Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Leads Dead Baby, Leads Dead

So no more metal from Citadel Miniatures. Of course it hasn't been white metal in the traditional lead/tin alloy sense since the early 90s and the abortive legal move in New York State to ban lead to protect people from lead - that is to say the stuff that wasn't flying at subsonic speed and tumbling in the air because that's a Goddamn American right or something similar and otherwise socialists will take over and the Nazis will be able to send heterosexual WASPs to the Gulags and ban Christ and introduce health care plans. Or so I'm told.

The current batch of Citadel resin looks mightily less than impressive but apparently I haven't drunk the Kool Aid so must be a hater...

Anyway I couldn't really let this pass without a brief mention.

When I discovered gaming and GW, the idea of metal figures was somewhat bizarrely exotic. That's an odd word to use but there was a cachet to the idea that these little 25mm models (and they were 25mm back then before the scale creep) were made from metal. We laboured under the impression that they were entirely lead (imagine the weight that would have made your army - little 1970s and 1980s cars like the Datsun Cherry and the Allegro wouldn't have had the grunt to shift you and your army to the wargames club) but knew the real name was White Metal which sounded like unobtanium or something - metal that was white. How does that work? Why did nobody point out that in the hands of Ansell, white metal was actually any colour from silver to black with the darker the model, the worse the alloy and the more likely to was to be pitted and rotting away with five years. No, I don't miss Citadel Pig Lead one bit.

These models were mysterious because they were dangerous. You mustn't swallow them. You mustn't give them to infants under 36 months. You mustn't chew them. You must wash your hands after modelling. Heady stuff. Dangerous-sounding stuff, implying that this was Real Grownups Stuff. Citadel had a little logo of a devil clutching two leaking tubes of glue to warn you that this was a multi-part casting, probably wouldn't go together well and was For Skilled Modellers Only. The hardcore of the hardcore. SERIOUS BUSINESS kids.

And then on the racks in Games Workshop and those more enlightened toy shops that stocked a tiny subset of what GW could provide them wholesale the packaging was itself indicative that something serious awaited within(*). Star Wars figures were standing upright rattling around in blister packaging and that was probably the only time they would stand upright in their entire working lives. White metal figures had to be nestled in with their own snug backing of foam rubber to protect them. This was no sturdy toy that could smashed over a siblings head. They were made from soft metal - how could these be toys?

Another thing I remember is that the blister packages always seemed to be full of white metal dust. And that in extremis you could use an old figure as an improvised pencil for updating your character sheet. (Guilty as charged.)

Metal used to an aspirational thing like white goods, timeshares and CD players were for our parents. It was bloody expensive en masse and decent-sized collections were beyond nearly all of us so, like the Tamiya radio control buggies that kept appearing in Beatties, we kept a flame burning for it because we couldn't have it in the quantities we wanted. Even the non-gamers at school had the odd couple of figures in a box somewhere without any idea of what they were going to do with them.

I can't imagine being one of modern GW's favourite spoilt bastards whose parent's bankroll anything and everything.

This isn't a plastic-is-shit, resin-is-shit screed, the Terminators in Space Hulk are absolutely stunning, I imagine when they finally crack the process even their Finecast resin might be halfway acceptable.

Just a little shout out to the days where the mere fact that they were made from metal in an increasingly plastic age meant they were something special. And that's gone now.

(*) Not old enough to have seen the figures sold loose in filing trays with the C-number on the front of the tray.


  1. That is sad. I saw it predicted a year or two ago but didn't want to believe.
    BTW I think the 'dust' in the old blister packs was probably talc, used as a 'releasing' agent so they'd pop out of the molds easier.

  2. That is rather sad. The early nineties hold my fondest memories of GW lead... man I miss the 1991 four-catalogue set (only have the black [section 4] catalogue now), and man do I miss their pages' "Citadel Miniatures are not recommended for children under 14 years of age..." warning.

    Used to get all the intricate, cold, rattly little metal bits in those polystyrene box inserts (which could then be used to make dodgy ruin terrains)... the weight of them... aah...

    Thanks for the nostalgia trip. Your blog is great.