As I’ve mentioned before, I’m involved in the OSFMapa and so far I’ve written a couple of articles for it. Some of the other guys’ articles are amazing showcases of old, rare, and/or finely painted miniatures. I don’t have very good photography skills, and although some of my minis are quite old, I don’t think I have many rarities. So instead I’ve written about painting guides from the 70s and 80s, and last time I focused on Heritage USA’s paints and painting guides. Actually I didn’t have a lot to say about the paints, I mostly did what I could to find out what Heritage’s signature primer was (spoiler: it almost certainly gesso, although one source insists it was house paint base…). Anyway my research into Heritage couldn’t be complete without asking Willard Dennis a lot of questions, and honestly he’s the main source of info in that article. Willard is familiar to anyone who delves into Heritage and its history, because he is very generous with his time, answer all kinds of questions about the company. He worked as a mold maker for Heritage and unlike some of the former employees, he is willing to talk! If you poke around the two Yahoo! groups devoted to Heritage Models, you’ll find that he answers a lot of the questions with no nonsense.
Anyway since I started asking him about Heritage paints, he remembered that he had some bottles somewhere, and even offered to send them to me if I’d cover the postage! Who could turn that down? 30+ year old miniatures paint, some of it still salvageable!
Opening the bottles, I found that about half of them were beyond saving, but the other half were in pretty good shape. Willard had mixed water into all the bottles, and I’ve since read that maybe adding water to old acrylics is not the best way to restore them (it introduces bacteria and/or fungal spores which can grow in the paint, and too much water can mess up the polymer emulsion of the paint base), but they actually seem quite useable. The pigment is intense, and the paints seem to dry rather quickly (I had a small spill when I opened the package!).
The paints included several ‘specialties’ from Heritage’s sci-fi and fantasy lines, including a ‘phosphor’ (glow-in-the-dark) that looks like it is still good. There were also a fluorescent ‘laser’ paint that is dried up, but which reminded me of the short-lived attempt I made to paint some minis in fluorescent Polly-S paints for use under black lights (no, really!). Finally there was a ‘ground work’ paint which Willard explained was basically dark green/brown paint with flocking mixed in. Heritage offered other interesting specialty paints, that I don’t think any other company tried: ‘crackle’ paint, ‘mithril’ which was apparently metallic flacks in a clear base, and more. They certainly weren’t afraid to experiment. I don’t quite have a complete palette of Heritage paints, but I’ll try to use them to paint up some old Heritage minis I have. Of course I’ll try to use the ‘stain painting’ method Heritage developed. 🙂
The catalogs I’ve found don’t list the large bottles except for a few utility colors (including primers, varnishes, and ‘ground work’) — I’m not sure if the large bottles of other colors, with the fantasy/sci-fi labels, were actually sold in stores or just something Willard got as an employee. I forgot to ask about that.
Here’s a shot of the label on the Sci-fi/Fantasy paints:
Opposite the wizard is a space-suit wearing sci-fi character.
I think the paint survived so long in part because they’d been left closed for most of the 30 or so years they were in Willard’s possession — he admits that he was not all that into painting. I also noticed that the lids, which are metal, have a small rubber dome inside them, which must have served as a gasket to give the jars a great seal. The large bottles are soft plastic and the small jars are a hard plastic. I used to get Polly-S paints in similar jars to the small ones and they always had problems with drying out. Pretty much every other paint from back then just had flat pieces of glossy cardboard under the lids, and they always absorbed paint, tore, and lost the ability to form a good seal. The Heritage paints, with their built-in rubber gaskets, were perfectly designed to keep paint from drying out. I will re-use the jars that I can’t save for that reason.
The bottles all smelled a bit like bong water to me, but it could just be old cigarette smoke or other garage smells. I hesitate to wash them off though because I’d hate to ruin the original labels.