Collecting diecast aircraft models (or anything else for that matter) is full of bursts of joy. Nothing beats the excitement triggered by receiving a new model, but a close second is getting pleasantly surprised by the announcement of a new release that you genuinely want.
I never thought of Phoenix Models as a manufacturer particularly known for thrilling release sets. On the contrary, they were largely considered a boring brand for collectors with an interest in subjects from the Western World as they heavily focused on Asian airlines. Also, in recent years their less-than-stellar molds have earned them a bit of a stigma.
At times they did hint at some hidden potential with some stunning releases. But those releases were sporadic and not exactly the norm for Phoenix.
Recently though, their release sets have started to become much more varied and include more and more crowd-pleasing subjects.
These included the timely releases of models of aircraft that have been at the center of important events, such as the Aerolíneas Argentinas A330-200 in the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup livery, as well as the last 747 ever produced, an Atlas Air 747-8F that rolled out of the Boeing Everett Factory in January 2023.
Additionally, Phoenix has consistently been releasing contemporary classics for over a year now. These include slightly different versions – and sometimes straight-up re-releases – of models that are often associated with high prices on the second-hand markets such as 767-300s and A340s wearing the liveries of flag carriers from the 1990s and 2000s, as well as never-released subjects such as a recent TU-154 in the 1990s Cubana livery, just to name a few. But by far the most head-turning subjects (not always for a good reason) they have been releasing are many (many!) 747-100/200s and -400s. The current wave of Phoenix 747s started to slowly appear around 2020, but the production has now accelerated to an expeditious rate.
The 747 (-100/200/300/400) is a hot topic in 1:400 scale. Most of them are older releases for which there is still plenty of demand, which means that collectors have no choice but to pay exorbitant prices for an outdated model or have no model at all.
In spite of this, Phoenix’s wave of 747s was not received exactly with applauses. Their 741/2/3/4 series of molds is just not all that great. To say that collectors who put mold precision and accuracy above all were less than thrilled is an understatement.
But still though, for many collectors who had been looking for a 747 wearing a certain livery, and not for an ultra-precise replica of a 747 wearing a certain livery, these Phoenixes jumbos fit the bill nicely.
It is understood that other manufacturers with the tools to produce potentially better versions of the same crowd-pleasing classics that now have effectively become the norm for Phoenix, don’t want to do so in order to keep scale aircraft models being perceived as highly collectible items that are bound to become rare with time. Unfortunately, this primarily benefits collectors who see the hobby as an investment or simply enjoy sitting on something of value.
Also, those manufacturers take things to a bit of an extreme. For example, the gradual replacement of many sought-after 747s is long overdue, and I don’t think the rarity of those models is doing any favors to the majority of the collecting community. So, while some collectors might see Phoenix’s over-production of rare 747s on an underwhelming mold as irresponsible and annoying, other collectors can rightfully say the same about other brands who turn their heads the other way. The exception is NG models, which similarly to Phoenix have become an excellent alternative to obtain highly sought-after previously released contemporary classics such as L-1011s, 777-200s, and 757s, usually of superior quality by the way. But their struggle to finally reveal their perpetually delayed 747-8s, combined with their recent shift of focus away from popular classics, gives little hope.
It is worth mentioning that Phoenix does have some nicer molds. For example, depending on a collector’s particular priorities, their 777s, A330s/340s, and MD-11s can be considered perfectly serviceable. Their 767-300 is actually very nice, as well as their IL-96.
Speaking of their 767-300, just a few days before writing this article they announced the release of one in the American Airlines chrome livery without winglets. This is a perfect example of the truly great things Phoenix is doing. Historically, AA 767s in that livery made by other manufacturers (one of which was done using the Phoenix mold!) are hard to find, and the last non-winglet version of it was released in 2008 using an old-generation mold. All of those factors make this kind of release very welcomed.
So, there you have it. I actually believe Phoenix is not straight up taking the rare and exclusive factors away from diecast aircraft models, but instead, they are listening to a market that has been overly disregarded by other manufacturers. Phoenix likely knows that they could be selling more models if they were to invest in improving some of their tooling, especially their 747s, but have also likely determined that they can do just fine catering to the less-critical/more tolerant collectors working with what they have available (this is actually good, as I could not afford all of those 747s if they were cast using a better mold!). With persistence and consistency, they have established themselves as an unlikely crowd-pleaser and we have become conditioned to expect a nice offering of contemporary classics from them. So far in 2023 they have not disappointed. In fact, most of the new releases that I have purchased this year come from them. Enjoy them:
Jorge A. Zajia