All collectors buy figures on the basis that they think the figure is well sculpted, historically accurate, and aesthetically pleasing.
So why are different manufacturer’s figure so different from one another?
The simple answer is each sculptor and editor makes there own judgement on these three criteria. The only common value being that figures need to fit into the accepted size range, and even that is not always a consideration. And each sculptor has their own style – it is a creative art not a precise science.
Trends in sculpting styles are an influence as well. Look at 1970s figure and see all detail as in scale as feasible and anatomy as in scale as possible. Move on to the 1990s and we find heavily detailed figures that have grown in bulk to accommodate detail and a tendency to large heads and hands.
Taking the two together means we have a variety of figures to choose from, which is a very good thing in my view. even if most are not to my taste!
Here I am referring to uniforms and equipment – not whether a figure has an appropriate expression for the period it represents!
In theory with so much information widely available in book form and items from museum collections visible on-line historical accuracy should be straightforward. So why do manufacturers get it wrong?
I suspect two reasons and no conspiracy. Poor research due to lack of time and/or familiarity with the period is one reason. The other is trying to produce a set of figures that represent the most common troop types. This is in order to sell enough to make a profit and stay in business. For example the Perry plastic American Civil War sets were criticised as not being specific enough in uniform detail by those familiar with the period. However, as the set was designed to cover east and west for the whole war I think they achieved an acceptable compromise between accuracy and a generic impression.
Is your inner aesthete pleased?
By aesthetically pleasing I mean a figure conforms to your idea of how a person or animal should look when made into a small metal model.
Here conversations about different ranges can get very heated, with intellectual analysis descending to “well those are pants” statements. I have some sympathy with those statements as it is down to us as individuals to decide what we like in terms of sculpting style.
Often our visual backgrounds determine what we see as being pleasing to our eye. Coming from Airfix and early Minifigs by way of ancient art I like the more classically proportioned figures. Whereas a friend coming from a Games Workshop and graphics visual background prefers a more caricatured figure. Who is right? We both are!