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How to Get Started Collecting Miniatures

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When does something become a collection? Usually you fall in love with one item or a particular collectible range, or a maker. You save up or look for more, or let people know what you collect. That's how it begins, but how do you keep it from taking over your life, or at least keep it manageable, and collect wisely?

How to Choose What Miniatures to Collect

Lord of the Rings Gaming Figures
Lesley Shepherd

With miniatures as with every other collectible, you should only collect what you love. Your interest makes your collection unique and it will bring you pleasure when you care for it. Try to plan your collections, not just store interesting items in shoe boxes. That could be considered hoarding, not collecting. Actively making decisions about what specific items you intend to collect, what story you want your collection to tell, what you can afford, how you will improve and how you will use your collection, will add to your knowledge and interest as well as creating a better collection in the long run.

The type of items you choose to collect may create special challenges. Halloween or Christmas villages may need seasonal storage and gamers may want extra copies of figures to use in games, not just display pieces.

Learn as Much as You Can About Your Collectible Miniatures

Wade Fairy Folk Leprechaun on Pig
Lesley Shepherd

Learn about your collectibles, look for price guides, do searches on ebay, determine what range is possible in the field that interests you. Are particular items unusual, what are the marks that identify your collectible as authentic?

Narrow your focus to a particular section of a field, instead of collecting little houses you can tell people you are collecting a miniature village of Dominique Gault buildings, or this years Lilliput Lane collectibles. The more people who know what you collect, the more likely you are to get tips or leads from them. Defining a theme for your collection can help you identify likely places to search, shows or events to attend.

Understand the Terminology For Your Particular Collectibles

Backstamp on China
Lesley Shepherd

In your search for new items for your collections you may run into lots of new terms. Do you know the meaning of the following?

Where to Find Items for Your Collection

Small collectibles/second hand store
Lesley Shepherd

Some collectors love the search, others like predictability. Predictability is easiest through Collector's Clubs run by companies or fans of particular miniatures which may have special offers, data bases of issue dates, unique opportunities to buy items which will soon be 'retired' or links to appraisers and restorers. You can find them through manufacturer's sites, online clubs and forums.

If you prefer the hunt, local auction houses often post past auctions results online. You can see whether they handle your collectible and if the prices are higher or lower in any particular local area. Stay in touch with collectible and antique dealers who may be able to watch for particular items for you.

What Condition and Repair Will You Accept?

Punkin Head Doll's tea set sugar bowl, with cracks in lid
Photo © 2007 Lesley Shepherd

Whenever you purchase a collectible you should understand its condition. Some items can be checked by a beginner, valuable items may need the services of an appraiser. Particular miniatures can have known condition problems. The sugar bowl collectible in this photo has a top which rarely fits and is often broken. For this item a broken top is more valuable than no top at all.

If you understand the condition of collectibles you may be able to judge whether something is worth buying and restoring. Inevitably treasures get broken, or the best example you can find for your collection has problems. Repairs are sometimes possible if you know what you are dealing with.

Maintaining Your Collection To Help Keep or Increase It's Value

Cleaning Miniature Dollhouse Plants
Lesley Shepherd

As your collection grows, the records you create about where you found your items will become an important document and history of your collection. Often this provenance improves the overall value of a collection. The records you keep will also help with insurance as your collection grows or replacement if items are stolen or damaged.

Other records which need to be kept include information about the materials your miniature is made of and how it should be stored or displayed. Is it lightfast? Should it be stored in particular ways, is it made of pH neutral materials? How should it be cleaned? If you are buying artisan made miniatures you should obtain this information when you purchase your item.

How to Store and Display A Miniature Collection

Bailey's Houses in a Display Box
Lesley Shepherd

Some collectibles come with display cases or special packaging. Collector's need to ensure this is made of non damaging, stable material. Other collectibles need showcases or purpose built displays. Before you start to collect in earnest you need to determine how you will show off your treasures and keep them safe.

The type of collection you build is also influenced by your storage and display requirements. Will your displays be seasonal? Do they need to be in areas with or without natural light? Will you display them in showcases, or arrange themed displays? Even small souvenir collections work better in display cases kept free of dust and protected from light.

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