Kudos to Thames and Kosmos for getting their chemistry sets on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. They have these three introductory sets in the store: the “Dangerous Book for Boys Classic Chemistry Science Kit,” “The Chem C500,” and “The Chem c1000.” Sadly, the chemistry set has to compete with the Xbox One and the Play Station 4 so, if there’s any money left over for after Christmas sales you’ll at least have the opportunity to browse the three sets in the store—pick up the box, feel its weight, read the back of the box for the contents and information about the experiments that can be done with these kits. You’ll have time to use your Google-fu to look up reviews for the kits. And, with some of the sets, you can take a look at sample pages from the manual such as the Chem c1000 set. If you happen to see these sets on clearance, then you can make an informed decision whether or not to spend your after-Christmas-sale-money to purchase one of these kits. 

One kit I don't think I've ever seen on store shelves is the Chem C3000. You can't pick up the box and feel its heft while looking at the box cover for more information about the chemistry set. If you purchased the Chem C1000 and liked it, you may wish to upgrade to the Chem C3000. You'll notice it's kinda pricey at $224.90 at walmart.com, but you may be lucky enough to find it on after Christmas clearance. Before you decide to buy this chemistry set, you can take a look at a review here and sample pages from the manual here

The folks at Thames and Kosmos generously sent me a reviewer’s sample of the kit. When the kit first arrived by UPS I was a bit concerned because when I lifted the box it sounded like there was broken glass inside. To my relief I found that when I opened the box to inspect the contents, it turns out that there are three steel rods that serve as feet for the tripod base rolling loose in their compartment.

As you can see from the sample manual pages, the set is fairly complete. The kit comes with a 192-page manual including an index, rules for safe experimentation, list of hazardous substances, and 333 experiments. The following are snapshots of the contents of the kit:

The tubes with the red caps contain the chemicals. Some of the tubes, for example sulfur, are only partially filled with just enough chemical to do the experiments in the kit.

The glass tubing and test tubes are glass, but the "graduated beaker" is plastic--it's a urine sample cup.

The tripod has several uses such as heating test tubes, and a clever rig for titration using the syringe, rubber tubing, a glass bead and the pointed glass tube. The burner stand and wire mesh are used for heating substances in the 100 ml Erlenmeyer flask or the evaporating dish.

There are a few chemicals that are not included in the kit:

Hydrogen Peroxide

The above are ordinary household substances that you probably already have.

Hydrochloric Acid—you can get this at Lowes or other hardware store sold as muriatic acid

Sodium Hydroxide—also known as lye is actually pretty hard to find any more. I checked three sections at Lowes in cleaning, plumbing, and paint. The paint section was a surprise to me, but according to the assistant at Lowes it can be used to remove mold. I also read online somewhere that pool supply store might have it. I checked one near where I work. They didn't have it. If you want to get it you’ll either have to get it online or at a local soap making shop.

Silver Nitrate—it is very difficult to get locally. I tried a standard pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy neither had it in stock but it could be ordered with a prescription from a doctor. I also tried an animal hospital but they only had it in minute amounts. There are a few experiments where you’ll want to have Silver Nitrate so you’ll most likely have to order it online from, for example, United Nuclear.

Looking through the index for sodium hydroxide, experiment 45 uses it to demonstrate the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen. This can be done with magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) instead. In experiment 101, sodium hydroxide solution is tested for conductivity compared to sugar dissolved in water and hydrochloric acid to demonstrate that acids or bases will conduct electricity. You can substitute household ammonia for sodium hydroxide solution. Experiment 177 is similar to the experiment done in this article. The syringe, rubber tubing, a glass bead and the pointed glass tube from the kit are used instead of a burette. Again, you can replace the sodium hydroxide solution with ammonia. It probably won’t be necessary to try to find lye for the experiments in this kit.

On the other hand it might be worth the effort to find silver nitrate to perform the experiments that use silver nitrate. If you are going to order silver nitrate from United Nuclear then you can order lye along with it.

For a chemistry set, it is actually very good. The manual is quite good as well. Some of the chemicals not included in the kit may be difficult to find locally, but can be ordered online. Given the lab ware and amounts of chemicals that are included in kit, the $224.90 could seem a bit pricey, but if you want this chemistry set it might be well worth the wait for after Christmas clearance sales when businesses cut their prices to get rid of inventory they didn't sell for Christmas.