Bargain Adventures!

A natural offshoot of the hobby of building models is the hobby of collecting stashing models. If collecting railroad themed plates, beanie babies or used ‘8 bit’ game systems are considered legitimate hobbies, then I say that maintaining an impressive stash is just as legitimate.

It really doesn’t take long for most of us to become stashers. After all, it takes far less time to throw a kit onto the pile than it takes to build one. There are various legitimate reasons for stashing. Sometimes a model is rarely seen and needs to be picked up RIGHT NOW lest it be lost forever in time. Sometimes we are planning our 53rd build (ahead of the project we are working on) and we need to pick up the right kit, decals and aftermarket for it. Hey, being organized means a better build, right?

But most of the time we model builders stash models for one simple reason: they were bargains.

Kit bargains were discussed in a segment in a recent episode of the Plastic Model Mojo podcast (or what I like to call “the Moj”). The hosts had a great discussion about the model kit ‘secondary market’. I think they got things off to a great start and there is so much more to unpack when discussing used model kits.

Now, anyone who has stumbled upon this blog already has a good idea where to find pre-fondled model kits. I won’t waste your time by listing the best places to find them or providing some killer price negotiation techniques. That’s all been done.

Instead, I am going to write about some of the strange situations where I found myself while chasing a bargain kit…

The Dark Road

There I was, cursing myself out as I was driving on an endless dark country road during the winter. Yes, every story cliche was checked while navigating this particular middle of nowhere. Why was I doing this? Bargains of course.

Yes, I was risking black ice and ultimately being consumed by wild creatures…. for a bunch of used kits.

Of course there was a bit more to this story.

We had known each other for years but I had no idea this guy was into scale models. I only got back into the hobby a few months before we had a chance encounter at the local IPMS contest. For both of us it was one of those weird ‘when worlds collide’ moments: that acute panic felt when someone you know outside this subculture now knows your strange obsession with little plastic toys. But then I saw some kits under his arm and he saw some Tamiya mags in my hand. Initial panic subsided, laughs were had, and little secrets remained safe.

He asked me how long I had been making models and what I liked building. When I told him that I loved making airplanes but had only recently gotten back into the game, he smiled and said those fateful words:

“I have a few airplane kits that I’ll probably never get to. Why don’t you come on over sometime and check them out? I didn’t pay much for them so I’ll let them go cheap.”

Did I ask what he had? Nope. Did I ask if it would be worth the drive? Nope. There was a bargain to be had and that’s all I needed. Of course, I didn’t grasp how far or exactly where he lived until weeks later when I found myself in the middle of wolf country with severe flurries in the forecast.

I got to his house eventually and I followed him to his basement to see the kits. Now, I knew he built armor and I knew he liked the nicer kits. So, I was expecting to see a handful of aircraft kits; probably good ones too. However, when room lights came on, it was another story: Tall piles of kits! Stacked on a large dining room table. There were more and bigger kits were piled around that table too.

Not an actual picture… but pretty darn close.

Seeing my surprise he laughed, “Yeah, I’ve gathered a few of these over the years.”

“How?” I mumbled as I was ogling my likely targets, sizing them up and taking mental measurements of my car’s teeny trunk.

“Mostly when I was a club president. You have no idea how many ‘collections’ came my way. Other than that I used to make the odd airplane. But I’m not into them.”

Not into them?!? That mother lode staring me in the face would suggest otherwise, but who was I to argue? I dove head first into the first of the piles and spent an hour or two making my own pile of ‘keepers’. I arrived expecting a fun evening of model talk and maybe bringing home a kit or two. I can’t remember exactly what I bought but I slowly drove home with a cardboard box containing at least 25 kits. They were all different aircraft subjects and scales including my beloved pacific war 48th scale props. That said, I barely put a dent into that dining room table.


Some five years ago I was doing the requisite “final” vendor room walk-through before heading on over to the model contest awards ceremony. Most of the vendors had packed up and cleared out but a couple where still hoping for some last minute sales to avoid having to take models home. I recalled walking by this vendor a few times during the day. He had a lot of everything but it wasn’t organized. The boxes looked like they had been roughly handled over the years and they were piled haphazardly. So, unless you stopped and really studied the the individual boxes, it was hard to see what was available.

This time I spotted one of my weaknesses: a Hasegawa -5 Corsair.

Ask anyone who knows me, I rarely let these go. No, they are not exactly gems; Hasegawa made approximately 20 billion of them in all sorts of boxings including a Mongoram Pro-Modeler version. They have their well known build issues too. But, for whatever reason, I just can’t pass these up. At previous shows I paid anywhere between $10 and $20 for one of these. In this case the box had a hand scribbled “$40” and some teeny writing scrawled on some medium quality green masking tape.

I pointed to the box and asked the vendor, “Are you including any extras for that kit?”

“Oh yes! Oh yes!” He responded. “Here, let me show you! It’s got photoetch and some aftermarket decals.”

For $40 I was hoping he was forgetting to mention the several high grade resin sets that were also in the box. That hope quickly evaporated after he wrestled the box from the jenga pile and opened it. Oh well: No bags and I’d say that half the kit parts were off the sprues. But then I noticed something odd about the “extras” which immediately made up my mind about whether I was going to spend my $40 at Five Guys or get Lebanese take out.

“Um, is that photoetch set complete and are half the decals missing?”

“Well, yeah,” he explained sheepishly. “I needed some of the kit decals for a different project so I threw in these Yellowhammer decals, which are really good! Sure, its not a complete set either but they are the best in the business and I am sure you can cobble together the complete markings using bits of both sheets. I honestly don’t know what I used that photoetch set for but I am sure there are some usable parts left.”

During his explanation I noted that every kit box on the table had similar scribbles beside the prices. It immediately became clear to me why this guy had so many models to pack at the end of the show.

When it comes to pre-loved models, it is always a good idea to check box contents. But I wonder how anyone would consider chewed up decal sheets and a used photoetch fret to be “extras”?

Truth in Advertising

My model buddies and I usually go to a semi-local car centric model show and contest every August. It’s really an excuse to get out of the house, see some models and shoot the breeze. As you would expect, the tables feature mostly car models but there are a few other categories. Same with the vendors: Mostly cars but some other bargains to be had. Over the years I’ve picked up some good bargains on the “wrong” kits at these shows. Aircraft kits generally don’t sell at car shows. Ship kits don’t sell at Amps shows.

Two of us were perusing a pile of kits at an unattended vendor table. My friend soon finds a ‘rare’ Dragon tank kit he’d been looking for. I then heard a very excited “Ooooo! Ten bucks!” while I was looking elsewhere in this kit pile

Soon after, I could hear him laughing as he brought the kit box over to me. It was obvious what make him laugh:

“$10 – kit complete. Only missing one track, turret, pioneer tools”

Now, I am not much of an armor builder. But the key thing that a tank needs in order to tank, is a turret. Probably two tracks as well. Obviously these deficiencies were indicated in the price. I’m just not sure anyone would state it’s description as “complete”.

Unpaid Rent

For me “Model Aircraft and Accessories” is most definitely a clickable Kijiji ad. And click I did back in 2016. The ad featured some pictures of a handful of World War 2 props in 48th scale including one I had to have: A Hasegawa limited edition Kate with photoetch wing folds!

And the prices posted were almost too good to be true. Yup, yup, yup… click the respond box…

‘I’m interested in the Kate. Is it still available? I can come by today’


The response was almost instantaneous:

‘Its available. They are all available. Do you want the other kits? Paints?’

The other kits were also nice and well priced but were subjects I was not interested in.

‘I’ll just take the Kate, let me know where and when to pick up’

Again, the response was very fast:

‘I will be home around 530 you can come anytime after that.
[ADDRESS]. Buzzer doesn’t work. Text or call [NUMBER]. 
Other kits available, price negotiable.
Let me know what works for you!’

Now, I don’t mean to judge but the address he provided was in a part of town that I would not generally associate with model building. I’d certainly associate it with things like buzzers not working. The area could be described both as “edgy” and as a “high crime area” depending on who is doing the describing.

Sigh, but it was a bargain…

and a rarely seen kit…

So off I went!

I pulled up to the cinderblock lowrise, texted the number, kept my doors locked and kept an eye on the entrance to the building. Minutes later a rather ragged looking hipster appeared with a cardboard box that was far too large for a Kate and waved me over.

“Are you sure you don’t want these kits? Tell you what, you can have them and the paints. I think there are some brushes in there too. Just take it.”

“Um, I don’t really want them,” I replied with a tone that probably came off as somewhat skeptical.

“Listen, these aren’t mine.”

“You don’t say.” Eyebrow firmly raised.

He laughed, “Our roommate skipped and we haven’t seen him in months. We were tired of looking at this box in the hallway. Please, just take them.”

I try to help hungover hipsters whenever I can. For $25 I got that limited edition Kate in addition to a Tamiya Mosquito and a couple of Tamiya single engine props, all in 48th. I also got several bottles of dried Tamiya paints, a couple unusable brushes, a well read Finescale Modeler magazine and some weird plastic clamps.

The Hobby Barn

There were a lot of kits listed and they were all recent releases. However, it was the detail provided in the Kijiji ad that intrigued me. This was not a scale modeler’s widow, an amateur dealer or an ex-roommate who posted the ad. This was someone who knew what he was doing:

  • There were multiple ads in order to split the enormous collection into categories.
  • The ads only had top of the line kits.
  • For each kit, the seller listed several kit associated high end mainstream aftermarket sets including their part numbers.

This would have taken weeks to compile, organize and type out. The ad also made two things very clear. The seller would only sell each item as a package and there was absolutely no negotiation on prices. Now, unlike the usual “no loballers!” warnings I usually see in these ads, the seller provided a simple explanation for prices he was charging. Everything was exactly half of the retail price and he used some online site to set these prices.

They say timing is everything and ‘they’ are rarely wrong. When I saw these listings, my stash had already seen a few purges of kits and my buying philosophy had changed. I was no longer into buying kits simply because they were bargains. That is a good thing because I’m pretty sure I would have missed a mortgage payment had I seen this ad a few years before.

I made the necessary arrangements to get the two kits that interested me. The seller was professional and got back to me right away. He seemed genuinely curious as to why I was not buying more but certainly did not press for more sales. Then he told me were to meet him.

Another trip to the country but this time it was in the afternoon and much closer to home. After a forty minute drive I pulled up to a modest country home. The seller waved at me from the yard with a big smile. What he was wearing should have indicated where we would be going next (red flannel jacket, overalls and big rubber boots) but I am not from those parts.

“Yea, I know why you’re here,” he said as I approached “C’Mon, lets head over to the barn”

“To the what?!?”

Yes, behind that country house was an old country barn. An actual wood barn chock full of straw and movers boxes packed with piles of the very latest (and expensive) kits in next-to-mint condition. I can’t remember if the place had an odor; it wouldn’t have mattered. I had entered the Hobby Barn Department Store! Right past the entrance was the ‘1/200 battleship section’ with a half dozen humongous boxes. A few steps deeper was the ‘1/350 ship section’ with over a dozen on offer.

We kept going. He was mumbling a few things about having to ‘dig deep’ to find my models, but all I was interested in were the boxes. Some were opened and I could make out what was inside. Some had “Tamiya 32nd Aircraft” or “Trumpeter Armor” written on the side. It was all too much. Everywhere I looked there were big cardboard boxes filled with happiness and joy.

I had an urge to giggle and run free.

He walked me over to a small table where my stuff was set aside. I didn’t even look at the kits I bought. My eyes were too busy glancing everywhere. I think I just held out the money in a random direction before he took it from my hand.

“Is this heaven?”

“No,” he laughed. “Its Lanark. Do you want to take a look around?”

Boy did I ever! I took it all in as he walked me around the rest of the barn where I saw dozens of wooden tall ship kits, containers of hobby tools and the stacks of never used airbrushes. I asked how he came across this collection. He explained that he and a partner bought it from a widow. Her husband collected all of these kits and aftermarket in recent years and kept them in immaculate condition. His plan was to build all of them when he retired as he would finally have the time to do so.

That put a damper on things for sure.

As we left the barn of dreams I thanked him for the kits and for showing me around. I knew I would never see anything quite like that again.

“Thanks for coming out,” he replied. “I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. I’ve got guys coming in from Toronto, Montreal, all sorts of places. They want to buy everything.”

I didn’t doubt him for a second.

Final Thoughts

What are the takeaways here when it comes to pursuing bargains in the always interesting secondary market? I suppose there are several lessons that can be gleaned:

  • From urban to rural environments, bargain kits can be found anywhere
  • If you want to acquire a ton of bargain kits, just get elected club president (but be careful what you wish for!)
  • 25 value priced kits can be worth the risk of getting consumed by wolves
  • Always pay your rent, or at the very least keep the caps of your paints tightly sealed

Most importantly, enjoy the experience. Sometimes you come away with some great stories in addition to some great kits.

11 thoughts on “Bargain Adventures!

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  1. Your tale about meeting an old friend and finding out he is a scale modeler reminded me of something that happened a few decades ago. My best friend when I was growing up lived down the street from me, and we used to spend a lot of time at each other‘s houses. His bedroom always looked like an episode of “hoarders”, as did most of the rest of the house. It was a comfortable clutter though, and I enjoyed hanging out in his house. We were all modelers in those days, it was rare to find a young boy who was not. we now live a couple thousand miles from each other.

    I never really lost track of Bill, but one time I mentioned that I like to collect kits with an eye to possibly building them some day. I asked him if he had any left over from his childhood that he wanted to part with. Before long, I got a huge box delivered to my house that included lots of vintage kits. Unfortunately for me, most of them were not in the scale that I generally build or were of subject matter I did not care for. I got a few gems out of the box, and then took the rest of them to my favorite hobby shop. I think I got about 100 bucks for the lot. Still, it was a great experience sorting through all those kits. I guess I’m not the only person who is genetically in capable of not opening up a new kit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I got a story for you …

    It was about 15 years ago. I wasn’t back into building models, but whenever I went to the Value Village store (that was all of an 8 minute walk away) for a bit of exercise and to look for wargames (my life long hobby) and books, well, if I saw a good, complete model, I bought it and stashed it in my basement. I dunno why; perhaps a habit from my teen years, or I still knew a good deal. Maybe I had a dozen models found over the years.

    So, one Friday my wife decided to take the kids to see her mom, out of town, and I had a dentist appointment (and wasn’t big on visiting the in laws anyways.) I said good bye and walked down to the dentist, but decided to stop into said Value Village for a quick check. What did I find: two sets of Tamiya 1/35 scale soldiers. Mint condition. OK … but I don’t do little faces. No way. Anyways I get back home, sitting with the dog, and I think: you know, when it rains, it pours. And I know just a bit about how my local Value Village store works.

    I head on back down, for as I said it is good exercise (I do miss that store now its moved) and head to the back, and what do I see? The toys shelves are larded with 1/35 scale AFV model kits, all Tamiya and a few Dragons. Dozens of them. And I know a big fat deal when I see it. I quickly grabbed a cart and piled it so high with kits it was comical. Buy em all, I’ll sort them out later! I think I left a couple of Dragon Stug IIIs behind, because I didn’t like the individual track lengths, there was a lot of Stugs, and I didn’t really appreciate Dragon back then.

    When I got to the cash, the cashier was a favourite of mine, a wee woman whose husband did IT with the Forces. I looked at her and said … “do I get a frequent buyer discount,” laughing. She gave me 20% off! And she did tell me that someone had just bought a couple kits before me (given my haul, I figured it must haven been a Tiger I and Tiger II.)

    Getting them home was another slap-stick larf fest. I filled about 5 or 6 large sized store bags to the brim with kits, and tried to grasp them all. Another customer was kind enuf to help me. I looked like a sherpa heading to an Everest base camp. And off I went, luckily a short walk home.

    I wrote most of this haul down, and IIRC I got 44 kits for around $270. Of these kits about 32 were big sized tanks or guns, and a dozen were the smaller Tamiya sets of soldiers or guns. Well, my family was away for the weekend, so I got to work. First, I did spend $270 on models that, at the time, I had no idea that I might actually build, so … I went thru the lot and peeled off about 20 models that I didn’t want. These were duplicates of tanks (I had several Stugs, and a couple of Shermans and Panzer IVs.) I made these kits the core of two groups of kits to sell on kijiji, and padded them with all the soldiers, canteens and 20mm guns I had. Priced them at $125 each, which was most certainly a deal to the tune of 50% by any standard … tho I will admit, not compared to what I paid for them. Put one lot for sale that night, it sold the next morning. Put the next up on Saturday, and it sold Sunday morning. Both buyers were thrilled with the deal.

    Me … in the end I had 24 models, great Tamiya tanks, all older but in mint condition except for the odd tape rip on the boxes, for the princely sum of $20. At the time that was for, at least, $500 of models, not including tax. I’m talking Shermans, Panthers, IVs, all type of Jagds, all being late WWII western front AFV all-star team.

    The coda: now, while I have built many dozens of models in time intervening, I do believe I still have 20 of those 24 models, all still in the box. And as chance would have it, a couple years back I was surfing kijiji, and what do I see posted but one of the exact lots of models I sold over a decade back, the only thing different was the buyer (now seller) wanted $250! The models sold within a couple of days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve only become a collector because I won’t live long enough to build all the kits I’ve bought. I plan/hope to built every kit I buy but I’ve worked on the basis that if I don’t buy a kit when I see it I may never see it again. This means that I’ve built up a big enough collection so I can make most things without having to go shopping. For example, when I suddenly got the impulse to make a stack of US Navy Deep Sea Blue aircraft I have most of them in my collection and don’t have to go hunting for them. The same for Japanese bombers or Douglas airliners. Sticking to only two scales (1/72 and 1/144) simplifies matters a lot.
    Unlike you, however, I’ve been less interested in bargains than in filling gaps in the collection so most of my buying has been at swap n sells and over the internet. Fortunately I’ve only been caught out a couple of time with bad purchases, not enough times for me to worry about it too much.
    I keep a database of the kits and models I have so I don’t lose track, though I’ve got excited some times and ended up getting home and finding that I already have one or two of that kit. How do other modellers keep track of what they have in their collection?

    Liked by 1 person

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