Model Airplanes for Fun and Profit

Some of the best model airplanes are the ones that never get built.

I’ve been building model airplanes since I was a young boy, and I’m still building them. I also collect unbuilt kits of vintage plastic models, and my collection now numbers 690 kits. Over the years, I’ve spent more than $100,000 on classic kits, many of which are featured in my new book, Collecting Vintage Plastic Model Airplane Kits (Specialty Press, 2015).

The book outlines some general guidelines to collecting plastic kits from such prolific manufacturers as Aurora, Revell, Monogram, and Lindberg. I explain how to determine the value of a kit, and the best places to find them: online auction sites, garage sales, flea markets, under beds in homes for sale, and from a network of fellow collectors.

I also include a chapter titled “Rarest of the Rare,” which lists the most sought-after, hard-to-find kits. My dream kit has long been the Revell Martin P6M SeaMaster—in blue. I purchased one from a collector friend for under $500. The low price is due to the kit being partially assembled (unbuilt kits are the most desired), but the box and instructions are in perfect condition. So I am still on the hunt for a blue SeaMaster with a perfect “inside.”

Varney PT‑17

Perhaps the oldest plastic model kit in America, the Varney PT‑17 arrived ca. 1946. Now one of the rarest of all styrene models, it sells for close to $1,000.

Monogram B-24 Liberator

The pristine interior of an unbuilt Monogram B-24 Liberator kit includes decals, wood wings, plastic engine nacelles and propellers (“Molded in Fine Acetate Plastic”), glue, and jars of paint and sealer. And the original cardboard dividers are intact, giving the kit an overall value of at least $400 in today’s market.

Northrop F-89D

Hobby-Time, a Wisconsin-based company, took a middle-of-the-road approach to its kits, giving collectors box art that was bright and colorful but fairly simple. Today, the Northrop F-89D can be had for around $75.

Revell SeaMaster

For those collecting plastic kits, Revell’s Martin P6M SeaMaster in blue is the ultimate prize. An unbuilt blue SeaMaster kit in perfect condition could easily fetch $1,500.

Aurora Me-109

Aurora’s early kits are highly sought after, none more so than this one, known, because of the box art, as “Me-109s Over the Village.”

Revell Cutlass

Of the three fighters first issued by Revell (Lockheed F-94, Grumman F9F, and Vought F7U), this Cutlass, issued in 1954, is the hardest to find. These first three entries from Revell had minimal details and no landing gear, omissions that were added to retooled versions of the models. This kit runs about $150.