Airfix is the oldest UK manufacturer of scale plastic kits & toy figures and has been manufacturing plastic kits since 1952.
Airfix produce a wide range of kit models aimed at all types of scale modellers with subjects such as: cars, ships, military aircraft, dioramas and more recently also licensed products such as Wallace & Gromit, and shortly Doctor Who.
Airfix was founded in 1939 by Nicholas Kove, a refugee from Hungary who originally manufactured rubber inflated toys. The name Airfix was chosen because part of the process involved fixing air into products. Nicholas also believed that all successful companies should have their names at the beginning of business directories and consequently the name Airfix was born.
After WWII he switched to producing plastic combs, and was the first manufacturer to introduce an injection moulding machine.
In the late 1940s Airfix was approached by tractor manufacturer Harry Ferguson to make a model of one of his tractors that could be used by his sales team as a way to promote his products. Because of problems making the model, it was decided to make it in a series of parts which were then to be assembled by a team of trained workers.
This ready-built tractor proved to be popular and Ferguson allowed Airfix to produce them as toys and sell them under the Airfix name. It soon became obvious that more tractors could be sold if they were cheaper, and to achieve this they sold the kits unmade with instructions. This proved to be successful and shortly after Woolworths approached Airfix suggesting that by using a more stable polystyrene plastic and poly bags with a card header, it would meet the Woolworths retail price of 2 shillings. The small scale Golden Hind was launched in 1952. Woolworths buyers than began to ask for more subjects, then soon after Airfix began to produced a wider range of polybagged model kits – the all famous Spitfire model appearing from 1953.
Airfix grew throughout the 1960s and 1970s as the plastic kit modeling hobby became ever more popular. The range then expanded to include military vehicles, spaceships, trains, figures, trackside accessories, large classic ships, engines, warships, liners, rockets, modern cars, motorcycles, vintage cars, and more.
In the 1980s the plastic kit modeling hobby went into decline, this was blamed on a number of factors such as the introduction of computer games, precision die-cast models becoming available, a rise in oil prices -which of course affected the price of plastic- and declining birth rates. Due to this and heavy losses in Airfix’s other toy businesses, they were forced to declare bankruptcy, then later bought by General Mills.
Four years later, General Mills decided to abandon toy production in Europe resulting in Airfix coming back onto the market. This time it was bought by the Hobby Products Group of Borden who also owned other brands such as Heller (the French based plastic kit manufacturer) and Humbrol (producer of modeling paints and accessories).
In 1995 Borden then sold the Hobby Products group -which also included Airfix- to an Irish Holdings Company called Allen McGuire and continued to operate under the Humbrol name. In 2006 Humbrol Ltd. went into administration resulting in Hornby Hobbies Ltd buying both the Airfix and Humbrol brand.
In 2003, Airfix celebrated the '50th' anniversary of its first airplane kit, the Supermarine Spitfire. The celebration was two years early due to an incorrect 1953 date commonly accepted at the time. As the moulds for the original kit were long gone, Airfix reissued its 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia kit in blue plastic. The kit also included a large Series 5 stand (the moulds for the smaller Series 1 stand having been lost) and a copy of the original plastic bag packaging with paper header.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Airfix price guide: sold listings for a value indication.