The Best Places to get Gunpla in the US

I’m writing this post as a sort of PSA since I learned something new when I ordered my HG 00 Gundam.

Basically, I haven’t bought a non-brand new model in years. I believe the last three models I’ve bought are the MG SInanju, 1/100 Overflag, and MG Unicorn, all of which were pre-ordered and bought as soon as they were released. I’ve always stood by that RainbowTen is the cheapest place to go for models, and to some degree that is still true, so let me do a quick rundown for ya using a fun scoring system.

RainbowTen – They are stationed in Japan and have an unparalleled level of customer service. Navigating their site has a bit of a learning curve but they announced some time very soon they will be migrating to a more traditional web store layout. This is THE PLACE to go for an recently released Gunpla. Their prices are 20% below other sites like HLJ, and their shipping charges are also usually much cheaper as well.

Model Selection: 10/10
Model Prices: 10/10
Shipping Prices: 7/10
Customer Service: 10/10

Just to note, RainbowTen simply could not make their shipping prices any lower without taking a loss. Basically, their shipping prices are excellent compared to other Japan-based stores, but not so great compared to US-based stores, which is to be expected. Their customer service is simply unmatched… Whether you send them an email or post it on their BBS, you’ll get a response within a day.

Gundam Store and More – I’ve known about this site for years, but last time I checked, which was years ago, they were quite overpriced compared to RainbowTen, even when you factored in shipping. Apparently sometime between the last time I checked and now they got their act together and if you only want one or two models, they actually can be quite a bit cheaper. They currently are having a 20% off sale on Gunpla which definitely helps. The downside to this is that their stock isn’t as up to date is you might like… And by that I mean when RainbowTen has a model for sale the day it is released (and in my experience, if you preorder it they will ship it a day or two before the release date), it is currently January 28th, and GSaM JUST got the HG Seravee in stock, which was released in late November.

Model Selection: 7/10
Model Prices: 9/10 (Probably 8/10 when their sale ends)
Shipping Prices: 10/10
Customer Service: ?/10

I ordered from GSaM, and now actually have twice, but haven’t had to contact them for anything, so I really can’t give an impression for customer service.

HobbyWave – I haven’t used this store personally, but have heard good things from those who have. They have reasonable prices (actually, a quick comparison shows they have the SAME prices as GSaM’s non-sale prices), and shipping is a flat $10 no matter how much you buy. So if you were to stock up on quite a few kits, this could be a good thing. If you were like me and only wanted one HG kit, that’s a bit rough in terms of shipping… They also share the problem with GSaM in that their stock isn’t as up-to-date due to them being based in the US. However, where GSaM’s stock is about two months behind, HobbyWave’s seems to be only one month behind.

Model Selection: 8/10
Model Prices: 8/10
Shipping Prices: 8/10 if you’re ordering just a few small things, 10/10 if you’re ordering several models
Customer Service: 0/10

Prior to ordering from GSaM, I went to HobbyWave and emailed them TWICE asking when they’d have the HG 00 Gundam in-stock again. It’s now been a week and I haven’t heard a thing. They must really not want my money or something. Either way, I can’t really even give them sympathy points for that one, haha.

Conclusion:

What kind of conclusion do ya want? It really depends… I’ll still be going to RainbowTen for my orders of anything new or even larger quantities of things. For a quick example based ONLY on price, I just ordered the HG 0 Raiser from RainbowTen:

R10 Price: 640 yen
R10 Shipping: 980 yen (SAL shipping, which is the cheapest but can take up to a month. I’m just not in a huge rush to get it.)
R10 Total: 1620 yen = $18

I miss the days of the strong economy… This would have been under $15 not too long ago.

GSaM Price (calculated based on their current prices): $10
GSaM Shipping: $6
GSaM Total: $16

For HobbyWave it’d be the same price, but the shipping would be $10.

So basically it WOULD be a bit cheaper to order it from GSaM, but I’d have to wait two months until I could do so. Even with the slowest shipping, I’d get the model anywhere from one to two months sooner (I’ve actually had SAL shipping get to me in under a week).

So my advice:
Order from GSaM if you’re getting some not-so-new things.
Order from HobbyWave if you’re getting a LOT of not-so-new things.
Order from RainbowTen for anything slightly new.

I’m still going to order from RainbowTen for my bulk orders because the more you order, the less the shipping charge cuts in to the difference in price, and I honestly wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for RainbowTen’s customer service. And the truth is, depending on how much you order, it might even cost you less.

Please post any experience you’ve had with any other retailers and any conflicting opinions you might have!

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24 Responses to “The Best Places to get Gunpla in the US”

  1. Very interesting article, I ought to write up one about where to get models in Japan then. The strong yen is bad though for all the exporters… Looking at prices at GSaM makes my wallet hurt. The RainbowTen place looks good, looks like they offer at about 20% off…

  2. Agreed… Strong Yen + Weak Dollar = Sad Wallet

    RainbowTen has 20% off on ALL Bandai kits, plus if you’re in Japan you don’t have to deal with crazy shipping… Wish I was in your shoes.

    Of course if you’re in Japan you can actually *gasp* walk into a store and buy these, so I’m not sure how their prices compare with store prices, haha.

  3. Yeah, I’ll probably write up an article to mirror yours if you don’t mind.
    The general price though is 30% off here. I generally score mine off of Yahoo Auctions as I know someone who occasionally sells models in bulk at about 60% off.

  4. I’ve ordered from Hobbywave several times (typically spending at least $200 a pop, if not more). The cheap shipping no matter what is what really does it for me. True their stock isn’t that up-to-date, and they tend to stay out of stock on stuff for a while (I had been wanting a Hi-nu for about 6 months, and they JUST NOW got them in stock again). Their customer service has been awesome to me, but I have noticed they don’t respond to “when-will-this-be-in-stock” questions (I emailed asking if they had plans to carry the Macross Frontier kits). Their stuff usually is in pristine condition and ships VERY quickly (the only problems I’ve had with ordering stuff from them is not even their fault, but the primary shipping carrier, FedEx).

    Aside from that, GSaM is usually really good. I have some fellow Gunpla enthusiasts that live a few miles down the road from them, and they advise calling them to place orders, as their website is NOT up-to-date store inventory; calling is usually better and sometimes you can get better prices that way as well.

    Hadn’t ordered from R10, as I know I usually can find stuff for cheaper from US-based stores and can get it here quicker and cheaper than ordering from Japan using EMS (which I always do, anymore – too many bad experiences when using SAL). Plus, stuff tends not to get as mangled when it’s not coming from Japan as well.

    I used to use Tisinc all the time, but their service, prices, and general quality have gone way down in the last few years, to the point where I was basically being insulted and getting into email-arguments with the guy who runs the place.

  5. @Rob
    Wow, must be nice, haha. And nope, I don’t mind your article mirroring mine.

    @Zircor
    Nice to hear about HobbyWave. Kinda strange they don’t respond to stock questions since, in my case, that was the difference between me waiting a bit and ordering from them and taking my business elsewhere, ha.

    I realized something I forgot to mention… The economy. When the exchange rate was better (110 yen to 1 USD), RainbowTen still would have been the cheapest for most orders.

    As for things being “mangled,” R10′s packaging is always top notch… I’ve ordered from them dozens of times and have never had a damaged item in any way. But like you said, shipping can just end up costing quite a bit more.

  6. Nomake Wan Says:

    I ordered from GSaM to get some Gundam Markers and a 1/100 Gundam DX. I did have to contact them because while I ordered a grey panel-lining marker, they sent a black one. Within a day I had a response and a shipping notice, and they didn’t bother having me send back the black one. Couldn’t be happier with GSaM’s customer service. Since I saw you didn’t have a rating for them, I felt like I had to comment.

    10/10, definitely. Great place, that.

  7. Have you tried ImageAnime?

  8. @Nomake

    Good to hear they’re treating everyone else well!

    @mike

    I have used them YEEEEEARS ago to order something and they were fine. Looking at it, I really don’t see any huge reason to order from them, especially with prices like those, but I do know they’re at least a legit company.

  9. Wandering Weezard Says:

    Has Hobbywave responded to anyone’s email lately? I’ve emailed general questions (not related to stock) to them and have no received a response. (I’ve sent an email via their contact form & via their supplied email address). Doesn’t seem like a good way to garner new customers.

    As a newcomer interested in getting into this hobby, you’re article was very helpful. I’ll definitely checkout Gundam Store and More, since everyone seems to have good luck with them.

    I’ve built some Gundam models before, but nothing from the High Grade, Master Grade, or Perfect Grade lines. Are there any resources for finding out more about these? I am full of complete newb questions.

  10. Hobbywave, when I first started ordering from them, would respond to questions via email. The last year or so I suppose they have not answered any emails at all. The only contact I had with them was the last order I placed, when they called me to tell me that MG Hi-Nu was out of stock. This was a week after I placed the order. They said they were getting another shipment on the 20th of April (I placed the order the 20th of March). I asked them to just send what was in stock, and send the Hi-nu when they got it in. What did they do? Sent me a refund for the Hi-Nu… They had pretty heavy asian accents, so the communication barrier IS there. I think that’s the last order I place with them, though. Their service has been getting progressively worse as time goes by. It’s a shame, though… they were, IMO one of the best online stores to order from.

  11. Wandering Weezard Says:

    It sounds like Rainbow 10 might be the place to try next. GSaM hasn’t responded to an email I’ve sent to them either :( Perhaps I’m just not meant to jump into this particular hobby…

    I am slightly confused by Rainbow 10′s site, though I think I’m starting to get it. The idea is to email them to find out if your particular model is in stock and then email them once you have come to an agreement on an order?

  12. @WW
    What sort of models were you interested in? I mean like from what series were you interested in getting models from? I could give you a bit of info on HG, MG, and PG and whatnot based on that.

    I haven’t gotten any email responses from GSaM for awhile either. I also notice that their website says that they were going to overhaul their website in February, so who knows…

    As for R10, ordering from them has a bit of a learning curve. To see what they have in stock, hit “Go to Search” on the left. The search is rather sensitive, so try to put only ONE word in. Alternatively, you can click on “Today’s Stock List” and use find to find what you’re looking for. Just copy and paste the entire line for the item into the email. Just read over the “How to order” page once or twice and let me know if you’re still having trouble.

    Sorry that getting into the hobby is proving so tough for you, but hang in there, odds are it’ll be worth the little struggle!

    @Zircor
    Another nick towards HobbyWave I guess… Thanks for the info.

  13. Wandering Weezard Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    I don’t have a particular series I guess. I thought it would be best to start out with a HG or MG kit to get a feel for things. What do you think? In terms of what series I am a fan of, I’ve only managed to watch the Gundam Wing anime. The others are on my ‘todo’ list for sure. All I’ve done is browse through the pictures and decide which models look like something I would like to build. I tossed together a variety here to give you some ideas of the ones that look interesting so far…

    Models:

    PG

    Wing Zero Custom 1/60
    Gundam Astray Red Frame

    MG

    Gundam Seed Strike Rouge
    RX-93 Nu Gundam
    MSN-04 Sazabi
    Seed Stargazer Strike Noir Gundam
    STRIKE E+IWSP (ASTRAYS LUKAS O’DONNELL CUSTOM)
    Strike Freedom Gundam Special Version
    1/100 Infinite Justice Gundam

    HG

    Any of the Gundam Wing models

    Questions:

    Do all of the Gundam models come molded in color? Or are the monochrome and require painting?
    Do the models come with the display bases? Or, do those need to be ordered separately?

    Ordering internationally is something I have never done. How can I find out more about how this process works? Is it a pain to get the package through customs? Are there extra fees associated with that? What is the best shipping method to choose? How long does it typically take to receive the package? Any other caveats to be aware of?

  14. PG might be a bit much to start off with; they’re expensive and definitely overwhelming if you’re not mentally prepared for how long it will take you. I literally spent 8 hours PER LIMB and torso/crotch/head area EACH. And this was just building; no painting or detailing at all.

    I would highly recommend going with some HG (either 1/100 or 1/144) stuff even before you jump into MG (or if you do start on MGs, start on the older kits. http://www.dalong.net has a chronological list of them, as well as detailed pictures, etc). You can get older MG kits for as much or less as newer HG kits (though they do show their age; especially the RX-78-2 1.0 and Gouf/Zaku 1.0s). I haven’t done any of the 1/100 X kits, but I’d imagine they’re around the same as the Wing kits.

    That being said, the Seed kits are definitely awesome (some of my favorite gundam kits ever, in fact. Freedom is on the top of the list :) ) They are pretty complex, but you may want to check out any of the Version 2.0 stuff; the Zakus and MKII can be had for pretty good prices.

    To answer your questions, not all are molded in the color they should come in. This is mostly truer for older kits, and the lower in grade you go the lower in quality too (for instance, one of my first HG 1/144 kits was the Nu Gundam – NOT the HGUC one, but the one that came before. Practically no molded color on the thing, it was almost all in white plastic, and crappy quality and flash too). The only recent kit that I know of that had serious issues where parts SHOULD have been molded in color and weren’t was the MG Sinanju; a lot of the parts that should have been gold were just molded as one piece with the black, and left to the builders to detail (it comes with stickers and waterslide decals, fortunately, but still).

    As far as international purchasing, the biggest pain right now, assuming you’re in the US, is the weak dollar vs strong yen. International shipping is almost always pricey, too, especially if you do EMS (which I would really recommend doing, for speed/safety of your package). Import fees are almost never paid on stuff sent TO the US for modelling goods/toys, so no need to worry about customs. With EMS, it’s almost always here within a week of shipping (usually 2-3 days). Be aware that places that ship internationally *cough HLJ cough* will have extraordinary shipping prices in addition to the cost of the kit (in general, from HLJ, I can expect roughly to pay as much for shipping as for the kit, and they DO NOT combine shipping for large orders). R10 and the others are a lot better about it, but it still can get expensive. Buying form US based retailers has seemed to be a better alternative these days, since for me it’s usually less costly and quicker).

    My list of recommended kits are as follows. Mind you, I only mostly build MGs these days, but still have a nice collection of (especially Seed, as it’s my favorite series) 1/100 and 1/144 HGs. I haven’t built anything from 00 yet, either.

    MG Freedom
    MG Strike Freedom
    MG Infinite Justice
    MG MK II 2.0
    MG Zaku 2.0 (either the first green one or Char’s – the Black Tristar, Shin Matsunaga, or Johnny Ridden only if you can get them for cheap, as they are IMO worse than the others, since their leg armors limit poseability)
    MG Crossbone X-1 or Full Cloth
    MG Nemo
    MG Hi-Zack
    MG Alex
    MG GP01/FB
    MG GP02A

    any of the MGs from 8th MS Team (the Balls are especially cool, being as they’re 1) Cheap and 2) not bipedal MGs)

    IMO anything 1/100 or even 1/144 from Seed/Destiny/Stargazer/MSV is good, as they’re relatively cheap (especially compared to the 00 kits) and have a good deal of cost-awesome ratio. Older kits like Wing and X might be even better (hell you can get the 1/100 F90/F91 kits for $10 or less each).

    If you’d like Astray, I would recommend any of the 1/100 variations isntead of PG (read above for reasons). They’re almost as poseable as current MGs, easier to build and look smashingly awesome. Red frame probably is the best bet, as the Blue and Gold have some serious design flaws a new modeler may not be equipped to fix (blue frame can’t hold its sword for crap, and the high heels on gold combined with the backpack make for serious balance issues, not to mention nub marks on the glossy black…).

    In general, though I would pick the kits that appeal to you, since you’re the one that gets to spend so much time with them :) I made the mistake when I started of almost jumping right to Master Grade kits, and have an almost completely fubared Zeta 1.0 and MK IIs to show for it. I guess it didn’t help that Gundam was on its way out of popularity here in the states at the time (well, as far as Bandai of America was concerned) so managed to snag a TON of kits for really cheap from Amazon and Target and Wal-Mart and such. $10 MG kits? check :D

  15. Wandering Weezard Says:

    @ Zircor

    Thanks for the PG info. Those do sound like something to save for later. That’s good to hear about the international shipping – it doesn’t sound like so much of something to be intimidated by. I agree about the US-based retailers, but so far, no luck getting into contact with any of them listed in Knolly’s post. I guess I could order a small-kit from the email-no-repliers and hope for the best… but it still sounds like I’d be asking for problems.

    I’ll check out that recommendation list. Hopefully I can find some pics of them on the Internet to get an idea. (I still don’t know these by name yet, unless it’s Gundam Wing).

    Great information, thanks for replying!

  16. @Zirco
    Absolutely excellent info.

    @WW
    Zirco covered pretty much everything, haha.

    The only thing I can add is that since you like Wingm I recommend you take a look at the MG WZC:

    http://dalong.net/review/mg/m75/m75_i.htm

    It is, at least in my opinion, a far superior kit to the PG (it came out 4 years after the PG). You might also be interested in the Wing Ver. Ka:

    http://dalong.net/review/mg/m69/m69_i.htm

    As he mentioned, for pics of any Seed, 00, HGUC, MG, or PG kits, go to http://dalong.net/. Click on whatever series you’re looking for at the top, and browse from there.

  17. Wandering Weezard Says:

    Oh cool, I didn’t realize dalong.net had such detailed pictures. Thanks again for you’re all’s help. Hope to be building a model soon :)

  18. Mr. Beefeater Says:

    Those stores are all very well, but two out of three only ship to the US!

  19. I guess I’m the only lazy bastard here who just goes to HLJ?

    • Actually, looks like I should be thanking you for reminding me about Gundam Store and More. I used them once, maybe over a year ago, and the service was awful; seems like they’re better now. I’ll be using GSaM and R10 from now on, although it’ll be sad to part with HLJ… T_T It won’t be sad to part with their shipping prices, though…

  20. Hi guys,

    I want to order a gundam, and looked at Rainbow Ten’s site, but it confused the hell out of me. How do I find the gundam I’m looking for and how do I order? Every time I tried to search, it gave me an internal server error, what’s up with that? Also, has anyone looked at Hobby Search (http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/) and can tell me if they’re legit? Also, I only have enough money to buy either the MG Exia Ignition Mode or the 1/100 Designer Color Version of the 00 Raiser, so which one is the better buy and which one would you recommend? Will a MG version of 00 Raiser be coming out in the future?

    Thank you guys for your help.

  21. whatever you do don’t buy through hobbywave.com. i had to return one of their kits because the pic on their site didn’t match what they sent me. so i emailed their support asking where to get the RMA number they say i need to return on their site, and if i could only return the one kit out of the whole order since i was fine with the other ones. their support staff obviously doesn’t read anything in the email. i have sent 3 emails to them all with the same questions and they keep giving me the same bogus generic answers.

  22. have you tried Rider’s Hobby Shop? they sell gundams pretty cheap; usually 15% to 30% off the retail price and shipping is from $6 – $8. but their selection sucks. they got a few new ones and you have to wait about 1 – 2 months for the new models. haven’t tried them yet but i will soon.

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