Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You should be entering contests!

We're well into the 2014 contest season here in North America with IPMS and AMPS contests throughout the US and Canada. A few weeks ago I attended Mosquitocon, IPMS New Jersey's contribution to the local modeling scene, and next month I hope to visit Noreastcon on Long Island. I'm sure many of you have been enjoying contests as well, but...are you entering your models in the contests?

With the Big One, the IPMS USA National Convention in Tidewater, Virginia, just over three months away, I thought this might be a good time to talk about why you -- without exception, each of you reading this -- should be entering contests.

Show us your models

If you need only one reason, it's this one. People want to see your models. Really, we do. Have you ever traveled two or three hours to go to a contest only to find 50 models on the tables? I have. It sucks. Although these events are centered on the contest, the main reason for entering your models is to share your work with other modelers. The next best thing to building models is looking at them, so the more models the better, right? Look, most of us who enter contests know our models won't be competitive; we know there are visible seams, misaligned parts, glue marks that the judges will find within 10 seconds of their inspections. That was exactly the case with the Hasegawa F-117 I took to Mosquitocon. Major issues. As I'd expected, it didn't place, but a couple of guys complimented me on it, and that meant as much to me as an award.

So friends, I'm asking you to pay it forward. Enter your models. We really do want to see them!

Support the club

I think we've come to take contests for granted. They seem to magically "happen" every year, like Mosquitocon. Or Blizzardcon. Do you know how much money it costs to put on a contest? A club has to lay out thousands of dollars for a local contest. Much more for a regional or the National Convention. That's a big investment, which the club can only recoup if modelers and vendors attend. And then there's the hundreds of man hours of the volunteers. When a contest shows signs of decline, particularly in terms of contest entries, there's a strong likelihood that the show will be discontinued. I've seen it happen here in the Northeast, and I bet you've seen it where you live, too. That's bad for the hobby. It gives enthusiasts few opportunities to engage in the hobby.

Every time you enter a model in a contest, you make a small contribution to the show's success and viability so that you and others can continue to enjoy the models, vendors, and the opportunity to meet up with friends in the future.

Competition does not spoil the fun

I shudder when I hear someone whine, "Contests take all the fun out of the hobby." If I hear that one more time I'm going to stick a rusty #11 blade in my ear and carve out my eardrum. Seriously, how weak-willed do you have to be to let a contest affect your enjoyment of the hobby? I'll be the first to admit that, even though I enter contests with no expectation of winning, I feel a twinge of disappointment every time I don't. I've never been a competitive all. As a kid I hated playing board games with my cousins. I never played competitive sports. But whatever disappointment I feel quickly passes, and my friends always appreciate my work for what it is. I know it's painful to be judged, but you are bigger than the opinion of three strangers who, for just that one day, are deigned to pass judgement on your model. Man up! Share your models and support your local clubs.

As we look forward to the contests ahead, I'm begging you, don't take contests too seriously. As much as I enjoy the hobby, it would be less fulfilling if no one ever saw my models in person. Contests play an important role in the way we should engage in the hobby, so I hope you'll find a way to enjoy the experience, too.

P.S. If you agree with me even a little bit, please share this on Facebook, Twitter, email, or in your local club newsletter to encourage others to enter contests.


  1. So true! Just reposting it to our guys in Ipms Borinqueners. thanks!

  2. I fully agree with your views. I at times will enter a contest with models that are quite average to keep numbers in a class up. Being an automotive modeler and our largest show being Model Expo in June each year, we at times have low entry numbers, in fear that the class may get chopped I always try to encourage friends etc to just enter. I also like the fact of being able to see some builds that I would not normally get to see unless they were entered. The trick is to enter for the fun of the show and the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones and to appreciate each other’s work. Unfortunately there is always that element out there of the “Trophy Hunter” who gives a contest the bad rap, but they are few and far between… enter your models and who knows you may bring home the silverware.

  3. Thanks for the comments! Yea, there are trophy hunters, but I think the guys that typically win are simply very good at what they do. As someone pointed out on a forum, "building for contests" is a great way to maintain or increase one's skills. Best of luck!

  4. I have won several First place awards just by being the ONLY entry in that Category. Including 1/32 Aircraft, Subs (any scale), Humor. Just to name a few.

  5. Nice thoughts. Due to prods from people in the modeling community, like yourself, I am going to enter a model in The Dutchess County Fair, here in NY. This is after a 6 year absence. The fair is in August, and I'm already excited about it. There is always a low turnout in the scale model category. So I'm shouting out to others in Dutchess County to enter.

  6. Steve, great comments as always. Been reading your blog since you last August after Nationals. You featured a nice photo of my friend's pink Cadillac and taillight as a creative way to display models.

    Couldn't agree more on the comments about keeping the contest light hearted and supportive of each other's entries. I love seeing the models that are entered in our annual contest from non-club members just to see what creative ideas are floating around in the area. Keeping the general attitude welcoming and encouraging is key for any club sponsoring a contest. Win over the doubtful with positive comments on the models entered, even if they don't win.

    Especially if they don't win! Everyone likes to have their work noticed and appreciated. Pass it on and make it an inclusive hobby and not an exclusive one.

    Please don't become a scale model Van Gogh and cut your ear off Steve! Really appreciate your posts, keep them coming! Will share on our website as well.

    Best regards,


  7. I hear what you say, but i'm afraid it's a very 'Americocentric' viewpoint. We held our annual show last weekend, here in the East Midlands of the United Kingdom (, and we had about 125 models in the competition. However, we had over 750 beautifully built models on display on the club and SIG stands. The builders and exhibitors of these models met all your criteria for showing their work and supporting the hobby, with the additional bonus that they were on hand to discuss their work with their public.

    At any UK model show, from the smallest local one-day show to Scale ModelWorld, the largest model show in the world, the competition is becoming less and less important and display is gaining insignificance - and long may it do so!

    1. I would love to see IPMS-USA try an exhibit-only area at an upcoming Nats. Even if some attendees chose to move their entries from the contest to the display, it would still make for a great show.

      And I really need to get to the UK to take in the local modeling scene!

  8. In the last line above "insignificance" should have been "in significance". Sorry!

  9. I agree with you completely. My modeling isn't the best out there, but I still enter them in the contests. My work has improved a lot thanks to the suggestions of better modelers that have looked at my builds at these shows. At the IPMS show here a couple weeks ago I entered 11 models and picked up 5 awards, one of them a first place.

    1. Thank you, Lee! And congratulations!

    2. Sorry I missed the IPMS show near me just recently. But I WILL NOT miss World of Wheels in March.