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Prices of figures

Discussion in 'General Figure Talk' started by Ferris, May 14, 2015.

  1. ellie A Fixture

    Hi Claude it's a great idea it has been kicked around at the club a time or two. I even thought about one at the art gallery here in leeds. it's an art form and the skill involved is just as involved as say some modern art. we are our own worst publicist in this hobby. we hide our talents away when we should be shouting from the roof tops.

    The kid s at school loved it to see them create something was a joy. and the look of pride on their faces when they had finished was great. the art teacher said she had never seen them so interested in colour theory light & shade and how to mix colours. even she said that she had learned something from it. It also gave them a bit of a history lesson ( ok Franco Prussian war in the case of the figures lol) but it sutured up interest in a period of history not covered in the school. so it's a win, win. they were doing work on WWI so the planes came in very handy for some of them.

    I know I'm looking forward to doing it again. I know the kids are. I have some flats that I'm going to give the school for the course this time so we will see what happens with them. I picked up some cheep airfix kits the other week which the school have offered to pay for plus some kits from Ellies. we will see what this one does.



  2. Ferris A Fixture

    Hi all,

    Thanks for keeping this thread alive, and thanks for all responses!

    Working everything out took a bit longer than I thought, but I'm done.
    My write-up is about 10 pages, pictures included, so I'll be posting it in a few steps....
    Here goes.....

  3. Ferris A Fixture

    Figured Out – Four decades of figure prices

    The remark is often made here on PlanetFigure: “Figures have become very expensive; once they were affordable, but not anymore”. But have they really?
    It is a simple question, but seeking an answer quickly turned into something a bit more involved than I had expected; not much different from every figure I paint really.

    Before I tell you how I arrived at it I’ll share with you my conclusion: No, they haven’t. Except some. It depends.

    Unsatisfying? Read on.

    First, let’s first have another look at the main question: Have figures become more expensive over the past decades? One thing is clear to everyone with a memory going back that far: Prices definitely are much higher now than in, say, 1980. But that is true for almost everything, thanks to inflation, so that is not the point. What we really want to know is how prices have developed compared to other things. When we consider figure prices expensive, this is in comparison to something else. Most relevant in this case, maybe, is the price compared to our budget. How many figures can I buy after paying for the mortgage, rent, car, food, kids, mistress and weekly flowers for the wife….? Is the answer “too few”, we find figures expensive; is the answer “enough”, we find prices all right. So what we really want to know is how figure prices have developed compared to prices of other things and particularly our income.

    It is said that understanding the problem is half the solution. However, just when I was feeling happy with progress because I knew what I wanted to know, a whole bunch of new questions popped up.
    - - How to get information on past figure prices?
    - - How am I ever going to compare different figures from different eras?
    - - How should I take into account that different brands of figures are produced in different countries, with different currencies and economic histories?
    - - What to do with differences in production batch sizes, differences in casting material, changes in quality levels, etc., etc.?
    - - And most importantly: How to compare past prices with current prices?

    One step forward, two steps back. I felt less happy.

    It took me a while to figure out, but here’s how I tackled these points.
  4. Ferris A Fixture

    How am I ever going to compare different figures from different eras?

    The fairest things to do would be to compare the price of the same figure at different times, clearly. This is doable over relatively short timespans, but not over the full 44 years I was looking at. Few figures have been available that long.

    Another thing is how do you compare the latest 54mm from Pegaso with a 54mm available in the early 70ies, which had a different quality level? Standards have risen enormously. And with quality up, shouldn’t we expect figures to be relatively more expensive these days?

    It would also not be fair to compare a plastic Historex figure with a resin or metal one from whatever date.

    At some point I decided to simply collect prices from a range of typical figures and systematically list them in plots of price versus year. I would make one such plot for each figure scale. Only later I would go through the data to look for figures that would make particularly good comparisons over time and work towards conclusions from there.

    How to get past figure prices?

    The next thing I needed was a list of figure prices, each dated to some year in the past. I had no idea at first how to get there and posted a request on PF, which led to some very useful replies and an initial batch of data points. Best of all, these responses made me realize that all those old Military Modelling magazines that I had stacked away in the hobby room contained a LOT of pricing information in advertisements, all nicely time-stamped on the magazine’s cover. Historex Agent’s adverts were particularly useful, as they contained pretty long lists of various brands. And they went back over forty years.

    I started accumulating price info into Microsoft Excel feeling great that keeping those magazines proved useful. The fun lasted until I realized that my subscription did not cover the time span I was interested in. This is where I got a lot of help from several fellow PF members, particularly from Andrew (arj on PF). His scans of adverts covered enough years to fill the wide gaps in my list and get a decent overview of figure prices starting around 1970. Other contributors I’d like to thank are Paul (DaddyO), Stuart (stu), mirofsoft, Chrisr, and all others contributing to my thread. The last entries into the Excel list came from May 2015’s Historex Agents’ website.

    In this way I accumulated price information about more than 200 figures, in 4 scales, from a period spanning 44 years.

    That should do, right?

    What to do with differences in production batch sizes, differences in casting material, changes in quality levels, etc. ?

    Not much. I simply added brand name, scale, casting material and anything else I considered relevant to each entry. I would not be compensating for any of this, but collect the information to use it in the interpretation of results.
    DaddyO likes this.
  5. Ferris A Fixture

    How should I take into account that different brands of figures are produced in different countries, with different currencies and economic histories?

    Enthusiastically compiling price data from the Historex adverts, a nagging feeling started to grow. The list started to look nice and well, but all prices were in Pounds (GBP) from one UK-based seller. Pegaso and Andrea would have most of their cost in Lira, Pesetas or Euros. If these are sold via Historex Agents, exchange rates would influence the price. If their prices were high or low, compared to whatever reference, this would say more about exchange rates to the Pound than about the inherent development of these figures’ prices.

    This nagging feeling grew stronger when, thanks to Google, I realized that economic history, such as of inflation, has been different in different countries. That meant calculations that compare past prices to current prices would have to be different as well.


    I got stuck for a while, but then realized the situation was not that bad. If Euro/Pound exchange rates would make Pegaso or Andrea figures more or less expensive in Pounds, well, that fact would then simply contribute to figure buyer’s opinion on prices. My impression is that figure painting and collecting is rather big in the UK anyway, so it would not be a bad idea to focus my analysis on the UK, with prices from the same seller, in the same currency.

    That wouldn’t solve everything however. Although I was now convinced that my data could be a reference against opinions on prices (in the UK), I had set out to find an objective answer to the question if figures have become more expensive. I really needed to get rid of effects from exchange rates.

    With all my past pondering, the last step was rather easy to make: for a ‘clean’ conclusion I would need to look at UK-based figure producers. Their figure prices would be subjected to the same economic histories for inflation and wage development as any other product that can be used as a reference. Their prices would also not be influenced by any exchange rates, or at least much less.
    Fortunately, some good candidates were available: Hornet Models (going back 26 years) and Historex figures in plastic (going back to 1970).

    So, there it was, I was going to compare the development in the price of Hornet and Historex figures and compare that to development of……..hm. Right. What would I be comparing this to?
    There was still one essential question remaining.
    DaddyO likes this.
  6. Ferris A Fixture

    How to compare past prices with current prices?

    Originally I had intended to look for some average inflation percentage and use that to compare past and present prices, but the more I read about this topic, the more complex the matter turned out to be. The good news was that this question is business as usual for economists, and a lot of work has been published that I could tap into. I can recommend anyone to google for ‘historic prices’ and surf some of the results; it often makes for interesting reading.

    One particularly convincing and useful site that I came across was www.measuringworth.com. It offered the most comprehensive and clear explanations and included a calculator function that could translate a price at date A to one at date B. Exactly what I needed!

    It is worthwhile to go through this site and particularly the essay “Explaining the Measures of Worth”. A major take-away for me was that there are multiple ways to interpret historical prices and that it is important to pick the most applicable one to arrive at a valid result. Most of us will be familiar with the Consumer Price Index. It is based on changes in the price of a basket of household items over time and visualizes inflation the average consumer is subjected to. The site explains why this is often not the best way to interpret price developments, particularly over longer timeframes. That is because it does not take into account that our standard of living has increased over time as well. Average income has risen and we are buying more. This means that the same basket of household goods has become more affordable, even though its price has risen due to inflation. The site explains the different ways to look at prices of things (commodities), wages and big-scale projects, such as the price of bread, an accountant’s salary, and the cost of building the empire state building and of WW1.

    What does this mean for my question about figure prices? My conclusion was that the relevant reference to be used for my analysis would be one that takes into account both inflation and growth in income. Figures are a luxury good. They are most useless for anything else than our entertainment. That means that we only buy them from money that is left after we have paid for all other stuff we must spend money on. If we want to know how expensive figures objectively are, we need to look at their price compared to what is left of our income after buying all other things. This is our figure budget. This means I would need to interpret figure prices in terms of their Income Value, which, quoting the site, “is measured using the relative average income that would be used to buy a commodity.” In other words, the Income Value tells us how painful prices are, at different times.

    It’s time for some results now.
  7. Ferris A Fixture

    To start with, here’s all the price data from all figures in all scales I looked at (Figure 1):
    Figure 1 - All prices.jpg
    The picture is a bit clearer if the data is sorted to scale (Figure 2):

    Figure 2 - Prices per scale.jpg
  8. Ferris A Fixture

    What can be concluded from these two figures?

    Firstly, in absolute terms figure prices have grown steadily and considerably. In the 1970s figures cost between GBP 0,65 (54mm Historex, plastic) to GBP2,80 (75mm Series77, metal). Today, figures cost between GBP 10,- and GBP 80,-.

    Secondly, the variety in choice and price has grown enormously. In the 1970s, figure prices varied roughly 30%, now they can vary by as much as 300% (such as in 54mm in 2015)(although admittedly, early data is scarce). I interpret this to be the consequence of an increased variety in quality. The level of detail available today is incredible and sometimes close to perfect. Comparably, figures in the 1970s could be a bit clunky.

    Thirdly, some brands are more expensive than others. To be fair, this is only visible in my data list, not in the figures themselves. It may sound obvious, but the price difference is not always related to a difference in quality. For example, Romeo Models are generally more expensive than Pegaso or Andrea, with, I would dare say, comparable quality. PiliPili 120mm figures are also expensive compared to others (such as Alpine Miniatures). Verlinden figures on the other hand, are a very good deal, compared to the average. I would expect this will be reflected in sales volumes, but cannot check this.

    Fourthly, 90mm figures are expensive compared to 120mm ones. The bigger scale has only been around since about 1990, whereas 90mm is a scale going back at least to the early 1970s. My explanation is that this a result from differences in casting material. 120mm Figures tend to be in resin, 90mm in metal. Metal is the more costly casting material. In addition, the volume of material needed scales up with the third power of size, so casting material cost becomes more dominant in bigger scales (weight scales up proportionally as well, by the way). The effect is strong enough to trigger the question why producers are not all switching to resin, particularly for the bigger scales? We’ll be painting the figures anyway, so what does the material matter? It would reduce prices and also reduce the weight of figures, making for easier assembly and lower postage fees. With quite a few people complaining about prices and postage I find it odd that producers do not respond by making this change. I think it has a lot to do with tradition, or is it conservatism/inflexibility….?

    A final point to note is a spike in prices in the years around 2010. I took a better look at this to confirm it doesn’t have to do with my limited selection of data, and the spike is real. The same 54mm figures that cost around GBP30,- in this peak, cost a few Pounds less today. Who was saying figure prices have increased?! However, what we are seeing here is an effect of the Euro/Pound exchange rate. The figures these data points represent are all coming from the EU (Pegaso, Andrea, Romeo). These were the years of recent economic upheaval, with major effects on the Euro/Pound exchange rate. These were really bad years to buy Pegaso via Historex! I expect that Pegaso prices in Euros would fit with the overall trend, but I did not check this (this whole thing kept me away from the painting bench long enough!).

    Now, going to the main question: how painful have figure prices become?

    DaddyO likes this.
  9. Ferris A Fixture

    The next figure depicts how past prices can be interpreted in terms of Income Value (Figure 3):

    Figure 3 - Compared to Income Value.jpg

    To explain the Income Value data: I used the calculator function of measuringworth.com to calculate the Income Value at any date of the price from an early entry. For example, I would determine a ‘typical’ figure price from 1972 and calculate the price in 1990, 2000, 2007 and 2014 in terms of Income Value.

    One problem with this was that data from the early 1970s is scarce and if that data point happened to be a particularly expensive or cheap figure, it would not be representative to use that one to extrapolate prices over 40 years. If I suspected this to be the case, I selected a later starting point, where my confidence in the price being ‘typical’ was higher. I did this in the case of 90mm figures. There were several data points around 1980 that would allow a typical price to be defined. This was based to determine the purple square points. I had only one single data point in 1971. If extrapolated this ended up very high in the scale in 2014, with intermediate points all exceeding the data. This being a Series77 figure, my feeling was that this was a top-of-the-bill figure that was not sufficiently typical. Right or wrong, it is incorrect to base broad conclusions on single data points, so in this case I went for the safer approach and start extrapolation around 1980. From all this I concluded that I needed to represent the variation in prices and with this purpose I added error bars of +/-10%. Not entirely scientific, but at least it represents how differences in the initial early price lead to differences in Income Value at a later date.

    DaddyO likes this.
  10. Ferris A Fixture

    What is very clear from these figures is that figure prices have been more or less in step with Income Value. In other words: Overall, figure prices have NOT become inherently more expensive! They have roughly grown in line with inflation and overall wealth. Exceptions are 90mm figures, that seems to have slowly but surely grown relatively more expensive. I feel this is because of the dominance of metal cost in these figures (and some metal prices have spiked over the last decade or so). If these figures were made of resin, I would expect them to stick to the general trend. Another exception seems to be for 75mm figures, but this I’m not sure of. I have relatively little data in this scale, and it is biased to a single European brand (Pegaso). The most data I have is from 54mm figures and from this it is hard to conclude otherwise that figures have NOT grown relatively more expensive.

    Noting that many people have the feeling figures are more expensive now, I wondered if this could be founded on the following: Figure 3 figure shows that in the period 1985-1995 54mm figures seem to be under the Income Value trend, suggesting these were times when they were less expensive. They caught up again, ‘over-shooting’ Income Value around 2010 (due to the unfavorable Euro/Pound exchange rate). When we find figures expensive now, could it be that our memory is based on the decade from 1985-1995, versus 2010-level prices? I doubt the data is numerous enough to allow this conclusion, but it could be behind this common view. Anyway, the fact remains that (European-made) figures have actually become less expensive (in relative as well as absolute terms!) over the past five years, at least in the UK.
  11. Ferris A Fixture

    So far my conclusion is that, broadly speaking, figure prices have not essentially changed over the past 4 decades. They have kept in step with inflation and growth in our budget.

    There is one thing left to do, and that is to look at specific UK-made figures: Hornet Models and Historex ones. Here is the result (Figure 4):

    Figure 4 - Hornet and Historex figures.jpg

    The left figure says that the price of a Hornet figure today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1989 (my first data point for this brand) in terms of Income Value! The right figure says that Historex figures have…..become a better and better deal over time! In terms of income value, Historex figures would have to be priced around GBP18,-, instead of the GBP12,40 they are listed at in May 2015.

    To me this makes sense. Hornet figures are still up to today’s standards in quality and it is not surprising that their price remained the same (relatively). Historex figures were, in my opinion, more spectacular in the seventies than they are now, so price should be relatively lower to keep them competitive.
  12. Ferris A Fixture

    Overall conclusions

    My first overall conclusion is that I spent far more time on this than I had set out to.


    It was fun to dig into this subject and learn something on the side.

    My other conclusion is that figures are priced the same over the past decades, give and take a few exceptions that can be explained. Actually, if that is the case, we are much better off today: the same price today buys us a more detailed figure than it did 40 years ago. And if we don’t want to spend that amount, we can select a cheaper one from a wider price range. On top of that, with so many sellers online these days (including Ebay etc.), it is very easy to shop around for any particular figure, and buy it from the cheapest one (even when avoiding recasts, of course!). We can ‘beat the curve’ to our advantage.

    Arriving at this optimistic conclusion, I must note that I am talking from a figure buyer’ s perspective…. Things look differently for manufacturers. They are actually having tougher times, with increased choice and increased competition.

    Luckily, the overall conclusion can be phrased in a way that I’m sure both buyers and manufacturers can agree upon: Any day is a good day to buy figures!
    LVM, Martin64, crf and 1 other person like this.
  13. Ferris A Fixture

    What do you think?
    Looking forward to the discussion!

    Let me know if you'd like the whole thing in a PDF by the way.

  14. DaddyO A Fixture

    Wow - Lot of work there Adrian :eek:

    Ultimately confirmed my impression that coming back to the hobby, after a 30 year break, that yes, figures are more expensive, but not relatively so.
    Figures are easier to get hold of via t'internet and the quality is now, frankly, amazing. Communities like PF have replaced the local model club as a source of inspiration, information and chat. (Although meeting and chatting face to face takes place it seems the shows are the main place this goes on)
    So some good stuff and some not so good, but for a young un starting out today paints, inspiration and help (as well as figures) are more easily available and better than ever before.:joyful:

    Right who's next to move out of the grey regiment (Not quite an army yet) ;)
  15. Tubby-Nuts2 A Fixture

    A very interesting thread! .. and you are quite right in saying that buying is always relative to one's income! and affordability, the comparison to what was! and what it is now, is quite stark, especially with the 90mm kits.

    I remember chewing my knuckles some 14 years back on the purchase of a 1/48th 'Fairey Swordfish'. @ 50 quid. Fast forward, and a change of direction (Figures) I have spent thrice that amount on a single kit without blinking an eye. Ultimately I suppose its what you get for your money is a major factor. We have all said to ourselves that's a nice piece, but I am not paying that price.

    At the same time, the 'Want' 'Must Have', can 'out-weigh', individual reasoning. It's a risky business is this hobby. :LOL:

    However, there is always a market for those pieces that we buy and then realise that we cannot do! nor want to do. It does soften the financial hit. :)


  16. arj A Fixture

    Wow! That's really developed from the earlier summary that you sent me.
    The graphs for the 90mm figures explain exactly why I have never bothered buying these metal figures, except as remainders or second hand.
    When I first started painting figures, my spare cash never seemed enough for the higher end figures, and I tended to work with soft plastics (Airfix etc) and the cheaper lower end products. Then, as my income increased, the pain in the pocket began to ebb.
    Very well done with a superb piece of research.

  17. MCPWilk A Fixture

    Resin 75mm to 200mm size figures (often from small manufacturers) offer tremendous value for money when compared with some big name manufacturers' 90mm metal figures.

    Tubby-Nuts2 likes this.

    A lot of useful and interesting work there Adrian. I think this should be pinned for reference.
  19. Mark S Guest

    Great work Adrian..as Colin says this amazing record should be saved here for future reference.
  20. tonydawe A Fixture

    Thanks Adrian

    That's a comprehensive and most thoughtful contribution and a surpring analysis. It's a relief to think that our buying power and the cost of figures have remained in parity. The question that has not been answered is how to make figures more affordable. Thanks again .

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