Are you a wargaming hoarder? Do you put your local game store inventory list to shame? Maybe you have a large collection of tabletop wargaming minis that you don’t need anymore. But, you’re unwilling to donate or post them for sale on eBay or Facebook. Your Warhammer 40k models sit there in a box, on a shelf, perhaps unassembled or fully painted, collecting dust. If you’re a long term gamer or miniature hobbyist, then you’ll understand the inner conflict and oftentimes guilt of stockpiling so many models.
In this article, I highlight 3 reasons why you may be having trouble reducing your miniature wargaming collection (your hoard). Look, I’m guilty of it, too! Well, not guilty…not really. Maybe?
Hoarding models is a common issue that many take pride in. Some even boast on social media with photos of their enormous collections, stacked floor to ceiling. Are you someone who can’t seem to sell off your unused, unpainted miniatures?
Here are the 3 reasons why you may have too many miniatures:
- Emotional attachment – We grow emotional sentimental attachment to stories miniatures tell
- Hobby completionism – You collect for collection sake. You enjoy seeing swarms of models and their presence gives you a sense of accomplishment
- Survival instinct or mental illness – They are a tangible mental reminder that we can escape real life, survival mechanism for mental well-being.
Continue reading for some of my thoughts on collecting miniatures and more details about reasons why you may be having trouble reducing your miniature army collections.
Can too many miniatures ruin your enjoyment of the hobby?
I think, yes. If you have a lot of miniatures in your collection, then you are at risk for something I’ve experienced before. That is, you have lots of unpainted models sitting around reminding you that you’re too lazy, too busy, or too unmotivated to paint. A veritable gray horde of unpainted miniatures can add negative emotion to your hobby.
Maybe to protect your ego, you stick all those extra models in a box somewhere with a mental note that “I’ll get to them later”. And, you never do.
Or, like me, you may have a lot of models that you’ve already painted, but never find a use and so you put the miniatures in a case, box, or storage container. It doesn’t matter. You still have that mental burden and from time to time, you’re torn with what you should do with your hobby “stuff”. Do I paint this or that today? Should I devote a few days to listing these extra miniatures on eBay?
Overall, having too many miniatures can definitely ruin or at least diminish your general enjoyment of tabletop gaming and miniature painting.
Continue reading for what you can do about having too many models, and some of the reasons why your collection may have grown too large to handle.
Are you a “hoarder”?
According to DSM-5, the following symptoms are diagnostic of hoarding disorder:
- There is persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their value or lack thereof.
- The difficulty in discarding possessions is due to distress associated with getting rid of them.
- The difficulty in discarding possessions leads to clutter of living spaces and compromises the use of living spaces.
- The hoarding creates clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning, including the ability to maintain a safe space.
Do any of these criteria fit your behavior with miniatures and models? Certainly, this is on a scale of ‘not so bad’ to ‘I have a problem’. But, here’s the useful benchmark for what you can look for when it comes to your habits with the miniature painting and collecting hobby.
How commission miniature painting influenced my perspective
Although I’ve collected a crap ton of miniatures over the years as a tabletop miniature gamer, e.g., Warhammer 40k, Warmachine/Hordes, Infinity, Dropzone Commander, Bolt Action, Age of Sigmar, and many other games, I must qualify that I also painted models on commission. As a commissioned miniature painter, I had the opportunity to see and paint miniatures that I would have never thought to purchase myself. Over time, my world of miniature quickly grew larger than most typical gamers.
Some of my favorite pieces, of course, weren’t necessarily for wargames. They were single models for role playing games, like Dungeon & Dragons (D&D) or for board games, like Zombicide or Cthulhu Wars. You can see some of this work in my gallery, which I periodically update with new models.
Suffice it to say, my motivation and curiosity drove me to learn how to paint different models of various makes and brands that I even accepted miniatures in lieu of cash for painting service payment. Indeed, getting paid in plastic, resin, or metal created a situation where I couldn’t figure out a good pricing model for my services. But, painting miniatures was a hobby for me, too!
Accepting models as payment was bad, because not only was I not actually making a “real profit” with government-issued tender, I was running out of space! Stacks and stacks of models I would never truly have time to paint or use in any way were becoming a burden. I needed to stop this transaction style.
What to do with too many models?
For a while, I gave away miniatures away to friends and neighbors. Giving away miniatures for free is a great way to reduce your unused, unsold model collection. If you’re holding on to things because you do have a sentimental attachment to your economic cost (whatever this means), you can sell off your models at a very, very low price.
I’m no eBay expert, but in my experience, eBay is the most profitable way to sell your models. Ebay selling miniatures at a profit does take some work to be successful. You’ll need to dedicate an hour or more to put together a good eBay posting, including photos and a good description. The time to get bids on eBay may also throw you off. There’s no instant gratification with selling your models on eBay.
The other way you can sell off your excess miniatures is by joining buy/sell Facebook groups. This option is also great for learning what people may be willing to pay for your models. I’ve done this a few times. Note that you’ll have to build some trust within your community. You may be asked to ship the models before payment, or work out a payment structure (e.g., half now, half upon model delivery). Unlike eBay, there is little protection for model theft, which unfortunately happens quite frequently. Here’s a tragic example.
3 Reasons why you have too many miniatures in your collection
- Emotional attachment
- Hobby completionism
- Survival instinct or mental illness
These are the reasons I think most people have an ever-burgeoning miniature collection. But, these reasons aren’t independent. Rather, these reasons are inter-related. For fun, I’ve broken them down into 3 categories.
You love seeing your miniatures. They are a physical representation of stories you enjoy. Plastic, resin, or metal miniatures are part of a bigger vision you have for other worlds beyond our own. Or, maybe the miniature represent things that feel like our world, except more fantastical, where your physical limitations don’t exist. The ideas embodied in the models transcend what you expect you are able to experience.
Simple escapism. This is a powerful, tangible anchor for anyone who feels they need to retreat elsewhere from a day to day routine. Look, I want to avoid cliches. Miniatures are entertainment like no other. At the end of the day, what they mean for you, and what emotions they evoke is different for every individual.
Sentiment is an exaggerated form of feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. These combine into a powerful chain that leashes you to the miniatures. And, this makes it hard to let them go. They are hard to sell, give away, or toss in the trash. You’re stuck with miniatures because miniatures evoke positive feelings. Over time, you gather more model than you can remove from your collection. Love hurts.
Your miniature collection is an innocent outworking of your hobby. You may have a large Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, or a collection of miniatures for your Dungeons & Dragons campaign. And, perhaps your mere involvement in these tabletop gaming hobbies naturally leads to an active search for a new model that fits within your “theme”.
For example, if you’re playing a 40k army comprising of Imperial Fist Space Marines, you’ll first want to collect all the models that would form your army battle list. Maybe, you’ll collect models that allow you to build a few different kinds of lists, e.g., flyer heavy or combined arms army compositions. Then, as you near some of these practical goals, you realize that it would be cool to have a few other miniatures that add some flair.
The rule-of-cool takes over your hobby purchasing decisions. It is here that you’re hooked, of course, because game companies love to make things “cool” and “fun” to have. But, you don’t care. There is a dopamine rush with buying new shiny things (even matte plastic shines in your eyes). Eventually, you realize that you must have all the kits that have the words “space marine” in them.
Welcome to the blessing and curse of completionism. You no longer care about winning the tabletop games you play, or having the best looking wargaming tabletop (gaming terrain kits are amazing collectables, too). Your goal is now to achieve self-appointed objectives that are outside the game itself. Winning for you is owning everything within a theme or context you’ve created for yourself.
RELATED: 3 WAYS TO MAKE GREAT LOOKING WARGAMING TERRAIN
This is an incredibly powerful motivator to buying more and more stuff. You take pleasure in the collection process. Each kit you find that fits within your collection goal is an immeasurable thrill. Collection has become the hobby.
Survival instinct (or mental illness)
The need to survive is built into every one of us. The instinct to feed our hunger, quench our thirst, and procreate is hard-wired into our brains and bodies. It’s simple. Food exists so you can eat and so on. Your bodies drives you to seek things in the world that help you survive. In fact, you’re probably not even aware of how powerful your instincts are for survival. Your physiology, mind and body, work powerfully under the surface of your conscience to keep you alive.
However, your survival instincts can go wrong. We are human and that makes us complicated. The mind is a powerful, dark, and scary place, when you really dig deep. It wants things that it should have. And, it wants to do things you can’t or shouldn’t. Think about it.
So, when your hobby becomes an addiction, you should not be surprised. You body and mind think that the acquisition of models are necessary for you to live. And, if you’re not careful, you don’t realize that your buying habits aren’t driven by any tangible goals. You’re not doing it for hobby completionism, or fun anymore. In fact, you take no pleasure in the actual collection at all.
Sure, you get a short, powerful burst of pleasure when you buy something. But, after a short while you lose all sense of why you spent your hard-earned money on a model you may never paint or use in a game.
You’re like a squirrel putting acorns away for a winter that will never come. Worse yet, the acorns you’re hiding away aren’t edible at all. You can’t survive on the stuff you’re collecting and hoarding. Your behavior is in reality killing you because you’re spending your precious resources on things that have no benefit to your well-being at all.
It’s been estimated that about one in four people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are also compulsive hoarders.
I’m not a psychologist. But, maybe I can guess the your survival instinct is out of wack. In a nutshell, your collection is a symptom of something sinister. We can call it a mental illness or whatever. And, I think anyone who has a collection that isn’t providing anything good to them in terms of mental or social well-being could be considered a “problem”.
We know that hoarding is an emergent symptom of anxiety and can even generate more anxiety. Here’s what I think. The more models you collect and accumulate, the better you feel. Your collection protects you like a cloak of invisibility. The world can’t hurt you if you have your models nearby in a safe place you can go to. When you think about getting rid of miniatures, you feel a heart-stopping panic.
To underscore the point, unlike the typical hobby collector, your purpose for acquiring and collecting models isn’t for “fun”. You do it to feel safe, as though your life depended on it (maybe the feeling isn’t this strong, but the emotion does ride under your awareness).
Well, if you’re in this boat, then realizing and admitting the issue is the best first step. A doctor can only prescribe a medicine if he/she knows the diagnosis. If you’re looking for a self-assessment quiz with questions about hoarding, you can check out this site.
I came up with the idea for this article while unpacking boxes after a big move to a new place. I discovered tons of models that I collected over the years. And, as I worked through the inventory (most of them unpainted) I reflected on why and how so many miniatures had come into my possession.
It struck me that I didn’t know why I wasn’t more aggressive in discarding, selling, or generous with my abundance of “stuff”. Sure, I felt a bit guilty and perhaps this article write-up is cathartic in removing some of this guilt.
Although I still have a lot of the models in storage, I hope to slowly find ways to reduce this collection over time. Certainly, I won’t have time to paint them all or even to use them in games. Stay tuned, maybe I’ll make this part of a giveaway for the blog!