Miniature collecting can be a lifelong hobby where you can enjoy not only the quest, but also have fun displaying your miniature collection for others to see.
Miniatures are simply scaled-down version of the real thing. Hobbyists collect all types of miniatures that reflect their personality and interests. Whether you’re interested in transportation, figurines, or timepieces, you’re bound to find miniature collectibles for sale.
Other miniature collecting hobbyists focus on the commerce side of miniatures. These collectors share not only an interest in their collection, but also have fun buying and selling miniatures with hopes of turning a profit. Whether you’re interested only in miniatures for your own collection or would like to try your hand at buying and selling, miniature collecting is a very personal and fulfilling hobby.
The History Of Miniature Collecting
Archeologists have discovered wooden miniatures of farm animals, carts and other everyday objects that date back to at least 5,000 BC in Egypt. It’s difficult to catalog the exact history of miniature collecting since there are so many different types of miniatures and ways the miniatures were used.
While people have collected miniatures for thousands of years, most early miniatures served a utilitarian purpose. Armies used miniature models for battlefield and wartime strategies. Architects and designers used miniature models to help visualize and refine designs for structures and furniture. Regardless of the purpose or type, it’s safe to say that people have been interested in miniature collecting for as long as miniatures have been around.
Miniature Collecting Fun Facts
- The size of a miniature, with respect to the original, is known as the scale. Scale is represented by two numbers, such as 1:32. The number on the right indicates how many units of the original object is equal to one unit of the miniature. If the scale is in inches, 1:32 scale would mean that each inch of the miniature corresponds to 32 inches of the original.
- Albert V, the Duke of Bavaria, owned the first known dollhouse in the mid-16th century. Subsequently, early dollhouses were primarily used as educational tools for girls.
- The Bugatti Veyron Diamond Edition is the most expensive model car and retails for about $3 million dollars. The car is made of 24k gold and platinum with a diamond front.
Starting Your Miniature Collection
Miniature collecting is quite easy to start once you decide on the type of miniatures you’d like to collect. Before you get started, familiarize yourself with a few of the more common collectible terms below:
Condition: describes the physical appearance of the miniature and any accessories that go along with it. Objects in better condition are generally worth more than objects in poorer condition.
Exhibit: an exhibit of miniatures is a display that is created to show off a prized collection of objects.
Finish: used to describe the coatings that were applied to some miniatures to make them appear shiny, smooth or dull. The condition of the finish is often the key to determining the value of many miniatures.
Hallmarks: special symbols used by miniatures manufacturers to tell people who made the objects.
Modified: describes minis that have had parts of their structure or surface changed in some way.
Mold Lines: describes the details that are stamped into the object while the item is molded. Items with nicer mold lines are worth more than objects with poorer mold lines.
Provenance: information that tells collectors about an object’s origin and its prior history of ownership. Some people pay lots of money for minis that were once owned by famous or well-known people.
Scale: refers to the ratio between the size of a full-size object and its miniature version. Some of the most common “scales” in miniature collecting are a 1:12 (read, “one to twelve”) for miniature cars and a 1:24 scale that’s used to create dollhouses.
Steps For Miniature Collecting
Once you’ve determined the type of collection you’re interested in, set some goals and a budget. This will help you focus your collecting efforts. You’ll also need to find places to buy your miniatures. Typical ideas include flea markets, estate auctions, garage sales and eBay.
Decide how you’d like to display or store your collectibles. Your display preferences can also help you narrow down the types and number of the collectibles you buy.
Learn more about your miniature collection. Read up on the history as well as valuable collectors items within your miniature theme. Learning more about your miniatures adds an additional dimension to the hobby.
Miniature Collecting Tips And Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you as you get started with your new hobby…
- Start slowly! It’s not a race to see how quickly you can build your collection. One of the most common regrets made by collectors was that they bought for the sake of buying without prioritizing what items they wanted in their collection.
- Learn to spot the difference between original miniatures and replicas. This is especially important if you plan to buy and sell miniatures.
- Try and find a collector’s club that specializes in your collection. These clubs are great ways to socialize with other collectors and learn a great deal about your miniature interests.
Miniature Collecting Tips And Tricks
With your miniature collecting hobby going strong, here are a couple ideas for ways to expand the hobby…
- Expand your collection into a related theme.
- Take a woodworking shop and learn how to make your own display cases.
- If your miniatures are still being made, plan a trip and tour the company that makes them.
- Try your hand at buying and selling miniatures.
Related Miniature Resources
Check out the following sites for additional information about miniature collecting…
National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts (NAME)  – founded in 1972, NAME promotes the craft of the miniature builder and collector.
MiniSites.org  – online resource with links to a variety of miniature topics such as museums, exhibits, organizations, services and vendors.
Miniature Collector Magazine  – specialty magazine that caters to a wide range of miniature collecting enthusiasts.