Thoughts on How to Store Miniatures (Time Machine)

Michael O. Varhola

The following article originally appeared more than 44 years ago, in the January 1973 issue of wargaming publication “Battle Flag: The Magazine of Encounter.” It was not credited to a particular author and was therefore probably written by publication editor and publisher Don Adcock. It was also not accompanied by any illustrations, and so we have graciously provided some appropriate ones ...

There have been several articles in issues of the COURIER on storing miniatures between battles. One person recommended trays (actually removable shelves) that would fit on special racks. Probably the most common storage facility is the ubiquitous cardboard box which, if possessing no other virtues, is fairly durable and easy to acquire. 

The members of the miniatures “group” at Mississippi State University have come across what we think is a very good way to store our troops. We use “plastic shoeboxes,” which are sold at [five-and-dime] stores and some discount houses. Most of these are 6 x 12 (inches) in size. They are made of clear plastic with a lid of colored plastic. 

To use these boxes we invert them. What was the lid is now our troop tray. After the soldiers have been arranged in order on the lid, the clear plastic top (originally the bottom) now fits into a recess around the edge of the troops covering the miniatures. A sturdy rubber band is stretched across the whole, and the troops are securely protected from dust and inquisitive fingers. They can be easily seen and displayed, yet the boxes stack on shelves or on the back seat of a car for transportation. They pack into cardboard boxes for longer transportation. 

These plastic shoeboxes are quite economical, ranging from two for $1 in some stores to a low (that we have found) of four for $1. The prices generally run about 30-37¢ each. One box will hold and display three battalions of infantry organized a la Vietmeyer or a French cavalry regiment and command stand. 

Since the lids come in different colors, it is a simple matter to choose one color for each players, thus keeping track of whose boxes are whose. They can be set out near the battlefield, ready to receive the casualties, and since there are color-coded, no one’s troops wind up in someone else’s box (at least in theory). 

Although our troops are 25 mm, the boxes are slightly less than four inches tall. This would be enough room for 30 mm infantry and most 30 mm cavalry, although lancers with lances erect might present something of a problem. 52 mm infantry will fit into the boxes even at present arms, unless the bayonets are fixed, which will make them a bit too tall. All the Minitanks are able to fit well, as do 1/48 scale armored vehicles. 

For the person who collects larger miniatures, I understand that some variety of different-sized boxes are available (at different-sized prices). The only one that I have actually seen is a plastic hatbox. This is the size that a good hatbox should be and about seven to eight inches in height. This might be good for the 52 mm or similar-sized diorama builder. Again, the box would be inverted and the diorama build onto the base. Then, the lid could be placed or glued down on top of it to protect it. Practically anything but a King Tiger would seem to be able to fit in these. 

Do not scorn the idea of these boxes. We find that they give protection to the miniatures while looking quite neat and tidy. They allow inspection of the troops by interested visitors without the expense of custom-made boxes, yet they keep the dust off, which open shelves cannot do!