I have seen a lot of creative solutions for storing and transporting miniatures over the years. I’ve seen people use tackle boxes with models thrown into it, cardboard boxes with models stacked on one another, and plastic totes filled to the brim, to name a few.
Bad Miniature Storage
The thing those all have in common is that they’re a terrible way to store and transport miniatures. Painting aside (I’ll get to that), the models can be very easily damaged using any of those methods.
With miniatures not secured, they’re bound to shift and move in the container. The result of that is broken pieces and damaged miniatures. Not good.
Now, if you are transporting miniatures that you’ve painted (D&D, Warhammer 40K, X-Wing, Warhammer Underworlds, Battletech, etc.) then there’s the very high chance that you’re going to chip the paint or scratch it.
Sealing your models is a must, and it will help, but not taking care of your figures is a sure way to watch them die a real death.
Nobody wants that.
Spend Money & Save Money + Time
Often, I find that people who transport their models poorly tend to share a common view. That view being that money spent on foam trays and carrying cases is money not spent on models.
They’re right. If you’re spending $100 to buy a case packed with foam then you’re not buying a new kit for your army. However, what’s the cost involved in replacing the models you damage beyond repair because you didn’t properly care for them? What’s the value you place on the hours you spent painting your miniatures only to have the paint destroyed to neglect?
Now, unless you don’t care about the condition of your miniatures, then throwing them haphazardly into a tackle box is a fine solution. Yet, if you do, then the money you spend on good storage solutions for your figures is going to save you money in the long run; at the very least, save you some heartache and time.
There are some really affordable solutions out there. You don’t have to spend $100+ to get a bag and foam trays.
Everyone has heard the name Battle Foam, but there are some great, affordable alternatives as well if you don’t want to spend too much.
As an alternative, there’s also magnetic miniature cases. A bit pricier than foam cases (up front, cheaper in the long-term though), but they offer a lot of flexibility.
Lastly, I also have a list of miniature storage boxes you may find useful. The storage boxes are cheaper than traditional cases, so great for those new to the hobby, or someone watching their wallet.
Transporting Miniatures – It’s Your Call
Ultimately though, it’s up to you.
I’ve been in the miniature hobby since 2006. In that time I have painted countless models, some of which I’ve put 30+ hours into (single model). If any of those models got damaged then I would be extremely upset.
So, I practice what I preach and have myself a bunch of foam trays I’ve made. I also have some of the Sabol pluck trays as well that I got when I started. Of course, I have an ArmyTransport bag that I tote it all around in.
Guess what? I’ve never had a model so badly damaged that it needed replacing. In fact, the only issues I’ve had is fiddly bits snapping off, like antennas, but that’s kind of to be expected.
Other than that, never once have any of my models been damaged when they are stored away or being transported for play.
Not a single time.
Never once in all those years have I had to fix paint jobs on any of my miniatures.
However, I can tell you that I’ve seen a fair amount folks pull their models out of the plastic totes they threw their miniatures into and have had arms ripped off, pieces simple missing, and paint jobs scared by bouncing around.
It kills me every single time I see it; transporting miniatures poorly.
Do yourself a favor, get some foam trays, get yourself a carrying case for it all, and save yourself time and money. It sucks coughing up that cash for it, but you’re playing the long game here.
Sure, you save money and can buy more models by not getting a case for your miniatures. However, if you plan on being in this hobby for a while, then having good way of transporting miniatures is going to ensure those models your buying now will be around in 20 years; trust me.
On a related note, I’ve got a great article on miniature painting racks you may be interested in. That article covers various storage boxes and racks for your paints. Granted, it’s not foam trays or cases, but most of us are also painters and organizing our supplies is pretty crucial.