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For Beginner Figure Collectors #11: Garage Kits, Proxy and Forwarding services

To All,

This week it's finally time to look at one of the most mysterious sets in the figure collecting world -- Garage Kits, as well as methods of shipping your packages overseas from Japan if the Japanese shops were only willing to ship domestically.

Garage Kits

Most collectors who have never dabbled in garage kits, or have never seen one might not know what to expect when they intend to order one, hence this tutorial would be presenting what you need or might need to prepare before getting your very first garage kit!

Firstly, what are garage kits? They are by smaller-scale figure companies, or by individual sculptors. These companies are rarely tied to larger names like Good Smile Company and that allows their sculptors to have more freedom when it comes to sculpting and posing.

Generally, garage kits do not have better sculpts and paint jobs than figures produced by larger names  since they might lack the finances and resources to produce higher-quality goods. However, there have been many garage kits which have proven this point wrong lately.

Though, the main catch with garage kits would be that the owner of the kit, which is yourself, has to out the figure together and paint it. It's practically a little do-it-yourself kit! If you think that sculpting is the most troublesome part of making a figure, maybe you should try a garage kit yourself! Perhaps you'll change your opinion after seeing how much time and effort you'll spend sanding pieces to fit the different figure parts together, and painting the pieces.

In the tools department, you'll have to get at least sandpaper, toothpicks, paintbrushes and paints. For what, you ask? Why not refer to these tutorials where people have placed their Sailor moon and Nozomi (Love Live!) garage kits together, complete with paintwork?

Are there any pre-painted garage kits? Yes, of course there are, but only if you are rich enough to own them.

Avid collectors of Touken Ranbu might recognize this gorgeous sculpt of Mikazuki Munechika by Hacca, of which I don't even intend to show the finished painted prototype since tempting anyone with that, then mentioning that it costs 39,000 yen (approximately SGD$460) before shipping, would be a sin.
However, if you'll like to get any garage kits, you could either go down to a convention where most garage kit sellers appear at, or simply head down to Wonfest. You could also opt to lounge around on an online auction, such as Yahoo Japan Auction, or second hand stores until you find the kit you'll like to own. Alternatively there are some larger garage kit stores who have their own websites and you could order directly from them. And some might even be willing to ship their kits overseas! And if they don't... well, I guess it's time for the second part of this tutorial to be put into good use then~

Proxy or Forwarding Service

So the question now would be how to ship the items you wish to get from Japan from stores, for one reason or another, only ships domestically. And my answer would be simple and plain, and that is to use a proxy or forwarding service.

However, that brings forth the question of which is better and which to use.

To be honest, I'll say it depends. As for myself, I'm more of a forwarding kind of person. But that might be because I enjoy hunting down items I want and ordering them myself. I enjoy the act of hitting that order button, and I'm not ready to hand that enjoyment over to any proxy anytime soon, as weird as that might sound. However, that also means that the settling of payment and liaising with the store are all done by myself.

All that the forwarding company does is to accept your package when it arrives at their location, re-pack them into a single package if necessary (if you wish to order from multiple stores), invoice you for overseas shipping, and ship the items to you. Any trouble faced with the store which you are ordering, for instance they sent you the wrong item, has absolutely nothing to do with the forwarding company and they will take no responsibility for any of it.

Of course, in this manner, forwarding would be much cheaper than a proxy as you do not need to pay them for finding and ordering the item for you. But do note that some forwarding companies do charge a small forwarding fee, and possibly for repacking too if you use that. Repackaging would really come in useful if you like to order little trinkets from all over Japan and you'll like to have them sent to you in one large package in the end.

For forwarding, I usually use Big in Japan. They charge a flat 500 yen rate forwarding fee per parcel, and a 500 yen fee for repackaging, And 500 yen is definitely cheaper than using a proxy. Of the few times which I had to use a proxy, I came across Tenso, which somehow always manages to give me some crazily high final price which I am not always ready and willing to pay. Although I still do... of course...

But for now and probably until quite some time in the future, forwarding is the way to go for me!

From Your Fellow Collector,

- Where to get second hand figures?
- What to do if you have issues with your item or receive a damaged box?
- Storage of Figures
- Storage of Figure Boxes
- Maintenance of Figures
- Bootlegs- Sale of your figures

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