Gundam Shopping 101 How to find the best deal Now that you know all there is to know about Gundam model kits, you're probably wondering just how you can get your hands on them. First off, you can't just go to your local toy and/or hobby store to get them. While Bandai did try a run of American Gundam kits, the attempt failed miserably and resulted in the leftover kits being sold off at clearance prices (check out for the leftovers). The market for Gundam models simply isn't large enough in the US to justify any significant marketing effort, and the people who are most likely to purchase the kits are probably already familiar with the Japanese kits and where to get them, effectively dooming any attempt to sell American versions at steep markups. Some local hobby stores may carry Japanese Gundam models, but they tend to mark them up to insane prices. This leaves the internet as your best source for kits. Aside from short-lived clearance deals, just about everything you find for sale on the internet will be the Japanese version. There are many American web sites that carry these items, but new releases will always be available first on Japanese sites. Of course, if you are a typical American who can't tell Japanese from gibberish, you'll probably have trouble ordering from a Japanese web site, and they'll probably have trouble understanding you as well. You might be able to get an order through, but you'll be better off dealing with a site that caters toward English-speakers. Hobby Link Japan ( is the only Japanese company I know of that is completely in English and exists specifically for the non-Japanese market. Unlike most other Japanese online storesm they have a secure ordering system (I would not recommend placing an order from any site that does not have a secure ordering system). They also have an extensive catalog of models, which includes a great deal of information that you will need later on. Familiarize yourself with the site and its search engine even if you don't plan on placing any orders from them; you'll be glad you did. One potential difficulty in spotting a good deal is that the retail prices are all in Yen. You'll need to convert this to dollars in order to compare more easily with US-based resellers. Yet again, HLJ will do this for you, but seeing as exchange rates fluctuate, you'll want to note the retail price in yen and the current exchange rate. A spreadsheet works best for this, and the exchange rate should be set up as a variable so you can change it in one place to update the entire sheet. Once you have this set up, you should be able to compare prices in either Yen or Dollars. The other part of the equation is the shipping cost. Since these kits all come from Japan (either directly to you or through a US-based reseller), shipping from Japan will always be a factor. Either you will pay for the shipping yourself, or this cost will be rolled into the kit's price (most "retail" prices are really pulled out of thin air to cover up this added cost). On top of this, a US-based reseller will probably also charge for shipping from them to you. Many resellers charge a flat fee of between five and ten dollars, but some charge actual shipping costs. With all of these extra costs, it can be difficult to tell what is a good deal. Comparing prices requires a little research, a little math, and a little massaging of the numbers. Again, spreadsheets are your friend. My suggestion is to use HLJ as your yard stick, because it gives you a reference using the actual retail price. Of course, you need to have items shipped from Japan to get this retail price, so this cost becomes a factor in the comparison. HLJ provides shipping estimates, but you can safely ignore them for now and work with shipping cost as an unknown. You can also safely assume that a shipping cost will have two components - a fixed cost per shipment that covers the base cost of the service plus weight from packaging, and a variable cost that depends on wieght. Weights are listed on HLJ, so make a note of them. For a US-based reseller, the shipping components are the shipping cost from the reseller to you and the price increase due to shipping from Japan. For flat-rate shipping, you can assume that this flat rate is the same as the fixed component of the shipping cost from Japan, which simplifies the equations immensely. If you cancel out the retail price, your comparison is down to the variable Japanese shipping cost vs. the amount above retail that the US reseller is charging. A ratio of the two will allow you to compare whether the US or Japanese options are better. Here's the what I use: (US price - Japanese Retail in dollars)*100 / Weight in grams This will give you a number that typically varies from -1 to 4. The variable cost of Japanese surface shipping tends to be around 1.5 cents per gram, so a number less than 1.5 means the item is cheaper to order from the US, while a higher number means the deal is better from Japan. All of this is very oversimplified, but it works. If you put together a list of all the kits offered by a particular reseller, this ratio will make it easy to spot what is overpriced and what is a better relative deal. The really good deals will usually fall in the -0.5 to 0.5 range, with the insanely good deals below this range. If the reseller does not charge a flat shipping fee, you'll need to figure out the added shipping cost in terms of weight and add this to the ratio above. Once you have a good spreadsheet system in place, the hard part is gathering data on resellers and prices and keeping this data up to date. The exchange rate also needs to be updated regularly