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Marklin toy steam locomotive T 700B which sold for a hammer price of £8000 at the Rogers Jones auction on March 1.

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The £8000 price (plus 18% buyer’s premium inc VAT) was paid for a Marklin HO gauge T 700B with box at the Rogers Jones auction in Cardiff on March 2 – demolishing the guide of just £40-70.

The result reflects the large amounts of money now being bid for smaller gauge, normally electric toy trains rather than just the more traditional and generally much older O or G gauge clockwork and live steam models.

This latest huge price emerged three months after an 0-6-2T Southern 2594 tank engine which had been estimated at £400-600 made £6000 at the Tennants auction in North Yorkshire – believed to be a record for a Hornby-Dublo locomotive.

Apart from the condition and Southern livery, that price was explained by the fact that it was a clockwork model instead of electric. Meccano introduced its 00 scale trains (close to HO) in 1938 under the brand Hornby-Dublo. Wartime hit production and development, and clockwork versions were discontinued afterwards.

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Hornby Dublo 0-6-2T Southern 2594 – £6000 at Tennants.

Ferocious competition

Ben Rogers Jones from the Welsh auction house said of the Marklin model: “The bidding was ferociously competed from the £40-70 estimate by two bidders online in Denmark and Holland - won by the latter.

“All the other trains were selling as per expected. Charles Hampshire was selling the collection, I was at that point helping in the office and so was called to the saleroom to say there was something unusual happening with one of the trains.

“It was a ‘double-take moment’ when I came through the saleroom door and the bidding was reaching its height. A little ‘loco’ in the Spanish meaning of the word.”

The model was in a collection of Marklin which came from a private collector just north of Cardiff and contributed £9745 to the £223,935 total for this St David’s Day auction.

Possibly a prototype

German toy manufacturer Marklin began making its HO gauge trains in 1935, being half the size of the O gauge models. As with Hornby, the Second World War inevitably hit production.

Rare export models are a common reason for antique toy high values and Marklin ones branded London Midland & Scottish Railway help to increase prices. However, this Marklin loco is in the usual black with red livery and has no obvious export purpose.

Prototypes also boost value, however. 

After the result became known, online Marklin collectors’ websites burst into life. On marklin-users.net, a US commenter called Paul suggested it was “a seemingly rare locomotive, a ‘Prototype’ made of brass of the T 800 but in the 700 series (therefore T 700). The box to me is not correct. I think this prototype must have been made 1937-38 (maybe earlier?) because it must be before the first version T 800. I know I've seen this loco before pictured in a Marklin catalogue or instruction sheet. There's also the RS 800 but in 700 series I believe (and different from the RS 700).”

Fakes and reproductions can be a problem with Marklin, although there is nothing to suggest that it applied in this case. If it was indeed a very rare prototype, that could explain the huge price – and simply the classic saleroom situation (and auctioneer’s dream) of two collectors both determined to buy it.