I follow a lot of wargaming blogs and one of my favourites is the Palouse Wargaming Journal written by Jonathan Frietag. I think its fair to say Jonathan is a pretty intelligent American chap who can analyse information regarding wargaming and make sense of the data. His latest post concerns information gleaned from the Great Wargaming Survey.
By counts, less than 4% of survey respondents maintain no surplus of unpainted figures. Almost 41% of respondents have between 100 and 500 unpainted figures. About 82% hold fewer than 1,000 unpainted figures in their storeroom. Still, the remaining 18% of wargamers hold more than 1,000 unpainted figures. Why maintain a stockpile of so many unpainted figures? When is enough "enough" to have on hand?
I actually complete the survey every years, God knows why, but I like to think my information could be of use to someone, God knows who, anyway Jonathan posted about that old elephant in the room, the dreaded lead pile, or to appear more relevant the lead, plastic and resin mountain.
Unlike Jonathan I am more a pragmatic [ thick ] about the whys and wherefores of wargamers buying figures that they then squirrel away and then forget about them. When I was working I would buy figures that I honestly thought I would need when I retired, fully expecting I would have more time but less cash. Well we all know that isn't what happens don't we.
As I've matured [ ie got mouldy] I've realised that I buy extra figures for more pleasurable reasons. Like a lot of humans, we like to shop and it gives us pleasure, well until you realise you didn't really need them.
When I first started wargaming in the very early 1970's I held down two jobs, one before school and one after school, I was more interested in pleasure than education. Anyway using all of my hard earned cash I remember buying every box of Napoleonic Airfix French from my local model shop and guiltily rushing home to my bedroom where I piled up the hundreds of figures cut from their sprues. Once done I realised I needed to paint them all to make the purchase relevant. Talk about disheartening. I learned a lesson from that crazy purchase, dont buy plastic. Okay, I actually realised that one had to be more disciplined in buying wargames figures. Buying metal soon brought that lesson home, oh the cost.
And now? Well I've realised I have more painted units than I can ever use. Proper armies made up of units that have never been on the table, and yet I will still research figure producers and also second hand sources. Why? Simple gratification.
At the moment I am buying early ancient figures for my Greek and Persian armies, even though I've got two perfectly good ancient armies using a mixture of Victrix, Warlord and North Star figures. I will over time replace all these figures with poorer quality, well in comparison to most of the newer ranges, ancient figures by Garrison, Mini Figs, Hinchliffe and hopefully Warrior. The reason has to be nostalgia, an illness recognised by the troops fighting in the American Civil War, a wistfulness to return to a time when all seemed well, or in my case because I find the early ranges charming and naive without being ugly.
Do I need any more figures, absolutely not, in fact I am attempting to move on a lot of unpainted ECW castings, by moving on I mean virtually giving them away, and yet most wargamers arent interested, and why would they when there are so many wonderful new figures out there.
I know several mature wargamers who have thousands and I mean literally thousands of unpainted castings. They are carefully boxed waiting to be painted. Sadly we all know they will never be painted and more likely will end up in a skip or simply melted down. But did it give the wargamer pleasure? Probably until they look at the ever burgeoning piles of metal gathering dust and cobwebs.
Like all addicts and I think I am one, you always know someone worse than you, until you realise there is no one worse and you are the go to example that other wargamers point at.
So why do we do it? Why is there a need to possess more of a thing we really don't need? One of the triggers for me is when I see some well painted old figures, that have been lavished attention and love by some wargamer. Do I need them, certainly not, but if possible I will attempt to buy them simply because they are in my eyes desirable and will fit nicely into one of my armies.
Simply put, I cant let a bargain slip by and I use the word bargain loosely. My weakness will always be figures painted by the wargaming greats, Charles Grant Snr. Tony Bath, Donald Featherstone and Peter Gilder. Unfortunately these are financially virtually unattainable for me until people of my age have gone and then they will be simply scrap and of no interest to most wargamers. Bleak, but probably realistic simply because the new generations of wargamers have new heroes and certainly like other figure ranges better.
I feel I'm getting away from my rambling point which is that every wargamer is thankfully different, each has their own predilections. It is a subject that can probably only be answered by a very clever person and certainly far clever than this thicko. All I know is that I recognise the issue, feel guilty sometimes about it and then go back to enjoying the purchase and hopefully the painting of the said figures. So really my lead mountain isn't a mountain, its a painted mountain, which makes it okay then.
Oh and if any collectors feel the need to offload any of their unwanted, painted or otherwise older figures, I am your man.