Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cheap is Good, But Free is Even Better!

First, here’s a link to the blog post illuminating the genesis of the Sarah Mink’s Croi Damsha; it’s definitely worth the read, for a number of reasons:

There may be a Stallion and Foal to match in the not too distant future. Wouldn’t that be lovely? More about that another time - let’s get back to the history!

I found the thing I was looking for - an early design for the original Stablemates packaging. The scan has been tweaked a bit to improve legibility, because the acetate was a bit yellowed and covered with bits of crusted stickum:

It’s not quite what I remembered - I thought it was more specific about the offer, but it isn't. I don’t have the reverse, so I don’t know what they had planned, if anything.

But goodness - if there had been a "Buy [this many] Stablemates, get a [special?] Stablemates Free!" offer, I would have been all over that like my brother was with the original Kenner Boba Fett action figure.

Worse, maybe, if it had involved some super-scarce exclusive one and not just some random Stablemate from the warehouse. Though an ordinary Regular Run Stablemate would have been good, too, as long I could have specified which one.

Back in those dark pre-Internet days, that would have been almost as powerful a draw as something rare and exclusive.

If your local stores didn’t get certain items or colors, you didn’t have a lot of recourse. I remember that the Stablemate Foals were especially hard to get around here - only one local store (a Circus World!) got some in, but they were long gone by the time we visited again.

The Stablemate assortment at the Kmart across the street didn’t have any either - either they sold quickly, or didn’t get them in the first place. My parents had to physically drag me away from that display because I wouldn't leave until I found them.

I did, eventually - they were one of the first things I bought from The Bentley Sales Company, shortly after "discovering" the hobby a few years later. I bought the Chestnut ones, along with the Dapple Gray Saddlebred and Chestnut Morgan Stallion, off one of their Discontinued Sales Lists.

I would have gladly sent in several proofs-of-purchase for any one of them.

Again, I have a hard time imagining a BOGO-style offer would be feasible in the here and now, due to cost. The closest thing we have now are the Stablemates that come with the Vintage and Premier Club memberships, and with the Exclusive Events.

It’d be nice if they could extend it to a program that doesn’t involve massive outlays of cash, though. Because again, part of the appeal of Stablemates is that they’re cheap. And free is the best kind of cheap!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Still Waiting for the Other Shoe

Well, that didn’t take long: Glossy Vintage Club Mr. Chips, yo.

The piece count this time is 95; Lucy’s was 80, so it seems safe to say that they’re making 500 pieces of these Vintage Club Bonus models anyway, and just glossing the unsold remainder. That they sold fewer of the Mr. Chips than the Lucy makes sense, since only his paint job could be classified as Vintage. 

Since it’s technically a Vintage Club exclusive, I’m a bit hesitant to put it in the same category as Frosty, Cosette, Mischief, the Warehouse Specials, the Two Foal Set, et al. What I’m think of will be something available to more people, and it’ll make a significant portion of the hobby lose it.

I know what you're thinking, but the Premier Club Croi Damsha doesn’t count either. I am a little surprised at the intensity of the drama leading up to her (presumed) unveiling this week, especially since the only thing we didn’t know about that was the specifics. (Me, the Vintage Models Forever person, almost joined the Premier Club last year because of it. My loss!)

Anyway. Here’s another BreyerFest addition I haven’t talked about yet, the little Pink Appaloosa Stablemate Birthday Cake:

I’m not normally a big fan of the color pink, but my first reaction to seeing it in person was Oh, I could just eat you up!

Like almost everything else in the Anniversary Store, Birthday Cake sold out too, in spite of having a 2000 piece run. (I received mine through the kind graces of a friend, since my schedule and circumstances kept me from even attempting the Anniversary Store).

I’m assuming that the experiment succeeded, and this means we’ll be seeing another Commemorative/Souvenir Stablemate next year - I hope with either a bigger piece count, or a stricter limit enforced on purchases.

There’s been some talk among hobbyists about a Stablemates-of-the-Month Club: namely, why don't we have one yet? The demand is certainly there for one. The primary prohibitive factor there is cost: once you factor in postage, packaging, promotion and manufacturing, the price per month would end up being $12-15 each.

This is not out of line for what the BreyerFest One-Day Stablemates go for, but for hobbyists used to getting individually carded Stablemates for four bucks, retail? It might be a bridge too far. Part of the addictive nature of Stablemates is that they’re cheap: forty bucks can get you one nice Traditional Horse - but 10 Stablemates! More, if you do your homework. (Y'all know about the Ollie's sale, right?)

Double the price, and some are going to hesitate. That Birthday Cake sold out as quickly as it did was partly because she was only five bucks, not ten.

There are creative ways of getting around the cost problem. They could double them up (like the Classics Foals), sell them quarterly in sets rather than monthly, charge a one-time flat fee for a year’s subscription, or set up various BOGO offers (Buy One SR, Get One RR Free!)

Actually, I think they did consider doing something like that when Stablemates were first introduced, if I’m remembering right. I’ll have to go digging for the evidence later this week.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I never did get around to introducing you to the Silver Filigree Misty I got during the Great Post-BreyerFest Silver Rush:

I call her Crinkles, because she reminds me of the aluminum foil that both my Grandmothers saved and reused until it crinkled to bits. Oddly, the white plastic underneath the silver paint seems shinier and more sparkly than the silver itself, but I think it’s an effect of the textured surface than any trick of the paint.

With all the Special Runs they’ve been throwing at us willy-nilly this Fall, it makes me wonder if we’re getting at least one more: this time, another Silver Filigree. Silver Filigrees are not quite a Holiday Web Special tradition, but it’s happened enough that collectors can be forgiven somewhat for thinking it is:
2008: Othello - Silver Snow
2010: Esprit - Alpine
2011: Weather Girl - Mont Tremblant
2013: Brishen - Aspen
It’s interesting to note that these molds were all relatively "new" when their corresponding Silver Filigree Special Run was released. Yes, I considered the Othello "new" then: while the mold existed in Nonplastic form much earlier, the mold made its Plastic debut in 2007 with the popular Christmas Horse Wintersong.

The most likely candidates for a possible Silver Filigree Special would be newer molds like Latigo, Ashquar, or Carrick. However, Carrick is a Tractor Supply Special (Travis); Ashquar is a Flagship Special (Sahran); and Latigo was just announced as a Collectors Club 2015 Web Exclusive (in Palomino Pinto, named Tallulah).

As we’ve seen with the Goffert and Carrick molds this year, though, Reeves isn’t squeamish about putting out multiple unrelated Special Runs from the same mold in rapid succession. For some reason Ashquar seems like the most likely candidate among the most recent mold releases; he’s only had the one release (Sahran) since his debut last year.

But we’re speaking of hypotheticals; I haven’t heard anything concrete. In fact, I haven’t heard anything at all about anything, but I haven't been online much lately. It may well be that Reeves might think we are Silver Charmed and Filligreed out after BreyerFest, and is currently plotting something else.

Or nothing at all.

Actually, I’d love to take a breather and not have to worry about any more Specials of any kind for the rest of the year. Silver Filigrees or otherwise.

Don't think that'll happen, though.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The First Black Stretched Morgan Variation

First, there's another web exclusive - this time, a set of Classics Foals, with blankets, named Poncho and Champ. Smart move: these are exactly the kinds of models that younger hobbyists were looking for at BreyerFest this year; I could have sold the Classics Foals I did have many times over. It’s nice to see Reeves is doing its market research homework.

Anyway, time to finish up the series on Black Morgans, with this fellow:

If an average collector has any Variations of the Black Morgan, it’s the first: bald-faced, four stockings, and black hooves. They made him for a while this way - most of the 1960s, near as I can figure; the earliest ones had handpainted eyewhites. The black hooves eventually became gray hooves, then in 1970 the bald face was replaced with a star.

You wouldn’t have known that to look at the catalog photos, though: they used stock photos of the Bald-Faced Variations in Dealer Catalogs and Collector’s Manuals through 1975. They did use a correct Star-Faced photo on the white photo/picture boxes that debuted in 1973.

That disparity I attribute to a case of being cheap rather than inattentive, lazy, or incompetent.

There are no special stories or memories associated with the Stretched Morgan featured above. I’ve gone through a number of models in this Variation, never quite finding the "right" one; I had to purchase this better-than-average example at a local antique market - at an antique market price. (More than I usually pay, but still less than what most hobbyists pay retail). That’s it.

Because my collection is at a certain size and density, any model that doesn’t come with the perfect combination of beauty and backstory is potentially up for resale - as is the case with this model. I still have plenty of other Black Stretched Morgans to keep me company, in addition to all the others I've already mentioned here: my original (visually ordinary) one, a nice gray-hoof Baldy, and the Gray Plastic one.

As for variations I don’t have in the collection yet, I wouldn’t mind locating a Short Sock Variation - a later variant with socks that barely clear the pasterns - but I’m in no rush. I figure that one will make its way to me when it’s good and ready. They always have.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Almost Solid Black Morgan

This particularly handsome Black Morgan Variation - Solid Black with gray hooves, a star, and no socks - actually predates the previous two in my collection, by at least a year:

I found him at a local live show. This show had set up a "sales area" for showers who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of simultaneously showing and selling, or worry about grabby hands reaching for the wrong models. They’d drop off their sales items in the morning, and pick up whatever cash they made at the end of the day.

I hustled over to that area quickly because we had a local dealer in attendance that day with a reputation as a flipper - buying up quality pieces very low, and pricing/selling them fairly high. While I had a cordial relationship with this person, I was still in college at the time and on a super-tight budget. This dealer frequented the same flea markets I did, and I had lost out on enough goodies: it wasn't planning on letting anything good slip away that day.

This model has always been one of my favorites, but what amazes me is the reaction that others have had to him. Every time I’d take him to a show, or show off a picture of him, other hobbyists would gush over how beautiful he was.

I have to guess that the fact that I have a ton of Variations, Test Colors and Rarities has made me a little bit blasé about him. He is wonderful, but he’s only the third or fourth most-fabulous Stretched Morgan in my herd. (Not going anywhere. Don't ask.)

Odd thing was, he didn't show well. I never did figure out the disparity. If everyone loved him, why wasn’t he placing? The only thing I could come up with was that when I was actively live showing, the Stretched Morgan - especially Black ones - just happened to be on the unfashionable list. The Black Stretched Morgan, at that point, had been in production for 20 some years. Except for the Solid Black variation that everyone was looking for, he was the definition of common and uncool.

It’s certainly not the case anymore, especially since the advent of Collectibility showing. The length of the production run on the Black release is no longer a liability, but an asset: more history means more potential variations. Even without that as a consideration, opinion of the Stretched Morgan mold as a Morgan has shifted back from "not very good" to "more typey than most." If I were to start live showing again, he’d definitely get shortlisted for my showstring.

I used to think of this variation as a "small v" variation - a random, unplanned one - as opposed to a "big V" variation - a deliberate and sustained change in the production paint job. Over the years, though, I’ve seen - and heard of - a few others identical to him, and there was one on eBay recently that went for a rather impressive amount of money.

So it might have been something deliberate after all. As I’ve written before, I’m a little hesitant to classify things as "big V" variations, because that’s where madness begins. Sometimes a variation is just a variation, and doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chalky Stretched Morgan

I got lucky and threw an order in for Mischief with my Vintage Club Isabelle; I figured it’d be my last little splurge on myself before the holidays. While I figured he’d sell out eventually, I had no idea he’d sell out early this week.

I can offer no special insights why - other than having a lower piece count compared to other recent Classics specials, and all of us underestimating the power of Halloween.

Back to the Black Morgan Parade. Here’s my Chalky one:

According to my records, he was another early flea market find - a few years after the Solid Black, and not long after I had started going to the flea markets on my own. (I had a car! And a job that paid me cash money!)

I can’t recall any other details of my first encounter with him, or who he came with. Not that he was all that mundane, but finding Chalkies - good quality ones, too - was not as big a deal back then. It was more "Hey!" than "OMG!!@!1!" kind of find.

Other than his condition - exceptional, for a Chalky - he didn’t stand out enough to imprint a special memory. But just because he didn’t bowl me over when I found him doesn’t mean I didn’t love or appreciate him any less: the fact that I’ve owned him for over two decades now should be testament to my affection.  

Chalkies used to be considered sort of an odd thing to collect. Prices reflected that: more often than not, they weren’t any more expensive than non-Chalkies. In fact, their delicate nature and associated paint flaws - runs, drips, hoof puddling, softened/filled in details - were seen as detriments, in some hobbyists’ eyes.

Two of my first three Traditional models - the Man o’ War and the Smoke Western Prancing Horse - were Chalkies. I thought they were beautiful: they were the models that made me fall in love with model horses. While I didn’t necessarily seek more Chalkies out at first - once I knew what they were - I bought the ones I did find.

And after so many years of doing that, I ended up with a pretty decent-sized collection. The last time I took an official tally, it was somewhere around 30 pieces.

Then they became popular, and I stopped seeking them out on eBay and at BreyerFest, because they stopped being affordable on my budget. Most of the ones I pick up now are local finds.

Even so, I still manage to add to the collection on a regular basis; you may recall the fabulously nice Palomino Family Foal I found earlier this year. And there was that cool Black Bear Mama from a couple years back.

The Morgan is sort of in the middle of the scale in terms of rarity  - not as common as the Appaloosa Performance Horse or Yellow Mount, but considerably more common than the Misty or Bucking Bronco. He also comes in an "unpainted" version where the gray of his plastic is allowed to show through the unpainted areas of his star and stockings, giving him an unusual (and not unappealing) two-tone effect.

I’ve found a couple of other standard basecoat Chalky Morgans over the years but my first, thankfully, was my best.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Solid Black Morgan

The brain is still not in writing mode, so here’s another picture - one of the many Black Stretched Morgan variations that seem to follow me home like lost puppies. Up first is one of my first big finds at the flea market, Stretched Morgan or otherwise:

Solid Black! Well, almost solid black - he does have a chipped ear, revealing pinkish-purple plastic underneath. Solid Black Morgans mostly - though not exclusively - date to the Chalky Era of the early 1970s. Why bother basecoating a model, when you can just paint it solid black, instead?

Allegedly some Solid Blacks were made as trophy models for the American Morgan Horse Association, around the same time. As far as I know, they’d be indistinguishable from the Regular Run Variations - unless they came with the documentation to prove otherwise.

In either case, the Solid Black Morgan is quite the rarity: I haven’t found another Solid Black Morgan since then. The prices I see them bringing on the secondary market make it unlikely that I’d ever be able to upgrade my boy if I wanted to.

Fortunately for me, it’s a low priority. Aside from the fact that he was one of my first "scores", the story of that score is also a keeper.

Many, many years ago I went with my family to an indoor flea market, one best known in these parts for having a dealer who carried most of the then-current Hagen-Renaker line. And also for a taxidermied Cheetah, but that’s another story. (The flea market, I mean, not the dealer.)

One dealer near the entrance had a small selection of Traditional Breyers - maybe a half dozen pieces - all priced at ten dollars apiece. I picked up the Morgan and stared at it, entranced; the dealer noticed my interest and said "I can go eight on the horses."

"All I have is seven." I answered back, matter-of-factly.

The dealer paused, nodded, and said "Okay, seven." And wrapped him up for me.

A few aisles later, Dad nudged me and whispered "That was a pretty smooth move you pulled back there." He was so proud: my daughter, the canny horse-trader.

I had to break it to him that the truth was far more mundane. "Dad, seriously, all I had was seven dollars!"