Thursday, March 5, 2009

The First Breyer Mold Mark?

Most collectors are familiar with the Breyer mold mark, the one that I like to refer to as the "copyright horseshoe." This mold mark, phased in sometime around 1960, is basically a large copyright mark encircled by lettering: "Breyer Molding Co." on earlier pieces, and "Breyer Reeves" on more recent items (more or less.)

There have been many other marks, signatures, and changes since that time; some molds have mold mark histories that are almost comical in their intricacy - Family Arabian Foal, anyone? However, the Breyer Molding Company existed long before they produced their first horse. Surely they had to have had something they stamped or imprinted on at least some of its non-equine products, right? What, if anything, came before?

Well, I think I found it - and it wasn’t on a horse! It was on a Mastercrafter clock - and not the clock you’re thinking of, either. It was this one:

Confused? Let me explain.

Most hobbyists are familiar with the basic story of Breyer’s start in the horsemaking business: they created a Western Horse mold for the Mastercrafter Clock Company, and allegedly received the mold back after production, in lieu of payment. The actual story isn’t as simple and straightforward as that, but that’s yet another topic, for another day.

Slightly less well known is the fact that Breyer made many other nonhorse items for this company, too - like cases, bases and knobs. So when this clock turned up on eBay, with a casual mention of a "small Breyer mold mark" in the description, I knew it was something very, very significant.

The logo itself is very small - less than a quarter of an inch high, in fact, and just about unphotographable. I’ve redrawn/reconstructed it here, greatly enlarged:

What’s really interesting is how this mold mark shares so many similarities with the early Breyer logo. This "wavy ribbon" logo and theme can be found on early Breyer stationery, promotional materials, and some of their early proprietary products like the checkers and poker chips. This theme was also echoed in the squarish shape and wavy, rippled edge of the gold foil "Tenite" stickers introduced in the late 1950s that slightly predate the introduction of the copyright horseshoe.

So in a way, this mold mark did eventually make it on some Breyer models, in a roundabout fashion.

I still have a little more research to do on this topic, believe it or not - I have a couple more leads that go even deeper in time, possibly to the very beginning of the Breyer Molding Company itself. But I haven’t had the time to do follow up on them yet, and there are plenty of other, and horsier, topics to cover in the meantime.

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