I first met my friend Owen when we were in college, almost 30 years ago (Christ, that’s depressing as hell.) We quickly found we had much in common. Some examples: we both had a brother with the same name. We both played role-playing games. We both worked at a (now) defunct electronics retailer, albeit at different stores (at first). We both took the same hellish philosophy class taught by a crazed Jesuit who was banned from practicing mass because…well, because he was batshit crazy, among other things. We had a mutual friend that neither of us knew about until the first time I joined Owen for a gaming session and found him at the table.
Most significantly, we discovered that we both collected and painted miniatures. Prior to meeting Owen, I didn’t know anyone else who was the slightest bit interested in miniatures at all. Neither of us played wargames; we collected and painted miniatures purely because of our interest in rpgs. We bought mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures, as these were the ones commonly available at the time. We even bought them at the same store, but we didn’t know that until later.
I got into Warhammer in the mid-90’s, but Owen never did. Eventually, we both stopped painting for a while here and there over the years. I took a hiatus for about 5-6 years between 2002-2008, and I think he may have done the same, only sooner. I jumped right back into the hobby, whereas Owen never really did.
Two years ago or so, Owen gave me all his miniatures; hundreds of them, possibly more. Most of them are in various stages of paint; many complete, many primed or dabbed with color here and there, all stored in Plano tackle boxes. As I remembered, they’re mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier. In fact, I already own many of them already. But Owen’s miniatures also include many Reaper miniatures purchased in the early years of that company, as well as some impulse buys over time (as is any miniatures enthusiast’s wont). Owen told me he just doesn’t have the interest to paint them any more, and he would rather have the space than hold onto the lead. He knew I would give them a good home (and I have).
It broke my fucking heart.
This may surprise readers of this blog for several reasons. First, that I have a heart at all may come as a shock. Second, it may be surprising to some that I would be sad at the gift of so much lead. But both are true.
I offered to pay him for them. We have yet to discuss this in any meaningful way. This is because he’s not in a hurry to get paid, and also because I’m not in any hurry to pay him. In fact, I have been hoping very much that he would come to his senses and take them back. But that hasn’t happened.
I have a problem assigning value to any miniatures I have painted, as to me their value goes far beyond money. If I were to ever sell my miniatures (I can’t see how), I would likely overvalue them. Even though I may never again play the games they were designed for or use them for what was intended, the fact remains that I spent time, effort and money (obviously), on them; and I can’t easily part with them for those reasons.
I suspect many gamers feel the same way, although I know a significant number do not. (Our mutual friend, for example, had no problem painting and playing any number of Warhammer armies, only to sell them off at a significant loss whenever he got bored. He would then buy another army and repeat the process, only to eventually end up back where he started, with his original army that he needed to repurchase and repaint.)
Which is why, as I look at Owen’s miniatures, many of which he affixed to cardboard hexes that he lovingly cut out by hand (the better to fit on a combat map; unlike me, Owen actually USED his miniatures when he ran a game), I feel defeated. I want him to want his miniatures back. I want him to want to paint them again. I want him to be a miniatures nut like me, looking at painting tutorials online, geeking out over new releases, and planning and playing games. But it seems unlikely.
So, after a couple of years of ignoring his boxes, hoping he’ll ask for them back, I have decided to take a new strategy. I’m gonna start painting some of them. I don’t have the heart to strip his paint jobs and repaint any of his miniatures, but Owen was kind enough to supply me with some primed figures he never got around to. I’m hoping he will look at my work (on HIS miniatures) and get inspired.
Up next: the first two “Owen” miniatures, painted by yours truly.