Monday, September 30, 2013

Models and money

Last week the Sprue Cutters Union's topic had to do with our spending habits. I'm coming into the conversation a little late, but reading others' thoughts on the subject got me thinking about how I spend my money. Of course this kind of self-reflection, especially when it comes to money, can be painful, but looking over the responses by the Union's participants gives me hope that most of us are fairly careful.

I can haz a Su-24?
One of the recurring themes when it comes to money is our working with a limited budget. In that respect, I'm lucky. I'm not wealthy, mind you; I don't drive the Aston Martin Vanquish that I'd love to have, nor can I afford to pave my short, gravel driveway, but being single and having a decent job allows me the privilege of being able to afford most of the plastic thingees that catch my eye. My modeling budget is constrained only by the other necessities of any home budget, such as building and maintaining an emergency fund, paying for heating costs, the rising price of gas, etc.

I know, it's a good problem to have, right? But when I sit amid my stash of a few hundred unbuilt models (it could be 150,000, I've lost count) and realize that I'm in my mid-forties, I'm forced to acknowledge that when I die most of these models will still be unbuilt. That makes me very sad; not that I'll die (well, that kinda sucks, too), but that so many projects -- and I have a vision for each model that I own, as I'm sure you do as well -- will not come to fruition. There's a chance I may never build that Kinetic F-16D in MiG killer markings of the 56th FW! What will my friends say? "That Steve. He never fulfilled his destiny. How sad." And then they'll fight over the model and the related aftermarket.

These days I find myself being very selective in what I buy. It's tempting to buy every cool new release, but just how high is my enthusiasm for that new Wolfpack 1/48 T-38? Sure, I'd like to build it, but there are so many more models in the pipeline that I'm much more excited about. Maybe that's the trick in managing our money. Before you buy a model, ask yourself, does this model get me more excited than the "top 20" models already in my stash? If the answer is no, you can probably skip it.
Here's what I've learned about buying models these last few years.

1. If you don't buy a model when it's first released, odds are good that you'll be able to find it on eBay or from another modeler 5, 10, 15 years from now. True, the price may be higher, but that will determine just how much you want the model.

Real life example: When Hasegawa released their 1/72 series of F-111s I was spending my time building armor. Fast-forward ten years and I'm back to aircraft, but alas, I ain't got an F-111 in my stash! It took a few years, but I've since acquired one each from the series, which makes me one step closer to what Maslow referred to as "self-actualization." Or something like that.

2. To point #1, even if you never buy that one rare model you've been looking for, aren't there at least ten others that you own that will provide just as much satisfaction?

Real life example: I'd like to have the old Otaki C-5 Galaxy. I'm not sure it's rare, but it generally sells for around $120. I will probably never get one, but I'm pretty sure a few dozen of the other kits in my stash will keep me very happy over the next 40 years of my life.

3. If there's an expensive kit you want, wait for it. There's a good chance you'll find it at a good price in the future. It may not be this year or even next year, but eventually you'll find it on sale via Squadron, Sprue Brothers, or at a contest.

Real life example: I've wanted the Trumpeter 1/48 Su-24 since I saw it at a contest several years ago, but the $130 price tag put me off. I just couldn't justify that much money for a model. But then Squadron had it on sale for about half that, and I took the bait. Add in a couple of other models for friends and I got their free shipping deal as well.

I've ranted long enough. Time to log off of SMS and go check the classified on ARC and Hyperscale.


  1. Great post Steve! Have you considered joining the Union? Would love to have you!

  2. I understand your outlook regarding kits and expenses. I "re-balance" my model "portfolio" every year or so according to my changing interests just as I reallocate my 401k investments as I age. I sell off a bunch. (And usually end up replacing those with others, defeating the purpose). I try to keep my (unbuilt) kit count below 100. I've stopped feeling like I have to have the kit on my shelf, instead of buying it when I want to build it. You are right, it will always be available somewhere when you "need" it. I'm not sure how we transition from builders to collectors, but it's somewhat reassuring that I exhibit behavior not uncommon to other hobbyists. My problem is I end up buying the cheapest Eastern Express kit of say, an f-4k and putting in a ton of hours trying to make it look believable, instead of just buying the Fujimi kit for a few dollars more. Partly budgetary, partly my miserliness, and partly challenge. Or maybe I'm just crazy? But that's what makes this hobby so much fun, and why, at 60, I'm still going at it. Enough said. Back to my ebay search for that 1/72 OV-1 I "need"
    Keep ranting! I enjoy every word.