Monday, May 14, 2012

Out of Print? Really?

I haven;t been posting much recently because my other hobby, playing and recording music, has been taking up most of my free time in the past few weeks.  I've also been spending some time getting back into Warhammer 40k.  In the short time I've been getting reacquainted with Games Workshop and Warhammer, I've noted a problem that GW has in common with WotC; Out of print products that have no business being out of print.

Many other blogs have pointed out that old  out of print D&D products are selling for extremely high prices on ebay, and we aren't just talking about older products from the 70's and 80's.  Even 3.5 core books are selling for face value or above, which would seem to indicate that WotC could make a decent amount of money selling products from their back catalog.  Their reprints of the original AD&D core books should serve as good test case.

Games Workshop also has a problem with out of print products, but it isn't their books.  There are some people playing old editions of Warhammer, but it isn't as pronounced as the OSR.  GW did a reprint of the original Rogue Trader book for the 25th anniversary of the 40k game, but that seemed to be more out of nostalgia than actual demand for the rules. GW's problem is with their miniatures.  While perfectly usable in modern games (a 25 year old Space Marine or Ork is perfectly ok to use in GW sanctioned events), most miniatures from the 80's and 90's are no longer available.

Just 10 years ago, I was able to go to the store at the GW headquarters in Glen Burnie Maryland and place an order for any miniature that was in the catalogs that they had.  These catalogs contained minis dating back to the mid 80s when I first got into the hobby, and included the original metal Space Marines, Orks, and Eldar that appeared in the Rogue Trader book.

Word is you can't do this sort of thing anymore.  If it isn't listed on their website, it isn't available.  I've heard some stories from people in the UK getting some older stuff by calling the mail order department, but those are just rumors.  The fact is that older, out of print miniatures are going for extraordinary prices on ebay, and the current selection of minis from GW is fairly limited.  On the one hand it isn't such a big deal, as the newer miniatures are much nicer than the older ones, so in general you are getting a better quality product for your money.  The problem for me however is that some of the discontinued models have no replacement!  Take my Space Wolves army as an example.  I would love to have some Long Fangs and Wolf Scouts.  A quick look at the 95-96 catalog shows all sorts of Space Wolf characters and basic troops available in metal.  Some of these characters, like Ragnar Blackmane and Ulrik the Slayer are still available.  But the generic Runepriest? gone. Bloodclaw and Longfang Sergeants? gone.  Regular Longfangs and Wolf Scouts?  Gone! Their are no direct replacements for these miniatures, and GW admits it.  The manager at my local store suggested that I just use generic models and spruce them up with some bits.  I'd be all for that if it wasn't for the fact that the models actually existed at one time.

There are a few reasons that GW may be doing this.  I have heard from some people that the older molds from the 80's era may no longer be usable because they are so old.  Some of those older molds may now be the property of the original artists.  Sounds far fetched but you never know how GW was run back in the early days. This doesn't address the issues with the Space Wolves I noted as they are all from the same year, but some models are available and others are not.  Some models may not be available because they are slowly being replaced with "Citadel Finecast" or plastic kits, and GW is trying to create demand by taking the old models out of print well before they are replaced.  Seems like a possibility, but if a person wants a particular model for their army NOW, they are going to go to ebay and get it, not wait for years until GW gets around to replacing it.

In all, it's a sad state of affairs.  GW has every right to control the supply of their product however it would like.  I'm not really blaming them.  It may just be too costly for them to keep all of these miniatures available. As a collector and player it is just sad to think that GW spent all of these years building a large catalog of miniatures, and rules for using them, only to have so many of them go out of print for whatever reason, while players and collectors are still willing to pay good money for those minis.


  1. I would just imagine that the cost of keeping the molds available, casting and warehousing the minis, and selling them vastly exceeds the profits from their occasional sales. While it's cool if they can keep everything in print, minis would seem like they'd have a high fixed cost to keep minis in production and net few sales from doing so.

  2. Certainly the cost of keeping the ability to produce a certain miniature is much higher than being able to print a book on demand, or sell a PDF of that book. I don't have a problem with GW stopping production on old miniatures that have good replacements, even if those replacements cost twice as much as the old model (that's another topic). I just find it sad that certain units no longer have accurate models to represent them.