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D&D Miniatures, why are they so expensive?

Okay so I was browsing Amazon earlier today looking at D&D minis and I saw that the small box sets of random miniatures were typically $25 to $40 CDN each.

Now keep in mind, these small sets only contain 5 random miniatures.

So that is roughly $5 to $8 CDN per mini.

Years ago (not that long ago either) I remember a time when you could buy a random box of 5 minis for $15 (or less). So clearly the prices have gone up dramatically in recent years.



I also messed around on HeroForge for a bit, designing a custom minotaur mini. The end product would have cost me $19.99 to $29.99 USD depending on what kind of plastic you want it made out of.

Shipping the mini to Canada is an extra $15 USD by the way... So you are looking at $35 to $45 for a single custom mini.

Then I went on Etsy to see what other custom minis were going for...

Oh boy.

The following wolf mini was $41 CDN for the basic model. But if you wanted the "ultra detailing" it was $68.29 CDN for 1 mini.


Now I get it. It is hand painted by a professional artist. It makes sense that it should cost a lot more than standard minis.

Also on Etsy...

$205 CDN for a Spirit of the Forest.

$191 CDN for a fire giant.

$164 CDN for a set of 8 painted goblins.

And so forth.

And those all make sense.

The cost of the mini plus the cost of getting a custom paint job by a professional.

People have to eat. They have rent to pay. They are tired of living in their parents' basement while painting miniatures for a living.

So it makes sense that custom one-of-a-kind minis would be $80 each.

The wolf mini for only $41 is cheaper because it can be mass produced and isn't "custom" so much as it is hand painted.

Years ago I got a custom mini for Wrathgar from HeroForge, and then - being skilled with a brush - I painted it myself. Was still about $35-$40 at the time for the mini, and I have since used Wrathgar many times in D&D games - including a multitude of Adventurers League games.

So in that respect, getting Wrathgar as a custom mini was definitely worth it. I have been able to enjoy using the mini ever since.

Previous to that I had been using the Athasian Half-Giant for Wrathgar, which worked well enough. It was okay. But it was missing Wrathgar's iconic helmet.

Back in Summer 2018 I also had a custom digital portrait done for Wrathgar by an artist, Edgar Lopez, who can be found on Facebook. Cost for this digital colour sketch? A mere $20 USD.

Wrathgar Portrait by Edgar Lopez

Which was extremely reasonable.

For a sketch it was very well done. Makes me wonder what I would have got if I had gone for the detailed colour portrait for $55.


Anyway, I am way off topic.

Back to miniatures.

The skyrocketing price of miniatures should actually be going down thanks to the market being flooded years ago back around 1999-2004, back when minis were reasonably priced.

But instead the buying and selling of miniatures has caused speculation and a boom in miniature prices. Sort of like the real estate market bubble, the buying and selling of miniatures for a profit has created this artificial bubble.

And thus when a new company wants to make and sell miniatures, they are automatically insulated in that they can charge way more for their miniatures and make a bigger profit.

And to top it off, the demand for custom miniatures has never been higher.

Thus it has become a players market. The minis that are available are priced for players who only need to buy the one mini for their character... and players like myself are willing to pay extra for that 1 special custom mini.

In contrast however, this squeezes DMs out of the market.

DMs need to be able to buy large amounts of monster and NPC miniatures. The details on them don't really matter so much, they just need the minis in order to run battles and scenes.

But if the boxes of minis are costing $35 to $40 each, getting 100 minis so that the DM can run a variety of adventures is an expensive task - about $700 to $800 CDN, plus 13% HST.

And that price is frankly ridiculous.

The alternative for DMs is that they have to rethink how they get D&D miniatures...

  1. Make your own minis out of wood, clay, wire, glue, paint, etc.
  2. 3D print minis. (Helps if you already have a 3D printer.)
  3. Buy cheap minis like goblins because that is all you can afford for now.
  4. Make minis out of Lego.
  5. Make 2D paper minis on plastic stands, because you are too cheap.
  6. Use other toys for minis, from the Dollar Store and similar stores that sell cheap minis for kids.*

 * When you see how much the minis for kids cost, the level of quality and such, you have to wonder why D&D minis are so dang expensive. For example you can typically get a pretty nice dragon miniature at a toy store for $4 to $8, whereas a similarly sized D&D dragon miniature will cost you about $20 to $40.

Clearly what these companies should be doing is mass producing for kids to buy them, but also selling to adults.

Now speaking for myself, I already have lots of minis.

A whole display case full of them.

But what I need right now is more horses and griffons.

So I am also browsing websites like www.trollandtoad.com that buy and sell miniatures.

Horse miniatures are expensive BTW. A decent one costs $10 to $11 USD.

Griffons meanwhile are oddly only $4, $6 or $13.

Plus $3 for shipping. Probably more to ship to Canada.

And I wasn't happy with their horses. Seriously. They were sold out of draft horses, and I wasn't willing to spend $10 on a riding horse when I can probably get the same thing at a local gaming shop for $4 to $8.

Which for me means I need to take a trip to Hairy Tarantula in North York.

Hairy Tarantula Gaming Store
3456 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4N 2N4
Open 12 to 10 PM weekdays, 11 to 10 Saturday, 11 to 7 Sunday.

Oh and yes, I did check Etsy. Horses on there cost $25 to $41 CDN, and are usually unicorns. The only warhorse on there was $27 and looked remarkably similar to a Dollar Store mini I bought years ago, put on a 1-inch base, and painted it myself... So if I had to, I could do that again.

So why do I need horses?

Because I am currently running a D&D game Fridays which has progressed to the point where there will be a heavier emphasis on horses and mounted combat. And I have been wanting to run a campaign with lots of horse combat for years, so now is my chance.

So if I cannot find what I need at Hairy T's, then perhaps I shall have to custom make my own horse minis using cheap minis from the Dollar Store.

Because Troll and Toad has limited options and is sold out of things.

Because Etsy is ridiculously over priced and only the warhorse is literally a Dollar Store horse.

Because Amazon comes up with lots of pink ponies and similar items when you search for D&D horse miniature, because it apparently thinks I am looking for 3D glass miniatures - the type people collect because they are cute and never play with.

And eBay???

eBay has lots of horse miniatures... often made of pewter... and the shipping is an extra $15 or $20. So yes, eBay has about 102 different horses for sale, about 98 are made of pewter, and those which are not are still overpriced and come with an added $15 to $20 just for the shipping.

So again, visiting my local Hairy Tarantula gaming store is still my best option.

Heck, I could go to other gaming stores and it would still be better than Etsy, eBay, Amazon, etc... but I wouldn't be guaranteed that their selection of minis is any good.

Which is disappointing because I was thinking of also ordering some xmas gifts off Amazon today, but maybe I will wait instead.

Conclusions

Clearly there is a market out there now for someone to be mass producing mid-range D&D miniatures which are affordable and could also be marketed at children in toy stores. The speculative market has driven prices online to ridiculousness.

The custom mini market won't be going away, but there has to be a middle ground for DMs to be able to buy monster minis.

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