Monday, June 22, 2009

The Mysteries of Breyer Bay

I picked up a really nice Bay Missouri Fox Trotter yesterday - the No. 768 with green and gold ribbons. Nothing rare or fancy, but I’m a softie for both Missouri Fox Trotters and for a well-shaded Bay paint job, and the price was right. I haven’t bought many models strictly for me this year, and I really needed one right now.

Breyer has an … interesting history when it comes to the color Bay. They really didn’t start rendering the color "correctly" until the mid-1960s. What came before then - and for a long time afterwards - was a color I’ve come to call, for lack of a better term, "Breyer Bay."

Breyer Bay describes a red-brown base coat with a black mane, tail and hooves, four white stockings, and usually some manner of facial markings. What it lacks is the black legs or points that would make it a true "Bay." Some real-life horses do exist in this color as Breyer painted it, sorta, but I’m getting ahead of the discussion here.

Even Breyer couldn’t keep this version of the color straight in their minds: early catalogs refer to the Running Mare and Foal in this color as "Chestnut" while at the same time calling the Family Arabians and QH Gelding in this very same color "Bay." (All the while calling the distinctly chestnutty #36 Racehorse "Bay.")

And adding to the confusion, Running Mare and Foal were labeled as Chestnut through 1970 in the Dealer Price Lists, but they continued to be called Chestnut in the Collector’s Manuals through 1975! (Yes, this pretty girl is a semi-gloss with eyewhites. NFS!)


The existence of Breyer Bay has been an ongoing problem in my research. You wouldn’t think it the case, but one of the hardest parts of my research is writing correct and accurate color descriptions of all known Breyer releases. Some colors aren’t difficult to describe - like Black, or even many of the Decorator colors.

Sometimes it gets a little dicey when you’re trying to explain a color on a model that shouldn’t legally exist in the breed it’s meant to represent - the whole Palomino Arabian conundrum comes immediately to mind. But that’s more of a showing or breeding issue than a descriptive one. You can explain away your Palomino Arabian as a crossbred or an extremely pale chestnut to not get it disqualified from the ring, but visually, it looks like Palomino, and that’s how I describe it.

Now, in the showring, a model with a "Breyer Bay" paint job can be explained away as Chestnut, or Primitive Bay, Baby Bay, or some sort of roany or sabino type thing. But it’s still the same color, regardless of the way you explain it. When I began writing my descriptions, I realized that what I needed was a simple, concise way to describe it on paper with a minimum of confusion.

Because the last thing the world the model horse hobby needs is more color confusion. (Quite a few nonexistent SRs and variations can be chalked up to a seller’s - or potential buyer’s - poor choice of words. But that’s another discussion.)

So I took the lazy route, and just decided to go with the term "Breyer Bay" to cover it. Maybe it’ll catch on, and maybe it won’t. It does make my job a little bit easier, though.

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