Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Appaloosa

As I was compiling my BreyerFest saleslist yesterday, I discovered that I had three different Appaloosa Yearlings. I didn't realize they were all that popular around here: the Thoroughbreds and Adioses I find I understand (I live in an area that used to have a small but thriving horse racing industry.) But Appaloosa Yearlings? Go figure.

I have a disproportionately large collection of Appaloosa Yearlings in my own private collection, but that's because it seems to be one of those models – like the Black Stretch Morgan, or the Chestnut Saddlebred Weanling – that comes in endless variations. My post today, however, is about only one of those Yearlings. This one:

I purchased her several years ago at BreyerFest. Even in the low light endemic to the host hotel, she stood out: she was one weird girl. Nearly gray, with pale yellow spots. I had to have her! For comparison, here's a relatively normal/average Appaloosa Yearling:

And believe it or not, it's a variation that actually comes with an explanation: my gray girl is a Shrinky!

I almost totally missed out on the Shrinky phenomenon originally: most of the Shrinkies collectors discover or seek out nowadays date to the late 1980s or early 1990s, a period in which I wasn't really buying all that many new horses. (There's a long, interesting story about how I ended that hobby “hiatus,” but another time, sweeties, another time.) The only ones I recall having were the BHR SR Indian Ponies: my Bay one was particularly … oozy. And at the time, I attributed it to something else entirely.

I don't know what precisely causes the shrinking: something is slightly off in the composition of the Tenite, or in the molding process, that causes models to shrink, warp, crack and (sometimes) ooze. I haven't put any time into discovering what the precise problem is – it is again, another consequence of a lack of time and way too many topics to cover.

Just because some of your models are slightly taller or shorter than others of the same mold doesn't automatically make them Shrinkies, however. Tenite is a semi-synthetic material that's subject to environmental factors, and you're going to have some minor variations in size and shape as a result.

There are several other indicators of a models status as a true Shrinky, and this very pale girl of mine taught me that.

A while back I took a picture of this girl as an avatar on Blab. She was a bit dusty in spots, so I gave her a quick lick in lieu of walking over to the nearest sink and rinsing her off. I wasn't expecting her to taste so … nasty! I had to run to the sink anyway and rinse out my mouth!

I had licked some of my Breyers before in similar situations and had not experienced that before. Sometimes I'd feel a bit of a tingle, but nothing quite so dramatically wrong. What on Earth was going on?

I compared her to my other Appaloosa Yearlings and noticed that she was somewhat shorter than the rest – not dramatically, but noticeably. I then recalled a Spanish-Barb Buckshot I had in my collection that was slightly smaller than average, and of a somewhat unusual color – more pink than chestnut. So I pulled her out of storage, and gave him the lick test too.

Same result. Grossness! And out of that grossness came an epiphany (of sorts.)

I had noticed on eBay and elsewhere a number of unusual looking chestnuts – ones that were more pale, peachy pink than actual chestnut. Most of theme were on models from the late 1980s or early 1990s. They were pretty distinctive: why hadn't I noticed these guys before, when they came out? Was it another case of me being insufficiently observant?

No, it was probably because the paint finish hadn't yet started reacting to the messed up chemical composition of the Shrinky plastic. It took a few years before Chestnuts turned pink … and Bays turned gray!

My Appaloosa Yearling was not a variation, in the strictest sense. She was a Shrinky.

Shrinkies do still occur from time to time: last year at BreyerFest, my friend Bernie showed me a smallish, slightly off looking Diamondot Buccaneer who, one lick test later, revealed his true nature. And he was made several years after that first, now notorious batch.

I'm not advocating a wholesale licking of your collection to root out your potential Shrinkies – there are some that definitely don't need that test. (Especially if they're oozing!) But if you're curious, and have nothing better to do in the privacy of your own home ….


Tehana said...

I have a girl like your Grey one, she's not grey per say but she's oddly light and probably a shrinky.

A couple years ago a girl posted to our regional board that she needed to get rid of her collection immediately, I went down and filled my car with what I could and included in this were lots of very "Odd" light variations. Her models are some of the nicest OF variations I've ever seen, but there were quite a few shrinkies and stinky models. I have a feeling it was something to do with the way the plastic reacted to being in an old damp basement for who knows how long.

Either way, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I was really tempted to buy this poor deformed guy on eBay... but he looked like a candidate for an oozing shrinky, so I decided against :D Someone in our region has a really cool Shrinky YM like this guy, though... he's the same sort of orangey/pink chestnut and definitely small! I always thought that was cool.

Leah said...

And I thought some of your other posts were strange...

This lick test is definitely one I've never encountered, although I am not in the least an experienced collector.

Since I'm posting I'll add the one question I have for you... when or where is a online photo showcase of your incredible collection?! It would be like its own model horse gallery... full of strange things and comparisons... oh the glory. You should probably get a book deal...who needs a job, anyway?

Kelly Weimer said...

For those interested in the specifics of cellulose acetate shrinking, I point you to this study:

Cellulose acetate is also used as film, so scroll down to #2. Not interested in deciphering the "sciencese"? Basically, your Breyers are polluting the atmosphere with acetic acid, which is why the shrinkies look and taste like vinegar!

Kelly Weimer said...

Duh, that's "smell" like vinegar. Unless yours has liquified!

Anonymous said...

It is called a cat bath. Cat baths are how one cleans a model, esp. between the ears to prevent any sort of ear rubbing. I do it all the time, esp. at shows where the lighting is good and I can see what I missed, LOL.

Lick on dear, lick on!

I am posting this anon. because I get enough grief locally over this one ;).