The value of work – Commissions & Models for sale

Whenever I have talked with others or had enquiries about commission work, or selling already completed works, it always seems that people massively undervalue the work required to build, modify and paint a kit. Whereas I can understand that if you are new to the hobby, or have never done any modelling then you are going to assume that the cost for a commission, or making an offer on an already completed and painted kit is going to be the cost of the kit + paint + a little time. This is in most instances however, the offer is nowhere near enough. The value is not in the kit and paint, it’s in the work itself.

I can understand too that, if you are into Gunpla or Mecha kits and enjoy building them, that you perhaps just don’t have the time to paint them, and want to ask someone else to do it to a standard level without all the bells and whistles to display in your collection. This is where you need to think – you will be seeing it as just a paint job – most modellers will be seeing it as exercising their art form.

What many people do not realise is that by buying a completed work or by asking for a commission, you are not only putting a value on someones time and material, you are also putting a value on the level of skill – which can take years to perfect.

Anyone can paint a kit. Yes. Anyone. You snap off the pieces, grab a brush, spray can or air brush and cover the plastic in paint. Not anyone however can do it do a degree that has fantastic visual impact. This takes experience, skill and dedication to an art form. This is why when some experienced modellers are offered virtually the cost of a kit in return for work, they’re quite rightly sometimes insulted.

So how much should you pay to commission a modeller for their work? This is of course down to each modeller so there is no way I could give you a right answer, but here’s a few tips to bear in mind when asking.

  1. How good is the modellers work? This one has a little subjectivity to it, and can vary depending on a modellers style, but it’s worth doing your research first. Look at previous works. Compare it to others. Do you want this modeller to work on your kit? Think about how much money you have set aside for this project. It’s unlikely a multi-award winning and internationally recognised modeller is going to work for very little money, but it’s worth asking.
  2. Does the modeller do commission work? This should be your very first question. Save time and ask this first.
  3. Where are they based? Remember that exchange rates and costs of living are very different around the world. You are best off looking for a modeller from the same region as you to not only save on shipping, but also not to end up paying far more than you should.
  4. Have a set budget? Make this clear right away. If you’re noticing no one is interested, it’s likely not enough.
  5. Be clear on what you want. If you want to rely on the modellers creativity, this is fine, just make it clear as to what elements you want. Have a kit in mind. Most of the time the person wanting a model kit painted has the kit, and will send it to the modeller to be worked on. If not, make sure you can get hold of one. Some kits can be tricky to find at a good price. Find examples of other work you liked. Communicate as much as possible.
  6. Make an agreement. Once you are happy with what the modeller is offering, summarise what you want and make an agreement with the modeller. Once work starts, major changes can jeopardise a whole project. Every modeller is different of course so perhaps ask (if you feel you might) if it’s ok to request small changes during progress. Remember too, paying any money up front will require a higher degree of trust. Don’t get scammed. Exchange emails, don’t do everything over messaging apps or Facebook. Get acquainted enough to ensure this modeller is the real deal.
  7. Don’t treat modellers like a company. Modellers are people, not companies. Be polite please, this is not a boardroom deal. You might expect that in any exchange of money for a service, this entitles you to being a customer with consumer rights. It does in a way, but does not entitle you do be an asshole to someone you’ve not given any money to. Most modellers are hobbyists, meaning they will be working on your model in their spare time. As most of the time there is no legal agreement for services rendered, keeping a good relationship will result in a win-win every time. You’ll get a great model, the modeller will get paid for their time, and hey, you might make a new friend.
  8. Let the modeller give you a timescale. You can always ask for a work to be completed in a certain amount of time and if so it should be made clear very early on, however every modellers life is different with varying levels of spare time available. Ask them how long they expect a project to be finished. They will of course know better.

Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints.

How much should you offer to a modeller, for a kit already produced? Sometimes the modeller already has a price in mind and will communicate this, and other times they’ll ask for offers. What’s important to remember here is how good the work is, the history of the modeller, perhaps how well known or respected they are among other modellers and most of all, how much you like the work. Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints. Give them an offer worthy of their art. I’m not saying offer a million dollars, just be realistic by factoring in craftmanship.

Of course, don’t let any of this put you off ever asking a modeller about commission work or to enquire about a kit on sale. Most of us are approachable, decent folks who enjoy the interaction. Just understand that sometimes it’s frustrating to have your time wasted, or your work devalued unintentionally, and hopefully this will make things a little clearer. As I’ve mentioned a few times, every modeller is different and may not even agree with what I’ve written, and it’s all based off experiences I’ve had and others who I have talked too. Receiving a request for a commission is a real honour and gives us good vibes, and getting a good price for our work is equally gratifying. I will always recommend however, if you don’t have the money for a commission or completed work, get yourself into painting and detailing. It’s not as expensive as you realise, and all it takes is time, dedication, education and interaction.

Anything to add? Did I miss something or got something wrong? Got some experiences of commissioning, or being commissioned to do work? Good stories? Bad? Do share! 





Ye-argh! Are ye in favour of them thar naughty pirates?

Wow, now here’s a subject rarely touched eh? Quite possibly one of the most hotly debated, often misguided, polarising and opinionated talking points that always rears it head like a bad smelling carousel carriage again and again without conclusion. It’s also one of these debates that seemingly divides communities – either by corporate commitment, brand loyalty or by community leaders intent on impressing their own values on its members. Either way, it’s a subject that can get people hot under the collar, and makes some say some really dumb things. So where do I stand on this? Let’s chuck some opinion in the mix.

Let’s start off with some personal, but generally agreed definitions.

A ‘knock-off’ or ‘bootleg’ (a term I will use interchangeably) is a copy of an original kit or a kit produced from an unlicensed design made and sold without permission.

A third-party kit on paper is an original production, based off an original design licensed from another company, to the company producing it – however it can be kit’s with slightly modified design on a short-run from the original, without license. This one is the ‘grey’ area so I’ll deliberately dodge writing about it.

Resin kits, and conversion kits are not really a cause for debate in this since they’re not a concern of the original manufacturer, and on very short runs. You do after all, need a Bandai kit first before you can create the conversion for instance.

When I refer to an ‘original’ I mean a product entirely designed and produced legitimately, and legally by a company such as Bandai, Kotobukiya or Tamiya.

Zoom out for a second at look at the bare facts before we move into the arguments. Selling copies of an original product, without permission, is illegal and in breach of international copyright rules. It’s exactly the same as selling pirated DVDs. Buying these copies for yourself is also illegal. Yes. It is illegal. The same as how downloading a torrented movie is illegal to give a better analogy.

Now let’s look at the arguments. A vast majority of those opposed to bootlegs will always cite the legality and quality of bootlegs, and it’s destructive nature towards legitimate producers. Knock-offs and some bootlegs are produced using a far cheaper process, using cheaper and inferior materials and labor in order to cut costs. With these kit’s being so cheap, they can potentially cut into the sales of the original producer. It also harms future development. If an original producer loses money on a project due to inferior copies (or even better-imagined versions) flooding the market, then the original producer has less money to potentially invest in future projects – or be willing to sell their products in a particular region at a reasonable price.

Those in favor of knock-off’s and bootlegs can counter some of these arguments. If the original producer sells their kits at seemingly outlandish  prices – the copycats and bootleggers are doing them a favour by making them more accessible, and cheaper to those with less money – it can also make the original kits more desireable. It also allows more experienced modellers to effectively ‘practice’ new ideas on kit’s without having to fork out twice – or have a bank of spare parts available that are ferociously hard to replace using the ‘Japan-only’ parts re-ordering service. It can also be argued too, that the sales of knock-off’s and bootlegs are a drop in the ocean compared to the turnovers of a multi-million dollar company like Bandai – and it’s infringements are so undervalued that Bandai rarely attempts any legal action to halt production of bootlegs, or take any serious PA action to warn consumers. The ‘P-Bandai’ kits also do not help the situation. Limiting the availability of special runs of kits of an entirely domestic market causes huge inflations in costs to those external to Japan, not doing a whole lot of good for brand loyalty.

So where do I stand in this? Well, I’m an empirical fellow – but I am also pro-choice. I know what I am buying, and I know most other people do too.

I think that, if you make a product that is amazing, and someone else then makes a blatant copy of it that is inferior – you really don’t have much to worry about, but when it becomes fraudulent (ie. making the box look exactly the same in order to charge the same price as the original) is becomes criminal, and morally wrong. What Daban or TT Hong Li are doing right now are blatant copies of an original, and you should seriously not be stupid enough to think it’s anywhere near being as good as the real thing and should not have any trouble knowing that when you purchase it. If I buy say, an iPhone and it’s called an iPhoonie, I know it’s going to bear a resemblance to an iPhone, but it’s definitely not, an iPhone. Real free-market capitalism relies on a simple fact – you get better sales when you make a better product – and Bandai are way out in front of the competition. However, the bootleggers are gathering speed and interest in area’s Bandai are failing to address.

I think the original kit manufacturers are well aware of this fact. Japanese companies, as huge and as corporate as they are, are proud of the products they produce, and  don’t pay a lot of attention to the copycats and bootleggers unless there is an awfully high demand or interest in a particular bootlegged product. This recently played out when Elyn produced the highly sought after 1/100 plastic injection molded Kshatriya model and Bandai filed for copyright infringement, limiting the company to domestic sales only – on the basis that it could be produced on a much larger scale. Elyn now does not exist.. and Mechanicore has arrived on the scene. I’ll let you put 2 and 2 together here.

When it comes to buying knock-offs, third party or bootlegs kits, it’s entirely your own choice. I have bought a couple of knock-offs and bootlegs myself, and unsurprisingly they are shit – but the point is I knew they would be. I have also paid out far, far more cash to get a kit that I know will be up to a good standard, from Bandai, and I would say most people know these facts. I also have bought kits that just have never been produced by Bandai, based off designs Bandai own. Why? Becuase Bandai have not done it yet.. and I wanted it.

In a nutshell, I am either for or against bootleg kits. I just accept it for the reality that everything is copied, reverse-engineered and knocked-off these days because hey – if you can make it cheaper and sell it, it’ll happen – especially in places where copyright law is overlooked. I will buy the better product. I will buy, a bad quality product to suit another need where quality is not a requirement. Simple. Is it an insult to original designers? Yes. Is it down to me to champion them? No. It’s likely they’ll get my money first anyway. It’s also a fact that people will identify gaps in the market. Is Bandai making a 1/100 version of this great design? Then let’s make one and make some dough.

The strong actions and comments from more opinionated individuals running and participating communities I find dense – especially without reason. I can wholeheartedly understand the commitment to an original product line if say, the community is for Bandai products only – or has a business or organisational interest in Bandai. It seems that in some places if I say ‘I buy knock-offs’ it’s the equivalent of saying ‘I punched your mum in the face’. The visceral negative response from some folks is worrying at times, and often I might add quite amusing. Still, they stick out like a sore thumb so are easy to avoid. My response to the anti-bootleg position is simple. Can you seriously tell me you have no possessions that are a copy of an original product? It’s the reality of consumerism, and it’s not something that will go away with a few insults to someone who has decided to buy one or advocates their existence. On the flip-side there are also those who accuse others of being ‘Bandai-snobs’ for even making the comment that bootlegs and knock-offs are inferior quality. Well, that’s actually a more o a fact than a statement, and I suggest these people do a little less shooting from the hip before they lose a toe – which can be frightfully embarrassing.

Whatever your position, the reality is unavoidable – unless of course the entire consumer base unanimously rejects and upholds copyright laws by simply not purchasing. Do you ever see that happening? So why even champion either position? Your thoughts?

Special thanks to John for providing me with some very useful factoids and opinionoids. 

Is Gunpla an addiction?

Can what starts off as a cheap past-time turn into an expensive addiction? I have heard the term on many occasions from the community describing Gunpla as ‘plastic crack’. Whereas the usual social connotations of addiction can apply, I am yet to hear of anyone stealing their grandmothers TV while she watches it to get their next ‘fix’ 🙂

From my own experience, starting out in the hobby I always promised myself, I will never leave a kit unpainted, and keep my backlog of kits to a minimum. This of course, did not hold out and the backlog continues to grow faster than I can knock them out. I do fall victim to spurious impulse purchases for sure – but only if I genuinely really want that particular kit – or the price is so ludicrously low I would be insane not to purchase it for resale.

Looking at my other friends in the community – my ‘problem’ pales in comparison – and I am sure that many of them would reluctantly agree that perhaps their backlog is kits is perhaps a little too plentiful.

On the face of it, when a new kit arrives we all get a little excited about it. Some of us it seems just have to have it, while others are happy to just let it pass as it just will not appeal to them. I would put myself in the latter category – although I am not immune to the hype surrounding particular kits – or the influence of my friends in the community.

I think it’s logical to assume that this ‘addition’ is more prevalent to the collectors in the hobby as the obsession for completion is certainly stronger than their need to make a handsome model – but my own experience and others proves this to be somewhat of a fallacy.

So, what do you think? Have you ever experienced financial difficulty, or problems in your own relationships because of your obsession with Gunpla?

Let me know your thoughts!


UK Customs Charges Calculator

Buying something from Japan in the UK? Not sure how much the glorious empire state UK customs are going to charge you?

I knocked up a little google spreadsheet for you, all you need to do is enter in the total cost of your goods and the shipping in the blue boxes, and it’ll work out the total ransom cost you’ll have to pay customs!

Remember though, if your order is over £135 you’ll need to add on Customs Duty, which is a whole new infinitely complicated ball game. I’ll update the spreadsheet when I can work it all out.

It also may not be 100% accurate due to HM customs exchange rates being taken at different times, but it’ll certainly be in the right ballpark. The handling fee is also charged by Royal Mail – so if you are using EMS shipping be prepared to pay it. Other couriers may charge different handling fees so bear this in mind!

Click here to view, or download a copy of the UK Customs Ransom Calculator.