British Equine Collectors' Forum

For All British Model Horse Collectors

Buying Models From Abroad

Buying models from abroad can be almost as easy as buying a model from another collector in this country.  However, there are a few considerations you should think about before buying from abroad... 
  • Firstly, it is not always as cheap as you may think, remember postage will cost you more that buying in this country, you will also have to pay for changing money to foreign currency (see postage for your model) and you may also be charged by Customs (this can amount to a lot of money – often as much as £40 for a parcel worth $150 = £100). 
  •  Secondly, you may have to do quite a bit of investigating to find the models that you are after. 
  • Thirdly, remember that buying from abroad will take quite a time. Do check that you are getting a better deal by buying from abroad rather than in this country.  If you only want one model it may well be worth your while to get together a group of purchasers and share the expenses.  One last introductory point is insurance.  If a parcel being posted between two places in this country becomes damaged you can claim damages from the Post Office.  However, if a parcel coming from say America is damaged you may not be able to claim unless it is insured.  This is because it is often impossible to prove where the damage was done and the post office here will not pay up for damage that may have occurred abroad.  In this Guide it is assumed that abroad is America (although the information here applies to most countries).

Finding your Models

Assuming that you are looking for new models, the first stage is to find an address for your supplier.  The best places to find these are either in American Model Magazines or on the Internet.  It is not always necessary to subscribe to a American Magazine as many collectors in England already do and you may be able to borrow a magazine.  Otherwise ask someone who already purchases from America to recommend a supplier.  Many of the American suppliers of new models stock several makes usually including Breyers, but prices do vary so it is sensible to shop around for what you want.  Another point to note is that some of the current Breyer boxes frequently cause yellow marks or rubs.  Some companies will check for these faults for you which can help avoid disappointment when the model arrives.  When you send for a pricelist, check that the company will send models to the British Isles and also remember that English stamps cannot be used outside this country.  If you need to send an S.A.E. there are two ways around the problem.  Either use an International Reply Coupon (from you’re local Post Office) which covers surface post from almost any country or include a dollar bill (see paying for your models).  Airmail letters take upwards from a week to arrive abroad and if sending surface it will take longer.

Ordering Your Models

Most suppliers of new models will provide an order form.  Ensure that you fill in all required information and don’t forget to put England, Scotland, Wales etc. on the address).  If you don’t your order may be very delayed.  It is always helpful to list alternative choices as companies do sometimes run out of stock or models become discontinued.  Don’t forget to add postage costs to the total price.  There are two types of postage for models; either Airmail (which is quick but very expensive) or Surface (sometimes termed as sending by sea) which can take several weeks to even months !.

Paying For your Models

There are five ways to pay for models from America;

  •  Sending cash dollars.  This is the least secure way.  If your letter is lost in the post you lose your money.  It is however the easiest way to send small amounts of money (e.g. a couple of dollars for show entries or to pay for return postage on a letter).  Dollars are available from the Foreign Till at most banks or travel agents.  You will have to pay commission so if you are going to need several small amounts do it as one transaction rather than one per an amount.  If you specifically want certain denomination notes you may need to book in advance or take larger denominations and get them changed elsewhere (many places will do this free of charge).  If sending more that a few dollars try to get your letter insured.  If you have family or friends who go on holiday to USA see if they have any cash dollars left over before they change them at the bank
  • International Money Order.  These are again available from Foreign Tills at banks but depending on the bank they cost between £7-£11 each so are not cheap if you are only sending for one or two models.  They are, however, much safer than sending cash, as if they are lost the bank will replace them.  Remember to obtain your Money Order in the correct currency for the country ( e.g.. if your buying from the USA, ask for a USA Dollar Draft)  you are buying models the from, and that they will normally take a couple of days to order from  your bank.
  • Using a Credit Card.  This is the simplest and safest way of paying and most suppliers of new models will take them, (Barclaycard is normally called Visa in America and Access is MasterCard).  There will be a charge made by the credit card company for a foreign transaction.

Tip: If your buying items using your credit card and the company does Not have a SECURE order form online, ALWAYS send your credit card number in 2 separate emails for example:-   1st half of the card number  with the expiry date in the first message  -  and the 2nd half of the card number in the second message with the card type and name as it appears on the card. 

  • Paying with a cheque from an American bank.  If you have a relative who lives in America or know someone with an American bank account you may be able to pay them (with English money) and get them to write a cheque (in dollars) for you.  This will save you the expense of buying dollars or International Money Order.  However, many companies wait for the cheque to clear before they send the models.
  • PayPal. This is a way of using a credit card to pay for items from personal sellers who could not normally except credit cards. PayPal is a internet company which act as a ‘bank’ between transactions. PayPal is a good way to buy and sell second-hand models and other items between fellow hobbyists.  To sign up with PayPal go to:  www.paypal.com and register your name, address, credit card and bank details. It takes about 48 hours to get it all ’set up’. There is a small fee for credit cards transactions. Also if you don’t get the model or item and have a dispute with the seller after payment has been made, PayPal will step in and offer a ‘mediation service’ on your request, it could take about a month but they should be able to help get your money back in most circumstances.

Buying Second-hand Models

In America these are often referred to as Secondary Market Models.  Several of the larger mail order companies have a varied selection.  However, do remember that some of these models can cost several hundred dollars (yes, even Breyers!).  These can normally be ordered on the company’s usual order form just like brand new ones.

There are many Internet sites that cater just for buying and selling second-hand models, these include Ebay, MH$P or Haynet Exchange.     

However, if you are looking for real bargains you will need to scan all the sales lists you can find.  Before sending any money, write, or e.mail, to the person and ask if they still have the models, and ask about CONDITION - remember to ask very clear question about the overall condition of the model, the more information you get the less chance of a difference of opinion in the long run with the seller, and then if your happy ask them if they will hold onto them until you send the money.  This protects you from the people who just don’t bother to reply or who are not willing to send to this country.  If you’re writing a letter also check how much the postage costs will be.  Do remember to enclose either a dollar bill or an International Reply Coupon (IRC), if your emailing this is not necessary!.  Don’t expect a reply too quickly as some of the isolated parts of America only get post delivered once a week and it can take people several weeks to write back, even e.mail messages may take a while to get answered.  Once you are sure the models you want are available write back in a reasonable length of time.  (If you leave it too long they may think that you aren’t interested after all and sell them to someone else).  Most ‘private sellers’ will not be able to take credit cards, which reduces the methods of payment, unless they except PayPal. 

With ‘private sellers’ you may be able to work a trade, e.g. sending a British make of model in exchange.  This needs careful planning, as it can be very complicated.  Remember that some makes of British model are available in America at similar prices, as they do not have to pay VAT.  It must be arranged fully before either party sends any models.  The normal rules of selling apply especially the description of the model must be accurate (it is really best to send a photograph).  If sending very fragile models always send them by Airmail and pack them well.  Also get them insured in case they arrive broken, then you do not have to pay for a replacement out of your own pocket.  Do not expect a trade to be a quick method of obtaining models as it may take up to a year to complete.

If you’ve never delt with a particular seller before, and not sure if they are ‘trustworthy’,  try asking fellow members for ‘references’,  and to make sure that person is not a ‘con-artist’  - unfortunately they have been know to be out there - just use your common sense and if in doubt ask !  

A Few Hints On Custom Duty

Customs duty is charged on what appears to be random parcels sent to this country.  Some parcels appear to be more likely to be charged than others are.  The first thing to remember is that Customs Charges are worked out on the declared value of the contents, therefore the lower the value of your parcel the lower the customs charges will be (can be £50 on a $200 parcel).  There is a down side to this – you need to remember that postage costs are high so it is not economical to have each model sent separately.  Although if you are putting a group order together it may be worth getting the models sent to the individual people rather than having them all sent to you. 

Parcels valued at under $50 are perhaps likely to be charged, but this is not a hard and fast rule.  Items coming by sea don’t appear to be charged as frequently.  Finally, you could ask the seller to undervalue the contents of the parcel, while this may get you a lesser customs charge, if the parcel is damaged you will not get back the full value of the contents.  The main area where this ploy will come in is if you are buying very expensive discontinued models and don’t want to end up paying out large amounts in duty.  However, do be careful as if items are damaged you will not get the whole amount they are worth, provided they are insured.

This guide was originally prepared by Sarah Clements. 

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