Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chestnut Buffalo

I didn’t much time to go Vintage shopping in Kentucky this year, but I still managed to score one nice variation: a Chestnut Buffalo!

He was a want, but a lower-priority one; like most of the Wildlife molds, the Buffalo is a big fellow, and space is at a premium here. But the opportunity presented itself - and I knew if I left him behind I’d regret it.

Most of the original release #76 Buffaloes (1965-1991) are some shade of Brown - veering from near Black at one end, to Buckskin/Dun at the other. The Red Chestnut ones are something altogether different chromatically, enough to make you think they were a separate and distinct release. I haven’t seen any evidence that this is the case, though. They just happened to make the #76 Buffalo this color for a while. (The Elk and the Moose, too. Neither one of those is on my want list, yet.)

This particular example is one of the redder and less shaded ones I have seen. 

Other than being a newer rather than older piece, I’m not entirely sure where the Chestnuts fit in the Buffalo’s variation chronology. To give you an idea how complicated that web of variations is, the Buffalo behind "Red" here is an early one with nostril and lip liner, yet I also have another early one with a Small Blue Ribbon Sticker (ca. 1966-67) that is very matte and very much on the Buckskin side. There doesn't seem to be any logical progression or evolution.

Dealer and Collector’s Manuals from the mid-1980s onward do show more "chestnutty" Buffaloes, for what that’s worth. The overall quality of the paint job and the seams would be consistent with this, so I'm content with pegging it as a late variation, for now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tesoro de Oro

Another day, another Special Run on the Breyer web site …

Tesoro de Oro is not really a surprise; we had a sneak peak of him in July, at BreyerFest. I’ll probably take a pass on his very shiny self, especially since I’m in the middle of another hobby transaction that’ll tie up my "discretionary income" in the short term.

The Sample I saw in Kentucky did have - as the web site copy says - "a heavy high gloss finish", and I like the braided Laredo mane more than most do, so that could very well change. For the time being, however, I am content with just the Novelisto D, who is all kinds of fabulous:

Lots of other people thought so as well; he was by far the most popular of all the Store Specials, selling out quickly every day he was put out. My only disappointment with the Novelisto D - if you could call it that - is that they did "pearlize" the finish on him after all. I had gotten my hopes up that he would be a plain Gloss Alabaster, based on the initial photos. (Silly me. Of all people, I should know better than to do that!)

I still have hopes that Reeves brings back the Gloss Alabaster finish on something someday soon. For instance, when the Weather Girl mold comes back, I think it’d be a fabulous idea if they released them in the original "Old Mold" colors of Gloss Alabaster, Gloss Honey Bay, Splash Spot Gray Appaloosa and Woodgrain.

This would require a matching Foal and Stallion, naturally. (Ashquar and a new Arabian baby? Please?)

That’s all for today; other commitments will be leaving me short on time all week, so to make up for it you’ll be getting a smattering of short subjects I've been saving up for just such an occasion. Starting tomorrow!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


On my way home from work yesterday (Early! On a Friday! Yes!) I was thinking to myself "Isn’t it about time for Reeves to spring another surprise on us?"

I get home, log on, and there she is:

Bonjour, Cosette. (Photo taken from Breyer website and slightly cropped and formatted to fit here.)

(Collector Club homepage.)
(Direct order link for CC members.)

I don’t know what this release "means". A return of the Hagen-Renaker Love molds? A random Classic Special Run Thing, like the Flurry? Using up old bodies in the warehouse? Some sort of special stay-at-home promotion for the WEG 2014 (in Normandy this year)?

The last one seems most likely to me, though honestly I don’t know any more than the rest of you. The "Collectors Club members get early access" and "Limit two per order" in the web site banner suggest that she’ll be a fairly substantial run.

I do know is that there has been some discussion - initiated on Reeves part, I believe - about how to make the Classics molds more appealing to collectors in general.

The Classics Arabian Mare? In an elaborate Pinto paint job? Designed by Tom Bainbridge? If Cosette is in any way related to that effort, then Reeves certainly started it off with a bang.

All those years of packaging and marketing them to a slightly younger market, as toys, has taken its toll on the Classics scale’s reputation. They’re seen as unsophisticated stuff, suitable for little kids. Ironic, considering the noble origins of the originals.

When the Classics Racehorses first came out in the 1970s, I was a little indignant that these portraits of Awesome and Famous Racehorses even my Dad knew were smaller than some of the wholly imaginary ones in the Traditional line.

But I got over it and bought them all, eventually. The smaller scales also meant I could buy more. More horses = good!

Yet there still remains a strong bias in the hobby against anything non-Traditional scale, independent of the quality of the molds themselves. For me, a good model is a good model, regardless of its size or scale.

One thing I think did hamper the appeal of Classics was the lack of product development. There was a flurry of new molds in the first few years after the Classics were introduced - the Andalusian Family, the USET Set, the Black Beauty Family, the Black Stallion Returns …

Then for the next nine years? No new Classics molds. When they did return, with the Mesteno Series in 1992, they were not greeted warmly by hobbyists. The Western Performance Series then followed shortly afterwards, also to a somewhat lukewarm response.

It wasn’t until very recently that Reeves put more effort into expanding and revamping the Classics line, also with mixed success.

And now we have…Cosette? Interesting. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I’m afraid I’m not going to be terribly talkative today. The "texture" issue I had over the weekend turned into an allergic reaction so severe that I ended up at the local urgent care clinic early Monday morning. I’m feeling (and looking!) somewhat better today, but the Benadryl is definitely messing with my head.

I used the unexpected day off to sort through some very old hobby ephemera I received during BreyerFest, from the archive of a long-time hobbyist. There’s not a lot of Breyer-specific information in it, but some of the materials contained within are absolutely mindblowing from a Hobby History standpoint. Including this seemingly crude newsletter:

It’s the first page/front page of the January 1969 issue of The Model Horse Shower’s Journal.

Think about that a minute: January 1969. That’s over 45 years ago! I’m astounded that something this ephemeral lasted this long. It’s continuing existence a testimony to the staying power of the hobby, and the profound impact it had on its participants.

The level of sophistication that existed in the hobby then came as something of a revelation to me. Live shows were exceedingly rare then, but the photo show scene was thriving, pedigree assignment/breeding was huge, and dozens of clubs abounded to cater to every whim and interest.

And most astounding of all, on the second page of the January 1969 issue, someone was already trying to collect photographs to write a history book. (Oh, how much simpler it would have been, back then…)

There was even a NAMSA: The North American Model Showers’ Association! I have an undated 8-page flier that defines all the positions within the Board of Directors, Voting Rights, the Point System, Approved Shows, and a Championship Show. (There’s mention of 6-cent stamps? That would date it to ca. 1968-1971.)

I have even earlier evidence of hobby activity, but nothing that suggested this level of complexity.

I didn’t become an active participant in the hobby until 1978, though I was aware of it before then through the ads for Just About Horses in the Breyer Collector’s Manuals. And through the enthusiastic recruiting efforts of a couple of hobbyists a grade ahead of me who rode the same school bus.

When I received my first issue of The Model Horse Shower’s Journal in September 1978, it was like I had opened the door into another world, full of people like me. Hundreds, if not thousands, of them.

Whenever I speak to younger hobbyists - and even some older hobbyists who discovered the hobby later in life - many of them get the impression that it’s a relatively new phenomenon, wholly created by Breyer itself.

Although it is true that Breyer started to have a more visible and active presence in the hobby by the late 1960s, they were only adding bricks to the foundation that we had started years before.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More About Texture

You could say that I’ve developed a bit of a texture problem, myself. Though mine is more an issue of surface flaws, rather than paint. Trying to get six weeks of weeding and pruning done in six days? Not a good idea, especially with allergies.

Most of the examples brought up in the comments relate to issues of surface texture or finishing, rather than paint texture. The Lying Down Foal’s pimples, for instance, were the result of a flaw inherent to the mold, and existed regardless of the quality of the paint job. Other molds - like the Proud Arabian Stallion, Sherman Morgan, John Henry and the Trakehner - have had some of their earlier surface roughness buffed out of them.

Then there’s the issue of mold stick. The surface of a mold is a lot like the surface of household cookware: until it is properly cured - either through extended use, or the application of nonstick compounds - stuff will stick to it. This may result in a rough surface texture to the molded piece - sometimes subtle, sometimes not. Mold stick was a much bigger issue in the 1970s and 1980s than it is today: back then, it wasn’t uncommon to find pieces that looked like someone had pulled a melted pot scrubber off sections of it. When I see mold stick on newer pieces, it’s more a matter of a very slight roughness where a roughness normally isn’t. You might not even see it, except in raking light.

As I mentioned before, paint texture issues have been around as long as there have been Breyers - not just the runs, drips and unevenness that I mentioned previously, but all manners of oddness. That’s why I tend to be hesitant in immediately ruling something inauthentic. I can’t say that I’ve seen everything, but I’ve seen enough to make me pause a bit before passing judgment on a questionable model. 

For instance, I can remember back in my Model Horse Congress days (the mid-1980s) that Marney offered some of us a Test Color model whose paint job was tacky - as in sticky, not in poor taste. (I think he was a solid Chestnut Buckshot?) I took the opportunity to touch him, and she wasn’t kidding: he felt like he was covered in spray adhesive.

She said it’d harden up eventually, but I was a little hesitant: properly formulated Breyer paint dries very quickly. We’re talking seconds or minutes, not days or weeks. I passed him up because I feared there’d be another condition issue with it down the road, not to mention short-term problems with dust.

(Note: this was a few years before the Shrinking and Oozing were even on our radar.)

I’ve also run across a few models that - at first glance - looked like they were touched up after they left the factory. Paint that should have been smooth and airbrushed on appeared to have been applied thickly, with a paintbrush. Closer examination revealed that they were 100 percent factory authentic.

Generally I’ve handled these on a case-by-case basis, because most of the time that’s what they turn out to be: atypical bits of factory weirdness. This is why authenticating models in person is preferable to photographs-only. Just because it looks fake doesn’t necessarily mean it is fake. 

Most Test Colors and Samples that I own, or have owned in the past rarely had any textural issues beyond the ones related to the surface itself. This fine-grit-sandpaper feel is a relatively new development, and most likely related to the shipment of production overseas.

Not every newer Sample has it, but enough of them do that I’ll now have to incorporate it into the "authentication matrix" in my head.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Little Bits Reissues

I’ll follow up on the unexpectedly popular Texture post next time; I had some minor legal matters to take care of today. Also, because it was court and you are asked to dress appropriately, I decided to wear "real" shoes and not slippers/slip-ons for the first time since I got back from Kentucky.

I quickly came to the realization that my left foot is still a few days away from that. (More ache than ow, though.)

Reissues are not a new thing; it now appears, for instance, that many (or the majority) of Woodgrains found on the Dunning Industries Ranchcraft line of lamps were probably manufactured after the formal/official production had stopped on them.

It’s definitely the case for some Woodgrain Running Mare and Foal lamps that have the USA stamp. The Running Mare and Foal were discontinued in 1965, but the USA mark didn’t appear until ca. 1970.

There have been other more recent, and less heralded Reissues, too.  I found a couple of them at the flea market the Sunday before last:

These were part of a small series of Little Bits/Paddock Pals that were sold at Kmart in 2007; except for their packaging and issue numbers, they are identical to the models that were released in 2006. Here’s the formal list of Reissue numbers:
1668 Spotted Drafter - Black Pinto
1669 American Saddlebred - Pinto
1670 Unicorn - Pearlescent Green
1671 Arabian - Blood Bay
1672 American Quarter Horse - Buckskin
1673 Sport Horse - Appaloosa
Because they are identical to the 2006 releases, this is another case where the packaging makes all the difference in identifying them.

Kmart wasn’t the only store to receive Reissues; Target, Walmart and even Big Lots did, too. Most of those Reissues, unlike these Little Bits/Paddock Pals, were sold in packaging that was virtually identical to the original packaging save for their item numbers. (Not always, but that’s Reeves for you. Always keeping us on our toes.)

Like these guys above, most have lost their "identity" as Reissues; they were released not long after their first formal production releases, and the differences between the two tend to be negligible.

I purchased an example of this packaging back when it was first released in 2007, so I’m unsure if I’ll be keeping these two yet.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Paint Texture

Paint texture is not a thing most collectors of Original Finish models give a lot of thought to - unless there’s something wrong with it. If the paint doesn’t feel right - it’s rough, sticky or uneven in some way - it’s usually a good indication that the model has either been altered one way or another, or is not even Original Finish at all.

That assumption is generally correct. Whether a model is Gloss, Matte, or something in between, the paint itself should feel smooth to the touch. There are a few exceptions to that rule. The Gloss finishes on early Western Horses, Ponies, and Old Molds are often uneven, and may even have drips and runs. On more recent models with more complex masked markings, you might feel a raised edge on masked markings, especially if the paint job itself involved multiple layers of paint.

A couple of recent additions to my herd have complicated the issue a little further. The first you might already be familiar with - it’s the Sample of the Tunbridge Wells I found last year:

The second is another Sample - this one of the Reissue Azhar - that I picked up at BreyerFest this year:

The texture is not immediately visible, but it is noticeable once you pick them up: they’re both very slightly rough to the touch. It’s not unpleasant - trust me, I’ve picked up a few models I wish I never had - but it’s definitely not what I was used to, or expecting. It's like an extremely fine grit sandpaper.

With the Tunbridge Wells, I thought at first that it might have been a feature of the paint job itself - it’s a Roan, after all - but I wasn’t 100 percent sure, and it felt kind of weird asking people to touch their horses for me. So I waited until BreyerFest this year, when I could grope the models in question to my heart’s content.

They were all smooth, or at least much smoother than mine.

I didn’t get a chance to fully unwrap the Azhar down in Kentucky, so I wasn’t aware of his texture until I came home. I don’t have one of the Reissues or the original to compare it to, but the texture is almost identical to the Sample Tunbridge Wells.

He is also very slightly metallic - the same level/quality of sparkliness seen on some of the more recent Gloss Finishes such as the Glossy Mariah’s Boons from a few BreyerFests back, something that I dubbed "The Tinkerbell Effect".

I have no idea if it is a feature on all of the Production Run and/or Reissue Azhars or not. The original Azhar wasn’t on my radar, and I’ve been trying to be good about not buying all of the Reissues (I will cave in and buy a Smoky, eventually.)

Both pieces are undeniably authentic. I still have the bags and wraps they came in, straight from the NPOD, itself. I have several other Samples, including one of another Reissue, and I can't recall feeling anything out of the ordinary.

So anyway, now we have to add more exceptions and more qualifiers to deal with when authenticating things.