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?)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Thing Inside

Looks like everyone else in the hobby did their math, too: the BreyerFest Bear set is sold out now. Everything else is still available, though I’m a bit surprised the Misty and the Adios still are. That Adios is a mighty handsome piece; I’ll definitely consider one once I get the sales-versus-storage issue sorted out here.

It’s hard to believe, but back when the plastic boxes debuted in the mid-1980s, most hobbyists thought they were a good idea. At last, no more mysteries over what you were buying! No sliding around in the box = fewer condition issues! Handpicking was at last a possibility!

I was a little…skeptical. Strapping a horse with zip ties to a bright yellow backer board? We were just swapping one set of condition issues for another. It was the stability of the boxes themselves worried me the most: they seemed kind of flimsy from the get-go, and even under the best conditions I doubted they’d have the same durability (or usefulness!) as the chipboard boxes that preceded them. I feared this sort of thing was in their future:


That Mesteno is so getting liberated after I post this!

The dealer I bought him from at the flea market was very apologetic about the box's condition, but I told him it wasn’t that big a deal. As far as value goes, these plastic boxes are so common and ubiquitous that most of the time, it simply doesn’t matter.

There are a few rereleases - like the Toys R Us Bay Fighting Stallion - where the box may be significant, but most of the time, it just isn’t.  And I think that’s a good thing, something I wish more toy and collectible segments would emulate. The box is not the thing. The thing inside is the thing.

Well, most of the time. Though with the prices the early 1970s Showcase boxes are bringing, I doubt I’ll even have to worry about it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Shiney Variations

The BreyerFest leftovers now, too? Gah!

Okay Reeves, you can knock it off now. You’ve finally earned my last precious bit of walking around money.

Circumstances did not line up in my favor to even make into the Silver Anniversary Shop until Sunday, and everything of interest to me was long gone by then. So I was happy to see they had some of the Silver Filigree Misties in the leftovers sale somehow. I threw in the Sherman Morgan and the Bears onto my order, too. I wanted them anyway, so if either one turns out to be Silver, that’s just a bonus.

That means, of course, that I’ll have to redouble my efforts to get something up for sale in the next few weeks. One tough decision I’ll have to make is which one of my Production Run Smart and Shineys to keep. You see, I just happened to notice a few weeks back that the two I had left had more than a mere difference in shading:


The markings on the muzzles aren’t the same! Aside from the kissy spot, the masking on the lower lip is different, and the markings in the left nostril are neither the same size nor shape.

There’s always some variation with masked markings; it’s just about impossible to have masking be perfectly consistent in an item that runs in the thousands. But the difference here is enough to make me think that there were either two separate runs (like the Gooitzens) or two different production lines running simultaneously.

Significant variations within Celebration Model runs are not that unusual. The first one that springs to mind is 1996’s Tseminole Wind; some of them were made from leftover bodies from the Sham’s 1995 QVC rerelease, and have the "95" mold mark to show for it.

The second is the 2001 Atlantis Bey V: some have masked stockings, and some don’t. I received one of each, and I had such a hard time deciding between the two I ended up keeping both.

I don’t have that luxury with the Shineys, alas. Someone’s gotta go. Right now I’m leaning towards keeping the spotless one.

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

Cosette

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.