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What are miniatures?

In the most general sense, a miniature is any copy of a real-life item that is smaller than the original item.   So you can have a miniature of just about anything.   Think of the Eiffel Tower key chain you got on your trip to Paris or the blender refrigerator magnet your co-worker gave you for your birthday.

Miniatures have existed for centuries. From the elegant “cabinet houses” of the wealthy Dutch families to the utilitarian miniature kitchens used by the Germans to teach young girls their household duties; countless people have been fascinated by these tiny settings.   Miniatures have even been found in Egyptian tombs where it is speculated that the Egyptians believed they would be needed in the afterlife.

In the last few decades, the term “miniatures” has been used to describe the hobby of collecting and creating items in a specific scale.   The most common scale used is 1:12, also known as “one inch” or “one twelfth”.   In this scale, one inch in miniature equals one foot in the regular world. So if a regular table is 3 feet high in the real world, it will be 3 inches high in one inch scale.  People are the easiest to scale – if you are 5 foot 6inches in real life, you will be 5 and a half inches in one inch scale (1/12th).

Other scales used are 1:24 (half inch scale) and 1:48 (quarter inch scale) where a half inch and a quarter inch equal one foot, respectively.   One inch (1/12th), half inch (1/24th) and quarter inch (1/48th) are all often referred to as “dollhouse miniatures” and you will find the widest range of dollhouses and accessories in these scales.  You will often see them abbreviated as half scale and quarter scale.

One of the smallest scales people use is 1:144 which is one twelfth of one twelfth, also known as a dollhouse for a dollhouse!   This is a really tiny scale and can be difficult for those with vision problems or fat fingers like me.  It’s still a fun scale and the houses are so charming when completed. Here’s an example of a 1/144th house I made and displayed under a wineglass.

A common scale that is used more often with dolls is 1:6.   In this scale, one inch equals two feet. This scale is more commonly known as Playscale or Barbie scale (after the popular Mattel doll).   There are not as many houses and accessories available in this scale as there are dolls.

Another use of the term “miniatures” is to describe miniature figures used for gaming.   These table-top games use mostly figures and accessories in a variety of scales.   The Warrenton Area game club discusses the different scales and time periods of each game.

Whatever scale you use, miniatures are fun to collect and display in your home!

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