One year on…

One year ago, I stopped being the agent for AB Figures and Eureka Miniatures. Of course, baling out seemed to drag on and on, until by June I decided I’d had enough of selling off the remaining stock and that it was time to focus properly on Gladiator Miniatures, Fighting 15s, and Martian Empires.

I can tell you that the one thing I appreciate most about the change, now that the new website is sorted and only needs several thousand pictures updating…, is that I have time to talk to customers again. The agency was all-consuming and I can’t imagine what it would be like now given that demand for toy soldiers has shot through the roof since Covid-19 trapped everyone indoors wanting something to do.

Of course, I recognised for years that the agency was a two-person job. At its peak, I was turning over £100,000 in sales ex-tax, which sounds a lot but in reality the cost of importing and the agency discount meant that finances were tighter than that amount suggests. That second person I could have done with was instead replaced by the need to support my daughter, who for four years was training as an elite athlete in Sweden, and so all the spare cash went on paying for her training and on keeping her alive rather than on hiring someone to help out. Behind every successful athlete are parents who are living on Marmite on toast: there is no money for amateur athletes, particularly in sports with no Olympic profile.

So when Gemma won her world medal, decided to focus on university, again still in Sweden, and stop competing, I knew I could afford to take the momentous decision to step back and enjoy life rather than spending every waking hour on the business. I now have time for gardening, running and tennis, and when possible I hope to resume gaming. I should say that as I’m not a natural sportsman, the running and the tennis come hard. But I’m 60 in less than a month’s time and heading into high-risk territory unless I improve my fitness levels. The running at least made me fit enough to play tennis.

The toy soldiers are also getting some much-needed attention. I’ve been living with some dire moulds from Flashing Blade for years, and as my social media accounts show I’m now getting on top of these to make the figures easier to cast, sharpen up the castings, and rationalise this range of 40mm figures. Gladiator Miniatures’ moulds are quite old and mostly in very good condition, but those that need attention are being remade. All the original separate horse moulds for the former Hobby Products part of the Gladiator Miniatures range are redone, and I’ll be working through the one-piece mounted castings shortly to restore them to their original finery. Plus I’ve been attending to some of the Marlburian moulds which tend to slip, with the new moulds resulting in far crisper castings.

Those thousands of pictures that need redoing are gradually being tackled, both with simple photographs of inked figures, and with full-blown paint jobs. But it’s slow work: consistent, commercially acceptable pictures take time to produce, and I have no intention of simply replacing the current inadequate pictures with equally inadequate ones, or of wasting time posting inadequate pictures when I know I’m lining up better ones. Every time figures that aren’t illustrated are cast, I put some aside for inking and photography, or for sending to my painters.

There are new projects on the horizon. I’m trying out a new sculptor to add to the Martian Empires range, plus there are some 15mm Science Fiction figures in progress. I have sheets of notes on figures that no one makes. I’ve had new horse blanks made for the medievals and later parts of the Gladiator Miniatures range, with the aim of replacing the current horses, and I basically have a pile of horse castings to clean up so they can be dressed to suit the ranges. My old contact from Eagle Figures, Alan Mercer, is also project managing additions to the 40mm range, and I hope to make an announcement about these in the near future. Plus the range of paper flags is expanding, most recently with a new line of War of Spanish Succession flags for the British, with more flags planned.

So a lot should be happening over the next 12 months. Stay tuned, particularly on Facebook and Instagram.

Fighting 15s and Gladiator Miniatures