Models are miniature three-dimensional representations of physical objects, built to a specific scale.
They are produced for several purposes; many industries such as engineering or architecture require detailed models to evaluate designs and sell their ideas to prospective clients.
Others use working models to test and demonstrate new processes, or to help develop prototypes for new products.
Many models are built as a hobby by amateur model-makers and are used in various ways such as war gaming, working model railways, or for display purposes. Some scale models are also classed as toys, whereas others are designed purely for the adult collectors' markets.
Miniature homes containing items of furniture and miniature figures of people and animals have been made for thousands of years.
The earliest known examples were found in the Egyptian tombs of the Old Kingdom, created nearly five thousand years ago. These wooden models of servants, furnishings, boats, livestock and pets placed in the pyramids are believed to have been created for religious purposes.
he ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures also built model ships as both burial offerings and children’s toys.
The earliest known European doll houses date back to the 16th century and were cabinet display cases made up of rooms containing extremely detailed furnishings and accessories.
The cabinets were built with architectural details and filled with miniature household items and were solely the playthings of adults.
These cabinet houses were trophy collections owned by Europe’s wealthy elite and were often worth the price of a modest full-size house's construction.
Such early doll houses were individual and hand-made to order, but as the industrial revolution changed manufacturing processes and opened up new markets, companies began to mass-produce model houses.
Notable German dollhouse manufacturers included Christian Hacker, Moritz Gottschalk, Elastolin, and Moritz Reichel. The list of important English companies includes Siber & Fleming, Evans & Cartwright, and Lines Brothers.
By the end of the 19th century American dollhouses were being made in the United States by the Bliss Manufacturing Company.
This period also saw the production of model trains become popular.
In 1891 the German company Marklin producing a set of trains with standardised track measurements which could be added to.
The hobby of model railways took off in England during the Edwardian period, helped in large by W.J Bassett-Lowke who saw the potential for detailed model trains as marketed to adults rather than as children’s toys. His models were designed by Henry Greenly, who developed a more standard system of scales and founded the first periodical devoted to the hobby, Model Railways and Locomotive Magazine, which was first published in 1909.
Other manufacturers soon appeared, including the Liverpool-based company Meccano Ltd who produced its first model trains under the trade name Hornby in 1920. They went on to become synonymous with the hobby and are perhaps the most celebrated of all model train manufacturers.
Model car kits began to appear in the years after World War II with Ace and Berkeley wooden model cars.
Revell pioneered the plastic model car with its famous Maxwell kit derived from a toy. Derk Brand, from England, pioneered the first real plastic kit, a 1932 Ford Roadster for Revell. He was also famous for developing a line of 1/32 scale model car kits in England for the Gowland brothers. These kits were later introduced by Revell in the US.
In 1939 the Airfix company was founded by Hungarian businessman Nicholas Kove as an inflatable toy manufacturer. In 1949 it was asked to produce a promotional model of a Ferguson tractor, which was then sold in kit form through toy stores.
In 1954 it produced a model kit of Sir Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind, and a year later its first aircraft kit was released, a model of the Supermarine Spitfire, in 1/72 scale. It then went on to produce a wide range of vehicle kits, dominating the market during the 1960s and 70s, and in 2006 was purchased by Hornby Hobbies Ltd.
Popular types of model
Model cars are miniature representations of automobiles. They were originally sold as toys to children, but became popular with collectors and now miniature cars are produced specifically for the collectors’ market.
Notable model car manufacturers include Corgi, Dinky, Matchbox and Mattel (Hotwheels).
Other model vehicles, such as tractors, buses and trucks are also popular with collectors.
Trains and railways
Collectors may collect whole railways and everything to do with them as part of their model train collection. Locomotives, rolling stock, tracks, train cars, streetcars, signalling, buildings, lights, landscape features.
These model railways then fit together and often run on electricity or clockwork. Some model railways can represent entire railways in the real world, down to the smallest detail.
Notable model train manufacturers include Hornby, Marklin and Athearn.
Ships and boats
Model ships are generally created to exact scale of a real ship. Sometimes these are used on water and raced. Sometimes they are just for display, and some are placed inside bottles. This is another area in which assembling one’s own model is a popular activity.
Model ships are sometimes used for naval war gaming, to recreate historical battles.
Model aircraft are available as both static models and flying models. Both can be available as unassembled kits, as some collectors enjoy the process of putting a model aircraft together themselves, right down to painting it. They can represent scaled down versions of various real aircraft. Flying models are generally radio controlled. A well known manufacturer of model aircraft is Airfix.
Guide to Collecting
Model collecting is a popular hobby for both adults and children, and there are numerous categories in which to specialise such as model trains, cars, boats, aircraft, soldiers, maquettes (often similar to collectible action figures), doll houses and buildings.
Within each of these categories there are numerous niches, and many collectors choose to focus their collections on a specific area.
Models are often purchased as model-kits, designed for enthusiasts to construct themselves.
They can be made from plastic, die-cast metal, resin or wood, and often contain high levels of intricate detail. There is a large community of model makers and collectors worldwide, with a number of collectors clubs and organisations within each specialist area, such as the Train Collectors Association, the Trix-Twin Railway Collectors' Association, and the Lionel Collectors Club of America.
There are also trade shows and conventions, and a wide variety of regular publications dedicated to the hobby.
As a general rule, the rarer the model, the more valuable. Antique and vintage examples in good condition are usually worth more than modern models.
Some models were one-off, built as a demonstration or a museum display piece. Others were mass produced in large volumes, to sell to children as toys for example.
The world’s most expensive model
The world’s most expensive model is a 1:18 scale replica Bugatti Veyron car, created by designers Robert Gulpen and Stuart Hughes. The model is made from solid 24-carat gold and platinum, and adorned with 7.2 carat single cut flawless diamonds. Titled the ‘Bugatti Veyron Diamond Limited Edition’, only three models were ever made at a price of £2m each.
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