We wish all our readers a very happy new year. We all hope that 2017 is a good year for model producers as well as collectors. The economic uncertainty that dominated the final quarter of 2016 is certain to carry on in the short term. We may therefore see model producers being a little more cautious in the first half of 2017, and models getting a little more expensive, especially for collectors in the UK. The trade toy fairs which will be held early in the year will give us all an insight in what is to come from the major companies, but the smaller firms no longer find that attendance from buyers makes exhibiting worthwhile, so we can expect them to continue to only release information once models are nearly ready to sell, rather than publishing long lists in advance.
Here at MAR Online we have decided to look backwards in 2017 as well as to look forwards. in 2017 it will be 35 years since the original Model Auto Review (MAR) publication was launched, in 1982. We will look back over the history of model collecting through the covers and contents of the printed magazine. We will review a year at a time and reflect upon the articles and adverts and the way that model collecting has changed over time.
Forecasting trends is always difficult. Clearly resin production will continue to grow at the expense of higher-quality diecast models and white metal models, but the rising number of complaints about resin models losing their shape and popping their photo-etched parts in storage might lead to a decline in sales volumes. Another factor in resin model production is that economic changes in China, such as interest rates and borrowing restrictions would affect the small businesses which produce these resin models. In 1:18 scale there are complaints that, though very beautiful, the models are so fragile that they cannot be handled and enjoyed, a sentiment shared by some collectors of 1:43 models who find themselves unable to remove resin cars from the plinth where they have been over-tightened or simply because they have so many fragile parts that there is no area where you can safely hold them. A couple of years ago 3D printing looked like it could offer a new way to produce models, but so far its biggest impact has been to allow prototyping work to be done quickly and some small parts to be made for final models. Until the technology is capable of delivering a smooth finish, however, it is unlikely that printed models will make a big impact on the market place. Traditional diecast sales volumes must now be dominated by partwork and series suppliers and the secondary use of the moulds made for these series by ranges like White Box, Greenlight and others. Here in the UK Atlas Editions have been featured on BBC television for very poor customer service, so if they do not get their IT systems properly under control they may experience even more unfavourable publicity, which may seriously affect sales of all these types of subscription series. The story for traditional brands has been mixed. Some, like Oxford and Greenlight, seem to be doing very well with regular releases and strong sales, while others are trying to regain the middle ground diecast sales by dipping into their back catalogue of moulds. Minichamps seems to be doing this more successfully than Corgi, for example. Minichamps and Spark seem to be dominating the sales of F1 and racing cars, which are no longer being produced as mass-market diecasts. A final trend that I expect to continue is the production in resin of older and obscure cars by Matrix, Auto Cult and others as they seem to be selling steadily.
I am sure that we all have a wish-list of model vehicles you would like to see at a price you can afford. In your Editor’s case it would be a set of mass-market diecast models of the Rootes Group Arrow cars: Hillman Hunter, Humber Sceptre etc. Why not write to us at MAR Online and share with us some examples of subjects that you would like to see made in future?