Company History

Mr. Robert Metchick, an ex-Navy pilot, started in 1964 with the idea of producing toy airliners that were durable, attractive and authentic enough to be used as desk models. While Tekno had produced a line of propeller airliners and the French Caravelle, there were no quality metal models of newer jetliners on the market. According to its Certificate of Incorporation, the original Aero Mini Company’s intent was to invent, create, manufacture, patent and distribute all-metal toys, including authentically detailed miniature replicas of commercial and military aircraft. Precision die cast to within 5000th of an inch, these exact scale models were to feature retractable landing gear, ventral passenger stairways that raise and lower, clear plastic canopies and meticulously duplicated airline and military identifications.

The decision to cast in zinc was based on economics and the ability of this metal to support crushing of the spring and wing attachment posts required for assembly. Cost and quality considerations led to the decision to manufacture Aero Mini models in Japan.

Original Packaging

Original Packaging

The first model brought to market was the Pan Am Boeing 707, released in 1967. The TWA version followed shortly thereafter and tooling soon began on the Boeing 727-100 which went on sale in 1969 along with the DC-9 Series 10. In 1970 the Boeing 747-100 was released in Pan Am and TWA colors. In 1971, the Boeing 737-200 in United colors joined the lineup. The BOAC VC-10 followed in 1972 and the DC-8 was introduced in 1974. The military F-4s, F-104s and WWII Zeros (which were produced at the request of the Company’s Japanese sub-contractors) were released in 1972 and 1973.  While featured in sales literature, dies were never cut for the DC-10 or the L-1011.

All narrow-body commercial Aero Minis were produced in 1/239 scale while the Boeing 747s were produced in 1/290 scale. The decision to go with the different, smaller scale on the 747 resulted from management’s concern that the physical size of the finished Jumbo Jet in 1/239 scale would be too big and too heavy. Jet fighters were in 1/100 scale while the Mitsubishi Zero was in 1/85 scale.

Packaging for the models varied over time. The “wood picture frame” cardboard box (at Right) was first used for the narrow-body airliner models, initially with elastic bands to hold the model in place and then with a clear plastic shroud to secure the model. The early 747s were packaged in a Styrofoam insert that also contained a stand and was shipped in a cardboard sleeve that had the same wood grain effect as the boxes for the narrow-body models. A plastic “bubble box” was used later in an effort to better display the model. Unfortunately, the bubble box sometimes caused paint damage on the top of the fuselage.

Original Aero Mini models could be ordered from the in-flight gift catalogs of Pan Am, TWA, Eastern, Air Canada, Northwest Orient, United and American Airlines. Models could also be purchased at airport shops, hobby shops, toy stores and other retail outlets as well as directly from the Company.

From 1967 to 1974 casting, parts production, painting and final assembly was done at the Aero Mini factory in Japan. An appreciation of the Yen by some 27% over the period from August of 1971 to February of 1973 created real challenges because sales contracts were fixed in US Dollars but production costs were in the more expensive Yen. This severely impacted margins. Compounding the problem, in 1973 Mr. Metchick discovered that a Japanese company unrelated to Aero Mini was selling Aero Mini models “out the back door” into European and Asian markets using unreported castings made on the Aero Mini dies. While these models were produced in the Aero Mini Company’s Japanese factory using paint, decals and boxes belonging to the original company, this was done without the knowledge of company management. When this was discovered, the decision was made to move production to the United States.

After tooling and dies had been packed and readied for shipment to New York, the Japanese government refused to provide the necessary export documentation for shipment, claiming that the Mitsui Mining Company of Japan (the die casting sub-contractor) had proprietary rights to the tooling. A legal action was initiated by Aero Mini against Mitsui Mining that delayed the shipment of tooling, dies and assembly equipment for some 18 months. It was not until 1974 that the US factory located in Wyoming, New York started to produce models. 

The problems associated with getting the production equipment out of Japan and getting a trained work force up and running in the US led to delays in delivering finished models to the airline catalog fulfillment operators. The higher cost structure associated with the move and the long interruption in manufacturing caused by the shipping delays combined to cause major financial stresses and eventually led to the original company’s demise in 1976. Unfortunately, several of the dies used to produce the original castings were sold as scrap following the bankruptcy.

According to Mr. Metchick, the original Aero Mini, Inc. produced some 450,000 models from 1967 to 1976. An approximate Rarity Index may be found under the picture of each model in the Original Models Database.

Close to the end of the original Aero Mini Company, Mr. Brian Tomkins with Executive Display Models in the UK entered into an agreement with Aero Mini to produce an additional range of 747s. He purchased Boeing 747 castings from Aero Mini and produced five additional 747 models. These were Air India, BOAC, British Airways, Qantas and TAP Portuguese.

Happily, the Aero Mini story does not end in 1976. A father and son team purchased the rights and assets of the original Aero Mini firm. They launched a new company called AeroMini, Inc. (note one word now) and in 1991 began producing new Boeing 737 models cast, painted, assembled and decaled in the United States. The new Company also released a Boeing 727-100 line of models, again produced 100% in the United States, as well as a series of Boeing 707-300 models made from modified Japanese castings.

New Company 727s and 737s are packed in a foam block that holds the model securely in place. A second foam strip is placed over the top and packaged in a white cardboard outer box. These new models feature distinct serial numbers beneath the wing center section identifying each plane for collector purposes. Scroll down under the New Models Database for a listing showing a ranking of the quantities of new models produced (as of Summer, 2012). 

Toys to some and collectibles to others, the Aero Mini (and, now, AeroMini) model is destined to have a special place in the hearts of kids of all ages. This website is designed as a resource for all those who have been interested or just curious about these die-cast metal models that first hit the market over 45 years ago.

A special thanks to Mr. Robert Metchick and Hans Nesbitt for their work in compiling much of this history back in 1990 for a great series of articles published in Plane News. Mr. Metchick has again been helpful in reviewing and editing content as this site has been built and refined. Thanks also to Brian Peckham, Anthony Lawler and Mike Bowen for their assistance with content; and to Kyle Buckingham, Mike Shull and Chip Hoffman for their assistance in putting the site together. If you have pictures of models or any suggested edits to this story, please contact us…

This website is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Vernon Peckham and in honor of Mr. Robert Metchick.