Up front: I think documentation is a very good thing, and something that I'd be doing if I were showing more actively. But I'm not a big fan of making documentation a requirement in Collectibility judging. Suggested and highly recommended, yes, but not required.
Collectibility, as it is judged now, is something relatively “new” to the live showing world. When I was showing in the mid to late 1980s, Collectibility was definitely a factor in judging, but it was not a separate class unto itself. The eight to ten piece “Collector's Class” was a regular feature at many shows, but then as now, placings were awarded to the assemblages, not to individual models.
Collectibility as a “judgeable” class category is mostly a reaction to the influx of newer, more “realistic” molds, and the desire to keep these older molds competitive in the show ring who would not otherwise be able to compete.
Since it is a something newer, and something that has no corollary in the real horse world to model it after, I think there needs to be either some degree of flexibility in the rule, or a transitional period to get everyone up to speed on the practice. The first step would be in making it “suggested” or “highly recommended” practice in the show rules, rather than a requirement. How that would be implemented, I have no idea. Like I've said, I've been an infrequent shower in the past decade, and I haven't had much involvement in NAMHSA beyond the occasional lurking in the various discussion boards.
Personally, I'd be reluctant to disqualify something entirely just because it lacked documentation, especially when it's something that could be extremely competitive without it. A mint in box Woodgrain Stretch Morgan with a gold foil Tenite sticker really doesn't need further explanation: if a collectibility judge doesn't know what that is and why it's being judged for collectibility, they probably shouldn't be judging collectibility in the first place.
However, I think documentation may be still be very useful, even in the most obvious of cases such as a Woodgrain Morgan.
First off, documentation at its most elemental level is useful as a tiebreaker: if you have two equally fabulous models, the one with the superior documentation has the edge, because it shows that the hobbyist has put in that extra work, as opposed to someone who just plops a model into the class and hopes that their model's sheer greatness will overwhelm all comers.
Second, documentation demonstrates the hobbyist's knowledge about what he or she collects. Any hobbyist with a little bit of luck could find something exceedingly rare, but I'd give the edge to the hobbyist who knows why it's rare, and is able to articulate why. That's showing me that they're a collector, and not just an accumulator.
And third, documentation may help in further distinguishing a model in ways that are not visible to the naked eye. It may be a particular rare, obscure or subtle variation. It may have an interesting or significant provenance. It might have a unique or important history independent of its mold or color.
Documentation isn't an automatic pass: not all research materials are created equal. Internet sources, for example, are of varying and sometimes dubious quality. I wouldn't discount them entirely, especially if it is the only source of information about a particular model or variation, but I'd give a strong preference to printed sources, or back them up with other relevant citations and cross-references.
Some arguments have been made that documentation removes the need for a Collectibility judge to even know the subject at all. On the contrary, I think that the judge would need a strong working knowledge of the available reference materials to be able to judge if the attribution and documentation has been done properly in the first place. Someone who misidentifies their models in their documentation is hindering, rather than helping their entry.
In cases like that, an absence of documentation actually works in the hobbyist's favor. You get no added benefit by not including it, but you also aren't accidentally sabotaging your entry, either, with sloppy or incorrect research. Sometimes it's better to let the model speak for itself.
(For the record, if anyone wants to use anything I've posted here as part of their documentation, feel free. Just cite the web site address and the date of the post. No guarantees are given or implied: whether the judge accepts it as credible or not is their own prerogative.)
Programming Note: I probably won't be home for any significant amount of time tomorrow. Next post on Thursday!