors and shall be noted as such.
     Paper: Item may have been touched by human hands since leaving original factory.
     Boxes: Original contents are contained within, and if applicable, sealed box. All applicable sealing tape, plastic wrap, and/or staples are present and undisturbed.
      Same as P-10 with the following exceptions or additions. Item may have store or dealer stamp appropriately applied.
     Paper: Item has been touched by human hands since leaving original factory. Individual pages have been opened. Original paper folds are crisp with no signs of damage if folded by the factory; i.e. still unfolded.
     Boxes: Box may have a hand-written or affixed price tag indicating the "original price" of the box's contents.
      Same as P-9 with the following exception or additions:
     Paper: Notations from an auction, dealer, club member on the cover or interior page may be present.
     Boxes: Original contents of box may be missing; i.e. box has been opened. The"This Side Up" part of the box has the original sealing tape carefully and neatly cut and/or staples may have been carefully removed to expose the contents. Box is complete with all inner liners and/or flaps.
      Same as P-8 with the following exceptions and/or additions. Item shows signs of moderate usage and is 100% intact. Original paper folds show minute signs of damage. Item may have rusty staples which have not affected the paper.
     Paper: There may be some evidence of bending and folding or unfolding if original factory folded. All pages must be present.
     Boxes: Box shows moderate signs of being opened and closed.
      Same as P-7 with the following exceptions or additions. Item shows signs of usage and is 100% intact. Edges are minutely damaged. Original paper folds show signs of damage. All printing material is legible, however, the item may have some wear marks such as weathering, slight fading, unoriginal pencil or ink marks, and/or a foreign substance on the item such as rust, grease, oil, and/or etc. which minutely extends onto the printed material or is confined to the unprinted areas of the item.
     Paper: Page(s) may show additional (unoriginal) fold(s) or "dog-eared" page(s). Page(s) may have tears. Such tears greater than two inches may be closed with archival tape.
     Boxes: All liners and/or flaps are present and intact, however, inner flaps may require some strengthening with the use of archival tape. The box can still safely store its original contents.
    Any paper or box item repaired with a non-archival Scotch® or equivalent tape can be graded no higher than P-5.
      Same as P-6 with the following exceptions and/or additions. Item shows high signs of usage. Edges may be damaged. Original folds are heavily damaged. All existing printed material is legible; however, the item is heavily worn with severe wear marks extending well onto the original printed material and may have extensive color fading. No water damage or signs of paper/cardboard deterioration is evident.
     Paper: Page(s) may be missing or loose and shall be so noted. The item may still be useable as reference material.
     Boxes: All exterior flaps are present; however, they may require some mending or reattaching with transparent tape. Box liners and/or inner flaps may be completely and/or partially missing; however, inner flaps may be reattached with transparent tape. Exercising caution, the box can still store its original contents.
      Same as P-5 with the following exceptions and/or additions. Some or all of the existing printed material is illegible.
       Paper: Item is so heavily damaged that it has little to no use as reference material.
       Boxes: One or both of the exterior flaps are missing. Box will no longer safely store its original contents.

    Standards - Restored/Refinished Items

    Restored / refinished toy train and related accessory items must continue to be marked as such using the pressure sensitive labels available from TCA. All replacement parts considered a "major component part" such as an engine frame, boiler or cab that have been used in the restoration of an item must include the required identification marks of the manufacturer.

    Restored and Refinished Items

    Grade Description
    Professional Grade -- Restored in all aspects of finish and detail as when manufactured. Finished in correct type of paint, color, texture and gloss. All wiring exactly matches the original. All trim in correct finish or plating. Virtually identical to the original. No surface imperfections in the metal work. No wear or evidence of use present. Authentic in all aspects.
    Very Good -- Restored to a general high standard. However, noticeable differences exist particularly with respect to the color, finish, and texture of paint when compared to an original piece.
    Good -- A restored piece that has signs of play wear with minor dents and scratches.
    Fair -- A non-professional restoration. Color, texture and finish clearly different from the original. Other items, such as non-authentic wiring are also evident.
    Poor -- A poorly constructed restoration in all respects. May be a candidate for restoration. Includes dents or rust pitting under finish.

    Standards - Reproduction Trains and Parts

    To All Manufacturers and Vendors Who Sell Reproduction Trains and Parts at TCA Meets or Advertise Trains and Parts in TCA Publications

    The Association requires that all reproduction parts that are major components and large enough to mark without damaging the piece be marked as a reproduction with either the manufacturer's logo or "R" visible on a cursory examination. A "major" part is one that if missing would seriously detract from the item's value. This includes complete locomotives, cars, accessories, etc.

    To sell these reproduction trains and train parts at TCA meets or by ad in TCA publications, a Standards Committee Inspection Report must be completed by a Standards Committee member. If you have reproduction trains or train parts that have not been inspected, contact the Standards Committee to have an Inspection Report completed. A copy of the Report will then be filed with the Business Office and they will issue a Certificate of Compliance. The Certificate of Compliance must be displayed on your table at TCA meets. Ads in TCA publications must note your compliance with the Marking Standards in order to be published. (Revised procedure adopted July 1997)

    Train Collectors Association Marking Standards
    Enacted June 1981; Enforcement date June 1982; Revised October 1992.

    Failure to properly mark reproduced parts and receive Standards Committee Certification will prohibit entry of those parts to any TCA meet or function, whether offered separately or installed on a train or accessory.

    Marking of reproductions and replacement parts applies to ALL parts and reproductions appearing at any TCA meet or function. Exceptions may be requested by the parts manufacturer. Determination will be by the appropriate Subcommittee of the Standards Committee.

    Acceptable markings in various materials

  • Aluminum extrusions: Acid etched or embossing as for sheet metal.
  • Brass plates, other metal plates, letterboard strips: Letter "R" denoting REPRODUCTION to be in lower right-hand corner on the exposed surface.
  • Cast parts: In the pattern.
  • Paper: Catalogs and other paper items to be identified with the word "Reproduction" with the Date and by Whom.
  • Plastics: In the pattern or die or by hot stamping. Replacement plastic shells to have 3/16 "R" or manufacturer's logo on outside or inside.
  • Sheet metal: Embossing visible through both sides, or by a permanently attached embossed tag.
  • The above methods of marking shall be permanent in nature and visible on a cursory examination of the item.

    Note: No one can take an unmarked item into a meet. Items manufactured after June 1982 must be physically marked into the metal or plastic. Items manufactured prior to June 1982 must have the red REPRODUCTION label affixed. The marking regulations apply to the original manufacturer, his agent or representative, and to any subsequent purchaser.

    Standards - Subcommittees

    Listed below are the subcommittees to which parts may be submitted for Certification of Markings. Manufacturers may request a general compliance certificate to avoid the submission of individual parts.

    Contact Joe Mania ( for certification information.


  • Steering (handling fakes & frauds).
  • Prewar Trains (Before 1942)
  • Postwar "0" (1946 -1969)
  • Marx
  • Modern (1970 - present)
  • Postwar American Flyer
  • Refinish Identification
  • Paper
  • Paint Identification

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