This post is to answer Jose’s questions in the comments section from my previous post. They are important as they illustrate a good lesson and one of the most important traits of a collector, at least one who doesn’t want to break the bank on his hobby.
First, though, I’ll answer the question on the Snowball Beholder. Wizards produced (as far as I can find) 4 Holiday Promo Miniatures. These were repaints created specifically for employees at WoTC HQ. They are pretty rare and generally sell for about $70-$150 each; I’ve read there are no more than 50 of each made, but I can’t confirm that. The Beholder tends to sell at the high end, and the Spiked Nog/Snow Angel at the lower end. They were:
2007 – Snowball Beholder (Beholder)
2008 – Spiked Nog (War Devil)
2009 – Snow Angel (Angel of Valor Legionnaire)
2010 – Winter Umber Hulk (Umber Hulk)
I picked up a Snow Angel on eBay a few weeks ago for $72.00, it’s definitely a beautiful mini. I’d like to get the other 3 at some point, but they are not high on my list of priorities.
To answer the question about fluctuation in minis prices, it is a combination of supply and demand and what I call ‘bidder intensity‘. In general, most miniatures will hang out in a general dollar value range. For Aspect of Tiamat, right now that is about $50. However, if you look back in eBay’s ‘completed listings’, you’ll see an AoT that sold for $74.77. Why is that? In general, it is because the person who bought that figure ‘needed it right now’. Whether it was for a game they were running, a birthday present, or other occasion. One of the most important lessons you can learn as a collector is patience. Looking back over eBay’s completed listings, I know that the average selling price of an Aspect of Tiamat is $50. However, when I look on eBay right now, there are only 5 available minis, all priced between $74.99 and $101.99. These listings are, for the most part, storefronts or speculators. At some point, someone who doesn’t have any patience will come along and purchase the $74.99 mini if there aren’t any other options. This leads to some interesting effects on the market…the next seller to come along might think ‘hey, the value of AoT is $75’. So he lists it at $69 and is surprised when it doesn’t sell. So a week from now he lists it at $59 and it still doesn’t sell. Eventually, he lowers his price enough and ends up selling it around $50.
This leads to one rule: Don’t ever buy an expensive mini via ‘Buy-it-now’ unless you know it is selling at a good price. Most times, the ‘Buy-it-now’ minis are between 50% and 100% more expensive than the actual ‘completed listings’ values. The large fluctuations you see (Someone spending $75 on a $50 mini) are generally outliers, or someone who is willing to spend more than he has to to acquire a collectible because he doesn’t want to wait.
One other item to note…I have noticed a marked uptick in the average price of D&D minis in the last 3 weeks. I would posit that is due to it being ‘Income Tax Refund’ season in the US. In the US, income taxes are due on April 15. However, most folks in the US get a refund each year (As they typically overpay their taxes through payroll withholding during the year) around February, and many retailers see more sales during this time of year. Many car dealers run ‘Bring your refund to us and we’ll double it!’ ads, among other ads trying to get folks to spend their refunds with a particular retailer.
During times like this, I don’t change my buying behavior, and so I’ve lost more auctions recently than I’ve won, when back in January I won almost every auction I bid on. For lots of miniatures, depending on the rares, I value minis lots at between $1.00 and $2.50 per miniature. For lots with no rares, I value closer to the $1.00 range, and for lots with many or good chase rares, I’ll be in the $2.00-$2.50 range. This is because I know that when tax season is over, miniatures will settle down and I’ll be able to pick them up in my price range again. Interestingly, the best time of year to buy miniatures seems to be in November/December, when folks are spending their money on other things. While right now is the time to be selling miniatures if you have any extras, as you’ll likely get more than you would most other times of the year.
I hope that helps, good luck!