Can you believe 41 different examples come to mind when I think about model kits? This Ultimate Guide to Model Kits reveals the types, the best materials in 2022, how to source quality kits, and how to preserve your model kits for decades. I’ll also share the model levels and their difficulties.
I’m what friends call a manic collector of all things nostalgic, but I love model kits because they’re interactive. Model building is a wildly satisfying hobby, and I often get lost in a new assembly. You have to build, prime, and paint them before storing them in a suitable container for long-term preservation.
I’ve been around model kits for nearly two decades, and I’ll show you the ins and outs of selecting, building, and caring for your model kits. Let’s see what adventure lies ahead for your most significant hobbies.
Bottom Line Up Front
Model kits are one of the greatest passions for collectors of toys, war memorabilia, fandoms, pop culture, classic cars, and anything you can assemble. It’s no wonder they’re so famous for hobbyists and collectors. However, model kits are complicated if you don’t know the basics.
There are five different difficulty levels for model kits, and it’s hard to choose your new model kit when there are 41 different types. Some model kits include Transformers model kits, Star Trek model kits, Pokémon model kits, Titanic model kits, Zoids model kits, and even anime model kits.
Once you have your model kit, you also need to know the best ways to preserve it as a collector. Different model materials last different times. You can use simple storage and rotation tricks to keep them in pristine condition. Should you get lead rot, the most common metal model problem, I’ll show you how to fix it.
I also don’t believe it’s wise to buy any model kit. You need a buying system that helps you choose which model kits suit you better. I stick to a reasonable budget and prefer challenging model kits. You also need to consider the materials, levels, and scale according to your time and space.
I have a few favorite model kits, and I intend to buy two more from my recommended list. I love the Lego STEM NASA Space Shuttle Model Building Kit because it’s educational, I can build it with my son, and it falls into two types of model kits. I want the UGears Mechanical Wooden Steam Train Model Kit to assemble my first train.
I love helping fellow collectors find gems. I’ll recommend a model kit for a little bit of everything, including gearheads, anime enthusiasts, and classic car model builders. Let me help you find your next model kit.
A Model History
Scale model building is a timeless hobby collector of all things nostalgic can actively enjoy. It began in 1936 when Frog in the United Kingdom manufactured the first buildable aircraft model called Penguin. The 1:72 scale model kit set the world on fire, and Frog continued selling them until 1950.
The 1950s boomed US production. Aurora Plastics, Airfix, and Hawk began manufacturing model kits, roaring into the British rage that hobbyists loved. World War II model kits burst into the scenes to represent everything about Hitler’s demise. Model kits started with a bang, and there are over 100 brands in America today.
What are Model Kits and What Makes Them Collectible?
Model kits are the ideal collectibles for active hobbyists. A model kit depicts concepts, buildings, vehicles, military weapons, aircraft, anime characters, movie props, animals, clocks, Disney favorites, dollhouses, robots, engines, and tools. I’m only mentioning a few of the 41 model kit types.
Model kits are collectible because you can find one for any of your passions, which might fall into nostalgic origins. You’re likely to find a model kit for any desire you possess, and you get to enjoy assembling, painting, and gluing the pieces together to end with a finished model. It’s like a 3D puzzle for adults and kids.
Nostalgia is the most significant driver of collectible models. Trending brands and personal passions combine nostalgia with the active enjoyment of assembling tiny pieces to recreate a memory of something you love.
Model Kit Types for Avid Collectors
Fortunate for collectors, there are countless types of model kits. Go wild if building models is more than a hobby, but know how many types you get before buying enough model kits to keep you home from work. These are the common types of model kits and examples of each available in 2022:
- Aircraft model kits: Stearman Kaydet American Aircraft Model Kit and Convair 990 Coronado Aircraft Model Kit
- Action figure model kits: TMNT Action Figure Leonardo Model Kit and Iron Spiderman Model Kit
- Animal model kits: Pegasus Farm Animals Model Kit and Action Figure Wolf Model Kit
- Anime model kits: Anime DBZ Action Figure Model Kit and My Hero Academia Izuku Model Kit
- Architecture model kits: Lego New York City Architecture Model Kit and Lego Dubai Skylines Architecture Model Kit
- Bandai Hobby model kits: Gundam Bandai Hobby Model Kit and Bandai Hobby Tanjiro Demon Slayer Model Kit
- Bicycle model kits: Schwinn Continental Bicycle Model Kit and Schwinn Sting-Ray Bicycle Model Kit
- Carousel model kits: Pieceool Metal Rotating Carousel Model Kit and Robotime Wooden Music Box Carousel Model Kit
- Classic car model kits: 1957 Cadillac Model Kit and Maisto Diecast 1929 Ford Model Kit
- Clock model kits: Pendulum Wall Clock Model Kit and Mechanical Owl Clock Model Kit
- Disney model kits: Mickey’s Fun Metal Wheel Disney Model Kit and Wooden Goofy Disney Model Kit
- Dollhouse model kits: Loft Dollhouse Model Kit and Robotime Mini Greenhouse Model Kit
- Engine model kits: Wright Cyclone Aircraft Engine Model Kit and Ford 427 Wedge Engine Model Kit
- Evangelion model kits: Awake Evangelion Model Kit and Neon Genesis Evangelion Model Kit
- Heavy machinery model kits: American High Cab Dragline Metal Crane Model Kit and Fisca Diecast Bulldozer Model Kit
- Helicopter model kits: Hind D Trumpeter Helicopter Model Kit and MD500 Defender Combat Helicopter Model Kit
- Interactive model kits: Mechanical Marble Run Interactive Model Kit and Mechanical Vintage Grammaphone Model Kit
- Gurren Lagann model kits: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Model Kit and Kaiyodo Revoltech Gurren Lagann Model Kit
- Lego model building kits: Ship in a Bottle Lego Model Kit and Pirates of Baracuda Bay Lego Model Kit
- Light globe model kits: Night Light Wooden Globe Model Kit and Wooden Educational Globe Model Kit
- Marvel model kits: Marvel Avengers Infinity Gauntlet Model Kit and Iron Man Metal Helmet Model Kit
- Mechanical model kits: STEM Gearbox Model Kit and STEM Construction Mechanical Model Kit
- Military model kits: German Bismarck Waterline Battleship Model Kit and British Sherman II Tank Model Kit
- Motorbike model kits: Manyi Motorbike Model Kit and Suzuki RG400 Plastic Scale Motorbike Model Kit
- Muscle car model kits: 1968 Chevy Camaro Scale Model Kit and BMW M8 Car Model Kit
- Musical instrument model kits: Wooden Piano Model Kit and Fascinations Metal Drum Model Kit
- Music box model kits: RoWood Wooden Music box model kit and Wooden Mechanical Music Box Model Kit
- Pokémon model kits: Bandai Hobby Scorbunny Pokémon Model Kit and Bandai Hobby Mewtwo Pokémon Model Kit
- Robot model kits: STEM Solar Robot Model Kit and Gundam Barbatos Metal Model Kit
- Scientific tool model kit: Wooden Mechanical Vitascope Model Kit and Fascinations Metal Telescope Model Kit
- Ship model kits: CubicFun Titanic Model Kit and Ulises Tog Boat Model Kit
- Space exploration model kits: Leo Space Train Model Kit and Fascinations Hubble Telescope Model Kit
- Star Trek model kits: Star Trek Voyager Scale Model Kit and Star Trek Enterprise Model Kit
- Star Wars model kits: Fascinations Metal Mandalorian Razor Crest Model Kit and Bandai Hobby Darth Vader Model Kit
- STEM model kits: DC Motors Robotic STEM Model Kit and STEM Wooden Construction Model Kit
- Tourist attraction model kits: Statue of Liberty Lego Model Kit and Wooden Eiffel Tower Model Kit
- Train model kits: AMMO Realistic Railway Model Kit and ROKR Wooden Train Model Kit
- Transformers model kits: Optimus Prime Transformers Model Kit and Bumble Bee Transformers Model Kit
- Truck model kits: Stanley Wooden Truck Model Kit and 1978 Ford Pickup Model Kit
- Weapon model kits: Wooden Cannon Model Kit and American Civil War Weapon and Accessories Model Kit
- Zoids model kits: Cannon Bull Zoids Model Kit and Berserk Fuhrer Zoids Model Kit
Expert Advice for Model Kit Hobbyists
Model kits bring a lot to the table for serious hobbyists and collectors. It would help to know the three cornerstones of model kit collections:
- You must know how to preserve the models.
- You should be aware of a significant threat to specific metal model kits.
- It’s about investing the right time.
Preserving Model Kits
Preservation is the key to extending the extraordinary life of your hard work once you assemble the models. The first rule is never to store model kits in the attic while waiting until you have time to complete them. You’d think the packaging protects the model pieces but think again.
Suppose you’re assembling small models that fit back into their packaging. In that case, use paper towels to gently wrap the finished model before it goes into the box. It only works if you don’t display the models. You can also use the paper towel wrapping for unassembled model kits until you get the time to enjoy them.
Storing finished models in plastic bags is not the way to go. The chemical makeup of the plastic bag can deteriorate the paint faster. Even worse, the paint can encourage chemical changes in the plastic, starting a destructive cycle of model deterioration. There’s a reason only certain plastics go into model kits.
Instead, use brown paper bags to store smaller finished models or Sterilite containers to protect and preserve larger models. You can even use brown paper bags or kitchen towels to wrap and store assembled models in smaller Sterilite containers. Your paint will last much longer when you preserve models this way.
A Common Threat to Metal Model Kits
Lead rot is the greatest enemy of metal-based model kits. It’s a form of rust that happens in many model kit metals because of the lead content. Prevention is better than reparation, and the only way to prevent it is to rotate your models from storage every three months. Never let a metal model rest for longer, or it erodes.
Any metal with lead in it will rust white. Watch for white patches appearing on your models because they’ll need a clean to prevent further damage. Use these steps to wash metal models with lead rot:
- Soak the models in white vinegar overnight.
- Boil them for 10 minutes in a pot with battery water or de-ionized water and remove them.
- Wash the models with a gentle liquid detergent in lukewarm water before rinsing them thoroughly. Use a soft toothbrush to wipe between grooves and details. Don’t wipe hard enough to damage the paint.
- Let the models rest on paper towels until they dry. You can also pat the models dry with paper towels. Be gentle if you pat them dry, and use a soft makeup brush to wipe away the towel residue.
- Repeat steps one to four as many times as you need to guarantee the end of lead rot.
Investing the Right Time and Passion
Are you like me? Do you love model kits and the vehicles, characters, and concepts they represent? If so, you’ll have to consider how much time you have to spend with your model assembly actively. I can also get carried away with buying new collectibles and fandom hobbies, but I also want to enjoy them for what they do.
Model kits require patience, accuracy, and long-term commitment if you’re into the challenging assembly kits. It’s hard to build a 1,000-piece model in a week when you have a full-time job or kids running around. You’ll learn about the difficulty levels soon, but only buy what you have the time and passion for enjoying.
Model Kit: Buying Guide
I use a simple two-rule system to buy model kits. Firstly, the kit must cost less than $200. Secondly, I want model kits with more than 100 pieces. That’s my sweet spot for difficulty levels. It also helps to understand the levels, materials, and scales before buying models. Follow three buying tips for model kits.
Rule 1: Consider Model Kit Levels
You should know the model kit levels before buying the one that caught your eye. Sadly, not every seller mentions the levels, but understanding the practical side means you won’t have to rely on sellers disclosing them anymore. Model kits run from level one to five, and the levels mean:
- Level one model kits are easy-to-build and paint, containing between 10 and 30 pieces. Level one model kits should come with primer, glue, and paint or not need them to assemble the model. Level one model kits are the main kits that come with classic snap pieces that require no glue.
- Level two model kits are slightly harder to assemble, containing between 30 and 80 pieces. The kit should come with paint, glue, and primer.
- Level three model kits are intermediate kits, containing between 80 and 100 pieces. The kit will have glue, paint, and primer included.
- Level four model kits become even more challenging, containing between 100 and 200 pieces. They’ll also have the primer, glue, and paint included.
- Level five model kits are the most difficult to assemble, containing between 200 and more than 1,000 pieces. The kit should also have the paint, glue, and primer included.
Bonus Tip: Many model kits are 3D puzzles now, meaning they snap into each other without glue. It’s excellent news for wooden and plastic model kits, but be careful of metal 3D puzzle model kits. They might not last as long if you don’t solder the metal.
Rule 2: Choose the Best Model Materials in 2022
Different material models will have varying shelf lives. Model kits range from plastic scale models to diecast cars, and knowing your materials also helps to determine whether the price is worth it or not. Here’s a quick rundown of the different materials and how long they tend to last:
- Plastic scale models or plastic models are also typically designed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common and durable plastic used for many action figures. PVC model kits can last around 30 years because the plastic is softer and more breakable than polystyrene.
- Resin model kits are rare but cheap. They last around 30 to 50 years, depending on the model storage. Resin model kits are a step above PVC kits because they last longer, but you’ll also have to repaint them every few years.
- Plastic scale models are typically polystyrene, a hard plastic. Most modern-day model kits that fall into my budget are plastic scale models. If you preserve your models the right way, they could last 50 to 60 years. Be careful of suppliers who sell combined plastic model kits.
- Wooden model kits look incredible, and it’s a popular material in 2022. Wooden model kits last longer than PVC and polystyrene plastics, and they’re highly durable. Additionally, they don’t contain harmful plastic contaminants. Wooden models can last around 50 to 60 years if you preserve them correctly.
- Pewter is dull and doesn’t sustain the paint job well over the years. On the contrary, pewter doesn’t tarnish quickly and remains durable for up to about 100 years. Pewter model kits are rare, but you find the soft metal in some kits like the Ford Mustang GT4 Pewter Model Kit.
- Diecast scale model kits are one of the more popular materials, but they can become pricy. You commonly see car model kits in diecast materials, including the Maisto Red Ferrari Model Kit. Diecast has potential problems with erosion and rust if you don’t preserve them, but they last around 100 years.
- “Metal gun barrels” model kits are also rare, but they’re durable and seem to hold the paintwork longer than pewter. Metal gun barrels come from turned brass and aluminum, meaning they can discolor over time. I recommend unpainted model kits for this material, but it lasts around 100 years preserved.
Model kits can also contain rubber, especially if you’re assembling a transport model. Rubber wheels are ideal if you’re into car model kits. However, they can push the price higher. Remember that the higher the overall quality of materials used, the more you’ll pay for the model kit.
Rule 3: To Scale or Not to Scale?
Finally, choose model kits by determining what scale you want. A 1:18 model scale means the model is 18 times smaller than the original version. If you buy a Mustang 1:10 model kit, the car will be a tenth of the original car’s size. Standardizing model kit scales helps for better displays, but consider how complex assembly becomes.
Ultimate Guide to Model Kits: Recommended Model Kits
I can’t choose favorites from every model kit type because you’ll be reading this until tomorrow. Instead, I’ll select ten favorite categories, some of which I already own a model kit, and others I intend to buy one. I’ll also stick to my budget and the level four to five model kits I love. I like a challenge when building models.
Recommended Aircraft Model Kit
The Revell B17G 1:48 Scale Flying Fortress Model Kit is a level four assembly with the gleaming beauty you’d expect from a polystyrene aircraft kit. The details are gorgeous, and the difficulty level means this model kit is a long-lasting excitement for hobbyists. It’s also a fantastic model for collectors.
- It has 148 pieces for long-term assembly
- It’s a polystyrene model kit and long-lasting
- It includes all the necessary schematics and accessories to assemble the model
- It’s a beautiful aircraft with a detailed chin turret, engine fronts, bomb racks, and cockpit
- It’s in the higher part of my budget
- The assembly instructions are only illustrations
Recommended Architecture Model Kit
The Lego Skyline Collection San Francisco Architecture Model Kit is beautiful! It’s a level five model kit, but it doesn’t have too many pieces and won’t require months of assembly. The kit includes a model of the Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic landmark for San Francisco. It also includes Fort Point and 555 California street.
- It has 565 pieces for long-term assembly
- It’s a long-lasting polystyrene kit
- The model measures 6″ x 11″ x 2″
- It includes detailed schematics and works for kids or adults
- It’s a colorful model of San Francisco’s Golden Bridge and Alcatraz Island
- It’s in the lower half of my budget
- Lego model kits aren’t always as intricately detailed
- It’s polystyrene and not metal
Recommended Classic Car Model Kit
The Revell 1913 Ford Model T Roadster Model Kit is a must-own in classic car model collections. The traditional car model is a plastic scale model kit with a ratio of 1:24, and it transforms your mind to a time before ours. The car has intricate details on the spokes, and it’s a level five build.
- It has 187 pieces to keep you glued for a few weeks (pun intended)
- It’s a long-lasting polystyrene kit
- It includes detailed and illustrated schematics
- It’s a gorgeous model of the famous 1913 Ford Model T Roadster
- It’s in the lower half of my budget
- It requires fine building and painting skills
- It’s polystyrene and not metal (I prefer diecast car models)
Recommended Engine Model Kit
The 1965 Ford Mustang V8 Engine Model Kit is my favorite because it comes with a collector’s handbook and functions as a working model. Well, you can’t put it in your car, but the engine model is mechanical. It’s also a much larger model than the rest, and you should make sure you have the space for the 1:3 scale model.
- It has 200 pieces for a long-term commitment
- It’s a multi-material, transparent model
- It measures 17.6″ x 5.75″ x 12.87″
- It includes detailed schematics about building and a collector’s manual about the original engine
- It’s a functional model kit with sounds and running parts
- It’s a rare glue-free assembly model
- It falls into the top part of my budget
- It’s big for a model and belongs to genuine gearheads
Recommended Lego Model Building Kit
The Lego STEM NASA Space Shuttle Model Building Kit knocks two birds with one stone. It falls into the space exploration and Lego model kit categories. It’s also a fantastic project for parents to enjoy as a weekend hobby with their kids. I’m considering this model kit for my son and me to build together.
- It has 837 pieces for a long-term level five build
- It’s a long-lasting polystyrene model kit
- It doubles as an educational STEM model kit
- It includes detailed schematics for endless hours of fun
- It’s a complicated model to build, and it has cockpit modules, an articulated rover, scientists, technicians, astronauts, a space telescope, and a monorail system
- It’s in the top half of my budget
- It’s a long-term commitment with complex assembly
Recommended Ship Model Kit
I’m a fan of the Titanic, and the nostalgia grabs my attention. The Cubic Fun Titanic Model Kit with LED Lights is a winner because who doesn’t know about the iceberg that took down the legendary ship. I enjoy working on model kits like this one because it’s like I’m recreating a piece of history.
- It has 266 pieces to keep you busy for a few weekends
- It’s a multi-material model kit with LED lights
- It’s a larger model measuring 34.6″ x 3.8″ x 11.6″
- It includes detailed schematics and is a 1:3-5 scale model kit
- It’s not the most difficult model to build, and it uses zero glue
- It’s in the lower half of my budget
- It’s a huge model and isn’t easy to store
- It’s a no-glue, mostly plastic model kit
Recommended Star Wars Model Kit
The Revell Imperial Star Destroyer Star Wars Model Kit is a level four build with nostalgia written in the stars. I know Mandalorian model kits are the craze now, but I’m a classic woman. Collectors tend to be more passionate about the traditional models and memories around their favorite movies.
- It has 110 pieces for medium-term fun
- It’s a long-lasting polystyrene model kit and smaller for easy storage
- It includes detailed schematics and is a 1:2700 scale model
- It’s one of my favorite model kits because the Star Destroyer was in many battles
- It has intricate details and a four-part fuselage
- It’s at the higher end of my budget
- It’s not from the modern Star Wars franchise
Recommended Train Model Kit
Steam trains have long been the center of attention for hobby builders. The UGears Mechanical Wooden Steam Train Model Kit captures my attention as my favorite train model. This train has intricate details with a difficult assembly level. I am yet to build a train model, and this kit motivates me.
- It has 538 pieces for long-term building
- It’s a wooden and mechanical model kit (functional)
- It includes detailed schematics and reminds you of the industrial revolution
- It’s a beautiful train you can paint any color you want
- It has a moving mechanism with a detailed flywheel and cylinder pistons
- It falls into my lower price range
- It needs up to 13 feet to move around mechanically
- It’s a little harder to store and preserve
Recommended Transformers Model Kit
The Fascinations Metal Earth Optimus Prime Transformers Model Kit is a beautiful artwork for hobbyists and fans of the movies. Optimus Prime is the main honcho from Transformers, and I love how difficult this model kit is to build. Transformer model kits are typically level one or two, but this one is a level five kit.
- It has 1,000 pieces to keep you entertained for long
- It’s a metal model for longer-lasting benefits
- It includes detailed schematics and is a 1:32 scale model kit
- It’s a time commitment for hobbyists up for a challenge
- It has gorgeous details and colors
- It’s much cheaper than you’d imagine
- The Transformers model kit is metal and might suffer lead rot
- It’s a no-glue 3D model kit, which isn’t the best if you’re working with metal
Recommended Zoids Model Kit
I’ll make one exception against my buying criteria to recommend a Zoids model kit because they’re so popular, and my son said I had to. The Liger Zero Zoids Model Kit is only a level one build. It breaks my previous recommended kits’ difficulty levels. It’s a fun and quick build for kids and adults who love Zoids.
- It has 20 pieces for a quick build
- It’s a long-lasting polystyrene model kit
- It includes a short assembly manual
- It’s a 1:72 scale model kit
- The finished model looks fierce and fearless
- It falls into my lower price range
- It’s only a level one model kit
- Kids enjoy building this model more than adults
Bonus Recommendation: Model Building Tool Kit
Assembly, painting, gluing, and soldering (metal) are much easier if you have the right tools. I bought a tool kit I loved last year. The Professional Gundam Model Tool Kit includes 33 stainless steel tools to help you enjoy your model hobby or collection. It even has sandpaper, a polishing block, a grinder, and a hand drill.
Question: Do I Paint the Model Before I Assemble It?
Answer: There’s no right or wrong answer. You can prime and paint the model before or after assembly. Assemble some parts for more complicated model kits before adding prime and paint. Complete the final assembly and do a touch-up with your primer and paint.
Question: Are Model Kits Worth Money to Collectors?
Answer: Model kits are two-fold awesome because the cheaper ones appeal to hobbyists, and the pricier models add value to a collector’s stash. The value depends on which models you buy. Quality factors into the equation and nostalgia undoubtedly plays a role, but most models range between $10 and $150.
Question: Which Model Kit is the Most Expensive in 2022?
Answer: Model kits are fantastic collectibles and hobbies, and the prices aren’t crazy. However, some model kits can sell for a fortune. The Seven Rings Part A Bricks Model Kit currently sells for over $6,000 on Amazon, and it’s only one part of it. The Aurora 1966 Monsters on Wheels model kits sell for around $1,000 each.
Question: Which Types of Model Kits are Popular for Collectors in 2022?
Answer: Every type of model kit appeals to the right collector, but the trending types in 2022 include Transformers model kits, Star Trek model kits, Star Wars model kits, Zoids model kits, Evangelion model kits, Pokémon model kits, and the classic Titanic model kits. These are some of the top results on selling platforms.
Question: Where Can I Buy the Best Model Kits?
Ultimate Guide to Model Kits: Final Breakdown
Model kits are more than mere hobbies or collectibles. They require careful selection to suit your passions, time, space, and needs. You also need to remember to store and rotate them for longer preservation. All you need now is to pick your desired materials, scale, budget, type, and difficulty level, and the fun can begin.
I have too many favorites from the model kit list because there are 41 types of model kits. I’m burning to assemble my first train with the UGears Mechanical Wooden Steam Train Model Kit. I can’t wait to build the Lego STEM NASA Space Shuttle Model Building Kit with my son, who loves model building.
Focus on your passions, and use the tools I shared to select the perfect model kit for you. Take your time choosing the best model kit, but don’t miss out on all of the fun by not buying one of the exceptional model kits I highly recommend.