Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Oldhammer Community and the Etiquette of Trading Miniatures

"This cutlery set was used by the Perry Twins to sculpt all their minis in the mid 1980s. Honest!"
I have been buying and selling miniatures on eBay and other places for over ten years now. I started off when I was in my early twenties, just after graduating from University when money was very tight and I was still living at home. Back then, I was always being 'asked' by my mother to sort out all the stuff I had in storage in the attic and do something with it. It didn't take me long to realise that I was sitting on a goldmine of product. Doctor Who videos and collectibles, GW stuff, books and magazines etc. During my heyday, I was easily bringing in £150 week just eBaying the vast collections I had in the loft, but it wasn't long until I was buying more Citadel in order to relist the stuff and turn a profit. 

Its funny, but I get the feeling that this is becoming increasingly frowned upon in collecting circles. Describing someone as a 'Re-Lister' is another way of saying 'greedy bastard' for some, so was I a greedy bastard taking advantage of people in the past? I don't think so and I can tell you why. All of my listings started at 99p and found their price. No starting bid £19.99 for me. No really high postage rates - though it was much cheaper back then to send packages, back in the days before internet shopping became mainstream. Sure I made loads of money but after a while I felt like I had sold away my youth. 

Somethings were great sales. My Doctor Who video collection had been built up over a long period, and at that time were not available on DVD. Many were out of print and otherwise unobtainable. If I hadn't sold those videos when I did their value would have dropped remarkably, and they did! I sold The Daemons for £58 on video in 2001. You would have trouble selling a copy now for 58p. 

But times change. 

I got back into GW in about 2004, but there was an hollow enjoyment. I wanted to love everything about the hobby but I knew in my heart of hearts that things were just not as good as they once were. I found that I really wished that I hadn't sold my collection of old lead from the 1980s but carried on regardless. Eventually, about 2010 I had grown tired of it all and I gave up following GW to concentrate on building up the collection I had once had, and improve on it of course! There was clearly a collectors market but the stuff I was interested in, mainly 'Realm of Chaos' models, were not that expensive at all. I collected for about a year or so until I was able to persuade my colleague, Dan, to have a go at Realm of Chaos proper using the WFB3 rules. He had also grown tired of edition after edition of the game, but had only been involved in the hobby for a few years, largely due to his younger brother. 

Once we started we couldn't stop, and the warbands grew easily thanks to the affordability of classic miniatures online. I knew no-one else interested in the old models I was colelcting and gaming with, apart for the hardcore collectors at CCM who seemed primarily interested in the rarer pieces. The success of that experience lead to the creation of my old Retro thread on Warseer, now nearly 3 years ago, and later on my part in the forming of the Oldhammer Community. 

Looking back, the way I collect the models I love has changed totally. Before, it was fairly simple to track down the models you wanted and win them for a couple of quid, now I find that the competition is far greater. Not that this really bothers me, as there are other ways to get your hands on models on eBay and there are now far more people willing to sell older models. Mis-listed models is one such method, and this really rewards those who put the hours into searching through the listings. My method became to just snap up random Citadel models that I liked the look of without following any real plan of collecting, focusing on price. The result of this is that I has a massive collection of models from all ranges and races. 

But to tell you the truth, I have given up on eBay now. Not because I find that it doesn't allow me to find the models I need at a decent price. No. I have given up on it because I am sitting on a gigantic mountain of lead that needs to be painted up! Sure, I still trade a few pieces, like I have done recently with Stuart but recent events have got me thinking about the nature of buying and selling Citadel online and the role that trading has in the acquisition of miniatures. I found that there were a number of questions that I had either thought about, or been asked by other people, in the last year or so that I felt really needed answering. Sure, these are just mu suggestions, and you may very much disagree with my thoughts. If you do, please state why and we can all enrich ourselves together. 

Anyway, here are the questions....

1) What should you do if a package you sent through the post goes missing?

I very much doubt that there are many serious collectors that haven't lost a package in the postal system somewhere. I can reel off a goodly bunch of models that have gone astray never to be seen again, largely thanks to my local Post Office. Some of the models involved were bought by me while others were models that were sold by me. Now, what do you do if something goes missing? Personally, if its something that I have bought I usually give it up for lost, as most transactions I make are below say £5. Bigger, more expensive models (like the spined dragon) that I buy I always pay to get them tracked, so I am glad to say that I have never really lost anything major.

If I am sending models to people and they go missing I personally feel that it is the sender's responsibility to offer something in return. This is my personal belief and one I had to put into practise a few times, most likely due to thefts from the Postal Service here in the UK. I always offered alternative models. Some people decline the offer, while others accept. I never felt like anyone I was dealing with was taking the piss. One problem with Paypal and eBay is that it always favours the buyer, so claiming a refund is very easy. By offering something in compensation, it avoids the need to involve these companies.

2) How much should you charge for postage and packing?

What is the best way of protecting the models you send from damage? Wrap them up securely in bubblewrap and place them within an envelope is probably foolproof. My spined dragon appeared like this, only it had be attached to large pieces of card to prevent the wings bending. Personally, I see little need for large boxes to house miniatures. But then again, the bigger the box, the more can be charged for postage. Metal single cast models are pretty indestructible and there is little need to protect them under multiple layers of packaging or encase them in hefty boxes. When I am dealing overseas I always get a quote for a shipment by getting the parcel weighed at the post office before completing the deal. On several occasions I have been surprised how cheaply items can be sent abroad, though this was before the recent changes to the postal charges here in the UK. 

3) How should I approach resolving issues that I have with online sellers?

With respect really. And if in doubt approach an impartial moderator to help resolve things. This is very easy if you are buying or trading within the community. Both the FB Trading Group and the Oldhammer Forum have respected members who will act on your behalf. It is perhaps because of this that trading within the community is probably the better option, especially if you are a seller, after all, eBay and Paypal favour the buyer each and everytime. A bad reputation can do you great dis-service within a community like our own. Not that we have ever needed to blacklist anybody for shady dealing of course.

This is not the experience I have had on eBay which in my opinion is full of absolute fools. Their typical response to any issue you may have is to just block you from bidding on their items which seems utter tomfoolery. There are a number of sellers who have banned me, though I will refrain from naming them. The first banned me because I didn't pay quickly enough for a small item costing a few pounds - this was when I was rather unwell with a dental abscess the size of a golf ball on the side of my face. He was surprised that paying for his chaos warrior wasn't at the top of my agenda while I was recovering! Fool!

Another one sold me a series of models that he claimed were painted by Aly Morrison, only they weren't  and when I gave him neutral feedback, not negative mind, for not actually checking what he was selling he bombarded me with abuse and even tried to get eBay themselves to resolve the issue. Only there was no issue, I was just expressing my opinion of his item and the way he handled it. The fact that these people ban you from their sales further shows how daft they are because they are effectively loosing money. One such character frequently puts up BINs which I have tried to buy several times only to be told that the seller won't accept my bids. And guess what? The items are STILL for sale! Secondly, if you really wanted to you could just use a different account and make your purchase making the banning process nothing more than a game for the unpleasant.  I have wondered for sometime if we should start running a list of the more dishonest individuals that we have dealings with to help advise other members of the community. What you other people think?

What can we do about ridiculous 'Buy It Now' prices?

Don't buy them, frankly. Oh, and don't use the prices they set to inform your own. Speak to someone who has experience buying and selling items. The Oldhammer Forum and Trading Group on Facebook are excellent places to do this. Sometimes we can all be tempted, and fall for that temptation, with a BIN. usually, its a model you have been after for a while and don't see often. It appears online for slightly more than you should really be paying for it but you just cannot help yourself. And you buy it! Whether or not behaviour like this fuels the process further but it cannot be denied that some of the more pricey piece are snapped up by recasters (not a problem to me as long as the work is good) or re-listers who chuck on an additional £50 each time and only add to the price armsrace in the first place. 

To conclude, if you are in doubt seek advice. Its fairly easy to achieve in any of our groups and you have the bonus perk of taking advantage of the HUGE pool of knowledge that the community can offer you. If you are a seller, be honest and do your research before you sell. If you are using eBay you also need to remember that it is an auction site and that sometimes auctions fall flat and don't reach the price you are expecting. If this is the case, be honest with yourself and others and honour it. The number of retractions I am hearing about from sellers who fail to get the cash they want for a model is increasing. That is was a reserve is for!

"Can I interest you in some genuine Asscannon?"



  1. Yeah, I've had a few minis not turn up that I got for bargains, surprising how quick the sellers are to tell you to request a refund. This could be honesty but to me smacks of - "I ain't selling at that price!" because it's rare it's the more expensive minis that go astray........................

    1. I have not had this happen to me, though I have bought a model online, waited weeks for it arrive. I messaged the seller in the morning, he assured me it would be in the post, only to be refunded of my money by dinner time. The model, with exactly the same photograph appeared in eBay the next day!

  2. "What can we do about ridiculous 'Buy It Now' prices?

    Don't buy them, frankly. Oh, and don't use the prices they set to inform your own."

    Solid advice. I always took BIN prices to mean "if you can afford to say '**** this auction business I need it NOW' then this is your price". Which is fair, it's why milk is a buck more at a 24 hr. convenience store than the big grocery. BSome people... milk that for every quid they can get, but nobody's forcing us to buy.

    The handful of 80's era Citadel/GW figures I've collected off eBay were via your method: buy interesting targets of opportunity that aren't too expensive and be patient. I got some cool stuff that way, because they put out a lot of fantastic characters back then.

    1. It is the best way to collect these days. I would log on and browse through all the miniatures ending in the next 30 minutes. Sometimes you would get absolute steals that way. I got a complete goblin chariot for a couple of quid and the leadbelcher, plus two Goodwin ogres, for a tenner! Madness!

  3. Same here with eBay. I'm currently looking for the Rogue Trader Chaos Renegades. I could have had the whole set by now if I was willing to pay £15 a pop. So far... I've only got the one! Patience is a virtue after all.

    1. I have snapped up these for a couple of quid from time to time. Again, its not rushing to get your hands on them that ensures that you don't pay over the odds. Good luck with the collection.

  4. All very solid advice, though I have put a freeze on any further collecting I ebayed classic citadel voraciously from 09 through to 2012 and I'm pleased to say any problems I had could be counted on one hand, and only really had "real" issues with one seller- funnily enough involving "rare" (not really, just regular) Squats.
    I don't think my collection features any actual rarities though so that probably worked in my favour.

    I do feel sorry for some sellers when I look at their feedback though, if you're reading this blog it's a given that you're going to expect to bathe most any painted mini and while not broken your model may arrive in a disassembled state...a couple of the larger, more well known guys that I dealt with all the time ( and were/are brilliant) would always be catching unrealistic and unfounded negative feedback relating to horribly painted or "arm not attached-broken model!" when they are buying something that is accurately described and what you see is what you get.

    I've definitely paid a little more for something I "had" to have on occasion, I won't lie- I've also had some steals that I almost felt bad getting at such a pittance.
    One thing that is almost unfailingly true though- that mini you have been hunting for ages and never pops up, when all of a sudden it appears BIN and little steep...if you buy him the next time you go on ebay there will be several of that mini going for next to nothing!

    As for trading with the Oldhammer community, I have nothing but good things to say about the folks I've dealt with- you know who you are!

  5. quite a few minis that have not arrived, although 1 envelope arrived 6 months after squeezed and f**** up but with intact content. I really felt bad for the seller that I had given quite a bad time. So, now, I am much more forgiving. Thank you for this honest and real-life article ... Now I am off to buy one of these rare pieces I just cannot resist to own and for which I have been waiting for so long to turn up on the bay ... so I am guilty in loosing my patience :-) Thanks Orlygg!