When I was a kid, plastic model kits such as Tamiya and Revell were so popular that I often saw people building kits while in school. Fast forward to now, and I don’t see this anymore. Before, I will often see boxes of plastic model kits in toy stores, but right now, they are placed on hidden shelves. This leads me to question is plastic model kits are still made and if it is slowly losing interest from people.
Plastic model kits are still made. In fact, its popularity has not dropped worldwide these past few years. The plastic model kit industry is still strong despite some challenges, such as the rising cost of molds and competition from other hobby sectors. Many plastic model kit companies still exist, such as Tamiya, Airfix, Revell, etc.
In this blog post, I will be talking about my research on the state of plastic model kits. I will also discuss the popularity of model kits and their future challenges.
Are plastic model kits still made?
Plastic model kits are still made, and popular brands such as Tamiya, Hasegawa, Revell, and Airfix are still making model kits up to this day. However, the model kit industry faces some challenges from its competition with other hobby and entertainment sectors.
While it is true we don’t see many people build plastic model kits in school, the popularity of plastic model kits worldwide didn’t decrease.
Furthermore, the popularity of plastic model kits has grown not just in the US, UK, and Canada but also in many Asian countries.
When it comes to demographics, plastic model kits are losing popularity with the younger generation, with most of its enthusiasts in the middle age group.
Over the years, the plastic model kit industry has maintained its popularity.
We’ll see that in the other section.
Global Popularity of Model Kits
Plastic model kits maintained their popularity globally even though fewer and fewer children are playing with them.
Furthermore, while they are starting to lose some appeal to children, many people looking for new hobbies tend also to try model kit building.
I researched the global popularity of model kits, and gladly, Google has a fancy tool we can use to check its popularity.
Here is a graph on the model kit’s popularity these past 5 years.
As you see from the graph, the plastic model kit industry has maintained its popularity. In fact, in 2020, there has been a significant increase in people’s interest in the hobby.
Also, based on the global heat map, we can see that the hobby is most prevalent in numerous countries like the UK, Australia, the USA, Canada, and New Zealand.
So, if we’re talking about rankings, plastic model kits are popular in:
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
We should also not forget that Tamiya reported that their Southeast Asian market increased. This means more and more people are starting to get into the hobby.
So, while the popularity of plastic model kits has been decreasing in the younger population, many people are introduced to the hobby at a later age, and the interest in plastic model kits isn’t going down soon.
Do Companies still make plastic models?
Numerous companies still make plastic models. While some companies like Revell declared bankruptcy protection and ceased operations on April 13, 2018, other companies are taking over their operations. This means while the management for these companies changes, they still make plastic models.
As we’ve discussed earlier, based on the data I’ve gathered, the popularity of plastic model kits isn’t going down soon.
For the companies, while it might be scary to hear our favorite model kit company declaring bankruptcy, most of them are being bought by other companies and continue to operate on new management.
An example of which is Revell.
This is also true for the diecast model industry.
An example was Matchbox. When Matchbox declared bankruptcy in 1982, multiple companies bought the company, and in 1997, Matchbox was bought by Mattel, which owns Hot Wheels.
In context, this is also why some matchbox cars are usually compatible with Hot Wheels. If you are interested in learning more, please check my other blog post: Are Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars Compatible?
In short, while some plastic model kits go bankrupt, they are usually bought by other companies.
We can also tell that the bankruptcy from multiple plastic model kit companies means the industry faces numerous challenges, which I will discuss in the next section.
Why are there few plastic models available?
There are fewer plastic models available because of competition. Because of the rise of other hobby sectors and the internet, fewer people are getting into building plastic models. Furthermore, the high cost of production causes manufacturers to reuse molds leading to less variety of models.
While I explained that the plastic model industry is not going down soon, they are still facing numerous challenges, leading some to bankruptcy.
Here, I gathered some data on my research to show you some of the model kits industry’s problems.
1. Plastic Molds are Costly
Generally speaking, the molds used to produce model kits cost around $100,000 to $250,000. Considering that the price of model kits is around $50, companies need to sell thousands to obtain some profit.
The high cost of manufacturing also means manufacturers need to reuse these molds to make a profit. That’s why the variety of model kits suffer.
Furthermore, this high cost of molds means it is hard for new companies to get into the business.
That’s why fewer and fewer plastic model kit companies are emerging these days.
2. More Options for Entertainment
Before, I often saw my classmates buying those model kit boxes and building them every recess.
Right now, this rarely happens since many people are using their phones and tablets for entertainment.
Furthermore, since model kit building requires time and patience, it’s not popular with other sources of entertainment which can provide instant gratification.
Because of this, model kits tend to do more marketing campaigns to get customers, which costs more money.
3. Competition from Model Manufacturers
With the rise in technology, there are many model-making options rather than plastic model kits.
Some are now using 3D printing or resin to build models, which is a competition to plastic model kit manufacturers.
With 3D printing, you can let the machine do the model building for you, so it’s popular with people who want to finish the product.
Furthermore, resin diecasts which produce sturdy and highly detailed models are now available.
Due to other choices, a person can opt for 3D modeling or collecting resin diecasts instead of plastic model kits.
While more options usually mean better for consumers, plastic model kit companies need to adapt and seek ways to get around the competition.
4. Anti-Plastic Campaigns
If you always watch the news, the concept of climate change and anti-plastic campaigns have been around for a long time.
Many people opt for a zero waste and zero plastic lifestyle, and the plastic model kit industry is not immune to that change.
Since plastic model kits use polystyrene plastics, they are deemed not environmentally friendly.
Consumers who adopt this lifestyle tend not to buy plastics, including plastic model kits.
As more people opt for the plastic-free lifestyle, the harder it is for the plastic model industry to thrive.
What’s next? If you’re a modeler, you might have trouble finding things to do in your finished model kit. I have a blog post about things you can do to your model kits, such as selling and displaying. Here is the blog post: What to do with completed models?
“Only the things I love”
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So, here are the things I love when taking care of my Diecast Models.
Cleaning the Models
The first we are going to talk about is cleaning the models.
- Air Brush – For me, this is the best since it not just removes dust but you can use it in painting/clear coating.
- Air Duster – This is a good alternative to Airbrush
- Normal Brush – If you are short on budget, you can use a normal brush. However, make sure that the brush has soft bristles because there are some hard brushes than can cause scratches. That’s why I recommended a good brush that can do the job properly.
Cleaning and Shining Hacks
Well, here are some of my cleaning hacks for removing scratches, oxidation, and so much more.
- Removing Decal Adhesive – Use Goo Gone on those hard-to-remove decal adhesives. It works fast and works like charm!
- Waxing and Polishing – Here is something a lot of people don’t know. Waxing protects the clear coat and paint while polishing shines the model. Instead of buying it separately, use a 2 in 1 to save money. Get this instead.
- Beginner Wax – The wax I recommended earlier is good and provides the best results based on my experience. But a beginner might have a problem especially if they’re not good at applying wax. Solid wax reaching hard to reach surface can be hard to remove. You have two choices here. One is to use a qtips to reach those surfaces, another is to use a liquid wax I recommended.
- Cleaning Wheels, Rubber, Plastic – Do not forget that rubber and plastic surface are quite different, especially in the cleaning process. Just wiping it down won’t do the job. That’s why I use Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner. Works like charm!
- Make the Wheels Shine! – Making our models look good won’t be complete without tiny details such as shiny wheels! Do not forget this because however small this is, the difference can be as big as night and day.
- Remove Scratches Easily – Tiny scratches are not the end for your model. Here is a simple trick I’ve been using to make my models look scratch-free even without repainting. Use T-Cut.
Painting the Models
Make sure when you paint models, have these ready.
- Tape – A tape is important if you are painting a straight line. Furthermore, it will prevent your paint to scatter on other parts. I recommend Tamiya Tape since it is really made for models. Furthermore, they stick really well preventing paint splatters.
- Brush (Beginner) – Find a good set of brushes to paint your models. Of course, you can opt for an airbrush but it’s quite expensive.
- Airbrush (Intermediate/Expert) – This will yield a significantly better result than an ordinary brush because you can easily spray the paint evenly. I recommend this if you know what you’re doing.
- Stand(Optional) – Stands are good because it can be hard to manually hold the models while painting. It is optional but in my opinion, the price is well worth it for the comfort it gives.
- Drop Cloths – Drop Cloths will protect your surroundings from the paint.
- Primer – The most common beginner mistake I see is painting models without any Primer. A primer will prevent imperfections such as bubbles or paint not sticking to your models. It is a small price to pay for quality results.
- Clear Coat – A clear coat will protect the paint of your models. This will make the paint last longer. Also, it is the one responsible for making your models shine.
Of course, you can’t do painting properly without paint. So here are the ones I recommend.
- Acrylic Paint – Good for beginners because it dries quickly. However, it doesn’t produce results as good as enamel paint.
- Enamel Paint – Provides a good quality finish and longer-lasting paint. However, it takes longer to dry and requires expertise to use.
- Simple Wood Cabinet – While it doesn’t let you display your models, wooden cabinets are good storage for these models. For one, they are not heat conductors which means that the temperature inside will remain constant and remain cool. Furthermore, they prevent light from reaching the models which can cause oxidation.
- Clear Cabinet with Lock – If you want to display your models, then I recommend this. It closes so dust won’t easily get to your models. I also recommend you don’t put more than 1 model in each compartment since metals are good conductors of heat.
So you want to show off your models to others? Well, I got you covered.
Here is my beginner-friendly model photography tutorial that teaches everything from taking pictures to the editing process.
You will also see me doing hands-on photography in that tutorial.