Baskingshark is a veteran model car collector and former hobbyDB team member. Today he takes us into the world and popularity of partworks.
Immensely popular in Europe, partworks are collections released periodically, in parts, hence the name. Partwork collections revolve around specific themes, such as model vehicles, horses, figurines from series like Dr. Who, gemstones, butterflies, comics, history, and more. Each entry includes a printed magazine with insightful information about the accompanying item.
Recently, large-scale model kits have also been released through partworks, with one or two components supplied in each issue. These kits encompass a variety of models, including cars, boats, and spaceships inspired by popular sci-fi shows and movies including “Star Wars” and “The Fast and The Furious” series.
The reintroduction of vintage diecast vehicles as partworks, such as those from Dinky Toys and Norev, has also proven to be a successful innovation. While most model vehicle partwork collections consist of 1/43 scale models, the past few years have also witnessed the introduction of highly successful collections featuring 1/24 scale models.
Subjects for partworks are carefully selected based on their broad appeal in the local market. This ensures that they can be sold in large quantities at reasonable prices. While they have been around since the 1700s when parts of a large book could be bought weekly, the first modern partworks were released in the 1950s, focusing on model planes.
Partwork popularity surged in the 80s and 90s, however, with the release of noted partwork publications such as “The Eagle,” “The Planets,” and “The Counties of Britain.” Other notably successful partworks include the series of 1/43 model cars depicting vehicles which appeared in the James Bond film series. Known as “The James Bond Car Collection” or “Bond in Motion” and first issued in the UK in 2007, this collection was initially planned to comprise 40 models. However, it became so popular that it was extended several times to an eventual 135.
Each partwork collection is sold in a particular country or countries and may be aimed towards that particular territory. For example, successful partwork series have depicted Italian or Brazilian cars and have been sold only in those locations. Partworks can be subscribed to by mail or purchased at newsstands, depending on where you are located. They are also sometimes advertised on TV and in specialist magazines related to their theme.
Several companies are known for their partworks. DeAgostini of Italy, Eaglemoss of the UK and Hachette of France are the major partwork players, along with subsidiaries and associates worldwide. These include Spain’s Altaya which is part of Hachette.
The partwork manufacturers do not manufacture the actual collectibles themselves. These are produced by companies like PCT Industries or Universal Hobbies, usually in China. The magazine content is written by writers who work for the partwork company and the magazines usually printed in China where the collectible model is packaged with it as a covermount. The models are then shipped to distribution centers in the country where the partwork will be sold.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to know what partworks are being produced for part of the world where collectors do not live (besides hobbyDB which is adding more and more of these). The only other way to find out about foreign partwork issues is by checking the various local websites of the partwork companies or online discussion forums.
Once collections are finished, unsold models are returned to the publishers who usually remove and pulp the magazines and then sell the surplus models in bulk to wholesalers. The sellers then put the models up for sale online or at collector fairs. Sometimes the models can also be found at discount stores, often in countries other than the ones they were originally intended for.
In the case of model vehicles, as the model makers still own the dies to produce the models, they sometimes later reissue the models in different color schemes. White Box is one particular company which is known for selling models that formerly appeared in partworks.
As well as being generally good quality collectibles, sometimes depicting subjects that haven’t previously been produced in model form, partworks can also be very educational with good-quality editorial content provided in the magazines produced for them. They’re also very satisfying as you can build up a nicely-themed collection – or construct an impressive model – at a reasonable price, without too much effort and enjoy doing so over a period of time.
And with such a wide variety of subjects, it’s more than likely that you’ll find one somewhere that sparks your interest!
Editor’s Note: Special Thanks here to Baron von Zach who has taken on the mammoth task of adding and editing the complex world of model car Partworks.
Great overview of partworks – thanks! Living in the US, it is hard to get individual 1/43 partworks as you can’t subscribe from another county. So you have to pay higher prices and higher postage in the secondary market. However, 2 recent partworks are now available in the US! https://www.hobbydb.com/marketplaces/hobbydb/subjects/corgi-model-club-series and https://www.hobbydb.com/marketplaces/hobbydb/subjects/american-cars-series
Many, many thanks for mentioning me.
Well, I actually became the partwork Miss Marple around here by coincidence, rather than intent. Being a model car collector, I added quite a few partwork models to my collection over the years and when listing them on the DB, I noticed, that often no subjects existed for them, so I created them. I then found out, that numerous models from the same series were already listed by other members, so I started to add them to their respective subjects. This isn’t always easy, since information about past partwork series is surprisingly hard to come by and often requires meticulous research and investigation.
Going by the information I find out there in the ether, I would say, that the HobbyDB is currently the single biggest body in terms of documented partwork series, especially on such an international level. Having said that, there is still a long way to go and it is an uphill struggle.
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