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I'm looking to build a collection of fantasy miniatures, preferably pewter - but I don't want to buy them one at a time from my local hobby store... Much too expensive, and they don't often carry anything I'm interested in buying, which makes it a long term venture as well. So I'm looking for ideas on how to obtain many miniatures at once, preferably for cheap. D&D Miniatures aren't a good source for me as they're collectibles, and the prices on those are also prohibitive.

By the way - they don't have to be pewter, that's just my preference. =)

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closed as too broad by wax eagle, BESW, Joshua Aslan Smith, Phil, SevenSidedDie Oct 1 '13 at 16:32

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You're not going to get any cheaper than D&D Miniatures singles unless you go with paper cut-outs in stands. D&D Miniatures can get down to $1 each for the less popular ones. Metal miniatures are going to be more expensive and not painted. Are paper cut-outs something you're willing to do? –  Mike Bohlmann Sep 1 '10 at 14:37
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Although this is a common challenge many gamers face, our policies and our understanding of the Stack Exchange ethos have matured since this question was posted three years ago. It is now "Too Broad" --with such limited criteria, every answer is equally valid-- and it is also a shopping question with all the problems that conveys. I'm voting to close it: the accrued wisdom will remain, but it will no longer set poor precedent for new questions. –  BESW Oct 1 '13 at 15:22

15 Answers 15

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I make my own: this is a lot easier than it sounds -- be advised that I'm a bit of a craft-klutz, and one of the reasons I don't collect minis is I have no confidence at all that I could really paint them well enough for my taste. So, actually, I don't make minis, but I make counters.

First, I buy a batch of appropriately sized, good quality mini bases (I buy the thick plywood ones from Litko Aerosystems).

Then, I assemble PDF pages of square colour images of the appropriate sizes (1" for medium creatures, and so forth). I started by getting the large collection of counter images from Fiery Dragon, and augmented that by doing some graphics work with Photoshop and PDFs from Paizo (for the adventure path stuff I'm using). I build PDF pages of exactly the counter images I need for upcoming play, and then print them at an office supplies store on their colour laser printer service (on linen resume paper).

Then, I cut out all the paper counters, and use Mod Podge to glue them on the wood counters, and then glue a coat over them (découpage). I use the classical, matte finish, glue formulation.

For best use, I let the glued counters sit for a day before I use them. After that, I just bag them in zip-loc bags and store them. Storage is much, much easier than 3d minis.

PCs all have a 3d mini, and all the other characters in the game use the counters. I like this method a lot. It's inexpensive; I get (pretty much) exactly the counters I want for play; storing them is a lot simpler; they actually improve play in my opinion as it really highlights the difference between PC characters on the map and opponents.

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The cheapest source of metal minis I know is Mega Minis, which does reproductions of a lot of old Grenadier minis plus a ton of new stuff. They go down to $1, $1.50 apiece.

EBay sometimes has big collections of old minis, albeit not necessarily pewter. The condition of those can be a bit of a crapshoot.

One Monk paper minis just went free, so that's about as cheap as you get, and there's a huge variety. Their forums also have lots of fan-created paper minis. Dryw the Harper is particularly prolific.

If you're OK with plastic, Troll and Toad is a well-stocked source but not the cheapest source. Compare their prices with RPG Locker and Auggies Games. I've heard good things about abPrices as a price comparison engine but haven't used it myself.

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If you want to just accumulate a collection of minis, and aren't looking for anything specific, buying random booster boxes of D&D minis (if you can find them) is a decent way to go –  RMorrisey Sep 3 '10 at 6:10

It's quite possible to buy miniatures for much less than $1 apiece. I wrote an article on this topic for Kobold Quarterly, which I'll summarize.

Caesar Miniatures produces cheap fantasy and historical miniatures for $11.99 per 35 or so, or around 35 cents apiece. These cover the basics: dwarves, elves, humans, orcs, goblins, skeletons, mediaeval infantry, mounted cavalry and adventurers. Most of these make adequate stand-ins for other creatures.

Twilight Creations' game Zombies!!! has an expansion pack of cheap zombie miniatures, and a bag of feral zombie dog minis called Zombies!!! bag o’ Dogs!!!. If you can find the dog miniatures anywhere, they make great Small or Medium feral animals or similar quadruped creatures.

Plastic army men are inexpensive and are the right scale for Large creatures such as giants. Mediaeval and ancient style army men are available.

UK company eM4 Miniatures sells orcs and dwarves for 20p each or £7.50 for fifty.

D&D blog Newbie DM has a great tutorial on making D&D counters from metal washers. This is an extremely cost-effective method and I highly recommend it. Metal washers are more durable than paper tokens and have a satisfying weight, and being metal are compatible with magnetic Alea status markers.

Children's toys of animals and fantasy creatures often look good enough to use at the table and make surprisingly cost-effective miniatures for big creatures. Take care not to forget about scale and buy figures that are too large. D&D scale is 3" tall for a Huge humanoid and 4" for Gargantuan.

For particular creatures that aren't available in cheap generic form, official D&D Miniatures are usually your best option. Look for a website that sells individual minis from the booster sets.

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now I'm impressed with eM4's scifi figures - interchangeable arms/weapons... nice idea. –  gbjbaanb Mar 31 '12 at 14:02

D&D Minis are very cheap. If you know anyone else collecting them, ask if you can have some of their castoff commons and uncommons. The bulk of my miniature collection is just castoffs from the two players in one of my campaigns who were buying them by the case. Also, if you have skill at painting, you might offer gaming friends a deal: "I'll paint 4 of your miniatures if you let me keep one."

Trading is fun too.

If you can find old Mage Knight miniatures, they can be removed from their bases and re-based (or even just left on their old bases). Also, small plastic toys are a good option. The vampire on the left (see below) was a mage knight figure that cost me 35 cents.

alt text

Believe it or not, D&D Minis (commons and uncommons anyhow) are usually even cheaper- in the 15 cent range. You may have to buy 8 or so of the same figure to get that kind of price, but having a lot of minis is cool especially for games like D&D4 if you plan on using a lot of minions.

Michaels has plastic toys that do pretty well. There is a "Horse Toob" (do a google search) for $9 that has 10 horses in it. Similar results for a "Dragon toob"

alt text

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Pewter is the source of the cost issue, I'm afraid. If you're willing to go with cheaper materials you can save a ton of cash.

Caesar makes a nice line of 1:72 scale fantasy miniatures. These are cast in soft plastic and come on sprues. You get 30-40 figures for ten dollars.

Look on that site for various appropriate time periods and you'll find lots of figures that make good human-scale adventurers, brigands, barbarians, and weirdos. Aztecs, Incans, Vikings, Phoenicians, Han Chinese, you name it.

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I feel your pain, but all is not lost, you just have to know some tricks :).

  1. Try Craigslist. You would be surprised how many people are just looking to get rid of old board games, perhaps they are missing pieces and what not.

  2. go to www.freecycle.org. Its been around for almost a decade. Its a site dedicated to groups who manage the avoidance of stuff going to land fills. You join, you search, you even ask if anyone has old board games they dont want any more. Or hell, if you feel lucky try the good stuff. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW what people are willing to just get rid of until you ask, at worst its a no go, at best you get high quality things for free!

  3. Amazon.com and ebay are great tools, but you NEED to know what to search for. If you start searching for anything remotely close to trademarked names, its going to end up pricey. Try clever searches such as "Bucket of, bag of, bucket-o, bag-o" and so on. I got a bag of just generic looking zombies that stand about an inch tall with about 1/2 inch base for 10.00. It came with about 30+ of them. They work great and you can always paint them if you really want.

  4. Local game shops. Look around, see if they have any really good deals on existing board games or figures, or overstock. Ask the local people at the shops if they have anything they don't use or would be willing to sell on the cheap. Again, worst that could happen is, they say no!

  5. Create your own. Your computer is a POWERFUL tool. If you use the standard D&D method of the 1 inch = 5 feet combat grid thing, you can always get some high quality thick photo paper if you want really good pictures or just get basic card stock and just PRINT avatars of the tokens you want. If you want a dragon and the dragon's base says it is going to take up 5 squares x 5 sqaures, then ok, make a picture in ms paint or photoshop that is 5 inches x 5 inches, past a picture of a dragon in it, print it cut it out and TA-DA!

    • On the same note of creating your own, tcgplayer.com a magic the gathering card site is a good place to try. You can search orc, goblin, or just any thing really. common bulk cards that are usuless run less than 5 cents each, cut them out, prop them up, nice artwork tokens! :)
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Pick up a copy of Descent: Journeys In The Dark, from Fantasy Flight Games. Not only is it a good game on its own merits, it comes with just a few miniatures. (Also some good dungeon tiles bits.)

$90 sounds like a lot, of course, but a) you're not just buying standalone minis, and b) that probably works out to be pretty competitive with a similar range of D&D minis (especially the big guys).

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Descent is a great game, especially when you're between D&D games. Also, the "one or two minis" understatement doesn't convey well. –  C. Ross Oct 22 '10 at 12:31

You don't have to spend a ton on D&D minis. A lot of common monster and PC-type minis are in the $.65-$.95 range on http://www.danddminis.com/ and it's free shipping on orders over $75. I ran into them about 4 months ago and found the prices to generally be even cheaper than eBay.

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Pewter and Lead minis.

  1. Ebay and Craigslist - look for people selling off their collections
  2. many old school oriented sites have buy & sell sections; post a few "WTB: Metal Minis"
  3. use smaller scales; 1/72 (aka 22.4mm), 15mm, and 10mm are all much lighter, and thus less expensive to ship.

Plastic in 28-30mm:

  1. commons from collectible minis games (Mage Knight, D&D Minis)
  2. Toy Soldiers - not all are WW II. I've seen some sets of western and of knights in just over 1" figures...

Plastic in 1/72 &/or 18-22mm (pretty much the same scale):

  1. Ceaser makes decent rubberish soft plastic minis. They're durable, they bounce, and they do hold acrylic paints well.
  2. Zvezda - their soft plastic is more like the toy soldiers, but it does take spray primer well, and then can be painted with acrylics or enamels.
  3. HO and OO railroad people - less variety, more availability, and just a bit smaller (typically 18mm).

Both Ceasar and Zvezda minis work nicely; I used them with my L5R games to great effect. And looking at michtoy.com, $12 for a box of about 30.

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I came up against this myself a few years ago. I didn't want fantasy miniatures, and even if would settle for using an orc mini to stand in for a space pirate, they were going to run at least $1 per, on average. I ended up buying cheap wooden discs and painting them. I generally paint five in each color, so I can say the PCs are gold, the space pirates are blue, the space pirate slaves green, and so on. I just have a case of 200 of these discs, organized into color, with each color marked with numbers so every mini is unique.

Total cost for this, excluding the case, was about $20 for 200 miniatures: 10¢ each.

I wrote in more detail about this in my journal, with some pictures:

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Did you mean to provide another answer, gbjbaanb? Your comment doesn't make sense as a comment. –  rjbs Apr 1 '12 at 14:32

Why do you want them? If it's the collector aspect I can't help, but if you're just wanting to have access to the right minis at the right time in a campaign, I can't think of anything better than Gnome Stew's Print-and-Fold Gnome Miniatures. You can find exactly the right picture online and print as many miniatures of it as you like. If you want them to be more durable, use better paper and maybe tape a coin into the base as they suggest.

I let my players choose their PC's picture, and my printer is black and white so they get to color it in however they like; the colored PCs stand out nicely against the black and white NPCs on the map. (There's a running joke that coloring provides better stats, but you have to choose to color for offense or defense.)

As a slightly upscale alternative, One Monk has free papercraft minis of many types. More work and not as customizable, but they have more of the classic miniature ambience.

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If you're willing to sacrifice your pewter requirement, my go-to source for figures on the cheap is Lego. I have a few Lego Castle sets from back in the day and they came with lots of people - archers, swordsmen, and even a dragon. Sitting down, a Lego person fits nicely inside a 1-inch square or hex on a battlemap.

I believe Lego still sells small boxes of just people. Pick up a couple of different sets and you can mix and match accessories as you see fit.

It appears from this page that the boxes of figures I'm thinking of are no longer for sale. The ones that remain are quite expensive, far more than what the OP is looking to spend.

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Despite everyone’s best efforts, miniatures are still expensive. There is no way you will ever pay less than four dollars for a mini, so do your best to move past your nerd rage.

In the opinion of this DM, the Monster Tokens that come with the D&D Essentials Monster Vault are quite satisfactory. See my Monster Vault Review for more details. However, some of my fellow gamers have emailed me expressing their distaste for a cardboard disc that is 1/8 inch high. I can see where you guys are coming from, I really can. However, the question/conundrum still remains: how can I make some good cheap miniatures?

Before I owned the Monster Vault, I used paper stand-ups, rocks, pennies, you name it! However, there was one medium that I did find quite nice that I might reexamine again now that my campaign has moved to Dark Sun! (This being because races have changed dramatically, and the Forgotten Realms-style artwork and concepts no longer work visually.)

So, before we can begin our arts and crafts shenanigans, you will need the following.

  • A label maker of some sort
  • A set of 5 tubes of primary colored acrylic paint
  • Some wide transparent tape (NOT translucent)
  • Some Birch Men
  • And some Birch Boys

Do you see where I am going with this? Haha!

For your PC’s, you will want to use the Birch Men and paint them bright and diverse colors (red, blue, green, yellow, etc.) Make no others the same color as these!

For the rest of your figurines, paint them dark and drab colors. Or, make your colors based on the Dark Sun Creature Catalog. Use the “Men” or the “Boys” depending on the size of the creature. If the creature is larger than 1 square wide, I don’t know what to tell you… Wait. Yes I do. Go to your arts and crafts store and find something the right diameter!

Go to 4etransmission.com for more do-it-yourself solutions like this one...

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2 complaints. 1 the first sentence is inaccurate. There are plenty of minis available for less than $4, even D&D ones. Second this seems a bit system specific to the question. –  wax eagle Jun 4 '11 at 13:14

Try www.wargamesfactory.com they mainly just do historical minis but they're also working on a fantasy range (right now they have Orcs and Skeletons)

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Hi Peter, welcome to RPG.SE! While the link is good, could you expand a bit on this answer to provide why you think this is a good inexpensive option? As it is now this is mostly just a link to a product website with not much reasoning behind it. –  wax eagle Mar 29 '12 at 13:00

Well a few months back Reaper Minis ran a kickstarter project I think the mummy pledge level was about 100 bucks roughly and you got something along the lines of 200+ minis in it.

The kickstarter event has finished and for a while they were offering people who missed out a similar deal but slightly more expensive (still awesome value mind you) but I am not sure if this is still available you would have to hunt round.

But if you are intrested have a look at some posts on the forums I think there are a few people looking at selling parts of the collection they don't want and also check out the comments section on their kickstarter page I just scanned and there is one guy Andy Goldman looking to sell his lot which he might be willing to break up..

Heres the kickstarter thread on reapers website might take abit of work looking for people willing to sell but I know they have a trade thread on there so I would start there first... anyway hope this helps!

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