1/20/2013

Cost Effective Home Storage for Miniatures

Frugal GM Idea for Saving Money
I have a lot of minis.  I have too many minis.  The number of minis I have is enough that I often don't end up using minis because I cannot find the ones I'm looking for.

Granted, the overwhelming majority of my minis are paper minis which don't take up a lot of space, but even if you only count my metal and plastic minis there are quite a few to deal with.  In a couple months I'll have even more because I bought into the Reaper Miniatures Kickstarter campaign.

Sorting minis only gets you so far.  What I need, and I'm going out on a limb here and say many GMs need, is a good way to organize their mini collection so they can access what they want when they need to.  Jolly Blackburn tosses his figures in little stacking bins and I've considered that as an alternative.  The thing is those bins are not cheap and I'm not a big fan of painted minis (or let's face it.....minis I someday hope to paint) loose in a bin where they get jumbled around.


What I need is a way to keep my minis sorted that is cheap, er...frugal, and keeps them relatively safe.  Now I already like to base my minis on wooden discs that have some flexible magnetic sheeting attached.  I do this because I like to use Alea Tools markers on the minis.

With this in mind I have some good mini storage lined up.

Flat box from box store
Assembled 9 x 12 x 3 boxA quick trip down to the local bulk box store (as in they sell boxes) yielded some great lidded boxes that run 9 x 12 x 3. These boxes, when assembled, can fit all of my current miniatures standing upright.  I think some of my figs will be too large when based, but they are in the minority.

I think it is important to just figure out right off the bat that nothing I do will work for every single mini.  I just need to cover the majority, or in this case probably 90% of my figures.  These boxes were fifty cents a piece.

Color A Mag Flexible Magnetic Sheeting
The next thing I did was grab some magnetic sheeting.  ProMag 8.5"x11" Color-A-MAG® White Magnetic Sheets, available at Michaels craft stores, costs $4.39 for three sheets.  I've priced magnetic sheeting out from other vendors, but unless you buy a case direct from ProMag you might as well just go the convenience route and get it from Michaels with a coupon.

Don't spend more on the slightly thinner stuff that you can through a printer.

If you have time, I recommend that you take the sheets out and let them flatten naturally by putting them on a big piece of metal in a warm room for a day or two.

Everything all glued up
Didn't pre-flatten the magnetic sheetingThe next step is to glue the magnetic sheet, paper side down, into the box.  I put most of the glue in the box and just glued the edges of the sheet well.  As you can see in the picture I skipped the flattening step.  While it wasn't difficult to work with I'd rather make future boxes easier by flattening the magnetic sheeting.

No problem.....I just weighed the sheet down with a ream of cardstock.

Finished miniature storage box
I went ahead and let the glue dry overnight before removing the weight and proceeding to the next step, which is labeling.  I made a simple template to mark what type of minis I was putting into this box and taped it down to the front of the box.  Depending on how these boxes fit on my shelf I may place another label on the side of the box.  The cost for the label is negligible, unless you pay to have it printed professionally and only do one label at a time.  If that is the case, why are you reading the FrugalGM blog?

Example of miniatures staying in place during handling
As you can see from this picture, the magnetic based minis do a fair job of sitting in place as the box is tilted forward.  The minis are not stuck in place though and will move around or fall if you jostle the box roughly or tip it too much.  If that was important I'd probably use stronger magnets and steel plates, but that isn't very cost effective.  There would also be a risk to putting too much pressure on the figures as you try to remove them from the case.

No, all I need is something to make the miniatures want to stay in place during normal handling.  This setup does a pretty good job at a decent price.

The total cost:
$0.50 Box
$1.46 Magnetic Sheet
$0.10 Glue & Labels
$2.06 Per storage box

I figure I could probably fit 90 miniatures in each of these boxes (93 square inches of magnetic sheeting).  For the sake of simplicity, let us assume I only get 50 per box.  That still comes out to about four cents ($0.04) per mini for storage. I find that number quite acceptable as that is only $40 for 1,000 minis.

Citadel Figure Case
The Citadel Figure Case, which fits 108 minis retails for almost $60.  Of course that does cushion each figure in foam and had a hard-sided case.....but that is overkill for home storage.

If you cannot find the same size boxes, all you need to do is cut the magnetic sheeting to fit.  It does cut easily with an ordinary scissors.  For $2 a box, I can sort all my minis (even the one that haven't arrive yet) in style for under $50.  I consider this a frugal investment.