On-line since 2002
> 1150 manufacturers
> 1.000.000 unique visitors
87thScale.info does not
spam. If you received a
spam message with an 87thScale return mail
address it is forged.
Guest editorial by Lee
Nehlsen, former partner in SMCC
Manufacturing is a guessing game
that is costly to any who enter it. Injection molding is beyond the reach of the
average person as the making of laser cut dies runs into the thousands of
dollars. The big boys have the money to make laser cut dies for plastic
injection molding which give by far the best detailed models on the market. But
they have to recoup their costs by selling a lot of models so they pick
something they think will be a big seller. I doubt if you will ever see a
company like Busch do a model of a Nash or some other unpopular vehicle because
the volume demand for it is just not there.
The small manufacture or individual resorts to resin or metal casting as the
costs are considerably cheaper. Finding equipment, raw material and the how to
is not easy when you first start out. A lot of individuals will give their model
to a "professional" molder and caster to do, which adds to the cost. A
rubber mold is only good for from 25 to 50 castings, then it starts breaking
down. No matter how much mold release is used the resin is going to adhere to
some spot in the mold and take a chunk of rubber with it when the casting is
removed from the mold. Or the mold will crack when flexed getting the casting
Once there is a reproduced model to sell, the next problem is finding buyers.
Advertising is expensive and can run a small company into debt very quickly.
Product review in publications helps, but a lot of publications just are not
interested in someone who is just starting out and is an unknown. What is needed
is some kind of coop support group that is willing to help individuals get their
product manufactured and marketed. Look at what the NMRA has done for model
railroading. It shows that when people with like interests work together, they
can get a lot accomplished and are listened to by the manufactures.
87th scale is off to a good start in this direction. Now I suggest that a dues
paying membership be formed to support the operations. That groups be formed
that have like interests. Material and information be gathered and published for
those who would like to know.. One person may know of a source of material,
another may have the knowledge of "how to". By everyone sharing what
they know we can make the model making a lot easier for everyone else. The
bottom line would be a lot more types of models out there to choose from. The
"Big Four" have done an excellent job so far, but there is only so
much time in a day and one or two individuals can not do it all.
There are many model clubs all over the world. They put on shows and swapmeets,
maybe put out a newsletter. It is time to go beyond the local and think
worldwide. The internet is a great tool for instant communication anywhere in
the world. I am in Southern California communicating with people in Holland,
Germany, France, Spain, and Australia on a very real time basis. Modeling and
marketing is an international interest shared by many the world over.
I would be willing to help in any way I can. For example if anyone would like a
model available in the US but hard to get in their country, I would be happy to
obtain it and air mail it to them. I have found that sending air mail from here
overseas can cost as little as $3.50 The post office is right next door to me.
My costs would be the pleasure of helping someone as others have helped me.
Guest editorial by Bill Cawthon
What is the future of 1/87th
From an American point of view:
Problem No. 1: Different hobbies are in ascendancy. Model railroading and
plastic kits are down; Radio-control and diecast toys are up. A few years ago,
it was the other way round. Overall, the toy market is down, but a lot of that
is due to changing demographics. The baby boomers, a huge group, are in their
prime hobby years; the coming generation of potential modelers is smaller.
Computers, video games and other activities have made inroads on leisure time,
but consigning our hobby to oblivion because of them is a mistake. People said
television would kill hobbies, too.
Problem No. 2: Shrinking exposure. Shifts in hobby tastes mean retailers devote
space to what they perceive to be hot; that only makes sense. Plus, it’s
unlikely we’ll see mass-market hobby centers stock a variety of models until
they are convinced there’s a market. Incidentally, the growing dominance of a
handful of mega-retailers is hurting the toy industry as a whole. The smaller
toyshops where one might have once found Wiking models (in fact, such a shop is
where I bought my first Anguplas and Roco models many years ago) are going away,
unable to compete with “Tickle Me Elmo” at Wal-Mart. Proof of this is
everywhere: FAO Schwarz, one of America’s legendary toy stores, is being
liquidated and only the original New York City store will be retained. Or look
at Brio: After two years of losses, production staff was cut almost 50% and some
production is being outsourced to China. In essence, Wal-Mart, Target and Toys
‘R Us are defining the American toy market. The big hobby merchandisers, like
Michaels and Hobby Lobby, have tiny model sections and a pitiful selection. With
the closing of E-R Models, we just lost one of our major importers/distributors.
Problem No. 3: We preach to the chorus and never leave the church to evangelize.
Then we wring our hands as the congregation dies off and there are few new
members. I am not talking about reaching out to the kids; by their nature, the
models we like aren't suitable for children. Not only because of the potential
dangers they might present, but because they aren't toys that can handle a
child's handling. But the pleasures of Hot Wheels or Siku models can mature to
an enjoyment of true scale models in miniature if more people know they are out
In 2001, I helped out in the Ravensburger-F.X. Schmid booth at the Chicago
International Hobby Expo on one of the public days. Ravensburger had the only
Wiking display and it was an old (and damaged) retail rack that wasn't even
stocked with the latest models. The fellow running the booth was a really great
guy who knew lots about the company's main line of puzzles and such, but
literally nothing about Wiking models.
A number of men with children came by the booth as they wandered through the
exhibits. Of course, the children were enchanted, but a number of the men were
also interested and wanted to know where they could get the models because they
had never seen them. I took over and handed out catalogs and Siku pens and
reeled off as many online sources as I could. We couldn't sell anything at the
show, but I thought that if we had any brains at all, every adult who expressed
interest would have walked out with a free Wiking model. Cost? Maybe a couple of
The other thing we should have done is prepared a list of every hobby shop in
the greater Chicago area that sold Wiking models. Yes, this was primarily a
trade show, but when you’re open to the public, you should be ready for them.
Problem No. 4: The hobby has failed to adapt and address the needs and desires
of new markets. Not long ago, a friend of mine was building a 1/87-scale model
of an ExxonMobil rail facility. He wanted to add scale models of the vehicles
owned by the people who work there and contacted me. Out of the list, which
included fairly common vehicles, I was able to supply a single model. I am not
blaming the German model companies; we have companies in the U.S. capable of
making models. On the other hand, I have had more than one German manufacturer
ask me how to penetrate the U.S. market. The answer is simple: make models of
American vehicles and attend American hobby shows. Cut your distributors some
slack for advertising your products; discount an invoice or add a similar
incentive. And it’s not just America; try making some models of British
vehicles. Not only will the English thank you, a huge number of English cars
were sold in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. Make a Saab; stun the French and
make a Panhard. The Italians have been known for some interesting cars; ask Audi
about making a Murciélago. Yes, other scales are more popular in those
countries, but why cut yourself off from any reasonable source of sales?
A friend who is very knowledgeable about the industry thinks it’s becoming
saturated, even in Germany. I don’t agree. I think the problem is that too few
people know what is already out there and there is too little fresh variety to
keep those of us who do know coming back. Part of this we, as hobby fans, can
change. The rest, we can do our best to influence.
In forty years, it would be nice to see everything from inexpensive,
easy-to-assemble kits to incredible models with lights, motors and operating
doors and such. But most important, it would be nice to see a hobby that has
learned to survive.