Roco Minitanks 1/87 HO Models: War on a Small Scale

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Roco Minitanks 1/87 HO Models: War on a Small Scale
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                                                                                                Craig S. Coleman   


Roco (now distributed by Herpa) Minitanks 1/87th HO scale military models from Austria is the best-known manufacturer of HO scale military models.  HO scale military models began as accessories for HO scale model railroading.  Military models cover the WWII, Cold War and recent Gulf/Iraq Wars’ tanks, APCs, jeeps, trucks and artillery.  HO 1/87th scale military models make great flat car loads from WWII to modern day trains.  Wargamers also appreciated the compact size of 1/87th military models - and drove the demand for military models in 1/87th scale. Traditional military model kits were produced in the larger 1/76th, 1/72nd , 1/48th and 1/32nd scales.   About 60% of the Roco / Herpa line covers West German / post Cold War German armor and soft-skin vehicles.  Roco / Herpa have released and re-release new and retooled/upgraded US, German and Soviet WWII models.   Other 1/87th scale manufacturers have been filling in the gaps in the WWII and modern TO&E with plastic, white metal or resin models.


During the 1960s - AHM distributed Roco Minitanks as AHM MINITANKS (z-102 to z-236) in the US as part of AHM's Minimen and Minimovers line.   Some older collectors might remember the store placards / displays boards with 24 Roco Minitanks display in plastic bubbles on the board.  A fully intact AHM Minitanks Display sold for $250 in April 2010 on ebay.  In OCTOBER 2011 two different AHM Minitanks display boards were up for sale on ebay. These are true collector's items.  Aurora in the 1960s also produced in kit form 1:87th scale-Roco - like Minitank models - which are also rare items to collect.

HERPA MINATURMODELLE  from Germany acquired the Roco Minitanks line as of October 1, 2007.  The good news is that Herpa plans to  continue to produce and distribute many of the classic Minitank models plus release new models each year.   The bad news is that Herpa has assigned new product numbers - which will undoubtedly creates some confusion amongst us long-term / hardcore Minitank collectors.  Herpa has put up the newly numbered Minitank line on their website:  [NOVEMBER 2010:   I noticed that newly distributed Minitanks package labels now have both the old Roco number and the new Herpa product numbers.] The relabeled Herpa packaging is larger than the old Roco boxes and in a light grey / white scheme with Herpa  Minaturmodelle in small gray letters and "Herpa in red letters on the bottom right hand corner  - no mention of "minitanks" on the all.  [NOVEMBER 2010:  I also noticed that Herpa is 'announcing' the re-releasing older classic early / low number Minitanks in the dark yellow / white blister window boxes.]     Model Power HO trains  packages early Roco Minitanks trucks and tanks as flat cars loads and in track side military scene sets.

The Wait

Going back to the early 1960s ~ up through the present, there is always ~ the wait.  The wait for announced new model releases or even now Roco re-releases and upgraded models to hit the retail stores and web sites.  Many of us have gotten older faster due to this traditional  marketing customer alienation disconnect.  It gets worse when the announced models we require are cancelled without explanation.  The Minitanks web pages on the Herpa website does let us know now which models are in production, scheduled or out of production.  Hut when an anticipated model is abruptly cancelled or out of production. we are all still left in the dark.  I think that Roco, Trident and now Herpa in particular kept secrets better than any secret government agency.   On the other hand, this marketing strategy, intentional or not, does not seem to stop us from collecting Minitanks.   Yeah, I know, we should just blame the Euro exchange rates and the increased cost of oil for plastic.



Trident and Preiser Military models are producing complimentary military and civilian HO scale models.  Both of these manufacturers are producing much-desired WWII German soft-skinned, half track and tank models.  Trident has issued a full series of MK V Panther variants – D, A, G, F, Jadgpanther and Coelian AA tank along with both and (neu) production  later SdKfz 250 and 251 half tracks and Kettenkrad models.  Trident now produces early German WWII Panzers in resin such as the Pzkpfw  IIs and Pzkpfw III series along with a late production Stug IVs, Jadgpanzer IV L/70. Preiser has issued earlier SdKfz 251s , SdKfz 250s, along with 50mm and 75mm PAK and 105mm horse and tractor towed leFH 18 artillery pieces 20mm Towed AA guns, towed searchlight,and a full range of WWII German military figures.  Heiser’s Models has developed a wide list of resin US, British, German, Italian and Japanese WWII soft-skinned, half track and tank models – which are made to order or available through the Walters HO Catalog.  An obscure  resin line of both US and German WWII armor and soft skin vehicles under the brand of name of Uncle Bill's fits a big gap not covered by Herpa / Roco, Preiser or Trident.


Other smaller/custom manufacturers of plastic, die-cast metal and/or  resin military models and accessories and upgrade kids include Premo, Komo, Armourtec, H&K, MAC, SDV, Military Depot, Artitec,  Artmaster, CMK, Z&Z,  Arsenal-M, adp, Petner Panzers, Hauler, Igra, ses, Kniga, MR Models,  Nimix, Zylmex, CMSC, Dahlmann, Wespe, Imex, ITA SARL and most recently Boley and its Dept 1:87 line (which produces affordable die cast popular models.).  Really old and rare 1:87 military models were sold by Tomy Metal Models.  Dynamights die cast models which are more toy like -  produce military models in 1/87th scale. Some hard to find WWII Soviet and modern Russian armor and soft skin vehicles very fine, expensive, painted and ready to run plastic and/or resin models come from the Ukraine such as those offered by armorinscale  and SMK models on ebay..  These small run models  don't have one specific brand name though, but are sold by higher-end dealers in Europe and in the US.  These models cover the rarer/specialized WWII Wehrmacht soft skin and armored vehicles.  Also from both the Ukraine and Russia are Soviet / Russian WWII and modern era Soviet / Russian plastic and resin military vehicles and armor.  Other manufacturers of HO 1/87th scale vehicles  include Wiking, Brekina, Busch, Herpa, Roskopf, Piko, Praline and Lilliput.  Some of these civilian automobile and truck models that  are adaptable for wartime military modeling.   There are also add on and conversion kits for many 1/87th scale military models.  Trident, Kniga, Artmaster and Hauler offer these type kits.  Roco's and Herpa's Minitanks newer model kits often contain super detailing parts which can be used in enhancing individual models and for kit bashing as well.  Really hard to find modern Japanese Self Force 1/87 plastic models are produced by F-toys.   Trident, H&K, Kniga and MR Models produce a number of 'conversion / add on' kits to upgrade, detail or convert production models into specialized or modernized variants.




Roco / Herpa Minitanks, Trident and Preiser models are now highly detailed HO scale military models.  Roco / Herpa  releases an average of 10 new models each year plus special / limited edition models. The earliest Roco releases are numbered 97 – 300. Roco’s distinctive dark yellow/blue for 1960s - 1970s production runs  an orange/blue color packaging scheme for 1980s-2000 production runs. Dealer’s / trade boxes containing original six models are also highly collectible. Roco product numbers are now over 1000.  Roco in the late 1980s began to improve the detail of their injection molding castings and included additional detailing and optional add-on parts to model specific variants of popular military vehicles and armor.  Roco and Trident both now have websites to view and Walthers HO Catalog features of many these HO model lines as well.   

Roskopf Military  models are not true HO scale (except the later civilian trucks and automobiles series) the early armor series are closer to 1/90th to 1/100 scale models.  When placed next to Roco Minitank models, they look out of place and noticeably smaller in scale and us 1/87th scale 'purists' reject the scale discrepancies. . But the Roskopf Military models are collectible in their own right.



Roco Minitanks issues a fairly solid line of currently deployed US armor and softskin vehicles - M1 Abrams, Ms/M3 Bradleys, Patriot, M109 SP Howitzers, M113 variants, NBC Fox armored car, HUMMVs, HEMMT cargo and fuel trucks. M929/M930 Dump Trucks,  M35 truck, and M931 / M915 heavy trucks and tractor trailers.  Trident supplements with modern US armor  and softskinTO&E with more updated FMTV and LMTV trucks and other supply turck type modern US trucks along with a full line of LAVs and  US Marine AAVPs, Trident has started to issue resin models of the Stryker and MRAP armored cars.  


People collect HO military models for programming, HO model railroading accessories, investment and/or for modeling specific military TO&E.  Some of the most prized Roco Minitanks collectibles are the earlist 97 – 300 series models in their original 1960s /1970s unopened yellow/blue stripped blister packages.  Unfortunately, due to simple stapling --- loose parts like hatches, machine guns, and wheels slipped out of the blister packs over time - a 1960s era unopened blister package with all of the original parts intact is a rare find.   The earlier Roco Minitanks had additional wheels beneath tracked vehicles so that they could roll on tabletops / floors (so little and big kids could play with them...) Original earlier Roco z-97 through z-300 tracked models should have these wheels intact for collector's value.  Occasionally eBay will list plastic bagged Roco Minitanks unassembled kits which are fairly rare as are Minitanks Classic releases..  Also, There are store display units which actually had the early series models z-97 through z-250 in plastic bubbles.  Finding a complete one of these store display units has to be 'Holy Grail' of collectible Roco Minitanks items.  Some dealers sold individually plastic wrapped early number Minitanks models which you can still find today on ebay.  Even more rare are boxed Roco Minitanks model kits - seldom seen on ebay - again only for the earlier Roco "z" numbered models.  Minitanks AHM Dealer display board with approximately 25 early z number Roco Minitank models can occasionally be found listed on ebay.   AHM distributed Minitanks for several years in the 1960s - mostly as compliments (military loads)  for their HO railroad line.  Aurora and UPC also issued Roco Minitanks like 1/87th scale models in the 1960s which are also rare and hard to find.  Model Power has picked up distributing some of the earlier Roco Minitanks  US Armor  and Truck models as complements (military loads) for their HO railroad line which are available in hobby stores.




Many Roco Minitanks models have been discontinued – making them more collectible.  The z-97 [Caterpillar Road Scrapper] is a highly prized early collectible ranging price from $35 to $45 MIB.. Other prized earlier unopened models include the z-159 M29 Weasel, z-186/88 Sfh18 100/150 canon, z-191 Corbitt Gun Tractor, z-203/204 M8 / M20 US WII Scout Car and Utility Car, z-267 Churchill Tank (pictured above), z-268 Cromwell Tank and # 455 - DUKW which sold for $77.00 in a September 2009 auction.  Recently factory  pre-painted and decaled Roco models have become 'collectible' investments. For example, #606 is a US WWII  2  1/2 ton hard cab CCKW 353 truck which has become very collectible and valuable.  #646 is the painted/decaled version of the same CCKW 353 2 1/2 ton truck which sold for $45.00 in September 2009.  In June 2010, original packaged z-249  battlefield stands (1 - 4) were very popular and they sold for between $38.00 - $78.00.  Premo/Roco/KOMO  WWII era Soviet Tanks are popular to collect including the T34-76, T34-85, SU-85, SU-100, KV1, KV-2, BT-2 BT-5 BT-7 and T-26 model tanks.

Model Power still  packages earlier US 1960s era Roco Minitanks into their HO train line as flat car loads or military railroad trackside scenery kits.  

Roco issued #1000 a three box special edition titled "The 50th Anniversary of Operation Overlord June 6, 1944 - June 6, 1994" D-Day Commemorative sets - # 998 US, #999 British armies,  and #1000 German, each containing three models in a special box set. These are also highly collectible and average $75.00 + each.  Some very rare D-Day Roco Minitanks Special Edition models (which I have not personally seen in the US) are # 996 D-Day Special Dodge Truck and #997 D-Day Special Dodge Command Car. 

Now with Herpa's acquisition of the Minitank line - the original Roco labeled Minitank packaging will be even more collectible - especially the discontinued, special edition, and rarer  Roco Minitank  models.


In the 1980s, Roco began to use fold over flaps on their blister packs with staples and changed the color scheme to orange and blue stripes.  In the 1990s, Roco produced a much better closed-end box design with plastic windows with the models set into a white plastic holder.  And in 2005 – Roco  Minitanks changed their packaging color scheme-in the last years  to dark yellow and white along with light muddy brown tank track dropping perpendicularly from left to right along with a redesigned Roco Minitanks logo. Herpa at the same time is using its own plastic window white box packaging with the HERPA MINATURMODELLE  in light gray label on the bottom front center and its own red letter 'HERPA' on the lower right corner.. [SEE ABOVE PHOTO] with the schwerer PKW 108 model.].


Quite often you will see abbreviations / acronyms in ebay listings referring to the condition of unopened / new Roco Minitanks and other HO armor and vehicles. 

MOC = Mint on Card, MIP = Mint in Package, MIB = Mint in Box, NIB = New in Box. MIBP = Mint in Blister Pack.  NOS = New Old Stock.


In the early 1990s, I started collecting the Roco Minitanks Desert Storm series – mostly reissued existing then modern-era US Abrams, Bradley, M113, 2 ½ ton and 5 ton trucks and HUMVs molded in dark yellow plastic instead of the usual OD color plastic.  I held on to them for 10 years and sold many off on eBay (to support my hobby/habit] at a higher return on investment over the Like any investment project - you need to know the demand and the scarcity of Roco Minitanks and other lines.  Trident for example has cut back on producing their Panther series models, making these models more scarce and valuable.  There is still demand for 1/87th scale military models, even under the current economic slump.

Roco Minitanks also issues each year limited or special edition sets.  Recently - these include pre-painted models sporting appropriate camouflage schemes.  Other are special sets of older models and/or of newly issued models.  Roco Minitanks issued a three box set for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.  Roco also issues special editions that combine models with period HO flat cars for WWII and modern era German military trains. And as previously noted, the pre-painted/camouflaged and decaled models are becoming more collectible investments due to their limited runs/releases.


Type in Roco, Roco Minitanks, Trident, Preiser, Arsenal M and the other above-listed manufacturers listed in bold to see what’s up for auction this week. Roco Minitanks and Trident catalogs and brochures are also good collectibles.   Look for auctions of original sealed packages to collect or for loose lots on ebay to build up your 1/87th HO scale mobile and armored forces cheaply and quickly.  The other manufacturers I have mentioned above are harder to find... you'll have to look into ebay seller stores and go to ebay's foreign language sites - particularly the German ebay site to find some of these kits/models.



Arsenal M is expanding their WWII resin line with many overlooked German and US tank, armor and soft skinned vehicle variants.   These are welcomed additions to the 1/87th military collection.  The Tiger IIb King Tiger Henschel turret model pictured at the top of this article.  Herpa Minitanks in 2011 has also introduced new mold upgraded Tiger IIb models as well.



Collectors are putting out into the marketplace - most notably on ebay - a lot of hard to find Roco/Herpa Minitanks and other collectible models.   Also, detailed, painted up and decaled models are now circulating.  I know hardcore and occasional collectors and their families are being obliged / forced to let go of some or all of their 1/87 scale military collections.  Food, rent/mortgage and bills come first.  I urge you to pick up these models so they can circulate amongst us modellers and collectors - to help out our brothers in need and to prevent the truly collectible and rare models from being lost, given to charities, sold at garage sales, thrown away or abused by young kids as toys.    Give the young kids your previously played with Minitank models.  Hopefully they will develop an appreciation for the hobby and collect them when they are older (like us!)


Some of the more interesting -  unique and hard to find models can be found on the German ebay site.   Austria / Germany is the home of Herpa / Roco Minitanks, Trident, ADP Arsenal M and most of the small production, rarer model lines.  The bidding is tough and the last fraction of second sniping is expert.  So, if you spot a gotta-have model on the German ebay pages - be prepared for some rough and tough bidding.

Herpa Minitanks has announced a gas truck version of the German WII  Opel Blitz 3t and a re- released Mercedes L4500 this time with a canvas cover and has recently released retooled / upgraded Tiger II Henschel and Porsche turret variants.  The retooled upgraded Herpa boxed Tiger IIs made a brief appearence on ebay and have since disappeared as of Fall 2011. 


RMM Roskopf produced 1/100 scale Minitank-like models from the late 1950s to 1990.  These plastic models of modern and WWII military models were packed as blister packs on Red background with white and.or black lettering.  RMM Roskopf was sold out to the German Piku model company owned by Wiking models. While they look like Roco Minitanks, they are unfortunately and obviously smaller than our standard 1/87th HO scale models.  There are people who collect RMM Roskopf and you can find these 1/100 models occasionally listed on ebay.  THERE ARE A LIMITED NUMBER OF COLLECTOR'S QUALITY  ROSKOPF 1/8TH MODELS.  These models are typically pre-war German truck models with commercial lettering.

EKO Models

EKO is a Spanish manufacturer of 1/87th and/or 1/85 scale models.  These tend to be low-end plastic military models (toys) with much less casting details than Roco or Trident plastic models.   


The WWII era German Opel Blitz fuel truck is a new variant announced for release, and the Roco German Mercedes Benz L4500 Cargo Truck has been re-released this time with a canvas cover replacing old Roco #398 and #666 which did not have a canvas bed cover. DECEMBER 2011 NOTE:  the WWII era MB L4500 with cover disappeared as fast as it appeared. The HERPA/Roco website has it and the upgraded ./ retooled Tiger IIs out of production already - and it was listed as a Fall 2011 release.!!! This is of course maddening typical of Roco for over 50 years...  All three [popular] US WWII M3 halftracks have been re-released without upgrade - they were excellent models to begin with. The M3 Personnel with canvas cover, M21 Mortar and M16 quad 50 AA gun carriage as of December 2011 - these re-releases are still available in quantities.
FALL 2012 Update: Roco is producing Soviet / Russian modern era softskins with Ural and Zil-157 truck models as new releases this year. The release of the Soviet GAZ 69 car/jeep.  The  Roco model line up is notoriously weak on Soviet and Russian AFVs and soft skins and it is nice to see (and is about time) Roco catching up with WWII and Cold War era Russian / Soviet military vehicles.  New versions of the Zil 157 Soviet truck are on their website - a flatbed and a cabin variant are listed as in production as of  December 16, 2011.  Roco did release last year the Zil 157 cargo truck version,.  Herpa/Roco also released the Post WWII era Soviet BTR-152 'Iron Pig' six wheel armored car series and the UAZ vans to add to its Russian/Soviet model inventory. earlier in 2011. Of course Herpa/Roco as a Germany / Austria based company continues to produce up to date modern German armor and soft skins such as the newly released Mungo armored car,  Mercedes-Benz Zetros 6x6 series.



The GUIDE has achieved 31,000 views .. so far ... I welcome any suggestions / additions / corrections  and intel for this guide, please feel free to email me with the ebay email.   It is an evolving reference as our hobby grows I hope to keep this reference guide up to date. 

About the Author


Craig S. Coleman [korwar50] – I have been an ebay member since 2000 – and has been collecting HO 1/87th armor and vehicles since the 1960s. ebay has greatly enabled me to buy and sell these models globally.  I am a long-time WWII re-enactor with the California Historical Group for over 25 years.  I go by my WWII reenactor nom du guerre Sgt. Rock [see photo] , but I was busted down to PFC and I am probably oldest living serving private in our unit.  I also collect / sell HO model railroad equipment, WWII and Korean War era military gear, equipment, uniforms and books on ebay.  In the real 1:1 world, I am a college professor with a specialty in modern East Asian economic and political affairs.  Go figure.


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