Not so precious…
Games Workshop’s (GW) range of Lord of the Rings figures based on the movie trilogy is currently in full production and likely to remain so for some years to come. Nearly all of the figures can be bought from GW, either from their shops or, in a few cases, by mail order. It is not out of print nor is it a ‘collectable’ game so there are very few rare figures either from low distribution or artificially contrived rarity. If you see a figure listed as rare/ ultra-rare (usually with lots of exclamation marks to show the buyer how rare it is !!!!!) you can be sure that, apart from a few rare exceptions, it's not.
Here is a list of figures which you might see classified as rare in order from the least to the most collectible using the beloved "!" to make the point!.
= not rare, = more rare
1.Battle games in Middle-Earth (BGiME) “exclusives”
Perhaps the least exclusive of any exclusive figures, ever. GW teamed up with DeAgostini to produce a ‘part-work’ (the publisher was different in different countries – Editions Atlas in France, for example). They made a periodic magazine with rules, painting and modeling guides and a figure (or a sprue of plastics).
This series was immensely popular – I have heard it was the best selling part-work ever for some publishers and the series was extended more than once. As a result, the figures that came with the magazines are very common. During the initial run some figures were sold as BGiME Exclusives. However, ALL of these “Exclusives” have since been made available as part of the normal range of figures available from GW and given the high distribution of this magazine they are probably some of the commonest LotR figures available. They include:
- Rohan Royal Guard Standard Rider
- Armored Boromir
- Armoured Faramir
- Conversion Kit
2. Direct Only Models (DO)
Some figures can only be bought by mail order direct from GW – however they are freely available and not in anyway limited or rare. GW want you to buy these figures and this is just a gimmick to encourage you to buy direct from them. You can pick up the phone or go online today and order these figures (by the hundreds if you want to resell on ebay with lots of !!!’s).
In some countries GW offer Mail Order facilities in their shops with no postage costs so these figures are available to anyone with access to a GW shop, telephone or internet – I guess that shows how ‘rare’ they are. If you are going to pay full retail price you might as well order them direct from GW who has excellent customer service. Also, the list of DO figures differs between countries and independent retailers seem to be able to stock these items anyway. Even the GW UK websites makes no mention that these figures are in anyway limited. Figures in this category include:
- Watcher in the Water (tentacles)
- Gandalf and Cart
- Mahud Chieftan
- No man can kill me diorama
- Death of Gothmog diarama (planned but unreleased as of May 2008)
3.Limited Editions (LE)
GW often produces “Limited Edition” figures, either to promote a new release, event or sometimes just for the heck of it. For LotR there have been two LE figures so far.
- Frodo Wearing the One Ring – a transparent resin version of the Frodo figure from the Ringwraith on Fellbeast Boxed Set. This was released with the ‘new’ version of the rule book. Although no longer available direct from GW, it is often on sale on ebay and can be bought mint for close to original retail price (and I still find copies in other shops to this day).
- Gimli on Dead Uruk-Hai – This was released with the online Middle-Earth campaign run by GW – although I have seen it available at other times. Ebay also seems well stocked with this figure so don’t sell your house to buy it.
UPDATE MAY 2008: Gimli on Dead Uruk-Hai is now available in the 2008 Collectors catalogue and should be reclassified as a MO only figure
It is said that LE miniatures often sell in greater numbers than their unlimited counterparts (which I guess is the goal of making them LE in the first place) and since this range is currently in production I would not be surprised if these figures were re-re-released with some future event…
I could add here the Helms Deep and Minas Tirith fortress models which were available for a limited time as well as the Forgeworld Amon Sul model which is currently not in production but it has been re-released before and might be again…
A couple of models were withdrawn soon after release for various reasons. Initial sets of Battle at Kazad Dum included a Balrog with metal wings. The metal rings were soon replaced with plastic ones because of production issues so this is an uncommon figure but probably sells second-hand for the same price as the new model. There was apparently a 4th Maranon Orc pose also withdrawn as it ripped the moulds.
5.Special promotional items
- Frodo wearing the one ring. This was an empty scenic base with foot prints which was given as a prize in GW painting competitions in US. Personally I find it an uninspiring piece but it is quite rare.
- A small Weathertop scenic item was given to stores to promote the figures and posters, displays and other shop only items are also available but of interest only to hardcore collectors
Some promotional items were given out with the film premieres but most seem to have made it into general release at some point: none of the figures were exclusive – just the packaging…
I have little info on unreleased models although I have heard rumors of a Barrow Wight, an alternate Cave Troll and an Orc Drummer that did not make general release. Seeing how difficult it is to get information on these I imagine they would be even more difficult to get a hold of.
7.Peter Jackson as a hobbit ...
The holy grail for LotR collectors. As far as I am aware there are only two of these in existence – one was for the director himself and the second is in the GW museum. If you had one of these for sale it would merit all the !!!!'s you could muster
Please feel free to contact me regarding this guide, in particular if you know af any other figures which should be included.