Thursday, 21 August 2014

A spotter's guide to recasts and recasters

The issue of recasting and recasts is an emotive one in the collecting and gaming community and has on occasion led to people being falsely accused of being recasters. I have been collecting Citadel Miniatures for three decades, and I have often observed people make false assumptions on what constitutes a recast, and as a consequence are far too quick to declare a given figure a recast, and it's owner a recaster.


Recasting is, however, a valid subject for discussion, and let's face it - recasters are out there. The issue may be of particular concern for those new to the hobby who may be worried about a purchase or potential purchase. I thought, therefore, that it may help if I provided some examples of genuine castings that could be mistaken as recasts due to certain "signs" they exhibit. Please note that much of the advice in this post refers to early-period Citadel Miniatures, from the 1980s and early 1990s.

How to detect a recast? 

Unfortunately, it can be argued that no-one except for an official from GW could state without a shred of reasonable doubt that a figure is recast or not, and to be perfectly honest, I highly doubt if one of them would know either. The problem is that, these days, if someone is prepared to pay a professional mould maker to prepare the mould and to have the figures cast professionally in the right quality of metal, it would almost be impossible to tell them from the originals. But you have to ask yourself why someone would bother to do that. How prevalent are counterfeits, for example on eBay? Is it cost effective to do this? Realistically, recasting would not be an economic proposition unless you did it at very low cost and quality or in noticeably high volumes as the cost of making quality moulds and using quality metal would mean unit costs were at least as high as the current retail price. The chances of encountering a recast figure are probably quite small.

So, spotting a recast is not as easy as you or I might wish – despite the warnings issued by a certain major games corporation! Some recasting might seem pretty obvious - the figures have very poor detail, the colour is wrong, there are multiple mould lines and they have large lumps of sprue attached from where they were cast. Of course, you might not be able to prove that such a figure is a recast, but hey – would you even bother buying it in the first place if it looked that bad?

If you would like to buy a figure that you suspect is recast or you have received a suspect figure – what should you do? Firstly, a simple rule to follow is that if you don't like the look of something that someone is selling on eBay or anywhere else (for whatever reason) then don't buy it. If you buy something that you are not happy with then use eBay's systems to contact the seller and hopefully resolve the issue.

But what if there is something about the figure that is making you suspicious? Some alleged signs of a recast figure are as follows:

- The figure has multiple mould lines
- A seller sells multiples of an apparently rare figure
- The colour of the metal is wrong
- The figure is cast in the “wrong” metal
- Level of sharpness and detail/less than crisp casting
- The tabs of the figure are “wrong”
- The figure is a little smaller than other, supposedly identical, ones I’ve seen
- The figure looks a little different to other, supposedly identical, ones I’ve seen
- The figure doesn’t “sound” or “feel” right

Let’s examine these in turn.

The figure has multiple mould lines

…or even triple mould lines have been cited as the most likely evidence of a figure being a recast. Not so. Many collectors have received figures direct from GW (loose and in blister) displaying double or even triple mould lines. Double mould lines are not necessarily the sign of a recast. All genuine GW figures have the potential for double mould lines. This is why:

The old manufacturing process (green => master mould, master mould => master tins, master tins => production mould) means there is a chance of double mould lines if the master tins weren't cleaned up properly. When a figure is sculpted, a single 'master mould' is made from it. This master mould is cast several times (maybe up to 20, depending on the size of the figure). These 'master figures' are then used to make a 'production mould', from which new figures are cast and blister-packed. The master figures are generally kept so that new production moulds can be made when the old ones are worn out.

The step in the middle of this process is where the double mould lines can originate. If the master castings are not carefully cleaned of all casting lines before being used to make a production mould, the production figures are very likely to have double mould lines, as it is highly unlikely that even the best mould maker would position every one identically in the mould. Interestingly, this also means that castings of the same figure could easily have mould lines in slightly different positions.

Take a look at some of your castings sometime, especially older, pre-pewter stuff. You'll see that double mould lines are not uncommon, and certainly don't indicate forgeries.

Here are two examples of the "limited" LE101 Chaos Renegade in blister:

Note how the figure on the left has one prominent mould line, but the figure on the right has two. These figures were found in two different style blister packs, which suggests they may have been cast at different times - a possible reason for the differences in mould line number.


Multiple mould lines are not just restricted to general release figures. In fact, the presence of multiple mould lines is often taken as primary evidence for an unreleased figure being a recast. Take a look at the unreleased/unlisted chaos warrior below. (If you are wondering how it could be unreleased if it's in a blister then figures were occasionally distributed in labelled "preview packs" which subsequently did not see general release).


Double mould lines are in evidence here, with the top line being particularly prominent.

Here's that prominent mould line again, a possible example of slippage during moulding/casting.

A seller sells multiples of an apparently rare figure

Selling multiples of rarer figures is not a good guide either. Rarity is relative and while some figures seem rare because they don't turn up on eBay every week, that doesn't mean there are not hundreds around. For example, many members of the Collecting Citadel Miniatures group have bought bulk lots from ex-GW staff members that have included multiples of supposedly rare items.

This ruling doesn’t just apply to rare figures either. For example GW mail order used to have "bargain bucket sales." It was quite possible to end up with multiples of the same, relatively rare, figure.

It is possible to cite other seemingly suspicious buying and selling habits. For example, the observation that someone buys a relatively rare figure only to start selling it in multiples several weeks later might at first seem suspicious. Could it simply be that the seller was formally amassing figures for a particular project only to abandon it later for any number of reasons? The truth is it’s normally quite a time-consuming and involved process to build up a case for someone being a recaster based on their buying and selling habits – even by GW’s admission.

Take a look at the image below. I bought this lot from the son of an ex-GW staff member some months ago. Fifteen limited edition Rogue Trader Slocombe's Warbots still in blister; it came with a similar number that had already been taken out of their blisters. I will be ebaying many of these over time: I'll probably be fine with the blistered ones but once I start on the loose, wait for the accusations to fly!


The colour of the metal is wrong

The fact is that the genuine castings from GW are not universally the same in appearance. The same miniatures, new in blister, can range from a dull darkish pewter shade through to a very bright almost silver shade and just about everything in between. Early 1980's figures were particularly prone to colour variation, due to the varied composition of alloys used in casting (for example, the addition of bismuth tends to darken a figure). Take a look at the colour contrast between these two preslotta figures:



Some miniatures, again new in blister, can have brownish or yellowish tints and even slight pitting on the surface. And figures cast in USA can look different to the same figure cast in the UK. The two chaos thugs below were originally cast in 1987. Both have been removed from blister packs. The figure on the right is how you might expect the "correct" colour to be for a chaos thug of this vintage, and was obtained in one of the old red Realm of Chaos blister packs. The figure on the left looks very "wrong" and was obtained from a green blister pack produced in the USA. The USA figure was cast later, and it was not unusual for figures in the USA at that time to be of this colour.


Here's another example of discolouration. I dont know for sure if this figure was cast in the UK or USA but judging by the design of the blister pack I would guess it is UK cast:

It's not too obvious from the photograph but in reality the colour changes on this figure are quite marked. You can see how the ogre's left arm and weapon have the expected dull silver look, but the rest of the body has a brownish tint.

Further, if someone has gone to the trouble of doing a good job of stripping off old paint they have also, intentionally or not, cleaned up some of the oxidation which appears on the surface of an older casting, so quite an old mini can look almost new. Also, an “overly shiny” figure as seen in a photograph could simply be the result of bright light – obvious I know, but it’s surprising how off-putting a shiny figure can seem in a photograph. It could also, again, be the result of the casting process. Hare are two blistered examples of the SP101 Imperial Assassin:


Possibly not so easy to detect in this photo, but in reality the figure on the right is far shinier than the one on the left.

So colour variation is not a good guide to the authenticity of a figure.

The figure is cast in the “wrong” metal

One thing to bear in mind is that Games Workshop frequently have and do recast their own miniatures – these can be described as “official” recasts. This means for example that a figure that might have been originally released in lead alloy during the 1980’s could have later been recast in white metal by GW and sold via stores or mail order. There have even been accounts of preslotta figures being recast by GW in white metal. So you may well have a recast figure, but it would have been recast by GW. Purists might have a problem with this; whether you do or not is a personal issue.



The figure of Thrud above was "officially recast" by GW some years after its initial release, and sold in this "Citadel Legends" style of packaging. The "Fantasy Tribes" (a preslotta range) label hints that preslotta figures were also recast and sold in this way. Take a look at the two preslotta Broo below; the left figure was an original early 80s cast, while the figure on the right was cast in a different metal in the "Citadel Legends" range:



Also, parts that were previously commonly available in plastic might also have been recast by GW as metal parts. For example, before the new plastics came along there was a period where the plastic moulds for things like Imperial Guard arms had died. For a very short time the bodies were still available through mail order and they came with metal cast arms which were just the plastics recast in metal. Here are some offical metal castings of plastic arms:



The exception to the above of course would be to receive a figure from a current range of figures that has been cast in old lead alloy. GW haven’t used lead alloy to cast figures for many years, so if you receive a new figure cast in lead alloy then it will be an “unofficial” recast.

Level of sharpness and detail/less than crisp casting

Bear in mind that a badly cast figure could well be a miscast rather than a recast. What’s the difference? Well, quality control at the factory has varied over time and in different countries. In general, quality control was worse historically, and a few badly cast models would slip out (this is even mentioned in the early catalogues, compendia, journals). Poor quality control can lead to missing bits, badly cast bits and tarnished metal. It is not that unusual for a mint figure to have a casting flaw of a minor nature. Also remember that flashing and bits of metal left over from the casting process are perfectly normal and quite common.

Remember that Thrud miniature I mentioned earlier? Well here he is out of the bag:


Even at this distance it's pretty obvious that this is not the best of castings. But let's take a closer look:


That's a pretty rough mould line and level of flash running down the side of the figure. It gets worse if we take a top-down view:


How would you have felt if you had received this Thrud figure in the post?

Here's another example:


Both of the Citadel Star Trek Scotty figures above were pulled out of their original baggies. You can clearly see how the figure on the left is lacking detail, and has even lost much of his hair!

If you cast something you will lose some of the quality of the original green. Figures cast from that mould will have lost a bit of quality compared to the original green; if that figure is then used to make more moulds it will lose even more quality. This can be seen by placing it next to the original: detail such as facial features, chainmail, fur, wood grains etc are areas that might look “shallower” i.e. not as deep or clear cut as they maybe should.

Sometimes the metal surface quality of the miniature can set alarm bells ringing, particularly if there is "pitting" evident. Here's a couple of examples of blister pack figures that raise such an alarm:

An ogre with a badly pitted breastplate.

An Epic Eldar Titan with "dotting" of the surface.

The tabs of the figure are “wrong”

Tabs can vary across identical figures, with some bearing names and others being blank. Also, particularly for older figures, large pieces of metal can be left on the tabs or under the bases of preslotta figures simply as a result of the casting process.

The figure is a little smaller than other, supposedly identical, ones I’ve seen

Compare your figure with an identical figure (hopefully came out of packet). If yours is smaller, and also displays bad casting etc then it is possibly recast but not necessarily – judging the sizes of two identical figures can be quite subjective. Also, new moulds could be cast from figures multiple times leading to a reduction in figure size.


As per the Scotty figures mentioned earlier, the two Star Trek Betalgeusians above were pulled out of baggies, and there is a marked difference in size and general "chunkiness."

The figure looks a little different to other, supposedly identical, ones I’ve seen

The preslotta Citadel figures produced and distributed by the Canadian miniatures company RAFM used a different alloy mix and they can be much shinier. Usually RAFM figures are good castings, though. Note that RAFM/Citadel figures are genuine legally produced figures made from Citadel molds. Also, Ral Partha shared many figures with Citadel, with the resulting figures often being very similar but with minor differences.

The figure doesn’t “sound” or “feel” right

Some collectors believe that recasts have a certain “feel” and that they make a certain sound when dropped onto a hard surface that is different from a genuine figure. This is especially true of the older figures. This is highly subjective of course, and very difficult to quantify.


In conclusion: provenance – your best bet.

So, all in all it would appear that identifying a genuinely “unofficial” recast figure is pretty difficult. As has already been established, figures that display pretty major defects shouldn’t be purchased in the first place, or if they arrive as part of a large batch then you should be perfectly within your rights to ask for a refund.

Provenance is a good tool in the fight against recasts. Provenance is defined as “proof of authenticity or of past ownership.” Documented evidence of provenance for a figure can help to establish that it is not a forgery or a reproduction. Your most reliable test is the reputation of the trader and the provenance they can provide - but be prepared for some reluctance to disclose names as if someone has stuff from a former or present GW staff member that is not meant to be in the public domain, they are likely to want to protect their source from any comeback from GW.

At the end of the day, you are relying on the reputation of the seller. If in doubt it is not unreasonable to ask for the provenance of the figures - most good sellers will understand if you want to know and will happily provide you with any information they have. And if you are not happy with the provenance don't buy. And if you have already bought and have a reason to be concerned, for example because the quality is really bad, you could go back to the seller and ask for a refund.  Many sellers will refund if you have a serious concern as they value their reputation and do not, in any way, wish to be thought to be trading in recast items.

I welcome debate on this issue - what are your experiences?

Acknowledgements

Much of the information in this post was contributed by members of the  Collecting Citadel Miniatures (CCM) Yahoo group over the years. Many of the members are very experienced collectors of Citadel Miniatures, some of whom are current or ex-Games Workshop (GW) staff members. Their contributions are based on many years of collecting Citadel Miniatures.

20 comments:

  1. A seminal post and a very informative one. I have learnt a great deal and think I have judged many a model a recast when, perhaps, they were not.

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    1. It takes a big man to admit that James! :-)

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Very glad you wrote this James. I do have in my possession some models that were bought from mail order after the change to white metal and I can tell you though they 're 100% official, anyone (me first) would be tempted to take them for recasts (shiny metal, "wrong" feel, low res details, double mould lines...).
      I also know many people who bought multiple models from this same service (multiple palanquins or multiple Juggernauts) and they therefore have multiple examples of official releases that "look" suspicious too.

      Anyway, I really think it is a good and wise thing to provide solid explanations as you did to avoid people lighting torches and taking their forks in the streets evrey now and then...

      Thanks

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    2. But I'm NOT Chico ! I'm bearded, I wear glasses and I play with miniature, whereas he...

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    3. Oooops, sorry about that Steve...
      Excellent article nonetheless !

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  3. Great article, as a hobbyist that sculpts, casts and on rare occasions Re-Casts for my own personal use I totally agree with the points you made here.

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  4. Very good article. However the real article I want you to write is how you get your hands on the stashes of so many ex -GW employees...

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  5. Excellent post, it was particularly fun seeing some of these models. I completely forgot that Citadel did a Star Trek line! Do you have any more you can show us?

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  6. I used to cast a lot of Prince August stuff when I was younger. The pitting on the ogre's breastplate was most likely caused by the metal being too hot.

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    1. That would be the metal cooling too quickly.

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  7. You've missed off talc, which has no business being anywhere a figure which is not brand new.

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  8. Excellent article Steve. I have been the owner and subsequent seller of multiple rare figures which came from an impeccable source. I think a lot of the recasts that do appear have tended to come from a very limited number of sources. GW have successfully closed down a couple of American recasters but its the stuff coming from the Eastern block etc thats the most suspicious. I am not aware of a huge export drive to Russia for instance. So how would multiple rare figures surface there? So as you say provenance and common sense. I have handled recasts and they are usually made of very soft metal in my experience.
    Thankfully I still believe they are quite rare compared to the number of genuine castings in existence.

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  9. An excellent and informative article with some really good insights to some of the possible myths and explanations surronding re-casting.
    You ended with the good advice which I have found to be useful over the years, that is get to know some miniatures history as that will help you when looking at models (and it's interesting too!), and to just use your own judgement.
    I would point out one thing concerning Citadel's own re-casting of models that people collecting should be aware of. With some models in a few of the ranges, most notably the C36 Hobgoblins, Citadel did convert some solid based pre-slotta models into slotta based ones. So it is possible to have a pre-Slotta and Slotta version of the same model, which I do of several of the C36 Hobgoblins.

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  10. I think, mostly of the Sellers of expensive and rare stuff at eBay hide they're Feedback in privacy.
    Most of these "High Stuff" Sellers come from Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Asia (not Russia)

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