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Monday, 7 July 2014

10 Tips For Buying A Model Kit

Generally a model kit contains a scale model of an object or vehicle - automobile, aircraft, military vehicle, motor, building, replica figure, etc. (there are many to look at and choose from). Such kits include all the necessary pieces of the idea photo on the box (make sure to ask if you are unsure as some buildings show fences and trees, but these are sold separately or just a special part(s) of a larger model), which the hobbyist assembles and then personalizes with paints and decals (usually sold separately).
With model kits, there are two primary types of hobbyists: the builder and the collector. The builder fancies the challenge and the hands-on aspect. The collector, on the other hand, focuses on the possessing, and many collectors opt to display the kits untouched, in their original packaging.

Buying a Model Kit

For the new hobbyist, buying a model kit can be a daunting task simply due to the sheer amount of choice that’s available. Collectors have to choose a vehicle and the scale at which they want to work. Then, they have to factor in price, complexity, customization, tools and supplies, and so forth. If the desired model is no longer manufactured, then the hobbyist has to deal with a series of additional concerns, including appreciation. Choosing a kit is not simple, but even the new hobbyist can avoid the most common pitfalls by following these 10 tips:

1. Research Model Kit Types

The first step is awareness of the various types of kits that are available. The traditional model kit, often called Snap-Tite or Skill Level 1, is made of plastic and simply snaps together. Snap-Tite kits are very newbie-friendly and usually only require mild filing and light gluing to complete.  Experienced hobbyists will eventually graduate to Skill 2 requiring glue and paint and to any of the more advanced Skill 3-5 kits as well as die cast models and radio-controlled vehicles.

2. Choose a Vehicle Type

The next step is to choose the type or class of vehicle. The most popular model kit classes are classic, sports car, NASCAR, hot rod, truck, and service vehicles. Classic car models tend to focus on American muscle, but there are models available for the classics from all over the world. Skill 1 classics tend to be the most accessible kind of kits for the beginner. Hot rods are roadsters, typically open wheel, that have very distinctive aesthetics and engine mount configurations. Hot rods make great looking models, but they can be quite challenging in the building and customization stages. The most popular type of automotive model kit is the sports car model (Corvette, Austin Martin, Ferrari, etc), a class that focuses on street legal sports cars from all years and from all around the world. In the U.S., NASCAR models rival the sports car and classic car classes in overall popularity. The service vehicle class, which are intricate and challenging, includes vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, snowplows, and so forth.
And just to add to the pile, don't forget Military vehicles, aircraft and ships.

3. Select an Interesting Subject

When choosing a particular model, collectors should opt for a subject that engages them. A Porsche 911 is very popular and a staple in most automotive model collections, but it can also be very boring due to that commonness. Rather than choosing a model based on what is already known, the collector should shop around until a model chooses them. Finding a model car that is aesthetically interesting, challenging to build but still suitable to the beginner, can be difficult, but such models are available.

4. Decide on Scale

The next step is to choose the scale of the model. The most common model size for a car is 1:25 (and manufacturers often use 1:24 rather than 1:25), which is approximately 6 to 7 inches long. In Europe, 1:18 is also very popular. The 1:18 kits are approximately 9 inches long. There are also 1:60 scale kits, which are approximately 3 inches long and are particularly well suited to the small hands of a young child. Small kits are also popular among collectors and builders who enjoy the miniaturization aspect, but tiny kits can require a great deal of patience and fine hand control.
We will discuss in a future blog about the different scales in military, ships and aircraft.

5. Evaluate the Complexity

After choosing the model and scale, consider the complexity of the kit. The first gauge of complexity is the number of pieces in the kit. A Skill 1 kit usually has less than 50 pieces. A Skill 2 kit can have up to 200 pieces. A Skill 3-5 kit can have 200-1500 or more pieces and include many fine parts.
Skill 1 kits are preferable for beginners, children, and adult builders who just want a relaxed experience. Most children can complete a Skill 1 kit with little supervision and only occasional help. Skill 2 or higher kits require additional skills, tools, and supplies. Be aware that choosing a complex model that the builder isn’t ready for can intimidate and overwhelm the builder and therefore loose interest in a very enjoyable hobby.

6. Consider Customization Options and Necessities

An often hidden aspect of model building is the optional, and sometimes necessary, customization and personalization of the model. Automotive model kits are often labeled 2-in-1, 3-in-1, and so on; what that means is that the build process has a branch that allows for multiple finishes. For instance, many classic car kits come in a 3-in-1 configuration, which means that the collector can build it as a stock car, custom car, or race car. Many hobbyists opt to build these kits in all variants and display them alongside each other. First-time builders, however, should consider a basic kit that has no variants for simplicity.

7. Consider the Needed Tools and Supplies

Another important consideration is tools and supplies. The beginner will require basic hobby tools, such as a hobby knife, tweezers, paint, a fine file, and modeling glue/cement. Skill 2 and higher kits, however, will require a range of hobby knives and files as well as putty, sanding paper, spur cutters and perhaps a rotary tool or other power tools. Diecast models require metalworking tools, and radio-controlled models require batteries, an electronic motor, controller, and so forth.

8. Opt for a New Automotive Model Kit

Manufacturers produce kits in runs, which are typically time-limited. Once a run ends, the kit then becomes vintage and begins to appreciate in value. Vintage model cars sell at many times their original sticker price. For the builder, the most common reason to buy vintage is to get a particular classic car, which tend to go in and out of production. Although this will limit the hobbyist’s options, the beginner should focus on new kits in order to work with modern materials and avoid the vintage premium. (many kits are done in a re-release at milestone marks such as the 10th, 25th or 50th year anniversary of that kit or the car/piece)

9. When Buying Vintage, Price It and Haggle for It

If the collector opts to purchase a vintage model, then they should price it first. Price guides will provide a general appraisal, and the Internet is a powerful resource to determine the actual going rate. When buying a vintage model, shop around; check online, local shops, garage sales and shows/conventions. Once found, don’t settle for the listed price, which is generally a best-case scenario for the vendor.
(Be realistic in your negotiations you don't want to insult the one selling the kit in case you want to buy from them again)

10. New Builders Should Have a Contingency Plan

New builders should have a contingency plan because first builds usually do not go according to plan. A benefit of buying a current kit is that the collector can easily purchase an additional kit from the store or replacement parts directly from the manufacturer. Some vendors sell open box kits, which may be missing parts but are a cost-effective way to have spare parts on hand.


Buying a model kit for the first time can be difficult due to the sheer amount of choice available. A hobbyist’s first step should be to educate himself or herself on the various options that are available: classes, models, scales, books and other sources. Next, the beginner should choose a subject that interests them, but also one that isn’t so complex that makes it difficult to learn. With the first build under one's belt, the builder will be able to graduate to one of the more intricate kits the next time, and go into dioramas - but that's another blog......

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