Modelling and the Unwashed Masses
Dispatches from the Front, courtesy Rec.Models.Scale

I'm afraid there are some fallacies going around in this thread.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with all the comments about the kids and their parents, and I'll be the first to commiserate about the sinking feeling from a destroyed or missing model. (Fortunately, I'm protected from such experiences by the fact that my models are not well enough built that anyone would want to look at them, but I can still relate!).

The bad advice is this:

1. Tell the unwashed that the model is a "work of art/piece of history." That is only going to make you look like a flake. Modellers do worst with the general public when they get pretentious and try to inflate their hobby to more than a hobby. Except to model buffs, models aren't art! The brat's mother's it's-only-a-model response is irrelevant, but it isn't wrong. The truth of the matter is that it IS only a damn model. That should be enough! It's a piece of someone else's property, after all, that he lavished a good bit of time and attention on.

2. Tell the unwashed what the model is worth. One contributor to this discussion has even mentioned a lawsuit. Bad idea. First, you must understand that a model is NOT worth whatever value you arrive at by assigning a value to your time and then adding in the cost of materials etc. Nor is it worth the amount of money that you, the builder, would feel content with receiving in exchange for its destruction. The model is instead worth what someone would pay for it. With fairly rare exceptions that means it is worth pretty close to nothing. If you successfully sued somebody in small claims court for destroying your model, you might be awarded the cost of the kit and aftermarket parts, if you were lucky enough not to be laughed out of the courtroom. And, much as I sympathize with anyone in this situation, I can't say I'd disagree with such a result.

I will offer one proviso to the above. Any time you're dealing with a library, hobby shop, museum, etc. where someone has control over and responsibility for the premises, you can simply arrange a contract BEFORE the model goes on display, specifying a sum of money as damages for harm to the model. If you do this, the sum of money doesn't have to reflect any troubling notion of the "value" of the model -- it's a contract, the amount may be high but the other party can take it or leave it. Of course it's even better if you actually take a deposit on the safety of the model, but the contract alone may instill the necessary sense of responsibility in the person you are dealing with. And if you have to sue them in small claims court later, a contract is a lot easier to sue on than proving negligence and the value of the piece.

Guys, look. We have a hobby we enjoy a lot, but most people don't have much respect for it, and it isn't easy to think of a good reason why they should. When you put your model within reach of the public, the only things standing between it and destruction are (1) the vigilance of whatever custodian is responsible for safeguarding it while on display, assuming such custodian does not turn out to be the agent of destruction, and (2) the public's sense of respect for others' property and ability to enforce that respect with their children.

Slender reed on which to stake the safety of your model! Well, best of luck.

August T. Horvath, Ph.D., J.D.

Back to Museum Modeleer

© 1998 Pacific Monograph