Where can I find fantasy minis on the cheap?
I'm looking to build a collection of fantasy miniatures, preferably pewter - but I don't want to buy them one at a time from my local hobby store... Much too expensive, and they don't often carry anything I'm interested in buying, which makes it a long term venture as well. So I'm looking for ideas on how to obtain many miniatures at once, preferably for cheap. D&D Miniatures aren't a good source for me as they're collectibles, and the prices on those are also prohibitive.
By the way - they don't have to be pewter, that's just my preference. =)
You're not going to get any cheaper than D&D Miniatures singles unless you go with paper cut-outs in stands. D&D Miniatures can get down to $1 each for the less popular ones. Metal miniatures are going to be more expensive and not painted. Are paper cut-outs something you're willing to do?
Although this is a common challenge many gamers face, our policies and our understanding of the Stack Exchange ethos have matured since this question was posted three years ago. It is now "Too Broad" --with such limited criteria, every answer is equally valid-- and it is also a shopping question with all the problems that conveys. I'm voting to close it: the accrued wisdom will remain, but it will no longer set poor precedent for new questions.
I make my own: this is a lot easier than it sounds -- be advised that I'm a bit of a craft-klutz, and one of the reasons I don't collect minis is I have no confidence at all that I could really paint them well enough for my taste. So, actually, I don't make minis, but I make counters.
First, I buy a batch of appropriately sized, good quality mini bases (I buy the thick plywood ones from Litko Aerosystems).
Then, I assemble PDF pages of square colour images of the appropriate sizes (1" for medium creatures, and so forth). I started by getting the large collection of counter images from Fiery Dragon, and augmented that by doing some graphics work with Photoshop and PDFs from Paizo (for the adventure path stuff I'm using). I build PDF pages of exactly the counter images I need for upcoming play, and then print them at an office supplies store on their colour laser printer service (on linen resume paper).
Then, I cut out all the paper counters, and use Mod Podge to glue them on the wood counters, and then glue a coat over them (découpage). I use the classical, matte finish, glue formulation.
For best use, I let the glued counters sit for a day before I use them. After that, I just bag them in zip-loc bags and store them. Storage is much, much easier than 3d minis.
PCs all have a 3d mini, and all the other characters in the game use the counters. I like this method a lot. It's inexpensive; I get (pretty much) exactly the counters I want for play; storing them is a lot simpler; they actually improve play in my opinion as it really highlights the difference between PC characters on the map and opponents.