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Brass model trains became popular after World War II, when American GIs stationed in Japan took notice of brass model trains made by local craftsmen. Early brass model trains were made by hand, allowing these craftsmen to reproduce custom trains for GIs who supplied pictures of their favorite trains from home.
As these brass model trains grew in popularity, they were manufactured by Japanese companies in small quantities, often fewer than 150 units. The trains were imported to the United States through hobby importers, including Westside Model Company and Pacific Fast Mail. Trains made from the '40s to the '60s are of particular interest to collectors.
Brass model trains were made in Japan until the '70s when the manufacture of these trains was moved to South Korea. The initial trains made in Korea were of poor quality, but as Korean manufacturers learned the business, these trains improved. Korean brass model trains from the mid-80s are considered highly collectible.
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