Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bearable

So here is the one set of BreyerFest Bears I am keeping:


Pretty spiffy, even if they aren’t silver. But they are really pearly! I didn’t get that close a look at them in Kentucky to notice before. Bi-eyes, too, nice. I may have to do a bit of shelf shuffling to keep them in the spotlight here in my office.

Except for the lighter-faced variations, a stickered piece, the Ranchcraft Lamp, and a Chalky Black Cub to match my Mama Bear, my Bear collection is essentially complete. Prices on the Silvers are such that I’m going to pretend that their absence doesn’t count against me.

(I should be glad that this year’s Nonhorse mold was not the Kitten. A Silver Charm Kitten? Not getting the Polled Hereford Bull Marshall was bad enough, thank you…)

Remember when the Nonhorses were among the most hotly sought-after of the BreyerFest Special Runs? You know, items like Oreo the Pig, or Flint the Red Roan Fighting Bull, or Choc the Glossy Buffalo?

Now, not so much. A lot of different factors are in play here.

Some of it might be the selection of molds; some are an easier sell than others. Cattle molds = Easy. Cats, Dogs and Bears = Hard. (Poor Beethoven the Saint Bernard!)

Some of it is the increased number of Special Runs to choose from. Aside from the money issue (never having enough) most attendees, when given a choice, are going to go with one of the horses over any given Nonhorse mold.

Ennui is another reason: the "novelty" of having a Nonhorse Special Run has worn off for a lot of people. Many hobbyists tend to keep the Nonhorse portions of their collection to a minimum, and once that quota is reached, that’s that. It has to be something really spectacular or rare to even be considered.

Piece counts also count: there’s simply a limited demand for some items, regardless of their inherent awesomeness. The piece count on this year’s Bear set was 800 pieces, which seemed high to me. They only happened to sell out online because the odds of getting the Silvers were the best of all the remaining Special Runs.

There is a demand for the Bears - I’ve not had much trouble selling off the duplicates that have come my way - but it’s a modest demand. Unless it’s something rare or unusual (Shipper box, Blue Ribbon Sticker, Chalky, Oddity) the prices they bring are equally modest.

Until I get some things sold around here, I can't even consider trying for more BreyerFest leftovers. That’s now being held up by my printer, behaving badly yet again…

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some of Our Stablemates are Missing!

Like everyone else, I am perplexed by the lack of new new Stablemates. You know, those cute little guys who debuted as the One-Day Stablemates at BreyerFest last year. I was able to secure three of the four this year. No Icelandic "Indigo", alas!


The Andalusian "Chrome" turned up as a raffle item at the Big Easy Bash back in February, as a miniature version of one of the earliest Exclusive Event items, the Legionario Bourbon Street. The Appaloosa/Stock Horse "Dungaree" showed up at the same event as the 200-piece run Moon Pie, in a pretty Gloss Red Bay Overo. And the Icelandic is schedule to appear as a "Mini Me" freebie for Premier Club members, for the new Traditional Icelandic Falhófnir.

There has been no sign yet of my personal favorite - the Bucking Horse "Rivet". (I love the look Chrome is givingt Rivet in this photo: "Dude, seriously, what’s your problem?")

It’s only been about a year since they’ve been released, but we’ve grown so accustomed to such a fast pace to new releases that a year feels like an eternity. Even the original BreyerFest pieces are somewhat hard to come by; Reeves miscalculated the demand for them, and they were sold out by mid-day Saturday. (Some were held back for Will-Calls.)

There have been other Stablemates who have vanished for much longer periods of time. The original H-R/Love Quarter Horse Mare mold disappeared in 1988 due to a molding issue. The rest of the Hagen-Renaker molds eventually followed suit when the lease with H-R was not renewed.

The infamous Palomino "Playmat" Horse came and went in an eyeblink in 2007. Technical/molding issues were also the reasons, allegedly, why he was quickly replaced by the G2 Warmblood for the remainder of that item’s production run.

(One of our local stores had three or four of these Playmat Sets - with the original horse - for the longest time. Silly me didn’t want to spend the $20 on the set just for a single Stablemate. Not one of my brighter moments, to be sure.)

Most recently I have been troubled by the lack of Reining Horse releases. While all of the other WEG 2010/G4 releases have been issued in multiple colors and multiple sets since then, the Reining Horse has seen only one additional release, a Black Splash Spot Leopard Appaloosa in the 2011 J.C. Penney Parade of Breeds set.  I had a fun little project in mind earlier this year that was quashed because there were no affordable, body-quality Stablemates Reining Horse to be had.

Other than possibly some concerns about breakage with the Andalusian's slender ears, I have no idea what the hold up might be. Guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope the problems are more conceptual in nature, rather than technical or legal.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spotty, or Speckly?

Neither one of the Silver Filigree Sherman Morgans turned out to be a Silver Charm, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a decision to make about variations:


Spotty, or speckly?

There’s never really been any consistency with the Silver Filigree paintjob since its introduction in 1993, on the Proud Arabian Mare. Some, like the PAM, have a "plated and spotted" look; others look more like the "Wild Dapple Grays" of the late 1970s that just happen to be Silver instead of Gray. Most of them, lately, have looked like my more speckly fellow - finer and smaller resist dapples against a silver background.

Other than the smaller runs - like the Proud Arabian Stallion "Saturday Night Fever" and Foal "Born to Run", BreyerFest Raffle items from 2003 - there’s been no consistency within the runs themselves, as my two Shermans demonstrate. I saw a third (on Blab?) that was so finely speckled he looked almost like a Freckle-style Roan (pretty!)

A quick survey on eBay suggests that the "spotty" ones appear to be the most common of the variations of Celebration available, though that conclusion might be a result of selection bias. Hobbyists may be keeping the variations they like more - or selling the ones they like less.

Which one is the most rare (other than the Silver Charm) doesn’t matter to me personally. I think I’m going with the spotty one, just because he makes me smile every time I look at him. I wouldn’t mind keeping both, but that can’t happen, at least not now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gone Goofy for Goffert

First, I noticed that a custom I’ve been tinkering with for over a year had started oozing. Then I broke one of my more recently acquired Hagen-Renaker miniatures. Then I get the e-mail from Reeves about Yet Another Special Run - this time, "Kashmir" from the Big Cat Series.

The little cartoon sign above my head that reads TILT finally went off. I spent the rest of the evening working on an abandoned beaded flower project I found in the basement. Horses? What horses?

Anyway, I find the Kashmir most curious. The initial piece in the Big Cat series, the Smarty Jones Kimbia, received a rather cool response. I don’t think many of us would have been shocked if the series had been scrapped or drastically scaled back; there was enough of a delay between the Kimbia and Kashmir to make it seem likely.

What I find even more curious about the Kashmir is the fact that it is the third Special Run on the Goffert mold this year. While it is not at all unusual for a mold to have multiple releases in a given year, they are usually either part of a set or series. In the 1950s through most of the 1970s, many Regular Runs were offered in multiple colorways. (Family Arabians, anyone?) In the 1980s and early 1990s, a lot of Special Runs came in sets of multiple colors, either simultaneously or in sequence. In more recent years, we’ve had the Treasure Hunt, Gambler’s Choice and Surprise models.

In the Goffert’s case, the SRs are from three completely unrelated series: a BreyerFest Celebration Horse, a Brick-and-Mortar Halloween Horse, and a Web Special. This is not unheard of, but definitely a little odd. That must have been some crazy kind of Product Development meeting they had early this year. ("It’s almost time for lunch - let’s just make all the remaining releases on the list Gofferts and call it a day. Who’s up for Chinese?")

Speaking of Product Development, I ran across some interesting commentary online about the Night Mare and the Flagship Store Special Sahran, on the Ashquar mold that deserves some clarification.

First, yes, it is true that Reeves lurks on sites looking for ideas and suggestions. Sometimes they even ask for them, in private or by proxy. However, these ideas and suggestions are very rarely translated into immediate action. You don’t go from zero to Production Run in a week or two, unless it’s a really small piece run and it’s made in the U.S. (The Vault Sale Bull "Colton" comes to mind here.)

Typically it takes months - and in the case of an event like BreyerFest, up to a year - for a model to go from concept to reality. Sometimes little tweaks are made during the production process - let’s make half the run glossy! - but big changes are rare.

When we talk about wanting a certain model in a certain color, and it becomes a reality a week or a month later, it’s certainly not a coincidence. But it’s more a matter that both hobbyists and Reeves are operating in the same environment online, simmering in the same cauldron of ideas and inspirations. We think our ideas are uniquely our own, but chances are, someone else is thinking along the same lines. (For me, it’s a numbers game: I make a lot of suggestions. The more you make, the more likely one of them is going to become reality.)

Anyway, back to the Gofferts. The Kashmir is interesting - I like him more than the Kimbia, but I am tapped out financially. I can wait on him if I have to.

If I happen to run across the Halloween Goffert, named Night Mare, she’ll definitely be coming home with me somehow. You already know I love glow-in-the-dark things, and as a "night person" of Hungarian ancestry, I am totally down with the vampire imagery.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dapple Grays, Real and Imaginary

First up, I’d be remiss to not mention that Frosty, brother of Flurry is now available - the Classics Shire in his Head Down mold variation, aka Shire Mold B. In other words, pretty much exactly what I was asking for last year when they released Flurry!

Alas, he’ll have to wait until I sell a few more horses and pay off a few more bills. With the sheer number of Special Offers and Special Runs we’ve been dealt over the past month, I suspect a lot of my fellow hobbyists are in the same boat.

There’s another set of recent Special Runs that, to my surprise, haven’t turned up yet in any great quantity online are the 2014 WEG Specials. Seen here:

http://www.normandy2014.com/news/630/the-breyer-company-becomes-an-official-licensee

There are 500 pieces each of the four Classics:
  • Alabaster Ruffian
  • Red Chestnut Johar
  • Black Warmblood Mare
  • Bay QH/Frolic Stallion
And (allegedly) 750 pieces each of the four Stablemates:
  • Flaxen Chestnut G2 Morgan
  • Black G3 Warmblood
  • Bay G4 Driving Horse
  • Alabaster G2 Warmblood
And an unspecified number of Commemorative Blankets.

Aside from the Special Run overload, the overseas location (France), the selection of molds (Classics and Stablemates) and the palette of colors (conservative, non-spotted colors) may be tempering enthusiasm in the U.S. as well.

Supposedly they are only going to be available at WEG 2014, but the WEG 2010 leftovers were eventually made available to nonattendees primarily via Grab Bags. I'm not counting on a repeat of that scenario, though: there are still several days to go before the event ends, and Grab Bags have evolved into something else entirely since then.

If leftovers do become available to us at some point, I’d like to get one Classics piece and one Stablemates, primarily for the (very attractive!) packaging. I have no particular preferences on the molds, though if I had a choice I’d definitely pick the Classics Ruffian - the closest I’ll probably ever get to the near-mythical Dapple Gray Ruffian.

I say near-mythical because there was at least one sold via Marney in the early 1980s, on that legendary sales list that also featured the Appaloosa Proud Arabian Stallion:


The other 199 that supposedly exist probably don’t; there may be a handful more, only because Tests then (and now) were rarely unique. What I suspect was going on there was a miscommunication between Marney and Peter Stone, or Marney and someone else at the factory she might have talked to about it.

If 200 pieces had been created, some would have shown up by now. There were a lot of 200-piece or fewer Specials released back then: it was almost the standard piece run for SRs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While many of them are difficult to come by now, they are not impossible as long as you have either the time or money to spare.

I've been looking for that Dapple Gray Ruffian for a very, very long time.

I think it’d be awesome, by the way, if Reeves offered a Dapple Gray Traditional Ruffian at some point in the Vintage Club program, a la Mr. Chips. It would be a nice nod to the Dapple Gray Ruffian rumors, plus I think the Traditional Ruffian mold would look fabulous in it. Either Gloss or Matte would be fine, I don’t care, as long as it's in the same style as the Dapple Grays of the late 1970s and early 1980s: wild and crazy!

Just not for the next few months, though. Everyone's bank accounts would appreciate it!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Average

No "extra special" models in my BreyerFest leftovers box, and no "Let’s Celebrate!" e-mail either. My luck hasn’t been running that way lately; my kind is of the more mundane, day-to-day variety. Here’s a sampling - minus some books, some bodies, and some non-modelly stuff - of the kind of things I’ve found locally, since July:


The best pieces here would be the Chalky Family Foal, the Kitten (with a Blue Ribbon sticker!) and the Hagen-Renaker Elephant minis. The PAM is the two-sock version and extremely nice as well. As awesome as my flea market is, a lot of this stuff has come from elsewhere; the Mortens Dobie and the Elephants were Salvation Army finds, for instance. I travel a lot for work, and one of the "perks" is that I drive past a lot of thrift stores and hobby shops in places I’d normally never go. And as long as I’m there…

Sometimes I do get lucky - like that big bin of Hartlands last year, or the shoebox full of vintage H-R miniatures earlier this season. But most days, it’s little drips and drabs. My luck is in living in the area that I do, with its abundance of stores and merchandise. It’s not free and clear, though: I have to put the legwork in and the money out.

It’s something a lot of people don’t like to think about - and will argue to the contrary - but luck is unevenly distributed. It’s most noticeable, and painful, in situations where there’s nothing you can do to improve your odds, like hard work or patience.

Like raffles. There are hobbyists who have won raffles multiple times, and others who have never once been drawn for any raffle ever - online, in person, or by mail.

Except for the fact that I’ve never been pulled from a wait list for anything ever, I’d consider my luck about average with raffles. Actually, I calculated it, and it is. Back when Connoisseurs were the thing, I was curious to know how many a hobbyist should be able to win, on average. I had access to some numbers, ran them, and yep, I was right on the money with my "wins".

Others, as I mentioned above, haven’t been as average. This is one of the reasons - and not out of the quality of my personal luck - why I think Reeves needs to continue to offer rare and extra special models via multiple distribution methods. Some should be by raffle, or by raffle-to-purchase, others by contest or competition, by simple subscription, or on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you’re not a creative type, contests and competitions will do you no favors. If you don’t have a predictable cash flow, subscriptions or first-come-first-served offers won’t work for you. No one distribution method is more "fair" than another: the only way to make things more fair is to mix it up, release to release.

The only thing I think should not be repeated is the raffle-to-purchase of extra-low piece run Specials online. It basically creates a "money for nothing" situation: because there’s no cost to enter, and there’s a small window of time between winning and having to pay, it’s theoretically possible to make a tidy profit with no monetary investment on your end at all. It creates an incentive for otherwise uninterested people to enter to resell.

While selling off low piece runs via vault sales has had some major issues as well (traffic volume and shopping cart issues, ahem) the notion of having to put money down up front seems to cut down on the initial speculating, at least a little. It seems more likely to me that they’ll go the "Buried Treasure" route with those goodies, instead. Which is not fair to folks who have Internet time or access, or who take the occasional nap. (Happened to me once, it did!)

Not sure if my luck will hold out with the weather in the morning; last weekend was really good to me, so I'm not all that worried or invested in it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mane and Tails and Horns, Oh My...

It’s not the questionable claim about leaving 140 pieces behind in New Jersey that bothers me about the "Let’s Celebrate!" Special Run. They advertised it as a 350 piece run in the free program, sold about 350 pieces at the Horse Park - but hey look, it was actually a 500 piece run after all! Not the craziest story I’ve heard, and I suppose it’s possible that they ordered 350 and got 500 instead ...

No, what bothers me more is the hairdo; the mane - and especially the tail - on the Let’s Celebrate! have a "wiggy" look to them. I prefer the sleeker look of the original mane and tail the mold had as Sir Buckingham.

The paint job - that I was originally a little bit skeptical about - I like a lot, actually. I’m not enthusiastic enough to enter for him every day, but if my name does get pulled, I’m not turning him down!

Speaking of mold variations, I picked up a nice little pile of postcards over the weekend. In the pile was an old Hoard’s Dairyman illustration of the "Five Queens". Look familiar?


I very, very quick Google search says it was copyright 1961 - over ten years before the Breyer Cow was issued, in 1972. I don’t have any evidence one way or another for this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this illustration was in the reference file used to create the Cow mold.

The Cow was one of Breyer’s earlier attempts as creating multiple mold variations within the same mold - in this case, via separately molded and installed horns.

The physical differences between the five different breeds go well beyond horns, obviously, but this was still fairly sophisticated stuff for 1972 - especially considering it was done for a Nonhorse mold, and they tend to be modest but consistent sellers.

Hmm. Come to think of it, that’s probably why.

Certain horse breeds and molds fall in and out of fashion, but I’ve never had one iota of a problem selling extra Cows that come my way. Breyer hasn’t had any issues, either. Even though four of the five original breeds were discontinued within two years, the Holsteins remained in the line until 1991, and there have been numerous Special and Regular Runs over the years.  

A few more would be nice. (Red Holsteins? Another Ayrshire? Purple?)