Wednesday 24 December 2014

Citadel Miniatures and Christmas: A potted history

The first Citadel Christmas miniature. A mail order special by all accounts. Part of the collection of Billy Bunter.

Ho ho ho! Fresh from upsetting the 'serious' clique of Citadel traders with a post about the truth behind the business of buying and selling old school GW miniatures, I thought it was time to settle down and enjoy some Christmas cheer. Mince pies, Christmas ale, the family argument... followed along by me trying the squash myself into last year's Christmas jumper!

Suitably attired, I made my way down the stairs to settle myself down in front of the modelling table. With the wife's official command of 'no jobs' to be done today, I find myself free of any real responsibility for quite some time (well a couple of hours). What shall I do with my newly acquired freedom? Finish off my McDeath minis? Begin my 1987 Citadel giant? Complete the painting of my model Oldhammer cottage?

No, I spin off into that perennial time waster that is the internet, browsing through the many festive posts that grognards the world over share this time of year. It doesn't take long to stumble across some of the vintage miniatures that Citadel Miniatures put out back in the less corporate and cynical 1980s and every year I kick myself and think 'why didn't I get one of those to paint this year?' 

Then I commit myself to getting hold of one of them for the next Christmas period, but I always manage to forget and shift my attention to other things. So what better use of this sudden and unexpected free time but to delve into the depths of Christmas past and bring you a celebration of all the festive figures that were put out in times gone by. 

Ho ho ho, indeed! 

The Mail Order Father Christmas 1981 (edit- by the Perrys)

This model is a new one on me and is so rare that I have only just discovered it, despite years and years of research. But then, freewheeling through the history of Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures is always a journey of discovery. I don't actually know much about this model beyond it was part of a mail order promotion in the year 1981. As you will have seen, the only painted version I could uncover was in the collection of Billy Bunter and I will share his rear view (the miniature, not Billy's - sorry ladies and Chico!) 

As an aside, if you haven't checked out Billy's incredible collection of fully painted classic Citadel then you really should. In my opinion it is the finest collection in the world and is a joy to browse through. Follow the link for a lovely Christmas present of visual stimulation. 

On to the model itself, and the second version you can see here is taken from the CCM archive and is the only other visual record I could find of the figure. I really like the model though I cannot be certain who sculpted it and there are obvious parallels to Gandalf striding through the wilds, and there should be. Father Christmas shares a close pedigree with the wizard from the Lord of the Rings, and share the same root of being Woden, the old English god (similar in many ways to Odin) and a suitably wise and bearded figure, slightly dangerous, with a perchance to give gifts!

Like many single piece models sculpted by an artist, the model is charming in its composition if a little primitive by later standards. Still it feels real to be (unlike multi-part plastic kits) and reminds me of the things that the Wargames Foundry put out from time to time. 

Funny that.

A rear shot showing Father Christmas' sack (cue Chico!) and his long staff.

Dwarf Santa - Aly Morrison Chester Store Opening Special 1985

This example is from the collection of Steve Blease, the famous blogger and proprietor of Bleaseworld.
If the first model is not well known, at least to me, then this model is the precise opposite. The Dwarf Santa model is a regular on eBay and can sell for a reasonable amount, especially in the spring, but is still victim to silly price syndrome from the rip off merchants online. According to legend, they were produced to celebrate the opening of the Chester GW store in the winter of 1985 and were handed out. There must have been a great number of people there as there are quite a few of these in people's collections though I suspect that it was cast up for subsequent Christmases due to the frequency of them appearing for sale or in collections. 

Obviously, this figure lacks the gravitas of Father Christmas, despite the red coat and bristling white beard. I get the feeling that he started life as a regular dwarf and the Christmas bits were added later. Still, he is a great fun figure full of dwarfish charm and no doubt ready to strike down goblinoids and consume drams of whiskey in equal measure. Its the tab that I like the most though, and the image below this piece of text shows you what was printed on it. MERRY XMAS. A nice touch.

This painted example can be found, along with loads of other quality miniatures on the Bleaseworld site. Just follow the link to see more of Steve's stuff.

Space Santa- Bob Naismith Limited Edition LE6

Space Santa, complete with Christmas cracker inspired raygun? From the collection of Sho3box.
Back in the days when Bryan ran things and GW produced new products all the time, a sense of fun prevailed and Citadel put out lots of zany limited edition miniatures. The term limited edition is a bit silly really, because all things are ultimately limited, aren't they, but the term does make good commercial sense for obvious reasons. This model started life as a festive release back in 1985 and according to what we know, was sculpted by Bob 'I invented the Space Marines' Naismith. 

Again, like the Dwarf Santa, this model is often seen for sale at a range of prices on eBay and other places so there must be a great number of them kicking about. In fact, Sho3box, who painted the model, got his in a trade from Just John (a thoroughly nice chap to share a few drinks with at an Oldhammer Weekend) who had a spare - still in its packaging! 

Here's Sho3box's photograph below.

I bet the 1980s air trapped inside there smelled great when it was released. 
It looks nice in the packaging, doesn't it? Pristine, and some collectors like their models this way. Thankfully, Sho3box is like me and collects his miniatures to paint up and used so he didn't waste time getting this chap cleaned up, based and fully painted. And he has done a really nice job too. I included an other 'from behind' shot which I have shared below so you can further appreciate his painting and have a look at what the back of this model looks like. 

Oh, and before you continue reading this little Christmas missive, why not drop off at Sho3box's blog and have a peruse around as there is quite a lot of interesting things to be seen there. 

I lot of fun could be had with this model in scenario terms, especially if you are playing a wacky Rogue Trader game. 
 Sanity Claws- Bob Naismith LE16 1986

You wouldn't want this coming down your chimney, would you?
Bob Naismith was the mastermind behind this handsome chap, and it seems that the Christmas sculpt was very much his responsibility in the mid 1980s, doesn't it? Now I have read in various places of people's confusion over why this miniature was released at all, apart from the obvious Christmas connection as nothing in the Warhammer Mythos contained anything like this. Well the answer is simple, GW had just published their version of the classic RPG Call of Cthulhu (the third edition of the game) and this miniature, Lovercraftian with a little British humour, was created in celebration of that event. 

He even made the cover of White Dwarf in December 1986 in a work of art by great, and chaotic, Ian Miller! 

The first Citadel cover star! 

Here is Sanity Claws on his sleigh (slay?) whirling through the skies of the Old World. White Dwarf December 1986
We will return to Billy Bunter's brilliant collection for this model as the diorama he has shared with us is first rate. The image above is a close up shot of what you can see in all its glory below. I love this little scene; the old house, the rope and grappling hook and old Sanity Claws himself ready to 'drop off' a few presents. 

Mistletoe and slime no doubt! 

Sanity Claws. From the collection of Billy Bunter.

Now that we can see the model from both sides all the amusing little details spring out at us. He appears to be carrying in one hand some type of bell, though I very much doubt anyone alerted to his presence will be wanting to sit on old Sanity's knee, if indeed he has a knee at all! But its the rear shot of the sack that I like the most, with the tear in the material and the hand hanging out!

A great fun figure and my personal favourite of the lot. 

Chaos Santa- Perry Twins limited release date unknown

I know a bloke like this. From the collection of Billy Bunter.
Another great painted miniature from Billy Bunter's collection. This time we have the Chaos Santa model who is also a regular on eBay. I am not sure of the date of this release, so if anyone reading this knows any more than I, please do get in contact with us and share what you know. What I can say is the model must have been produced after 1985 as it has a slottabase and MERRY XMAS is once more written across the tab! If I was to hazard a guess, I would say 1987, but this is only conjecture as miniatures seem to have been released for Christmas in 1985, '86 and '88. 

It certainly follows a pattern.

Slottabase, Slottabase, Slottabase all the way...

As before, I have included a 'rear shot' of the model so you can appreciate the detail and quirks on the model. This time, the figure has an even more gruesome bag of presents and seems to be holding a lump of flesh in place of a mince pie. He is also armed with a rather hefty looking axe and wears a rather fetching chaos cultist mask. If this model is from 1987 then there may be an additional connection to GW lore. 1987 was of course the release of Slaves to Darkness, so a link to the Dark Gods would have been most appropriate. 

Oh what fun it is to ride...
Dark Future Santa 1988

This little chap is a bit of a mystery but I know a little about him. He is a Dark Future scale model so much smaller than the miniatures we have discussed thus far. Again, like many of the others he is a popular eBay listing but does suffer from some very silly prices. Even so, like all the Christmas models he is very collectible, despite his small stature. 

If you don't know, Dark Future was a car combat game released in 1988 and set in a alternative history of the USA. Its great fun and something I once began a project on, but the lure of this blog and its subsequent success put paid to that idea for a while. It had a fairly short lifespan and was discontinued in the early 1990s, probably due to the fact that it didn't have anything to do with the main Warhammer brand. If we follow the pattern of thinking at Citadel I have suggested in this post, it makes sense to have a Dark future release in 1988 alongside the game. 

This example comes from the Solegends site dedicated to the Citadel Santas but I don't know whose collection they belong to. If you know, please do share. 

And Finally... The Christmas Marines 1987

The infamous Christmas Marines from a WD advert. I had these once, but had to sell them during a period of hard times. 
At last, the truth can be finally shared with you all. Something that Games Workshop have been trying to keep secret from the wargaming world for well over twenty years. What happened to the missing two legions in the 40k background? There have been many theories and even mentions in the Horus Heresy fiction. Well, at last I can reveal the truth to you. 

It seems that the two missing legions appeared on the scene in the very early says of Rogue Trader, though in exactly what order remains to be decided. Its seems to me that the infamous 'Christmas Legion' appeared second and as they are more relevant to this post we shall discuss them first. Little is known about this Legion save that they were a festive bunch whose combat doctrine involved the consumption of fermented vegetable products and unruly singing. Its no wonder that they were quickly cleansed from the Imperial Records. 

They would have really got up Angron's nose! 

The other Missing Legion were called 'The Spaced Out Sons of Horus' and can be seen below. Though I believe these were released first. Nothing more is known about this Legion, save they shared the same geneseed as Christmas Legion. 

Spaced Out Marines. From the collection of Billy Bunter
Ho ho ho!

And so ends our little Christmas countdown of classic Citadel celebrations of the festive season. I really rather enjoyed researching and writing this little post and I hope you fellow Oldhammerers enjoyed reading it just as much. 

All that is left for me to say is...

Have a very Merry Christmas one and all. 



  1. Hohoho and Merry Christmas. Hope you`ll have a great time.
    Thanks for showing the various "Santas" from GW. I did not know that there were that many.

  2. Ive got the Christmas marine with the mug but have never got around to painting him

  3. a bit late for the "merry Christmas"
    a big smile came on my face when I saw the cover from the WD.
    long ago I got a Christmas greeting card from GW mail order after sending them one from the Netherlands.
    the card is the same as the WD cover.
    I still have the card and every time I look at it fun memories return.

  4. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year from Italy :-) and many thanx for your wonderfull blog :-)

  5. I think the reason the Dark Future Santa's so popular is because it is very much like the Killer Santa Robots from New Dr Who's Christmas specials....

  6. I rememered me that the Chaos Santa was released in the same year as the Santa Dwarf. At this time i'm worked in the hobby shop and they get both Santa's from the german Citadel Distributor from Hamburg

  7. i was at the Chester store opening in 1985 as it is my local store. I pretty confident the santa with the shotgun is the miniature they gave out. I had a couple in my collection. interestingly i have never seen or owned the so called 'Chester Santa Dwarf'. i'm confident someone has got them mixed up at some point and it has stuck