Recasting and its effects on wargaming miniatures

Hi. I know what you’re thinking. “Not another person banging on about recasting” but sadly it effects our wargaming and miniatures hobby so I feel it does need a bit of addressing.

I need to say this from the beginning. This is not going to be me getting all high and mighty and declaring “recasting will send you to hell!”. My aim is more to highlight how recasting effects companies who’s products we love to spend time drooling over, assembling, painting, and utterly destroying on the tabletop.

What is “recasting”?

Recasting is taking a retail miniature. Moulding and casting it. And selling it (often claiming it to be an official product).

In many countries it is illegal and falls under the same laws as bootleg and counterfeit items. However; most recasters operate from countries which don’t seem to care so much from a legal standpoint. And even more frustratingly; many of them are sold online using images copied directly from the original companies own web stores.

Not many companies are anything near the size of Games Workshop with their world spanning brand. Even the next companies down like Corvus Belli and Warlord Games are incredibly smaller and with far less funding (let alone their own legal departments). And many companies out there; especially those who rely on Kickstarter, are more a core handful of people and many aspects are outsourced to freelancers which can be costly. So funding to take a recaster to court really isn’t available.

What’s involved in making a miniature?

Sculpting stages from https://www.facebook.com/perryminiatures/

So where to start on this, quite frankly touchy subject? I suppose with some information of the amount of people and steps involved in the creation of a miniature. And this could be a single figure, bust, unit for an army, vehicle, or anything you can think of. Now bare in mind that I do not myself make miniatures but I have many contacts and friends within that area and I’ve learned much from them the past few years. Here goes:

Stages broken down

  • First up is a concept artist or designer to develop sketches and art for sculptors to work from, or… contacting an artists who’s existing work you wish to reproduce.
  • Next is the sculptor:
    • Traditional may cost more and take longer but many traditional sculptors still have yet to be outdone by digital sculpting for quality.
    • Digital is obviously the other option. Bit cheaper and changes are easier. Plus making optional parts (for gaming miniatures for example) is much less tricky. But you’re still hiring the tech and a trained sculptor. Plus just because it can be produced as a render does not mean it is castable.
  • Then you’ll have your master miniature which will either be your clay sculpture or 3D printed on the finest settings possible. Plastic is a different ballgame as the expensive metal moulds are created.
  • Now you need someone to create moulds of your master before they can create reproductions. And these moulds don’t last forever and need to be recreated.
  • Casting takes time and can be hazardous if precautions are not taken by those working with the resin.
  • All parts need to be checked for quality.
  • Possibly you may want box art painted too.

You’re essentially looking at between three and six different areas or people depending on skill. All of which have their own bills to pay and their fees can massively vary, as can quality. But that is a very different subject. End of the day they will all need to be payed somehow.

Games Workshop have the luxury to have all those separate areas covered in house. From the design teams, sculpting teams, product production, box art, and everything really. All on their contracted wages.

If you go through and totalled up the cost in bringing a miniature to retail you start to realise they’re not only expensive but also it takes a lot of unit sales before they start to turn a profit. And sales in the current climate aren’t guaranteed. Even those who use pre-order type systems like Kickstarter will have had to have paid for many of the above stages already to even tempt you into helping fund their labour of love.

The cost of a miniature

Lets bounce some figures about. Now these are not based on any miniature that I will show but are from talks with friends. Hopefully this makes sense:

  • Concept art: £700
  • Traditional sculpting: £1300 (it’s large)
  • Casting: £20 per kit (lets cast 100 for a first run)
  • Packaging: £4 per kit (100 again)
  • Box art: £900
  • Total: £5,300 or £53 per kit to break even

Charging £53 per kit would keep the price low and selling those 100 would cover your costs; if you sell those 100. But there would be nothing in the bank to pay for another casting run or fund another miniature. So you add some margin. Say 30% on top of your costs. Call it £68.90 per kit. By selling 77 kits you’ll break even and selling 100 kits will put £1,590 in the bank to cast more or start a new product. Though that still isn’t much to play with and still relies on all 100 kits selling.

Cost to a recaster

So then… what happens if your lovingly created fantastic miniature lands in the hands of a recaster and what will they be paying in comparison to yourself.

  • Retail copy: £68.90
  • Casting: less than £20 per kit due to using the cheapest resin they can find. But I’ll call it £20.
  • Packaging: 5p per kit. Zip lock bags are cheap.
  • Total for 10 kits: £269.40 (but will in reality be less)

Less than the cost or the original concept art and even selling at £30 each all cost will be returned and a profit made.

And what about the original producer with their £68.90 kit which is now selling slower and not making back the funds which have already been paid out? Well, the recaster isn’t going to help out or even likely to contribute to the hobby community.

Effects of recasting

Eventually it becomes unsustainable and people give up because they can no longer afford to put funds into something which isn’t paying for itself. So what are the options available to them?

  1. Increase price to offset losses,
  2. Reduce product quality,
  3. Give up and close.

Sadly and frustratingly, recasting effects our wargaming and miniatures in a way that can only really be addressed by consumers like you and me. Food for thought really.

I could go into things like how to spot and avoid recast copies when shopping online but I’ll save that for another article (if you would like that) as this is already long enough. And thank you for reading through what is a very tricky situation to describe.

5 Comments

  1. Falconius Azurius

    Recasting can be a bit more expensive, if you do it right. The pressure pot and compressor that guarantee flawless casts will set you back at least $400. High quality resin, the type that takes 24 hours to set (depending on ambient temperatures) and can take a fair amount of punishment over the years is relatively cheap at $20. Good platinum cured silicone is about $80. These last very long. I still have moulds I made 20 years ago. I’ve never sold any recasts for profit. If it was out of production, I’d charge for materials only. And if it was some odds and ends that are in production I’d take no money whatsoever. The offender would have to repay me by joining me for a few sessions of the old long OOP games I love. Needless to say, my “market” was just local guys I knew personally. I have nothing but scorn for the over-designed stuff that dominate the gaming market these days. I absolutely HATE 28mm, and casting anything in this scale grated me the most. But back on topic, I’d love to combine casting with 3D printing one day. Its great that you can create and relatively cheaply reproduce your own designs.

    1. That sounds more like proper casting than bootleg recasting as you’re not buying a current in production release, making copies, and selling using the original companies marketing images. Slightly different being honest.

      Casting and 3D printing is being played about with by a few companies at the moment. It’s partly the time to print high quality parts that restricts it though for now.

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