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Start collecting diecast aircraft, part 1: buying your first models

With the various brands releasing diecast aircraft and the many different kind of collections, it may be difficult to know where to start your own collection. This guide will hopefully help you to make the correct decisions. In the first part I will talk about the most important thing: what models do I buy and where can I find them? Note: this guide is mostly about civil aircraft.

Step 1: decide what you want to collect

First you have to decide where your interest lie. Do you want to buy models of aircraft that you've flown in real life? Collect a certain airline? Or perhaps dig into the history of aviation and go for retro models? No matter what you look for, there is something for everyone. It is important to make clear what you want before putting all your hard earned money in this hobby, as otherwise you may regret your decision later and end up selling your entire collection because you lost interest. Still not sure what your collecting criteria are? Visit a physical store or look at websites like eBay to get an idea of what's available. There are also aviation fairs around the world where you can buy/trade models and meet lots of people. In the first part of this series I will not go into detail about the different brands, as in my opinion it is not so important when starting out.

Soviet IL-18, first in service in the 1950's and modern twinjet, which is still popular today

Step 2: choose the scale

Another very important part of this hobby is scale. For civil aircraft the most prominent scales are 1/200, 1/400 and 1/500, but you also have a small amount of 1/250, 1/300, 1/600 and even 1/1000. In this article I will summarize the most popular ones, please keep in mind that the mentioned prices are estimated for retailers in the EU, it may be different in other parts of the world.

1/200 is the biggest scale of the three. They are the most detailled (not always though) but also the most expensive. A brandnew narrowbody costs around €60-90 ($65-98), a widebody €120-180 ($130-195). To find out how large a model is, simply devide the dimensions of the real aircraft (Google will help you) by 200. For example: a 747-400 is 71 meters long, so 7100 cm / 200 = 36 cm.

1/400 is probably the most popular scale. They are much smaller and cheaper than 1/200, but still very detailled. A new release costs around €45 ($49) for a narrowbody and €50-60 ($55-65) for a widebody. The scale is twice as small, meaning that a 747-400 is about 18cm long.

1/500 is the smallest scale that is still actively produced. Although popularity has dropped, they are still made by Herpa, which have a great variety of moulds in this small scale. They are not as detailled as the other scales, but if you're on a budget or have very little space, it might be the best option. New models cost on average €30-40 ($32-43), the length of a 747-400 is 14cm long.

From left to right: 1/200 - 1/400 - 1/500 - 1/1000. Picture by 1400_aircraft_models

Step 3: you have made a decision, but where to buy?

After completing step 1 and 2 you are ready to buy your first diecast model. But where can you get them? Luckily there are many online retailers these days, which means it has become very easy to see what's available. It's highly recommended to buy new models from physical stores, so you can check the condition beforehand. Just because a model is new in box, doesn't always mean it comes without issues.

The diecast aircraft models as we know them today have been around for over two decades, meaning that most models in existence can only be bought secondhand. Some (online) stores buy collections and resell them, meaning you can find a very rare model without having to bid against other people. Another very popular option is eBay. Here you can find thousands of models in any scale from all around the world. With some luck you get a great deal, but lots of sellers ask crazy prices with the hope that someone will buy it. If you don't know what a model is worth; look for sold listings, but remember that one tiny difference can make a huge difference in it's value. In the end, a model is worth whatever you're willing to pay for it.

Other options are auction/secondhand websites in your own country, Facebook groups and forums. There are many Facebook groups about diecast aircraft, some are dedicated to selling and trading. Be aware though that there are lots of scammers. If you don't fully trust a seller: stay away or at least use the Goods & Services option with Paypal.

Step 4: enjoy your models!

Congratulations! You just bought your first model. Now it's up to you what to do next. Display it in a cabinet, build an airport diorama, post pictures on Instagram, etc. One final thing is that the box and cradle are very important. Without it you will have a much harder time selling your models and the value decreases by around 50%. In part 2 of this series I will talk about where you can share your content with other collectors. Want to know which brand is best for you? Stay tuned as I will discuss it in part 3.

- Mark

Retrohangar Diecast on Instagram

Mark22 on MAF, 400SH, DAC and DIMA

Want to collaborate or let me review your product? Send me a message via the channels mentioned above!

All pictures are mine (unless stated otherwise) and may not be used without my permission!

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