Frequently Asked Questions about World Globes

World Globe FAQ

Most globes are made to tilt at an angle of 23.5 degrees to match the actual tilt of the earth in relationship to our sun. Incidentally, it is this tilting of the earth relative to the sun, rather than its changing distance from the sun, that causes the seasons to change and gives us more daylight hours at certain times of the year. Click here for more information about the tilt of our Earth how it affects the cycle of seasons.

Globes that feature gyro-matic or full swinging meridian can spin in all directions. Be aware that in illuminated globes, this movement can be restricted slightly by the cord which typically comes out of the southern axis. While many non-illuminated globes can "gimble" or spin end over end along a vertical plane, most illuminated globes can only rotate the horizon ring within the stand, somewhat inhibited by the electrical cord.

Globes are measured by diameter: A straight line through the widest point of the sphere. To help visualize, a basketball is about 10" in diameter, and a typical medium sized beach ball is about 16" in diameter.

Because a globe is round with no beginning or end, there are two imaginary reference lines from which all distances and locations are determined - the equator and prime meridian. Both the equator and the prime meridian intersect at point 0, where all numbering starts with longitude and latitude lines. Locations are uniquely identified on a globe by the point where the longitude and latitude lines intersect, i.e., Dallas, Texas is located 33 degrees north (latitude) 97 degrees west (longitude). Equator: Runs east and west around the exact middle of the globe. Prime Meridian: Imaginary line running from pole to pole and passing through Greenwich, England. Longitude: Imaginary lines running parallel with the prime meridian through each pole and numbered in 15 degree increments. Latitude: Imaginary lines running around the globe parallel to the equator and are numbered at 10 or 15 degree increments. See our "Globes as a Reference Tool" and our "Locating Places on Earth" pages for more details.

Antique, beige colored globes are produced to resemble ancient parchment, with an Old World appearance often preferred in home or office settings. The geographic information is up-to-date and the antique appearance is done for its esthetic appeal. The blue globes have ocean areas in blue and usually consist of highly contrasting, colorful, political boundaries. The youth market often prefers the realistic appearance of these globes.

Antique actually refers to the color of the oceans, which is intended to have the appearance of aged parchment. Models on our site with Antique Oceans are current. The Old World or "Reproduction Globes" on our site on the other hand, are replicas of another era of cartography.

A Political globe highlights country and state borders with less information about the Earths physical features, while the Physical globe shows more detail on physical terrain, and may or may not show country borders. Some illuminated globes feature a dual-map that reveals additional information when the globe is lit. Physical globes typically use more earthy tones to illustrate ecological zones or topography, and most will also show "political" features such as city and country names and boundaries. Political globes typically use bright, bold color blocks to easily identify political boundaries, and little if any, information about physical features.

Its called a time dial and is used to compare time around the world. More information about how globes can help keep track of world time can be found in our article "Time Measurement".

Most globes have a metal ring either full circle or half (semi) circle. These rings are called meridians and they are generally numbered in degrees from 0 at the equator to 90 at either pole. Originally, meridians were used to help locate positions on the globe, but since most reference globes have the longitude and latitude lines on the maps, the numbers on the meridian have become less important. The ring itself still serves to hold the globe ball in position.

Subject to space limitations, manufacturers attempt to list all nations and capitals, then the biggest city in that country or state, or an important city. There are more names on the coastline because there is room for them. If a city has some importance other than size or a capital, then its added. The US Government has a list of names for cities and countries outside North America that they call conventional names. They are easier to understand than the literal translation and are why globes show Finland, for example, and not Suomi.

Typical 12" and 16" reference globes have about 4000 place names on them. 20" and larger have over 4500 place names. Larger globe diameters offer more surface space for more place names. The massive Diplomat globe has an unmatched 21,000 place names & is the most detailed reference globe in production today. Gemstone globes and "decorative" globes have much less detail, with around 1500 place names included.

Globes with raised relief better emphasize the mountainous areas of the world. The relief is there so that you can see and feel the mountains although their actual height on the globe does not have any relationship to the true relative heights of the mountain ranges. If it were to actual scale, we'd barely--if even--be able to feel the highest mountains of the world. Raised relief is found on 9", 12" and 16" diameter non-illuminated press craft globes and on select 12" and 16" vinyl globes. On a smaller globe, it would be difficult to maintain any degree of accuracy. On a very large diameter globe, i.e., 20" & 32", the method of manufacturing doesn't lend itself to incorporating this feature.

The figure 8 shape on your globe is called an analemma. This tracks the perceived path of the sun across our Earth's sky throughout the seasons of the year. Of course the sun does not move across our sky, but from how we see it on Earth, the sun follows this figure 8 path. Much more detail on this can be found here:

An atlas complements a globe and a globe complements an atlas. When used together, each has features that become excellent references and teaching tools. The advantage of a globe is that the world in its entirety is depicted on a sphere, showing land masses, countries and regions in true proportion. In addition, globes are an attractive decorative accessory for both home and office. Atlases are very useful for seeing a higher level of detail for a particular, focused area or for understanding how geography affects politics, climate, economy, etc.

All the reference globes we sell are totally current. Most also come with a globe replacement program, which allows you to purchase an updated globe ball from the manufacturer when needed. When political or place name changes occur, keep in mind that it does not usually change the contours of the land or geographical relationships between regions. Place names change and boundaries move, but the world itself stays fairly intact, so a quality globe can last for many years. Manufacturers suggest updating your globe ball every 5-10 years.

Most manufacturers have a policy of updating a map every time its printed. Although the names or boundaries of countries can change due to wars or other political upheavals, most changes are simple name changes that are relatively easy to make. Usually when the U.S. State Department along with representatives (usually the embassies of the governments involved), recognizes the changes as being a fact, the changes are implemented in our system.

Markings can be wiped off with a moistened cleansing tissue or soft, damp cloth. Household dust can be removed with a dry cloth, though you may wish occasionally to use a slightly dampened cloth to remove fingerprints or smudges. A mild, non-abrasive product is recommended for difficult marks. Do not use industrial or even household cleaners that contain alcohol or any solvent. Some acrylic and special purpose globes can be marked with a grease pencil or with a dry erase marker, and safely wiped clean with a soft cloth.

The globe is lit from the inside by a 25W electric light bulb. The cord typically comes out of the southern axis and needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. To allow light to pass through the globe ball, the sphere is usually made of plastic, sometimes covered with paper gores. Though it is a diminishing craft, some globes still come with a glass or crystal sphere.

Replacement bulbs can be found at any hardware or lighting store. Some illuminated globes use a 15 watt up to 25 watt candelabra light bulb and others require a standard light bulb. Please follow these guidelines: do not use more use more than a 15 or 25 watt bulb for a 12 globe, a 40 watt bulb for a 20 globe, or a 75 watt bulb for a 32 globe.

We now sell an excellent Push-Pin globe that is designed to accommodate push pins.

By touching any part of the meridian ring with your fingertip, you can control three light levels. *Applies to Replogle globe models only.

For help dating your globe ball, go to the "History of Globes" section of our web site. You can learn the value of your globe by contacting Murray Hudson Antiquarian Books, Maps, Prints & Globes in Halls, TN. Contact them at or (800) 748-9946. More questions?