Here's a little bit of history from my archives, postmarked August 21, 1982: a Breyer Animal Creations “Thank you for your suggestions” postcard. Yep, it was so common back then for hobbyists to write in with unsolicited suggestions that Breyer actually had to have preprinted postcards made to expedite their replies.
Indeed, unsolicited consumer suggestions were one of the main ways that Breyer used to gauge the demand for new molds and new products. Occasionally they'd get a singularly inspiring idea from a lone collector that might lead to a new product, but it was usually more of a numbers game: the more collectors who suggested a similar idea, the more likely they'd consider going forward with it.
(I can only imagine the sheer amount of mail Breyer must have received in 1975 after Ruffian's tragic end; I know it struck a chord with me and all of my other horse-crazy friends of a certain age: i.e. Breyer's target audience.)
Most of us had the common sense (even at that tender age) to know that we would not be receiving credit – or compensation – for our ideas. We were just thrilled to pieces that they had listened to us. And just maybe, we'd think, maybe it was MY letter that finally did the trick, the one that finally convinced them to make it. The only evidence we'd have (at most) would be a letter, or a postcard. But that was usually sufficient.
Things have gotten a little more complicated since then. For one thing, Reeves has now codified this long-standing practice into a concept unto itself: the Collector's Choice Series. Collectors suggest ideas, Reeves selects some of them for us to vote on, and the top vote- and attention-getters get the honor of being manufactured. And the suggester gets credit, and a model.
That hasn't stopped hobbyists from suggesting other ideas outside the parameters of the Collector's Choice Series. We know that Reeves prowls various hobbyist sites (including this one) and many of us aren't shy about expressing our ideas in these all-too-public forums. And like the handwritten letters of yore, it's usually the ones that have momentum, or the weight of public opinion behind them. But sometimes singular ideas get through, too.
I've taken a bit of flak for stating that this year's “Gambler's Choice” idea for BreyerFest was my idea. I had only taken credit for that idea by virtue of the fact that I had suggested it in a thread on Blab that Reeves had specifically requested in order to solicit ideas for this year's Fest. A thread that they obviously read, since they took several other ideas from it as well (the Pink Poodle, the Blue Tortuga Five-Gaiter, the Commemorative Stablemates Set ...)
I wasn't expecting compensation, or for Reeves to give me credit specifically. I only took credit because, well, the dated evidence of my suggestion was there for all to see. I didn't think that it'd be all that controversial. I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow if anyone else whose idea was used had trumpeted that fact, either. We can all stand to get a little ego boost now and then.
Was I upset and a little annoyed that I didn't get the Quarter Horse Gelding in Silver Filigree or Charcoal? Yeah. But I wasn't expecting Reeves to send me one, either. The fact that I had mentioned them specifically in a post back in the beginning of June (as suggested gifts) was just another one of those coincidences brought about by a deep knowledge of the subject matter.
In layman's terms: I made an educated guess.
I also hoped that some would realize from my self-appointed title as the “Breyer History Diva” that I don't take myself all that seriously, and that suggestion was made very much in that vein. My research I do take seriously, but myself, no. I know full well that this pond we swim in is a very small one, and even the biggest fish in this pond are still pretty darn small compared to the ones in the ocean.
Will I continue to make my ideas and suggestions known? Of course I will. That's part of the hobby for me, and for a lot of other hobbyists. Would I like to get credit from the higher-ups for some of those ideas? Sure! But I'm not sitting by my doorway waiting for the UPS truck to drop off my prize for being clever.