Airfix Diorama Editorial Comment ESCI

COLLECT A KIT…

When you buy a new model, do you always plan to build it right away, or are you saving it up for a rainy day?

Sometimes, it’s nice to go into your storeroom, turn on the light and spend a while opening boxes, looking inside and dreaming about the journey that our imagination suddenly takes us on.

Let’s be honest, how many of you reading this have a collection of kits that you know, you will never get around to completing? You at back! Stop pretending, we know that you are every bit as bad as the rest of us! Of course you have a ‘stash’ and no, you will never get around to completing it…

Last week, coffee in hand, I gave some thought to the overwhelming number of unbuilt kits in my loft. Hell, I even gave some thoughts to those that are in my studio, most of which I know will not be built any time soon. Such is the volume of these unbuilt kits, I’ve started to plan what I am going to do with them and indeed, have now taken steps to reduce their number so that when I’m gone, someone else won’t have to!

This issue was brought into sharp focus last week, though for rather less morbid reasons. Coffee in hand, I was reading through some of the threads on the similarly numerous web pages and social media accounts that I frequent, when paint-jobs and as we will discuss in a later update, entire builds, go south. One thread in particular grabbed my attention. Found on the Book Of Faces, this discussion was started by a chap who had uploaded a photograph under the heading ‘Unbuilt Dioramas’. Odd title, I think you will agree! Anyhoo, digging a little deeper (which now involves placing spectacles on head due to the onset of older age and degrading eyesight) I could see that the image was indeed that of a collection of unbuilt dioramas, all of which were plastic in nature from the likes of Airfix, ESCI and all points in-between. It was a spectacular collection that the author described as being “almost” complete, only a few kits of that nature being absent. I was utterly entranced by the idea of a collection such as this, one that was not only incredibly valuable in terms of money laid out, but one that must have taken an eternity to research and then track down.

It seemed as though everyone else was equally taken by such an impressive collection of modelling memorabilia, well, all except one – initially – who was anything but. One modeller was so exorcised by the idea of pulling together so many unbuilt models, let alone actually doing it, that he took to his keyboard and started to tell the world exactly why he felt that way.

The crux of his argument was that modellers who do this were inherently unfair. Those that buy kits that they have zero intention of actually building, were not only hoarding kits that might otherwise go to modellers who actually wanted to build them, they were by association increasing the resale value of similar kits should they ever hit the market place, thus making it extremely difficult for anyone else to buy them. This ‘modeller’ and honestly, I use that term loosely, then went on to say that the collector should almost be ashamed and as result, sell them all off so that those who wanted to build them, could. It was, as you might imagine, a lot of thoughts to unpack in one very short, rather vitriolic diatribe.

I laughed when I read it and now, thinking about it once more, still see the funny side.

The problem here is not that the questioner for the prosecution was being, let’s face it, envious to the point of obsession over this individual collection, he seemingly had no idea of how the rest of the modelling world thinks, either. But more than that, he obviously didn’t have the faintest idea of what drives anyone to collect anything, be they classic oil tins, cars, drums, rusty bikes, tee shirts, trainers or indeed, old plastic model kits – it matters not one jot what the collection of objects is, just that people, well, collect.

I have always been consistent in my feeling that an unbuilt plastic model kit is utterly worthless until you actually put it together. I have no understanding of inherent value when it comes to anything, to be honest, which is why I don’t really get the idea of jewellery, or expensive clothes; just because someone tells me it is worth a lot, that almost never means that to me it is! Same with kits I guess, but here their value is as a kit, something to build, something to enjoy, an artefact to display – a box on a shelf may as well be empty, such is its lack of value to me in that state once I have bought it. So instinctively, I really don’t get the idea of a stash, one simply there to increase in value, a collectable nest egg that will get me through old age. Those kits in the loft are simply ammunition that I will use – or not – at some point to feed my collection. And yet, and yet…I understand why people collect kits, because I do, too.

I may never get around to completing all of the kits that are in my loft, but I still add to them, if not regularly, then at odd intervals through the year, either as the result of cash passed over, or as gifts that find their way to me from generous friends. I, similarly, will hand over anything that I think will be used by others. I’m not precious about the contents of my ‘stash’ (a word, by the way, that I really dislike…) so the collection tends to get a refresh every now and then. 

My current targets of interest are old Verlinden Productions kits and then those created by Monogram, especially their mid-70s/early 80s 1/48 aircraft. Both of these fit within my ‘Legacy Collection’ of ideas, older kits that I try and build using classic tools, materials and techniques. Last year, this manifested itself with the collection of Tamiya vehicles and dioramas that will have all seen by now, but as 2021 morphs into 2022, I hope that the collection will start to include those Monogram models that I love so much. So the collection grows. I’ve recently, thanks to my good friend Mike Reeves, added the Skyhawk, Skyraider and photo-recon Voodoo, all kits that I plan to build over the coming months. I say plan, because with everything else that is going on, those can only ever be loose aspirations, but so far so good! I’ve even bought decals for the A-1 and A-4, so that’s a start!

We all have collections that’s for sure – and not just of kits. Records, CDs, old football programmes? All collections. The reason why we collect kits, is because we are aspirational creatures who see the potential in kits that we have to hand, ready to build when the time comes. More than that though and in the case of the original modeller that sparked this essay and myself who was so taken my his kits, we can at times be extremely nostalgic. In his case, he wanted the ‘diorama’ kits that had so captured his imagination as a child, so had used his time and income to grab all of those he had no-doubt coveted over the years. The result was one of the finest individual collections I have seen. 

Though nowhere near that driven, I too like the idea of bringing together kits that I have wanted over the years. I don’t really buy anything newly released, unless it’s for work and I know that I will have to build it. Instead, all of the kits that I try and get hold over are classic, ancient relics that I loved back in the day and now want to possess. Not the greatest kits in terms of accuracy, but those deficiencies are more than made up for by the nostalgic pleasure I get from seeing them in my studio.

The complainant in this spikey case of the ‘Model Kit Hoarder That Grabbed The Goodies’ was not only wrong in his assertions about that chap in particular, he was to be frank, less than understanding of what makes us all tick. We may all view what we do differently; we may have different budgets; we may have different viewpoints on what makes a kit worthwhile, but we all come together in a feeling that sometimes, it’s nice to go into your storeroom, turn on the light and spend a while opening boxes, looking inside and dreaming about the journey that our imagination suddenly takes us on.

See you next time.

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I'm formerly the editor in charge of Military In Scale magazine and latterly, Model Airplane International. Editing duties to one side, I'm now a full-time modelmaker with Doolittle Media, working to supply modelling articles and material for a number of their group titles, including MAI and Tamiya Model Magazine International. I'm also an avid fan of Assassin's creed, Coventry City FC and when the mood takes me, a drummer of only passing skill. Here though, you'll find what I do best: build models and occassionally, write about them!

8 comments on “COLLECT A KIT…

  1. Sort of both. Yes I want to build it but it may go out of production and be subject to massive price hikes.
    So I buy, I store, I wait for the right moment and then build.
    The timescale may be quite long mind.

  2. I generally purchase kits as ideas for a diorama come to me, and yes many times by the time I find the kit and purchase it, my mind may be on to another idea and the kit gets added to the pile. Then throw in the whole 2020 timeframe. I was out of work for much of 2020 and had lots of time to spend building and making kits and dioramas. Sadly, my mind figured this would become the course de regular and I now have many kits that will take time to get to.
    I also feel that was I grow older, some of those kits may find their way to eBay, so that some other modeler can build them. We shall see.

  3. Some kits shout “build me!” and I follow orders, some say “let’s become friends.” As to rhyme or reason, I can’t tell. There are the new releases I have to do, but I intermingle them. Just this week, an old project came together – I had run across the Gartex Spitfire floatplane that Hasegawa released nearly 30 years ago at the Estate Sale at the LHS, and picked it up, certain I would finally do it. Only the plastic kit inside wasn’t as good as the resin was, so I set it aside with thoughts of finding some way to bring things together. Then this week some Eduard Overtrees of the Spitfire Vb (late) showed up,and it struck me here was the time. It turns out that modifying the kit to fit the resin parts and vice-versa isn’t hard at all, and now I will have a Spitfire floatplane in which all elements will be equally good and I’ll have that one-off model I wanted back then 27 years ago when I first saw the Gartex released but failed to buy it.

    All good things come to they who wait.

  4. baker24earthlinknet

    You’ve seen my attic, haven’t you….. I too have a collection I’ll never build, but then I’m now 80, so I have a head start on not finishing…..:-) I also build largely 1/48 armour, which is a niche scale, though one I find ideal for the subject matter. The problem in 1/48 armour is that so many small aftermarket companies have gone out of business, and even the large model companies besides Tamiya have shot their bolt and retired from the field. Thus we have learned to buy a desired product now, when it is available, for it may not be so tomorrow. In my admittedly excessive 1/48 armour collection I have many out-of-production bits and kits, and like you, I bought every kit and accessory with the honest intention of building it or converting it or making a diorama from it – the ultimate triumph of hope over experience…..

    I am now planning to thin the herd considerably as I am an occasional modeler – I build to pass the time and I have found I have much less building time than I thought I would. We have restored an old house in Galveston on the Texas coast and that has taken time, plus the moves required, and we also have a small foundation with some demands on our time. Over the years I have disposed of most of the model collection I had back in the early 1990s. I gave most of the 1/35 armour and accessories to my local IPMS club to fluff up their regular fund raising auctions, and I have a tentative offer to buy all of the 1/48 stuff I no longer plan to keep. I seem to have tried to grab the brass sing a lot when I look at the 1/48 armour I have, and there is a lot I can sell while leaving me with a lifetime supply of kits in the “righteous remnant.” Currently I am tackling the upgrading and detailing of ancient 1/32 Monogram armour kits, just to see if I can do it – much ‘old school’ chopping and channeling, but a lot of fun, perhaps even more than assembling a kit out of the box – and I get to 3D print the tracks because there aren’t any good ones for Shermans in 1/32…..good times.

  5. Aaron O'Brien

    I would be keen to see what you do with the Recon Voodoo, Spencer. I too have one or two of those in the stash. It really was a left-field choice to issue by Monogram back in the day. I think Matchbox/Revell also issued one in 1/72? Great to see it pop up on your blog 🙂 Regards, Aaron

  6. Well that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months Spencer. I’ve sat there and started to think about some of the kits that I have built from years gone by. So I started to look for them at shows and on the internet. The nostalgia bug has bitten. Hasegawa, Airfix, and Monogram to name but three.
    Also in the process of finishing my new shed which I’m going to make my new modelling cave. So hopefully in the near future I can get some of these old but good kits and start putting them together.

  7. Christian Atkins

    At present, my best form of relaxation is to take a beer and wander off to the store room and randomly open boxes. No chance to do any more at present, but 20 minutes more, or less, of ‘box fondling’ recharges the batteries…
    Nice piece.

  8. You have asked me to question WHY I buy kits…. I am not so sure I want to wander into that particular enchanted forest. I think it might be nightmarish…..

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