The Open System of Judging

The Open System of judging originally was developed in the early 1980s by the late, great modeler Sheperd Paine, and it has been in common use at all major shows in North America for nearly four decades. It was introduced to international exhibitions at the first World Expo held in Washington, D.C. in 1993. The central premise: to recognize good modelers and encourage promising ones.

The Open System reduces categories to a minimum and eliminates a fixed number of awards (i.e., first, second, third) given in narrow categories, allowing the level of work on display to determine the number and level of awards given. Thus, it is a juried exhibition and not a contest. As many awards are given as there are deserving pieces, and no modeler receives an award at the expense of, or instead of, another deserving modeler

Within the bounds of good taste, as determined by the World Expo Chicago 2017 Steering Committee, there is no restriction on subject matter in any of the divisions or categories.


Advanced Level (Open and Painters Divisions)
The Advanced Level is for those modelers who wish to exhibit their work and have it judged alongside the best modelers in the world. There are no qualifications or credentials required for a modeler to enter work in the Advanced Level divisions.
The Advanced Level is broken down into six (6) Divisions, as follows:

  • Open Historical Division
  • Open Fantasy Division
  • Open Ordnance Division
  • Painters Historical Division
  • Painters Fantasy Division
  • Painters Ordnance Division

Exhibits in the Advanced Divisions are eligible for Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals, and Certificates of Merit.

Open Divisions
The Open Divisions (Open Historical, Open Fantasy, and Open Ordnance) are for scratchbuilt/converted figures and models, vignettes, and dioramas, including boxed dioramas. Judges in this division evaluate entries based on their imagination, creativity, and skill.

Painters Divisions
The Painters Divisions (Painters Historical, Painters Fantasy, and Painters Ordnance) are painted stock kits. Judging is based almost entirely upon painting skill for figures and finishing skill for ordnance models. Although modified, converted, and even scratchbuilt figures are not excluded, all pieces entered in the Painters Divisions will be judged as if they were stock commercial kits. Groundwork is not considered unless in the opinion of the judges it detracts from the overall quality of the work. For the Ordnance Painters division, figures may be included, but they will not be considered in the judging unless in the opinion of the judges they detract from the overall quality of the work.

Exhibitors are limited to no more than one exhibit (comprised of 1 or more models) in each division.

Exhibitors entering work in the Advanced Level may not also enter work in either the Junior or Basic Levels. Exhibits shall be registered with the show committee under the name of the modeler who has painted the models entered, regardless of whether the models are entered in an Open or Painters division.

Entry of Painted Sculptures in the Open Division
Modelers who wish to enter sculpted masters which they have painted in the Open Divisions are free to do so, provided all such entries are contained in the single exhibit allotted to each painter. Entrants are free to credit the sculptor on their registration card. Modelers may not enter multiple exhibits listing themselves and different master sculptors as separate entrants. As with all entries in the Advanced Level, judges will select the single piece or group of pieces in each exhibit for award recognition. Each exhibitor in an Advanced division will be awarded no more than a single award in recognition of their achievements.

Exhibiting Unpainted Master Sculptures
Modelers are welcome to exhibit unpainted master sculptures. Such entries are subject to the same registration fees as other exhibits, as they will occupy space on the exhibition tables. No awards are given for unpainted sculptures, which should be marked “Not in Competition” at the registration desk.

Basic Level
The Basic Level is for modelers of more modest skills who feel they are not yet ready to be judged among the advanced modelers. Models entered in the Basic Level are eligible for Pewter medals and Certificates of Merit.

The Basic Level is broken down into three (3) Divisions, as follows:

  • Basic Historical
  • Basic Fantasy
  • Basic Ordnance

Awards: Exhibits in the Basic Divisions are eligible for Pewter Medals and Certificates of Merit.

There are no distinctions at the Basic Level between Painters and Open entries. Judges are free to recognize outstanding work by awarding an unrestricted number of pewter medals and certificates of merit at their discretion.

Junior Level
The Junior Level is intended for younger modelers, age twelve (12) and under. Modelers in this age group are still free to enter their work at either the Basic or Advanced levels instead of the Junior Level, should they choose to do so.

Awards: Exhibits in the Junior Division are eligible for Certificates of Merit.

There are no distinctions at the Junior Level between Painters and Open divisions.  Judges at this level are free to recognize outstanding work by awarding a variable number of certificates at their discretion.

The Judging Process
The teams of judges—experienced modelers from around the world—go through their assigned area at least twice: once as a group to select the piece to be judged, and a second time individually to determine their scores. These scores are not compared during the judging process. They are then tabulated by the head judge and his assistants to determine the final award. Each judge scores each piece on a scale of 1 to 4: 1 point for a Certificate of Merit, 2 for a Bronze Medal, 3 for a Silver Medal, and 4 for a Gold Medal at the Advanced Level, and 1 for a Certificate of Merit and 2 for a Pewter Medal at the Basic Level.

Best of Show
Three Best of Show Awards—one for each category of Historical, Fantasy, and Ordnance—are determined by a combined vote of the judges and the exhibitors. Each exhibitor has a single vote, while each judge’s selection counts for three votes.

The Advanced Level is for modelers who want to have their work judged alongside the best in the hobby. They usually have shown their work and claimed medals at other shows.

The Basic Level is for modelers who have not shown their work before or who feel they are not yet ready to be judged alongside the advanced modelers.

The Junior Level is for modelers 12 or younger, though they may also enter either the Basic or Advanced Level if they feel their work is ready.

The Historical Division is for pieces depicting or inspired by historical subjects.

The Fantasy Division is for fantastical or purely imaginative subjects.

The Ordnance Division is for wheeled, armored, winged, or nautical vehicles.

The Historical Open, Fantasy Open, and Ordnance Open Categories are for single figures that are minor or major conversions or original/scratchbuilt sculptures and for vignettes and dioramas (even if these feature stock figures).

The Historical Painters, Fantasy Painters, and Ordnance Painters Categories are for figures that are stock castings or models of wheeled, armored, winged, or nautical vehicles that are built “straight from the box” or with minimal conversions and extra detailing. In these categories, the judges only assess the painting of the figure or finishing of the model.


1.     Scratchbuilt: At least 75% of a figure is sculpted by the artist; some minimal use of commercially available parts included (weapons, modified heads, hands, etc.). Basically, the figure is the artist’s original conception.

2.     Major Conversion: A stock figure(s) formed the basis for the figure(s), but extensive anatomy, facial, clothing, and equipment re-sculpting was involved; approximately 50-75% original.

3.     Minor Conversion: The majority (more than 50%) of the figure is stock, but some degree of re-work of the pose, facial hair, uniform, etc. was performed.

4.     Ordnance: This category is for all vehicles (armor, cars, ships, planes, spacecraft).

5.     Ordnance Painters: For models where you only want the construction, painting, weathering, and display judged. You can have detailing or conversion work done on a Painters entry, but it won’t be considered by judges.

6.     Ordnance Open: For models for which you also want any conversion, detailing and scratchbuilding judged.

Please use the box provided on the exhibitor form to detail the work you did along the lines above so the judges are aware of all of your efforts. Thanks!