The Rarest of the Rare

Moraturi put together this article and sent it to me awhile ago. I've been delinquent in posting it, and I think it's wonderful. Enjoy!

The Rarest of the Rare
by Moraturi

A number of people collect the DnD minis simply to collect them. I love the skirmish game for a number of reasons, but I am also a collector. If you have read any articles about collecting, I fall into the category of "Completest". I like to own as many of the possible minis as possible. This article is about collecting the really rare stuff.

There have been a lot of minis produced by WotC over the years. Most people are familiar with the Common, Uncommon, Rare levels for minis when you are trying to collect them. Even more Rare than the Rare mini found in the typical expansion boosters are the recent "invisible" minis produced by WotC. Depending on the exact expansion, you will probably have to purchase more than one case, or buy them as singles on the secondary market. The invisibles usually occur at a frequency of about 1 (maybe 2) per brick. There are 4 bricks per case. While the chase rares are harder to get than the basic minis in a given expansion, they are still, relatively speaking, easy to find. This article is about the really hard-to-find minis out there.

There are always minis which have a higher collectable value than others. Certainly some Rares (and Very Rares) that have appeared in the expansions command high prices and have a strong collectable factor. For example, the Archfiends Driz’zt, Drow Ranger is a very hard-to-acquire piece from an earlier set. The first Gelatinous Cube which was printed in Desert of Desolation is a very sought after mini. Dragons are always in demand. Most of us collect minis for their use in the DnD Skirmish game. Even some of the Commons and Uncommons that people want in multiples for gaming purposes can command higher prices, or are more difficult to come by (like the various Undead, Goblins, Orcs or Stirges, for example). For the most part, this article is not about the minis released as part of any of the expansions. Those minis were released in high numbers, and while they have levels of rarity, in general they are part of the basic gaming system and are, again relatively speaking, easy to find. I will freely admit, however, that our hobby is getting smaller, and the minis from the earlier releases are becoming more and more difficult to acquire.

For the purposes of this list, I am only including minis that were produced by WotC and are sometimes available on the secondary market. I am specifically not going to include custom repaints by individual artists (for example, the repainted minis used as prizes for the early World Championships), which only exist as unique repaints. Most of the minis in this list can be identified by the specific text printed on the base of the mini, or by the different colors used in the paint scheme.

The order of these is mostly my own opinion about how "rare" these minis are, and in only a few cases do I know the actual production numbers, or the approximation of how many of the minis exist.

Most of the minis I list below were released as Promotional minis in some way or another. This article is not meant to be a complete list of all of the Promo minis, only some of the hard to find promos. For example, the Small Fire Elemental Promo released for the War of the Dragon Queen expansion is actually easier to find than the Small Fire Elemental from the set itself.

So here are the really difficult minis to find and collect and why they are the Rarest of the Rare:

-The Colossal Red Dragon. This is a good place to start. In 2006, WotC started to release the larger than Huge "minis". The first was the Gargantuan Black Dragon. It was followed by the Colossal Red (and then the Gargantuan Black and White Dragons). The Colossal Red "mini" was only printed in limited runs, and originally retailed in the $75 range, but now commands prices well over $200-$250, more for an unopened, in package Red Dragon. Consider yourself lucky if you got one when they came out.

-The Raistlin Majere promo repaint. This repaint is the black robed version of the Raistlin mini which was originally released as the red robed version in the Night Below expansion. This mini was originally given out as a free promo at GenCon 2007 by WotC (the base will have the letters GC07 at the beginning of the first line). That year, there were some minis dealers on the GenCon dealer’s floor who were offering $50 for each of these, that day. Some Con attendees were going back and forth between the WotC booth (getting a free mini) and going to sell it, and then repeating the process.

-The Elminster of Shadowdale promo repaint. There were only 500 of these minis printed and they were originally given away to the people who attended at a Toast to Ed Greenwood event at GenCon 2005. The original base has the text:16/60, CG 100/269 Elminster of Shadowdale followed by the WotC copyright, while the promo reads EdCon 2005, CE 100/269 in the first two lines. The paint colors are different. The biggest color difference is that the original cloak is red with yellow under it, while the repaint is brown with blue accents. Interestingly, the promo base lists Elminster in the Chaotic Evil (CE) faction, instead of Chaotic Good (CG). The misprint spawned a number of jokes directed at Ed Greenwood over the evening.

-Player Reward series minis. For the early, popular years of DDM, WotC supplied promotional minis to the regular players of the DDM skirmish game, usually in local weekly tournaments. All of these minis are repainted versions of the minis that appeared in the then-current expansion releases. All of these minis will have the letters D&DC followed by a number on the base (like D&DC26 Dwarf Wizard, for example). There were 78 minis in this series. Interestingly, the numbers only go up to D&DC77 (Phase Spider), because of an early error which had two of the minis in the series released sharing the D&DC17 number (the Longtooth Barbarian and the Burning Skeleton). The hardest of these to find are the very earliest releases (D&DC1 Stalwart Paladin, D&DC2 Daring Rogue, D&DC3 Cleric of Nerull, etc.) and the minis released towards the end of the run when the future of the Skirmish game was in question (D&DC73 Human Bandit, D&DC74 Bugbear Warrior, D&DC75 Spiderbound Drow Warrior, D&DC76 Drow Assassin). These later 4 were only given away in that year at the convention D&D Experience. D&DC77, the Phase Spider, was more common and was given away at the prerelease tournaments for Demonweb, prior to the above four.

-The Game Master Reward series. There are 15 different minis in this series, one drawn from each of the WotC expansions, starting with Archfiends and going through DemonWeb. These promos were only sent to Dungeon Masters who ran sanctioned rpg events. The paints on these are different from the expansion releases, and the base will have the letters GMR followed by the number of the release, like GMR15 Ogre Pulverizer. Some of the 15 are easier to get than others. The really hard ones to get are the earliest ones (GMR1 Dread Guard, GMR2 Scarlet Brotherhood Monk, and GMR5 Weretiger, shown above).

-Feywild minis. In early 2009, WotC was going to produce the Feywild expansion, but it was never officially released to the public. Some of the minis, however, were made and got out into the market. Some were sold directly to the secondary market, and some of the figures were sculpted identically for later expansions. If the same figure was reused in the later set, occasionally, the mini with the Feywild expansion logo on the base showed up instead of the mini with the correct expansion logo on the base. It is unknown how many of these early printings escaped into the later expansions.

-WotC employee bonus minis. These minis are very rare and difficult to find. I have come across sources which indicate that fewer than 50 of each were ever made. If you do come across one, be prepared to pay upwards of a few hundred dollars for it (depending on which of the 4 it is), if you want to own it yourself. These minis were only given out as year-end Christmas bonuses to WotC employees. There were 4 minis made with a Winter/Ice/Cold theme in the four consecutive years of 2007-10. The 1st was the Beholder "Snowball" in 2007. This Beholder was a winter version of the Eye of Flame from Dungeons of Dread. The next year, 2008, WotC gave out "Spiked Nog" which was a variation of the War Devil from Dangerous Delve, and in 2009 WotCgave the employees the Snow Angel (a variation of the Angel of Valor Legionnaire from Savage Encounters). In 2010, the Winter Umber Hulk, which was a clear plastic, cold-themed version of the Umber Hulk Delver from Desert of Desolation was given out. All of the originals came in clear plastic, individually boxed packages.

-Mialee, Elf Wizard. Really. This is probably the single rarest, hardest to find mini out there. Just not the one released in the Archfiends expansion. Back in 2003, WotC produced a DVD video game named Scourge of Worlds. At one point in the marketing, WotC was going to package a free miniature with the DVD, but it never happened that way. Mialee was chosen to be this mini. Some of the Mialee minis were made for the DVD release, but WotC never put them in the DVD packaging. Instead a very few of these minis were dropped into the regular expansion release for Archfiends, and a few lucky people in the world got this version of Mialee instead of the expansion version in their randomized booster. The paint is the same, but the base will have the letters DVD1, instead of the usual Archfiends expansion info. My impression is that the majority of these ended up in boosters that ended up going to markets in South America. There are only a couple dozen of these minis in existence.

In the Not-a-miniature category, honorable mention goes to the Dungeons and Dragons faction dice. These were made back in the day of the Original Edition of DDM. There were 4 sets of dice (one complete set had a d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, and d4), with each set of dice done in the color of the 4 factions: Yellow for LG, Green for CG, Red for LE, and Black for CE. In each set, the d20 has the faction symbol in place of the number 20. The faction dice were only ever released at the DnD Experience Convention in 2008 (?)

Another honorable mention in the map category is the original Drow Outpost map. The map first appeared as an extra insert in Dragon Magazine #337 in November, 2005. It was later reprinted on the back of the Night Below release poster. It also appears in a WotC map pack (Vaults of the Underdark) without marked Start or Victory areas. The original version is still hard to find.

On a similar subject, the earliest release posters are very hard to find, especially the Harbinger poster and the Archfiends poster.

I hope that this has been informative. If there are any minis or related game materials that you know of that were produced in low numbers or distributed in limited ways, drop me a message. There are a lot of other promo minis available, in addition to the ones listed above, and I am always interested in finding and acquiring as many as I can.

If anyone wants a complete listing of the Promo minis in the player rewards series (D&DC#), or the Game Master rewards series (GMR#), or the various other promotional minis, let me know. I still need the Harbinger poster, the faction dice and the WotC year-end bonus minis, if anyone should have those and want to part with them...

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Comments

Laurian's picture
Member since:
7 July 2011
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2 weeks 1 day

Great article, many things I did not know. Thanks!

Thenameless's picture
Member since:
27 August 2011
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4 days 20 hours

A very nice article. A few more items:

1. Bronze Wyrmling Promo

2. Angelfire Celestial Infernal Tent

3. Vinyl Battle Map from first GenCon Championship

4. There are also a few regional promos that are hard to find

alepulp's picture
Member since:
7 July 2011
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1 day 4 hours

The GenCon UK small fire elemental was very rare - I once had 3... traded up seriously.

plastic finn's picture
Member since:
7 July 2011
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3 hours 4 min

Great article, Moraturi! Thanks!

Good to know there are collecting-wise more or less like-minded people around DDM! I gave up the "complete" part with the prices on the spiked nogs of the world, though... speaking of which, I do have a couple of War Devils that have the Feywild symbol in the bottom.

I believe the Harbinger poster I have is the original release one. The one with the minis on the other side and Half-Orc Monk, Elf Pyromancer, Displacer Beast and a fourth character I cannot remember on the other? Let me check on that and get back to you.

Again - thank you for a pleasant read!

Ira's picture
Member since:
27 May 2013
Last activity:
2 days 23 hours

TheNameless wrote:
2. Angelfire Celestial Infernal Tent

Can you explain this? It was a tent - like something you go camping in?! Could you post a picture of it? I'm curious!

alepulp's picture
Member since:
7 July 2011
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1 day 4 hours

One of my friends bought the original Drizz't mini at GenCon for $125...!!!

skyscraper's picture
Member since:
10 July 2013
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4 hours 53 min

Cool stuff Moraturi. I am not a collector or a completist, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

I don't own any promotional figures, but I have the Archfiend Drizzt and the Colossal Red (and the Gargantuan Blue, Black, White and Orcus). I'm not planning on parting with any of them, but it's interesting to note that they have substantial value.

Matob Matobsen's picture
Member since:
2 December 2011
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1 hour 53 min

Nice article, but bad news.. I want that Raistlin in black robe soo much Smile)

bshugg's picture
Member since:
11 July 2011
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1 day 3 hours

I think he means table top tent. One of the folded paper stand ups for tables.

The Elminster promo had far more than 500. I remember seeing cases of them (with 144 each) at GenCon and Ed Greenwood was given a bunch of them to hand out at his various events. I have 5 myself and have sold another 5-6 over the past few years and know of many others that got handfuls of them at GenCon.