Friday, July 10, 2009

It's Glossy Season!

It's that time of year again … when Reeves glosses up some regular run horses as live show prizes, and hobbyists collectively lose their minds. I'm always amazed and dumbfounded how a little gloss can turn a boring $40 regular run horse into an scintillating $500 one.

Don't get me wrong: I love me a shiny horse as much as the next girl. I just can't imagine paying that kind of moolah for one. And since I'm not motivated enough to enter the shows where they hand out those kind of goodies, it's not likely I'll ever win one either. I've never been really strongly live-show oriented anyway – and from some of the shenanigans I've heard some hobbyists go through in the pursuit of the almighty SR Prize Glossies – no thanks. The Ninja Pit seems like a saner, safer bet to me.

There used to be a long standing notion in the collecting community that Glossy = More Valuable. It's true in some sense: the Glossy Finish was largely, but not entirely, discontinued around 1966/7. And some, like the Bay Fighting Stallion, were discontinued in Gloss much earlier than that. But a lot of Glossies were made well into the Matte Finish era, such as the Glossy Charcoal Mustang, Fighting Stallion and Running Stallion. While they are certainly quite lovely, they are not necessarily rare – or at least the kind of rare that attracts a high price tag, like a Dapple Black Belgian or a Gloss Bay Fighting Stallion.

What I find especially amusing is that there are actually MATTE finished models that are significantly more rare than their Glossy counterparts. These were usually models that were originally made in Gloss Finish, and only happened to switch to Matte near the very end of their runs. Since they were likely not selling well by then, these pieces are numerically quite rare, especially when compared to the models entire production run.

One notable example may be surprising: it's the Palomino Western Pony. In gloss finish, the Palomino Western Pony is one of the most ubiquitous of vintage Breyer models: it was made from ca. 1953 through 1973, and was the horsey component of the vast majority of the Grooming Kits sold in holiday catalogs during that time period.

Like its bigger brother the Western Horse, most assume that the Palomino Western Pony also made the switch to Matte Finish. And he did. Good luck finding one though: he's so rare that even in the 1997 edition Breyer Molds & Models, Nancy Young thought he was nonexistent.

I have one in my collection, of course:

I hadn't thought him especially rare before then, either: I had found him several years earlier at a local flea market, and being the mildly obsessive variation enthusiast that I am, he was incorporated into my collection without much fanfare. If I had had to go looking for one to fill that hole in my chorus line, I might have noticed his apparent rarity. But I had one already, and not much motivation to upgrade.

I have made it a bit of a game at BreyerFest every year to spot at least one Matte Palomino Western Pony: I don't always succeed. When I do run across one, I often tell the seller about his rarity: it usually results in rolled eyeballs and skeptical eyebrows. A matte finished model that's rare? And it's a Palomino Western Pony? Yeah, right.

There are others, too, but some of them are still on my BreyerFest want list. I will have to demure; I'm on a tighter-than-average budget this year, but I haven't scaled my collecting ambitions back entirely.

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