How do model contests work?

I just received word that my local Hobby Town is hosting a local stage of a national model contest, and it will be my first time competing in one (and attending one, at that). How do such contests usually work? Since the winners get to go to a national contest, how would that work?

So, without starting yet another controversy… Generally speaking, all entrants in a given show are then eligible to move on to the next level.
Take IPMS. you don’t need to have placed, won or even shown, to be eligible to go from a local show to a regional show, let alone move to the national show. It’s nice to participate in all levels, however it always comes down to MONEY, the hosting agency or club if you will LOVES for you to drop, 35.00usd at the local event, and then say another 35.00 to 50.00usd at the regional, and then drop another up to 125.00usd at the national show, NOW please note these listed prices are just a suggested range, and may not be the actual prices. The other touchy subject about contest is who or what, (agency) is hosting the judging. By this I mean, let’s say again it was an IPMS event, some like the Pittsburg Chapter(s) are frickin AWESOME, they keep try and keep the BS to a minimum, if you enter, you can’t judge. Being asked to judge is something of a minor honor and comes with a little training. Other chapters and agencies, it’s all free-wheeling and open. Say, the Seattle Chapter of IPMS, they have a serious reputation for hosting shows with categories specific to their members, things like, (and I am making this part up for the story), Bi planes of the Finish Air Force circa 1935. Knowing full well one of their own is really into this very very narrow range, and will no doubt win a ribbon and or trophy. Now is that a bad thing, maybe not, maybe so. The illusion is what matters, especially to that young modeler or that first time competitor.
I think my modeling mentor said it best, Shep Paine once told me, “you lay your five bucks down, and take what they are giving”. Competition is great, seeing where you stack up against your peers, PLEASE don’t take winning, loosing, or competing too seriously.


Thank you, the announcement says that the winners will also get judged on the national level. Do you usually just bring in your models, pay the entry fee, and then follow their directions for setting them up?

HobbyTown USA does this every year. I have never participated in their event, but if you check their website,all the info should be there.

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At the Nationals, the showrooms are closed to the public at a specified time, then the groups of judges go to their assigned categories. The kits were never moved. The only time I ever saw kits being moved was long ago at an AMMPS contest. And only moved with the owners’ assistance

Yeah, contests vary quite a bit depending upon the host club, organization, or business. IPMS has one style of judging, AMPS, a different style, and a shop or brand such as Tamiya may have a completely different style than the others.
Do your best work, have fun, and treat it as a learning experience. A kit entered in one contest may not place due to the competition at that event, but at a different contest may do quite well due to different competition.
But in general, most contests look at your basics first. Seams, gaps, alignment, basic construction, etc. Then it goes to finishing- painting, decals, and such. If there are flaws in those areas, it’s out of the running. After all those areas are evaluated and all things being equal, other aspects come into play- extra/super detailing, scope of effort, degree of difficulty.
Of course there can be subjective bias in judging, but judges are human.


I think some more context is needed. You can judge if you enter a show, show’s couldn’t exist if that was the case. What you cannot/shouldn’t do is judge a category you entered a model in. Depending on the show and number of judges available, if you entered armor you might judge aircraft but if you had to judge armor you would sit out the judging of your subcategory if that had that many.

IPMS handbook

AMPS judging

As @Stikpusher said the main focus is basic construction and painting.

The biggest difference is, IPMS your competitors are who shows up that day and it will be different every show. For the most part you only see the results of who placed and not feedback on what the judges saw. AMPS, your competing against yourself and your rating. You are provided written feedback on what the judges saw and scored you on.

While at IPMS we try to limit moving models even on the table in a category it does happen, wrong category etc. AMPS you check your model in and they move it around in a bin till judging is done with it and they place it on the table.

Once again controversies… You should NEVER enter a contest that you are judging. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. You can sell it to yourself anyway you want. Why would open yourself up to or for controversy??? Times have changed, moral codes have changed, IPMS is not what it used to be. The Armor association I referred to wasn’t the modern-day AMPS. It was a west coast club from the 90’s LONG gone unfortunately. Moving someone else’s model is really a bad idea. At Las Vegas, I was not aware of any builds being moved. Some of those builds were too big to be shuttled around for you pleasure. Once again, a clash of values. I can tell this story, A model at the Las Vegas show was damaged, it was never made clear as to how or why the build was damaged. WE as judges were told to judge it on its merits and to “ignore” the damage. A classy move. Once again and for the last time, you never move an entrant’s models for any reason. And you should never enter a contest that you judge. Yes, it is a clash of values. And it’s safe to say my values seem to be out of touch and out of time. To all those who are on the opposing side or hold different ideas, so be it…

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There is never enough bodies to judge (in general) if that was the enforced. I have never run a show where we had too many judges, would have been a good problem to have. We use teams of three and try to mix and match the clubs folks belong to avoid/limit any issues.

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I would recommend that as well, your local store should be able to tell you exactly how the process works. Good luck & let us know how you do !

HobbyTown USA contest work completely different from any other type of contest, like IPMS or AMPS.

The store owner can either do the judging him or herself or ask someone else (say another local modeler(s) the owner knows). The judge (owner or someone else) may judge all of the entries or divide the judging up as he or she sees fit.

The store will take photos of the winners and send them to HobbyTown USA (or at least they’re supposed to, there’s no way to actually know if they have or not). Someone at HobbyTown corporate will then look at the photos and pick the next level of winners.

There are no real rules or standards used for the judging except what the individual judge (i.e. store owner) thinks, and the judging at corporate (FWIW) is entirely dependent on the quality and number of photos of the local winners and the personal preferences and biases of that person.

It may be worth entering because they generally offer some kind of store gift cards as prizes, but the judging is more like a “people’s choice” kind of thing, mostly depends on what (or who) the store owner and corporate judge likes. Like the popular vote for prom king and queen back in high school, the results have very little to do with anything substantial.

So, don’t hang your hat, so to speak, on the results as some sort of real assessment on your skills or talent as a modeler. Again, may be worthwhile just for the chance at a gift card or some sort of other prize. Realize that the object of the exercise is about promoting the store and HTU. Promoting the hobby for them is all about sales and profit.


Be sure to pick up your model AFTER the contest.

(The below isn’t HobbyTown so do give it a try and have fun. Being a chain hobby shop, I think HobbyTown might have better rules).

My local hobby shop employee (shop has closed a long time ago) told me that they stopped holding contests because many contenders didn’t come back to pick up their entries in time and just left them in the shop despite the “pickup deadline” in the contest rules…like 30 day after the contest. Thus, the shop lacked the space to display them all and ended up throwing the models in the trash after 30 days.

So you can imagine all the anger and frustration by contenders if their entries ended up in the trash—totally gone without a trace. So don’t assume that the local hobby shop will take care of your model entry because it is, after all, his or her store.

Do look at the prizes to see if it’s worthwhile to enter. Most prizes are ribbons, trophies, plaques, and gift cards.

Many local hobby shops require an entry fee, or they want you to buy something so it’s “Pay to play” and many contests are like that now, not just model contests. At the end of the contest, see if the judging is biased because many times at my local hobby shop contest, it was the same winners who won because not only were their skills the best, they spent the most money on their entries. So there is a bias in that the more money one spends, the higher the chances of winning to compensate for the money spent on the hobby. That’s not always the case, but it does prove to be true, so don’t expect to win much by entering a single 1/35 figure when the other person enters a whole diorama with ten 1/35 figures and two tanks…“spend money to win money.” That could lead to frustrations so please ensure that the money you spend to enter makes you comfortable if you don’t win. It’s like gambling. If you spend $100 on a entry and just get a ribbon that one can buy from the card store, was the contest worth it to you?

There might be some politics and “behind the scenes smack my head” knowledge going on at these local contests that may not reveal themselves until later in the future (such as the owner knows the winners because they visit weekly but never saw you in his shop before). The “Best of Show Winner” turned out to be a military museum modeler so no wonder he always won!

Again, not to get into controversy, but see these local hobby shop contests as gambling and only spend and enter what you’re comfortable with in expecting not to get anything in return because most times you have to pay a fee to enter.

And one trick is that you can enter something so unique that no one else thought of causing you to win that category all by yourself (for example a 3D printed model when everyone else enters plastic box kits. Imagine 3D printing several years ago…what’s 3D printing? Never heard of it, but it sure looks awesome! :grinning:).

I won 'Grand Prize" at another hobby shop contest because for some strange reason, I was the only one who entered and there was no competition! I kid you not! :grinning:

In the end, I hope that the connections and socialization pay off…you might just make some new friends in what seems to be a hobby that has a hard time finding new recruits.

Remember, you won’t know how it is until you try it. :grinning:

What @SdAufKla says matches exactly with my experiences with Hobby Town shows.

Just as mentioned it’s typically personal standards of whomever judges and don’t take the results too seriously. The poor store owner might even feel obligated to acknowledge a finicky big spending customer out of fear of losing business in some cases.

Likewise, some of the contestants that are very successful at IPMS shows may pull their IPMS national 1st place winning models off the shelf. They can’t compete in IPMS shows anymore but can go for one last show at a Hobby Town event etc.

It’s stunning to see around thirty 1st place winners from various IPMS National’s all competing against each other in a 48 model entry show. One now defuct IPMS club in my area did that at Hobby Town shows for many years to try to recruit new members and win a few extra awards. Some folks were impressed by the friendly fellow modelers from IPMS and some folks were annoyed by the greedy trophy grabbing IPMS jerks that need to win everything :trophy: Controversy :trophy:

My point being Hobby Town shows can have some top notch fantastic models to see but can also be somewhat of a wild card compared to other shows and their established formats.

Definitely go and have fun :+1: :blush: :relaxed: :smile:

Leave all Captain Serious thoughts at home.

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Useful hint; when placing your entry on the presentation table, be sure to place it well away from the edge - as far as possible taking in consideration of other entries. In one of the last times I competed, I placed my ship model where I could - about a foot from the edge of the table. Obviously some viewer, at some point, wanted a closer look at a more distant model and bent way over (too far) and tangled his (or her!) clothing, or camera strap, in my ship’s rigging and totally destroyed it. The culprit never bothered to fess up. I explained to a nearby judge of the recent damage. Damaged, or not, I still took second for that particular entry. Although it might have been first had it not been damaged!
:grin: :canada:

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Enter for fun if you’re not a professional or expert modeler. It’s the fastest way to be frustrated if you let it get to you. I’ve learned more by losing and still had fun. I took a model that won Best of Show from my model club contest and entered it in the county fair. The county fair gave me a “Participant” ribbon.

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Yeah, that’s my plan. Since this is my first ever contest, I have no idea what they are like, so I just expect to have fun, see some cool models, and not buy any new kits. (this year I am not starting any new kits, I’m gonna finish all of my incomplete projects)

Best of luck on that….many of modelers have said this and almost all have failed. :joy:

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My main motivation is that I’m moving away next year for school, so I don’t want to start a new kit, and not leave incomplete kits.

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