Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Sticker You Don't Know

Any Breyer collector worth their salt should know about the Breyer stickers: the gold foil "Tenite" sticker seen most often on early Woodgrains, and the blue ribbon sticker (both large and small) that appeared on most Breyer models from ca. 1966 through 1970. But there’s a third vintage sticker that most of you wouldn’t know about, because there’s only two pieces of evidence for it: a sheet of stickers in the Breyer archives, and this handsome boy:

The fonts, motifs and color choices of this dumbbell-style sticker indicates that it’s from the "brown box" era of Breyer packaging, dating from ca. 1979 to ca. 1982, and which replaced the white picture box that ruled the roost from ca. 1973 through 1978. (It is, in fact, dated 1980 on one side.)

I had no idea these sticker existed either, prior to my visit to the Breyer factory many moons ago. As I’ve said before, what reference materials they do have prior to 1985 are minimal. Most of it I had already seen, or had copies of via various hobby sources (most of them tracing back to Marney’s original copies!) Some of the newer stuff was interesting, but nothing was overly impressive - I had heard Marney describe the sorry state of Breyer’s recordkeeping before, so while it was a little sad to see firsthand, it was not unexpected.

There were still a few interesting things in the binders, though. A sheet of dumbbell stickers stood out: now THAT was something I hadn’t seen before! As an aficionado of stickered models, I was intrigued; since I had not seen - or even heard - of a Breyer model sporting this type of sticker. I just assumed it was either an experiment or aborted marketing attempt, but made a mental note nonetheless.

A couple of years later, I found the Silky Sullivan on a well-known hobbyist’s saleslist, and I just couldn’t pass him up. I mean, really - how could I not buy him?

I have no idea what the extent of this particular marketing program was. It may have truly been an experiment that was just tested in a few markets, or a few stores - in this case, the price tag on the sticker indicates he was sold at Woolworth’s. (His price? $4.97)

From the amount of information about the model on the sticker - name, number, brief biography - I am assuming that this was an test to sell Breyer models without boxes. Was this another try at "touchability?" Or just a way of eliminating the cost of packaging altogether? This cost-saving attempt was probably thwarted by the rough and tumble world of retail: a couple weeks of less-than-gentle handling by customers and employees probably rendered most of these sticker recipients into body box fodder quickly.

I haven’t seen or heard of another example crop up anywhere, though it probably shouldn’t be surprising since this isn’t the kind of sticker that (please forgive the inevitable pun) sticks around. Dumbbell stickers are designed to be torn off quickly and easily, and any models that wore these stickers probably didn’t wear them long once they left the store. Except for the collector or hobbyist who had the foresight to save this fellow.


TwilightCompanion said...

Oh that's neat! I'm a Silky Sullivan fan - my favorite mold - and I love that sticker!

Sara said...

Fascinating! Great post! I had definitely never heard of these before. I would be curious which other models you saw on the sticker sheet. Like, was this marketing test limited to the classic racehorses?

ANDREA said...

I think the sticker sheet included Traditionals, too - the Appaloosa Yearling, maybe? It might have been a test sheet, though, and it's possible that only the Classics were attempted.

Since this guy is the only evidence we have of the sticker in the wild, it's hard to make any good conclusions. Other than the fact that some evidently were used.

Chester's Mom said...


I ran toy stores in the NC area from 1982 to 1987 and because of my interest in Breyer models, the company shipped my stores ALL the Breyers still in stock that hadn't sold. The stores were K&K Toys, based out of Va Beach, VA. I can tell you that I never saw a single one of these stickers on any models we had; and I sold them all by opening the boxes and displaying them in glass...keeping the boxes to repackage when sold. We had white and brown box items (some had been sitting around for awhile). We also quit ordering in (I think) 1985 ...

That may help simply through some process of elimination?