Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blank Slates

I’ve never really understood the fascination with unpainted models. Sure, they’re nice to have if you’re a fan of a particular model, and a few of them technically qualify as special runs. But laying out the extra cash for one - over and above body or retail price, I mean - has never made much sense to me. Because every model starts out as an unpainted. And some talented folks can turn them back into one.

Some unpainted models are interesting from a sculptural standpoint: many of the Hess molds look more like art than toy in their naked state. But for the most part, I regard unpainted models as blank canvases - one indistinguishable from another. It’s the paint job that makes a horse rare or stand out from its identically-shaped cohorts.

A few unpainted models technically qualify as special runs - such as the G1 Riegsecker Draft Horse that came with the multiple-piece SR set in the 1980s, and the 1980 JAH Special Offer Unpainteds. Even so, it’s difficult to impossible to tell those SR Unpainteds from a run of the mill factory escapees, unless you can provide the documentation (receipt, or in the Drafters' case, a complete unbroken set and/or history of ownership.)

Now, there are always some exceptions to the rule. There have been many subtle - and not so subtle - mold changes over the years, and an unpainted model of an earlier version of a mold will have some historical value. The Saddlebred Weanling is an obvious candidate - the pre-Rocking Horse, attached tail version will definitely have more value and cachet than later one with a detached tail. An unpainted unmuscled Clydesdale or a supermuscled Quarter Horse Gelding would be a major coup for almost any collector, too.

(What, you don’t know about the various different versions of the Quarter Horse Gelding mold? Another topic teaser, I know.)

Unpainted chalkies have some value, too - some of you probably familiar with the infamous Pinkie Proud Arabian Foals that have floated around the hobby for years now. One of the few unpainted models I have in my collection is a chalky G1 Saddlebred (she’s not basecoated: she’s actually an opaque white plastic one.) Sorry for the small pic - it’s a former Blab avatar:

The swirled-plastic and solid-colored Stablemate keychains also qualify as unpainted models, as do the Tortuga-style Decorators, but I would argue that in those cases, it’s the plastic itself that becomes the "surface" treatment, not the paint.

There are some unpainted models being sold by various dealers as samples - with rough seams, handwritten notations and tags and stuff like that - that may also have a slightly higher-than-nominal cash value, depending on how trustworthy you consider the dealer and the documentation he or she provides. (I’m going to assume that, being the conscientious hobbyists that you are, you probably already possess the slightly skeptical mind to be wary of anyone’s extraordinary claims of rarity or general awesomeness.)

I suspect in most cases where an unpainted model goes for an exceptional or seemingly unwarranted price, it’s just another case of someone’s (or a couple of someones’s) overwhelming need to have something special and unique. It’s just that in the case of unpainted models, there are very few true instances of uniqueness: underneath every painted model is an unpainted one.


Two Fishies said...
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Two Fishies said...

What, you don’t know about the various different versions of the Quarter Horse Gelding mold?
Ahhh! What a cruel thing to say to a person who only owns one Quarter Horse Gelding--an unpainted one! I'm looking forward to this future post. :)

Sara said...

Oh! I'm interested to hear about the QHG too! But, on the topic of this post, I agree that the unpainteds are cool as a piece of sculpture. I have only one, a Keen, and the other nifty thing about him is he's also un-prepped (so big seams, big extra foot plastic, etc). Keen is a favorite of mine and I just had to have him for the "conga."

For most models, though, I wouldn't really care if it was "unpainted" or "stripped." It's tempting to strip some of my terrible condition chalkies, or I would love one of those clear stripped andalusians, or atleast the ones with the clear mane & tail. I just think they are cool looking, I don't really care about the cachet of being "unpainted."