While most people have heard the term “die-cast model” before, not everyone knows exactly what this term refers to. For many, the term is primarily associated with toys, representing a grade of quality that is better than plastic. However, as any die-hard die-cast collector will tell you, this paints a very limited picture of what makes these objects so special.
Die-cast models are prized by collectors because they are able to accurately and intricately replicate the mechanical specificities of historically significant technologies such as cars, planes, and guns. Whereas plastic toys tend to wear quickly and have minimal detail, die-cast figurines are built to last a lifetime.
“If you are fascinated by history and technology, collecting die-cast models is one of the best ways to achieve a more direct, tangible connection to the things that interest you,” says Brad Lunt, CEO of GoatGuns, a premium collectible non-firing toy firearm brand. “They don’t just replicate what something looks like, but they also give you insight into how they actually work and the craftsmanship it took to create them. They are aesthetically pleasing, but they’re also educational.”
What Exactly is Die-Casting?
Die-casting refers to the process of injecting molten metal (typically one with a low melting point, such as aluminum or zinc) into a mold and allowing the metal to cool down until it solidifies in the shape of the mold. It is used by metalworkers for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes, as its ability to create complex parts far surpasses what humans can achieve by hand.
Die-cast metals are also prized for being at once durable and lightweight. This has obvious benefits for creating useful products such as sink faucets and automobile cylinders but is also a major boon for collectors, as it ensures that their prized possessions are not easily damaged or subject to wear and tear. For this reason, die-cast models can be displayed out of their boxes and handled, while collectors of plastic figurines tend to leave these objects in their original boxes.
Planes, Trains, Automobiles, And Beyond
The versatility of the die-casting process makes it perfect for creating an almost limitless variety of collectibles. Some of the most iconic categories include vintage cars, train parts, and historic firearms. The unmatched accuracy of die-casting allows manufacturers to recreate the complex machinery that makes these objects so significant and die-cast models often feature moving or interactive parts that give collectors a more intimate sense of how these technologies actually work.
Die-cast models are not only perfect for history and tech buffs, but they can also capture childhood nostalgia and delight enthusiasts of virtually any hobby. Moreover, arranging them for display is a fun hobby all its own, as it gives you a chance to express your creativity and add a unique conversation piece to any room.
“Whatever you are interested in, there’s a very good chance that there is a die-cast collectible you would love,” says Lunt, “At the same time, getting into collecting can also help you open your world up to new interests. Seeing die-cast models of something you were mildly interested in or even unaware of before can be the first step towards developing a much deeper interest in it.”
What to Know Before Collecting
It is much easier to start collecting die-cast models than it is to stop. Beyond the most obvious question–that is, what kinds of models you want to collect–there are just a few basic considerations to make. Die-cast models come in a variety of sizes, so it’s good to have a rough estimate of how big they are before you buy them so that you can ensure you have enough space to display or store them. They are typically scale models, so die-cast trains or planes will typically fall somewhere in the 1:36 to 1:43 range, while some collectibles, such as GoatGuns, are 1:3 the size of their full-size counterparts.
It’s also important to remember that, while some models come pre-made, others are packaged as build-it-yourself kits. These kinds of models allow for an extra level of engagement and immersion and can even come with special die-cast attachments that allow for maximum customization and personalization. The level of complexity of these kits differs widely between brands, however, so it is important to do your research so that you know what you’re getting into before you buy.
Finally, once you’ve assembled some models, it’s crucial to develop a good understanding of how to properly care for them. While die-cast models are inherently more durable than most other kinds of models, there are certain environmental conditions that owners should try to avoid. For one, keeping them in a dry environment at room temperature helps minimize the chances of any warping or damage to the paint. Similarly, frequent dusting not only lends them a pleasing shine but ensures that the paint will last longer.
“It’s never too late to start collecting, and the sooner you start the more rewarding it will ultimately be,” says Lunt. “There is a thrill in having a collection and a thrill in growing it by finding or ordering new items. Making a tradition of adding to your collection every once in a while is a great way to give yourself something to look forward to and to keep your collection fresh and exciting.”
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