For the first few years, Wizards of the Coast didn't really merchandise Magic: The Gathering. Maybe they didn't predict just how big the game was going to be in 1993, and it wasn't until later in the '90s did they really capitalize on that. In part due to that, there were a number of oddities.
A small Oregon company made the game's first tokens in a third party capacity. When WotC finally did license a product, is was a poster made by a Western New York charity. So, in 1994, when the first third party Magic miniatures were finally made, it set off a chain of events that led to one of the longest lasting Vice Presidents in Wizards of the Coast history.
And it's a real heartbreaker of a story (so to say).
Based in Pennsylvania, Heartbreaker Hobbies was founded in 1991 and specialized in making miniatures. In the first few years they had some lines up and going, including miniatures of Earthdawn and Leviathan. But then Magic: The Gathering got big. And, with no one else filling that market hole, Heartbreaker did what it did best and cranked out miniatures. A lot of miniatures.
A total of 48 types were made and put into packages in 1994. Based on characters from cards from all bases and expansion up to that point, the pewter minis were the first of their kind for Magic and helped the idea of pushing forward into new merchandise. Miniature number one was the MTG sort-of icon Hurloon Minotaur, while even non-creatures like instants, such as Natural Selection, got them too. Pretty much everything that could be a miniature up to that point was made into one. And what do you expect - they were the first ones.
However, as the '90s pushed on, things begin to change in an unusual way. See, Heartbreaker was founded by Bob Watts who, by the time of the Magic miniatures, was riding high off the success. Heartbreaker wound up producing no more minis after 1994, but it got the attention of Wizards of the Coast. Heartbreaker went through a few rounds of mergers before finally going bankrupt in 1999, but Watts, partially through his Heartbreaker work and doing right by Magic, became Wizards of the Coast from '99 to 2001.
What started as a small miniature company led to being one of the top positions at one of the largest gaming divisions in the world, with an influential part of it being some small pewter minotaurs. And who said the American dream is dead?