Nostalgic tour of an endangered institution: the model shop

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So true!

Plus, model stores used to (in my youth) carry chemistry sets. Hell, you could buy individual jars of dangerous chemicals! For use in scientific research … Estes model rockets with homemade pyrotechnic warheads payloads, that sort of thing.

Check out this 1976 picture of Clancy’s Drugs in Edina, Minnesota – home of the magnificent Toyland (the entire basement!):

Update: corrected spelling of “payloads” :wink:


I’ve seen shops that still specialize in models though they’re few and far between, there’s one i know of here in Austin and i vaguely remember one in Vegas. But typically i have seen places that primarily sell other materials for various hobbies, and will have a decent model kit and paint section.


Great balsa stock, nice!!

Random thoughts…
My local model shops began closing around the time I owned an Atari.
You can burn through the Estes rocket products in 2 or 3 seasons, and then its online for tubes and bigger motors.
The surviving local shop added a new counter and dedicated 1/4 of the store to RC drones.
I adore model making, but it will be interesting to see how the market will overlap with 3d printing, or steal/share customers, etc.
I am right now sitting 20 feet away from a box filled with wonderful model kits, in various stages of completeness, that I would love to spend all weekend assembling (all the while making sound effects). But instead I will choose to spend time with friends board gaming at the local pub and working on large wood projects. Tough to dedicate that much time to models these days, and I don’t have the space where I can leave them and work on in smaller time chunks.


We still have a chain called HobbyTown in this area (for RC, scale models, model railroads), and places like Michael’s still carry some scale models and model rockets.

What I miss are commercial aircraft models. My dad worked for an airline when I was young, and we flew a lot, so I was always more interested in airliners than private or military aircraft (though I built all kinds of airplanes). I know these models are still for sale (i.e. online), but time was when I could walk into a store (EDIT: not just a hobby store – even a department store) and buy a Caravelle, which even by the early-80s (when I bought the model) was fairly old and a bit obscure. But by the mid-80s it became more and more difficult to find even a current airliner, like a DC10. (There was always some overlap, e.g. military versions of Constellations or DC-3s).

I don’t remember paying a lot of money back then for a model – may be $2 or $3 in the late 1970s? Even then it didn’t seem like a lot of money, but they’d be ten times that amount now (if/when I’ve found one). I don’t think everything has gone up 10x due to inflation; Hot Wheels/Matchbox cost the same (or occasionally, less!) than what I paid for them 40 years ago (and I realize this has more to do with changing tariffs and/or access to cheaper labor in the meantime).

My son has a model railroad, and two of the station models are exactly the same as the ones I built back in 1981 or '82.


my childhood…

rockets too, you got to know your 1/2A6-2 from your B6-4 or C6-5


I set this beautiful lady on my dresser back in February as a reminder to get her finished! (Still sitting in same spot lol!)



There’s been a half-built ‘HMS Bounty’ on my father’s wardrobe since the 1980s…


Most of the model shops in our area have been merged into model/RC shops or been swallowed into larger “hobby” shops like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. They obviously carry mainly mass produced kits, and minimal supplies.

It’s migrated to an online business more than anything.


Also obviously not the same plane but looking at it reminded me of the Memphis Belle

Would be pretty dope to have a WW2 plane model, all painted up and with the pin-up art. Not sure how one would do the pin-up art at that scale… would be mighty tough.


I think the modern version of model kits is basically 3D printing and prepping it for finish and paints. Something i would 100% love to learn to do.


I started a Visible V-8, USS Constitution, and Space Shuttle Orbiter (1/36 scale, I guess?) and they all sat unfinished for years. I don’t know if my parents finally chucked 'em all or not.


GBack in the day I had a great little shop around the corner called The Hobbiest. Small shop just full of models, rockets and train supplies. A perfect stop on the way home from school. Then one day there was a shelf with the Holmes D&D box set (along with the OD&D box and supplements). Within a year all the models were pushed to the small back room as the shop was taken over by all the classic games and minis. I think a year after that the the back room became the gaming room and I think the models were pretty much gone, though they kept the rockets.

The owners were super friendly. Very fond memories of that place.


When I was 10 years old or so, a friend of my parents brought back from Norway a kit for a model of the Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl’s raft. It was literally a package of miniature lumber — balsa dowels for the logs, little hardwood planks, etc. — with spools of thread and a few special bits such as the sail (unhemmed) and heavy brown paper stamped to look like banana leaves for the cabin roof.

Nothing was cut to size or shaped. It was up to the model builder to cut, drill, and sand just to get to the point of having a kit of components ready to lash together. Instructions were in Norwegian, natch. Fortunately my dad found someone who could translate.

It took me forever, but I learned an enormous amount from that one kit.

I still have my grandfather’s bound annual of the Boy’s Own Paper from 1888. In it are instructions for a working model steam fire engine. It starts by assuming any boy sufficiently interested will own a small lathe, or will buy one. It then goes on:

“First, buy a grindstone of about eighteen inches diameter, and two and a half inches thick, then get a piece of half inch round bar iron eight and a half inches long, make one end red hot in the fire…”

and so on, until the maker has built a treadle-powered grinder. Part 2 deals with making working drawings and making wooden patterns for casting the parts in brass or gun-metal. This continues for 11 instalments, at the end of which I assume the child is a qualified blacksmith, machinist, and patternmaker.

Kids today.


That and figure painting. Like these sorts of things (which I think tie into 3d printing too)…


Do you have the DS boardgame? I have it, i’d love to paint my figures but i’m afraid of messing it up

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My best friend when I was growing up was an amazing model and diorama builder, but I was hopeless. Several years ago my mother took my nephew, who was more like my friend, to one of the last model shops in their city. He showed absolutely no interest. Video games, on the other hand…

The “not for sale” case in the video reminded me of the hobby/game shops (the former morphed into the latter) that I frequented in the 1980s, many of which seemed to exist as much as the owners’ dusty museums as they did to sell things to customers.


No. Just random google image.

Those aren’t my kind of models or my kind of gaming. I like table top games like dominion or Kingsburg or catan.

I was a model builder as a kid. Military planes are what I built non stop.

Are Japanese models (anime, mech) also in decline?