Herpa Magic 1:600 Scale
Herpa had debuted its 500 scale model line during the 1990s and despite their often toy-like undercarriage their tampo printing quality meant that by the early 2000s they had largely usurped Schabak's primitive decaled 600 scale models. By 2005 Schabak was in real trouble and presumably sensing a gap in the market Herpa introduced a new line of 600 scale models it branded as Herpa Magic. The models were excellent, probably the best quality 600 scale models ever produced, however Herpa has something of a history of dabbling in scales and this would prove to be the case with 600 scale too. Herpa Magic would only last for around four years.
Initial Releases: 2005-2007
I don't recall there being much fanfare or pre-warning about the Magic series but perhaps that was just because I wasn't in Germany at the time. Schabak was at this point nearing its end and still hadn't progressed properly to printed models. In fact, the later Schabaks have suffered from dreadful decal rot problems so are arguably inferior to those from the 90s. The new Herpa Magic series featured excellent all-metal castings with full tampo printing. The quality was light years ahead of Schabak.
The first Herpa releases appeared in 600 scale towards the end of 2005 and featured the following aircraft types:
- Airbus A319
- Airbus A380
- Boeing 737-200
- Boeing 747-400
- Boeing 747SP
- Boeing 767-200
- Boeing 767-300
- Boeing 777-300
- McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30
One thing that was noticeable when comparing the Herpa moulds to the Schabak versions was that the nosegear legs were typically wider, wider than the tyres. This was especially noticeable on the smaller moulds and would be something the last series of Schuco-Schabaks would also emulate. When comparing the Herpa moulds to the then in use Schabak versions of the same type there was no contest.
The expansion of the line was very conservative. By 2007 there were still only 20 different models available (as the below sales brochure shows). Some new moulds had been added - such as the Airbus A320 and A330-200 but the number of airlines available was very small.
Winding Down: 2008-2010
It appeared clear that Herpa were interested in claiming the commercial business Schabak still had and wasn't aiming the line entirely at collectors. Some models were seemingly produced entirely for Etihad Airways. These included a very rare pair of Airbuses - an A330-200 and the A340-600. In fact that would be the only release of an A340-600 from Herpa and I actually don't even have an image of it so can't be 100% sure it was ever released!
Left: The rare Etihad A330-200 made in 2006
An A380 was also made for a commercial non-airline customer in a similar way that Schabak had done many times. The customer was Birco Drainage Systems in April 2006:
Unfortunately for Herpa Schabak hadn't completely died and in 2006 it was reborn as Schuco-Schabak now with competitive tampo printed models and some excellent new moulds (A340-600, A380, 747-400). Schuco's new Schabak line was far more prolific than Herpa's and I can only assume they were able to retain many of their commercial partners. This must have had an impact on Herpa's plans for its own Magic series.
Into 2008 there were very few new Herpa Magic releases and it almost feels like even by the end of 2007 Herpa was winding down its interest in 600 scale. It is likely that the new models in 2008 were already produced when the decision came to scale back the Herpa Magic series.
Of the three new models in 2008 two featured new moulds in the Airbus A340-300 and A340-500. Oddly the A340-300 mould was something of a mess and for some reason didn't share the same nose as the A340-500 or A330 moulds. the single model released, a Swiss example, looked rather odd because of this whereas the Etihad A340-500 was lovely.
Below: The Swiss A340-300 was something of an ugly duckling compared to the A340-500 (left)
The only other new model release was an Air Canada 777-300. Meanwhile several of the earlier releases left production. The last hurrah for the Herpa Magic series was a Qantas triple set, presumably made directly for Qantas, that featured an A380, 747-400 and 767-300. This was made in May 2009.
The End & Unreleased Samples
It appears that production of Herpa Magic models ceased in October 2009 and the return of models was very disappointing at only 32 models in total. Of these 6 or 7 were made for specific customers and 2 were never released samples. The samples included a second version of the Lufthansa A380 updated with 'Munsterstadt' titles and more impressively a lovely Lufthansa Boeing 727-200 mould.
Presumably the Herpa Magic line must have been a financial failure for Herpa but it did illustrate what could be done in 600 scale. The reborn Schuco Schabak line would produce some really nice models, and come close to the quality of Herpa Magic with at least their 747-400s, but rarely was able to meet this quality. Unfortunately for Herpa Schabak's survival appears to have made the Herpa Magic line rather stillborn, but given Herpa's dabbling in 400 scale I doubt they would have ever been a viable alternative to Schabak anyway. Nowadays the Herpa Magic line is largely forgotten but they did produce some delightful models.
Complete Herpa Production List
Below is the complete known Herpa production list. As you can see many moulds were used for only a single model, which cannot have been a financially prudent decision! The ID's correspond to the database entry at DiMA.