On a fairly regular basis, we here at MSW receive requests from new members for help with identifying a ship model, such as something like one of these:
The request usually looks something like this:
Hi. I don't know anything about ship models, but I got this model from a(n) auction/relative/yard sale, and I'm wondering if anyone here knows anything about it or its value. I'm thinking about restoring/reselling it.
Now, we are happy to help you with this request, but since we get asked so often, I thought it would be good to finally put some info on mystery models in one topic thread so that you can maybe find your answer before you post. Here are some basic things you should know:
1. Many, many models have been built over the years for the sole purpose of serving as decor or memorabilia. This would be a model purchased at, say, Sea World or Home Goods. These models are usually built to low standards in parts of the world where labor is relatively cheap. Once upon a time, southern Europe was a hot-spot for their manufacture. Nowadays most such models are coming out of Southeast Asia. These models usually have little, if any, historical or resale value. If you shelled out for one at an auction, you are probably stuck with it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of models we get asked about fall into this category.
2. A similar category of models could be classified as folk art. These are, as the name implies, locally built models that are an artistic representation of a ship rather than a scale model. Like the decor models, these also usually have little other than sentimental value.
3. Then there are models that are actual attempts at scale model building, either scratch built or from a kit. Maybe your dad or grandpa built one. The value of these varies widely depending on the subject and the quality of the build, but the number of builders whose work is actually worth a large chunk of change is very, very small. The number of prospective buyers is even smaller.
4. It is an extremely rare model that will turn out to have real value, either due to its artistic merit (built by someone who's a recognized master modeler) or historical value (e.g. a genuine prisoner-of-war bone model). Trust me, there are builders who are good (you would probably ooh and aah over their work), and then there are the builders whom those 'good' modelers look up to - the Stradivaris of our art, if you will. Those builders are few and far between, and grandpa probably wasn't one of them.
5. No matter what kind of model you have, the only people who can give you a true estimation of its worth (meaning, what a real person might actually pay) are those who make their living by doing such things, i.e. museum curators or owners of maritime art galleries. What you get from MSW should only be considered an informed opinion. If you do decide to go to a gallery, just let me prepare you well in advance for the shock you will likely experience upon hearing the appraised value of your model. In our hobby, 'valuable' and 'finely crafted' are not necessarily synonymous.
Nine times out of ten, mystery models shown at MSW are, sad to say, essentially worthless in terms of monetary value. Some of those models, to be sure, still have sentimental value for their owners, and that is not to be taken lightly. If you have a model like that, then do what you can to preserve it. If, on the other hand, you were hoping you found an overlooked treasure at a boot sale, well, you most likely didn't. Sorry.