Let's preface this thing by saying that I know a collector of US militaria, a guy who deals in the mid-to-high end of such things and makes a tidy living buying and selling the relics of our past. Once upon a time, way back when he and I first became friends, I was invited over to his place to look at some Indian Wars weaponry. It was a treat for me to get to view and handle the stuff, and it was an amazing thing to be told the retail prices of such treasures when I asked how much it would cost me to buy one of the old Springfield carbines he owned.
After the choking and gasping that came after hearing the price, I asked how the particular collection of antique wood and metal that I was interested in could possibly cost so much. His answer was a simple one: People would pay what they were willing to pay and the high end of that Willing to Pay range was what determined how much any particular piece was worth. It was market demand, pure and simple, determined and set by the buyer with relatively little input from the seller. Consumer greed set the price, as it were.
Ok, then; that's how it goes in the world of militaria. How about something more to the point, like old (or maybe even not-so-old) plastic and resin model airplane kits, for instance? Unfortunately, collectible is collectible not matter what the article is and even if the item in hand really isn't worth very much, like maybe an AMT edition of the old and honestly not very good Frog P-38 in 1/72nd scale. It was a $1.00 kit when it was new back in the late 60s and it was produced in the thousands, so five bucks more or less (less in our book, but that would be us) would probably be a fair price to pay for one today. Now that we've determined that, let's go to one of those on-line auction or rare kit collector's web sites and see where the prices fall. I'll bet you they're all over the place, and if you happened to find one on an auction site the price could well be mind-boggling. Yes, it can be a fun little kit to build for nostalgia's sake, or maybe to use as a desk model. No, it most assuredly isn't a rare collectible from the early days of plastic modeling, or any other days for that matter. It's an old kit that's worth exactly what somebody will pay for it and not a penny more.
So why do people spend large sums of money to purchase old plastic models? To put it in perspective, there actually are some kits that go for big bucks and are almost worth the price of admission---certain of the models back from the very early 50s fall into that category because of their age and significance to the hobby while some, such as the Revell Space Station or Monogram Air Power set, are just rare. Even then, however, they're only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Let's do a comparison.
That Revell Space Station I just mentioned was only produced for a year or two and was sold in exceedingly small numbers due to its price at the time. It's never been re-issued, at least not as of this writing, and it could be that there are circumstances that will prevent it from ever being re-released. That Frog/AMT P-38 we mentioned is a different matter entirely, having been produced in the thousands and having been an indifferent kit in the first place; as a collectible the only thing it has going for it is the fact that it's old, and folks, sometimes Old just isn't enough!
Right, then; so let's get back on topic---why do people spend big bucks for old kits? Sometimes it's a matter of nostalgia and nothing more, a plastic time machine back to a childhood adventure, for example. Sometimes it's more than that, and we start falling into the area of Greed, as in: It's old so I'm going to get one and sell it for a profit. The guy who wants one for nostalgia's sake may or may not go for the asking price but the self-styled collector often will, much to the detriment of his pocketbook and good sense. It's old so it's rare so I've gotta have one and today's the only day I'm going to get one at that price! That's an old ploy, tried and true, and it works with everything from new cars to old plastic kits. I have it and you don't, but I'll be glad to sell it to you if you want it!
In my world it all comes down to what I want the kit for. I'm nostalgic to a certain extent and have a very small handful of old kits that have sentimental value to me. They probably aren't worth much on the market, but they mean a lot to me so I've got them. I'm not going to sell them or trade them, because they remind me of a time and place that was special to me. There are also kits I acquire because I intend on actually building them, but I won't pay high dollar for one; anything by Classic Airframes comes to mind when I think of that category since those models tend to be difficult to build, not always completely accurate, and grossly overpriced for just a builder (as opposed to a collectible).
It all goes back to that second paragraph up there, where my collector friend told me that collectibles are worth exactly what somebody will pay for them, and that takes us to the point of this ramble: If an old kit is something special to you and you'd like to have it for nostalgia's sake because it represents a special moment in your life, or maybe for that special, once-in-a-lifetime project, then it's probably worth the money you'll spend. If you want it because you think it's rare and you ought to have one then it's possible, just barely possible, that you're not thinking things all the way through (or have been attacked and conquered by The Greed Monster). At the end of the day it's your money and it's your choice, but it might be a better thing for all concerned if you/we/all of us weren't quite so ready to throw extravagant amounts of money away for old plastic kits that we'll end up looking at maybe once or twice a year, maybe.
Anybody want to buy a Frog P-38 in an AMT box?
More Bugsuckers From the 149th
Last issue we showed you a small handful of ANG and USAF F-4s, which included several aircraft from the 182nd TFS/149th TFG out of what used to be Kelly AFB. We promised there would be more to come another day and today's another day, so here we go!
We're an Equal Opportunity Sort of Operation, Don't You Know
Which is why we're going to run a few more Phantom shots today, this time of Navy F-4Js at the tail-end of their "Easter Egg" period. If any of you are getting the notion that we've got a thing for the F-4, well; you'd be right!
We're almost done with today's F-4 marathon, but there's one more thing we have to do before we call it quits:
We Figured Out a Way to Do It!!!
That's right! After fighting our software for the past several weeks we finally decided that we were, by Golly, going to win the argument and publish Gerry Asher's piece on that 57th FIS bird that managed to launch, fly, and recover safely with its wings folded whether Mr Adobe wanted us to do it or not. The Good News is that it's here; the Bad News is that we had to scan the thing and publish it as though it was a series of photographs, which means you'll have to click on each page and open it up separately from the others. Yes, it's half-baked, but it works, and we really want you to read Gerry's account of the adventure so, without further ado...
Today's been a day of big, heavy fighters, and we see no reason to change things at this point. Here's a shot Bobby Rocker sent us of an airplane you just might be familiar with:
Under the Radar
We normally look at older publications in this section of our endeavor, but today we're going to examine a book that's almost brand spanking new and, we suspect, unknown to a great many of our readers:
Those of our readers who have been with us for a while have surely noted our interest in the events of the Pacific War. This volume fits neatly into that theme and provides the reader with a detailed look at a campaign and series of battles that are essential to the overall picture of events during those terrible early days of the war in the Pacific but little known to most casual historians. Although primarily involved in the naval aspect of the war, sufficient space is given to aerial activity as well, providing the reader with a solid over-view of the way things were during that time and, to a great extent, why things went so terribly wrong for the Allies.
This is not a picture book, although there is a small selection of photographs included, but rather a 415 page history spanning the time from slightly before Pearl Harbor until the immediate aftermath of the Battle of the Java Sea. The work is detailed, heavily footnoted (some 58 pages worth), and with an extensive bibliography. While it's not an aviation book per se, it helps to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the period immediately after the United States' entry into the war and ties a great many of the events together in a concise and easy-to-read fashion. We consider it to be essential reading for anyone interested in the topic and recommend it without reservation.
The Road Less Traveled
Anybody who knows Jim Sullivan (and everybody at least knows who Jim Sullivan is) knows that he's had a life-long interest in aviation, both as a photographer and an author. As thing happen he's also a pretty good modeler, as illustrated by the airplane you're about to view.
We're going to take a somewhat different path with today's Happy Snap and go to an Australian air show with Rick Morgan:
The Relief Tube
Nope, not today! The sad truth of the matter is that we've published so seldom of late that we haven't received all that many letters correcting what we've done, so no Relief Tube this time!
We would, however, like to encourage our readership to submit photographs or articles to us if they're so inclined. A quick look at the project should give you an idea of what we're looking for, so feel free to jump in. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thanks for spending part of your day with us, and with any luck we'll see you again soon. Until then, be good to your neighbor!