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Ship Models Through the Centuries

Ship models have been built for centuries and can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. They are an invaluable resource for providing an insight into social history and technology. The importance of seafaring and the opportunities it afforded early cultures can be seen in the intricate details and the ceremonial use of these models. The purpose for building ship models has evolved over time, however the passion for collecting them has remained constant.

In the 17th century, British Chief Secretary to the Admiralty Samuel Pepys was a noted ship model collector who often made references to his collection in his famous diaries. During an attack on England in the Second Anglo-Dutch War Pepys noted in his diary an official “carried away things of great value, and these were his models of ships”.


At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, Napoleonic Prisoners-of-War created beautiful bone ship models (lot 103, lot 104). Although they were confined, they were encouraged by their captors to produce objects to sell in the camp’s periodic civilian open market. The imprisoned sailors often came from specialized artistic vocations sponsored by Napoleon. The ship models were one of the most popular objects sought by the English as they mostly stylized versions of British Naval ships.

In the 20th century ship models were being created to reflect a variety of interests. The modern ship model is often used to memorialize famous ships which fell victim to disaster such as the RMS Titanic (lot 107) where over 1500 lives were lost and the USS Arizona (lot 111) where more than 1000 sailors and marines were killed. The Privateer Lynx model (lot 105) commemorates the War of 1812 and America’s struggle to preserve its independence, this ship has also been recreated as a working life-size vessel used as for education and historical preservation.  Nostalgic pleasure crafts emblematic of a simpler time are represented with the Eico Motor Cruiser Liberty (lot 124).


Please join us for our August 4th Americana Sale where we will proudly offer a variety of ship models.

View the Americana Catalogue here

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