Hunting the Good Kits


When Jon Bybee of the Combat Workshop ran into rough ground with his 1/48 Revellogram Mi-24 recently, he took the bitter experience and turned it into a reevaluation of his stash and of what goes into it. I highly recommend giving his post (and the rest of his blog) a read.

And I’d also like to welcome Jon to the “Life’s Too Short to Build Crappy Kits” club. There’s a special subset out there that thrills at tackling those archaic, sloppy-fitting, flash-ridden, detail-lacking kits and scratchbuilding them into wonders. There’s also a guy who built tons of model ships out of matches and matchbooks.

Personally, I love detailing (within reason) and painting and weathering. Construction is a means to an end, and so I tend to put a lot of stock in thoughtful engineering and buildability. Typically the remit of higher quality, more expensive kits.

Since I’ve been building and selling off and rebuilding and refining my stash for more than three years now, I’ve picked up a few methods of “kit-hunting” that tend to serve me pretty well when it comes to finding those high-quality kits at more reasonable pricepoints. Jon, I hope these serve you well, and of course anyone else out there with an interest in scoring deals.

1 – Making a Hunting List

The key to acquiring quality kits without getting hosed is to be extremely deliberate. Your best option is to start with a hunting list. This list should include:

  • The kit you want
  • The going street price
  • The “Shut Up and Take My Money” price

The “Shut Up and Take My Money” price is the price that’s so good that you literally cannot pass it up. One of the kits on my hunting list is Trumpeter’s 1/48 MiG-23. Either the M or MF, doesn’t really matter. Both kits street for around $40-50, and my shut up price is $30. So far the lowest I’ve seen is $32 or so, with one of those outrageous “from Asia” shipping prices. $30 and reasonable shipping? It’d be a done deal.

To my mind, the hunting list does three things. 1 – It organizes what you want so you can more easily resist impulse buys at Hobby Lobby or the like. 2 – It makes you aware of how much kits go for so you can more readily recognize good deals. 3 – It forces you to evaluate how badly you want each kit on your list.

2 – Cast a Wide Net

Don’t limit your search to a handful of sites or retailers. Go wide. Hell, go global. You never know where you’re going to find that screaming deal.

Two recent examples.

First, I was really looking forward to Meng’s new 1A3/4 Leopard, and resolved to snag it for anything less than $45. Sprue Brothers is currently selling it for $55. But I found it on Hobby-Space for $30. No-brainer.

Second, I was hunting down Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23. These large-scale Floggers usually street around $110-130, and everywhere I looked was in that range. Except for, or all places, Amazon, which was selling the MiG-23MLD for $76 with free Prime shipping.

Also, don’t forget to pay attention to sales and specials. The other day on Sprue Brothers I found a 1/48 Hasegawa F-16C Block 52 in Greek markings for $29.99. And they had a “take an additional 15% off” sale going on. Squadron’s Mystery Deal and Black Friday activities are often worth paying attention to.

3 – Don’t Fear eBay. Use it.

You know what really grinds my gears?

People who avoid eBay because 1) they’re afraid it’s not secure or 2) they’re afraid they’ll get ripped off.

I’ve got news for you. As many as 40 million people had their card information stolen in a massive breach of Target’s point-of-sale systems a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, eBay more or less exclusively uses Paypal these days. Paypal is far more secure than a credit card and comes with a lot of baked-in buyer protections. I feel safer using Paypal for online purchases than I do using plastic.

As for getting ripped off, that’s what Paypal Buyer Protection is for. Most of the time, if you get ripped off buying a model on eBay, it’s due to an honest mistake. Someone selling off an estate and assuming all the kits were 100% complete, etc. And most of the time, a refund is issued swiftly. If it’s not, just turn it over to Paypal and they’ll settle it for you. I’d love to see Chase or whoever do that for their online customers.

Okay, so once you’re comfortable with eBay, get a sense for how much a certain kit usually goes for. I’ve found that creating saved searches can help. Then…keep an eye out for a bargain. Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a very reasonably-priced offering. Other times it’s finding an auction that’s flying way under the radar. At this point, I move to my favorite tool, Snipeswipe.

Snipeswipe is a bit underhanded, sure, but it also helps me stay out of the psychological mess that is an eBay bidding war. That’s the way it works (and the way eBay wants it to work). When you place a bid, and get outbid, damnit, you just lost. You need to bid again. At least make that other bastard pay more. And so it goes and suddenly you’re paying $50 for a $30 kit.

Snipeswipe lets you place a bid, which it will then submit on your behalf with like six seconds remaining in the auction. This avoids the bidding war so, for those things flying under the radar, it’s a set-it-and-forget it tool that can net some big wins. Here are a few that I’ve racked up:

  • 1/48 Hasegawa F/A-18D Hornet – $39.50
  • 1/35 Tamiya Challenger 1 – $11.50
  • 1/32 Hobby Boss Il-2 on Skis – $20.50
  • 1/32 Revell Bf 109K-4 (Hasegawa plastic) – $32.00
  • 1/16 Trumpeter T-34/76 – $74.60

All of these are substantially cheaper than if I’d just gone out and bought them. That Hobby Boss Il-2 goes for something like $130.

That’s it for now…and really those are the major tips. Know what you want. Know what you’re willing to pay.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Rick says:

    great overview Matt.

    at least 75% of my stash (about 50 kits, all 1/32 planes) has been acquired via 40% off. Some were successful snags on eBay as well. really put it to Squadrons Black Friday sale x3.

    have a plan and let time be your friend.

  2. Larry Horyna says:

    It’s nice to see someone point out just how great eBay can work out. Not just for buying, but when you need to get rid of stuff, it’s awesome. I have been buying and selling on eBay for eight years now. I have sold hundreds of kits and bought probably close to as many. I can count on one hand the number of “bad” experiences I have had with getting my stuff or getting paid. None of those negative experiences were a big deal. And like you, I can’t say enough good stuff about Paypal and how secure it is.



  3. Louie says:

    Sometimes problems with the people that abuse the system and honestly wish people would be honest with there business on ebay ,but such is life , there is always some people defect, but the last 6 years dealing on ebay ,the good has outlasted the bad.Iam all american ,when it comes to plastic models and i have this idea about USA products only American theme or British or any free world people govt .etc.Being a veteran i just cant stand german ,japan,etc just American ,I dont know ,iam just impressed with american tec,can not bring myself to, build the enemys past replicas,I just see that era wwII ,the enemy, as destroying our country as other countrys, where subjected to bombs etc .well the threat ,that still goes on today the past is in the past ,so be itI just cant bring myself to buy some past world war 2 enemy anything.

    1. Doogs says:

      Louie – I know a few others who share your sentiments, such as one person who will not, under any circumstances, build Soviet armor. It’s not a choice I adhere to, but I can certainly understand. And hey, the beauty of this hobby is that you can basically do with it what you will!

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