A History of Scale Models as Toys

A History Of Scale Models As Toys

Many of older and newer generations are grown up loving and playing scale modeled toys. And it is still the favorite hobby for many, despite all advancements in the technology, ever-growing gaming industry, and cellphone takeover. Various kinds of vehicles like cars, trains, airplanes, ships, houses and buildings, living creatures like people and animals, rockets and spacecraft, as well as robot models are among the most common forms.



Scale models have been around for many centuries. They were primarily used for military purposes in the times of war. Leonardo da Vinci is known as one of the greatest in this field, and he had offered models for paddle boats and catapults, and even mechanized robots during his lifetime.



According to Wikipedia, a scale model is most generally a physical representation of an object that maintains accurate relationships between all important aspects of the model, although absolute values of the original properties need not be preserved. Various size rations are applied depending on the object. For example, 1:43 scale is the most common for die-cast cars.




One of Leonardo da Vinci Models by ITALERI Company from Italy

Image source: http://www.scalemodelnews.com


In the twentieth century, scale models turned to a common hobby and became commercially available. Until mid-1930s models were generally made of wood. In 1936, Frog Company in the UK was the first to manufacture plastic models, and in late 1940s American companies like Renewal and Hawk entered the field. A few years later, Revell and Airfix in the US used injection-molding for making toys, and it was like a revolution in the scale modeling industry. Companies like Monogram and Tamiya, who were using wood for making their products in the 1940s, turned to plastic models after this revolution.


In the 1960s there was a sudden boom in the scale modeling hobby industry. You could see models for different vehicles that were seen on various media, like TV programs as well as science fiction. Most notably, AMT acquired the Star Trek license in the late 1960s and offered various kits based on the series. Aurora, Monogram, AMT, Matchbox, Italeri, Fujimi, Bandai, Academy and Heller SA were among the most prominent companies in various countries and some of them are still active. Modeling cars from infamous brands like Ford and Mercedes was very common and you could see numerous airplane models from various countries.





The new models were very affordable in their time, and hobbyists were able to buy and collect various models based on their preferences. The design of scale models became more and more sophisticated over time and the educational and entertaining aspects of scale models were intensified. The addition of electronic properties, resulted in the creation of moving and controllable models, like airplane models that could fly. Fighting robots, commonly called mecha were produced in Japanese companies like Bandai whose Gundam kits were very influential in the 1980s.


P51D-MUSTANG flying scale model: Balsa Wood Plane Kit by Vintage Model


The interlocking plastic bricks were made popular by Danish toy manufacturer LEGO. They had also started their activities by producing small wooden toys and they focused on the production of various models with plastic Lego bricks.  The popularity of their products resulted in production of some TV series and movies in recent years.





Nowadays, many companies make scale models and miniatures in various forms, not only for the hobbyist but also for collectors and scale models are an important aspect of various industries. As of 2016, according to tedium.co, hobby, toy and game sales were in their highest over a decade. And this trend continues.



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