Articles:
Gremlins in the Garage!

Issue 21


What's wrong with recasts?
by Gordy Dutt
(gordys_kitbuilders@juno.com)

The recasting of kits, a welcome alternative to budget minded modelers, or a growing cancer for the hobby?

Of course, as with any confrontation, you have your two opposing camps. Those who like it and encourage it, and those who are dead set against it. Whether you have yet to even give this topic a second thought, rest assured that if you plan on being a part of this hobby for any length of time you will find that it will effect you either one way or another. Perhaps in your opinion it might be in a good way by being able to increase your collection by acquiring kit copies at lower prices. Or perhaps you might be effected by sculptors and producers dropping out of the hobby due to having their kits being copied and sold. (We already have sculptors tell us that they were thinking of leaving behind the "garage kit" hobby for a more lucrative and safer career with established curio and statue type shops.)

Of course on the flip side it is tough to chastise your average modeler that just wants an affordable piece that he can build and paint. After all he got into this hobby for fun and relaxation, not to feel guilty or pass judgment on another. That's what makes this recasting issue so difficult. Both sides can present convincing arguments to one extent or another. That is why we are presenting the following, to get you to give this topic some thought. After all it is YOUR hobby, and you should know what is going on in it.

Gordy Dutt

EDITOR'S NOTE: KitBuilders played devil's advocate with George Stephenson of GEOmetric Design, a leading proponent for the curtailing of recast kits. We presented Mr. Stephenson a list of questions that were based on similar type questions and comments that we have heard and read from various hobby members.

1) What's the big deal if an "out of production" kit gets recast?

Ask Kim its that question. Kim produced some very nice garage kits a few years ago (Green Hornet and Kato) and was so upset about bootleggers recasting his work that he not only stopped producing his excellent castings of those figures but for the most part dropped out of the hobby altogether. Believe me. Kim is not the only person who has become disenchanted with this.

Many of your readers would argue that recasting an "out of production" kit is a victimless crime. The problem with that kind of thinking is that if we condone that activity, the opportunist will rationalize and justify bootlegging anything. Where does it stop if we say it is OK to recast the Aurora kits, then what about the MPC Alien? What about the Billiken Ymir? Screamin's first Pinhead? GEOmetric's Teenage Werewolf or Tremors? What about Horizon's Frankenstein or Wolf Man? All of these kits are out of production. What if one of these companies had plans to re-release a discontinued kit (e.g., our original resin Pumpkin-headJ. GEOmetric could sure use the money those additional sales would provide. Why should some lazy, unethical opportunist profit from the legitimate hard work my partner and I do? To put it in the most simplistic terms possible, recasting someone's work is unfair to the person or persons responsible for creating it and it is illegal.

2) If a kit has a limited run of only 50 to 100 pieces, don't you feel that it is asking to end up being recast?

If your magazine has a print run of 5000 copies, is it right or fair for some other publisher to come along and print another 1500 without your permission just because you are sold out? In a niche industry like ours, with such a limited consumer base, recasting a kit is even more harmful.

But think about this; I hear people talk about "such and such" company being in the hobby "just for the money" as opposed to being in it "for the love of the hobby". A garage kit producer who produces only 50 or 100 kits of a particular subject is not "doing it just for the money"; he isn't making a whole lot of money with those numbers, especially if the kit is licensed. So the guy who bootlegs that kit as really sticking it to someone who loves this hobby and wants to share with other modelers. The bootlegger doesn't give a damn about the hobby. All he cares about is himself.

3) Don't you think the current standard pricing that has kits automatically starting at $100 and up just fuels the recasting market? Your average modeler would much rather go home from a show with two or three recast kits for his money than just one original?

If kit producers were selling 1000 kits of each subject, or even 500, they could lower those prices. The fact is, most of the producers are not selling as many as 150 kits of a character. 150 kits is a good number of sales for a typical garage kit. From all of the people in this hobby I have gotten to know, it is obvious that few garage kit companies are selling 150 copies of their resin kits. If the company is using good sculptors and providing packaging with box art and instructions and paying royalties, it is very difficult to make any money on 150 kits. . .even at $100 per kit. Do the math:

Gross Sales  $15,000 (150 kits x $100)
Total Costs  $7860
 Original Sculpture  $3000 (very cheap if you use the guys we use)
 Licensing Guarantee  $2500 (not many good licenses at this price)
 Original Box art and instructions  $250 (very cheap for good artists)
 Box art and instruction copies  $150 ($1 per kit x 150 kits)
 Boxes  $150 ($1 per kit x 150 kits)
 Resin  $1125 ($7.50 each 1/6 scale kit with small base)
 Molds  $400 (per five gallons of RTV)
 Labor for moldmaking  $95 (minimum wage of $4.75 x 20 hours)
 Labor for resin pouring  $190 (minimum wage of 4.75 x 40 hours)
Net  $7140

What I have not included here is liability insurance required by most licensors at about $2000 per year), advertising in magazines, mailing flyers to mailing list people and traveling to conventions. All of these are necessary to move 150 kits of a typical garage kit character in a year; it took us two years to move that many of our Tremors kit, even with our distribution network. Further, I have estimated all of these costs on the low end; most of these costs will be higher; and who wants to work for minimum wage? At $100 per kit, the producers are not making much money, if any. Those who are hitting that 150 kit per year plateau are discounting to some of their customers (stores and dealers) at between 30 percent and 50 percent.

To answer your question, yes, I think the high price of some kits helps to fuel the recasting market. I think there are a lot of kits that are overpriced for what they are, i.e. unlicensed and without any significant packaging. Most of GEOmetric's resin kits have been marketed below $100 and we provide color box art, instructions and pay royalties. But we have had two of our vinyl "Trek" kits which sell for $49.99 bootlegged by The Universal Armorer in resin and sold for $40. We have also had our "Trek" kits bootlegged by Elfin. Those kits aren't overpriced. And, the high price of some kits is not the only reason these guys are bootlegging. They are lazy, greedy, and opportunistic; they apparently don't have the talent or the intelligence or the business acumen to create their own kits.

I must also say I disagree that the average modeler would rather go home with two or three recasts for his money than with one original. Perhaps we are the minority (I don't think so) but the people I talk to are more ethical and principled than that and have a more far-sighted view of where this hobby is headed and what it can become. I think the majority of people in this hobby love the hobby and can see the wrong and the harm in bootlegging. The jerks are in the minority.

4) The quality of most recasts out there today match their originals So why not go for one that is cheaper?

I have examined recasts of GEOmetric kits and there is no way anyone could honestly say that the quality matches the original. The pieces do not fit together as well as the original; because the recast is a copy of a copy, loss of detail and shrinkage are unavoidable. I'll admit that I have seen some pretty impressive recasts but none are as good as the original. The majority of recasts are pretty weak in quality in my opinion, and I can envision first time buyers or beginning modelers getting suckered into buying a recast and being turned off to the hobby because of the poor quality.

5) Do you think most modelers really care who sculpted a kit, or if it's a limited run or licensed? They just want a nice kicking piece that they can build and paint. It's not worth it to them to spend the extra money just to say it was sculpted by "so and so," or they have #1 out of say 50, etc.

As a modeler I have never bought a kit just because it was the work of a certain sculptor or because it was one of a limited number. I buy a kit because the sculpt and design are of good quality, the price is right, and the character appeals to me. If a kit isn't good enough to make me smile, I can probably do without it. I buy kits to build them, not to sell them a few years from now at a profit. I don't care how many have been produced but if I am lucky enough to get a rare or limited edition kit of a character I like, that makes me smile, too. Believe me, that kit is going to be built and painted and, except in rare cases, I will do the building and painting for myself. That's what I like to do in my spare time.

6) Say a kit is next to impossible to find. Or its price tag is outrageous. Do you think that it is OK to deny a modeler a chance to own even a copy of a kit that they absolutely want?

I have had conversations with individuals at conventions who have asked me this question. In fact, I spent a long time talking to a gentleman at the Louisville Wonderfest and then again at the Chiller Theatre Expo. He told me a friend of his wanted to buy his Teenage Werewolf in order to recast it for himself and about 20 of his friends. Apparently, they had taken up the hobby after GEOmetric discontinued the kit. The gentleman said he felt it was unfair that his late-arriving friend was denied the opportunity to get an original. We discussed the issue for about 45 minutes.

I explained to him that there are a few kits I have been trying to find for over four years (Mike Trcic's Darkness, Scoop's Twilight Zone Gremlin, and Kaiyodo's Enemy Mine Drac). I have had the opportunity to purchase bootlegs of these kits but there is no way I would ever do so. I may never be able to get these kits but I'd rather do without than to support someone who is ripping off the makers of the originals. For me, part of the fun of collecting and building these kits is finding them. After discussing the issue at length we shook hands. I appreciated the fact that he was man enough to come talk to me (rather than rumor-mongering and back stabbing) and the fact that he cared enough about how GEOmetric might feel to ask if we would mind. Of course, we would be very upset if the kit were recasted, even more so since we have been discussing a reissue of that kit with the licenser.

7) Will this push to ban recasting result in a "resin police force" appearing at model shows?

GEOmetric will not be a part of any "resin police force" at conventions or anywhere else. There would be no need for a resin police force if bootleggers would turn their energies toward creating their own original works. Don't bootleg the Twilight Zone Gremlin, produce a new one. Don't bootleg our Unnamable or Tremors kits; produce your own Unnamable or Tremors. As far as I am concerned, GEOmetric does not need a resin police force to protect it at conventions. We are so angry about bootlegs of our kits that a bootlegger of our kits will need a police force to protect him from us if we catch him selling that stuff at a convention.

This is our business and our livelihood. This hobby helps support our families and the families of the people we employ. We are prepared to deal with anyone who threatens our business. If someone is bootlegging kits by our competitors, that is a problem our competitors have to deal with. However, I will be the first person to call our competitors to let them know who is bootlegging their kits. Some of the tactics we have recently employed are threatening to file criminal charges (copyright and/or trademark infringement) with the U.S. Attorney's Office; filing a complaint with the Secretary of State in the bootlegger's home state and having the State Department of Revenue investigate his business; filing a civil suit in federal court and seeking statutory damages; alerting other copyright holders as to the bootlegger's infringement on their properties. We will do whatever it takes.

8) Would this anti recasting attitude be as much a big deal if it was the larger retail companies offering recast kits rather than the little guys?

If large companies were offering recasts of our kits, we'd be in court immediately. We'd have to be because if the little recasters are hurting us land they are because the marketplace is so limited) a large company could kill small producers like GEOmetric, Horizon and Screaming

9) Have you ever had a recast in your own collection. and did you like it any less because it was not an original?

I have one recast that I know of in my collection. It is a recast of the Scoop SpiderHead Thing. I purchased the kit in 1990 and had no idea that it was a recasted Japanese kit. I thought it was an American kit (remember we did not have the hobby publications that we have today keeping modelers informed about what's new, where to get it and who makes it). I was thrilled with it when I got it and immediately built and painted it. But in 1993, I went to Japan and met Mr. Kosaka, the sculptor of the Scoop kits. I saw his original and noticed a dramatic difference in size and detail. Mine must be about a fourth generation recast. I still have the kit in my collection but it is not as satisfying now that I have seen the original and know that mine is a recast. In 1991, I traded a GEOmetric kit for a Scoop Terminator, again not knowing it was a recast. The casting was pretty bad and I lost interest in the kit when I realized it was a recast and how much work I would have to put in to get it built and painted. I never built it and was about to throw the thing away last year when an acquaintance said he'd like it. I gave it to him.

10) Do you really think that the effort to ban recasting will ever truly succeed?

Can we stop bootlegging completely? No, I don't think we will ever do that. Guys who don't have any integrity or scrap pies, will always look for what they think is an easy buck. They don't care who they hurt as long as they get what they want. The only way to get them to stop is to make them under- stand that the risks outweigh whatever temporary gains they perceive. My concern, first and foremost is GEOmetric and protecting GEOmetric's interests. Where our interests overlap with those of other kit producers, I am more than happy to help.

Can we protect ourselves and the hobby from the ruin that rampant recasting can bring? We have to.

Sincerely,
George T. Stephenson
President & General Counsel


EDITOR'S NOTE: Here are some additional letters that make some good points.

From: Al Reboiro

For some time the issue of recasting has been coming to a head. I feel if your rights have been violated and one of your kits has been recasted, everything in your power should be done to correct the situation. Everyone agrees with this, as they should; it's only common sense. What does not make sense is that for years even the most hard core opponents of recasting have maintained that vintage kits were the only exception to the rule. Now it appears the rules have changed.

Being a collector of vintage kits and a producer of vintage recasts, I now find myself lumped in with the hated recasters. Let me say that what I do is in no way, shape or form illegal. Let me make my point with the Aurora Bride of Frankenstein:

  1. The copyright on the model has expired.
  2. Aurora, being out of business, will not renew the copyright.
  3. The molds for the kit are not owned by any model company and are most likely nonexistent.
Companies like Playing Mantis can now buy a kit, have steel molds made, copyright the kit and issue it in styrene. Is Playing Mantis a recaster? The worst I can do is have another unlicensed kit.

I have always thought the idea of a resin police was a bad one. But now it seems we have resin vigilantes. What's next? The resin Gestapo? Will we have a resin BIG BROTHER watching us?

Al Reboiro


From: Mike James / Azimuth Design

I've been asked to contribute a few words about the recasting issue. As a sculptor and marketer of my own kits, this is a subject of significant concern to me.

First of all, in my mind there are two types of recasting. Those reproducing old kits that are out of production (where the original artist or company that produced the kit will probably not get hurt), and those recasters that recast kits CURRENTLY being marketed by the creators. It's this second group I'm addressing.

To this second group, I have a few words to say. you guys are the scum of the earth! (Ahh! I feel better already.) You talentless fools hide behind the repeated slogan that you are in it to give the customer the cheapest price. What a load of bu11#@%*! You're in it for the cheaters buck. If you cared a wit about "customers" as you claim, you would replace defective kits. You'd be happy to provide ANY form of service to your customers like legit marketers do. But your typical refrain is "All sales are final". Pieces missing, doesn't matter. Air bubbles the size of peas, seam lines requiring a belt sander, tough. Many hobbyists aren't aware of all that goes into producing a kit. This is crucial to understanding why recasting is such an issue, so here goes a brief run-dawn. We're talking MONTHS to sculpt a piece to production quality. Note, that's Months" of work without ANY PAY. Think about it, cause that's the big one. Then, besides hundreds, if not thousands of dollars fronted on RTV rubber resin, and packing, a marketer must advertise, hundreds of dollars more. So, generally the first 30 or 50 kits sold are just trying to make back the losses of sculpting and advertising. We may be talking 6 months before the first penny of profit.

No such worries for the recaster. No sculpting time to recover, no advertising $ to spend. The real creator's are paying that for him. All the recaster does is get his hands on one kit, make a mold and sell. No talent, no work, no marketing, no money invested, just rip-off someone else's work. The process of getting a kit PREPARED for market is almost everything. it is exhausting and expensive. To get a kit prepared sometimes feels like going 15 rounds with Tyson. To be confronted with a recaster then, is like having some bloated bum in the crowd challenge you as you're crawling out of Tyson's ring. Despicable.

This kind of thing can kill a small, honest resin producing business. I recognized that from the beginning, and that if I were to do kits, I was going to invent my own characters and get Copyrights and Trademarks to protect myself from recasters. That costs me an additional $500 per kit and a week of unpaid work. And, if I didn't have to do this, my kits could be cheaper. Unfortunately there are a lot of kits produced that are NOT properly licensed and these sculptors are open to recasting without defense, i.e. they cannot sue a recaster.

I get reminded by folks that this entire garage kit industly got it's beginnings with SCULPTORS practicing unlicensed, guerrilla-style kit production. True enough. But, I want to highlight two important "moral distinctions" between the infringements of guerrilla sculptors, and what recasters do.

One. With sculptors, you have a talented person actualIy creating an original piece of art from scratch, with all the work this entails. He is investing something precious, his time, money, and creativity. A recaster on the other hand invests NOTHING, and produces nothing original. It baffles me that somehow, recasters delude themselves to thinking they are legitimate members of the kit industry. Further baffling to me is that many hobbyists believe this too. I actually had someone call up my company and ask me where they could get a cheap recast of my kit, apparently neither cognizant of the insult or the downright illegality of their request.

Secondly, the "sculptor's" licensing-infringement victim is typically a big, rich movie or television studio. (I think it is safe to say Paramount is not going into Chapter 11 because some guy with taped-up glasses in Big Wipe, Idaho is making a kit of Sulu.) Recasters, on the other hand, are not ripping off a wealthy, faceless company, the recaster's ripping off the taped-glasses guy! Someone who CAN be driven into Chapter 11. I am aware that legally, there is no difference, infringement is infringement. But morally, it's the difference between stealing a Tic-Tac from a wealthy person, and stealing clothing from a homeless person.

What many hobbyists don't get is that even the larger kit companies are MORE like the guy with taped-up glasses than like Paramount Studios. These little companies make fragile profits. And contrary to popular belief, NOBODY makes a "killing" at this, at least not yet. It's a very personal, low profit, entrepreneurial thing, mostly done out of love for kits.

This entire industry is small, fragile, and personal. That's why I love it... anybody can join in. That is partly why predators (small p) such as recasters are so dangerous to it. Left unchecked, recasters could kill the entire industry the same way they kill a budding young company.

Simply, it's like this. Here's how kit companies typically start - Imagine YOURSELF, loving kits so much, YOU decide to sculpt your first kit. you spend months working on it with loving care, you buy advertising, and you proudly put it out on the market, hoping to make back some of the money you spent. But, a week later someone else knocks off your kit and is selling it $25 cheaper. Poof... you can't get an order. Now, ...tell me you will do a SECOND kit. No way. The seedling is squashed. A potential company, closed. Your vision, and the great new kits you might have produced will never see the light of day. The effect of recasting is that simple.

Mike James
Azimuth Design

EDITOR'S NOTE: KitBuilder's has recently learned that Mike James' Azimuth Design "Bride" kit, first advertised in print as recently as our last issue, is now being recast in Asia only a month after its release. The selling price of the recast is $99. 50 as opposed to the legitimate Azimuth Design price of $125. The recasts are reportedly poor in quality. with large chips in the resin, ground flat areas, and soft detail. All accessory parts are missing, there is no Certificate of Authenticity, Instructions, Painting tips, or Flip Book, and it as being sold without protective packing. It does however still retain Mike James' signature on the base.

Mike knows who the recaster is because he individually marks all of his kits. He is having to interrupt production of a new kit to pursue prosecution. Mike's biggest concern is the poor quality of the recasts, and with his name being duplicated on the base some may blame him for it. As Mike said, "At least if they're gonna' rip me off, I wish they'd have the courtesy to do a good job. "

Another negative result of this incidence was that Mike had to turn down a very large order. A man wanted to order one of every kit that Mike has produced so far. The man said he would like to receive them before he left for Singapore. Well, Singapore is where Mike's "Bride" kit is being reproduced. He did not want to risk having his whole line being recast, so he turned the man down. Now the guy could have been perfectly legitimate, but Mike felt he could not take the risk. Mike said, "If recasting did not exist, both of us would be happy instead of miserable. " This is a good example of one of the negative sides to recasting.


EDITOR'S NOTE: KitBuilders talked to various hobby members who expressed more favorable opinions towards the availability of recast kits. Though getting them to express their side of this issue in writing seemed to be a daunting task. KitBuilders welcomes any opposing or supportive responses to any of the comments that were made in the previous letters. After all, this is America, and both sides have the right to be heard, whether they are agreed with or not. KITBUILDERS WILL NOT RUN ANY RESPONSES FROM PERSONS THAT ARE NOT WILLING TO BACK UP THEIR WORDS BY INCLUDING A LEGITIMATE NAME AND ADDRESS. Thank you!


EDITOR'S NOTE: We have included some questions that we would like you, the reader to answer. Answer them all or just certain ones. Then send in your opinions and comments so we can compile just what your thoughts are about this topic.

RECAST QUESTIONS

  1. Would you buy, or possess, a recast kit?
  2. Do you feel that any type of recasting is bad?
  3. Would you buy or possess a recast kit only under certain circumstances?
  4. If you answered yes to question #3, under what circumstances?
  5. Is recasting more of a moral issue or a legal one in your opinion?
  6. You spend the time, money, and effort to produce your own kit. Within a few months of its release you find unauthorized copies of it for sale at a show. Would you be upset, or just accept it as being a part of doing business in this hobby?
  7. Do you feel that if the easy availability of recast kits continues will it hurt or help this hobby to grow?
Send e-mail your responses to:
gordys_kitbuilders@juno.com
-or-
Send snail mail to:
KitBuilders
P.O. Box 201
Sharon Center, OH 442740201

Originally published in KitBuilders Magazine. Reprinted here with permission. Thanks, KitBuilders!

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