Saturday, January 8, 2022

Have You Made Plans To Dispose of Your Collection After Your Passing?


I am not dead yet!

Today at the Virtual Wargames Club  ("VWC") meeting on Zoom, I posed the question on the matter of what happens to all of our war gaming figures and books and terrains after we die. Have any of us made plans for how our family will dispose of our collection?

I haven't, at least not in a direct way. I've told my nephew that it is all his when I leave this mortal coil but I have not written down any specific instructions on what to do with the large mass of wargaming impedimenta that I own.

War Game Figures

One of the fellows in the VWC said that he has appointed an executor to dispose of his war gaming things. This sounds like a good idea and something that I plan on doing. I would give my spouse a list of general instructions on what to do and identify the items that have significant monetary value, such as certain books or terrain pieces. I would also give her a list of people to contact to help her sell off as much as she can, albeit at pennies on the dollar, I would imagine. Maybe some of my war game armies would be given to certain people who have an interest in a particular army. Other armies would be sold at a deep discount or simply given away to one of the companies that sells used war gaming figures.

My 54mm Sudan collection.

I think that most of us have an unrealistic and inflated value that we assign to our war game figures. What is important to us probably gets a "meh" from the majority of people. Unless your wives, sons, daughters and nephews are war gamers, they probably assign nothing more than some sentimental value to our figures. They are not going to want to keep my collection so they should try to monetize it as best they can. To think otherwise is not realistic.

A list of passwords to my various sites is also on my to do list.


Another VWC member indicated that he had some experience with disposing the books of one of his friends. He found that in general there is very little value in the books that we have all collected over the years. Public libraries and non-profit groups like church rummage sales or Goodwill stores have no interest in our books. They are probably trying to dispose of their own books too. Many books end up going into the garbage can and taking up permanent residence in the land fill or waste furnace.

I should make a list of which books I think has some value to them so that my survivors don't just throw them away. For example, my folio of the complete set of Menzel picture plates has a value that exceeds $1,000 so I would want my spouse to be aware of this. One of my Robert Griffing books about his American Indian drawings is out of print and goes for around $500 on the used book market. There are a few other books in my library that fall in this category.

Let's face it, most of our more valuable books would probably sell for $10 if we were lucky enough to find a buyer.

Disposing Your Goods Before You Pass Away

Another idea is to cull your collection down to a smaller number of historical periods the older you get. You know the current market value of your figures and you probably have a good idea of where to sell them. In other words, do the disposal work yourself before you die (there, I've said that word - "die or death"). 

I think about the categories of historical periods in my collection and ask myself which one period would I keep if The Supreme Being told me to get rid of everything but one period. Peter Young would approve of this.

I own 28mm Late Romans & Barbarians; 28mm RSM French, 30mm Staddens and Surens for my Big Battalion games, 30mm Napoleonic British, Prussian, Russian and French figures on single bases that I use for Big Battalion games; my own Minden SYW Prussians, Austrians and Russians; my Fife and Drum AWI collection; 54mm Sudan; and now 54mm Punic Wars.

My Late Romans probably would not make the cut.

I would ask myself, "when was the last time that you had a game with a particular collection of figures"? This question led to me selling my 28mm ACW and 28mm Napoleonic collections back in 2010. I plowed the proceeds into my Fife and Drum Miniatures business. And then for some crazy reason I started a new 28mm Napoleonic collection for Big Battalion (60 to 72 figure battalions) war game. Go figure.

My Minden SYW collection - the obvious winner.

If I had to give my answer to The Supreme Being right this instance, then I would probably have to choose my Minden Austrians, Prussians and Russians and sell off everything else. That would be a hard decision to make, but it is likely something that I will have to consider as I age into my 70s or beyond.

There are some hard choices ahead for me. I don't have to make them right now, but now that I am 69 years of age, it might be time to start thinking about these things.

What do you think?


  1. A friend of mine willed his library and figures to V.M.I. when he died several years ago. I don't know if they took or wanted them. My advice- give things or sell them now.

  2. Since you asked. I think: well said, and well worth considering. Also, a Question well asked. I too have been ruminating about this recently: and I am only sixty-two. Various health issues, the pandemic, & seriously self-isloating for however long it has been now tends to force you to (rightfully) consider this awkward subject . . .

    There are items in my obscure printed Collection that are actually worth some pretty serious money. (My Wife is wrong ~ can't believe I said that outloud! ~ my figure Collection is Not the most valuable thing we own.)

    I'm Lucky enough to have a very small, very close, cadre of Gaming Friends and Brothers. (30 ~ 40+ years of giggling, drinking beer and rolling dice together) Last month I made my wishes clear to them about my Hopes for the disposal of my Collections. (That made for an interesting Friday Dudes' Zoom Gaming Night!) Everyone's on the same page now, though I do still need to put it in legal writing and name a willing Collections Executor.

    The rest? As I've aged, as much I as might Love the nostalgia aspect, it's past time for me to clear some more shelf space. I am Not planning on shuffling off this mortal coil anytime soon. But I sure could use some more storage for the Projects that I Love and that Inspire me and make me feel young again!

    There is nothing wrong with planning ahead and making things easier for everyone else if you are the first to die. (There? See? I said it too.)
    ~ Tom T

  3. It's a very good question and something I feel has been touched upon quite recently elsewhere...I am sure I have written a blog entry about this topic in the last twelve months or so anyway. The comment from Tom above resonates with me. My dad was a stamp collector amongst other hobbies and his collection was separately insured, as it was believed to be so valuable. He had British and Commonwealth stamps from 1840 Penny Blacks (the very first adhesive postage stamp in the world) to Penny Reds, Tuppeny Blues and right up to the eighties. When he died, his lawyer had the collection sent tovStanleyvGubbons in London and the assessment was that it was a very nice and very complete collection, but unless the right buyer happened to cone along, probably only with a few thousand pounds.
    I am sure our wargaming collections are the same. I must have several thousand mainly 25/28mm figures and a very conservative estimate of a reasonably painted figure in this scale might be $10. So let's say I have 3000 figures ..that's $30000 obviously. But does anyone think I could realise that value...or, more importantly, could my widow or executors do so? Of course not! And note, I am being quite conservative ....looking at websites who offer professional painting services, I could easily say the charge per figure should be $20....making my hypothetical 3000 figure collection worth $60,000!
    I am 59 and hope I might have another 15-20 years of gaming, but I do think the answer will be for me to start looking to try and sell off some of my figures, in batches, well before my gaming day's end. I am really going to struggle letting any if them go, but I feel sure the best way to make sure my wife or children get the most value out of them us for me to sell them off, rather than leave it till after I die. I may not end up doing this, if course...perhaps there will be a group of (slightly) younger players I can leave my figures to...however, as I am currently the third youngest of our group of around ten regular players, that does not seem very likely.
    Another gaming friend raised the question with me some months ago....he is unmarried and has no one in particular to leave anything to....he mentioned potentially leaving his collection of beautifully painted figures to a local museum.....but what would they do with them, realistically ?
    I don't know what people like Donald Featherstone, Peter Young, and more recently, Duncan Macfarlane, dud with their collections......perhaps they had offspring or relations who were interested in wargaming to whom their collections could be left (although in the case of the latter, it seems this was unlikely).
    So, an interesting conundrum for us all to consider as we age. I would hate to think the thousands of figures on which I have lavished months and months of painting time over forty years would end up in a landfill, but I know none of my immediate family will have any interest in them when I have gone....they might randomly select a few to keep as sentimental reminders if me, but they definitely won't keep the whole collection!

  4. A sad dilemma with the dark threat of 'land fill' lurking in the background . I've thinned out my library by giving boxes of unwanted books to a local charity shop (who knows what they did with them ) and tend to buy books 'digitally now .

  5. In the last three years I have lost four friends between the age of 47 and 52. I am just 52 myself, but this made me thinking about the subject too.

    As I am no wargamer, but a collector of 1:72 figures building dioramas, we decided to make a foundation. As we had the chance and money to create our own museum, that is the way we decided to do. At least we hope, there will be always members in the foundation and if not, maybe the town concil can take it over.

    Better to have it this way than in any dark cellar...

    Here a link of the documentation of the building.,25906.msg306937.html?PHPSESSID=6093d95002c7ed4d7c0943b6cf6e066d#msg306937


    1. Wow, lots of great modeling on display there. Do I see a piece of the Croeburn diorama in one of the pictures?

    2. Puh,I will try to find one

  6. It's difficult to let go of things we treasure. Our wargaming figures; terrain and books are our treasures. I recently sent a few, small, 6mm armies and a rulebook to my youngest brother, a wargamer. The trouble is, I have so many armies in 6&25mm, and books. I had thought to give some to MKWS but, really, I don't want to lose them yet even if I haven't set them on the table for some while.

  7. Some 8 years ago I started to downsize my collection of unwanted, unused but not unloved wargame items. The realisation that I had 1200+ 20mm WW2 AFV's I needed an aircraft hangar to play with them and not enough friends to help me move them. I have sold items at wargame shows and now I sell on Ebay. Keeping my 18th century 20mm, 28mm, 25mm medieval, and several hundred 20mm AFV'S plus a few thousand ww2 figures.
    I plan to construct a collection disposal list over the next few months.

  8. The kids have laid claim to certain elements of my collection, and the Beloved has instruction to sell the rest (via local hobby contacts) to raise money for my funerial barge and treasure horde.

  9. Firemonkeyboy talks about a funerial barge, I have thought having all my wargame items on a barge on the Tamar river and it set on fire. Having first having announced in the wargaming press when the barge will be launched, then watch wargamers swim out to try and save the items. That's me being weird and sad.


    1. The British version of the Environmental Protection Agency might have the final say on that. 😀

  10. I got rid of all my 15mm ancient/medieval armies a couple of years back as I was thinking in a similar vein. I gave them away to folks in our club, with a suggestion that charities should get a donation instead. This was done.
    I still miss some of them and wonder if I could get rid of more that I still use?

    1. Maybe use the time test: how long has it been since you played with some of your armies? Set an arbitrary number of, say, five years and if it has been more than five years since you played with it, then maybe it’s a candidate for sale. 🤔

  11. In simplicity we start and in simplicity we by necessity end. I think it's time for me to consider the Brigadiers wise advice of sticking to one period as much as possible. Give it all away while you're in a fit state to do so or someone will do it for you.

  12. An interesting issue that has been discussed ad nauseum by our group as one of us passed away in late 2020 and his enormous collection is sitting in boxes in his family home- his wife and kids trying to decide what to do with the enormous amounts of metal. Some of his collections are so big, no one would want to buy the lot- so it would have to be broken down. All the figures are beautifully painted but I don't know if they will realise the value that he paid for them. To sell one unit/battalion at a time might mean they get the price- but it could take years.
    I have started downsizing some of my stuff- and have told my wife that if I go and haven't offloaded them, if she gets offered a dollar a figure, take it. Thousands of painted figures won't help her pay her bills and when I'm gone, they will just gather dust. I have asked that my favourite army come with me ( it was an engagement gift from her and I've had it for 34 years) Other than that, they mean very little to anyone else. It's kinda sad- all the effort that has gone into them- but unless someone has the cash and is willing to pay what choice is there?
    My son was willing to keep some- he would put them on display in his house ( he still live at home at the moment though!)
    The thought of so many of my friend's collections just forgotten is a bit depressing!

  13. I am afraid that this is some thing that applies to all of us and not just for our collections of soldiers. For many years I have attended auctions and my general rule of thumb is that you will get 10% of the standard retail value and that is on a good day. So I would say that unless you have a collection that is in the hundreds of thousands replacement cost it is not worth sweating over.

    In fact I would say that as a hobby it is better to think of it as sunk cost and give it a zero value. If you were into fast cars even doing a modest track day will push up to $1,000 being the cost of the attendance, tyres, fuel, general maintenance and that is without modifying the car for better brakes, wheels, five point harness..... None of this money is coming back to you.

    I think that your idea of an executor for this specifically is an excellent way to go.

    On the point of an organised list of items and passwords I use Lastpass which has a feature (admittedly paid) of emergency access. You can use it to store passwords and other important data with emergency access. The nominated person (email address) can request access and then has to wait a time specified by you before they are allowed in, during that time you will be notified that access has been requested and can cancel if you want. Personally I just leave it as they ca go in.

  14. I started giving things away to younger friends a few years ago. Selling to strangers from a remote, rural,foreign location is extra tough and I eventually gave it up as not worth the hassle. Giving collections of books or soldiers has felt better.

    I still have the memories.

  15. Certainly a consideration for gamers of a certain age and one which I’ve looked to address a couple of times. I did have an executor lined up, whilst he was 10 years younger than me he died of Motor Neurone disease 7 years ago and it was me that had to dispose of his collection. It took me almost two years to dispose of his large collection of figures and books.
    Lessons I learnt from that, his wife didn’t care what value was raised as long as they went preferably to fellow gamers ( I did raise enough money for her to fund a new kitchen!)
    Books are difficult to sell Trotmans said they would only ever offer 30% of a potential resale value and then that was based on cherry picking the best books. In the end I approached two dealers who offered to take everything and I sold to the one who made the best offer. Figures - some sold really well but he had some large armies and to break them down to sell would have a) been extremely time consuming and b) may have left parts of the collections unsellable. So the collections sold at an average of £1.50 to £1.75 per foot figure but the Marlburians alone was almost 4000 figures.
    Unpainted pieces I generally sold on eBay or hired a couple of trade stands at local shows. It was a mammoth effort.
    Following the sales my son and I sat and discussed my collection he’s identified what he would like and we agreed that anything I hadn’t gamed with for over 6 years I would sell. Some pieces I sold privately again the rest I sold to traders who again would buy everything whilst individually it may seem not good valu if I say that one clear out I raised nearly £10000 it’s quite nice when it’s received in one go. Most of it was invested in Crann Tara.
    I still have a large collection and every year I trim a little more, but now it’s mainly dead projects, unplayed board games, books that are no longer required.
    Finally I have written down lists of contacts or names of colleagues to whom I goods to be given etc. sorry it’s taken so long. But after having seen the mounds of stuff my colleague left I wouldn’t want my wife to be faced with such a task

  16. As you have said, the harsh truth is that most of our wargaming collections are not worth that much - except perhaps due to mere size.

    A 'wargaming collection' is something very personal: figures acquired with a specific project in mind, painted to some self-defined standard, using basing for a specific ruleset, ... On top of that, part of collections are a mishmash of buildings, some DIY scenery items,some well-loved books that nobody else really is interested in.

    So the best option is to depose of your collection yourself, gradually. The ideal scenario is when everyone attending your funeral will receive a wargaming figure, thereby clearing up your entire collection. They very very very last figure (and perhaps a single die) go with you in your coffin. :-)

  17. A very thoughtful article. NI did a video on this very subject last year. It's something we are all going to have to think about as the years roll on.

  18. Well Fritz, I am 69 next week and I have been considering this matter for a few years now. The spark, really a slow match, was the realisation that I had thousands of fantasy and sci-fi figures which had sat in boxes in the loft ever since my boys discovered computer games in the mid-90s. Last summer I started to sort them all out and sell them via dedicated facebook groups. Having passed the £10,000 mark the process continues. It turns out that they are highly collectable because , unlike historical wargaming figures, the castings are constantly changing.
    I moved on to my historical collections and started to pare those back too. Again facebook groups are the way to go I think, because the figures are being sold within like-minded communities who appreciate what they are looking at and the arrangements that can be made are a lot more flexible than ebay allows for. As to value, unpainted lead mounds do not sell so well, but well-painted and well-based figures do a lot better. It takes time and effort mind, particularly given that the pandemic has interrupted the show schedule where army exchanges could take place.
    The cull continues but to what end? The funds raised will help build a new Barrack Room for gaming and storage when we downsize. Additionally the money is being used to augment and complete the collections that I am keeping but never quite got around to finishing. When I do pass everything will be catalogued for my boys and lists of contacts provided to help them dispose of it.
    When I started wargaming as a 10 year old in 1963 one of my inspirations was a wonderful collection of Britain's figures in a local museum. I have thought about donating my collections in a similar way and there are at least two stately homes which have held nationally recognised collections in the past. Sadly, in these woke times, displays are being decolonised and demilitarised so that is no longer an attractive proposition. As to my thousands of books. Well school libraries are largely deserted. Even at university my youngest son hardly used books at all. Specialist academic libraries are likely to have many of my volumes as well. I have marked the most valuable books to sell but I have little hope for the rest. My local charity bookstore was selling hardbacked books for £1.25, buy one, get two free! I bought three more!
    Am I depressed by all this? Not really. My collections have given me great pleasure over the years. I always feel that painters of miniatures discovered mindfulness before it was even a word. As I totter towards my 69th birthday I have put enough things in place to not have to worry about the fate of the armies that will remain. I am sure that they will find new and caring commanders when I pass...but just not yet please.