Monday, September 28, 2020

Disappearing Acts

We had all manner of pets as kids – cats, dogs, fish, birds and even a snake, at one point – but Mom drew the line at anything rodent or rodent-like. (Not quite sure how Dad persuaded her to let us have the garter snake, but ooh boy, that’s a story!) 

So you know, if you had told me even five years ago that Reeves would make a rat-covered horse for Halloween and that I would love it, I would have been skeptical. But here we are:

And in a Primitive Bay, too! If I ever get around to finishing that Mesteno custom I’ve tinkered with for the better part of a year, that’s precisely the color I will attempt on it. 

(Not likely, but a girl can dream.)

I ordered only one of the Spooky Stablemates because I didn’t want to deal with the possibility of getting two of the same model like I did last time. I have enough stuff to sell as it is, no need to potentially add another to the pile.

They also came with that new 8-piece Deluxe Stablemates Set that’s already discontinued, because the sets I found at local hobby shops were not to my liking. I took a chance on getting a better set off the web site, and it appears to have actually worked out for me this time

This is a relief, because I fear it’s going to be a scarce item in a couple of years. Originally I was going to save it for the Customer Appreciation Sale, but I didn’t want to take the chance that it may/will be out of stock by then.

Speaking of things disappearing quickly, I know some people are surprised that the Sable Island Horse release on the Croi/Connemara mold is also already on the Retired/Discontinued List. 

The fact of the matter is, no matter how beautifully rendered it may be, Matte Solid Bays are not that exciting to most people, whether they are hobbyists, general consumers, or live-horse people.

Hobbyists may complain about the lack of solidly-colored releases, but unless they’re portrait models or otherwise tied-in with a special promotion like a Gambler’s Choice, they just don’t sell as well as Glossies, Pintos, Appaloosas and (most) Decorators. 

So if you love it and want it, go out and get one now, before everyone else realizes they need it too. I’ve already bought way too much stuff this year and I’ll probably regret on passing on it, myself. 

But I seriously need to make about 50-100 or so more models disappear here before that can happen.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Latest Upgrades

Just to clarify, I’m not going anywhere. My schedule is simply changing to one that’s more in line with my circadian rhythms. 

Since I’m more of a night person than a day person, this means I’ll be getting up later and staying up later, which may affect my posting schedule. Many of the stores where I have been doing my extracurricular shopping (buying things that are not necessities) are still on pandemic hours, so that means I’ll also have less time to shop there.

So anyway, here are two of the models from the most recently arrived box lot that will probably be upgrades, once I find the models in question:

Neither the Bald-faced variation of the Donkey nor the Dark Dapple Gray Running Foal are particularly rare – in fact, they’re quite common – but they’ve both been a low priority. 

A bald-faced variation of the Donkey was one of the first vintage models I bought from another hobbyist – back in 1980, I think? – so there’s some sentimentality tied up with that purchase. But this piece, like my new Palomino Western Prancing Horse, looks almost out-of-the-box new. 

I’ve had many #133 Dark Dapple Gray Running Foals over the years, but all of my previous ones had some sort of issue: rubs, bad seams, unattractive dappling, serious gloss flaws, stains, fingerprints(!), you name it. 

Like the Family Arabians, the Running Mare and Foal were marketed primarily to kids as toys, so finding a pristine example of either is a lot harder than it looks. This new fellow is bright white, with just one tiny rub that blends into the dappling, and has most excellent shading. 

He doesn’t match my Mare, but she’s an old and sentimental favorite too, so I’ll probably just have to let that one slide. Unless an opportunity presents itself, as they have been doing so of late.

Speaking of… there are a couple of mint, matched vintage Running Mare and Foal sets I’ve been hemming and hawing about for a couple of weeks now, but I’ve bought entirely too much stuff this month and I really need to knock that nonsense off.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Life Choices

Heads up everybody: my schedule for the next seven weeks going forward will be different, and this may affect my Internet access. It’ll take a few days for me to figure out how, exactly.

The “silly season” gets off to an appropriately weird start: I received my first box lot and… it’s not the box lot I was expecting. It was completely different – and had more horses in it!

Everything seems to be sorted out, more or less, though I’ll have to wait until the weekend after next(!) to pull a completely different set of models to be upgraded out of my collection.

I guess I should consider myself fortunate that in all my years of buying and selling, this is only the second time (I can remember) that this sort of thing has happened. And in this case, it happily worked out in my favor.

Especially since my new schedule will probably preclude me from doing my usual rounds at the thrift stores, antique malls and local independent toy and hobby shops. Tractor Supply and Walmart Specials are also going to be harder to search for, and of a lower priority anyway. 

Except for that little Classic TSC Drafter. I’m gonna handpick that little bugger, regardless!

Oh, and I bought another box lot. Because at this point, what’s a few dozen more things to sort out, right?

One thing I probably won’t be buying: the Green Money Manager on eBay right now. Yes, it’s another grail, but it’s in pretty rough shape, and I have several boxes of many models in transit to the house right now.

What’s interesting about it is that while my Red Money Manager doesn’t have the full Breyer Molding Company molding mark on it that my Cigarette Host does, this Green one example does.

We already knew that the Cigarette Host and Money Manager were being sold simultaneously – they were available side-by-side in the 1950 Sears Wishbook – but what this means is that (a) they were being manufactured at the same time from the same molds and (b) even the Money Manager comes with mold variations.

(Stares into space, considers life choices.)

I will now spend the rest of the evening at my sewing machine. I have enough fabric and thread to last me a couple of lifetimes, so the temptation to spend will be minimal, I hope.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Idiosyncratic Grails

There are actually two different categories of hobby “grails”.

The first is the more obvious, and the one we more often think of as grail models: something that’s some combination of old, rare and scarce. Like a vintage Decorator, a Raffle Model, a Test Color, or a highly-sought-after variation of a popular release (i.e. a Chalky Misty).

Things like that are usually acquired either by sheer luck, or the application of a lot of money. And often both, in the case of numerically scarce models like Raffle pieces and Test Colors.

The second is less obvious, but more common – in many senses of the word. These tend to be more idiosyncratic, and more personal. Like trying to find a matching Stallion, Mare or Foal to complete a family, after the fact. Seeking out obscure variations of less popular molds, like the Grazing Mare or Morganglanz.

Or in this case, finding the ideal or “ultimate” version of an otherwise very common release:

The #112 Palomino Western Prancing Horse is the most common of the original vintage Western Prancing Horses, that included the #110 Smoke, #111 Buckskin, #113 Black Pinto, #114 Bay, and #115 Appaloosa. The Palomino ran from ca. 1962 through 1985, outlasting the #110 Smoke by nearly a decade.

How common is the Palomino? I swear, I find one in almost every big body lot I purchase, and there’s at least one in my body box at any given time.

(Checks sales list: Yup!)  

I’ve gone through many, many Palomino WPHs over the years, but it wasn’t until this past week that I finally found The One, above

That’s the thing with these idiosyncratic grails: they’re often way more difficult to find than something that’s numerically more rare. Or perhaps more frustrating, because you find yourself wading through so many potential candidates and find most of them lacking, one way or another. 

You find yourself more forgiving of small (and sometimes, not so small) flaws in a rarity because you know the likelihood of finding something better is remote. But with something more plentiful, the nagging possibility of something better is always out there.

What’s remarkable about this WPH is that in addition to his “bright” un-honeyed color and near-perfect condition, he also has no USA mold mark.

That means he’s at least 50 years old, because the Western Prancing Horse didn’t get the USA mold mark until sometime in 1970. It’s like he was just taken out of his shipper box and teleported 50 years in the future!

Of course, this now means I have to dig the previously-somewhat-adequate one I have out of storage, in addition to the Spanish Fighting Bull I have to compare to the ones I found last week, and (you knew this was coming, right?) probably fish out a few others from not one, but two box lots that are slowly making their way to me.  

Oh, I also ordered the Breyer Halloween Classic Ratsputin and (only!) one of this year’s Spooky Stablemates. (I still hadn’t spent my $25 BreyerFest live show credit, and just happened to log onto the web site a shortly after they uploaded them, and they qualified as Regular Run items, so...)

And I haven’t even gotten around to completing my purchase for the Vintage Club In Between Mare Zahra yet!

So much for reining in my spending this Fall. LOL.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Fakes, Forgeries and Wishful Thinking

Since everyone is a little obsessed with the Gold Elephant at the moment, let’s have another general discussion about fakes and forgeries in the hobby.

The next time you have the opportunity to go to an art museum, keep this thought in mind: at least a handful of the things you’ll be looking at are fakes or forgeries:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90170415/so-many-museums-are-filled-with-fake-paintings

It’s not necessarily the consequence of lazy or sloppy research: there are some really good forgers out there, and sometimes the allure of having a work by an important artist will override any questions that may arise about stylistic anachronisms or (most often) provenance.

Usually what happens after an item is determined to be a forgery, it’s either quietly taken out of public display, or – if the piece is itself quite old and of some merit in and of itself – reattributed to the artist who actually created it, if known.

Like the notorious Han van Meegeren, who made a fortune faking Vermeers – works by the 17th century Dutch artist, not the recent Premier Club release Friesian.

It would not surprise me if I have some fakes in my Breyer collection: you buy few thousand models in your lifetime, you’re going to end up with at least a handful of questionable ones. (I can think of two, in particular, that I am a bit fuzzy about.)

We have some very talented forgers in the hobby too.

And many not so talented; I’m always so surprised when I see things that are very obvious fakes go for significant sums on eBay.

Many of these pieces eventually go the way of more upscale art pieces and are either never seen again, or are correctly attributed – and sometimes collected in their own right, much like Hong Kong Knock-Offs.

The only problem with the pieces that disappear from public view is that often the rest of the hobby doesn’t get the memo – or learn the lesson.

Then there are some fakes or forgeries that persist because of wishful thinking: we’d all like to believe that we’ve found something wonderful, magical and rare, even when evidence points to the contrary.

Some of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve had with other hobbyists have been when someone is looking for validation of a purchase, and I can’t give it to them. Some people accept the opinion and move on, sometimes after getting confirmation from others.

(No biggie: I am sometimes wrong.)

And others won’t stop until they find the opinion they are looking for. Everybody in the hobby has an opinion on just about anything, so chances are they’ll eventually find it.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Spanish Fighting Bull

(It appears that I am having some profound technical difficulties with my computer, yet again. I will spare you the details, but it took me two hours to edit a picture for this post today, which normally takes me about two minutes.)

First, two notes.

One: The Gold Elephant currently on eBay looks like a fake to me, and not a very good one either. Aside from the gold paint looking too bright and pristine, the footings of models from the 1950s through the 1980s were rarely that neat and clean.  

As for the price, some hobbyists have a far higher tolerance for risk than others. 

Two: Yes, I am aware of the Black Appaloosa Pony of the Americas on MHSP, and I am not going to put in an offer. While I am more confident of that item’s authenticity and I am not entirely uncomfortable with the starting price, I am emotionally tapped out right now.  

We’re also just entering the “silly season” of Web Specials, Holiday Promotions and Year-End Sales Events, and I have no doubt that even crazier things are upon us, if that’s even imaginable.

Moving on to the Spanish Fighting Bulls I mentioned previously, here are “The Boys”:

As you can see, one has distinctly painted light gray hooves, and the other has solid black ones. This doesn’t mean that one is significantly older and/or more valuable than the other: with the #73 Spanish Fighting Bull, whether or not he had black or gray hooves was a matter of who was assigned to paint him. 

The Spanish Fighting Bull sold moderately well – he was in production from 1970 through 1985 – and even though the mold itself was more complex than many other Breyer Bulls, he also came with a fairly simple Solid Black paint job.

But as I’ve said many times before, quality control at the Chicago factory was a variable thing, and sometimes painters took shortcuts to make production quotas. Details like subtly different hoof colors would be the first to go.

Aside from the hoof color, the other two significant variations of the Black Spanish Fighting Bull include the Presentation Collection piece, and the Chalky Era releases with Gray Plastic horns. Like most Presentation pieces, the former is quite rare, and the latter somewhat less so. 

You’ll also very rarely see examples with unpainted ears; they were separately molded pieces attached to the horns and – in the case of the original Black – often weren’t attached until after the body color was painted. That’s why many of them have horns that appear to be very cleanly masked. 

The ears would have then been painted with the same paint used to finish the horn tips, but if that step somehow got skipped or missed, sometimes so would the ears!

My original Spanish Fighting Bull is currently in storage, but I think the gray-hooved variation here might be an upgrade. It’ll be a few weeks before I get around to digging him out and I know for sure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Hall of Fame 2020

(Waves at everyone who found me during their Google search of “Breyer History” after seeing “Breyer Horses” on the 2020 Toy Hall of Fame Finalist list.)

Yeah, so this happened today: https://www.toyhalloffame.org/finalists

And here I thought I’d have to struggle to find a suitable topic for today that didn’t require a lot of research; I’m deep in the middle of several big projects here, and I’m both mentally and physically tapped out at the moment.

I did find a couple of interesting Spanish Fighting Bull variations at the local Salvation Army Store today (after another failed Stablemates run at the Tractor Supply next door), and I thought that would be perfect: the original #73 Black release of the Spanish Fighting Bull has a number of distinct variations that are definitely worth talking about.

Next time it is, then!

Anyway, this Hall of Fame thing is a delightful surprise; I suspect that the 70th Anniversary PR campaign is what finally pushed Breyer Horses over the top and on to the Finalist list, at last.

I kind of wish the hobby had gotten more than a tangential nod in the write up on the web site, and they could have used more iconic Breyer releases like the Family Arabians or the Western Horse to illustrate them, but as they say, It’s just an honor to be nominated.

Guys and gals, you know what to do: go vote, because Breyer is up against… Bingo, Lite-Brite, Yahtzee, He-Man and My Little Pony. That’s some tough sledding. 

You can do it every day up through the 16th, so go… do your hobby duty!

https://www.toyhalloffame.org/players-choice-ballot