Unfolding The Paper Model Market
TDmonthly Magazine!
June 2003 | Vol. II - No. 6

TDmonthly SEARCH

Unfolding The Paper Model Market

Paper models are poised to become this decade's Beanie Babies: an old toy that suddenly becomes high-demand. However, this marketing firestorm is bypassing retail toy stores and presenting thorny questions about retailing on the Internet.

Piper Cub

Paper models peaked in the United States during World War II, when critical materials made traditional model materials scarce. By the 1960s, plastic crowded paper models off the shelves of American hobby shops. Paper models made a comeback in the 1990s, partly due to skyrocketing plastic model costs, but also because of the simplicity of the required tools: white glue and scissors.

Spirit of St. Louis

The Internet helped to drive some of this growth. Paper model enthusiasts could order online, with cheap color printers letting individuals download products electronically and print the models at home.

Chip Fyn

Chip Fyn started Fiddler's Green in the 1960s and was quick to embrace the Internet, putting his models on the Web as soon as he could. Chip partnered with Amazon.com, and his company now allows buyers to download a copy of the kit and print out as many copies as desired. Later, a print-on-demand book is mailed to the buyer.

"I was a one-man shop for years," Fyn said. "But I've added three full-time workers since 2000: two to handle orders, one to run the website."

How to Sell

Growth is largely bypassing many retailers, however. One of the few traditional retailers selling paper models, Village Hobbies in Austin, TX, has sold paper models for 15 years and reports solid sales without significant recent growth.

Lou Dausse

Lou Dausse has owned Paper Models International since the 1970s. One of the biggest wholesalers of paper models in the United States, he reports skyrocketing retail mail orders since 2000. Still, retailers have been slow to show interest.

Dausse pegs customer unfamiliarity. "Retailers see my finished models at a trade show," says Dausse. "Impressed, they order kits. Then the unmade kits sit on their shelves. They never reorder."

So how can a storefront retailer cash in? It takes work.

Put effort into marketing. Make models to show customers what finished models look like. Give away samples: a $1 or $2 model is a cheap way to generate interest. Look for manufacturers with CD-ROMs of models, which give merchants better margins and customers more models.

Many manufacturers are individual designers that prefer direct mail or do not understand wholesaling, preferring to offer their products directly over the web.

Delta 7 Studios Paper Model

The Internet gives global reach, yet isolates. Dan Shippey started Delta 7 Studios in 2001. "An online store is like a store in the Sahara,” Shippey says. “There is no Interstate, or even a dirt road for people to travel down and see you." While interested in wholesaling, Dan Shippey cannot afford a sales rep.


Chip Fyn has the solution. "Retailers could sell Fiddler's Green models through virtual stores linked to my site through a retailer's home page," he says. "We could both make money without physical inventory. I cannot sell the idea to retailers, though."

Interested? It may be opportunity knocking.

To view recent industry sales figures for Arts and Crafts, Click Here




Advertise on TDmonthly