Why collect plastic model kits? And if you do, why choose Airfix ? Two questions - two answers..
I started as a modeller - a fanatic. I think that as a teenage boy I must have purchased and assembled nearly the whole Airfix range, plus many more from Frog and Revell. I still do make the occasional model, but in adulthood my desire for modelling perfection far outstrips my abilities. So why start collecting ? For me the reason was that I saved most of the instruction sheets from the models that I made. Why ? I have no idea! I just kept them. As I grew up, married, moved house several times, my cherished box of kit instruction sheets came with me. Then, a couple of years ago, I opened this box and realised two things - (1) that some of what I was looking at was old and perhaps rare and (2) I had quite a lot of it! So instead of putting the box back into the attic to lay unloved for another ten years, I decided to do something with these instruction sheets - turn them into a collection.
Why Airfix? Simply, that during my modelling years the kits most freely available in England were the Airfix range. Frog didn't seem to be on as many shop shelves, Tamiya didn't exist and the American kit ranges (Monogram etc) were simply too scarce, too big and too expensive for a small boy. So my box of instruction sheets were 80% Airfix. I had mostly Airfix, I had made mostly Airfix and through making the models, I felt I "knew" Airfix.
The first real test was just how much about Airfix did I really know? You can't start collecting antique furniture just because you have one old bookshelf in the living room. I sensed also that Airfix kits were collector's items, having seen some old plastic bag models on sale at what seemed very unlikely prices. If I was going to collect, and especially buy, I needed to know some more.
I started by buying a few old catalogues. Just seeing the pictures of old favourites really got my interest going again, after all those years since making my SRN-1 hovercraft and my Auster Antarctic. Then I had a bright idea! I'd produce a catalogue! Of course nobody had done this before, and of course I was the world's expert! Full of enthusiasm for this project I put an entry in an Internet newsgroup announcing to hundreds of millions of people that they should soon expect the Dave James Complete Airfix Kit Catalogue. And on CD-ROM too !
I was soon put right. I wasn't an expert, and neither was I doing something new. I was pointed towards Arthur Ward's Model World of Airfix and P.A.Lewarne's The Enthusiasts Guide To Airfix Models, both of which I quickly bought. I can't better these reference works, nor do I now intend to. I'm content collecting what I can find, buying and selling a little bit to make it more interesting, and generally finding out more and more things about Airfix that were unknown to that small boy making models so many years ago.
P.S. I'm constantly staggered by the value of some Airfix kits. Examples I've recently seen :
- Stingray. Limited edition kit, available only via a "collect the tokens" promotion - £500
- Monkees Monkeemobile (1966) - £250
- James Bond Toyota 2000GT (1967) - £195
- James Bond Autogyro (1967) - £350
- James Bond Aston Martin (1965) - £150
- Fokker Friendship - £40 (I had this one once !)
- Bond Bug - £55
- BAC 111 airliner (Mohawk) - £50
- and, of course, the prices people pay for the early catalogues!
Of course, strange as it may seem to the collector, you may also wish to make these kits. Here's a wonderful example of what is possible -