Devoted to the Fine Art of Ship Models - Since 1975 -

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are fine ship models considered a legitimate 'art form'?
  2. What are the trends in ship model collecting?  ( use NRJ article - abbreviated)
  3. How should I start a ship model collection?
  4. What makes a 'museum quality' ship model?
  5. Who provides  'museum quality' ship models?
  6. How do you price your ship models?
  7. What are the basic things to look for when evaluating a ship model?
  8. How can a commercial kit model be detected?
  9. What are production ship models?
  10. What is a Folk Art or Americana ship model?
  11. How should one approach the restoration of a ship model?
  12. What are the primary aspects used to determine a ship model's appraisal value?
  13. Where can I see collections of fine ship models to educate myself?
  14. Where else can I buy ship models?
  15. Who are the most important Marine Model Artists of the 20 th Century?

  1. Are fine ship models considered a legitimate 'art form'?

    Ship models have been considered a legitimate decorative art form for the past four hundred years throughout northern Europe and more recently in 19th and 20th centuries in North America. Of course ship models have been prized objects of art since 2000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. As appreciation for marine model artists - known by name and specializing in original, conscientious research as well as highest quality construction methods and aesthetic appeal - has grown, their models' value as works of art has grown accordingly. This value is recognized and celebrated not only by leading museums specializing in maritime art but also by major international museums such as the British Museum, the Louvre , the Museum of Fine Arts and the Smithsonian Institution, all of which exhibit ship models in their collections.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

    Click to view article: Ship Modelsin the Art Market, by Erik Ronnberg

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  2. What are the trends in ship model collecting?

    NRJ article

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  3. How should I start a ship model collection?

    A ship model collection often grows from a particular area of interest to the collector, say, America's Cup racing yachts, Napoleonic-era Prisoner-of-War models, vessels of World War II, or models of boats indigenous to the coast of Maine. I recommend to prospective clients that they contemplate buying their first model as though it would become part of a larger collection. In this way, they can form a purpose or theme behind their initial and subsequent acquisitions. Once this theme has been identified, the budding collector should learn to discern levels of quality and desirability; adding to the collection according to subject matter, size or budget considerations. Many large collections of ship models have two or three sub-sets allowing the collector to have more flexibility and scope in the manner and timing of new purchases.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  4. What makes a 'museum quality' ship model?

    In the words of professional marine model artist Rob Napier , "a good ship model must give a compelling impression of the actual vessel."  Although a subjective perception, experience and study of the three-dimensional elements of accurate models develops a strong impression of authentic naval architecture. Models speak a technical language - much like the written alphabet - based on scrupulous research. Nathaniel Herreshoff once said, "A poorly made ship model is nothing but a lie that deceives the eye."

    A good ship model is skillfully crafted with suitable materials and constructed according to authentic maritime research and /or plans. The typical ship model from the Great Age of Sail (18 th & 19 th centuries) has four primary characteristics, all of which need to be consistent in craftsmanship quality: hull construction, paint work or finishing, metal smithing and rigging . As these characteristics are surveyed and interact, the model should provide the required "compelling impression of the actual ship."

    From an aesthetic standpoint, a finely crafted and artistically presented ship model, like a fine painting, has a convincing presence or "aura."

    Answered by R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  5. Who provides  'museum quality' ship models?

    The American Marine Model Gallery represents many of the top, internationally acclaimed professional marine model artists in the world. These individuals have developed unique styles and specialties as well as in-depth knowledge of the routine principles and practices involved on the vessels they replicate. They often create original research, adhere to Mystic Seaport Museum 's Ship Model Classification Guidelines (a defining document in the field), and stand behind the accuracy, quality of materials and construction methods they employ.

    Answered by R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  6. How do you price your ship models?

    The pricing of ship models is largely based on four principles:

    A. Reputation of the marine model artist.
    B. Nature or complexity of the vessel being replicated.
    C. Skill level or difficulty of the techniques and methods used in the hull construction.
    D. Fame or notoriety of the vessel being modeled.

    Added investment value we believe is also obtained when purchasing a model from the American Marine model Gallery for the following reason:

    1. R. Michael Wall , the gallery's internationally known ship model expert, has over the course of thirty years dedicated himself to representing only premiere marine model artists. He attempts to acquire only the finest selection and range of one-of- a- kind models to display in his formal showroom. There Mr. Wall can explain to prospective clients his models' authentic maritime elements and craftsmanship, as well as the nuances of each artist's work. His high reputation among maritime museums, yacht clubs and contemporary marine art connoisseurs has become the cornerstone of his successful career. In addition, his gallery has a complete support system of ship model services, from cleaning and conservation to full restoration, custom display units, appraisals, consultation and expert shipping capabilities. These added aspects, all handled under Wall's watchful eye, provide his patrons with a full sense of satisfaction when making an acquisition.

    2. Each model sold through the Gallery meets specific Museum Quality construction standards. American Marine Model Gallery models are exclusively Class A or B , as set forth in Mystic Seaport Museum 's Ship Model Classification Guidelines ©1980. American Marine Model Gallery models are for the most part constructed via solid hull , planked-over-solid-hull , plank-on-solid-frame or plank-on-built-up-frame techniques.

    3. Each model is expertly and thoroughly evaluated by R. Michael Wall, noted expert on ship models, and Ship Model Documentation Papers are provided. These describe the historic research used; the manner and material of hull construction; analysis of rigging, paint scheme and presentation; deck gear and fittings; provenance; and any other important aspect of the ship model.

    4. The Gallery provides a pertinent written history of the vessel.

    5. The Gallery provides a written biography of the marine model artist.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  7. What are the basic things to look for when evaluating a ship model?

    There are several main considerations involved in evaluating a ship model.

    - I first make a complete review of the model's overall appearance to decide whether it is a good depiction of the actual vessel. 

    - Then I scrutinize the manner of hull construction and its symmetry, the type of decking, deck furniture craftsmanship and joinery, and the quality of fittings, to see if craftsmanship is consistent and materials used are appropriate and will sustain longevity.

    - I assess paint work or finish on the hull and sub-assemblies for smoothness, even blending and a preferred soft sheen (low-gloss finish).

    - The fabrication of metal fittings is evaluated as to manufacture, e.g., hand-filed, castings, machine-turned, etc., and their inherent composition (brass, Britannia, pewter, wood, pot-lead, plastic, resin, etc.).

    - Rigging is analyzed by studying the set-up of standing lines first, e.g., shrouds, stays, backstays, bowsprit shrouds and stays, etc.; checking for adequate and authentic positioning, and the implementation of serving, splicing and ratlines techniques. The running rigging should include appropriate lines - braces, lifts, halyards, sheets, clues, tacks, etc. - authentically configured. For both standing and running rigging the color and diameter of threads and their general tie-off location must be evaluated. Appropriate knots should be used, or lines terminated properly to belaying pins, cleats or bitts. Blocks should be realistically fabricated.

    - Finally, I consider the manner of the model's presentation, e.g., full hull, waterline, under sail, scenic diorama; and its method of mounting and display case design. I ask: Overall, is it a successful exhibition?

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  8. How can a commercial kit model be detected?

    This issue of detection can be very challenging for novice and intermediate collectors.

    I recommend obtaining copies of catalogues printed by major production ship model manufacturers (see our list of commercial ship model kit companies) to become familiar with what is available in the hobby market. Though kit manufacturers vary their production of particular ships, popular vessels like Constitution, Victory, Sovereign of the Seas, Bluenose, Endeavour and Wasa are usually available. It is useful to understand various types of hull construction methods the kits employ (largely solid-block hull or plank-on-bulkhead). One should also become aware of types and range of commercial metal and plastic fittings sold in catalogues - like gun barrels, anchors, hatches, fife rails, rigging blocks - as these items will most likely show up on completed kit-built ship models.

    In my opinion, many European commercial ship model kits yield simplistic models composed of rudimentary wood working methods, unsystematic rigging, out-of-scale details and artificial looking decorative castings; all resulting in an amateur quality of final presentation. Their consistent use of the plank-on-bulkhead hull assembly method most often produces flat planking spots due to the large spacing between bulkheads. This problem is usually found in areas of the hull (bow and stern) which require fine graceful and smooth compound curves.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  9. What are production ship models?

    Production models are made by duplication process - via assembly line, casting or any other mass-production method. Ordinarily, they do not claim to be original, one-of-a kind pieces. As with oil paintings and other collectable art forms, however, the ship model market, in my opinion, is virtually flooded with production models at every level of quality from crudely constructed Mauritius Island replicas to highly developed forgeries of eminently desirable ship model types. Even at the level of some prestigious galleries or auction houses, skillfully produced production models masquerade as one-of- a- kind, original or historically important pieces. Such models can sometimes be spotted simply because their appearance is too new or uniform to be authentic; however, the most important and effective way to identify a model's origins is to know the name of the marine model artist, guild or company who created it and whose methodology can be verified. The American Marine Model Gallery has made it a point to promote the model builders it represents as artists in their own right with worldwide reputations, who scrupulously analyze research and use traditional building methods.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  10. What is a Folk Art or Americana ship model?

    A model of the Folk Art or Americana genre, generally built during the mid-to-late 19 th or early 20 th century, is typically made to create an impression, versus to convey historically accurate naval architecture or details of a particular vessel. Decorative in purpose, Folk Art models are therefore less detailed and somewhat makeshift, rather than fine, museum-quality, scale ship models. Works such as these often have fanciful presentations, e.g., sculpted water, carved wood or metal sails, use of figurines, elaborate casing, etc.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  11. How should one approach the restoration of a ship model?

    Proper conservation and restoration should be entrusted to experts in the field, such as the American Marine Model Gallery. The Gallery employs full-time restoration professionals and can even provide specialized services such as work with rare materials like bone, ivory, glass or precious metals. If a model is worth preserving, even for its sentimental or family value, it deserves a bona fide restoration. As with other art works, a poorly preformed restoration can severely devalue a ship model. The American Marine Model Gallery will restore your model or collection to museum-quality standards using proven techniques and materials. Restoration Questionnaire.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  12. What are the primary aspects used to determine a ship model's appraisal value?

    Just as with the retail value of ship models, appraisal value is based on the reputation of the marine model artist, the nature or complexity of the original vessel, skill level or difficulty of the techniques and methods used in the hull construction, and the fame or notoriety of the vessel being replicated. A certified appraiser such as R. Michael Wall will also evaluate considerations such as relative rarity or desirability of a given piece at a particular time. He can provide counsel regarding appropriate value for insurance protection, resale or charitable gifting. Appraisal Questionnaire.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  13. Where can I see collections of fine ship models to educate myself?

    Fine ship models are displayed in many prominent cultural and art museums, and in particular at maritime museums worldwide. These institutions are generally found in historic port cities. In the United States I recommend the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; the Hart Nautical Collection at MIT, Cambridge, MA; Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT; U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, MD ; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; The Mariner's Museum, Newport News, VA; San Francisco Maritime Museum, San Francisco, CA; and San Diego Maritime Museum, San Diego, CA. In Europe please see the National Maritime Museum , Greenwich , England and the Musée de la Marine in Paris , as well as many fine museums in other major European cities.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  14. Where else can I buy ship models?

    Mass-produced ship models of varying levels of quality are advertised in a variety of gift catalogues and available in gift shops, especially in coastal regions. "Folk Art" or " Americana " types are often found via marine antiques dealers. Adequate ship models, hand-crafted from original plans, can sometimes be purchased from amateur builders exhibiting at ship model guilds or competitions across the country. The highest level of marine model craftsmanship - one-of- a- kind models created by recognized, professional marine model artists to highest levels of workmanship - can be found in a very limited number of galleries of marine art. The American Marine Model Gallery is the only establishment in the world completely dedicated to and specializing in fine ship models.

    Response by: R. Michael Wall , Gallery Director

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  15. Who are the most important Marine Model Artists of the 20 th Century?

    (Coming Soon)

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