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"Economics of Figure Making" Topic

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1,902 hits since 17 Nov 2012
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Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 12:59 p.m. PST

A friend of mine recently made the comment, "companies make huge amounts of money selling figures." He suggested that rules makers make no money at it.

I did not realize there was such profit in the business, or is my friend wrong? I thought there was much more capitalization in figure business than in rules making. More of an investment? Can any one offer some enlightenment on this issue. Thanks much.

RavenscraftCybernetics Inactive Member17 Nov 2012 1:15 p.m. PST

What I learned from my time at Ral Partha was the best way to have a million dollars in the hobby industry is to start with two million and work your ass off for a year. At the end of the year. if you are lucky, you'll have a million dollars.

Frothers Did It And Ran Away17 Nov 2012 1:23 p.m. PST

The size of the wargaming hobby and its fractured nature (by period and by scale) suggests to me that very few people in it make "huge amounts of money". GW, Battlefront being exceptions. As regards money from figures vs. money from rules I remeber reading an interview with Jervis Johnson where he said that nearly all of GW's money comes from figure sales, mainly Space Marines.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member17 Nov 2012 1:25 p.m. PST

In the main there's not much money in either, but it's harder for rules writers simply because you might drop a few hundred quid on a big new army if you like the sculpts, but no matter how good a rules set is, you're only going to buy one copy….

Brian Smaller17 Nov 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

Rule writers must survive on rule collectors like me. I am not sure why they don't sell those expensive books as printable PDFs or as eBooks (unless they already do and I just haven't heard of it) instead of hard backed coffee table books.

Maddaz111 Inactive Member17 Nov 2012 1:53 p.m. PST

I cannot see much money in figure making if you are selling historical 28mm for a pound apiece!

After paying a sculptor more than 100 sales for a sculpt,
paying a mouldmaker a couple of sales per figure in the mould, then paying for casting and metal… you have to clear over 130 figures at £1.00 GBP-50 to break even.

Justin Penwith17 Nov 2012 2:12 p.m. PST

And yet figure companies continue to sell figures and sculpt new ones, continuously.

Either it is a huge ponzi scheme, or someone is doing something right.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member17 Nov 2012 2:39 p.m. PST

Or they're in the main doing it for not very much money….

napthyme Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 3:52 p.m. PST

Far from getting rich here. The last figure I released sold a total of 2, that's right TWO!!!

If it hadn't been a 28MM figure set it would not even have paid for one of the production molds.

I am still in the hole about $300.00 USD for the cost of releasing it. That is one of the reason why all the rest of this years releases were put on the back burner.

I don't need this company to make huge amounts of money, but I do need each release to pay for its self so that I can do more figures.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 4:41 p.m. PST

Well, I just released a set of 16 historical figures at my own expense. They are the 71 St Highlanders from the Southern Theater of the AWI.
They have sold well beyond my expectations and I have had to re run the molds again.

16 sculpts, 4 molds, shipping, spins of the molds & metal I'm out about 4,000 right now even with the figures selling pretty well.

I'm hoping that, over time, that I can half that number. I'm guessing that the initial costs are done and that as time goes on, sales will continue. We shall see.

Mako1117 Nov 2012 5:28 p.m. PST

Yea, same goes for vehicles in many cases.

altfritz17 Nov 2012 7:05 p.m. PST

nevinsrip – do you have a link for the highlanders?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 8:02 p.m. PST

It's like anything else. I've had figures in the shop that sold all the time, others that sold 0 in 5 years. There are rule books that sell like hotcakes (I know of one that sold 2000 copies in 6 months) others that die on the vine.

Perhaps your friend meant "gross margin" and not total profit annually?

Cincinnatus Inactive Member17 Nov 2012 8:55 p.m. PST

nevinsrip – I would like to see your figure line. You list no link in your post and have nothing on your profile. Marketing is way more important than manufacturing.

Personal logo Fergal Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 9:18 p.m. PST

Crossover was a big success for me, I managed to sell enough to cover the costs and pay for the next round. But a big success just means no loss. :)

The only people making money from Crossover Miniatures are the scuptor, the mold makers/casters, and one stockist. And stockists must put up large amounts of money before they will realize any profit.

Producing figures has become my hobby (as I don't get much chance to game) and as long as it doesn't cost me any money to make great figures, I'll keep doing it.

I have the utmost respect for people that can make a living from it. They must work long hours and put up with a great deal of hassle just to make ends meet. I think a few big companies must make a good profit, but I think most folks in the industry could make more money doing something else. So it's definitely not about the money, but about doing something you love. Probably the same reason I'm a teacher during the day.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 10:10 p.m. PST

Alfritz, Go to the AWI board. There must be 6 or 7 postings concerning my Highlanders including photos of all 16 poses.

Cincinataus….There is no marketing. I did this for myself and I was surprised at the number of requests for extra figures. They sold because they are spectacular sculpts, not because of some marketing ploy. Quality is the best advertising.
Of course, if the second Command Group sells as well, I may have to rethink this and do some marketing.

Anyone interested can contact me at:


nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 10:12 p.m. PST

TMP link

Here's a link to the Highlander photos.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Nov 2012 10:22 p.m. PST

TMP link
Here's a color pic of the figures painted as the 42 nd Highlanders by DAF. Wonderful paint job.

Russell120120 Inactive Member19 Nov 2012 3:37 a.m. PST

Rulesmakers I gather can do allright if they can come out with an interesting game, and then sell various "army" books giving more details on different campaigns. It is rather similar to the Role Playing Game market back when they were selling adventure modules and "character class" books.

The key with Citadel Miniatures is that they work very hard to lock people out of using figures from alternate companies. But you are really living and dying on the current fashion of just a couple of games.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member19 Nov 2012 7:21 a.m. PST

I only do books, but I have a friend who was in the figure-making part of the biz for a while, and I used to be jaw-dropped by how much money he had to lay out, up-front, to start up each new figure line. No wonder services like Kickstarter have found so much traction with figure makers.

" I am not sure why they don't sell those expensive books as printable PDFs or as eBooks"

I can only speak for myself, obviously, but the short answer is: I'd love to get out of the book-selling business and just do PDFs, but it's not economically viable. More than 80% of my rulebook sales are through dealers. They provide that "push" of the product out into the marketplace, that I couldn't do alone.

I'm often astonished by how hard it is to spread the word of a new game. One would think, in this digital age, with such a small community of hobbyists, that everybody would hear about everything. And yet I get people contacting me all the time, asking how they can get such-and-such game of mine. A couple of weeks ago I kid you not I got an email from a guy who used the "Contact Me" feature of my website, to write and ask whether my game "Maurice" had come out yet, and if so, where he could get it…. That's right: he went to the website, where pictures of the game are displayed, where the home page mentions it, and where a "Games" pull down menu features is…. and all he did was click to contact me to ask whether or not it existed.

So I know that I couldn't rely on just my own publicity to spread the word of my games; I need dealers. And that means, I probably need to stick with printed books, alas.

But man, I'd love to get out of the printing part of the hobby. It's incredibly time-consuming and tedious, and God-awful expensive, and it's full of hassles.

Angel Barracks Inactive Member19 Nov 2012 8:42 a.m. PST

My 'RDF' 6mm figures work out such that I need to sell around 1000 to break even, that factors the master green sculpts, mould making and casting and replacement moulds.

1000 figures to break even, that will take at current rate of sale around 3 years to simply cover my costs.
So all being well in 3 years I will be making an actual profit on them.

My pathfinder vehicles work out at about 300 units sold before I break even.

I am far from making huge amounts of money.

Justin Penwith19 Nov 2012 1:45 p.m. PST


While I do wish you well in your endeavors, the slow(ish) stream of figure sales for your RDF range is quite likely due to large obstacles already established in that market.

My local club has a number of 6mm sci-fi players, but they all use GW Epic figures…because they have a LOT of them. With the existence of a massive amount of such models, with the bulk of infantry and some vehicles in plastic, new sci-fi miniature lines in that or similar scales are a tough sell. This all the more true in tightening economies.

Myself, I have an extensive GW Epic collection, dating back to Titan Legions, and thus have no motivation to spend more dosh on figures to go with those armies.

On the other hand, new miniature lines that contain metal models which can be easily substituted for the no longer available GW metal minis will be more attractive to me, should I choose to expand.

And I am but one of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, who collected armies for the Epic game systems.

However, your 6mm terrain is VERY attractive to me, if beyond my present economic circumstances to purchase.

The point being is that the figure companies which tend to be highly profitable are so because they already have a loyal followng (Perry's), have figure lines for which there are few or no substitutes, or support game rules that are in tremendously great demand. Pretty much everything else is niche and niche markets do not have the same rates of return.

Even selling a line of 6mm models for "Dune", complete with sandworms and Sardaukar troopers, is a bad idea without a seriously good set of popular rules, having models that cannot be easily substituted, and some other media tie in.

My earlier comment about the industry being a ponzi scheme was serious. Previous investments are re-funded from current sales, to a point, with new releases hopefully doing well enough to help pay down past debts.

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sources may prove to be saviors for much of the industry, but even then, the proposed products have to be interesting enough to be viable.

I wish there was a magic wand solution…

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Nov 2012 2:48 p.m. PST

I think the future of Historical minis is going to be dominated by people like Fife and Drum and like myself. That is, people who have disposible income that can afford to either, take a loss or be willing to wait for years to break even.
I went into this with my eyes wide open. I expected to lose
a fair amount of cash on the deal. I was happily surprised when the figures sold as well as they did. But, I still am nowhere close to even and I probably never will get there.

However, this was a "vanity" line. I wanted the figures and was wiling to pay to have them produced. I don't think that a "for profit" company can do this. You really have to sell a lot of figures to make money on the deal. Either that or charge outrageous prices like a GW does for a single figure.

I hope more people are willing to take a shot at something that they have always wanted ut could not obtain. I learned a lot and had a very good time doing this. I also made some new friends. A very good experience.

Personal logo Fergal Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Nov 2012 9:00 p.m. PST

I humbly suggest that a long line of folks producing figures at a loss out of benevolence is unlikely to be

the future of Historical minis

It just doesn't seem sustainable.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Nov 2012 9:27 p.m. PST

Crossover, Yes the big boys will always be with us. Perry, Old Glory, Foundry and other well established lines will continue to churn out thousands of products.

I was more referring to the smaller "garage type" such as Eric Roof who does Conquest, or the guy who does Knuckleduster or Nic at Eureka. Those types.

I have received a few dozen inquiries from people in similar situation to myself, who wish to do what I did.

Older guys, who have money to spend on figures, that they want to see produced and are willing to pay for it.

I think that you will see more of them in the future. That's all.

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Nov 2012 3:38 a.m. PST

Money in Wargames figures? lol
You have to be joking, most designer led outfits are basically on minimum wage levels. They keep going because they make a living (just) doing what they love doing. Same goes for a lot of small business I suspect.

Antenocitis CSR Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Nov 2012 3:49 a.m. PST

A friend of mine recently made the comment, "companies make huge amounts of money selling figures."

I suspect your answer lies within your question.

(If that were so, or if he believed that were so, your friend would, surely, be manufacturing figures himself?)



GeoffQRF Inactive Member20 Nov 2012 4:06 a.m. PST

Some of it is an illusion created by the relatively low cost to get into casting and selling your own figures. You can start up for a relatively small cost with a bit of contract moulding/casting and a few bought-in greens, but as Leon says most scrape along on minimum wage, doing it more as a labour of love in your spare time (or desire to have figures yourself!) than for any vast profit.

The profit margins can be moderate, but they are generally about as moderate as the associated costs.

Black Hat Miniatures20 Nov 2012 5:43 a.m. PST

I find it amusing that only a few figure manufacturers who actually make their own figures have commented on this thread. Outsourcing your casting and mouldmaking is going to make it very difficult to make a living unless you are sculpting yourself.

No, you won't make HUGE amounts of money making figures but you can make a comfortable living.

Black hat Miniatures pays me a decent wage, I work at home and make toys for a living :-) What more could you want.

Yes, the initial outlay for a range is large but figures continue to sell for years and decades. Wargaming is a long term business which I think some people creating small startups don't realise. They are under-capitalised and launch an initial small range which takes too long to build up momentum and sell and they don't have the money to keep the company running.

Rules may not make large amounts of money themselves (though my own Martian Empires rules are already well into profit) but they push the sales of figures.


GarrisonMiniatures Inactive Member20 Nov 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

My figures are the classic ranges from the 60s to the 90s. Volume of sales are very low and basically the sales I do get are to HELP fund the making of replacement moulds. Garrison has never made a profit and never will – it is a hobby that helps pay for itself. I suspect that is true of lots of specialist figure manufacturers.

Frothers Did It And Ran Away20 Nov 2012 3:02 p.m. PST

I do so wish a Perry Twin would chime in on this thread…

Rovanite02 Dec 2012 4:03 p.m. PST

I started a hobby business this year (Grekwood Miniatures). I pay roughly £300.00 GBP per each range of 16 figures I make. This includes a master mould, master figures, production mould/figures.

In order to break even I have to sell quite a lot, about 30 packs (I sell mainly packs of 4). Luckily, so far I have sold more than this, so it helps pay for the next mould. I am hoping that the more moulds I bring out, the more income I will get :)

Without mentioning names, there are companies out there which make a lot of money. They have reached the VAT threshold (70k), which means they must be selling loads (they have loads on their sites). I think if you work out your overheads, and do the sculpting yourself, then it's possible to make a living out of it. If you are constantly paying out, then it's going to be more difficult, but not impossible.

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