We believe that it is important to know what you are buying. When did it all begin? How is diecast made? What is the difference between two brands? Why are the same size and model coming from two different manufacturers have two different pricing? What are resin models and why are they more expensive? What are those Editions – Limited, Special, Collectors, etc.?
Miniature models made of lead and brass came out in the 19th century, soon after the first automobiles appeared in Europe. Few models also appeared in iron, followed by ones made with tin. Casting with a zinc alloy started way back in the 40's. Today most of them are made in Zamac, a word formed by using the first alphabet of metals used in the mixture - Zinc, Aluminium, Magnesium and Copper (also known as Zamak in German).
Today one can have scale models of everything 2/3 wheelers, cars, buses, trucks, planes, helicopters, trams............ well almost everything.
It is a long process to make a model diecast (see photos). Summarizing this would be,
Measurements: Actual measurements of the real model are taken. In case these are not available then photos from all angles, colours, logos, etc. are studied in detail. Use of CAD and CAE are extensively used to get flawless dimensions. Permissions from manufacturers, if required are obtained.
Prototype: This is the most important part of the process. The first models are made in clay by hand. Then a resin prototype is prepared which allows the maker to check all flaws. Precision is required, be it the corners, door hinges, engine detail, etc. A proper mock-up is created before it goes into a 3D laser machine to make a digital copy so that finer errors are rectified and a steel mould can be prepared.This entire process can take up to 3 months.
Steel Moulds: These are required for casting. Essentially it is a solid steel block (can weigh up to 500 kg. in some cases) that is milled to exact dimensions. They have to be filed and polished properly before actual production begins. Everything depends on its final finish. A large sized steel mould (say for a 1:18 scale model) can cost anywhere between Rs. 7-14 lakh.
First Shot: Before actual production run begins, the factory produces 2-3 pieces that are called 'first shot'. These pieces are painted, joined and minutely checked for any deformity or finish. If changes in finishing are required on the mould, they are done at this stage. Once approved, full-scale production begins.
Painting and Packing: Each item is spray painted by hand, first with the base paint (primer) before actual painting. The decals, logos are then put on each item with the help of pad printing unit and is an arduous task as the images should appear at the right spot.
Packing of the scale model is done in various forms. Some are blister packed while others are placed inside plexiglass case, some come in plain boxes while some placed in solid box cartons.
The argument about what is better has always been a debate. Every manufacturer defends their process. However, in reality, it depends on you what you need? Few points that can help you to make a decision are,
- Resin models have better finish and detailing. Since the models don't have opening doors, they have tight shut lines and paint quality is superb. Its looks are real, be the grille, door handles, etc.
- Resin models are more expensive compared to normal diecast as few exclusive models are made.
Different types of editions are released by manufacturers from time to time when few pieces are made (they are usually 1-2% of the entire production run). The prices of these increase over time as they acquire value.
A LIMITED EDITION model is one that is created from part of a production run. These may be numbered and have different exterior paint colours, the interior might be differently finished and may have special wheel rims, decals, etc.
A manufacturer might remake a discontinued model to commemorate an event or a special occasion and in such case, they are labelled SPECIAL EDITION.
A CERTIFICATE EDITION is one when the manufacturer issues a certificate of authenticity for a particular model that has been built specific. These certificates further enhance the value of your possession.
In all the 3 cases, the production moulds are destroyed once the company makes the final product.
Why did my 1:43 model cost Rs. 2500 while the same that I saw at the Toy Shop had a price tag of Rs. 500? Why would I pay Rs. 8500 for a 1:18 while the same available online on another website cost Rs.3500? WoW! a 1:18 model costs Rs. 16,000 on Scale Model Cart. Few other 1:18 models cost Rs. 35,000. Holy Moly - why so expensive? Now these are questions that certainly play in the mind of an amateur collector who has all along been buying scale models that cost considerably less and one of the 'usual stuff'.
This difference is huge. A professional collector will shell out Rs. 2500 (for a 1:43) or Rs. 8500, Rs. 16,000, Rs. 35,000 and even Rs 50,000 (for a 1:18) as his reasoning is,
- More detailing can be seen. An inexpensive 1:18 scale model car is made using 100 different parts (approx.) while some premium collectibles are constructed with over 1700 different pieces. And few high-end ones are made with nearly 3000 single parts and contain high-grade Stainless Steel/Copper with leather or textile upholstered seats.
- Paint finish is better. More polished chrome.
- No gaps and properly flushed parts.
- Rare models have high developmental costs - gathering old technical data, sizes, vintage or rarely available photos from different angles, paint colour, texture, etc. is a painstaking process and take several months and sometimes years of preparation. Since few are made (to preserve its exclusivity), production costs remain high.
- Increase in value over time i.e. lesser common or unknown and 'unique' models command more premium.
The value of a product decreases when the same model is available everywhere and collected by all. In short, if everyone has the same Lamborghini Gallardo or a Ferrari Testarossa, how does the model 'acquire' any value? How will it gain 'exclusivity'?
So, the decision to buy the right type is entirely yours - whether to purchase an inexpensive model or one that gathers value with time.