In 1991 my buddy showed me a handful of pewter D&D miniatures that he had painted. I had to have some and bought a wizard and a samurai on the spot, pulling some crumpled up Washingtons from my pocket.
That was the beginning of me building a D&D miniatures collection, but other than an occasional orc, rogue, or elf ranger, I didn’t add much to my D&D miniatures collection over the next 20 years. (I instead turned my attention to amassing an army of Stormtrooper action figures.)
But it’s scientifically proven that it’s more fun to play D&D with painted minis, not necessarily in sophisticated grid combat, mind you, but simply as things that are fun to look at or to experience the thrill of flicking a kobold mini across the table when your character slices him through with a scimitar.
How to Build a D&D Miniatures Collection
Lately I’ve casually taken up miniatures painting, and bought the games Zombicide and Imperial Assault, simply because they are loaded with unpainted miniatures (including tons of Stormtroopers) that I can learn on. I also peruse Kickstarter for miniatures campaigns likes the popular Bones line.
Meanwhile, in interviewing sculptor Bobby Jackson, I really got an appreciation for how minis are created.
But miniatures are expensive and most folks would rather start with painted miniatures rather than take on both collecting miniatures and learning to paint them.
So here is how I built a nice D&D painted miniatures collection relatively inexpensively.
1. I found a line of painted miniatures that interested me. The Pathfinder RPG has flooded the market with some really neat lines called Pathfinder Battles that match their Adventure Paths.
Pathfinder miniatures are made by Wizkids and there are so many sculpts available at this point that fan sites have popped up to catalogue and track them. About $15 will get you a Pathfinder booster that includes 4 random miniatures from that particular line, be it Rise of the Runelords, Skull and Shackles, or some of their newer ones like Dungeons Deep. (Check them out here or here.)
I bought a few boosters here and there which both gave me the excitement of opening a blind booster to see what I’d get, but also allowed me a few painted miniatures to look at, play with on the table, and get a sense of the kinds of minis I really liked.
2. I turned my miniature collecting pro and bought a brick. Eight boosters are bundled together into what is called a “brick.” Since each booster has 4 minis each, you multiply that by 8 and a brick gets you 32 miniatures. Through discounters you can get a brick for as little as $90, meaning you are paying about $3 per miniature, which is not bad.
Being a D&D 5e fan, the brick I got was from D&D’s Tyranny of Dragons line (I reviewed it here). So I have all sorts of sweet miniature dragons to play with, including a couple of duplicates. This brings me to my next step.
3. I sold extra or unwanted figures. I suspected that I’d never be dumb enough to take on two blue dragons at once, so what to do with the extra blue dragon I had gotten in my brick?
Plus, I had a few figures from my earlier forays into Pathfinder Battles minis that were great figures, but just weren’t my style.
Well, I sold them!
Specifically, I went to Cool Stuff Inc.’s buy list and traded them in for store credit. The process was simple and I was offered fair prices for figures that I wouldn’t miss. All I was out was a little bubble wrap to ship them off.
I took the store credit option because my intent all along was to use that credit to buy figures to fill out my collection! Cool Stuff sells nearly every individual Pathfinder or D&D figure that you would have to hope you’d get lucky enough to pull from a blind booster. But on Cool Stuff, you simply add the individual mini to your cart. (Miniature Market or Troll and Toad offer something similar, but I prefer Cool Stuff’s easy website navigation and clear sell process.)
So that’s how I quickly my D&D miniatures collection.
- I bought a few boosters, then bulked it up with a brick.
- Next, I sold my extras or unwanteds for store credit that I turned right around and used to fill in the gaps.
I now have a little mini to represent heroes from a wide variety of player classes. On top of that, I have figures to represent townsfolk and NPCs, plus an owl to serve as my wizard’s familiar. Finally, I have dragons, orcs, giants, elementals, trolls, gnolls, goblins, and kobolds, all the monsters that make D&D so fun.
Oh yeah, I also have a pewter wizard and samurai from 1991, which is not nothing.