This post contains some thoughts from someone who has purchased, traded, and sold used miniatures across all kinds of venues, e.g., eBay, bartertown.com. What is a “pro painted miniature”? If you’re surfing eBay and come upon the words “pro painted”, it catches your eye. The second thing that you notice is how badly painted many models labeled as “professional” are on these aftermarket sites.
Games Workshop, Reaper Miniatures, Dark Sword Miniatures, all of these companies make miniatures that come to you unpainted. Even custom painted D&D models require you to search for places to buy the models as professionally painted.
At the end of the day, you just want to jump ahead and get a really nice painted model for your tabletop games!
The problem with trying to identify the value of a pro-painted model is simple: You’re judging art, which carries a ton of subjective opinion.
In this article, I discuss what I think about when it comes to “pro-painted models”. I take a flippant view of much of the hype that goes into selling pre-painted models that are labeled “pro”.
Read on for my thoughts!
What is “Value”?
How do you find the value in something? What is the value of a painted miniature?
Once you know the value of something, then you can attribute how much whatever “it is” costs (or can be sold for).
A professional miniature painter is someone who has garnered sufficient skill to create positive value in an unpainted miniature.
But, be forewarned….
Anyone can call themselves a “professional”. There is no governing body that sends you a certificate after you’ve achieved some level of painting skill with a brush.
Any amateur can self-proclaim themselves to be a professional miniature painter. And, henceforth, all their work is “pro”.
Note that technical achievement is not a factor in defining value.
We all know what a bad paint job looks like on a miniature sculpt. The paint is splashed around the edges; slopped on without thought as to form, i.e., not staying within the lines as it were.
Not such neat and clean painters. Form is distorted. Composition is arguably unconventional.
But, based on their “professional” work, can we say that beauty isn’t simply in technique or application of paint?
There’s more to consider….
Now, let’s say the 3-year old is the offspring of Hollywood celebrity. Add to this the tragic god-forbid event that after the 3-year old painted this model, the 3-year old dies in fire. This painted sculpt is the last irreplaceable artwork expression of this 3-year old on Earth.
Would You Pay for the Sculpt?
This is the litmus test.
The threshold you use to determine how much something is worth (i.e., its value) is whether the decision tree (in your head) chooses to pull out the wallet.
An even more interesting question than would you pay for a painted miniature sculpt is….
…how much would you pay?
How much cold hard cash will you lay on the table for this painted model?
When it comes to judging the price of art, it is a complex process that requires a lot of non-material information. Interestingly, an applied money value is the final variable to determine the value of any fine art piece.
Bottomline: Money is a tangible measure of “value’. But, value can’t be measured by money. Value transcend material things.
Is eBay Useful for Determining a Product’s Value?
Ebay economics 101….
eBay sells all sorts of things. And, the kind of consumer it attracts are as diverse as the menu of items for sale. It’s a great place to do a bit of consumer-research (here’s a book on this very topic).
What is a pro painted miniature?
Answering this question will help you decipher how all those poorly painted models you find on eBay are considered “good” or “of high quality”.
Have you looked on eBay for works of fine art? Or for used miniatures?
The more expensive pieces aren’t necessarily the most beautiful (based on common sensibilities of aesthetics), because the monetary value of that piece of art isn’t based only on perceived beauty.
There are other factors involved. For example, an art piece could have a backstory.
Some of the art out there was created by people who were made famous or infamous by actions that had nothing to do with their creative work.
For example, George W. Bush, a former United Stated President, has become an avid portrait artist. He paints the faces of famous people, as well as US Veterans who have come back from war (source).
Although his work demonstrates his talents, the value of George Bush’s art also comes from his status as a former US President.
Despite any of the controversy of his political life, his executive leadership, the art he produces stands alone as an excellent example of how value comes from more than the technical merits. Compared with other skilled “masters” of portraiture, George Bush is simply “mediocre”.
Maybe that’s why if you search eBay for used miniatures and the phrase “pro painted” is listed as a description, you should be skeptical. Unless there is a personal backstory, labels of technical merit and professional standards of quality don’t apply to most art or creative products.
“Pro” means something different to everyone.
The miniature might just look good to you!
The word “pro” might be associated with “good” or “high-quality”, but at the same time even those adjectives are relative.
See this listing (screenshot), for example, for “pro-painted”. What do you think?
How to Determine “Value”?
Generally, a good indicator of the value of a used miniature is the renown of the studio or artist who created the original sculpted design.
This is related to the George Bush example.
Was the miniature painted and completed by a highly-respected entity in the community?
Was the painter someone who has won local or nationally recognized painting contests?
At that point, if all confidence points to yes–that the artist/studio has been recognized in some respectable fashion–then I might consider the higher ask price of a painted, used miniature.
The True Measure of Value: “Time”
Time is the one commodity that a person has that can never be recovered after its spent.
Use time wisely.
You should ask yourself this in regards to using time as a measure of value.
“What could buying this used, painted miniature do to SAVE me time?”
If you don’t need to make modifications to the model, then you’ve spent money on something that saves you time. And, that is valuable–saving time.
Here’s my personal take: I generally prefer unpainted, used miniatures….I’m even willing to pay a tad more for fully assembled, complex miniatures. The time I save from not having to assemble a mini is worth it to me.
I don’t like assembling miniatures. I don’t like assembling IKEA furniture.
I’m willing to spend money (which is acquired by investing time in different places, e.g., a job) to save me time in my hobbies.
If I can free time from the boring stuff, I have more to enjoy the parts of the hobby I love.
This is value!
Get me the product in the quickest amount of time possible, requires the least work to function for my needs, so I can get to spending time on the things I actually want to do.
A pro-painted model should be something that saves you time. And, you’re willing to pay money that you got from spending time elsewhere (your job, etc.).
Conclusion: Value, Time, Money
Try applying a monetary value to your own paint jobs.
You will find that you’ll use TIME as the primary measure for determining VALUE, which you then convert back into MONEY unit.
A “pro-painted” model is merely a label that someone put there to catch your attention.
Save yourself some time and money, and keep scrolling.