A sad tale of loss and recovery


It’s just stuff. If I keep telling myself that, I might just believe it.

I have a bunch of old boxes and wooden chests of drawers where I -rather thoughtlessly – have kept my old piles of minis from the time before time.

It turns out that cardboard and wooden boxes and drawers are not a healthy environment for miniatures that contain lead.

What can happen is that acids in the wood or cardboard over time can cause impurities in the lead alloy to leak out and oxidize, making the surface furry or powdery, or with “growths”, like crystal druzy.

This corrosion is also quite toxic if inhaled or ingested.

Lead poisoning is not to be trifled with, and was the main reason lead was banned from use in miniatures back in the late 80s and early 90s. Well, I say banned. It was banned in most states in the USA. In Europe the threat of banning was enough and the largest manufacturer stopped using lead and instead introduced harder alloys with more tin content. Some smaller manufactureres here in Europe continued with lead but with “purer” alloys with a lower lead content. To this day, many metal miniatures are still made with some lead in them, at least in the UK.

But I ramble.

As the astute reader already has inferred, my piles have been visited by lead rot. So I have spent several evenings picking through the piles, discarding a bunch of basket cases, seeing what can be saved.

Luckily, only minis that were bare metal were affected, and not all lead alloys were affected either. My research into the matter has lead me to belive that the more impure alloys were worst affected.
I had some (I think) Demon Blade miniatures. They were not only lost causes, but had infected many minis close to the parts in the piles.
Other stuff lost is a few 1st editon Warzone, and chronopia minis, some Leviathan metals, lots of old Grenadier barbarians and mongols and some Ral Partha, in addition to some early Harlequin miniatures.

But there were also bright spots in the darkness. Almost everything that had been primed was unaffected, and many minis were affected just little enough to be saved with a lot of vinegar, my trusty old nailbrush and warm, soapy water.

Which also means that it would be prudent to expect a bunch of random old minis to show up with a fresh coat of paint in the immediate future. Such as these:

These are Ral Partha Fantasy Collectors 02-06x series Goblins, marked “1979” under their bases. Probably the oldest miniatures I own.
Sculpted by Tom Meier, the O.G. fantasy miniatures sculptor, and if the stories surrounding this mythical wizard are true, the very man who first sculpted fantasy miniatures using Kneadatite, an epoxy putty that was intended for automobile repair use. Kneadatite is what today is known as Green Stuff, the putty most hand sculpted miniatures are originally sculpted in.


I took them off the square bits of platic I had glued them to and put them on some 20mm round bases to match my Lord of the Rings Goblins, that are the same size and general scale as these.
I honestly don’t remember why I have two of the 02-069 chieftain. I bought these sometime in the mid- to late 1980s and originally I think had a few more.

These are Harlequin Miniatures 2103 Kustoss Orcs Elite B from a “booster” pack of 5 identical minis. Two of them had to be written off because of the lead rot, but these three could be saved.


Sculpted by Kev White, and mounted on their original 25mm bases.
These were released in 1996 or 1997.
The Kustoss Orcs were all armoured in this “clean” style, which set them apart from the reigning scrapyard Warhammer Orc look of the day.

Other stuff I have painted recently:

This is Reaper 30005 Bhonk, Bugbear Chieftain, from their Bones USA line.
After learning about SIOcast, I strongly suspect that Bones USA is either that or something very similar. The circumstantial evidence point towards this.
Sculpted by Bobby Jackson
40mm base

Iron Reich Goblin with panzerfaust.

Some time ago I bought some Kromlech Ork Juggernauts from an online shop via ebay, and there was a wrong part in the box. I contacted Kromlech, who supplied the correct part without any ado, and also graciously included this mini as a surprise token of goodwill. I really appreciated that. Thank you, Kromlech!


I have not been able to find this specific mini on Kromlech’s website, so I don’t know if it is simply discontinued or some sort of special promo or somthing like that.

However, there are several similar minis, as the line it belongs to is very much alive.

Unkown sculptor
Resin, 30mm base

Painted so far this year:   (Miniatures:  230 / 365 goal // scenery and terrain: 6)
January: 38 // 5
February: 20
March: 11 / 1
April: 8
May: 13
June: 20
July: 87 
August: 33

[per day #234: -4] lagging behind again.

Categories: Bones / PVC, Climbing Lead Mountain, FOGS, Harlequin, It came from Ebay, kromlech, Metal, Ral Partha, Reaper, Resin, Ye Pile of OldeTags:

1 comment

  1. What is called “Lead Rot” is technically due to other metals in the alloys.

    At Heritage, and then Texas Miniatures, and then Genesis Gaming Products, which eventually became Reaper, we used an alloy that was effectively no different than that of Ral Partha, Citadel, Grenadier, Essex and a few other “Historical Miniatures” companies, and the smaller companies like Martian Metals, or Dragons Tooth (Mithril miniatures, and thus the other companies connected to them, like Prince August, seem to have escaped this with either pure lead, or a rapid change to a less problematic metal).

    But that Alloy was Lead, Antimony, Bismuth, Tin, and Zinc.

    Guess which metals there are the biggest problem (It isn’t the lead).Google “Zinc Pest” and “Tin Pest” and you will see images that are EXACTLY what was (is) thought to be “Lead Rot.”

    I was probably the first to discover this, but due to my personal history, it rapidly got swept under the rug, and both the US miniature companies, and Bryan Ansell’s then recent purchase of Games Workshop figured it was no big deal since they were switching to alloys where these were less of a problem (Zinc and Tin Pest are still a problem with SOME of the Alloys used by miniature makers, but given how huge this issue became in the late-80s, it was something that didn’t come up often, and the miniature companies themselves weren’t going to bring it up — It was 1985 when I discovered it on about 2,000 Citadel Miniatures that I had brought back from England. The darker metal they used for a short while turned-out to have a really high amount of BOTH Tin and Zinc, which lead to an increased opportunity for both, which are caused by different reactions.).

    The “Tin Pest” is the worst of the two, as it is a self-catalyzing reaction. Once it starts, it feeds on itself, and stopping it is nigh impossible. It is initially catalyzed by the exposure of the metal to a low temperature. In pure tin, this is just 52ºF, but Alloying the Tin typically lowers the temperature.

    Zinc Pest DOES require Lead to start. Zinc Alloys with lead were used by a LOT of toy-makers in the 20th Century, because the lead was and is so much cheaper than Zinc.The Zinc Pest is what your vinegar soaking MIGHT halt (Usually it works. There are situations where it won’t, which have to do with trace minerals in the lead contaminants). But the Tin Pest… There is no stopping that save to cut the affected areas COMPLETELY off the rest, and to make certain they NEVER drop below 50ºF.

    A great many of the miniatures were stuff painted for displays for Ral Partha or Citadel. (They had been shipped back to Texas via New York, and while in Customs in New York in early-May 1984 they had some “unseasonably cold weather” — Not surprising given that the winter of 1983/84 in the USA was one of the coldest in recorded History for much of the USA — resulting in the initiation of the reaction that only became visible that summer, after I had painted many of them).

    It sucks… But, “Lead Rot” is really Zinc Pest or Tin Pest (depending upon the reaction and Alloy).

    (Oh! If you are interested in a certain very rare dragon that is often referenced in company of poultry, that is going back into production soon. The molds were a part of the reasons that the boxes sat in customs long enough to mess-up the metal in the miniatures…. ).

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Tom Trussel

Part time author of dark, short fiction

Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Azazel's Bitz Box.

Painting, Modelling, Miniatures, 1:6, Games... Whatever else I find interesting.

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