Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wargaming as an Investment?


I have a penchant for collecting old wargaming rules and wargaming books.  Yes, this in addition to collecting history books, hex wargames, and figures.  Many of these old works fall into the "classic" or "Old School" variety.  Many were unknown to me when first entering the hobby 40+ years ago.  Others were known but not easily obtained.  Others were known but of no interest at the time.  Still others were known, owned and discarded.  Sounds a little Rumsfeldian, doesn't it?

Why collect?  That is a great topic but not for today.  Suffice it to say, I often humor myself (and my wife) extolling the net future value of my wargaming collection and suggesting not having the whole kit sent to the rubbish bin once I am gone.

Could a wargaming collection be considered an investment having more than a salvage value after years of use?  Could wargaming artifacts tucked away in years' past produce a handsome return today?  A recent sale on eBay illustrates the potential for gain.

Tricolor and Cavaliers and Roundheads are two sets of rules published by TSR in the mid 1970s.  Tricolor has appeared in this blog before when I pulled it down from the shelf and offered a nostalgic review (see Tricolor Review).  One day, I plan to refight a Napoleonic battle using Tricolor.  I am curious how my preferences in games may have changed over the years.

Back to wargaming as an investment.  Keeping an eye on eBay and other book selling sites over the years, both rulesets pop up occasionally but never selling at these lofty heights.  Given that the 1976 $5 sticker price is equivalent to about $21 in 2015 USD, a selling price of USD$167 represents about an eight-fold increase over the rate of inflation.  Impressive!  Now, was this due to the previous owner's name printed on the cover?  Perhaps, but Tricolor often sells in the $50- $75 range.  Still, not a bad investment.

Like a house, I do not view my collections as an investment but a means to an end and a source of enjoyment.  If they still maintain value in the end, well, that is a bonus.  What treasure is sitting on your bookshelf or tucked away in your gaming room?

16 comments:

  1. It's hard to say some rulebooks like Hard Copy LaSalle's, WAB AoA hardback, Realms of Chaos, 1st edition D&D stuff all go for funny money, certain ovp metals can fetch a lot of money. However all of that is very hard to predict so collecting books and figures in the hope they will be valuable someday is very chancy and little more then gambling. However nicely sculpted and well painted miniatures especially historical is a very good investment and will see you make money even more so if they are metal.

    Christopher

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    1. Christopher, your well-painted figures will always command a good price. Collecting in the hope of making a tidy sum or at least recouping your investment is risky, no doubt.

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  2. A couple years ago I sold my old S&T magazine games, as well as some oldie Avalon Hills (U-Boat, Football Strategy, Civil War, etc.) I would have been happy making $1500. I made $6500! Old boardgames are highly sought after; old rule books not so much. But, as always, if the right item meets up with the right buyer with the right amount of money to spend, voila!

    Also, there are guys who specialize in buying collections from the dearly departed (one is a good friend of mine). Their widows might not get as much as if she were to sell it piece by piece, but getting a chunk of money all at once without further hassle, is more than worth it to them.

    Best regards and good luck,

    Chris Johnson

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    1. Chris, I congratulate you. You did very well, indeed! You found gold in the gaming closet, for sure. Please see Prufrock's comment below regarding buying from wargame widows.

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  3. Interesting post, Jonathan, as ever. Individual items will, I guess, perform well as a "hedge" (classified as Soft Cover?) - in more general terms, I fear we are heading for a black hole. Certainly, the market for the books and figures I am interested in is dominated by old guys like me, buying and selling stuff to each other. When we all start dying off, or attempting to cash in our soldiers before we cash in our chips, I rather think that supply will greatly exceed demand, though the last one left alive might do well out of it! - he'll have to promise to turn the light out when he leaves...

    A few years ago I sold off my first edition Featherstones and Grants and all that on eBay, and they were in nice condition and fetched OK prices, but a while later I missed a few of them so much I bought another copy of each!

    Regards - Tony

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    1. Very good point, Tony! Perhaps our generation is participating in a game of musical chairs as we trade among ourselves? Last one standing may end up with all of the loot but then no one to want it.

      "Cash in our soldiers before we cash in our chips" - Great line!

      You know, I have done the same. That is, selling off items I thought I would never have an interest in again only to rebuy them later. A fellow can go broke doing that too many times.

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  4. As you might imagine, I am a wargaming pack rat! Aside from the 1500 or so figures of my original Scruby Napoleonic armies, which I gave away circa 1998 after more than 3 decades of faithful service, I still have every figure I have ever painted, and every rules set that I ever bought (including Cavaliers & Roundheads, and Tricolor, although I'd admit that I would happily let them go at $100+ a pop; I'll even write my name on the cover for you, LOL. I tried enlarging the image to see *whose* name was on the cover to see if it was someone notable that would impart such elevated value!).

    Anyway, I don't see my figures, rules, or terrain etc as an investment, When I depart for the endless rooms of corkboard, trees, and toy soldiers, I would be far happier to have my collection go to a relative or freind who would use and appreciate them. Selling them off would be decidedly second choice (although doubtless the most likely outcome).

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    1. Peter, you are in good company! I bet many of us are pack rats when it comes to our hobby. Well, Monty may be an exception as he can produce and sell of armies without acquiring piles of unused stuff. He has great discipline.

      The previous owner of both rulesets in the photo was Allen Hammack. I believe he worked for TSR at one time.

      An autographed copy of Tricolor from you for $100? Well, that is a tempting offer, my friend!

      As for the collection after my demise, I have been told I cannot take it with me. Although I do entertain that thought. Think of the excitement for an archaeology grad student of opening up my sarcophagus and finding thousands of soldiers. "He must have been a King!"

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  5. Another great post, Jonathan! And a reminder that I've unlocked the "incompetent" achievement as a wargame investor. Years ago when I left AZ for a job in the Midwest, I took my lifetime wargaming collection (dating from my teens forward) to a local gaming shop and gave it to them for free. In the '90s, I rebought many of those games on eBay in hopes that my son and I would game together. By the time I realized that would never happen, the wargame bubble burst and I liquidated my collection for a fraction of what I overpaid for it. ;-)

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    1. Monty, such a sad tale! Do you anticipate buying some of this collection back for a third try? I have bought-sold-bought several wargames over the years. Maybe this is a syndrome affecting a number of us?

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  6. Very interesting post, Jonathan. Like you I collect old hex map board games, but mostly to reacquire the games I played in my youth. I am especially interested in old SPI and GDW titles, but I confess I don't buy them with an eye to selling them one day. Like Foy, I think the market for what I have and want is of the same generation, so a diminishing group. I found the same thing was true of ACW reenacting gear. In the 1990s you couldn't find used gear to save your life. Now you can't give it away. Diminishing interest in the hobby is to blame.
    I have a friend who I call my Lead Executor. If I fall off my twig unexpectedly, his job is to turn up with a van and relieve my wife of all the crap I leave behind. He has the connections to sell it for what he can, keep what he wants, and return the proceeds to my grieving widow. If she predeceases me, I suspect I'll be lying on the floor, paintbrush in cold hand, while my cat regards me hungrily, so who knows what happens to the figures then.

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    1. Michael, a common thread seems to run through this discussion. Do we repurchase these games as a nostalgic attempt to recapture our youth? I wonder. See my comment about musical chairs to Tony (Foy) above.

      As for Final Disposal, I have a similar plan in place although very informal. Perhaps, a more formal plan should be in place?

      Very good visual of your last minutes on earth if your better half is not around to monitor your behavior. Classic!

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  7. There does seem to be a collectors market for some still-in-shrink board wargames, but I have quite a jaundiced view of those guys. It seems to attract the type who would offer a widow $2 at a yard sale and then boast on their wargaming Facebook group about how they sold it on for $120!

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    1. Aaron, to see that happen to a grieving widow is shameful although to her, perhaps, it is a great weight (literally) being lifted from her.

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  8. Interesting points. The question of what happens to our collections at the end of our runs is a melancholy thought. I am hopping to have mine loaded with me into a viking longship and set alight. Although the shear volume of lead is more likely to have the whole site declared a Superfund site by the EPA.

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    1. Jake, you have the right perspective in my mind! What a send off that would be. I can envision the boat being launched and immediately sinking to the bottom of the lake!

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