The 10 Best World Globes
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Regardless of your location, a world globe can be a fascinating item to interact with. Business professionals, academics, and children alike can learn from studying these, many of which also serve as stylish decorations. We've selected those designed specifically for educational use in the classroom as well as some that would make an elegant addition to a home library or office. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
November 19, 2020:
For this update, we've added the LeapFrog Magic Adventures, a new one for kids that will spark their globe-trotting curiosity with interactive games, fun characters, and high-quality videos that are produced by the BBC. The Ravensburger 3D remains on the list as a less-expensive option for children, but we've removed the Little Experimenter LED because some find it too small to be an effective educational toy. The Tech Tools Interactive is no longer available.
Another newcomer is the Mova Antique Seafoam Green, a form-over-function model that spins on its own - a true conversation starter. Mova offers several terrestrial and celestial spheres, and the brand has a fervent fan base for its unique perpetual motion design. We've also added three listings under Special Honors for a few dazzling designs that are large and luxurious - certainly fun to dream about.
April 30, 2019:
For globes that work as decorative items, we believe that the Replogle Lancaster Dark Cherry remains the one to beat. It's eye-catching but not garish, stylish but not restricted to only one type of decorative scheme. At nearly 3 feet tall, it makes a fine focal point, and there's an illuminated version available, if the dark cherry isn't notable enough. If it's education you're after, then the Advantus Desktop and GetLifeBasics Earth should be on your radar. Neither are particularly inexpensive, but they're useful learning tools that would work for a classroom or for homeschooling. We also decided to add two models that don't offer true globe functionality as such, the Aukee Magnetic and the EHome Old World. The former is a floating, spinning ball; you probably can't learn much from it, but it would make an interesting gift for a travel or geography geek nevertheless. The latter is a bar cart that holds liquor bottles and glasses, giving your home that "leather bound books and rich mahogany" feel.
Large World Globe Measuring almost 3 feet across, this hand-crafted glass orb definitely has a "wow" factor. Each one is made to order, a process that takes three months, and vibrantly colored with 3D topography and satellite imagery. You can also customize your planet with specific colors, maps, and labels. largeglobes.com
Bellerby & Co Churchill This high-end model is an almost-perfect replica of the globes that were given to Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, which symbolized the friendship of the two world leaders at a time when darkness threatened to prevail. The replica symbolizes utter luxury, thanks to its six-figure price tag. The company only makes one per year. bellerbyandco.com
Columbus Imperial Illuminated Crafted in Germany at one of the world's oldest globe-making companies, this 40-inch beauty has a sturdy stand made of American walnut - a necessity, since it weighs 176 pounds. It lights up to show the intricate details of its antique-style design, which includes images of mystical sea creatures and famous sailing vessels. columbusglobes.com
Around The World
More than anything else, though, a globe is a harbinger of possibility.
Long before life begins to hand us its doses of reality–as it often does by almost imperceptible degrees–which strip us of our sense that any future is possible, we sit as kids before the globe, turning the ball and dropping our fingers on it. The globe stops, and wherever our finger lands is sure to be a place we'll visit, perhaps a place we'll someday live.
It's a sweet game, and thinking back on it might cause feelings of nostalgia, or even regret to rise up in you. Do not despair, however. The notion that you are somehow beyond your years of exploration, too old, or too busy, or too laden with responsibilities to even dream anymore of an endlessly possible future, is an illusion. All you need is a change of perspective.
A globe is, first and foremost, a tool for education. It represents the layout of land and water masses across our Earth in relatively perfect proportion (the Earth isn't actually quite spherical; there's a big bump in it, but that'd make globe design rather awkward). People of any age, from preliterate children to the eldest of the elderly, stand to learn a thing or two from time spent taking in the detail of a good globe.
Additionally, globes serve as fine decorative pieces for the home, informing anyone who enters your space that you have a sense of the world around you. You may never have left the town you grew up in, but a nice globe in the living room will at least suggest otherwise.
More than anything else, though, a globe is a harbinger of possibility. It speaks spinning volumes of the explorer's spirit in all of us, of mankind's achievements thus far, and of achievements to come. Someday soon, perhaps, we'll have Martian globes on display next to those of the Earth, and kids will spin the red planets to see which colony they'll live on when they grow up.
How Do You See The World?
Since globes are essentially maps wrapped neatly around balls, picking from among the globes on our top ten list ought to start with your purposes for a given map. Some maps serve purely aesthetic means. I have, for example, a lovely, detailed map hanging on my wall of the island on which the original Jurassic Park film took place. Other maps serve purely educational purposes, like the big, colorful political maps of our kids' classrooms and history books.
An educational globe with a standard political map in an expensive-looking study with deep green walls and chocolate leather everything would stick out terribly.
Should the purpose for your globe be more educational, you'd do well to get your hands on a globe that sports one such political map. The countries and capitals, seas and oceans will make themselves readily clear to anyone who examines it. These are also the best maps for spinning and landing, that game described above that could very well divine your geographical future. Since these maps contain the most information about the most places, you can get pretty specific about where you might end up.
I always liked globes for their appearance as much as anything else, and the more ancient-looking the better. Old world maps with the tops and tails of whales jutting out from uncharted seas, with unnamed mountain ranges and lands forbidden to man have always fascinated me.
If you share my affinity toward globes of the past, you might be in the market for more of a decorative piece than an educational one. These globes tend to be a little more expensive, but they also have a rare interactive quality to them, and if well-made enough, they can become valuable heirlooms within your family.
Should you be in the market for a globe by its appearance, you'll want to make sure that it suits the decor of the room for which it's intended. Nothing ruins a space more than an out-of-place globe. An educational globe with a standard political map in an expensive-looking study with deep green walls and chocolate leather everything would stick out terribly. Conversely, a globe suited for that space would look downright silly in a child's bedroom. It's all in how you want to see the world.
The Whole World In Your Hands
Don't tell Columbus, but people have known that the Earth is a sphere since at least the third century B.C.E. Greek astronomers figured as much from their celestial observations, and by the second century B.C.E. they'd constructed the first terrestrial globe known to man.
This was perhaps the coolest and nerdiest fad among elites at any point in history.
In the middle years of the Persian Empire, Islamic astronomers made more and more complex and accurate globes based on the collected data of the time, and they introduced these globes to China and parts of Europe and North Africa.
Over the next 800 years on to today, the globe has become ever more accurate thanks to measurements taken by satellites from outside the Earth itself. A century or so before these devices launched into orbit, though, another globe fad swept through the West.
This was perhaps the coolest and nerdiest fad among elites at any point in history. Somehow, in the 1800s, it became a status symbol to own and to flaunt pocket globes. These were little globes that popped open for storage or to house additional terrestrial information, and they served both as fashion accessories for wealthy adults and as educational materials for wealthier children.