Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Horse Crazy Knockoffs

A couple weeks ago at work were had a bit of unexpected down time, so for some strange reason we ended up amusing ourselves by looking up pictures of obscure dollar-store knock-off toys.

This inspired me to go to our local independent non-chain dollar store on the way home that day. I was not disappointed:


The new Horse Crazy knockoffs are here!

I actually really like these; they’re a little more reminiscent of opaque colored plastic BreyerFest Special Run Stablemates keychains like our little green and white swirly friend from the 2003 Mod Squad set:

http://www.identifyyourbreyer.com/images/711103.jpg

Since I have been unable to acquire many of the actual colored plastic keychains – the Mod Squad set has always hovered just outside of my price range, and I have not been fortunate enough to either win or be gifted one of those sweet swirly Test pieces – I will happily make do with these goofy little knockoffs.

I’m a little surprised that Reeves hasn’t considered reinstituting the opaque plastic for the Horse Crazy program; it seems like a technique that would be ideally suited for it. I’m guessing it’s mostly a technical issue: recycling flawed models as regrind would be problematic, to say the least.

Making some of them “swirly” might work, but it’s hard to get consistent and attractive looking swirls, which leads to more flawed models, and murkier and murkier multicolored plastic…

I wouldn’t have a problem with that – and the potential for future Basecoat Chalky Stablemates releases – but some hobbyists might, especially since Basecoats usually involve a slight loss of detail due to the nature of the paint involved. That slight loss of detail is not that noticeable on Classics and Traditionals, but on Stablemates, it could be an issue.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

When Breyer Met Mego (no, the other Mego)

It was another weird and wonderful day at the flea market, the kind that makes me wish I had a booth at one of the local antique malls so I could justify buying stuff to stock it!

I passed by most of the horses – they were either overpriced, or simply not that interesting – but I did find one interesting bit of Breyer-related ephemera from the same vendor I purchased that photo album from:


Dinah-Mite paper dolls!

Dinah-Mite was Mego’s version of Barbie, whose biggest selling feature was that she was – as you can see from the cover of the book – far more posable and versatile.

She didn’t last long – she was discontinued ca. 1975, in favor of Mego’s better-selling Star Trek, Superhero, and Planet of the Apes lines. But not before she acquired some interesting accessories, including a horse “Golden Pal”, who was a motorized knock-off of our friend the Palomino Family Arabian Stallion:

http://www.megomuseum.com/dinah/v_horse.shtml

And a boyfriend “Don”:

http://www.megomuseum.com/catalog/1974/images/dinahmite2.jpg

Both of these accessories were not originally her own; Golden Pal was originally the Planet of the Apes “Action Stallion” and Don was simply a Mego Superman in civilian clothes. Mego was thrifty (and/or creative) that way.

So why am I going on about this obscure doll from the early 1970s? It’s because the original, elusive, rarely-seen Breyer Rider Doll from the 1976 Breyer Rider Gift Set was… a repurposed Dinah-Mite:


Or at least, the prototypes were.

There are all sorts of stories floating around about why the original Breyer Rider Gift Set never materialized; the original one I heard was that there was a safety or manufacturing issue involved. But if the plan was to just repurpose/reissue Dinah-Mites – and not merely hijack a few for the prototypes – something else might have been going on.

There are enough Mego resources online to solve that riddle, but like so many other things, I haven’t had the time to find out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Treasures

I did not take advantage of the Collectors Club Gold Valegro offer; aside from the budgeting issue (tight right now) I’m lucky enough to live in an area where access is not going to be an issue, should the money and space arise come December.

This offer was clearly for people who don’t have that same level of access.

I’d dearly love to buy the new Halloween Special Crane – basically a Mini-Me of last year’s Halloween Horse Ichabod on the Rearing Stallion mold – but again, I gotta watch that budget. I do like that they’re limiting orders to one per account, which was not the case last year. Wasn’t the quantity limit some absurd amount, like 12? Yeah, that was not cool, especially with Foal molds.

Tuesday Mornings, for those of you near them, just got a fresh Breyer shipment in, too – lots of Classics, Accessories, and the pinto Cantering Welsh Pony Smokin’ Doubledutch. If I happen to find a particularly nice CWP there during my work travels, she might be coming home with me. Maybe some of those Pony Pouches too, since I am a bit obsessed with the fabric they are made out of.

(Reeves, if you’re reading, I’d totally make you a quilt for next year’s silent auction if you’d give me a bolt of either fabric, or both. Seriously not kidding.)

The flea market has been really interesting over the past few weeks; I’ve bought a couple of small collections, lots of vintage craft supplies, and some ephemera – specifically, a photo album full of horse pictures, and a batch of photos from someone who (I think) performed and/or participated in rodeos just before WWII.

First, a few of the “rodeo” pictures; I have enough pictures of the pinto to probably have a portrait model done – and possible even the tack, too! Documentation on these photos is pretty light, alas, so I don’t know this blue-eyed boy’s name:




The Photo Album is from roughly the same time period – 1939 through 1946 – but features a greater variety of pictures. There are photos from a trip “out West”, including a visit to the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1946; several horseback riding photos, primarily of Saddlebreds; and a batch of photos from a day trip to the races – specifically, Lincoln Fields, that later became Balmoral Park:





The documentation on these photos is much better – in my rare bits of free time I’ve been able to do a little bit of research on them and the family. There was also a letter in the album discussing a horse the family purchased during his 1946 trip, with some mention of an article being published about him in the magazine The Bit and The Spur.

What was funny about this album was that, when I picked it up to look at it, the vendor touted the fact that it had a lot of World War II pictures in it – and it does! And one of those photos is interesting enough that I might have to send a scan to a baseball historian. (I’m generally pretty terrible at recognizing human faces, but maybe I might have picture of Yogi Berra during his time in the Navy?)

But it was the horse racing pictures that sealed the deal for me, of course. You just don’t find pictures of someone’s “day at the races” every day – especially in the northernmost Detroit suburbs. I do find harness racing memorabilia on occasion – there used to be a number of Standardbred farms active in the area in the 1950s and 1960s, and racing at the Imlay City Fairgrounds just up the road – but flat track stuff is a little scarcer to come by here.

I have no idea why I decided to pick up that album and go through it; there was no other horsey memorabilia on the table, and no indication that there would have been those kinds of pictures inside. I just opened it up, and there they were, and I knew I had to take that treasure home with me.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Appaloosa Aztecas

And here is the second beautiful creature from that box lot:


The rare “Appaloosa” variation of the original #85 Azteca!

The #85 Azteca release ran from 1980 through 1987 and is well-known for the number of distinct variations it has: Semi-gloss, Matte, dark manes, light manes, white tails, gray tails, heavy dappling and sparse.

But the earliest, rarest, and least known variation is the “Appaloosa” one, featuring light roany dappling over most of the body, and cornflake dappling on his butt similar to the spotting seen on the original Gloss releases of the Dark Dapple Gray Running Mare and Foal.

I was vaguely aware of the existence of this variation much earlier, but I had written them off as Test Colors, Oddities, or some sort of Marney-related thing. Until I acquired some reference materials – a page from the 1980 Aldens Christmas Catalog, to be precise – that confirmed that they were actually the earliest variation of the Azteca:


There he is! (Click on image to enlarge.)

Pictures for Christmas Catalogs were taken fairly early in the year, so seeing prototypes or early variations wasn’t all that unusual – and often led to some disappointments when the product didn’t quite match its advertised appearance.

(The sighs you may hear faintly in the distance are of those collectors of a certain age still pining for a Dapple Gray Classics Ruffian.)

That didn’t happen with the Azteca, as far as I remember. The Aldens catalog didn’t have the same circulation as the Montgomery Wards, JC Penneys or Sears catalogs, and the picture was small and of low-resolution. So this bit of documentation simply passed from hobby memory.

Until I acquired both a model and this documentation, and did the math.

I’ve found just enough of these variations to confirm that they were, indeed, a production variation, and not just (or only) part of a lot made as Salesman’s Samples.

It did take me a while to finally find one that was in this fine of a condition: due to the nature of Dapple Gray paint jobs in the early 1980s, early Aztecas of all variations are very prone to rubbing.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No Star Halla

So here’s one of the newest beauties I was alluding to – the No-Star variation of the Halla! She wasn’t a high-priority want, but she was still definitely a want! She is not perfect-perfect, but is still pretty darn nice. (The face speckles are house paint.)


And you gotta love those “black to the belly” points and the shaded ventral stripe/windpipe! Just goes to show that some of the weird painting/shading tics we complain about now (like Three-Sock Tobianos) are part of a long history of Breyer painterly weirdness.  

The No-Star Halla was the first/earliest variation of the Halla, and is even featured on the White Picture and Brown Picture boxes. I’m not sure why it was originally omitted: my best guess is that like the El Pastor, whatever references Breyer was using didn’t include detailed head shots.

The primary (perhaps only?) reference that was used to sculpt Halla was a photo featured in M. A. Stoneridge’s Great Horses of Our Time:


It is a near spot-on likeness, too! Other than the front legs – corrected in Hess’s sculpt – and the just barely visible star, which I can easily imagine getting overlooked.

Breyer caught on to the mistake quickly, no doubt corrected by a small tide of letters from nerdy horse girls who knew all about the legendary Halla:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQKu0ikGero

(FYI: The video linked to is in German.)

The No-Star version is fairly uncommon. She was a somewhat sought after piece during my live showing days (pre-BreyerFest), but it wasn’t so much her rarity as her shading and detailing that made her a must-have. The paint job on my new girl here was fairly typical of this variation: if you wanted a “nice” Halla for your showstring, this was the kind you were looking for!

The mold itself has fallen somewhat out of favor in recent years, replaced by more dynamic and/or aesthetically pleasing hunter/jumpers. With the diminishment of her fortunes, the knowledge and interest of this once sought after variation has largely faded, as well.

I was rather surprised how inexpensive my newest darling turned out to be – especially since she came with a similarly rare/weird variation I’ll get to next time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tractor Supply Season

No Leandro, no surprise.

I just took a look at my records, and I haven’t “won” a Web Special since Astru, and that was back in May of 2015. There have been a couple I haven’t entered for, and a couple I only put in a single token entry, but it’s been a year and a half since I’ve gotten a “You’re a Winner!” e-mail.

I’ve gotten a lot of great things in the interim, but being told I’m a winner – even in an e-mail, for a silly plastic horse I probably didn’t need anyway – would have been (a) a nice change of pace, and (b) a good pick-me-up. (I have plenty of flowers, so bouquets are of little use to me in that regard.)

That’s okay, since my money has to be allocated to other things; I will also not miss the messy internal dialogue I would have had about the logic of selling it to fund even more desirable things.

Speaking of Special Runs I likely won’t be getting either, it appears that we have now entered Tractor Supply Special Run Season: this year’s Specials are a Bay Pinto Silver named Santana, and a Bay Roan Smart Chic Olena named Garrett.

I consider both to be interesting and surprising choices, because we’ve already had two other Silver SRs this year (the BreyerFest Pegasus, and Leandro) and the Smart Chic Olena is soon to be released as the Fall Collector’s Club Special Run Gideon.

Like everyone else, I was thinking it’d be something more like Forever Saige or Latigo.

Someone at Tractor Supply must have a soft spot for the SCO mold: he was also previously released as an SR for them in 2006 as John Wayne’s Dollor, and Topsails Rein Maker was a part of their Regular Run product mix in 2014.

The past few years of Tractor Supply Specials have brought out some interesting behaviors in my fellow hobbyists. I know for many of us this might be the only opportunity to find a Special Run in the wild, but the intensity of the searches always knocks me for a loop. Especially since these runs aren’t particularly small or limited, and no longer even numbered.

Though I can perhaps understand it a little bit more this year, considering the molds in question.

I’ll probably get the Smart Chic Olena some time down the road, once I finish up the collection cleanout (I can always make room for another SCO!) but I’ll take a pass on the Silver. Aside from being not all that into the mold, he looks like a dressier variation of the Treasure Hunt Bay Pinto Silver from 2007: not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the Bay Pinto from that release was my least favorite from that set.

Maybe if I see him in person I might change my mind, especially if some of them turn out to be Chalky, like last year’s Jesses.

In the meantime most of my spare horse money will continue to be invested in box lots and flea market finds. I just got another doozy of a lot in yesterday that’s was well worth the price, as you’ll see later this week.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Color Vs. Concept

In spite of my indifference towards the Silver mold, I really like the latest release in the Big Cats Series, Leandro:


The color and concept really suits the mold, and he is a good match for his predecessor, the 2011 Passage to the Pacific Hear Me Roar:

http://www.identifyyourbreyer.com/images/HearMeRoar.jpg

(Does this make the Hear Me Roar the Mini-Me, or the Leandro the Mighty-Me?)

Leandro got me to thinking about Decorators, in a general sense. While the earliest Decorators were basically one-to-one color swaps – substituting a realistic color with a non-realistic one – many of these newer Decorators are more about Concept than Color.

It is relatively easy to replicate a Color-based Decorator paint job on any mold in any scale, since these types of Decorators tend to have parameters that aren’t all that different from a realistic color. And sometimes are even more basic than that.

Want to replicate Charcoal? It is relatively simple: shaded Brown- or Blue-toned Black body color, masked white mane and tail, pink hooves, pink muzzle, four stockings, bald face, and maybe some eyewhites. Make a few minor tweaks for markings, decide between Matte and Gloss, and you are done.

But with Concept-based Decorators like the Big Cats Series, it’s not that simple.

In fact they are just more complicated in a technical sense: you have decals, diecut masks, and multicolored/multitonal paint jobs with odd little details (like footpads!) that are tailored specifically for the mold. Adapting it for another release on another mold would mean making adjustments to all of these components.

This is why you don’t see repeats of Conceptual Decorators very often, unless it’s something that was popular before (like the Stablemates Halloween Decos) or a seemingly perfect match of mold and concept (like Leandro here).

It would take almost as much time and effort to come up with a new concept, than recycle an older one.

I only have three Silvers in my herd – a Skullduggery, a Valentino, and the Volunteer Special Nottingham – and I wouldn’t mind adding Leandro as a fourth. But I’m not going to sweat it if I don’t, especially since my luck with Web-Specials-I-Want has not been so good, lately.