Once you start building Gundam models, one of the things you will surely notice is their price. Despite being made with plastics, these models can get really expensive. But why are these models expensive? What makes these models reach thousands of dollars each?
Gundam models are expensive because they are often produced in limited quantities. These limited models tend to be more costly as more modelers are eager to purchase the product. Furthermore, the cost of producing these models is high since expert designers are necessary to make the model kits.
However, these aren’t all the reasons why these Gundam models are becoming costly. Instead, I have seven reasons why they are expensive. We’ll discuss all of these in this post. Let’s start.
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1. Gunpla Shortage and Limited Edition Models
Gundam models can get very expensive because there is a shortage of Gunpla models.
There is a shortage of Gunpla models because their factories can’t keep up with the increasing demand for Gundam models while maintaining quality. Furthermore, hundreds of different Gundam models need to be produced, with 30-40 additional new models released each year.
The supply goes down because of this shortage, which drives their price up.
Furthermore, limited-edition models such as Ver. Ka and P-Bandai models are rare and can cost a lot more than ordinary models.
This is also why it is common to see models that are out of stock, even on online stores, as rare models get out of stock as soon as they are placed on the shelves.
Due to this, retailers can demand more for the product as more people are looking for the same models.
Every year, Bandai releases 30-40 new Gundam models, adding to their factories’ load. However, while Bandai can open new factories to solve this supply issue, they can’t do it instantly as intense precision and expertise are necessary to produce these models.
We’ll talk about labor costs later.
Recommended Read: Are Gundam model kits becoming more popular, or are they declining? What is the future of the hobby? I discussed this in another post while showing data on the Gundam model’s popularity: Are Gundam Models still popular?
2. Plastics are Getting Expensive
Another reason Gundam models are becoming expensive is their higher material cost. Plastics are becoming more costly as more eco-friendly laws such as excise taxes are given to plastics. Furthermore, the cost of creating plastics is getting more expensive.
Gundam model kits are entirely made of plastics. While there are some exceptions, such as models with metal parts, most are 100% made with plastics.
Yearly, Bandai reported using 7,000 tons of plastic per year to create these models. The sad thing is that 2,000 tons go to our trash bins.
This means about 30% of the plastics they use are sent to garbage dumps.
But why? First, let’s check what waste we make when building Gundam models.
Here are the sprues I need to throw after building a model.
Sprues are not the only waste when building these kits. There is also waste in molding these plastics as they combust at the high temperatures required to shape them.
The problem here is that governments worldwide are starting to impose excise taxes on these plastics since they can harm our environment.
This means these models can get more expensive.
But that’s not all.
The materials used to make plastics are getting expensive. Plastics can come from Natural Gas, Crude Oil, and organic materials.
As natural gas and crude oil prices increase, plastics can also get costly.
Also, don’t forget that oil and natural are also getting expensive due to supply and excise taxes.
This is why plastic models are always more expensive than models made with metals such as diecasts.
Recommended Read: We’ve learned that plastic model kits such as Gundam kits are not eco-friendly. But is Bandai doing something to solve this issue? Can we recycle these plastic kits? I talked about that in another post: Are Gundam Models Ecofriendly?
3. Higher Professional Fee on Designers
You’ll notice on these Gundam models that they’re somewhat more detailed than other model kits.
That’s because Bandai is always looking for quality on their models.
This is also why they are always on the lookout for technological advances, as they always want to bring the best they can do, even for HG and SD models.
However, higher quality means they need to hire professional designers to build these model kits. These professional fees can also be higher than ordinary designers.
This is also why Bandai can’t just build factories to increase production, as they would require these factories to fit their standards.
4. Increase Labor Costs in Production
Increased labor costs are also driving the Gundam model kit’s price up.
For example, before, in China, the labor cost for factory workers was only 400-500 RMB per month. This is equivalent to about $50-$60 each month.
Currently, the average wage of factory workers in China is about 2,000 to 3,500 RMB per month or $250 – $500. So that is a five times increase.
Of course, the increase in labor cost will correspond to a rise in prices for these model kits.
The good news is the productivity of each factory worker has also dramatically increased thanks to advances in technology.
5. Gundam Grades and Intricate Designs
Bandai is always trying to build highly detailed models. However, these highly detailed models require advances in technology and expert designers.
These requirements can also drive the prices to go up.
Highly detailed models tend to be more expensive since they often have more parts than their ordinary counterparts.
This is why RG or MG models are more expensive than the regular HG models.
Also, PG models, top-of-the-line models, are the most costly as it is the most detailed among the models.
Grades matter a lot in Gundam models. To give some context, grades equal the amount of detail.
Generally speaking, the lowest grades are the cheapest, and the highest grades are the most expensive.
As a general rule, the cheapest is the Super Deformed (SD), followed by the High grade (HG), then Real Grade (RG), then Master Grade (MG), then Perfect Grade (PG).
Recommended Read: Do you want to be more familiar with the Perfect grade (PG)? I made a post discussing more information about PG models here: What is the highest Gunpla grade?
6. Getting into the Gunpla May Require Special Tools
To be completely honest, I think that beginners can get by with Gunpla without any special tools. However, if you want to achieve the best outcome, you need to buy some special tools.
Gunpla models don’t generally require other tools such as paints and glue. However, these can upgrade the looks of your model.
For example, while sandpaper and nippers aren’t necessary to build your models, they are essential if you want to remove the excess sprues.
That’s why most modelers would often buy more than the model to start the hobby. So, naturally, this drives the cost of starting the hobby.
If you’re a complete beginner, there is no need to get these to build your models. However, if you want to achieve the best results, you should get some simple tools such as a hobby nipper and sandpaper.
Recommended Tools: The only things you need to start building Gundam kits are nippers and sandpaper. Godhand is an excellent option for a nipper since they don’t easily rust and are durable. You can find it on Amazon here: Godhand Hobby Nipper. You can get the ones from hardware shops for sandpapers, but make sure to get these grits (400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1,200). Use 400 first, then 600, then 800, and so on. I found a set on Amazon, so you don’t need to remember these grits: Hobby Abrasive Sandpaper (400-1,200)
Others such as glues for kitbashing and paint for designing are not necessary. Only get these when you’re already an experienced Gunpla modeler.
7. High Middlemen Cost
The rising cost of Gundam models isn’t the only reason they are more expensive. There are also middlemen costs than can drive their prices up, such as tracking, taxes, and mark-ups.
After making these models in the factory, these models need to be shipped worldwide.
Well, the cost of shipping these items into the container to bring them to distant places can get expensive.
For example, Gundam models are made in China and Japan. However, since they are too far from the USA, they need to travel thousands of miles to reach the USA.
The tracking cost can add up to its price.
Furthermore, do not forget the customs tax imposed on these products. The tariff varies from country to country, but they are often there.
Another is the cost of transferring these from the port to retailer warehouses. Hiring a truck driver, gas, and container truck can also increase the price.
Lastly, when these products reach the shelves, the retailer should also add some mark-up as they need to earn some money in their store.
Let’s also not forget that when we buy online stores, the shipping fee will add to the cost of the products.
Middlemen’s charges can add up, leading to high prices.
These are the reasons why Gundam models can get expensive.
However, building Gundam kits is a fun hobby, and I would always recommend them to people looking to spend some time away from their devices.
Recommended Read: Despite Gundam models being quite expensive, you might wonder why people are buying these models. In a separate post, I discussed why people love building Gundam models. So here is the link: Why are Gundam Models so Fun and Addicting?