I should start out by saying that cost is in no way indicative of quality when it comes to 1:400s.
I only started collecting in 2010 and so missed about a decade of releases, many of which are really hard to find. I have been fortunate across the years that I have had access to the mighty Waffle Collectibles as without Waffle's collection sales I don't think I would ever have been able to form the collection I have.
The big bonus is that it proves you do not have to spend megabucks to acquire even 'rare' models. 94 of my models actually cost me under $10 each and these are decent models not rubbish moulds. Pretty much all older releases are hard to find if they weren't made by Dragon Wings or Gemini Jets (who produced larger volumes) so it always bugs me that sellers advertise models as rare. It has no real meaning and should not be used as a tool to try and get big $ for models in my opinion. Something being rare doesn't necessarily make it expensive and most 1:400s are no rarer than others.
I especially loathe collectors who acquire models just with the hope that they accrue in value so they can sell them for inflated prices later. This kind of collector is in my opinion going against the spirit of the hobby, which is after all what it is - a hobby. These things are not diamonds or precious art. It is probably just as well therefore that I stay largely away from eBay where it seems large prices are commonplace. You may think your Aeroclassics A300 from 2006 is worth $100 - I think you are wrong, most of the time!
Nonetheless there are some models, which are obviously worth more and really rare due to how sought after they are. The biggest category of these is probably the range of Aeroclassics and BigBird 747s. Excellent models of popular subjects made in small numbers. I like to collect a representative selection of most airlines but that does at least afford me the ability to avoid the need for many of these 747s. I own more than 100 747s and 27 of these are from AC or BB but the 2nd and 3rd most expensive ones (Avianca and British Airways) cost me $44 each.
Some airlines also seem to attract higher prices on the seconds market presumably due to their popularity and demand. I'm thinking Cathay Pacific, CP Air, Qantas, Pan Am and Singapore Airlines for example. I do admit to having had some luck especially with the Pan Am models being able to source them via an understanding collector shedding his fleet.
Even though I am obviously a stingy miser, interested in volumes more than individual pieces, I have a few times felt the need to splash the cash. Here are the models, which have cost me more than $50 each, which I consider to be quite a bit:
At $50 each I have a pair of Cathay Pacifics (one Aeroclassics and one BigBird) plus rather randomly a Shanghai Airlines A321. The latter is a rather obscure release by Aeroclassics I had barely seen and a rare eBay purchase, whence the relatively high price. HYJLwings have recently released this model and I am tempted to replace my AC version.
4: For $52.80 I recently acquired this lovely Qantas 707-338B 'City of Darwin' in the 1970s colours made by Aeroclassics.
3: For $54.00 a Waffle Sale furnished me with the rare, and admittedly inaccurate, Aeroclassics United Airlines Sud Aviation Caravelle:
2. It took a whopping $61.62 to get hold of the elusive Pan Am Douglas DC-8-62, made by Pan Am Models / Aeroclassics, not long ago.
1. Drumroll please. It cost me a mammoth $93.60 to get hold of the almost impossible to find Air Niugini A300B4 by Aeroclassics and I was lucky enough to be able to find a seller here in New Zealand. At the time it was a serious decision and remains my most expensive model by a country mile.
This post is in no way meant to brag about having money (I don't consider myself especially wealthy, just single-minded perhaps) - I would much rather not have to spend large sums as I hope I have made clear. It is also not meant to brag about luck that I have had, although I appreciate all those who have helped me. However I have certainly noticed the prices of models going up, as everyone has no doubt, and I wanted to reassure those starting out that you don't have to spend huge sums on a model to acquire it as long as you are prepared to wait and keep your eyes peeled.
Well known rare models like the below Dragon MD-80 and Frontier Saul Bass 737 by Aeroclassics can still be acquired without taking out a bank loan. I got both of these for less than $45, admittedly a few years back now.
With the cost of new models now getting up into the $45-50 range I guess I will need to revise my top limit upwards soon, and indeed the Pan Am DC-8-62 and Qantas 707 are models I wouldn't have paid out for 5 years ago. I buy a lot of models so haven't been able to spend the huge sums on a single model I sometimes see people acquiring individual models for, but I understand if you are a more restrained collector than I - spending it large to get an important model makes more sense.
I'm interested in the spending habits of others. What's your most expensive model and when did you overdo it to get that holy grail?
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.