Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Buzz about the "Daily Breyers"

And what did I tell you? Ballylee sold out by the end of the week. What’s going with the mysterious "wait list" is that they’ve probably reached a low enough stock level - one dozen, maybe two? - that they wanted to reserve what’s left to cover orders in transit or in the queue waiting for confirmation - and also have a few left over to remedy loss and damages. It’s not about them making more. They didn’t make more Silver Snows now, did they?

I’m amused that Breyer has started posting test colors on their Facebook page, as an upcoming post is going to center around the entire definition of the term "test color." The reaction and commentary on these "Daily Breyer" photos has been completely predictable. Of course you want them: they’re unique, unattainable, and have richer detailing than your standard, run-of-the-mill Breyer. Of course they’re not realistic or "successful": that’s why they’re still called test colors. They’re experimenting, and not every experiment succeeds. Duh.

(For the record, if anyone at Reeves is reading: a marbelized vintage mold would make a fabulous Connoisseur idea. May I suggest the Mustang? Or the Five-Gaiter, perhaps?)

I do have to wonder about their obsession with solid legs on pintos - they’ve done it enough now to make one think it’s not something they’re doing out of simple ignorance, though it’s certainly a possibility. Not everyone who works at Reeves is necessarily a horse person, and not every horse person is as well-versed in color genetics as your average hobbyist.

Breyer’s never had the best track record with accurately reproducing real horse colors - or naming the ones they do correctly. The ancient #36 Racehorse was called "Bay" in company literature even though was rather obviously a chestnut. I also have a rather amusing letter in my archive from Marney Walerius - one of the founding mothers of the hobby who had a close, working relationship with Breyer and Peter Stone, back in the Chicago days of the company - that is basically a big rant about Peter not knowing the difference between an Overo and a Tobiano Pinto.

A lot of decisions about color and marking selection aren’t made out of ignorance, though, but aesthetics: a color may chosen simply because it "looks good" on a particular model, not because the powers-that-be necessarily think it’s realistic or possible. Hardcore hobbyists only make up a fraction of the model horse buying public, and the general public is generally more concerned with how visually pleasing something is over how accurate is it. (Some hobbyists, like moi, are a little more flexible on the subject, too.) In this case, the solid-leg pinto concept is just an artistic "tic" they’ve been on lately.

Another factor in color selection is deliberate provocation: sometimes they might deliberately release a color, marking or finish on a model to elicit a reaction and stimulate sales. The discussion on some board will start with some irate, indignant hobbyist posting "Oh, great, another solid legged pinto: those idiots will never learn!" This will be followed by several other hobbyists agreeing wholeheartedly, then others defending it or even posting a possible reference photo … and voila, instant buzz. With Reeves lurking in the background, gauging our reaction.

Breyer did this sort of thing it back in the early days in Chicago, too, though not with the same scale, gusto or planning. It was a different company then, and a different time, and not just in a there-was-no-Internet kind of way. Back then test colors were actually test colors, and not possibly some weird in-between thing, and the one in-between weird thing that did exist was something only a few of us really knew about anyway …but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

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