FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
By our Members
The N Scale Enthusiast Society is an organization with a unique mission. Our mission statement reads:
“This organization is dedicated to the preservation of the history of N Scale Model Railroading, and the railroads they represent.”
You read the magazine, you know that we do exactly that with regular articles on the history of manufacturers and on unusual segments of the hobby. We have done pieces on Beverage Car collecting, and the cars of the Belmont Shore club, as well as having in preparation a retrospective on AkSarBen, a custom printer from the 80’s, and the Ntrak special runs. On the preservation side, we routinely do Special Runs for the benefit of preservation societies, and publish articles of rail interest in the magazine.
There are some obvious ones, and some not so obvious ones.
When you joins the N Scale Enthusiast, you receive the “Membership Car”, which is a Special Run car produced by Micro Trains exclusively for the N Scale Enthusiast. The only way to get this car if you are not a member is to purchase one from a member who doesn’t desire to keep it. We do have some collectors who choose to collect only certain parts of N Scale, and don’t collect the particular type of car that is on offer. These cars end up at swap meets, in the free classified ads of the NSE magazine, or on electronic or traditional auction.
The other most obvious benefit of membership is the member’s magazine. This 6 times a year publication is full of interesting articles about railroads and collecting N Scale of all types. We have featured articles on Brass and Plastic Union Pacific Locomotives, Special Run series cars, Christmas Releases, DeLuxe innovations containers, and Beverage Car Collecting. The magazine also featured railroad articles on things such as the Nevada State Railway Museum, the Yreka Western, and the East Broadtop Narrow Gauge Railway.
Of the less obvious benefits is access to unusual resources. The N Scale Enthusiast Auctions are a great source of unusual and guaranteed N Scale collectibles. While many of the Special Runs we offer are available for outside acquisition, members almost always get a discount. There are some Special Runs that are restricted to members only, due to issues of quantity.
Also, there is information available from all the resources of the organization. The NSE maintains documentation on many things N Scale. If you need to know the date of release for a particular item in the Micro Trains Line, for instance, chances are the NSE can find it for you. If you need to know the identity of an old passenger car, chances are one of the NSE experts can help you out
Our managing committee consists of a group of volunteers that spend countless hours of their own time to operate an organization for the benefit of its members and for the N Scale community at large. There are no elections to the committee for two reasons:
The committee is chosen and empanelled by our corporate parent. The members of the committee are:
Our membership was 900+ in 2001 and over 1900 currently, 90% of whom also have layouts or clubs where they operate. We publish our magazine 6 times a year. We offer free classified ads to all of our members. We have a convention once a year that rotates around the country. This year, our convention was in Milwaukee, WI where Chairman George again doubled the salary of the staff. (grin)
This is an all volunteer organization. It does not pay it’s managing committee for travel. It does give the convention committee comlementary registration for the convention (no big expense, no one working on the convention ever gets to do anything there anyway!) but the committee does pay all extra fare items, like tours, banquets, train trips, etc. All other expenses are paid by the individual committee member.
The NSE was established by Wick Brandon, the founder of TexNRails right after he sold the pioneering N Scale retailer to the Herz family, and the store moved to Florida. Wick and Lea moved their family from Texas to Bakersfield California, and the entire operation was run from his home in Bakersfield. George Johnsen came on board as Associate Editor starting with the third issue, and the growth of the organization hasn’t stopped. Wick and George did the first convention in Medford in 1993, and added staff and advisors as the organization grew. Wick held the first auction for the NSE in 1995.
Unfortunately, Wick passed away in 2000. His admonition to the staff was “Carry On”, and we have. He is tremendously missed.
The NSE was established as a sole proprietorship by Wick Brandon, and has been a stand alone company up until recently. The company has been owned by Micro Trains Line since Wick passed away a few years ago.
Recently, we have applied for Not-for-profit status (501c7). This does not mean NON Profit (501c3), and, no, your donations are not tax deductible. It does mean that our educational and preservational mandates become even more clear. Of course it also means that more of what we collect goes back to the members in the form of services, like the magazine.
The NSE was established as a sole proprietorship by Wick Brandon, and has been a stand alone company up until recently. The company has been owned by MTL since Wick passed away a few years ago. Recently, we have applied for Not-for-profit status (501c7). This does not mean NON Profit (501c3), and, no, your donations are not tax deductible. It does mean that our educational and preservational mandates become even more clear. Of course it also means that more of what we collect goes back to the members in the form of services, like the magazine.
Besides the impromptu meetings at swapmeets and trainshows across the country, the NSE gathers once a year at the annual convention. Our conventions are held in summer (generally in the last week of June) each year, and have rotated from the West to the Center to the East of the country. The conventions are a wonderful way to share time with like minded model railroad enthusiasts.
To see information about our upcoming annual convention click on the tab in the menu on the left.
People collect a lot of things. From all things ever released in N Scale to every car and loco ever released in Union Pacific, to every Micro Trains car ever released, to all things intermodal, to only 40 foot boxcars, to only cars released for the Lackawanna Railroad. There is something for all kinds of collectors in the NSE.
Part of supporting our historical mandate is the commemoration and recording of the values of the collections that many of the members have. We started with, Micro Trains Line cars and Con Cor Collector sets, but for the last few years it has expanded to cover Kato and Atlas locomotives, and rolling stock from many manufacturers. In order to do this, we have to define what standard makes a car collectible.
From the very beginning, Wick Brandon (our founder) looked at ways of defining what it is that we collect. In essence, the major issue was how does one establish the “original-ness” of an object that is not sealed from the factory. When George Johnsen joined the “staff” (this is in quotes, because the staff consisted of Wick and Lea Brandon, George, two fax machines, and a loose group of advisors) in 1991, we started looking at the standards that other collectibles groups use. We investigated the Mattel Hot Wheels group, and discovered there were virtually no parallels, as their standards had mostly to do with the packaging for new cars, and condition for loose cars. As their packaging is truly factory sealed, this was fairly easy. Star Wars collectibles are the same.
The Toy Train Operating Society, or TTOS, had a good set of guidelines that used the phrase “in original condition”. We felt that this was the best model for us to explore. We did not adopt them wholesale, as there are many things in O that do not apply to N. Mind you, this took many years, and even after Wick died, we were, and are, still looking at the issue. We used to say NIB, or new in box. We haven’t said that since before Wick’s passing, as it was pointed out that there was no way to guarantee that. Since we offer a satisfaction guarantee, we offer cars that we can for certain say are collector quality.
The definition that we arrived at is:
“Collector Quality Car appears to be new, complete with all of the correct packaging, with no evidence of having been altered and no evidence of wear from running on a layout. Price tag is intact and correct for the car. Box is in good condition and appropriate for the release date. Labeling is appropriate for the original release. All parts are correct for car. Couplers, trucks, and axles are correct for the original release.”
(In our auctions, we sell nothing but this type of car without stating it first.)
In our view, there is no way to establish whether or not most cars have been opened. Now, with table top sets that are shrink wrapped, packs that are shrink wrapped and the price sticker applied externally, some of the “tackle box” 3 pack releases, which had the sticker across the gap between the lid and the box body, and a couple of special runs from a supplier in Washington from Micro Trains, as well as assorted products from other manufacturers that are sealed with stickers, there is no way to determine that something has been opened or not. The real situation is with 95% of the N Scale products ever released there is no way to tell. In fact, we would not advocate telling people that there is a “cost” for opening up their trains and looking at them, as we relish enjoying our trains.
The true bottom line is that there is no way to police whether or not the underframe and down has been changed. There is no way to determine for positive sure whether or not the box, the label, or the cradle, while appropriate, is exactly the one that shipped with that very car. Since we cannot prove that a car is un-opened, or as it was when it was sold, we don’t try to guarantee it . If the car appears original (check the standard listed elsewhere), then we call it Collector Quality.
The auctions offered by the N Scale Enthusiast are set up for the benefit of the members in several ways. First and foremost, it is a way to acquire cars that may not be available through other channels. There is no reason to argue the comparative merits of Ebay, as they both have a place. Many people involved in the Enthusiast use Ebay, Bid2Own, swapmeets, train stores, and estate sales as ways to acquire cars. They all have their place. However, you must remember that not all people are online.
While it is easy to say that this list is online, this list contains a lot of N Scale buyers, therefore all N Scale buyers are online, that simply isn’t accurate. We push hard to try and migrate to an electronic only based auction, but fully 40% of our membership do not have, or do not choose to give an email address. This group chooses to communicate by conventional mail. The other thing to remember is that the guides, which we all use, are based on paper auctions. Whether you agree with that or not, it is not at issue. There is no more important resource available for Collectors than the guides. It is a certainty that in the future, there will be guides based on Ebay, but for now, with the ending of the BLW auction, and the conversion of TexNRails paper auction to their own Bid2Own electronic auction, the NSE auctions are the only resource for conventional documentable auctions. (Lest someone think that we are not in favor of electronic auctions, let us say that we think Bid2Own and Ebay are both great sources of N Scale products, and run quality operations and both have valuable services to offer the N Scale community. All that is being said here is that there isn’t a guide that uses either one in their price tracking matrix at this time.)
One of the other benefits offered by the NSE is to the participants is assuring the quality of the cars on offer. It is undeniable that the NSE has access to knowledge that is extremely valuable for determining the collectibility of a given item. As you know, on Wick’s passing, he deeded the ownership of the NSE to Micro Trains Line Company. This association, while at arms length, allows access to data that was previously unavailable. This information is tapped whenever there is a new discovery or a question of appropriateness. Also, the auction team at NSE is comprised of some of the most knowledgeable N Scale Enthusiasts out there. With the sum of this information, determining the “correctness” of a given item is as good as it gets. Because of this, both sellers and buyers benefit. A 100% satisfaction guarantee exists to protect the buyer from getting something that they didn’t expect. This means that cars that have broken stirrups, missing brakewheels, or shopworn boxes are refreshed. Since we cannot guarantee that an item has never seen the light of day, we don’t. We do guarantee that what we sell is accurate as released, to the best of current knowledge. Does this mean that we are creating “new cars” out of “used”? Most emphatically no! Does this mean that we are defining, selling, and describing a correct collector quality car? Absolutely. From 1990 that has been the case.
This is consistent with our rules. It is consistent with what we say in the magazine, and it is to the benefit of our auction participants, sellers and buyers alike. We offer a satisfaction guarantee for precisely that reason. If at any time ANYONE believes we are not selling what is claimed, they are asked to contact the auctioneer. If they determine that it needs to be returned, it is accepted gladly. (Be advised, however, there is a picture on file of each and every item, so substitute returns will not be accepted- don’t laugh, it’s been tried).
The questions that have been asked about the N Scale Enthusiast are fair. Questions are not a problem. We are happy to answer them to the best of our ability.
It is correct to say that what the NSE defines as collectible affects all collectors. We are very aware of that responsibility and take it very seriously. This is why we do not mandate an un-provable standard of “New in Box, never opened”. How could we prove it? We are offering the service of selling things that we have no idea of the history. Since we can’t, we don’t try to. If someone else wants to make such a guarantee, it would be most interesting to see the standards by which they can make such a claim. If one were an individual seller, perhaps such a claim could be made, but unless you pick your cars up at the factory, store them in a hermetically sealed vault until sale, and document the entire process in real time, there is no proof.
Grade 1 Excellent Quality
Item appears to be new, complete with all of the correct packaging, with no evidence of having been altered and no evidence of wear from running on a layout. Price tag (if appropriate) is intact and correct for the car. Box is in good condition and appropriate for the release period. Insert labeling is appropriate for the original release period. All parts are correct for car. Couplers, trucks, and axles are correct for the release period. The box and lid are correct for the release period. Small pressure cracking may be evident.
Grade 2 Very Good Quality
As in Grade 1, but may include slight evidence of age including minor discoloration of the price sticker, insert label and box (slight) yellowing) as well as minor spider cracks to the box or lid..
(Note: The N Scale Enthusiast Auctions sell nothing but Grade One and grade Two cars without stating it first.)
Grade 3 Good Quality
Item is in unaltered / undamaged condition and complete. Item includes a correct box with inner cradle, but may lack paper insert or original price sticker. Box may be yellowed or scratched (including breaks). Item may show some evidence of use or handing. Insert label may be dirty or damaged. Extra price labels or stickers may be present. Price may be crossed out (or cut out) on factory label.
All other cars are classed as "Used" Of course there are varying degrees of “Used”, but we will leave that for another time.
Anyone can use the N Scale Enthusiast Scale to rate their sales, electronic auctions, silent auctions, live auctions or offerings as long as they add the following statement:
Note that we do not advocate the conversion of used cars to new, the use of Xeroxed labels, removal of weathering, altering of car numbers, or other ways to blatantly alter the identity of a particular car. Our purpose is to preserve the history of N Scale, and therefore the finest examples of N Scale rolling stock.