Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Trakehner Family

And… that upgrade isn’t an upgrade: it’s about the same condition as my existing piece, once I clean it up.

You’d think that after all those previous failed attempts to upgrade something good I already have into sometime great, I would have learned by now.

C’est ma vie. While I think I won’t lose any money on the deal in the end, I’ve managed to screw up sure things before.

In more cheerful news, I made some pretty good progress on the inventory over the past few days. I pulled out a few more duplicates and legit upgrades, a few scarcer pieces I really never fell completely in love with, and I’m in the process of sorting out some of my more obscure Classics.

A few of the Classics I’m letting go – more likes that never really turned to loves – but the “Trakehner Family” (from 1992-1994) is one set that’s sticking around:


There are a few reasons why. First, of course, is that there’s a Duchess in it. Second, the colors on all three molds are really well executed: the Jet Run looks especially good in Liver Chestnut, and the light, roany Dapple Gray is one of the prettiest colors the Duchess has ever come in, in my opinion.

And thirdly, it amuses me that this family was constructed from members of three completely different and unrelated “family” sets: Jet Run from the USET Gift Set, Duchess from the Black Beauty and Friends Set, and the Mustang Foal from the Classics Mustang Family.

That was borne out of necessity: this set came out at a time when there still weren’t all that many Classics molds, or at least not the variety we have today. Breyer had just started introducing new Classics molds right around this time – beginning with the Cheney Mestenos – after nearly a ten-year gap.

There was a slow trickle of new Classics molds after the Mestenos (the Western Performance Horses, some of the Nonplastics, the Draft Horse, and so on) but it’s only really been in the past ten years that we’ve seen a regular procession of new Classics molds.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bear Family Gift Set Box

I’ve been feeling a bit unwell, the weather has been cold and wet, and every time I tune in the news it’s something upsetting: it is little surprise that all I’ve aspired to do for the past few days is hibernate.

Speaking of hibernation… here’s the not-often-seen Black Bear Family Gift Set box. I was working on my inventory earlier today and found myself stopping to admire it:


In 1973, Breyer discontinued the individual members of the Bear, Deer, and Cow Families, and reissued them the following year in Family Gift Sets. Unlike the various Horse Family Gift Sets that were also being issued at the time, the Nonhorse Gift Sets eschewed photographs and aimed for a more graphic look: they were basically very sophisticated, multicolored versions of the illustrated shipper boxes Breyer favored in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The more basic one-color illustrated shipper boxes continued to be used on bulkier items that were still shipped/sold in corrugated boxes (Wildlife and Cattle, mostly) and on some Christmas catalog items, particularly ones sold via the Sears Wishbook.

Most average/normal consumers preferred photographs to illustrations (heathens!), so this packaging experiment didn’t go far or last long. The original Bear Family Gift Set was discontinued in 1976, and the Deer and Cow Families eventually switched to more conventional boxes later in their runs.

This is a shame, because all three of those original boxes – and the Bear Family box, in particular – are really quite beautiful. If I had the time and the gumption, I’d scan them and blow them up to poster size.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Updates on the Duchess Project

Neither of my attempts to get something special outta Breyer worked this week (Moritz and the latest Test Color on Roy) so yep, I resorted to eBay again for a quick – and potentially profitable – fix. 

It’s a possible upgrade of something scarce I already have. I don’t have it yet, so the jury is still out on whether its actually going to be an upgrade, or profitable. Chances are likely neither, but better than my odds of ever winning a Micro Run or Test Color Purchase Raffle, so there’s that. 

Here’s another something I purchased recently that I was quite pleased with – the Red Roan version of the Duchess Western Horse and Rider Set: 


It was both on sale and on clearance at the local Tractor Supply: the whole shebang came to less than ten dollars, tax included! Score!

And right there is the main reason why I chose to collect the Duchess mold in the first place: it’s not a particularly hard or expensive mold to collect. Here’s a sampling of the others I’ve managed to acquire this year:


I think the Grey Thoroughbred Mare and Foal set is my favorite of this group; while it’s among the most common of the Duchess releases, the shading on this particular Duchess is especially lovely.

That all these sets are still boxed was not intentional. They just worked out that way. And the Grey Mare and Foal will be unboxed when the inventory situation is settled to my satisfaction.

I’ve discovered that one of the harder Duchess releases to find, ironically, is the Walmart Sunshine Stables/Sunshine Meadows re-release of that set from ca. 2012-2013. Other releases and re-releases in that series turn up with moderate frequency on the secondary market, still boxed, but the Grey Thoroughbred Mare and Foal re-release (#755481) is not one of them.  

It’s one of the few items where I am specifically looking for the boxed version, because it’s otherwise indistinguishable from the original release. 

Getting that set in a timely fashion is not a huge concern or high priority; I wrestle with enough frustrations in my life, and I am not going to add to those frustrations by actively chasing the unobtainable. It’ll come to me in good time, just like most things do. Eventually.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Somethings Special

Most of my “big leads” on collections this Fall haven’t pan out – which is fine, since I wanted to focus on cutting back on my existing inventory anyway – but a few more strays are still managing to make their way here, including this lovely set:


The Tractor Supply Special Run Prince Plaudit Family! See, told you that I’d find a set locally, eventually. I just wasn’t expecting eventually = a few weeks later.

(Funny how that “trick” never seems to work on Decorators or rare Woodgrains!)

I am now somewhat relieved that the Calvins were finally taken off the Breyer web site. I did feel a twinge of regret when I noticed they were gone (they are not technically sold out, just gone) but I’m glad my patience and cheapness paid off.

Here are a couple more recent acquisitions, made mostly because (a) I had money in my Paypal account, and (b) my continued lack of success with Micro Run drawings makes me cruise eBay in search of… something special.


Rare? Weird? Didn’t matter. Didn’t care. I think I did okay!

The first thing you will undoubtedly notice is the Transitional Saddle, correctly placed on a Western Horse this time, and who has a sticker!

We’ve already surmised from the existing evidence that the Transitional Saddles were from ca. 1966-1967, which is also around the same time period the small version of the Blue Ribbon Sticker was used (ca. 1966-1968). While there’s nothing “new” to learn here, it’s a nice confirmation to have. The Western Horse has some conditions issues, but whatever. Not a deal breaker in this house.

And the other? That is a Grazing Mare variation with no black points on her front legs!

Considering how long the Bay and Palomino Grazing Mare ran – from the mid-1960s through most of the 1970s – you’d think there’d be more variations out there, beyond the requisite Chalkies. But Breyer was remarkably consistent painting the original Grazing Mares through the years.

Occasionally you’ll find a Palomino with a solid face, or a Bay with four stockings instead of two, but they are fairly scarce. Even the Chalkies for those two aren’t all that easy to find.

So even though her variation is a bit on the subtle side, and she’s seen some play wear, I just had to have her.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Brown Bear Mama

I was quite pleased to finally upgrade my Brown Bear Mama recently:


And the best part – she has a Blue Ribbon Sticker, too! Not a common thing to find on the Breyer Bear or Cub, since they don’t have much in the way of smooth surfaces where stickers could stay stuck.


The original release Bear Families (both the Brown and the Black) were one of my first “big” flea market finds back in the day – that day being in 1982! My family thought I was a bit nuts.

(These are not horses. Why is she buying these things that are not horses?)

Well, for one thing, they were one of my earliest Nonhorse purchases, and old ones, too. The original Breyer Brown Bear and Cub – numbers #307 and 309, respectively – were only available from 1967 through 1971. The Black Bear and Cub lasted through 1973 as individual releases, and then as a Family Set through 1976.

Even though they were relatively “rare” they weren’t all that expensive or desirable, which was another plus for me. Old, Scarce, Exotic, yet Affordable: that was a pretty potent combination for a budding Breyer Historian!

I could upgrade or collect variations as I pleased, and not worry too much about prices or competition. While they’ve never been a high priority in my herd, I’ve managed to keep up with the releases over the years, until recently.

I still need to get the Walmart Mustang set with the Cub, and the releases from the early 2000s. None of them are hard to get: newer, shinier things always seem to come up first and get in the way.

The Silver Charm Kodiak and Denali from BreyerFest 2014 also took a bit of wind out of my sails, dashing my hopes of completing my collection: I wasn’t lucky enough to get that set, and cheapskate me certainly can’t afford the aftermarket prices.

The Brown Bear was in the roughest shape of my original four: the timing, the price, or the condition never seemed to line up properly to allow me to upgrade her. Until I was cruising for some price comps on eBay a few weeks ago, and on a whim I decided to do a bit of Bear shopping.

And there she was!

There’s also one other thing worth noting about this particular Bear: take a look at the gigantic factory molding goober on her leg where the mold mark normally is. (One corner of the mold mark is just barely visible.)

While a flaw this large usually sends a model straight to the regrind bin, the fact that the mold already had a roughly textured finish (and was not a horse!) probably allowed it to pass QC.

It’s also interesting in that it’s more evidence to the contrary that everything was so much more awesome back in the Chicago days, quality-wise.

Everything else about her is great, so I see it more as an odd little quirk than a flaw.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Funky Dappling: A Love Story

By the way, that hunch I had didn’t quite play out – there were no softly dappled Hwins at the store I went to last Wednesday night. Then I made the mistake of going to the Tractor Supply down the road, and guess what I found?

Not one, but two Chalky Hwins!


Normally I’d just buy the one and leave the other for someone else to discover, but as you can see, they are completely different. It was getting late and I have to get up unbelievably early for work, so I bought the both of them in hopes of making the decision later on.

The weekend has come and gone, and I’m still not sure which one I want to keep. Do I go with the darker one with the nicely executed polka-dot dapples, or the lighter and more Matte-finished one with the seriously askew dappling?

You’d think it would be a relatively easy decision, but it’s not. Well, not for me!

Unlike the rest of the hobby, I do not have a reflexive dislike of the newer, hand-airbrushed dappling technique. The ratio of good to bad to meh isn’t really all that different from the random resist dappling technique that was the norm prior.

You had beautiful ones. Terrible ones. Weird ones. You had lacy dapples, cornflake dapples, dapples in the mane and tail. Some were beautiful, some were awful, and some were just weird. But most of them were simply unmemorable.

A few years ago when they had some leftover Aintrees – the Dappled Rose Gray Cigar – in the Ninja Pit at BreyerFest, I almost purchased one that had to have been one of the worst hand-dappling jobs ever.

It was so bad it almost touched the philosophical definition of sublime. I am terrible at doing dapples and not all that handy with an airbrush, and even I could have done a better job. In the dark. Wearing oven mitts. It almost looked like a piece that was done to show the painters what not to do.

Terrible, yet still memorable: every now and again I’ll walk past the Aintree I did buy in the NPOD that year – a gorgeous Sample with subtle dappling and handpainted gray hooves – and lament that I didn’t rescue his terrifying yet strangely compelling brother.

Hence, my hesitation at leaving the second Hwin behind. She’s not quite as terrible as that Aintree was, but the combination of being a scarce Chalky variation with bad dappling is giving me serious pause.

I don’t think I can afford to keep both, though. I planned on listing a bunch of stuff in various places over the next few weeks, so I’ll see if it’s possible to make room for them both.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Some Early Speculation on 2018

According to a flier now circulating the Internet, next year’s BreyerFest Celebration Horse is going to be Brass Hat, on the Carrick mold: http://www.brasshat.us

That’s pretty much what I expected the Celebration Horse to be: a former racing Thoroughbred now living a very active retirement. On the Carrick mold!

While it feels a little unusual to get a picture of the prototype this early – nearly two months before tickets even go on sale – it shouldn’t. When you think about all the Special Runs they have to crank out in time for BreyerFest (lately they’ve been averaging about 30 distinct releases, not including the Gloss Prize Models), it only makes sense that they’d get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

Other than thinking about non-Thoroughbred racing breeds – Arabians, Standardbreds, Appaloosas, Quarter Horses, Orlov Trotters, Finnhorses et al – I hadn’t given much other thought to what we’ll be seeing in Kentucky next year, until now.

What would I like?

A Pacer, of course: preferably in a Roan or Tobiano Pinto. Gloss Dappled Black would be pretty sweet too, but I’d take that paint job on almost anything.

I’d also accept a new release of Sarah Rose’s popular resin Hambletonian.

I really, really want an Orlov Trotter of some sort: twelve-year-old me found them so exotic and pretty, and even now I still pine for one. I don’t know what currently existing mold would be most suitable however, and this is one release where I would definitely have to go picky on the execution of the dappling.

While we’re likely to see an Appaloosa in the Surprise SR mix, something that honors or commemorates Stud Spider in some way would be awesome: not only was the real horse a racing Appaloosa, it’s the mold’s official 40th anniversary next year. (Well, technically: the Gift Set was available in the 1977 JC Penney Christmas Catalog.)

A Reissue of the Sham would be fun too, especially if it comes with a Grimalkin on a Companion Animal cat. Sham is popular, the Companion Animals are popular, and the Dally and Spanky set was a big hit this year. And if the Sham comes in the correct shade of Golden Bay, even better.

Alternatively, they could just give us a Grimalkin release on the Kitten mold as the Nonhorse release! Or maybe a “Barn Buddies” Store Special Gift Set featuring one of the cats, one of the dogs, and the Goat.

I don’t know what they’d do for a Quarter Horse release. The first thought that entered my head was a Smarty Jones, since I believe the mold was planned as a racing Quarter Horse in the first place. Put him in a pretty Dilute or Dun, and I would totally be on board.

On the other hand, I could go on forever about potential Thoroughbred releases. Some of the releases I’ve fantasized about include a 12-piece Stablemates set featuring all the Triple Crown Winners, an Ageless Bronze Traditional Man o’ War to commemorate the statue at the KHP, or something honoring the famous Hungarian racehorse Kinscem.

Oh, and I want to see a return of the #36 Racehorse: in almost any color, I don’t care. They could use up whatever bodies they have left knocking around the warehouse, and that should cover the 12 to 15 of us who’d actually want one. (Gold Charm/Gold Chestnut would be great. Just putting that out there.)

The last larger-scale production BreyerFest Special Run on the Ruffian was 2007’s very popular Gloss Appaloosa Heartland. She would be my first choice as the Surprise Special, with either Giselle or Strapless as my second choice.

We’ll also likely see at least one SR on a recent Premier Club release, so I hope that’s True North. I’m not too fussy on the color or finish: I find him adorable and all of the existing releases are utterly unaffordable.

So that’s what I’d release, if I were in charge. Maybe add in a racetrack/companion pony into the mix, and another hunter/jumper for the OTTBs.

Whether or not we get any of this is another matter entirely. My prediction track record (no pun intended) has not been so great lately.