Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The challenge of pricing pre-owned models

They say that money is the root of all evil, and I'd add: insanity.

There's a vibrant market within the hobby for selling and buying pre-owned models, on eBay, on the discussion forums, at contests, and now on Facebook. I'm sure most of you have bought models from other modelers, but it's not always easy, is it?

I'm often dumbfounded by the prices that some modelers think they can command for their models. Here are a few examples.

  • At Mosquitocon earlier this year a vendor was selling an Academy 1/72 A-37 Dragonfly for $28. It can be found from Sprue Brothers and eBay for less than $12.
  • Last week an eBay seller was offering a Monogram 1/48 F-4J Phantom II for a Buy It Now of $35. Damn thing was, the bags were opened, but he assured us the kit "seems to be complete." Um...yeah, right. It can be found new and unopened from other sellers for $20-25.
  • A modeler recently tried to sell a Revell 1/48 F-86D on one of the popular forums for $45 when it can easily be found for around $20.

If you're pricing your models without regard to the marketplace or the condition of the models, you're probably wasting your time. Assuming you want to sell your kits and not sit on them indefinitely, here are my suggestions as someone who buys and sells.

Price significantly less than retail

If your model is still in production, look at its price at Squadron and Sprue Brothers and do a quick search for it on eBay. Find the lowest price and then price your kit at least 20 percent less.

Why? Generally speaking, consumers prefer to do business with established businesses where they're confident they'll be supported if there's a problem with an order. You may be a saint, but we don't know that.

Also, keep today's high postage costs in mind. If a buyer has to pay an additional $6-12 for your model, which increases his overall acquisition costs for the model, he's going to look for a bargain.

Discount kits with open parts

If your model has been opened -- if the inner bags have been opened -- discount another 10-20 percent.

Why? You can assure me that all the parts are there, but I assume a degree of risk that you may have overlooked a missing part and won't realize it until I sit down to build the model five years from now.

Discount kits that are "outdated"

This may be a bit controversial, but I'll say it. If you're selling a model for which a better one exists, price it as low as you can possibly go. For example, the Trumpeter 1/35 BMP-1 is much better than the nearly 25 year-old Dragon kit, so if you're selling the latter I'd price it around $10.

Why? Generally speaking, older kits are less desirable than new ones. A friend who works in a hobby store sees people come in to sell their late father’s collection thinking that old Revell, Monogram, and Lindberg kits are worth a fortune because they're old, but they're are disappointed when the store owner offers just pennies on the dollar. If you think something is valuable, check it out on Old Plastic Model Kits. They know the market and will likely pay only 50-60 percent of what they will ultimately price the models.

Significantly discount kits that are missing parts

If your model is missing parts, you need to discount it significantly.

Do I need to explain why? I'll have to spend my time trying to replace the missing part(s). Given the size and helpfulness of the modeling community, that might be easy. But it might be a challenge, too. I won't know until I put out the request.

Significantly discount kits that are started

If you started your model, if any work has been done on it at all, you need to discount it big time.

Why? Unless you're John Vojtech, I have no idea how good a modeler you are. Your work might be excellent, but I won't know that until after I've paid for your model and have it in my hands. I take on a great deal of risk buying what you started.

Price it as if you are the buyer

As you think about the price for a given model, ask yourself what you'd be willing to pay in order to re-acquire it next week. If we're willing to pay retail for a kit, we'd already have it. You have to entice someone to spend his hard-earned money on something he really don't need.

In defense of the sellers reading this (and I include myself here), I understand that many of you are not in a hurry to part with the kits you offer for sale and you're willing to sit on your stash until someone comes around and finds your prices acceptable. That's perfectly acceptable, which I suppose is why I see the same kits listed over and over again on the forums week after week. But we all need to realize that selling pre-owned kits usually requires us to sell at a loss relative to our initial investment. That's what I'm doing myself. I prefer to have $10 in my pocket rather than have that Dragon BMP-1 taking up space that will be better allocated to the upcoming Tiger Model AMX-10.

What do you think? What motivates (or demotivates) you from buying from other modelers?


  1. Steve, I could also add that "make an offer" isn't really a good selling method. Seems to me that too often the buyer gets insulted by what most buyers would deem to be a reasonable amount. A seller should just state a price; haggling can commence from there.

    1. Good point. The haggling I see on TV shows often begins with an insultingly low initial offer.

    2. Everybody always says low offers are insulting but everything is perceived value. Because you think you are sitting on the holy grail and I consider it a bag of plastic doesn't mean my offer is insulting you it just means we have different opinions of what something is worth =)

  2. Excellent post. I agree that you need to do your research and price accordingly and be willing to accept the loss if it happens. If you are not, why are you selling it? I, for one, would rather have funds to buy what I want, then wait to sell something I know I am not going to build to maybe get a few more dollars. However, I have seen people offer really low prices on kits that are worth a lot more but that is part of the "game". If that offends you, you might not want to sell on the internet because we are all trying to get something for a low price.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your observations, and it is not just the modeling world. Try a gun show sometime. Or, look up prices on 1980s BMX parts.
    The thing that drives me nuts, is the mentality of "it's old... so it must be worth a fortune."
    I am a firm believer in letting the market decide the price. When i sold some BMX parts on Ebay, did not put a reserve or opening bid price. I posted it up and took what the market decided.
    Since I have gotten back into modeling, it has blown me away how much people want for a kit. If its out of production, the price seems to go through the roof

  4. As a 70 year old active modeler, I can say that an unsold kit is worth nothing to you sitting on the shelf. The idea is to get rid of them, so your surviving kids don't have to. A kit you bought 14 years ago for $1.50 that you can sell for $3-$5 is a bargain to the seller and the buyer.

  5. Thank you for re-posting this to Facebook. It is still spot on. I actually sold a Dragon BMP-1 Just this week. My asking price was $14 and I got it. Point being all sellers want the most from their kits, I didn't gouge and I think we both walked away happy. I would like to add to it that some of this dynamic falls on the buyers. Case in point. Another kit I sold recently was an Academy P-38 Droopsnoot. I checked E-bay and saw that these kits commonly sell for $10. Well under what I paid but I'm never going to build it and want it gone. I auctioned with a buy it now price of $12. Certainly not gouging by any means. Anyway this site is set up where buy it now expires just before the auction ends. A buyer tried the BIN but it was too late. Suddenly I have 2 guys battling for this kit with a $6 high bid and It sells for $18. The point being there are way to many people that will pay too much.I search sold items on ebay when pricing kits, I shake my head A LOT.

  6. Price them high, watch them die, price them low, watch them go 🙂