Company Profile: Preiser

History in a Nutshell

Paul M. Preiser founded his family company in 1945 to manufacturer miniature figures and accessories for model railroads, dioramas and architectural models. Initially their figures were carved by hand from wood; by the 1960s, they'd begun using injection-molded plastic, eventually making figures in 13 different scales. Marketed worldwide, Preiser is regarded as the leader in miniature figures.

At various times over the years, Preiser has also sold scenery items and some vehicles; in particular, they rebranded Roskopf horse-drawn carts, and later acquired the tooling for them (Preiser and Roskopf were good friends). In the early 1990s, Preiser purchased Merten Miniaturplastiken and immediately began to improve the products, especially with respect to painting quality, while retaining the line as a separate brand.

For the most part, figure painting has been remarkably consistent, with current sets often matching those made 50 years ago. In an interview with Preiser, he revealed the secret to his products' consistently high quality: instead of an assembly-line approach to painting, where each painter applied only one color, Preiser's painters completely painted each figure individually, start to finish. This was of course more costly, but it gave the painters greater satisfaction, resulting in superior quality. Originally produced entirely in Germany, figures are now manufactured in Germany and painted in Mauritius.

N Scale Products

Preiser joined the ranks of N Scale manufacturers in 1965, initially offering one set of 18 figures; today they make nearly 1,400 N Scale figures, and they've been rebranded by Atlas, Peco and others. Nearly all of their scenery items have been discontinued.

Initially the figures came glued to clear plastic strips; this practice was discontinued sometime in the 1970s, when they included the clear strips separately; eventually they dropped the strips altogether. Packaging varied, although not significantly.

Printed Matter

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