A Guide to Scales and Grades

By Loran

I’m taking a little break from my two-review weeks and talking about a much more general subject-scale and grades. I’m sure a lot of first-time buyers look at the kits they want online and wonder, “How big is it? How hard is this to build? How nice will the finished product be?” Well, I’m hoping this guide here will help you decide what you want and what to expect.

Scale: Currently, there are three major scales available, and several “minor scales” that don’t show up as often.

Major scales:

1/144: The smallest, more basic kits. With the exception of the F91 and related model series, every kit series (with the exception of some “grade” scales) has featured models at this scale. This scale almost always features the widest variety of models to choose from. Height-wise, these tend to range from about 3 inches tall, to as tall as 7 inches, not counting huge suits/armors.

1/100: The scale the original Gundam kit came in back in 1980. Most model lines feature kits at this scale, and they are usually more involved and sophisticated than their 1/144 scale counterparts. These kits range from about 6 inches tall to about 10-11 inches tall.

1/60: The rarest scale. Most lines didn’t feature kits at this scale, and the ones that did often had only one or two. Usually come with some sort of transformation gimmick, and some from the 90’s and early 2000’s had light-up gimmicks. These tend to stand around a foot tall.

Minor scales:

1/12: Used for those ridiculous human-sized display models. These guys cost… well, over a thousand dollars each.

1/48: Not used often, but the most recent example was the RX-78 at this scale, which was just a scaled-up version of the G30th model.

1/72: Rarely seen today, the only time I recall this being used was for the “cutaway” models for the original series, which had clear parts that would allow you to see the inner workings of one half of the model.

1/220: Not seen often (or at all, really) in plastic form. Only resin kits come at this scale.

1/250: Only used for some Mobile Armors and the fixed-pose diorama kits from the original TV series model line.

1/400: Used form these little blind-boxed figures and the giant mobile armor models to accompany them.

1/550: Not used much today. Most Mobile Armors and some aircraft for the original series were made at this scale. These came with in-scale Mobile Suits and other equipment to give an idea of scale.

1/1200 and 1/2400: Used on battleships and large aircraft. Also included in-scale Mobile Suits and equipment for scale purposes.

Grades: Just because two kits come at the same scale doesn’t make them equal. Grades are what truly determine how good a kit is.

First Grade: Originally used as a 20th anniversary line consisting of just three kits in 1999, the only models made for this series were the RX-78 Gundam, the regular Zaku II, and Char’s Zaku II. These had very primitive articulation and no ploycaps, like the original kits did in 1980, but they had the detailing of Perfect Grades. The line was brought back in name for the Gundam 00 kits in 2007, describing kits that were of a lower quality in terms of details and articulation than the rest of the line, at prices around only $5 per kit.

High Grade: The most common and widespread grade. These were introduced in 1990 as a 10th anniversary series featuring 4 of the major Gundams from the early Universal Century at 1/144 scale with enhanced detailing and parts molded in multiple colors (the latter practice didn’t last long). The original HGs look awful by today’s standards. Now most series feature a High Grade line of sorts, and most of the 90’s High Grade kits were in 1/100 scale. The Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Gundam Wing: G-Unit, and High Grade Universal Century lines returned the HG label to 1/144 scale kits, and now all High Grades are at 1/144 scale, with the exception of that one RX-78 model that comes with the cell phone…

Master Grade: Bandai rolled out their big moneymaker in 1995 with yet another anniversary. This is possibly Bandai’s most successful and popular line, with it even branching out into other anime series. The Gundam kits for this line are at 1/100 scale exclusively, and most made after 1998 feature partial to full mechanical skeletons and a lot of poseability. It’s also worth noting that Master Grade kits are never made out of the Master Grade “line”, so just because a kit is at 1/100 scale, does not make it a Master Grade.

Perfect Grade: The best of the best. The cream of the crop. Coming in exclusively at 1/60 scale, this line only features a handful of kits. Characterized by complete mechanical skeletons and insane poseability that a human couldn’t even match, these are some of the nicest kits and most complex kits Bandai has ever produced. Like the Master Grades, these are only available in the “Perfect Grade” line, so don’t go grabbing a random 1/60 scale kit expecting it to be of this quality. Perfect Grades tend to cost between $150 and $250 each, so be aware. The similar “Glorious Series” models exist at this scale, a short-lived line consisting of a few Zeon mobile suits with light-up guns, thrusters, eyes, and other doohickeys.

“No Grades”: Not an official Bandai-named grade, this term was given by the fans to kits that don’t have any grade attached to them. The only modern kits that are considered No Grades are the 1/100 scale kits in the SEED and 00 lines. These are basically just upscaled High Grades. Don’t expect them to be anywhere near Master Grade in quality.

Real Grade: A new line coming this summer that I’m sincerely hoping will only consist of a few kits, Real Grades are 1/144 scale models that combine the best of High Grades, Master Grades, and Perfect Grades into one model-yes, that means 1/144 scale kits with full inner skeletons. The only kits announced so far are the RX-78 and Char’s Zaku, and they carry a hefty pricetag for 1/144 scale kits at about $25-$30 each.

Super Deformed: I guess I could talk about these cute little guys here. They’re non-scale “chibi” versions of various Mobile Suits from across the Universes. The older ones tended to be brick-like and kind of unposable, but the more recent ones have articulation bordering on HG quality. The most popular line right now consists of characters from Chinese mythology as played by Mobile Suits. It’s adorable and awesome.

I hope this guide helped you better understand grades and scales a bit better. It should help you when you’re stuck deciding what model you want to buy. Just remember-if it doesn’t say High Grade on the box, it isn’t High Grade in the box!

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One comment

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