Condition Ratings & Deciding When To Restore or Refinish a Model

Rating the condition of a model is subjective and varies somewhat from collector to collector. Also, there is a rating system used by Antique Dealers that some collectors use in rating their models – 0 being the worst possible condition and ten being in Mint or Perfect Condition. Below are the ratings that I use to evaluate my collection and some criteria that I look at in each rating category.

Model – Condition Rating Categories

Used For This Rating
(or Perfect)
The model is in virtually perfect condition in every way – the model structure is still shaped correctly with no damages to it, and the paint & decals are all present and are not damaged in any way. Note: Some older models may have color and stickers which have yellowed over the years, but unless this yellowing is excessive, I do not lower its rating for yellowing. After all, how can you expect a 40-50-year-old model to have snow-white paint and clear decals? If it does, then you may not have a 40-50-year-old model and possibly a much ‘younger’ one.
Same as the above but with only the slightest bit of damage to the model structure, paint, and decals. This damage would be about the model’s age. The older it is, the more chance there will be some slight damages to it because of handling over the years. This damage would be barely noticeable except upon close-up inspection.
This rating I use a lot because over the years a model will incur some wear and tear (hairline cracks, slight chips in the paint and decals, scratches, small dents (in metal models), etc. As long as this wear is minimal and if you were to look at the model from a distance of approximately 3 feet (or 1 meter) you would see a near-perfect (mint) model then I would rate it as Excellent. The defects would be evident only upon closer
When a model has defects (as described above) which -can- be seen at approximately 3 feet (nearly 1 meter) or more but the flaws are not numerous then I would rate it as Very Good.
I use this rating when a model has several noticeable defects in the structure, paint or decals but these defects don’t detract from the model enough to where you focus more on the flaws than on the overall beauty of the model. In other words, the model still looks pretty good for its age but may right on the border of not being in good enough to display.
In this situation, the model’s defects outweigh the model’s assets, and it is questionable if you would even want to display the model in its present condition. In other words, there is lots of wear and tear on the model. In general, I don’t view any model which is Sub-Standard unless it is something scarce and has a particular characteristic
which outweighs it’s the condition.
The model is in such bad condition that you wouldn’t want to display it in your collection. In this condition the model may only be ‘saved’ by having it restored (the current livery is left intact, but touch-up of the paint and/or decals is necessary) -or- refinished (when you altogether remove the livery and apply a whole new livery of the same airline or another airline in its place).

I am deciding when to leave an older model “as is” versus restoring the original livery versus completely refinishing the model in the same or a new uniform.

First, let me say that this is a very subjective decision and will vary widely between collectors. In my view, all collectors fall between the two ends of a spectrum as to what state a model should be left in when it is acquired. Collectors at one end of the spectrum are those who I refer to as the “Purists.” They want their models to be completely original, with no modification to the model by repair, restoration or refinishing – regardless of what condition the model is in. They feel, as most antique dealers do that any modifications made to the model will decrease its value. This usually applies to both the model and the stand (i.e., the position must be original and unmodified as well).

Also Read: How to Recondition a Battery

On the other end of the spectrum are those collectors who I refer to as the “Perfectionists.” They want their models to look as perfect as possible and don’t mind having their models modified, repaired, restored, or refinished to accomplish this. Please note that I am not making any judgment of either type of collector with the use of the terms “Purist” or “Perfectionist.” These terms seem to work well in my effort to explain the different types of collectors.

I find myself in between the two ends of this spectrum. Whenever possible, I try to collect models which are all original and in Very Good Condition or Better. These models have the best of both worlds – being all original and yet in a very displayable condition as well.

However, I have found that many of the DC-8 models, with the airline schemes I want to collect, are just not available in their original form and decent (displayable) condition Thus, as an alternative to waiting and hoping to maybe someday finding some of the airlines on the DC-8 that I’m looking for, I try to collect those models which are original but have been or will need some restoration (fixing of the paint, decals, structure or stand) while still retaining as much of the original livery as possible.

These models are not in such bad condition to justify a complete refinish, and it is beautiful to see the old uniform saved whenever possible. An excellent example of this situation is my SAS DC-8-32 at 1/72 scale If you would like to see pictures of this model, then please click here (then hit your back button to return to this page when you are done).

Next, there are the models which are original, but the livery and structure and stand are in such poor condition that a complete refinish necessary, or you will be looking at a bad example of the airplane & airline that it represents. An excellent example of this situation is my Delta DC-9-14 at 1/50 scale. If you would like to see before and after pictures of this model, then please click here (then hit your back button to return to this page when you are done).

In these cases, I am entirely in favor of fully refinishing them to (hopefully) near their original beauty.

Finally, since the Douglas Factory Models are the mainstay of my collection, I really enjoy finding old Douglas Factory DC-8s or DC-9s which have little or no airline livery left on them so I can “save” them by having them polished out by a professional to bring the shiny aluminum surfaces back and then refinished in an airline livery which I am looking for. An excellent example of this situation is my Finnair DC-8-62CF at 1/50 scale. If you would like to see before and after pictures of this model, then please click here (then hit your back button to return to this page when you are done).

It is beautiful for me to see one of these old metal models brought back to what they were intended to be – a stunning display model – rather than being thrown away or left in someone’s storage for years on end.

Present Day Model Makers

Sadly, there are no model makers in the business today which make high-quality metal models in the large scales. Douglas ceased making the Factory Models, either directly from their model shop or by their sub-contractor – Marketing Aids Inc., in the mid-1970s and model making geniuses like M.M. Verkuyl have passed away.

However, there are still excellent model companies making new models of the older aircraft (like the DC-8), as well as current-day aircraft, from resin, plastic, and fiberglass. Companies like Atlantic, Pac Min, Space, and others do a beautiful job in making the larger-scale models (1/144 scale and more significant) in a substantial number of old and current airline liveries.

Another company making excellent reproductions of DC-8s at the smaller 1/200 level in metal is Inflight Models. The detail in their models is incredible, considering the small size. You will find examples of each of these types of models in my collection. However, my emphasis will always be in collecting the older metal models from Douglas & Verkuyl, and to a lesser extent from Fermo, Raise-Up, and other makers which are long gone.

If you are interested, please see the next page on the “pros and cons” of finishing a model with decals versus having it hand painted.