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So You Want To Sell Your Built Models?

When I first returned to the hobby in 2006, after a 20+ year break, the thought of what was before me never crossed my mind. I just wanted to build a model. The idea that in a few short years I’d be building dozens of models a year did not seem to be even a possible reality. And certainly the notion of where I’d put all those models never even turned up as a blip on the radar.

However, it wasn’t long before I was drowning in models. With no real thought to intentionally trying to build in large quantities, I somehow ended up averaging about 25-30 built models per year, most all being 1/48 scale World War II aircraft. Spitfires, Hurricanes, P-40s, Airacobras, Thunderbolts and Lightnings, and other very, very frightening things emerged from my model desk.

By mid-2011, I was facing a conundrum. What could I possibly do with all of the models? My shelves were full, and I’d actually begun stacking newer models on older ones. There was not enough room in my ManCave to add more shelving either. It began to dawn on me that I’d likely have to start throwing away older builds to make room for newer ones. (The thought of slowing down never crossed my mind! 😉 )

Then my wife asked a question that at first I scoffed at.

Why not sell your built models?

The idea made me laugh a bit. Who in the world would want to buy a built model? The fun was in building and painting them, not buying them, right? I shook my head and thought “silly non-modeling human… how precious a thought.” But knowing that my wife is most often right, and I am not, I thought I’d check the Interwebs and see if possibly, perhaps, she may be on to something.

A quick visit to Ebay stunned me. There were LOADS of models for sale. The quality ranged from “drop dead gorgeous” to “did you actually look at what you were building?” Which told me I at least had a fighting chance…

So I jumped in. I started selling my built models on Ebay. And for some reason, people purchased them. And purchased them. And purchased them. 

Now, I had some things to learn. Shipping, packing, international orders, figuring out pricing… all were new ground to me. I had some bumps and scrapes along the way, but I quickly got into a rhythm.

I’ve now sold about 200 models, to customers all over the world. (Sound of kazoos as I toot my horn… 😀 ) And occasionally, friends will ask me “what do I need to know to sell my models online?” And while I’m sure there are many good methods, I outline for them the method that has worked well for me.

Pick A Place To Sell

There are many places to sell your models online. You can do it on a website you build yourself. You can pick some shopping cart software and start a store. There are groups on Facebook, and sites like Etsy. However, my choice was Ebay.

Now I know many people despise Ebay. I get that. However, I found it worked for me. For one, the amount of traffic that goes through the site daily is massive. I never have to think about “will someone see my model?” I know they will. I see it in the numbers. Not only people viewing the model, but also watching it. 

Additionally, Ebay makes it rather easy to do if you pay attention and read their documentation. Figuring shipping is not difficult at all. (More on that.) Collecting payments is easy. Uploading photos, and setting up your product is not a problem either. And it provides good protections for both buyers and sellers. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But the reality is no software platform for selling online is. You will pay fees (more on that too…), and at times you will be frustrated. But in all those sales, I’ve had one issue… and it was something Ebay pointed at the buyer, not me.

Still, I’m not advocating for Ebay. What I am saying is:

  • Choose a sales platform that has good traffic
  • Look for ease of use
  • Make note of fees
  • Insist on good protections for you AND the buyer

If you get those things sorted out, you are on your way. Of course, once you’ve picked a platform, you have to list your model.

Some Basics Of Listing

While not all customers give me feedback, many of the ones who do – often in personal messages – let me know they appreciate truthful listings first and foremost. I try to describe a model in realistic terms. If it has a smudge on the canopy, I point that out, and usually include a photo. I provide multiple, clear photos against a neutral background to show the model from every angle. 

Additionally, I always try to make information such as what kit was used, the scale of the model, and any particular features it may have very clear. Long time customers would recognize my consistent use of terms like “medium weathering” versus “heavy weathering”. Or saying I was “extremely happy” with a result versus “very happy”. Other information that helps sell the model might be particular aftermarket items used, or if the markings have some historical significance.

The key to the listing description is to sell the features of the product. But don’t oversell it. My preference is to avoid the use of “pro built” or “museum quality”, because I see so many (frankly) awful models that use those terms. The few times that people contact me and ask “are you a pro builder?”, I let them know that if they use “professional” to mean I derive part of my income from building and selling models, then yes, I suppose that term fits. But if they mean do I think I have some particular skill, or have awards, or wear my knit cap low over one eye as I sip my espresso… no, not at all. At best, I am a reasonably experienced modeler who does a pretty good job.

In other words, focus on selling the model in your listing. Consistent sales and good feedback over time will sell you.

The takeaways:

  • Write good, objective, truthful descriptions
  • Focus on the features and interesting points of the model
  • Use good, well lit photos against a neutral background, showing every angle, feature, and even flaw

Shipping The Model

Most of the folks that ask me about my experience selling are OK with all of the previous points. But when I get to the point of describing shipping, that is where they get scared and say “never mind”. 

And I’ll admit – when I first began selling my models, I lost my lunch on shipping for the first few. But I stuck with it, and over time, I learned some things that made the process much smoother.

First, and I can’t stress this enough, it really made my life easier to enter the box’s size and weight into Ebay and let them calculate shipping. This does several things. It eliminates people feeling you are gouging them for fixed rate shipping. They can go to the postal service’s website, and see that a box of the size and weight you list is the price they are being charged. Simple. (And for those of you thinking “but what about box costs, etc.”, read on…)

Second, packing the model to survive transport is key. At first, I would build a fairly complicated internal structure of cardboard to reinforce the inside of the box, and then used foam peanuts to stabilize the model. That worked good, but I did see occassional breakage. And it took about 45 minutes to pack up a model.

A few years ago, a client asked if I could ship his model in fiber fill, with no rigid framework. I was hesitant at first, but as he insisted. I went ahead and obliged. I first put a small amount of the fiber fill in a plastic grocery bag, put the model in, and added more fiber fill. This would contain any broken parts within the bag. I then added more fiber fill in the box, placed the bagged model inside, and finished filling it up.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results. My breakage rate went down from 5% to less than 1%. And clients loved the method. To top it off, I could pack a model in about 10 minutes.

Another key to packing is to use new boxes. I can’t stress this enough. A new box has a rigidity and structural soundness that a used one does not. Almost any used box already has a crease or weak point somewhere, and that is almost a guaranteed point of failure. Now you may be thinking “but new boxes cost money!” They can – but they don’t have to. While I do buy large quantities of boxes in certain sizes from time to time, most of what I use are Priority Mail boxes from the US Postal Service. They are free. (Just make sure you do NOT get the flat rate boxes.) As most of my sales are in the US, it works perfectly. New boxes also do another thing for me – they convey a sense of caring that the model gets to the customer in one piece. Almost half my buyers are repeat customers, and several have told me that they appreciate something as simple as new boxes. Any cost is worth it.

Third point- I always use tracking. Period. No exceptions. This protects the me, the seller, against charges of “it never arrived”, and it also lets the buyer know when the model will arrive, and at what point it is at any given time in the process. And it doesn’t have to be the “sign for” type of tracking. Just simply seeing that the package was delivered at the front door is good for most buyers.

Of course, the biggest thing people want to know is…

How Do You Price The Model?

I’m not sure why this seems to trip folks up so often. I think, at the root of it, is a misconception about how things are assigned value. In a strict business sense, value is generally labor+material+ancillary costs = price. (I know that’s not an MBA proof equation, but it works for these purposes.) Modelers that I talk to tend to overvalue the labor part. “Surely my hours and hours and hours spent at the workbench are worth at least $20 per hour!” That may be, BUT… if you spent 50 hours on that model, and you price it at $1000, and you’re trying to sell a 1/48 scale WWII fighter, guess what your effective hourly rate will be?

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Because no one will buy it. (Unless you are a well known name, and at that point they’re not buying the model, but YOU.)

Plus, I always thought about the fact that I would build models anyway. It’s not as if I decided “well, if no one buys my models, I’ll quit the hobby and take up bird watching.” I’m going to build anyway. And for years, my rate was zero dollars an hour anyway because the models sat on my shelf. 

To nail down a price, here’s what has helped me.

First, I factor in the cost of the kit. That is the baseline. If I can’t get at least that back, it may not be a model I want to sell. Next, I add in aftermarket costs – resin, photoetch, decals, and anything else. And I limit my buying to items that will only help the sale of the model. A model that could have a good chance of getting 2 or 3 times the kit cost may run into issues if you buy so much aftermarket that it exceeds the cost of the kit itself.

Second, I have been able to figure out an average cost of supplies per model. I’ve tracked this for years, factoring in how much I spend on paint, glue, brushes, washes, shipping material, etc. each year, versus how many models I build. The number has hovered around an average of $8 per model for the last 5 years. So I factor that into the price. (Please feel free to use that number too, as a starting point!)

Third, I make sure I have a good understanding of the fees whatever services I use to sell will charge me. I know Ebay will take a slice, and Paypal will to. So I factor that in. I’ve never understood when folks complain about fees like that, when it is simply just another line items cost to be factored in.

Shipping is not factored in to the cost. Because I enter that into my selling site (Ebay, in this case), I always know shipping will be accounted for. And “handling and packing” is factored into the second point above.

With those three things factored in, I thus know the minimum cost I can charge for the model to break even.

At that point, the rest is simply me determining how much profit I want to make. On most models, I try to target about 50% profit as my starting bid. So if a model’s overall cost – factoring in the items above – is $50, then I set the starting bid at $75. From that point on, the market will tell me the value of the model.

I’ve had some models I thought were my very best work go for minimum bid. And others that I thought were simply so-so go for 3-4 times the opening bid. 

You may assign a different value, of course. You may choose a 100% profit, and sell at a fixed cost. You may want to simply get back the money you spent, and go for a lower number. It’s entirely up to you. Just do keep in mind that the value is set by you AND the eventual buyer. If no one buys it, you know your value was set too high.

Wrapping Up

Of course, there are a lot of other factors that go into the process, but most are simply subsets for one of the above points. And different people sell for different reasons. I sell to stay in the hobby, and to provide additional income for my family. Model building for me is a part time job, really. (One that I do love though!) For some folks, it may simply be a way to get a little extra cash, and keep the shelves cleared off.

Also, it’s not for everyone. It can be frustrating. While 99% of my client interactions are all positive, the 1% that remains can make me question why I decided to do this in the first place. And I can testify to the fact that if you really go down the rabbit hole of selling too deep, it can rob the hobby of any fun. Working out of that can be difficult. It was only about a year ago I was considering giving up the hobby altogether because I’d gotten so engrossed in selling. (Happily, I did not do so… 🙂 ) So be aware there is a “dark side” to it that can sneak up on you.

I do hope you will view the ideas I’ve outlined  as a starting point. It is certainly not the only method, but simply an method. What works well for me may seem to be the worst thing ever for someone else. (Which is OK!) And I always want to refine my methods and thinking, so please do leave comments if you have ideas, or things that have worked for you.

Finally, you may wonder why I did not address commission builds. I have done those too – about 1 in 4 models I’ve sold has been a commission build. And that process does have its own nuances.

But that is best saved for another blog entry… 😉

Image is from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales.

39 thoughts on “So You Want To Sell Your Built Models?”

  1. Excellent article. I am in same boat as writer. I had no room, the models I kept no-one but me appreciated, the hobby got to expensive, and I needed some cash to survive. So I started to sell on Ebay. I also build for others per request. I made the same exact mistakes, ran into the same barriers, ended at the same place. Something the author did not touch on is the sense of satisfaction you get from someone else appreciating your work. The customer satisfaction factor is very very rewarding. Knowing my model is sitting on someone’s display case in some part of the world you have never been is awesome. Its great when repeat customers look for your work and follow your work. That is what really drives me. I have even developed good long distance friendships with customers around the world who then work with me on a project providing research, tips, suggestions, and requests as the build progresses. It is so cool! This was such a “lone” hobby for most of my life, but now it is not. It also pushed me to make better models, and to take more challenges in order to meet demanding needs of customer base and the market. Great article.

    1. Thanks Paul! Glad you liked it.

      I can relate to what you describe – I’ve had the same feeling. Knowing someone else enjoys the models really means a lot. And I’ve made some good friends along the way too. A few have even sent me photos of the model sitting on their shelf, which is really cool to see.

  2. Hi Jon
    Your experience spookily mirrors mine…almost to the letter. I too came back to modelling in 2013 after a 30+ year break and launched into building the models of my youth, namely Airfix 1:24 scale aircraft. A Spitfire 1A , Hurricane, Messerschmitt and, Ju87 later…well that’s quite a bit of space in 1:24 and the wife was asking when we could refurbish the spare room.
    I was reconciled to having to add my built models to the bin to be able to continue the FW190, Harrier and, jewel in the crown, 1:24 Mosquito she’d bought me for Christmas when she asked the same question as your wife “Why not sell them?” Same answer from me in condescending tone “Darling, the joy is in building the things. No one will want them when they’re built”
    How wrong was I? All my built models are sold and I’m on my first “commission job” that 1:24 Mosquito for a great guy who bought my Messerschmitt and wants the Mossie as an NFII.
    I’m gobsmacked and also happy that someone else besides me appreciates the models and the work that’s gone into them.

      1. Thanks Jon most useful. Just starting a commission build of an Airfix 1:24 Mosquito in NFII mode.
        No time for the day job at the moment

          1. I really “loved” the blog, however I have been building models for 50+ years “all” types from plastic to stick and tissue, the ladder taking days if not longer because I want them to fly like the box says it will,most depending on design fail! But I am good at the plastics, had a couple used for museum displays..I actually thrive on the F-1 cars past and future. I need serious help to get it together but I have a 7 or so models finished really well.. Help brother by a fellow scale modeler!!
            Kenny “nitro” G

    1. Jon,thanks for your article. You gave me a good shot in the arm I needed, I build,collect and think i’ll live to be 200 years old.Then reality hit, i’m 70 now,I have a 12×24 shed full of planes….firetrucks….tractor trailers…..tanks……..heavy equipment. And dopey me its all 1 32ndscale. I have been build/collect for 50 years,now its time to say goodbye.I want to sell it all and give it to my two grandaughters I thought about what you said,about smudges and tell it like is.I build neat n clean I don’t wheather.For some reason I figured no one would give a second look. Thank you for lighting my fire.

    2. Excellent write-up sir. Getting ready to retire and trying to figure out what hobby I could start (that might pay as well). I remembered the models I used to build way back ‘when’ and decided to do a google search on model building for money and I happened to come across your blog. My 1st thought was model ship building (wooden), you know, the kind of wooden ships that can take months to build but after reading your blog… perhaps plastic might be the better option… lol

      You posted a ‘boat-load’ of information…. Thnx,

      1. Glad you enjoyed that! And thank you for the kind words.

        It is a way to make money, but it can be a long haul for sure! Let me know how it goes for you.



    3. Thank you for your article on selling scale models. I’ve been building, collecting, buying and selling models for 25 years. I too selected eBay and now eBid and sell scale models on. Unfortunately, I’m faced with giving it all up due to the new Arizona sales tax law requiring sales tax on all sales to anywhere in the world. True. I can get my state sales tax license, but it throws out problems that I can ill afford. Managing my state and federal income taxes annually is one of them. Although eBay manages their obligations for me quite well, my part of the filing will put me out of selling because of income. It is sad, that used scale models or used anything for that matter would be taxed over and over when sold. I believe that my “garage sales type” model buying and selling wasn’t even thought of or considered by the supreme court decision that caused all of this across the country. I would appreciate a followup to this article, regarding state sales tax and federal income taxes. Sincerely……Larry

    4. Thanks for the article, Jon. There are a lot of crazy people on here. 32nd scale… What were you thinking?? Those are huge!!! I know because that was my scale of choice forty-some years ago when I started my collection. I always said that I would build them after I retire and I have started… I do WWll fighters, jets, 48 scale bombers and some boats. It always amazed me that a model that cost me $10-15.00 years ago now cost $15-20.00 dollars to replace the decals…
      We flooded during Harvey and my first thought was my model collection in my shed… we had 2.5’ of water in our house and lost a lot of stuff but I could replace most of that…
      My grandkids probably have enough in their rooms and the 60 plus I have in my room will have to be dealt with in the event of a move…
      thanks again.

    5. This is absolutely and exactly what i’ve been feeling at this point in time! Having been scrolling through acres of photography on instagram for ages, covering anything from unpainted to questionably painted to incredibly well painted Zoid kits (an old Japanese type of plastic snap-together model which i gave up on in favour of other pursuits decades ago), i just started thinking that i’d like to do that again. and maybe do it as well as i can this time; get the badger airbrush, buy the acrylic model paints, get some decent dry brushes, and start rooting around for other tricks and tips that i’d need to make a few of the kits look as good as possible.

      this post seems like a really well structured how-to on the only way i can think of to justify these purchases (and save shelf space!), by selling them after building and painting them.

      Many thanks!

    6. Wow, so glad I stumbled onto this really helpful article. Am in my 60s and stopped building to raise a family 30+ years ago. Now I’ve got time for myself and have just started to accumulate mostly WW2 airplane kits and the paraphernalia, but was wondering where I’d keep the finished models since mostly, its going to be just me admiring them and I have little space. So now I have the fire lit and will go at it full blast. Thank you!

    7. I’m very new to the hobby, but I find myself already running out of space. I like the idea of selling but my modeling skills are mediocre at the moment (but improving steadily 😁). Is there a market for lower quality models? I’d be more than happy to sell for less than the cost of the kit, and i would be upfront about my experience…. Or do you recommend waiting untill I have a few more builds under my belt?

      1. It all depends on the buyer, and how they view the quality of your work.

        My main concern would be setting a precedent that your work is low quality, and as things changed – and you charged more – people would pull back from that because of the original perception.

        I’d recommend working skills and then selling. The critical factor in that in my opinion though is being very, very objective about your work. Building for fun is one things. Building to sell is another endeavor. In that regard, every model must be evaluated with the question “How can I do this better”, and also by very critical comparison to known leaders in the field.

        I hope this gives you some information to think on. Ultimately, of course, the decision is yours. Good luck!

    8. Thank you for the article! I spent a good portion of my childhood building plastic models (mostly planes) and some of the later ones turned out pretty good. My models spent the next 20 years inhabiting my old room at my parents house, and as they are now moving, the models have come back to me. I don’t “want” them (nor do I have a good place to display them), but it would also be hard to just throw them away. But knowing that there is actually a market out there for them has given me some motivation to try to sell them, at least someone else can appreciate them that way!

    9. hi Jon, i read your HELPFUL articles and viewed your youtube videos too. So i’ve decided–i want to make a living out of doing commissions! Here’s why….I’ve been out of work long time even before COVID hit. And i’ve been doing commission builds on & off for 20 years up ’til that point. My clients like my skilled work, and they almost nearly never haggle over MY price which is a dream!!

      But here’s the thing. In all this time, I get my clients ONLY thru word of mouth and i had a contact email and some business cards to hand out, but that’s it. Now here’s where i need your help. I been an Ebay user 15+ years where i buy kits, personal use items, etc. Now I’ve ALSO been following a number of sellers of built models. There’s something worrying i’ve noticed though. You see them re-listing over and over the same built models and never get a sale. Their quality is there for sure, and they’ve even cut the price too but no takers!!! Jon, i’m not sure if the problem is that Ebay is too overrated or their platform is not too user friendly…but whatever it is, I don’t see Ebay as my first choice to sell my models.

      Can you share sites that are simple, attractive and effective conduits to selling models??? I don’t care if the suggestions are biased or whatever, because i value your expertise and views like you can’t believe! If you feel you can’t be detailed with a reply here, feel free to make a Youtube video. Thank you Jon in advance 😉

      1. Thanks for your kind words. I am grateful, and I’m happy you found the content helpful.

        Here are some thoughts in no particular order
        – Give clients an incentive to be repeat customers. it might be through offers of free shipping, or add-ons that go above and beyond a base build. The best customers are the ones who have already purchased from you. Give them a reason to repeat purchases.
        – Give incentive to existing clients to share who you are and what you do. Provide extra business cards, and give them a reason to share the work. That could be an offer of free shipping on the next order, or 10% off, or whatever. A happy client is a great sales avenue.
        – This website ( was primarily started as a tool for my commission work. I’d spent years blogging on, a Christian based modeling site. When circumstances required me to monetize my work, I shifted to this one. At the time, I have a page for Commission Builds, which gained quite a bit of Google traffic. By blogging my work, I was in essence advertising my services, and showing in detail how it looked. I had a contact form for estimates too. The basic notion is that I used the site to showcase the work – not the commission builds. When I made the case for the former, the latter followed.
        – Be prepared to spend quite a while building up a solid customer base. It took me several years to get to a point where most of my sales (Ebay or commission) were from a solid group of people. (15-20 of them)
        – For a commission builder, Ebay is not a place to make money. It is your paid advertising. I always used the bid only avenue, and not a fixed price. My starting pricing was generally total costs plus 30%, more or less. Some models went for that price. Others went for 4 or 5 times that price. But my goal was not to make a lot of money selling models on Ebay. My goal, over time, was to showcase my work and have it available for sale. Serious commission customers track Ebay, and when they see good work, they will monitor, and maybe buy it. Inevitably, some of them will send a message. “Do you do commission work?”
        – Do not mention you do commission work on Ebay. You can run afoul of their rules when you do that. Instead, include a flyer of card in a purchase letting them know you are available for work. You’re basically getting to pre-qualified buyers that way.

        I hope these help spark some ideas. Best wishes.

    10. Hi Jon, first I want to thank you for your article. My father introduced me to model building when I was about 10 years old and I loved it, and I’ve built all kinds of models since and I got kind good at it. Unfortunately all the models I had built are all gone. I’m 55 now and have never worked a job that I truly love and is personally satisfying. At this point in my life I’m set on being true to myself and find something that I love and good at to do from now on and make at least a meager living doing. Model building was my first and probably only choice. I’ve been researching on how to make my love and talent as a model builder into something I can make a meager living from, then I came upon your article. Its a great idea and something I’d be willing to put the work needed to make it really work for me. So I have questions for you. Are most of the models that sell, that buyers are looking for, only those that are considered vintage or discontinued so to speak, because the ones I’ve built many years ago are gone. Or can I have success in selling recently built models and those that I’ll be hopefully building in the future if I feel this could work. On average, or whatever you’re able to make from doing this, what can I roughly make if I decide to make it a full time thing, something I devote most, if not all of my time to, make it a life’s passion so to speak? Anything you can share with me will be greatly appreciated, thanks Jon.

      1. Hi Jose,

        Thanks so much for your kind words, and for reading my article. I am grateful.

        Regarding the types of models people like to buy – my experience was that it was generally based on liking the subject (Spitfire, P-51, whatever) and liking the details and finish. I got better results from newer more detailed models than from nostalgic ones.

        As to how much you can make – that’s highly subjective. The most I ever made in a single year was about $3900. That was building about 35 models, over half of which were commission builds. (Thus I was able to charge more.) Even if I’d been at it full time, I doubt I’d have been able to top $10-$12K annually.

        If you build a very good reputation, you could likely make more. However, most folks who can ask for the really high prices for kits are also known for print and/or video work. At that point, it’s the name that is being sold, not so much the model.

        My recommendation would be to start with builds that you sell on Ebay, and get a feel for the market.

        Most of the folks I know who are full time model builders make the bulk of their income from sources like Patreon, YouTube, personal appearances, and print publication work. The actual sale of the models is generally one of the smaller revenue streams.

        That said – the market is weird and hard to predict. Good luck in your endeavor!

    11. Thanks, Jon, for the very informative article. I built plastic model kits, typically Revell and Monogram 1:48 scale WW2 aircraft with my dad when I was a kid in the 1970s. Those are priceless memories of time well spent with him. I recently began building again after about 35+ years out of the hobby, but I am already starting to run out of space, hence my Google search for selling my models. I was excited to read your article and learn that there is a market for built models that I might be able to use to continue my hobby while not overloading my house. Great information and much thanks.

      One question though, what brand of fiber fill do you use for packing and in what quantity/volume/weight do you buy it?

      Thanks very much.

      Rob McCandless

    12. I just came across this article. I started to build models about 15 years ago. Like the author, In the beginning I made them just for me. At some point, I started to sell them on Ebay. They are mostly highly modified GT cars (24 hours Le Mans, ALMS, FIA GT etc.) I soon found out, that most people on Ebay are either professional sellers or bargain hunters. Now there is nothing to be said against any of the two. But buying a model for 600 Euros and then arguing about the shipping costs (22 instead of 25) seems strange to me. Saying that you drove a 996 GT3 R at Daytona but that you are not willing to pay 400 Euros for a handbuilt 1:12 scale GT3 R also makes me wonder a bit. Certain things just have their price and Ebay just doesn’t represent a real market for unique scale models.

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