Friday, November 25, 2011

Thinking the unthinkable

A Newline Designs French Pioneer,
a touch more expensive than your typical infantryman

Human tragedy is regrettably my stock in trade and while violence is generally one of the most memorable aspect of many incidents, there are plenty of other sources of hurt. When I worked for the Church I dealt with a Canadian couple who were visitors to Ireland. A hand bag had been stolen from the lady which she was understandably very upset about. But what upset her the most was that it contained the last picture she had of her son alive. The money was immaterial, there were some things that cannot be replaced.

Paddy Griffith told me once that his home was burgled in the early eighties, toy soldiers were taken. What stung most of all was that the burglar was obviously not a casual criminal, but a fellow traveller. The key point being that the collection was mostly made up of Airfix plastics leavened with metals. The humble Airfix soldiers were left, but the more expensive metals were torn from their bases. Not the sort of fine distinction made by the typical second storey man.

I know that I would be gutted if my collection were stolen or damaged. But while my men are full of associations for me and are irreplaceable, if they were lost I would like to fill the hole somehow. I was reflecting on this while investigating a burglary some time ago. I was making notes in my notebook, establishing the likely point of entry and mentally working out which members of the parish eleven were not behind bars at present and therefore were likely suspects, when the house holder began to list off what property had been stolen. She did this with such aplomb that I stopped taking notes for a moment and began to evaluate her claim critically. By a curious coincidence it happened that very little of this property, much of which seemed to be particularly valuable, could not have its existence independently verified.

After work I applied the same logic to my own home. Mrs Kinchs jewellery and some of my rarer books are recorded on the house insurance, but beyond that there is nothing beyond the usual contents insurance. My collection of toy soldiers which has absorbed so much time and trouble, to say nothing of money, is not listed. I have visions of dealing with a hard nosed insurance assessor who will treat my claims as to how much my collection is worth with some skepticism.

But how much is it worth? Some collectors make astonishing claims as to what such-and-such a figure is worth, but travelling down that route could be problematic. I decided to approach the problem from a rather more prosaic angle - how much would it cost me to replace?

I buy most of my figures from the UK so I'll be working in pounds sterling for this exercise. Through a variety of means I have fixed on the figure of twelve pence as the cost of a plastic infantryman.

Outfitting him with magnetic basing, static grass and such adds approximately another three pence.

Painting him is the largest cost. My own painter does the job at a very reasonable 85 pence per man plus ten percent to post him. So 93.5p for uniform and kit.

Which means that the final figure is per infantryman is £1.08.5.

A unit for Command & Colours Napoleonics which consists of -

16 Other ranks

1 Subalterns

1 Non Commissioned officer

1 Bandsman

1 casualty figure

Cost £21.70 not including the cost of a metal sabot base.

This simple calculation suggests that the end result will be a considerable sum and that therefore the exercise is not without merit.

Even so the very idea of losing my boys makes me nauseous.


  1. So, you document the cost of assembling the collection; insure it and then rest easy.

  2. You should also take the time to photograph each of your units, and perhaps your terrain, etc. I'd also include images of my workstation, paints, tools, etc, in case of a fire or other catastrophic event.

    Put those images somewhere easily retrievable online, and also put them either onto a CD or an inexpensive thumb drive and store it someplace not likely to suffer damage.

    This way, everything is available to show the investigator or claims agent.


  3. I'll echo what awltim said . . . all excellent suggestions which mirror what I was going to type.

    By the way, a "grand review" here on Blogger where you have photos of each of your units all in one place is an excellent place to start.

    Finally, did you ever catch that lady's theif? And, if so, did he/they know anything about all of those "suspect items"?

    -- Jeff

  4. Thoughtful post,Conrad, thank you for it. I can't thank of how many precious items I have around the house that I would have difficulty documenting or even describing after a catastrophe.

    What sort of church work did you do? Just curious.

  5. I'll also echo the advice to take photographs of all vauluables. My aunt suffered a burglary many years ago, but she'd taken such a precaution, and it paid off handsomely when it came to recovering stolen items.

  6. Dundas - that is exactly what I intend to do. I was wondering if anyone else had tried it.

    Aw1tim - I've decided to catalogue my collection online, expect to see a lot more muster posts in the months to come.

    Jeff - Sadly no, this was before my time in the service.

    Padre - I would be delighted. Drop me a comment with your email address, I'll delete it without publishing it.

    Aj - it can pay dividends. We're trialling a scheme were owners register their pedal cycles at the moment.

  7. There used to be a specialist insurer called Magpie or something that offered really quite cheap insurance to collectors on the understanding that we all take such care of our collections claims are actually quite rare.

    Whether they are still to be found I havn't thought to 'Google' prior to writting this...