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Hi there! Brand new to this website. I just had a question, and I figured you go to the experts when wanting the best answers! I'm currently painting custom HO figures and I selling them on Etsy (Just started in October) and other places. I was just wondering what figures people are looking for most? I do a lot of movie and pop culture ones right now and I'd really like to get a list going of ones people are searching for. Advice, ideas, feedback anything like that is welcomed! :eek:

My shop if you want to see what I've already done:


Well-Known Member
Hi Heather,

People like scenes with their model railroad. Your own creativity will work for you here. The "transition" era seems to be the most popular time frame to model, 40's to early 60's. I would suggest scenes that can fit into a variety of time frames.

Check out the link above to "Model RR Links" then "model railroad suppliers" to get an idea of stuff available already. Common vendors are Prieser, Model Power, and Woodland Scenics

Hope this helps, Dave
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Jim 68cuda

Well-Known Member
Since one of the most popular eras for model railroads is the 1950's, you might think of some of the iconic figures and poses from that era. Examples might be Marilyn Monroe's famous pose over a subway grate, or James Dean's leaning against the wall pose for "Rebel Without a Cause", or the Ricardos and the Mertzs and their luggage as it would fit into a scale 50's convertible from the "I love Lucy" TV show. Every once in a while a search for particular types of figures among the many shown in the Walthers catalog results in a dead end. A friend modeling a wood frame house under construction on his 60's era layout was disappointed to find that no HO scale carpenters using power tools seemed to be available in HO scale. Sometimes a company discontinues a line of figures as they don't sell in a large enough quantity to mass produce, so it might be worth comparing the available figures from old Walthers catalogs to the figures available in the most recent catalog. Since most of the figure manufacturers are European, you might also look into activities that are uniquely American and are seldom seen elsewhere (baseball or basketball for example though those figures may now be available somewhere). Oxford makes a 1/87 scale (HO) early 60's open Kennedy Presidential limousine, but without figures. You might make passengers (JFK & Jackie and the rest to occupy the limo). Moebius Models makes an HO scale model of the Munster's house from the 60's Munsters TV show but there aren't any HO scale figures of the Munsters to go with it (not that they would be in much of a demand). A look through the Walthers catalog page by page might also give you some ideas for figures that would combine nicely with other products to complete a scene. Characters from popular 50's and 60's TV shows such as Andy Griffith Show or Leave it to Beaver could easily be worked into a scene without loosing an authentic look and yet might be easily recognized by those who remember the shows. As for me, I wouldn't mind seeing HO scale pink plastic flamingos and other American style yard art. Prieser makes HO scale flamingos but they tend to represent real flamingos rather than the plastic ones seen in gardens across America.
Good luck and have fun with your new venture.
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Thank you. That is helpful advice. I will shift some focus to that era.

Thank you for the specifics Jim! Funny enough I just finished an Andy and Opie today. Marilyn, I love Lucy, Munsters - love all those ideas! I'm working on a Kennedy and Jackie too, but I suppose I need seated figures for the limo. Pink plastic flamingos! Ha I love it and will see how I could do it. Ok! Lots of good ideas. Thank you for the inspiration!


Whiskey Merchant
You really have done some really nice work. It's quite a job painting those tiny figures. I usually buy unpainted figures in bulk and keep them close to my paints and when I am painting other items, I'll used what ever color I am using an will paint different figures, adding paint to them until they're finished. Now that I am getting older, I find that it's getting more difficult.

I will agree with Jim's statement above. Not only do model railroaders model modern times, but many time periods. Myself, I model 1957 for instance. Figures really bring life to a model railroad.

Again, very nice work.


Active Member
or you can think about how there are a lot of the current offerings for the era mentioned. I seem to find a lacking in more modern era figures. Maybe think about filling a void as well as the more common market.

Thank you Montanan! Yes, painting things so tiny does take patience and I'm going to need a magnifying glass soon enough ha, but I have fun. Ok, I'm looking into 50's era figures.

Thanks for the advice Dave. Common era, I've mostly been doing pop culture and movie/tv show characters... are you talking more everyday looking people, but common era? I started these more for terrariums and dioramas, but then outside of Etsy I had some people buying them that said they were for a train layout they were doing, so I figured I'd check out what people for were looking for and maybe not finding.


Well-Known Member
I agree with Dave, personally my era is mid 70's
What I find hard to find is figurines that go in industries, for example:
- Mining people
- Refinery people
- Co-op workers
- Ordinary industry workers
- Ordinary winter people

PS. Nice work
Ok, thank you Lloyd. I'll add those to my list! By Industry workers, are we talking hard hats and fluorescent vests? Co-op workers might have to be explained too lol.


Section Hand
Nice work on the painting of the figures.

Follow Chet's suggestion on checking Woodland Scenic's website for ideas. Also bare in mind the price point you at what you intend to sell your work to modelers. Check the prices of the competition and remember that model railroaders will be interested buying more than one figure and currently typically purchase figures in sets like those offered by Woodland Scenics and other manufactures.




Well-Known Member
For the 1940's and early '50's you might make the men with hats and suits, especially if they are travelling or around office buildings or just on the street. Most men wore fedoras or homburgs, and travelling wore suits. Ladies also wore hat and sometimes white or black gloves, and dresses when travelling. Children also were dressed when travelling...girls wore dresses or skirts and blouses, boys pants (young boys might wear short pants) and maybe a shirt and a sports coat. Jeans and slacks were only worn in the country or for play, and the only time girls wore slacks were in cold weather, when they wore them under their skirts or dresses. Chicago public schools had cloakrooms and the girls would discretely remove their slacks before the bell rang, and would put them back on at the end of the school day. All sorts of possibilities for you.
Thanks all for the advice!

I have been checking out the various brands, but I’m trying to go for ideas on things the others don’t offer. Someone said the other day they wanted a custom Ho scale version of themselves! So I made it! I thought that was a fun idea, so I’m looking into that.

True about the price point. Etsy is always a little higher in price. I obviously can’t compete with big ol’ chains mass producing miniatures, I’m more going for those looking for one particular set for one spot in their setup they want special (like the guy that wanted spider-man on one of his buildings). I sold a few yesterday at their current price. I can always come down, but I can’t go back up! Lol. So I might as well try it out. I’m actually (for the Etsy market) less expensive than most selling HO scale figures on there. Most are not even painting them, just buying and reselling already made ones for a markup (which doesn't seem particularly nice, but I guess business is business). But I will keep price in mind, and would offer discounts if someone was looking to buy more than one - especially if they went through some other venue (emailing me, Craigslist, buying direct) outside of Etsy (that charges fees just for listing plus a percentage on each sale)

That is a good idea! But...hmm. You can get men in hats and suits already for 40s-50s right? And probably cheaper then I can offer them. I guess I’m just checking to see if people look for particular figures for scenes or if it is more mass quantity basic figures? If so then I guess I’m marketing more towards diorama people or terrarium folks. That is kind of neat to hear about the clothing though, and I will keep it in mind when trying for that era. Thanks for all the good info! I really do appreciate it.


Active Member
One idea I had was look at the layouts some have built and see where people are missing from the scenes and think how you can add to those. Not sure your production method but if you can make some figure that had parts the user could add or not would be added value. Like if a hat was an option they user could at the time of purchase. This would give the modeler an option to personalize the figures.

Just ideas to help get you to a larger market or a more attractive product. How do we find you items for sale other then on Etsy or do you have a web site.

Hi Dave! Sorry it didn't show me your reply before for some reason. Ok! will try that :) I'm getting better at Frankenstein-ing my figures to create something new haha. So custom versions maybe soon. I got requests for astronauts, Abraham Lincoln, and James Bond.... so at least I am keeping busy.

Oh, at the moment I am just starting out, so no website yet. Going to start up a facebook page eventually and some other social media websites. I sell them locally and on craigslist etc. If people want to email directly that is good too! teenytinypaintbrush AT Gmail dot com -with the @ sign and .com (I don't want to write out my email address here so the spambots don't find me and start spamming me haha)

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