Sunday, March 26, 2017

Some Recent Shopping

A sampling of recent purchases:


A Border Fine Arts piece with original hang tag, an addition to the Duchess collection, a signed (!) first edition of Mr. Limpet (yes, the book that the film The Incredible Mr. Limpet was based on) and another sari.

It is hard to tell from the photograph, but the sari is handmade and of the most beautiful green and orange shot cotton. It’s more likely I’ll be cutting it up for a quilt than wearing it.

There have been a few other items – another Duchess, a body for my Diorama Contest entry, some interesting variations – but they’re either not ready or not suitable for prime time. I’ve been trying to keep the shopping excursions to a minimum, as some bills and the flea market will be coming up soon.

I also had the chance to see the new 2017 horses in person late last week, as work took me past one of the stores that carries the full line – including the Pocket Animals and CollectAs (though this is the one that stocked CollectAs before the deal with Reeves.)

They had a clean, perfectly masked Paint Me a Pepto, but the two new releases that almost came home with me were Xavier (the Unicorn Othello) and the Decorator Geronimo Bandera.

The Xavier was so iridescent it glowed, and the Bandera was really well executed and almost exactly how I imagined it was going to be: a plastic representation of a potmetal carnival prize horse. But after seriously considering them and a couple of the newer CollectAs, I managed to walk away from the store unscathed.

The new Reeves-CollectAs, if you haven’t already seen them, have the Breyer logo imprinted on their bellies in addition to the paper tags. Other than my Australian Stock Horse, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time examining the earlier pieces to see if there are any other subtle (or not so subtle) changes to the “new” pieces.

It’s good to know that we’ll be able to distinguish the Breyer “in the wild” sans paper tags, though.

The only other thing worth noting about the shopping trip was that they had BreyerFest brochures, that I happened to see a couple little girls pick up as they were shopping. Other than inform them that the CollectAs they were also looking at were now being distributed by Breyer, I left them alone; I figured they were already well on their way and Mom wouldn’t want some rando at the toy store to evangelize.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy National Puppy Day!

Since it is National Puppy Day, here are a couple of happy puppies to celebrate! Specifically, a pair of  eternally joyful White Breyer Poodles:


Even though the mold has come in only four colors, officially – Black, White, Silver and Woodgrain – I think I have about a dozen total and alas, no Woodgrain! (Yet.)

The Black and White ones were made for about a decade, ca. 1957 through 1967/68 (both the beginning and ends dates are a bit fuzzy, so an exact measurement there is difficult) so there are a lot of variations to keep collectors occupied, if they so choose.

And I am apparently one of them. I am considering trimming off a pup or two, for the sake of space and my sanity. (Do I really need five different White Poodles? Wait, don’t answer that!)

Anyway, the reason I’m spotlighting these two is to note the variation on the collars: some are painted on by brush, and others are clearly masked. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the variation: there are early and late pieces of both the masked and brush painted varieties, in both the scarce early Blue Collar and the later and more common Red.

The two Poodles here are both later pieces with USA mold marks, with the Masked piece on the right dating to ca. 1965. (Yes, there is a story there, soon to be told.)

There’s even a sub-variation of the collars without the white painted buckle and keeper details, and that was also inconsistently applied, too. Just to keep us on our toes I guess, like a dog will do.

Thank goodness that the Black and Whites are, by and large, plentiful and cheap. Now if they only weren’t as heavy as an average doorstop…

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quality Control and Production Thresholds

Here’s my Wailua:


Not quite as dramatic or showy as some I’ve seen, but otherwise I have nothing to complain about here. I especially like the subtle warm hints in his mane and tail, and the slightly different shade of gray on his hooves.

(Those details at the edges get me again!)

As for the conversation going on about the fact that this run appears to have been manufactured in New Jersey and not China, there’s something to be said about that. But as you might suspect, my line of thought runs a little contrary to popular opinion.

I am a little concerned about mold maintenance, especially with older molds (the Hesses) that are basically handcrafted artisan pieces. (Most of the “loss of mold detail” that gets complained about is actually overly-enthusiastic post-molding finish work, though.) And I do wish that they had another layer of Quality Control to catch a higher percentage of the garden variety “oopsies” before they get on the boat.

While I am not happy with the idea that the bulk of production has moved overseas, I haven’t had any significant issues with models made in China either – or at least, not any more problems compared to U.S. production pieces, on average. (I’ve sent a few things back, but it’s not a regular occurrence.)

Some of the issues we do see are a result of higher expectations, and the ever-more-complicated paint jobs that are a consequence of that.

Part of the research that I do on a semi-regular basis (i.e. when I get time to do it) is writing down detailed descriptions of the paint jobs for each release. Early releases can get summed up in a couple of sentences. A typical vintage Charcoal:
Body-shaded Charcoal, brown undertones; masked white mane and tail; four stockings, airbrushed, with pink hooves; extensive bald face, airbrushed, with pinked muzzle and nostrils, with some gray shading in nostrils; gloss black eyes, sometimes with hand-painted eyewhites.
But Darjeeling’s color description? That one’s going to be so long it might have a subplot. The more complicated something is, the easier it is for things to go wrong.

As to why some Web Specials – like Wailua, and previously the Croi Damsha Bramble of Berry Pony fame – are now being made here, I think it’s simply a matter of math.

It’s not cost-effective to do paint jobs at that level and (relatively) error-free on higher production Regular Run models that are supposed to retail in the 40-50 dollar range.

For a low production Special Run that retails for 160-180 dollars, however? Then it would be, especially since the purchasers of those particular pieces are expecting something close to perfect. Producing those items in the U.S. will cost more, but the extra costs will be offset by the reduced number of returns and customer service calls.

So no, I don’t see this as a harbinger of large-scale production returning the U.S. any time soon. All I am seeing is that the maximum quantity threshold for U.S. production has increased from around 200 to around 350. Maybe even a little higher than that (up to Club-level quantities?) but not much.

Friday, March 17, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Vintage

Criminy, Reeves is crushing it this year with the BreyerFest Special Runs:


When they made a reference on the blog to “one of Chris Hess’s most iconic sculpts” I assumed it was going to be one of the “Decorator Five” – the molds used for the original Decorator releases in the 1960s: Mustang, Five-Gaiter, Fighting Stallion, and the Running Mare and Foal.

I figured it had to be either the Mustang or the Running Mare: the Gaiter would have been too hard (even for Reeves!) to reconcile with the theme, the Fighter they seem to reserve for extra-special rarities like raffles and giveaways, and they rarely have a Foal Special independent of a Mare.

I thought it’d be the Mare, because (a) the Mustang recently had a pretty nice release with the 2015 Exclusive Event My Kind of Town, and (b) there was that Translucent Sample Chinese Running Mare that showed up on eBay a little while back that made me think we’d be getting something extra special on that mold in the near future.

But I am completely fine with Darjeeling, who is very reminiscent of the 2015 Western Horse release Glitterati. I am so fine with it, in fact, that I’ll probably be spending the next few days trying to reconcile myself to the notion of having to buy two tickets, instead of the “just one” I promised myself.

It makes me glad, in a way, that the Elephant Holi is a Pop-Up Store Special: while the “Tent of Despair” has its own challenges, at least I won’t have to buy another ticket.

The only thing that has me worried is that I think the Elephant will be fairly popular and may even sell out at the event this year. The Elephant is one of those Nonhorse molds that is a reliable and consistent seller with hobbyists and nonhobbyists alike – and, come to think about it, the ideal kind of Special Run for a venue that’s supposed to be geared (in theory) more towards the tourist/casual collector crowd.

Also, if there is one item in the Breyer lineup – aside from the Celebration Model – that is directly and obviously relevant to the Indian theme, it’s an Elephant.


And it has freckles and gold toenails! Gah! Prior to Holi, most of the previous production releases on the Elephant have had minimal extra detailing, outside of the eyes, mouth and tusks. It’s not something that’s noticed or noted much, because the mold’s plethora of lumps, bumps, wrinkles did most of work in the past.

But now that they’re there, they make such a difference! There is some pretty nice actual shading in the gray paint, too, underneath those decals.

I have no idea if we’ll be getting any more Vintage molds in the lineup, or another Nonhorse Ticket Special. I certainly wouldn’t mind either, though I’m sure my bank accounts would…

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Elephant of Another Color

And right on cue, an all-too-obvious Elephant clue:


Gray with painted decorations, in the same manner Elephants are decorated for the Elephant Festival, which happens a day before the Festival of Colors – Holi – that (not coincidentally!) just wrapped up.

And that’s just about what I expected. I know a lot of people were hoping or expecting a White Elephant, but the more I thought about it, the less likely it became.

First, although a White Elephant named Airavata was the mount of Indra, King of the Gods, White Elephants are more closely associated with the history and mythologies of Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia).

Second, the term “White Elephant” has some rather negative connotations I think Reeves might not have wanted to associate with a Nonhorse Special Run. Wikipedia, again:
The expressions “white elephant” and “gift of a white elephant” came into common use in the middle of the nineteenth century. The phrase was attached to “white elephant swaps” and “white elephant sales” in the early twentieth century. Many church bazaars held “white elephant sales” where donors could unload unwanted bric-a-brac, generating profit from the phenomenon that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Many organizational and church fairs still use the term today. In general use a “white elephant” usually refers to an item that’s not useful (decorative) but may be expensive and odd.
Considering some of the issues they’ve had in the past few years with Nonhorse BreyerFest Specials not selling as well as they hoped, marketing an actual “White Elephant” could be a, uh, little problematic?

The 1950s Pink Elephant was a bit cringe-worthy in retrospect, too. I tend to be somewhat more forgiving of that one since believe that that release – along with its Blue friend – were a one-time/one-run deal designed to use up colored acetate that had been earmarked for another project that had gone by the wayside.

Since the first BreyerFest Elephant Special Run – 2006’s Nimbo – was a straight-up Decorator of the Copenhagen Blue variety, it also seemed unlikely that they’d go with another, unless they were going to do the Surprise SR on it to “complete” the set. But I really doubted they would go for a Nonhorse Surprise.

Decorator Ageless Bronze – like the Commemorative Edition Durango – might have worked, and would have been a nice callback to the infamous “Bronze Glo” models that turn up from time to time, a club of whom the Elephant is a member. (Side note: I am skeptical of many “Bronze Glo” models I’ve seen. Like Gloss, it’s a finish that’s very easy to fake.)

I would have been all-in on another release with the rarely-seen plastic Howdah, but that would have been a little too “Modernistic Buck and Doe”-level obscure, I think. And I say that as someone who has advocated for another release on the Modernistic Buck and Doe.

So an Elephant in fancy festival makeup it is. The only question remaining is whether or not it will be a Ticket Special, or a Pop-Up Store Special? A difficult decision for me, either way.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Different Kind of Black Beauty

Next up: a Black Rabicano Sabino Yasmin, named Kaalee.


I haven’t seen the mold in person yet, but I am slightly obsessed with the breed she’s supposed to represent (Shagya Arabian), it’s an Eberl, and her paint job (designed by Lesli Kathman) is unique and interesting, so all signs so far point to her being a “Yes” here.

Kaalee is also very reminiscent of the original release of the Traditional #89 Black Beauty, except prettier and more correct. Allegedly she’s just as much as a shelf hog, but since I also collect the Pacer mold, I know how to deal if it becomes a deal.

Just when I thought I had made peace with my “just one ticket this year” rule. Sigh. Time to do some budget number crunching again…

I have nothing further to say about Kaalee or the Yasmin mold, other than noting that she’s the third of the last year’s three Premier Club molds in this year’s lineup. (And will make a mighty fine ladyfriend to Polaris!)

It’s good that they got the new Premier molds out of the way early for the sake of the Special Run speculations, I guess? Maybe that means the rest of the Specials will be on older molds, for balance?

While it’s pretty much a given that we’ll get the Elephant at some point, beyond that I’m going to stick to my minimal public speculating rule for the year. I’ll just go with the flow around and let it all be a surprise, more or less.

And how’s this for a surprise – I actually “won” a Wailua! It’s been two years since I’ve won a Web Special of any kind, so I was a bit gobsmacked when the e-mail showed up in my In Box. I only have the one official account and my luck is typically about average luck, but that dry streak was just starting to make me think otherwise.

The only downsides to winning are that I have to push the BreyerFest ticket buying two more weeks down the road, and I have to scale back some of my eBay bidding ambitions. (Darn it, and just when it was starting to get interesting there!)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Vahana

Oh Sweet Christmas, will you look at that:


A Bay Roan Pinto Shannondell with silver and purple braids, named Vahana. And believe it or not, it’s not a Raffle or Contest prize but a honest-to-goodness BreyerFest Ticket Special!

As for the connection to India, I’ll let Wikipedia explain:
Vahana (Sanskrit: वाहन, Vāhana, literally “that which carries, that which pulls”) denotes the being, typically an animal or mythical entity, a particular Hindu deity is said to use as a vehicle. In this capacity, the vahana is often called the deity’s “mount” […] The vahana and deity to which they support are in a reciprocal relationship. Vahana serve and are served in turn by those who engage them. Many vahana may also have divine powers or a divine history of their own.
He’s basically supposed to represent a horse glorious and powerful enough to carry a Hindu deity. Judging from the almost-reverential reaction to him, I think they nailed the concept! So I doubt that they’ll do multiple mane/tail options or the Gloss/Matte split on it: Vahana won’t need any help selling out.

I haven’t a Shannondell in person yet (and judging from the prices, I’ve been seeing them go for, it’ll be a while) but I think I prefer the braided version anyway.

I still think I’m sticking to my one-ticket plan this year, but if this is just the start of the Special Run parade, I might be in trouble.

I wasn’t too crazy about the cutesy stunt they used to “reveal” it, though, or the fact that they were redirecting people to visit their Facebook page for the news. I think the world – not just the model horse world, but the world-world – would be better served if more people were encouraged to venture off of Facebook, not on.