Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Vintage Custom Ruffian!

The fine folks behind VCMEC will be very proud of my latest acquisition:

Another vintage Judy Renee Pope custom!

Because the flea market has been so bountiful lately – and the possibility of a large and expensive purchase looming in the horizon – I’ve had to be stricter than average regarding my pony budget. But when I spotted this pretty little thing on eBay a couple weeks ago, I had to relent.

She’s in much better shape than the auction photos let on; I was worried that she might need to be rehaired, and custom-quality mohair is not an easy or cheap thing to find nowadays. Just a little bit of styling, and a few minor touch ups, and she’ll be shelf-ready in no time.

(Show ready? We’ll see.)

Incidentally, because of my work schedule I haven’t made much progress on my own customs; most of my free time has been spent in car pools, which is much more amenable to quilting than it is to customizing.

Here’s the Ponies body, next to his inspiration – a G2 Warmblood that I customized for the Diorama contest a million years ago:

My roommates that year can testify that I did 90 percent of the work on that little guy in the hotel room the week of BreyerFest, using the barest minimum of art supplies. Now to see what I can do with more time and better supplies….

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Golden Anniversary: Breyer’s Man o’ War

As I am really busy right now taking care of various odds and ends, I will post the contents of the flier I created for the Man o’ War display I presented at the Hands-On Hobby at BreyerFest this year. I will make paper copies of the original available to everyone who wants one, eventually, along with extra copies of the Sampler. 

In the meantime, does anyone have any spare 28-hour days lying around? I could really use a few...

Man o’ War’s history with Breyer began in 1967, with the release of the #47 Race Horse – Man o’ War. Sculpted by Breyer’s original moldmaker Chris Hess, this Traditional-scale piece was one of four new molds – including the Pacer, Bear and Bear Cub – to debut that year.

Many collectors are aware that Breyer’s original #36 Racehorse is based on a wooden sculpture of the famous racehorse Whirlaway, made by Grand Wood Carving Company of Chicago, Illinois. Less well known is that the Traditional Man o’ War (the model that eventually replaced the Racehorse, discontinued in 1966) also appears to be based on a Grand Wood Carving design.

Like most Breyer releases of the 1960s and 1970s, the #47 Man o’ War would go through many subtle – and not so subtle – changes through the years. The earliest Man o’ Wars, for instance, came with opaque “Battleship Gray” hooves and large, prominent eyewhites, a beautiful and eye catching variation that is highly sought after today!

Another scarce variation of the Man o’ War was the one released as part of the Presentation Collection in the early 1970s. This series consisted of then-current production models, mounted on wooden bases with brass nameplates, and marketed as trophies and home decorating pieces.

It wouldn’t be until the 1990s that Breyer enthusiasts would see more unique and distinctive Man o’ Wars. In 1990, a Special Run in Gloss was issued in a three-piece “Race Horse Set” (along with a Gloss Sham and a Gloss Secretariat) that was available through the Sears Wishbook.

He was also chosen – along with the Legionario, the San Domingo, and the Sham – to be a BreyerFest Raffle model in 1991. Twenty Gold Charm Man o’ Wars were raffled off at the BreyerFest in Kentucky that year, with another being sold at the Benefit Auction.

Although the mold itself has come in many other colors since the original release was discontinued in 1995 (most notably as his son “War Admiral” in 2003-2004) the original Man o’ War has also been re-released twice since then.

Man o’ War first reappeared as a Special Run, with slightly different shading and a Certificate of Authenticity, for QVC in 2002. He returned a second time as a Special Run for the World Equestrian Games, when the event was held at the Kentucky Horse Park 2010. Only 48 pieces of that particular Special Run were made, featuring a laminated hangtag and a more accurately masked star and stripe.

A Classics-scale mold of Man o’ War, a Hagen-Renaker design by Maureen Love Calvert, joined the Breyer line in 1975. The original #602 release remained in production until 1990 and like its Traditional counterpart, he also came in multiple variations. There are least three different facial markings – a straight blaze, a broken stripe, and an irregular star – and multiple gradations of Chestnut, from light orangey brown (usually earlier) to dark red (usually later).

Although it was included in a “Famous Race Horses” gift set available in the 1975 Sears Wishbook, it wasn’t until this year that the Classics version was formally re-released (as #9149) for Man o’ War’s Centennial.

In 2013, Breyer issued its third unique Man o’ War release, a Christmas ornament (#700662) in their popular Race Horse Series. But for fans of “The Mostest Hoss There Ever Was”, every day is a reason to celebrate his life and legend – whether it’s with one special Breyer Man o’ War model, or more!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

At Long Last...

Here’s a sampling of the goodies I recovered from the flea market on Sunday:

Yes, the Man o’ War is Chalky!

He came with his original box as well, but I’ll spare you the sight of it: let’s just say it did its job, and leave it at that. The model, on the other hand – well, other than a couple of minor mildew marks and pinpoint rubs, I couldn’t ask for a better example!

As you may know, my very first model was a Chalky Man o’ War, but I’ve been wanting to add another to my MOW family for a while. With the market being the way that it is for Chalkies, I had to bide my time until something showed up at the flea market. And finally, one did!

(Ah, if only he had shown up before BreyerFest, instead of after. I really could have used him in the Man o’ War display at the Horse Park.)

Honestly, I was actually very lucky to get him at all.

Just a few moments after I spotted him and his cohorts (the dealer had about a dozen pieces, of various vintages and conditions) and made my way not-too-leisurely to the booth, an old guy literally ran up behind me and started grabbing horses as well. I had to shoo him away from my “pile” – including the Smoke Western Prancer, above – a couple of times, actually.

And then he proceeded to badger the vendor about the price, rather aggressively and persistently. The dealer and I both knew that his story about buying them for his granddaughter was probably bunkum, but she eventually relented, if only to get him to go away.

I did a bit of negotiating as well, but (I hope!) not quite as obnoxiously. I was pretty excited to get the Man o’ War, and I did not try to hide it. So paying a bit more than I normally would have seemed fair.

Guys like that are one of the reasons why hobbyists get a bad rap at flea markets: it’s one thing to haggle, but it’s quite another to badger. And never assume the person you are dealing with, on either end of the deal, is an idiot.

Yet it is a behavior so ingrained in some of us that it plays out with distressing frequency, even at BreyerFest. (And I am not immune to attempts!)

The Western Prancing Horse I am on the fence about; his shading is magnificent, but I really don’t need another Smoke variation. He was the fellow covered in a gravy-like substance I mentioned before. He’s still a bit yellow, but considerably better looking than he was on Sunday.

The Beswick puppies also exist in a similar fugitive state; until I decide their fate, they’ll be chilling on my desk with the little Britains Donkey that came in the Hagen-Renaker box. (I don’t normally collect Britains, but he’s so cute and little!)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Holi Daze

Another spectacular day at the flea market – unrelated to the potential/pending business of last week – but I wrote this ahead of time, so you’ll have to wait a few days to see what turned up this week.

(Plus they were filthy dirty. I think one was covered in…gravy? Yeah, let’s go with gravy…)

Here’s another BreyerFest piece unpacked/unboxed – the Elephant Holi, making friends with his teapot buddy:

I was somewhat concerned that the Holi of the photographs – pinking, freckles et al – was not going to be the Holi we would see in Kentucky. I was very happy to have my fears allayed when I saw him in the Artisan’s Gallery Thursday night!

I was a little surprised that he didn’t sell as well as many had thought. Since I was preoccupied with all my other duties on Friday and most of Saturday, I was lucky enough to make arrangements with a friend to get a pick up. When I made a quick trip into the Bazaar either late Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning (I think I made two trips in there, but it’s all a blur, at this point) there were still plenty of Holis to be had.

Most curious.

I suspect a number of factors were at work. First, the Elephant mold has always been something that has a wider appeal to people more outside of the hobby than in. Second, the decals probably put some hobbyists off: aside from pushing it into “Decorator” territory, the long-term viability of complex decals on a mostly-wrinkly surface was also a not-wholly-unjustified concern.

(So far, so good on mine, whew!)

Plus, he was a little on the pricey side – $45, when you could have gotten the two-piece Dally and Spanky set for five dollars less.

In the long run, Holi will sell out, and eventually will become a more in-demand piece. Especially once hobby outsiders find out about him.

Illustrating my point: I had a heck of a time, pre-BreyerFest, trying to find a reasonably-priced Elephant body for my diorama entry. I had to run some pretty esoteric searches on eBay before a suitable (i.e. not identified as a Breyer!) candidate showed up.

He showed up smelling like the bottom of Grandma’s ashtray, but an overnight soak took care of that problem. All hail, the power of Dawn dish soap!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bollywood Buttermilk

The adventure I hinted at last time will have to wait a month or so. This is not a problem for me, especially since – if it pans out – it may be pricey, and might necessitate the assistance of other local hobbyists.

And even if it doesn’t, well, I’ll have another interesting story to tell. (More details as the situation develops. Or doesn’t.)

The Bollywood Surprise numbers were finally released on Facebook (Sigh. Of course.) And there are no surprises in the numbers themselves:

A - Dark Bay Tobiano (1225 Matte, 175 Glossy)
B - Buttermilk Buckskin (800 Matte, 175 Glossy)
C - Chestnut Overo (650 Matte, 175 Glossy)
D - Grulla Pintaloosa (425 Matte, 175 Glossy)

It was obvious that the Tobiano was the most common, and that the Buckskin and Overo were fairly close numerically.

The only question I had was whether or not the Pintaloosa was truly the rare one. As the most eyecatching of the quartet, it seemed most likely that he was the rarest, but the prices/relative scarcity might have been a reflection of a belief that might not been borne out by reality.

That’s what I kept telling myself, until the official numbers came out. Ah well, there goes another little hope and dream…

And ironic that it’s a Pintaloosa, given the hobby’s general antagonism towards them in general. Being the “rare one” changes things, I guess.

Nevertheless, I really did like Buttermilk Buckskin – and you know that I am rather picky when it comes to Buckskins, generally. One of the two that I received is actually quite nice, and possibly live show quality:

Definitely a keeper! But, as I said before, I did not need two.

I’ll probably need to sell a few things for the possible “mystery trip”, so selling off the second might have been a necessity anyway. Or at least, that’s another thing I’ll tell myself…

Monday, July 31, 2017

Meanwhile, Back at the Flea Market...

I am feeling a lot better today; I’m finally caught up on my sleep, cleaned up the office a bit, and even puttered around with some of the craft projects. (I decided to go with “carousel horse” on the Ponies body, since I already have a Unicorn in process. Nothing too fancy, probably in either the Looff or Dentzel style.)

The first official day back at flea marketing was also good. And weird.

Like, spontaneous Neil Diamond karaoke and two people arguing over the price of a monkey’s skull weird.

I had to periodically remind myself that I was not on a movie set, and that the things I was overhearing were not scripted. (And if you knew the demographics of this flea market, that’s not necessarily a good thing, but I digress…)

Here’s a small sample of what I found:

These three Royal Doulton Spaniels came out of the same estate as that box of Hagen-Renakers, so I’m guessing they’re the same early 1960s vintage; the two adults have been out of production since 1968. Even more exciting, the vendor told me he hadn’t finished going through everything in that estate yet….

Other findings included a Hollohaza Goose, some assorted china miniatures, and a fairly nice older #3123 Breyer Deer Family. There were actually two sets of Deer to choose from, because that is just how this flea market rolls; the set that came home with me was (a) a better deal, and (b) came with a story that might lead to a Vintage Breyer-filled adventure later in the week.

More actual Breyer stuff, next post. I still have some serious unboxing to do!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Dark Bandera

The end of this post is going to be a bit of a downer, so I’ll lead with something that is not: the first item that I officially unboxed, after BreyerFest:

A beautiful, Chestnut variation of the Bandera that I found in the NPOD on Sunday! He really stood out from all the other Banderas there – most of them tended to be a more middle-of-the-road patinated copper – and after circling the sales floor a couple times, I realized I couldn’t leave him behind.

I was planning on getting a Bandera anyway. I was hoping for something from either end of the spectrum – something dark and Chestnutty, or bright like a newly-minted penny. Nothing locally was really doing it for me, until I found Mister Tall, Dark and Chestnut!

He has a couple of minor goobers, but I’ll get around to fixing them eventually.

I also figured getting him was a safer bet than taking a chance at getting a Gloss Saffron. I actually liked the Gloss Saffrons more than the Gloss Indus; for some reason, most of Breyer’s recent Duns don’t do a thing for me until/unless they are glossed, and the Saffron was no different.

But my luck with getting extra special or glossy things at BreyerFest hasn’t been all that great lately, so the Dark Bandera it was….

Now for the slightly bummer part of the post.

I had a major system crash – of myself! – on Tuesday, and I’m still recovering. Basically I came home from work, made a few phone calls that didn’t end well (yep, the Kaalee is gone, gone forever), and then all of a sudden the physical, mental, and emotional baggage of the past couple of weeks fell on top of me.

I had to lay down on the couch and basically didn’t – couldn’t – move for a couple of hours. I’m functional now, but still a bit shaky and trying to take it easy, occasionally medicating myself with homemade brownies.

I think what pushed me over the edge was that I was trying to cheer myself up reading online articles about the value of finishing in second place, and happened to stumble upon this article:

In an article published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Jerker Denrell of the University of Oxford and Chengwei Liu of the University of Warwick reported on experiments that modeled the results of a game played in many rounds. Over time, the most skilled players came to inhabit a second tier of reliable competence. Those who succeeded spectacularly — who took their places in the first tier — were often not the most skilled, but rather were those who got some lucky breaks early on or took big risks that happened to pay off.
Yeah, that’s exactly what I did not need to read: research that actually confirms that second place finishers tend to be more skilled, but less lucky.

This isn’t so bad if you look at it from a business perspective: in the long run, being a consistent high performer is probably better than being a flash-in-the-pan success. You’re still getting some compensation for your effort, as well, though it might take a little longer to accrue.

Being a second-tier placer in winner-take-all competitions like BreyerFest contests, however, offers no such comforts or delayed compensation. Either you get the pony, or you don’t get the pony.

Nevertheless, I had recovered enough by yesterday to dig something out of the body box. Let’s see what comes of a Ponies body I rescued from the flea market recently….

Something in either the Unicorn or Carousel family, I think?