Saturday, October 22, 2016

More on the Swirly Keychains

My work schedule is still not compatible with a social life, so the trip report will have to wait a little bit longer. In the meantime, though, I’d like to clarify a little bit of misinformation that seems to be making the rounds regarding this guy, and others like him:

He’s a piece from the 2003 BreyerFest Mod Squad set – and yes, by some strange coincidence (you know, the kind that only seems to happen to me) he’s the very same swirly Stablemates Keychain whose picture I linked to in my recent discussion on swirly- and solid-colored plastic Stablemates. He was one of the trivia prizes on the Blue Bus, and I won him.

I didn’t know he was the specific prize for that question, they just reached into the bag of goodies and randomly handed him to me.

As far as I know, most of the Stablemates given away as trivia prizes for this year’s Exclusive Event were leftovers of previous Keychain Special Runs and giveaways, with the best of them being the Glossy 2013 Toy Fair Highland Pony.

I am not aware of any of them being the Test Swirlies that had been given away at previous Events. Those were somewhat different than regular Keychains in that they either had no actual keychain parts attached, or just the hook.

I didn’t see every single one out of the forty or so that were distributed over the four buses, so there might have been something especially special, but I think – with the current crazy prices for Diesel – that they would have revealed themselves by now.

That being said, it is true that the Mod Squad Keychains are a little harder to find than other Special Run keychains made in similar quantities. I know some were sold in the NPOD later, but I wasn’t sure that was the entire remainder.

That was back when the BreyerFest Keychains were finally fading out as a thing, and they were beginning to get left behind for physically and metaphorically bigger Special Runs. I skipped out on that set that year because I didn’t think it’d be difficult to get them later on. (Ha!)

Makes me wonder just how many of these leftover Keychains they still have knocking around the warehouse. Now that might make for a fun giveaway or warehouse sale for Stablemates Club members….

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chesapeake, Part I

I’m still mentally – and physically – unpacking from last weekend, and with my work schedule it’ll probably be a few more days still before both tasks are anywhere near completed. As will be the full trip report, as well; but in the meantime, here’s what I brought home:

I was actually the second in line in my ticket time, so unlike the last Event, I found myself with the enviable option of being able to get whatever I wanted…

… and I chose the models that I liked (the Fell Pony, and the Fox Trotter) instead of the ones that would be easiest and quickest to resell (the Bell-bottomed Shire and the Brishen). Technically I did buy the Brishen, but I did it to help out one of my roommates who would have been just out of purchasing distance of him, and we swapped later.

Because I fully expected and planned on getting one or two of the high piece run item (again) I now find myself in the position of having to decide what else to sell to make up the small financial shortfall that came with actually getting what I wanted.

(Whatever I decide will probably go up on MH$P, as my schedule allows.)

I was still bummed that Reeves obviously didn’t learn its lesson from last time regarding the Four Stars: a significant number of attendees (up to one-third!) should not be put in a position of having no choice at all in their selection of Special Runs.

It was mitigated a little bit this year, in that apparently 24 of the 144 piece run Goffert Masons are Geldings rather than Stallions – an (allegedly?) unplanned for mold variation.

If they insist on doing another larger run again, they really need to do something along that line to soften the blow: gloss half the run, have some variability in the color or markings, or include a mold variation of some sort (hair or gender).

That way even if you have to get two, one of them still might be a rare kind of wonderful. And there’s the possibility that – if existence of a surprise is made known ahead of time – more people near the front of the line might be tempted to take a chance on it, and thus move and improve the selection down the line.

For what it’s worth, I actually liked the Mason. I’ve bought several Gofferts in the past, yet all but my Celebration models have consequently been found wanting, and sold. I am not sure that would have been the case here.

The next Event is in the Spring of 2018; it’s too early to tell if I am going, or if I can go, but I’ll cover that in the actual trip report.

And I would be remiss to not call out the awesome team of fellow hobbyists that helped make this trip possible and wonderful: Erin, Marcy, Ellen and Jennifer!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Short History of Alabaster: Part II

For some reason this did not drop as scheduled on Saturday. So here is the conclusion, four days late....

I don’t think it was a popularity issue that doomed the “new” White paint job, but a manufacturing one: it was hard color to maintain consistency from model to model and the gray paint, applied over (not under) the Matte topcoat, rubbed off easily.

Confusing? Yes, very.

Honestly, this color confusion shouldn’t really be too surprising: we are talking about a company that had a hard time distinguishing between Bay and Chestnut. Having all these different names for a color as allegedly uncomplicated as White? Just par for the course.

Some argument could be made that Alabaster was in itself just another one of Breyer’s “Decorator” colors, albeit its simplest and most subtle. Like Smoke and Charcoal, Alabaster is not a term that was used in the real horse world to any significant degree, and bears only a coincidental resemblance to colors horses actually come in.

Matte finishes were still relatively uncommon at the time and used then primarily as a sealing topcoat for Woodgrains. The term might have been invented to help call out what was then something unusual and distinctive. Or as I’ve speculated with the color Charcoal, the term may have come from an offhand reference in a book or magazine.

Another point in favor of labeling Alabaster a Decorator color is that the term Smoke – another quasi-realistic color – debuted on the Running Mare and Foal at exactly the same time as Alabaster, and was even paired and marketed with it in deliberately mismatched Mare and Foal sets.

Then there is the matter of Gloss Alabaster: believe it or not, this term never comes up in early Breyer ephemera. It appears to be a hobbyist creation: through the 1960s and until Gloss finishes were phased out, Breyer always referred to Gloss Alabasters as White.

There were a number of reasons why white-colored horses, in all their names and forms, became a staple in the Breyer line through the 1960s and 1970s.

First and foremost: yes, they were a little cheaper to manufacture. They required fewer painting steps, and less paint. There was also less production waste. In an era where multiple simultaneous releases of a mold were the norm, it was common practice to set aside lighter-colored culls to repaint with a darker color later, rather than discarding or regrinding them.

But white was one of the most popular horse colors with the general public too, partly fueled by pop culture figures like The Lone Ranger’s Silver and Hopalong Cassidy’s Topper.

Although derided in recent years as a cheap, plain, and (at times) a downright lazy color to paint, careful examination reveals that too is not as simple as it seems. The simplicity of the color itself is a deceit: unlike other paint jobs, there’s no place for a minor decorating or molding flaw to hide.

In effect, we see the mold as the moldmaker sees it: no more, no less. That so many molds still succeed and delight is a testament to the craftsmen who helped bring them to life in the first place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Short History of Alabaster: Part I

Since I am going to either be away, or occupied with other things through the weekend, I will be queuing up the article I wrote about the history of Alabaster for this year’s Sampler.

Even though Breyer’s history began with a white Western Horse, the term “Alabaster” – the word hobbyists most commonly use to describe white-colored Breyer horses – did not appear in any official Breyer ephemera until ca. 1962.

My recent research has determined the reason why: “Alabaster” was created as a descriptor not just of a color, but a finish. In short, Matte White = Alabaster.

The history of Breyer’s plainest and most basic color, however, is far more complicated than that.

The earliest white-colored Breyer horses of the 1950s were literally White, in both form and name. Models like the Western Horse, Western Pony and Fury Prancer were uniformly described in the ephemera of the time as White: and they were, save for a few touches of gray shading on the hooves and head.

It wasn’t until 1958 that models with more extensive gray shading arrived, in the form of the Old Mold Mare and Foal (and a year later, on the Stallion). While the paint job on the Old Mold Family was very similar to the color we think of as Alabaster (gray manes, tails and body shading) they still weren’t labeled that way. The early ephemera still referred to them as White.

Other white-colored models began to show up shortly after but they were not labeled Alabaster, either. The Shetland Pony, with her gray mane and tail and pink hooves and muzzle, was still White. The Mustang and Five-Gaiter were described as Albino, presumably because the earliest pieces were issued with dark pink eyes, not black ones.

It wasn’t until ca. 1962 that the term “Alabaster” finally appeared in print, to describe the brand new Running Mare and Foal, and a revamped White Fighting Stallion.

What did these three releases have in common? The Running Mare and Foal and the re-released Fighting Stallion all came in a Matte finish. They were followed shortly afterwards by the Rearing Stallion (1965) and Running Stallion (1968), both Matte, and “Alabaster”.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the Family Arabians and the Shetland Pony – among the last remaining glossy White pieces in the Breyer line – were officially labeled Alabasters in existing ephemera. This is almost exactly the same time that Breyer officially began phasing out gloss.

1968 Pricelist:

1969 Pricelist:

I do not think this was a coincidence. Especially since the third white release in the line at the time – the Western Pony – remained glossy. And was still labeled as White.

There seems to be quite a bit of evidence that Breyer was being careful and nuanced when it came to their color terminology in the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially with their expanding repertoire of gray-based colors. One that expanded further with the release of the matte Dapple Gray paint job on the Proud Arabian Stallion in 1971.

To complicate matters even more, the term White was still being used. In spite of the fact that neither the Old Timer (released in 1966) nor the Indian Pony (released in 1970) ever came in a Gloss Finish, they were both consistently described in catalogs and other price lists as White well into the 1970s.

What I think was going on there was that a decision was made to turn that particular descriptor into a term for a matte white finish with heavy, almost Smoke-like body shading.

This “new” White didn’t last long: all subsequent “white” releases in the 1970s and 1980s were labeled Alabaster, regardless of the amount of gray shading they came with.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I honestly wasn’t expecting the rather intense reaction to the latest Stablemates Club release Diesel – a Gambler’s Choice/Surprise on the G4 Reiner:

Guess that means I can cross off trying to complete the set – at a reasonable price! Ah well, it’s been a long time since my Stablemates collection was more or less complete, anyway. (Though I am thinking about remedying that situation somewhat next year.)

I’ll be happy with whatever one I end up with, but I think the Brindle is my favorite – it’s a rarely attempted color, especially on horses. The best known Breyer Brindles include the 1995 Boxer “Pug”, the Companion Series Great Dane, the 2008 Exclusive Event Bull Rodeo Drive, last year’s BreyerFest SR Le Taureau, and the Broken Horn Saddlery Bull “Charlie”:

We rarely see brindling attempted on horses, outside of Test and Auction pieces, like this year’s Man o’ War Lot:

(I liked him, but I could have done without that weird tail.)

And this lovely Smart Chic Olena from 2012:

There’s probably a reason for that: Reeves is still trying to get “brindle” right, at least from a mass-production horse standpoint. It’s one thing to make a singular piece for auction, but it’s quite another to reproduce it consistently and well across several hundred or thousand pieces.

It’s been reserved largely for Nonhorse molds because aside from being a more commonly found pattern in dogs and cattle – and cats, if you count “tabby” as a type of brindling – collectors tend to be a bit more forgiving when it comes to paint jobs on Nonhorse molds.

If I am remembering right, I do believe the little Diesel is the first mass production attempt of a full-blown brindle paint job on a horse mold. Though in this case, it is only a Stablemate, and there will still only be a few hundred made, at best.

But it’s a start.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My Jet Run

With the Event now just a week away, it seemed like a good time to dig out my original Jet Run, so I did:

He was in storage for a while, so I had forgotten just how nice mine was – dark, pretty, with no significant flaws! Almost live show quality, if I were considering it (maybe next year).

Jet Runs tend to be a little bit lighter than mine, sometimes drifting into Olive Bay or even Buckskin territory, though I wouldn’t necessarily call the darker ones rarer or more desirable than any other variation. Jet Run – and his cohorts Might Tango and Keen – are rather lightly collected molds, even for Classics.

They don’t command much attention or money, unless they are exceptional or special in some way. I happen to think mine is, but he’s not going anywhere, so the point is moot.

Mine has a B mold mark, which I had also forgotten about. It makes sense that he has one: I did get the set for Christmas in 1981, during the “Propionate” era ca. 1979-1983. (When Breyer briefly switched from Cellulose Acetate to the Cellulose Acetate Propionate, with mixed results.)

The USET Set came out in late 1980, so examples with the mark are easily identifiable as earlier pieces.

If I recall correctly the other two members of my set are also pretty good, especially the Keen; manufacturing quality in the early 1980s could be a bit iffy – the contents of every box truly were a “surprise” – so I lucked out with my set.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Blue Box

The selection was still good when I visited “my” Tuesday Morning this afternoon – several Picassos (Bay Pinto Desatado), Foiled Agains, Pony Pouches, Don’t Look Twices (Roxy) and even a Jubilation Mule – but if there were any of the scarcer AQHA Horses present, they were long gone.

I had found some Stablemates on clearance at Meijer a couple of days prior, and a Hartland Morgan Family at a Salvation Army earlier today, so I didn’t need to buy anything to sate a “horse fix”, though that could change tomorrow, I suppose….

(That Chestnut AQHA Horse I found was an especially nice one…)

Since I’ve been on a bit of a knockoff kick, here’s another recent acquisition in that department – a NIB Blue Box Blue Ribbon Stables Thoroughbred!

I got so excited when I noticed him from a distance in my local Salvation Army – a NIB Breyer, here? – but a few more steps in the door and I saw what he really was.

But I bought him anyway, because I’ve been wanting to add a NIB Blue Box piece to my knockoff selection, and the price was right.

It would have been even better if it had been their Draft Horse – an appealing and mostly “correct” sculpt that customizes well – but the cantering Thoroughbred on its unique resting base is a very adequate substitute.

The Blue Box horses are little different from your standard knockoffs, in that it’s not the molds themselves that are being “knockoffed”, but the Breyer “brand” itself! The color scheme, the style of the box, even Blue Box logo are all very Breyer-like, as are the horses themselves…

All without actually being direct knockoffs, which I find kind of fascinating. It’s not difficult to see how that thrifty aunt or coworker who knows you like horses would pick them up for you whilst garage sailing.

(Which I always accepted with a smile, because free horses are always welcome at this house, no matter the make or model!)