Aifix Collectors Club
The Club’s Guide
In 2002, I wrote two articles which were to form the basis of the Airfix Collectors’ Club Guide to Airfix Packaging. Back in the mid 90’s, John Wells, Steve Knight and other members of the A.C.C. had got together and listed the main Airfix packaging styles in to “Types”. I had been recording these main changes in packaging since 1963 so it was relatively easy for me to merge my system into the ‘official’ Club system.
I was also able to use the considerable information included in Arthur Ward’s two books and that on Dave James’ website. Around 2006 or so, several Airfix ‘Forums’ have appeared on the web and these have tried to develop packaging guides although all seem to use the Club’s nomenclature so I still feel that the Club’s is the ‘official’ system.
Since I was not conscious of Airfix packaging styles prior to 1963, I would have been under thirteen then, I have relied very heavily on the work carried out by John, Steve, et al. Post 1963, I have a large resource of details collected by myself at the time concerning Airfix packaging styles which has always been a particular interest of mine in relation to Airfix.
The following is, therefore, an updated version of the various articles written over the last five years and brings the story fully up-to-date.
First a brief overview of Airfix packaging. The first proper Airfix kit, the Golden Hind, was offered to Woolworth’s in a box with a suggested retail price of 5 shillings (25p). When Woolworth’s stated it was overpriced, Ralph Ehrmann and John Gray came back with a simpler packaging and a retail price of 2 shillings (10p). This entailed putting the kit in one of the then new transparent polythene bags stapled to an illustrated header made by folding a rectangle of paper into four. Thus was born the famous 2 bob (shilling) bagged kit which reached its zenith in the glorious Type 3 packaging (see later). Series 1, and for a few years Series 2 kits, would hang, tantalisingly in their poly bags, in front of our eyes in the shops until the arrival of the short-lived blister pack.
In 1973, the innovative blister pack was introduced. This overcame the main drawback to the bags – the bits could get broken if roughly handled before opening. It also meant that a few kits migrated to Series 2 because they wouldn’t fit into the blister! Although Airfix no longer use these two types of packaging for single kits, variations are still used with Starter sets.
Series 3 and above, plus Series 2 after a few years, were all sold in boxes. When the style changed, Type 2 to Type 3, etc, the box size was often increased (see CS24). Either the boxes were made slightly longer, wider or deeper or a combination of all three. Compare a late Series 2 box with one of the first and you’ll see what I mean. This change was mainly due to the increased number of parts in the kits plus a change in the runner design.
Initially the kit parts ran off a single (usually bent!) runner like pig iron. Later, the runner formed a rectangular, hexagonal section runner, with all the kit parts inside it. Periodically the runner sizes were increased thus necessitating a slightly larger box (see CS20). Kit parts were now much better protected. The current box sizes do not appear to reflect these old designs (and is why we got the Italeri kits chopped or bent – watch your rotor heads – to fit the new boxes).
Apart from the early 1950’s, Airfix kits were sold in a standardised packaging style. Within each Type, there would be variations but the logo and basic design would be compatible with that Type. Thus, for example, the early 1:24 cars and original “Museum Models” are Type 3. Where, however, the basic design was altered slightly, but significantly, one gets a sub type such as Type 3a to 3d. Generally though, a new Type was denoted by a change in the Airfix logo style (see CS29), which brought a new box design with it. However, in the last couple of years of Humbrol’s ownership, we hada basic box design from Humbrol-Airfix but with three variations on the logo!
Now to the different styles or “Types” or styles of packaging.
These were the first type and lasted until 1956/57. There were several variations but they are all generally referred to as Type 0. All had the “Airfix Products in Plastic” logo on the front. Apart from the “Southern Cross” and the Tractor, there were no boxed kits.
The first few sailing ships, the first six Trackside kits, the
The design became more standardised although the illustrations were still basic line drawings but with more colour and background scenery. They lasted for a couple of years and are therefore quite rare, particularly the Series 2 kits. The first ones are referred to as Type 1A but later ones are usually known as Type 1B. The Series 2 kits with Type 1A headers were more detailed and sophisticated than the earlier ones. In fact the drawings were more accurate than some of the latest Airfix illustrations! They began to be replaced by Type 2 in around 1959/60.
This introduced a much more uniform style and saw the “Airfix Products in Plastic” logo replaced by the standard “Airfix” logo. The header or box top was split down the middle by a vertical coloured stripe (3 colours in the case of the A.F.V.s). There was generally very little background but the aircraft, tank or ship was particularly well drawn – we’ve had to wait until recently to get decent Hood and
Boxes were of the old folded and stapled variety but were soon to be replaced by the newer glued variety which could be folded in to lie flat.
Arguably the most popular and probably the style which lasted longest is Type 3. It is best remembered for the magnificent artwork of Airfix’s new illustrator, Roy Cross. When this was combined with the lovely figure and sailing ship artwork of Brian Knight one gets what I believe to be Airfix’s most consistent period for the design of the whole range.
Type 3 was introduced in the Autumn of 1963; the first kit to receive the type 3 treatment was the Prairie Tank locomotive in Series 3. The early ship and aircraft pictures were by Charles Oates but Roy Cross, Brian Knight, Kenneth McDonough and Geoff Hunt later redid most, if not all, of these.
Basically Type 3 consisted of a full colour illustration covering the entire header and wrapped round the side of the boxes. In one corner, usually the right lower, was a white strip. The red stripe at the end of the strip was the remnant of the Type 2 stripe. Along the sides of the boxes were rectangles illustrating other kits in the range with once or twice kits not announced appearing on the side! The ends of the boxes were white with the new scroll-style Airfix logo and a smaller version of the box top artwork, although sometimes they were separate pictures (see CS27).
There are four distinct variations of Type 3. These are in order of introduction:
A selection of Type 3s
The earliest Type 3, some came with rather simple drawings reminiscent of Type 2, others with Charles Oates and William Howard Jarvis illustrations. The subject of the kit was printed on the picture with AIRFIX OO or AIRFIX 72 printed on the white strip with parallel lines running through AIRFIX. They represent the first moves towards Type 3 packaging.
The simpler illustrations disappeared and the kit name now appeared below AIRFIX – 72 SCALE, for example. The AIRFIX still had the parallel lines through it. On some of the early Type 3a’s the full name of the kit also appeared on the illustration (e.g. Wildcat & Airacobra) but on most of them it only appeared below AIRFIX – 72 SCALE.
Virtually identical to the Type 3b but without the parallel lines through AIRFIX. The quality of the illustration was also much improved. It was quite subtle, but the pictures were clearer and sharper with richer colours. These are arguably the best of the Type 3’s and most Airfix afficionados consider them to be the best of all Airfix packaging.
Yes there is a Type 3d. Towards the end of the Type 3 era, boxed kits began to appear with the Airfix scroll logo on the box ends painted light blue or yellow, for example. Otherwise the box was unchanged. The colours were:
Series 2 – yellow with white lettering
Series 3 – blue with white lettering
Series 4 – Green with yellow lettering
Series 5 – Red with white lettering
Series 6 – Yellow with red lettering
Series 7 – None issued?
Series 8 – Crimson with white lettering
Series 9 – Purple with white lettering
At least two Type 3b (Walrus) and Type 3c (Bassett) boxes had Type 3d colouring applied (see CS17). Not many kits appeared before Type 4 arrived. One kit at least (88 mm Gun) had the Airfix scroll on the front also painted yellow. Perhaps this should be referred to as Type 3d(2).
Throughout this period Roy Cross gradually repainted most of the original Type 3 subjects, but sadly not all. Airfix never did use two, the Stormovik & Walrus, although the Stormovik did appear on a foreign issue Type 6 box.
Type 3A, 3B, 3C & 3D
In mid 1971 the Airfix logo was redesigned. The famous scroll logo had been appearing in the middle of a red circle and it was decided to completely redesign the logo to make it circular. The new logo appeared on the 1971 “Summer Reprint” leaflets and has largely remained the same, apart from its ‘oval’ period (see CS29).
The HO/OO figures in the Type 3 ‘blue’ boxes started to receive the new logo on the end and sides although the front still bore the old scroll logo. Certain kits like the Playforts stayed in their Type 3 packaging and do not appear to have been updated. Before long, however, it was decided to use the new logo on all the models and so Type 4 was born. Basically it was Type 3 amended. A white border was put around the picture and the title strip now had a round end to accommodate the new round logo.
The box end logo was red and white, except for the first few, but most of the title and box side logos were in two colours to reflect the two main colours used on the rest of the box. Series 1 headers appear to be all red and white because there were no sides for other colours. A few kits had only one colour and this was on the first few (e.g. first issue 1:24 Bf 109 & 1:12 Bentley). The three mainstream variants of Type 4 are:
Type 4 Header
First releases in Type 4, these included the Islander with its all yellow logo on the front, the sides and the ends of the boxes. They were rapidly replaced by Type 4b.
Very similar to Type 4a, these boxes had the red and white logo on the box end with a two-colour logo on the box sides and front, using the predominant colours from the painting.
Towards the end of Type 4, new releases and re-issues started to receive a modified Type 4 packaging. A coloured background to the title was added and all the logos were red and black. Some of the Type 4c’s had the same box sides as Type 4b but some (F-86D & Fw 190A) had a side view of the aircraft on the side. Interestingly the blister packs were Type 4c at the top but with a Type 3 bottom! The Collector’s Series with the all white logo are just Type 4. The series 1 figure kits are best described as Type 4 card header (earliest) and the rest ‘blister’.
Since the majority of kits were in production, either continuously or once or twice a year, most kits soon appeared in Type 4. Then in 1975, the figure kits, Museum Models and Collectors’ Series started to appear in a revised style, which had all the writing superimposed on the picture and did away with the white title frame, the boxes being largely white. Since these still retained the Type 4 features of rounded rectangles they are simply Type 4. They would lead on to Type 5.
The logo was now always red/white/black. The boxes now had single colour sides with the kit name written across the picture. Additional wording described the kit e.g. “The RAF’s Greatest Wartime Bomber”, or “Advanced Carrier-borne Swing-wing Fighter/ Bomber”, etc. The ‘blister’ packs for Series 1 were replaced by boxes. We were also informed that as well as being a 1:72 scale model kit it was also a 1:72 Modele Reduit, the beginnings of multi-lingual boxes?
The 2nd Edition 1977 price list revealed a new italic style logo, which ran through the 1978 catalogue. I don’t remember any models being released using this logo. In 1979, we saw the introduction of the oval logo. Palitoy also used an oval logo in 1982, which seemed to bear a resemblance to the earlier
The oval logo was now used. One reason for the oval was we are told because it allowed narrower titles, etc, but a larger logo. The box was now full colour with no border. Many of the aircraft now appeared without backgrounds and consequently any scenes of fighting, or had the ‘action’ airbrushed out (to satisfy countries like
A very short-lived design, it was intended for the 1981 releases and appeared throughout the rare 1981 catalogue. The logo was once again circular but now bore the legend “Precision Model Kits” around its edge. Most of that year’s intended releases bore the new logo.
There was a full colour picture or photograph of the model on the front with “SNAPnglue” or “SNAPfix” in a white band also on the front. This Style did not last long after the take-over and was superseded by Palitoy’s new design.
In January 1981, Airfix called in the Receivers and modellers throughout the world waited to see whether Airfix would survive and, if so, who would the new owners be. As we heard from Peter Allen, a proposed management buyout was rejected in favour of a purchase by General Mills, which put Airfix under its Palitoy division in Coalville, Leicester.
Those moulds at Wandsworth were shipped out to the Miro-Meccano plant in
The early Palitoy kits were obviously in the Type 7 packaging and soon they began to appear with ‘made in
One was a short-lived variant of the oval design and was, I think, used on some of the American car kits and on the cover of some issues of Airfix’s Railway Magazine. The other was a return to the Type 4 style logo but with a small ‘r’ after Airfix – to show it was a registered trademark of Palitoy. This logo lasted for several years into the Humbrol age and appeared on Type 8.
There are many collectors of Type 2, 3 or 4, for example, but few of Type 8! I suspect it was introduced to circumvent the problems of depicting violence on the box and misleading gullible purchasers into thinking that the box would contain all the aircraft in the background as well as trees, clouds and anything else that appeared on the box!
The round logo featured prominently on the front, sides and end but instead of a painting, a made-up model of the aircraft sat on what appeared to be a blueprint with the top edge fading into blackness. All very uninspiring, particularly as the models were not painted to the ‘Verlinden’ standard and frequently showed that the actual model did not look much like the real thing, whereas the Roy Cross paintings did! It also meant that models were no longer instantly recognisable because they all, at a glance, tended to look the same (like the old Type 7 Trackside Kits and Supermarket basics ranges).
Certain series in the range did retain the original artwork such as the 00/HO figures (and these were actually an improvement over the final Type 7 boxes (Italians & British infantry).
It is worth remembering that by the early 80’s Airfix was no longer releasing new models every month and very few kits were in continuous production or even in production! Therefore, a run of a particular model could easily outlast the life of a box type. In the 60’s and early seventies all the kits were in production and as soon as stocks of a kit ran low, another run was made. Thus a kit like the “Tiger” Tank would appear in Type 3a, 3b & 3c because as each new run was made the packaging was modified to the then current style of that Type. So with Type 3 and possibly Type 4 it may be necessary to identify the Tiger you are selling as say a Type 3b but with all the other Types generally to say “Panther” Tank – Type 9 is sufficient.
By the mid 80’s Airfix was on the market again, this time to be bought by Borden
Initially kits were released in the Type 8 packaging, but with Humbrol printed on the side, and for a couple of years Humbrol concentrated on getting a lot of the kits back into production. The catalogues of this period are somewhat slight and some were almost flyers (“40 new models for the Airfix range”).
The Humbrol Type 8 packaging differed slightly from the Palitoy Type 8 so it might be appropriate to refer to the Palitoy as Type 8A and the Humbrol as Type B. The easiest way to tell the difference is that Type 8A was copyright CPG whereas Type 8B was copyright Humbrol.
Then in 1987, we saw the first decent catalogue released and with, oh joy, Roy Cross paintings as well as new ones by Sturgess and James Goulding This saw the birth of Type 9.
The now standard Airfix logo with its small “r” was retained but the boxes were now mainly white with a large painting on the front. Down the left hand side was the logo with a series of coloured (yellow or blue) bars beneath. They were the first Humbrol-designed box style. The nearly all-new series 3 “Buccaneer” S2B appeared crammed into one of these boxes before being elevated to the roomier series 4!
Since most of the range was now aircraft, tanks and warships, there were few other ranges to warrant a modified Type 9 design. In addition to James Goulding and Sturgess, several of the Geoff Hunt warships appeared with Type 9.
Around 1990, saw the change to Type 10. The boxes were still predominantly white, but the logo tended to be larger and there was a wide border around the illustration. The Collector’s Series and Multipose figures were issued in this Type rather than a variant of Type 9. “Aircraft of the Aces” were released in slightly modified boxes but are still clearly Type 10.
Type 10 lasted into the mid 90’s and several new kits (virtually all aircraft) appeared first in these boxes. Quite a lot of new artwork was commissioned (the photographer no longer having to nudge the model around on the blueprint). Some of these - Harrier GR3 (1:48) and the lovely Buccaneer S2b (1:48), were very good but others – 1:72 Harriers, MiG 29 & Sukhoi S27 were, in my opinion, very poor.
The 1:48 naval Buccaneer kit was released in a new style – Type 11.
This was a return in some respects to Type 5 with its full colour box top with logo and titles superimposed. The blue sides also harked back to the lighter blue of Type 8. It also introduced a new logo Type 10 – see CS29). The italic design of the 1970’s was introduced with yellow shading. The packaging remained largely unaltered into 2002. The main alteration has been to the logo, which has gone through three very similar variations (CS29). While the logo has altered slightly the main box design has not and so I consider these three designs to be one basic Type, but with three variations, shall we say Type 11a, 11b & 11c?
When used with a striking Roy Cross illustration (e.g. Sunderland & Dauntless) they are real eye-catchers and certainly I kept picking them up in the shops and admiring them. The only criticism I have concerned the blue sides, which was virtually the same blue as used by Revell. Hence when scanning the shelves in a model shop it was not always easy to see where Revell ended and Airfix began. This is, however, a small point but one Airfix was aware of.
Concurrent with Type 11 was a new design mainly used for the kits in the Starter Sets but also used solely on some of the cars and motorbikes. This was Type 12.
These blue, red and yellow boxes feature the model’s photograph or painting posed against the 3-colour background. The rear features details of the Airfix Website. Several non-car kits appear in this box as well as Type 11. I was told it was not a replacement for Type 11.
Also in 2002 we saw a return to boxes with lids – even for the figures! This was, I felt, a great improvement and made the boxes much more rigid and easier to keep the kit components in.
In 2003, most kits were being issued in Type 11 and 12 packaging. Although the Type 12 packaging seemed at first to be reserved for those kits in the starter sets, etc, several were issued as separate kits in this packaging without being issued in the Type 11 style.
Then mid-year we had two new releases in a modified Type 11 packaging style. This proved to be a ‘blip’ because in late December and in January 2004 we had another new style of packaging. This was the new packaging. All of the kits released so far that year were all in the new packaging.
The two mid 2003 kits, the Honda RC211V (02485) and Subaru Impreza WRC’02 (01421), were sufficiently different to warrant a new Type number, so I suggest Type 13. I have never been keen on missing the number 13 out because of bad luck but I appreciate that many people regard it as unlucky. So since we have only two kits we can call them Type 13 and we never need worry about sub-types, etc. In fact one could say it is an unlucky designation as only two kits were issued in it!
The new releases became Type 14. Although I have seen all the kits so far issued, I have not received samples of all so that I can really study them. However, it would appear that the boxes were colour co-ordinated according to type of kit. Thus the main colour around the sides and on the box front seemed to be in a particular colour for each range of kits. For example, the two 1:72 motor launches have light green as their predominant colour with a red strip (common to all Type 14’s) running round the base.
The colours so far appear to be:
Aircraft Dark Blue
AFV’s Olive Green
MTB’s Light Green
Vintage Cars Light Grey
The Footballers are in a totally different style and I suspect don’t warrant a separate designation.
In late 2004, Airfix had been experimenting with silver/grey boxes for many of their aircraft collection sets and a modified version was to emerge for the main ranges which became Type 15. In 2005, the new style was introduced. It overcame the two problems of the blue box ends being confused with Revell kits and the difficulty in reading the sides and ends from any distance.
When Hornby purchased Airfix in late 2006 the decision was taken to keep the box style with one or two small revisions (such as the Hornby logo on the sides). Thus Humbrol produced kits are Type 15A and Hornby, Type 15B. The boxes are also sturdier and with a glossier finish. OO/HO figures have been put back into boxes with end flaps as originally sold.
A couple of years after the Hornby takeover, a new logo was introduced and the boxes, catalogues, etc, were produced in a new packaging style known as Type 16. It featured predominately red boxes with matching bases on which were details of the Model Club. Most decals were now being supplied by Cartograf and their logo appeared on the side.
In 2013, the boxes were modified slightly particularly on the bases to reflect better the more up-to-date information for the Airfix Model Club.
Type 16 Type 16B Box rear
So in the 60 or so years since Airfix’s first true kit, the Golden Hind, in the early 1950s, we have had 16 different box styles for the mainstream ranges and 13 logo designs. Hopefully, the current style, Type 16, will remain as it seems to be one of the best.
Jeremy - Updated to November 2013
This article last appeared in "Constant Scale" No.31 - 2008