Dissecting Diecast

Dissecting Diecast: Which is Better? An Evolution or Revolution?

Hobby Master burst onto the scene way back in 2006, which, for all intents and purposes, might as well be an eon ago in the hobby industry’s time line. Since that time, we’ve kept a careful eye on their progress, marking all of their revolutionary advances with both applause and criticism, taking them to task when an item doesn’t live up to its hype and clapping them on the back when they have exceeded our expectations. However, there are times when they make evolutionary changes, that, quite literally, push the hobby forward and demonstrate their prowess as model makers even if other collectors, critics and model makers might not notice.

Earlier this morning, images were posted for two of their upcoming aircraft: a McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle – “75th Anniversary of Oregon ANG” (HA4559) and a Grumman F-14A Tomcat, VF-14 “Tophatters”, 80th Anniversary, 1999 (HA5214). As you can see by the accompanying photos, Hobby Master has demonstrated their ability to tackle some of the more complex camouflage schemes and adornments that other model makers might side step, a clear indication that more intricate artwork isn’t a thing solely left to aftermarket specialists.

In the case of the F-15 (top), look at how they have managed to not only recreate the screaming eagle, but align the tampo printing so that it covers multiple panels below the cockpit. As for the F-14 (bottom), marvel at all of the smaller cautionary signage that appear along the fuselage as well as some of the finer detail and stenciling that went into the wing tips, ventral fin and tail. In a word, bravo!

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Dissecting Diecast: Be Careful What You Wish For

Hobby Master’s 1:700 scale US Navy Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruiser – USS Ticonderoga (CG-47)

We’ve been after certain modelmakers to expand their offerings for a number of years. Some times our calls fall on deaf ears; other times we strike a vein and score the mother lode. Last month, we were tickled pink when we learned that Hobby Master was going to dip their toes in the warship market, giving such stalwarts as Eaglemoss, Forces of Valor, and several others a run for the money, crossing the “T” when they least expected it.

We have since learned that, at least in the case of their first offering, the USS Ticonderoga, the ship can only be displayed in a full draught configuration, meaning no provisions are being made for it to be shown as a waterline model, making it ideal for wargaming. I’m not sure why this decision was made when other modelmakers seemingly have no trouble offering their ships in either configuration. The model carries a $84.99 MAP, meaning, from a pricing perspective, it falls right where it should in the diecast task force. However, from a features stand point, it still lacks a critical punch that could have sunk some foes. Its possible they may elect to amend their decision, considering its not due out until June. They have been known to change their mind on occasion, so here’s one instance we wish they did and give the maritime collector everything they deserve.

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Dissecting Diecast: What we Have, and What we Still Need

Its refreshing to see so many new products coming to market over the past year, many of which I never thought we would see on the diecast battlefield. From Soviet warbirds to German vengeance weapons, “paper panzers” to WWI zeppelins, I don’t think there has been a time when we have seen so many new types of weaponry being modeled for the collecting community. Having said that, there’s still loads of armament to explore in scale and lots of different ways model makers can entice collectors into making space for these new ranges. Here’s a few suggestions for 2018:

  • Modern warships – perhaps offered in the same manner as Eaglemoss Star Trek starships series, I think that a range of modern era 1:1100 scale submarines and surface ships would do exceptionally well at retail, particularly if they were coupled with a full-color magazine that discussed the ship in detail along with behind-the-scenes information presently only available from select sources.
  • Drones – There is no question that drones are taking their place on today’s battlefield and will one day play an even greater role in combat as we progress into the mid 21st century. On the ground, in the air and at sea, drones provide real-time assessments of the enemy’s capabilities, and can take action against threats when other assets may not be available.
  • Experimental Aircraft – Luft-X has already done a remarkable job of bringing into focus some of the Luftwaffe’s secret projects that could very well have turned the war around for the Axis forces in the waning days of WWII. That said, there are still a myriad of aircraft that were on the drawing board from a number of nations that could just as easily become hot-selling items. The question is can Luft-X tackle this subject matter faster than they have to date, or will other manufacturers step in to steal their thunder?
  • The Littorals – We’ve all seen documentaries about the Vietnam War, and the effect the US Brown Water Navy had on the prosecution of the campaign around the Mekong Delta. How many times have you wanted to see some of these low draft ships offered up at scale or, if we dare to dream bigger, some of the E-Boats, PT-boats and other river craft that played a vital role in taking the war to the enemy in the Second World War.
  • Missiles – I’ve often thought that it would be interesting to compare and contrast air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance from a number of nations around the world. Perhaps offered in a larger scale so everyone can appreciate some of the detail that goes into their construction, I think that a range of post-WWII era guided and unguided bombs, rockets and missiles would sell well. In so doing, a similar range of ICBMs would open the door in a number of respects, particularly as it applies to today’s world of threat and counter threats being deployed almost on a daily basis

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Dissecting Diecast: Weapons of Mass Destruction


Germany’s Aggregat series of guided missiles

“To this day, I am convinced that substantial deployment of Wasserfall from the spring of 1944 onward, together with an uncompromising use of the jet fighters as air defense interceptors, would have essentially stalled the Allied strategic bombing offensive against our industry. We would have well been able to do that – after all, we managed to manufacture 900 V-2 rockets per month at a later time when resources were already much more limited.”

– Albert Speer, Reichsminister fur Bewaffnung und Munition (Reich’s Minister for Armamants and Munitions), from his memoir “Inside the Third Reich”

With the advent of PMA’s V-2 long-range guided missile, and the imminent arrival of Modelcollect’s V-1 “Flying Bomb”, we naturally presume that there are additional scale reproductions of weapons of mass destruction waiting in the wings. Towards the end of the War in Europe, the Germans, in particular, were testing a number of advanced weaponry, among them the Wasserfall (“Waterfall”), which was a guided missile based upon the V-2, the Backebo Rocket, a V-2 rocket using Wasserfall radio guidance, piloted V-2s, and, of course, the rest of the Aggregat series of ballistic missiles, all of which were in varying stages of development.

So, the question we had, in light of this recent trend, is what place do these types of advanced weaponry have in a typical diecast collection? Should they garner the same respect and admiration from collectors as a tank or aircraft would cast from the crucible of battle, or, should they be held in a different regard since they are, at best, impersonal means of destruction, that were, in large part, aimed at civilian population centers, designed to bring about the moral collapse of the enemy when other means were no longer deemed possible? What say you?

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Dissecting Diecast: One Giant Leap for Diecast and Mankind

Boeing’s XS-1 (Experimental Spaceplane), which the company dubs “Phantom Express,” got a green light in May by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa.

With the proposed US Space Corps taking an important step forward this past week by being included in DoD defense spending and potentially formed as a seventh branch of the military, we were wondering how many of you would be interested in collecting scale hypersonic aircraft/space planes currently under development?

Lockheed’s SR-72, a purposed-built replacement for the retired SR-71 Blackbird, has been rumored to be in development for some time, perhaps already taking flight over the Mojave Desert

Several companies and countries are already tinkering with hypersonic flight, many seeing them as weapons delivery platforms that can arrive at their given target within hours of takeoff. If a separate line of scale, diecast hypersonic aircraft were to be produced, perhaps accompanied by a magazine detailing each product much like an Eaglemoss Star Trek starship, would you be willing to create a new area in your diecast collection dedicated to their founding? 

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Dissecting Diecast: The Amazon Effect

There’s no question that Amazon has had a profound impact on the retail landscape in the main and the way in which merchandise is sold across the globe in recent years. Take into account that Amazon now offers same day delivery in some cities, and you can see why many users of the service swear by the etailer, even if they have to pay handsomely for these benefits through their Prime membership.

The problem with instant gratification, if we can call it that, is that people expect to be able to purchase a newly announced item the day and date it hits the wires. In the case of the diecast modeling industry, many items don’t fit the Amazon mold, to borrow a pun, announced simply to gauge consumer interest as a barometer of sorts to see if it pays to morph an idea from concept to production line. Other manufacturers are notorious for taking their time to release an item, oftentimes taking upwards of a year or more before their wondrous creation actually makes it to market. By that time, the average collector may have lost interest in the item, as they are constantly bombarded by competing items or other diversions competing for their discretionary dollar.

For this very reason, some services cast a dim eye towards offering online pre-orders, since it creates a bit of a stir in the market that may not be quelled for months on end. As we move forward towards becoming an omni-channel retailer, able to offer our wares on multiple venues with differing rules and regulations, we just wanted to point out that not all of our products or services will be available on every platform, and that the best source for obtaining product updates and the latest information will continue to be found on our web site.

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Dissecting Diecast: Do Rivet Counters Help or Hurt the Industry?

We’ve all stumbled across the term “rivet counters” when perusing the many threads winding their way through the average diecast forum. But the question remains, “what is a rivet counter?” A “rivet counter” is a glorified term for someone best characterized as an overzealous hobbyist who would like to see a finished model look every bit as good as the real thing. It isn’t meant as a demeaning term — just one that best describes someone that scrutinizes every conceivable aspect of a finished model. The problem is that the average diecast manufacturer simply doesn’t have the resources to make their models look every bit as good as the real thing without breaking the bank. Moreover, the average model buyer couldn’t point to a “glove vane” on an F-14 or explain why an engine intake on an F-15 should be canted downwards or horizontally, or for that matter care. Only a handful of devotees know that the wings on a Grumman F8F Bearcat fighter should have its wings swept in a dihedral versus anhedral position, or could accurately describe the condition and what causes it from an aerodynamic standpoint.

So I sometimes stare in amazement as I read the banter that goes back and forth between forum users as they do their best to tear apart a model in the hopes of making it the perfect replica. Coming from the video game industry, and having played my fair shared of computer wargames and combat simulations over the years, it reminds me of how “grognards” — best described as a wargaming rivet counter — are constantly looking for the “holy grail” of wargames or flight sims, routinely taking designers to task for overlooking or simplifying one aspect of the product in order to make it more enjoyable if slightly less accurate in the user’s eyes.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that most diecast manufacturers must draw the line somewhere when it comes to designing their replicas, otherwise they will never bring the project in on budget or to market in a timely manner. I dare say, most are deeply interested in the feedback their products receive and do their utmost to correct deficiencies when and where ever possible. But the fact remains their target audience is typically more of a casual collector that just wants to add a decent replica to their collection that won’t bust “their budget” in the process. Its a fine line both parties must tow from a market driven perspective, bringing in the best possible product on time and within reasonable cost constraints so that everyone is satisfied and the business model can move forward to the next project all over again. 

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Dissecting Diecast: When Does a Name Change Become Necessary?

B-29 Superfortresses would have faced an onslaught of Japanese Kikka jet aircraft had the war continued into late 1945 and beyond

We’ve all seen it countless times before in the private sector: a company, enslaved to its past or looking to give its moniker a hip new update, changes its name to better suit its audience or address events marring its progress. Years ago, tobacco giant Philip Morris changed its name to the Altria Group, when more and more independent studies proved the correlation between smoking/using tobacco and the onset of cancer. Biotech maker Activated Cell Therapy, altered its name to Dendreon, not only because it sounded sexier but more importantly gave people the impression that they were all about stimulating dendritic cells of the immune system to fight,  you guessed it, cancer.

Two modelmakers may be faced with the same identity question in the not-too-distant future. Wings of the Great War, which instantly conjures up imagery of World War I biplanes and such, kicked off a line of WWI-based ground vehicles in late 2015, instantly faced a name recognition problem when it called the new range Wings of the Great War: Armor Collection – Tanks of World War I. Certainly a mouthful, the Company may have been better served if it changed its overarching name to say, The Machines of World War I, or The Great War Collection, which better denotes how the Company is attempting to reach both the aerial and armor enthusiasts of the period.

A highly unusual design for its time, Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender pursuit fighter had a canard configuration, a rear-mounted engine, swept wings and two vertical tails.

Likewise, Luft-X, which reemerged recently after facing some quality control issues, has thus far laid out a fine line of secret weapons projects that could have easily been added to the Luftwaffe’s roster had the war continued a bit longer. But what happens when the Company decides to replicate some of the experimental aircraft being developed by other nations embroiled in the conflict, such as the Japanese Kikka jet-powered aircraft or even the exotic Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender pursuit fighter put forward by the US in 1943. Does the Company decide to go with the Nippon-X or US-X naming convention to address each faction, or do they decide to go with a more all-encompassing label such as Secret Projects of WWII?

For a company to succeed in this highly competitive industry, it is important that a customer instantly recognize what each particular model maker offers otherwise they face an uphill struggle trying to separate themselves from the pack. Food for thought for newcomers and entrenched favorites alike.

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Dissecting Diecast: Are Two Versions of the Same Item Better Than One?

Unimax’ Action Grade packaging was designed to appeal to younger collectors and get them interested in military-themed collectibles

We’ve heard through the grapevine that Waltersons, the new owners of the Forces of Valor brand, may bring back the marketing duality of offering two versions of each upcoming aircraft. Unimax, the original makers of the brand, came up with this concept as a means of addressing how they planned to introduce the same merchandise into deep discount big box retailers as well as traditional hobby stores. They envisioned an “action grade” version for the Target, Walmart and Toys R Us chains of the world, which meant there was no weathering applied to the vehicle and the outer box had a somewhat mass market look to it, thereby appealing to kids as opposed to hard core collectors. The “enthusiast version”, on the other hand, gave each vehicle a more robust appearance, complete with weathering and some battle scarring, along with a more traditional collector designed outer box.

An enthusiast edition of the ubiquitous US GMC 2-1/2 ton truck, complete with some accessories and a collector focused outer box

According to a recent posting, Waltersons will likely offer a 1:72 scale aircraft in much the same look and manner as Unimax once crafted, pretty much a plain vanilla product priced well below the competition. They also indicated plans to sell an enthusiast version, which could, conceivably be painted slightly different than the standard version, and will be accompanied by carrier planking or some other appropriate accessory designed to make the product stand out a bit more. The enthusiast version could sell for as much as $99.99, which would make it a more premium offering and quite possibly come with a numbered certificate of authenticity, making it a more desirable product to obtain from a collector’s standpoint.

So, what say you? Does this marketing move make sense and are you willing to pay more for a more deluxe product that could conceivably appreciate at a quicker rate than a larger run item?

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Forget Stocks and Bonds, Stamps and Coins. Invest in Collectibles

While most collectors don’t pay attention to the value of their collection, it’s nice to know that should you run into a bit of financial trouble, selling off your collection might prove to be a valuable lifeline. According to the Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/a44ba202-f9bb-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71, some legacy Star Wars memorabilia, many of which sold for a pittance in relation to today’s market, are commanding prices, at auction, into the tens of thousands of dollars. While not every item in every conceivable segment of the hobby has gone up in value by such stratospheric numbers, its nevertheless nice to know that some collectibles could serve as a retirement nest egg should things start to go south.

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