In today's economy, with ballooning inflation, global trade network interruptions, and Covid-19, the cost of commodities and luxuries is all over the place. The trend in the 1/400 scale hobby however has been straightforward. The costs of models have literally doubled since I started collecting back in 2008. While the detail in the models since then has certainly improved, the overall quality of the finished products is more often than not, suspect.
My buying strategy lately has been to sort of 'stock up' overtime in a virtual shopping cart. I peruse my favorite retailers, add items to my check out list and then wait. I use the list to keep an eye on the listed "in stock" numbers and try to nab my favorites before they are gone, perhaps for good, from the retailer's shelves. When the amount of models on my list reaches a target spending area, I buy. The pros are that buying in larger quantities usually equals things like free shipping, certain percentage discounts and things of that nature. I also know I've gotten the very top selections available from what is being offered. There are certain cons to this strategy though. Some models sell very quickly and it's not common for me to miss something I was really hoping to pick up. As a result, sometimes purchases must be made quickly and this eliminates the opportunity to research releases and collect general feedback on models that other collectors have already purchased.
Impulsive buying is where problems can occur and can also seriously decrease the joy and fun in the hobby. As I alluded to earlier, collecting model airplanes is a luxury. Take some time to read about the general state of humanity and you should realize if you have the cash to put towards dust collectors, you're doing ok. This is not lost on me, and any complaints or critiques I've made should be read in that context. The goal of what I write is to isolate the hobby compared to all the other things happening in our world.
You can probably guess where I'm going next. Broken planes. These delicate things made in such a small scale are certainly prone to breakage in their best state. Shipping these little objects, sometimes smaller than your thumb, clear across the country, and sometimes across the world creates hazardous conditions for even the most neatly packed parcels. This is known. But to the avid collector, there are certain expectations, and standards, and trends.
One of the expectations in the 1/400 world is that these model airplanes are not kits. They are not sold as something to be assembled, or glued, or painted, or manipulated or bent into shape. But more and more frequently these are necessary actions in order to bring a broken model to its potential.
Note: The worst of my newest arrivals, an Gemini Jets, American Eagle E-175. Not only were both horizontal stabs loose, but the front gear came bent beyond anything that should be acceptable.
It's my opinion that in today's 1/400 game, Gemini Jets has received, and rightfully so, the worst reputation for quality and this subpar arrival is a sheer testament to that. For the sake of fairness I must add that the only other Gemini Jet from this month's shipment was a Delta CRJ-700. Gladly, the CRJ came in a virtually flawless state. Gemini Jets continues to own the lion's share of the regional jet market in the scale so if you want one, usually your only path is through them. Sadly, that means that when quality becomes an issue, you must make do, or make do without. At nearly $45.00 for a regional aircraft, I've reached terminal velocity with this issue and when models like the one above arrive, I know I've maxed out on the opportunity cost of owning such things.
Everyone in the hobby have their own opinions on a variety of things. Moulds, quantities, paint detailing and graphics, "gimmicks" and new age features on models are all things that we love to debate. But there's no debating when a model shows up broken. While Gemini has had their own fair share of quality criticisms, newer manufactures, like NG Models, have experienced some growing pains recently. As NG continues to grow, I've personally experienced an increase in models arriving with broken parts, missing parts, and chipped paint.
Note: Horizontal stabilizers have become a sticking point for me with NG lately. I am very worried that continued expansion will come at the expense of QC.
For the same reason that some buy lottery tickets, and others pour coins into slot machines, collectors still play the game religiously enough to support a hobby with nearly a dozen or more brands or sub-brands. It can still be said that because of the competition, most models are good enough to excite. Gladly, aside from some QC issues, my parcel still made me grin.
I've bought AV400 models in the past, but this is my first 777. I must say, I really enjoyed soaking in all the details on this aircraft specially painted to promote the now world famous Star Wars character, BB-8! Sadly we have just learned this scheme and perhaps even the aircraft are to be decommissioned. If you collect 1/400 and love Star Wars, this aircraft is not to be missed.
Another model that also deserves honorable mention is the specially commissioned Sun Country 737-700. Waffle Collectables has joined in with many other retailers who look to diversify their offerings in 2022. It seems as though manufacturers like Panda and Aeroclassics are happy to lease out their moulds to suiters who are interested in making mini brands to strengthen niche stock items and diversify their offerings, becoming the only place you can get such and such... It is certainly becoming difficult to keep up with what's out there and some short run items are made, listed and gone before the wider collector community comes to realize it. Either way, this one is still easily available. While the actual aircraft, N716SY was originally ordered by Sun Country, spent the first five years of her career with Air Astana, then it was handed to Air Berlin before coming back into the fold at Sun Country. The aircraft is currently in storage and has been withdrawn from use since 2019. While her career was brief, it was still a notable member of the midwestern based U.S. LCC and is a pleasant new member to the collection. Without special orders such as these from model retailers, there are certainly many aircraft that would otherwise never be created.
I think the moral of the story is that in the 1/400 scale, you just never know. What will be made, how well it will be made, and what it actually looks like in person are a constant mystery. There have certainly been points of progress and models look sharper than ever, but these intricate details come with a risk of deformities and breakages that can result in a major letdown compared to the invested capitol. Wouldn't it be grand if someone could really bring dependability back into the scale? It seems like NG Models is still leading everyone else in this category, but with increased output comes the increasing opportunities for errors.
On the other side of things, just as disappointing as a broken model can be, a dime can be equally as rewarding and exciting. One thing is for sure, the hobby has always given me the escape I need from stress, work, and boredom. Here's to hoping future distractions arrive neatly painted and in one piece!
As we complete reviews of the diecast products that make it into the collection, a summary and quick link will be shared here. Each review is the sole opinion of Diecast Curio and is in no way affiliated with any company or product.