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Miniature/figure Market trends

Discussion in 'General Figure Talk' started by m-Eastwood, May 28, 2011.

  1. m-Eastwood New Member

    G'day all

    I am currently studying a short business course and i am currently doing an assignment on the miniature/figure market. I don't know much about this sort of market so here it goes!

    I was wondering if i could get a bit of information for two of the questions.

    Question 1:
    Please write a history of the industry. What have been the trends over the past 10 years, where has it progressed to and where do you see it going in the future?

    Question 2:
    What are the general trends and changes over the past few years?

    Any information would be a great help.

  2. gordy Well-Known Member

    Hi Michael , we'd love to help and what an excellent idea.

    I'm moving this to the general forum to get more visibility. Best wishes with the success of your paper!

    Let's all help Michael out! :)
  3. m-Eastwood New Member

    Cheers Gordy

    This isn't exactly the easiest market to research, but its the market i love.

    I appreciate all the help!
  4. Jimmy S Well-Known Member

    I'd start with Carlos Andrea's book "Thanks" for a great read into figures in Europe and Andrea itself. Just write to these guys they are very nice and passionate guys and will almost certainly reply. there was a great write up on the history of Euro for the 25th Anniversary.
  5. Steve Well-Known Member

    "Please write a history of the industry"? Have at Gord-o, that is quite an order. This business did not spring forth whole in 2011. I once asked Shep Paine where HE thought we were headed and he replied, "I have no earthly idea"; if Shep cannot see it, I politely suggest that no one else can either. There is one easily identifiable trend, and that is toward incredible quality of the castings we paint. The average level of sculpting today was found only in a few examples only a few short years ago. There is also a corresponding excellence in finishing (painting). Quite frequently what was phenomenal work a few years back is pretty common today. I know. Every time I get within smelling distance of that elusive bar, it gets raised again, which can be mildly frustrating but is of inestimable value to the community as a whole. That history thing is for someone else to tackle.--
    housecarl likes this.
  6. bwildfong Well-Known Member

    Hi Michael,

    Cool idea for a paper!

    As to " write a history of the industry", you might try Bill Ottinger's book on Historex figures from the Modelling Masterclass series. The opening chapters give a really good rundown on the birth and evolution of the modern historical miniature (as opposed to the toy soldier) industry with the founding of the Historex Company in France in the early 60's (?). Even if it's not a complete history of the industry, I think it's at least a decent starting place.

    Hope this helps,

  7. Anders Heintz Well-Known Member

    Instead of asking us to write the paper for you, I'd suggest you approach the subject by writing out a page of questions, with specific questions, and then ask people to answer the survey. Then take the collected data and write your report. You can make different surveys for businesses and for the people enjoying figures as a hobby.

    I'm not trying to be harsh or nothing, but asking two huge questions that would require pages and pages to remotely answer you is a bit much to ask. Your best bet would be to talk to as many people as possible, both those who pioneered the hobby and those of us who are reaping the benefit of their work and insight.
    Jamie Stokes likes this.
  8. m-Eastwood New Member

    That's ok Anders

    There is 20 pages of questions that i have to go through, and yes there is a whole section which includes a survey, but I'm not that far into the paper yet. I will post the survey when i get to it, if that's ok.
  9. Anders Heintz Well-Known Member

    Sounds like it could be thorough. Would love to see what you can find out as well!
  10. m-Eastwood New Member

    Thanks for all your information guys. I will try my best to come up with something :p
  11. redhorse Active Member

    I was out of the hobby for years and I've only recently gotten back into it. The one big trend I've noticed is busts instead of full figures. I rarely saw busts before and now they are everywhere.
  12. m-Eastwood New Member

    That's a very good point Redhorse.
  13. housecarl A Fixture

    I would say the emergence of quality resin figures to accompany vehicles, is relatively new.
    That and 1/48th scale, again these are meant for vehicle accompaniment.
    Although I maybe completely wrong,
  14. Ferris A Fixture

    Some trends I (think to) see (looking at the envelope of things, not the average):

    - Sculpting quality in all scales is converging to perfection (ref. Alpine, Pegaso, Jeff Shiu, Soldiers, and several others)

    - Casting quality is ever improving, as is the engineering of figures (the breakdown and fit of parts becomes better and better)

    - If resin is used, it is far superior and less unhealthy material than 10 years ago. Here figure modelling is floating along with technology, not driving it).

    - More busts. I think this is because it allows all that excellence to be painted in a convenient/realistic amount of hours.

    - The appearance and take over of Acrylic paints over oils (maybe lasts a bit longer than 10 years).

    - Over the last years I think I see a trend towards 'dynamic sculpts': coats blowing in the wind or action. The brand Scale 75 is a recent example.

    Just my view of course...

  15. FigureLover A Fixture

    Adrian above puts up some really good points. Another new technology is the emergence of CAD/CAM engineered figures. Although not used much yet, and only in its infancy, I reckon wait a few years and we will see it more often than not.
  16. Don Well-Known Member

    One thing I notice is the number of companies who make very good figures who have closed down.
    2/ Big change in the casting standards, used to be few good castings now almost everyone produces first class castings,
    3/ Choice the customer has, as almost everything you fancy is produced by someone.
    4/ Big change to resin and quality of resin figures.
    5/ Big change on paints available, many people moving away from oil paints.
    6/ Great number of Busts available.

    All in all I think there has been a lot of great changes, but am always waiting for the bubble to burst, thats my reason to buy more figures than I can ever paint.

  17. chippy Well-Known Member

    Two names I think had quite a big part in the hobbie to get it is to where it is today are Historex and Airfix . These cheap little kits offered the chance for some major conversions that the more expensive and less flexible static metal did not , just look at the early works of Shep Pain, then we all tried to follow suit . I think this is when the manufactures picked up and followed the need for more dynamic figures .
  18. Harry New Member


    The first model figure busts I recall ever seeing were "character heads" by a company called Artisan from Peterborough, U.K. These first came out in about 1981 and their range was certainly well established by the end of 1982 (I have an old "Military Modelling" from December 1982 open here that includes an advert for them). They were 1/12 scale white metal and came as a set of three different heads that slotted into a (supplied) hardwood base. A white metal name plate was also included. They had a Battle of Waterloo set, "Heroes of the Falklands", Russian cavalrymen of 1812 and some A.C.W. sets. The heads included the neck and a small area of the shoulders only.

    The rest of the figures on the market in those days were full-figures and in today's smaller scales. 100mm was regarded as "super scale" in those days. A guy called John Runnicles famously used to use 1/6 scale skeleton kits as armatures for large scale figure scratchbuilds but they were regarded as extraordinary.
  19. Don Johnson Active Member

    The "industry" needs to be sub-divided, as there are several pathways, including (in no particular order):
    1) Flats, the first figures, and their continuing popularity;
    2) "traditional" Toy Soldiers - W. Britians and related companies, and the evolution of their product;
    3) Marx playsets, which begat the whole "green army men" niche, whose torch is still carried by Barso, Conte and others;
    4) as stated, Airfix figures and other models (see the recent book "Achtung Schwinehund" for a great treatment of this and related subjects);
    5) "modern" Toy Soldiers, such as King & Country and John Jenkins;
    6) historical wargaming figures, from earliest attempts to the Perry brothers;
    7) the entire Dungeons & Dragons genre, and the fantasy figures which followed, culminating in the story of Games Workshop and its place and power in the marketplace;
    8) the "collector" military miniatures, from Henri Lyon and J. DesFontaine, thru Imrie/Risley, Rose, Greenwood & Ball, to Poste Militare, F. Verlinden and the makers of today (Andrea, Pegaso etals);
    9) the competing yet complimentary business models of "big" manufacturers and "boutique" producers, and how each has shaped the world (and business) of miniatures;
    10) the story of Historex by itself is worthy of study, from both business and artistic perspectives;
    11) the impact of new materials (resin, acrylic paint) and non-traditional sizes (6mm wargame figures to 1/16th scale armor & figure models) on the market;
    12) the GI Joe (US)/Action Man (UK) figure, and its continuation today via Dragon and others;
    13) the Flames of War business model, especially with its recent foray into magazine publishing;
    14) the impact of the Internet on both the business and the artistry of miniatures.
    (there are others, I'm sure!)

    Wellington reportedly declined to assist would-be Waterloo authors, saying the effort would be akin to "...writing the history of a dance". As framed by your initial two inquiries, your mission would seem to be similar. I might define the universe, then select one or more subsets for detailed study.

    As it is a business course, see if there have been/are now similarities in business models among the various branches of the miniature figure tree.
    Has the definition of "customer" changed [not the user, necessarily, but the buyer] over time, and is it still changing?
    Trace the evolution of product delivery (local producers/mail order/shows/internet etc.).
    Is this an economically feasible business, as defined by the modern metrics you are no doubt studying?
    How does this business compare to other "hobby" businesses (model railroading, RC planes & vehicles, ship building, - the list is endless)?
    Will today's GW fanboy become tomorrow's collector figure enthusiast?
    Will the greying of the hobby consign this business to buggywhip/carbonpaper irrelevancy?

    Disclosure: I have spent many years as a commercial loan officer. These are the type of underwriting questions that I've framed and answered.

    You've been given some great leads above, in addition to whatever your experience has been with the world of figures. Best of luck! Don
    gordy likes this.
  20. tonydawe A Fixture


    When I started modelling 35 years ago, there were perhaps only a handful of people in the world who were classified as "professional" modellers. The overwhelming majority of figure sculptors and painters were and still are amateurs/ hobbyists.

    The vast majority are still amatuers, but there are now many professional artisans who specialise in miniature figure sculpting and painting, and a few who manage to make a decent living doing so.

    These professional modellers may not be large in number, but thanks to magazines and the internet, (particularly pF) they have become very influential characters within our hobby, and their influence has lead to significant changes in painting styles (ie the Spanish/ Italian acrylic painting styles and the St Petersberg School of miniature painting).

    The rise in professionalism within our hobby has been reflected by a general rise in prices of figure kits, as kit manufacturers become more technically and artistically ambitious and modellers become more demanding and exacting.

    At one end of the scale, the larger kit manufacturers are now becoming increasingly sophisticated and using highly advanced technology, and yet at the other end of the scale, the heart and soul of our hobby is still the bloke in his shed who beavers away quietly sculpting or painting on his own to produce a work of art with his own two hands.
    gordy likes this.

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