Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Just About Horses

Normally I'm not given to obsessing over particular test colors, because the odds of me owning any one of them are pretty close to zero. Oh, there are a few on my list – the seal bay Peruvian with speckled stockings (in a BreyerFest auction, a few years back), the Dapple Gray Traditional Man o' War, Marney's Transparent Belgian – but I've tried to keep the list short, because there really are better things to daydream about.

But I think I'm in love with the Walking Black Angus Bull from last Thursday. The one in blue roan. He's going on the list.

It's been a really, really long time since we've even seen the Walking Black Angus Bull in production: 1977, to be precise. There's a possibility that he was rereleased in the 1980s, but I'm not sure if these models were part of an actual production run or simply factory leftovers. (I'll discuss that more fully whenever I finally get around to the Breyer Weathervanes.) It's been a long time, either way, and I'm glad that Reeves may be considering his return.

I know most collectors focus on just the horses – sometimes even to the exclusion of the accessories the horse may come with – but back in the 1950s, Breyer apparently had a broader vision of their line. They weren't "just about horses" back then: by 1953, they adopted the name "Breyer Animal Creations" for their toy line, and in a 1954 Directory of Toy Manufacturers published by Playthings Magazine, they list its main products as “Plastic horses and dogs.” (The 1953 listing only mentions “Money manager banks,” an odd discrepancy.)

As late as 1958, the non-horse molds outnumbered the horses: there were seven different horse molds listed, but eight non-horse! On the horse side, we had the Arabian Mare, Arabian Foal, Western Horse, Western Pony, Fury-Prancer, Racehorse, and Clydesdale. On the non-horse side, there was the Brahma Bull, Walking Horned Hereford, Boxer, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Poodle, Elephant, and Donkey. There's more if you'd consider the Rigid Riders, but classifying them as non-horse molds is just weird. I don't count the Small Poodle, since it was not officially released back then.

You might notice that the Walking Black Angus was not on the list. We're not 100% sure of the Walking Black Angus's release date; he's another one of those models that was released somewhere in that undocumented gap between 1958 and 1963. The 1960 you see is just an educated guess.

Horses didn't start to dominate until the early 1960s, but even then, Breyer was still releasing a fair number of new non-horse molds: Bear, Bear Cub, Deer Family, Bassett Hound, Kitten, Elk, Buffalo, Moose, and the Standing Polled Hereford Bull were all introduced in the 1960s. The 1970s saw a significant number of new non-horse molds, too: Cow, Calf, Spanish Fighting Bull, Pronghorn, Bighorn Ram, St. Bernard, Jasper, Brighty, Rocky Mountain Goat, Charolais Bull, Benji, Tiffany and the Standing Black Angus Bull.

So throughout much of Breyer's early history, the non-horse molds made up a significant percentage of their mold base. Far higher than they do today, even if the Companion Animals are factored in. (I haven't done the exact calculations, sorry!)

The only problem with the non-horse molds is that for many of them, there's a rather limited number of colors to choose from. And most of those are brown. What they lack in versatility they tend to make up with longevity. An excellent example is the #74 Standing Polled Hereford Bull: he had an insanely long production run, from 1968 through 2004 - that's 36 years! They're not huge sellers, but they're steady ones, often purchased by noncollectors as home accents.

I know there has been some grumbling about “The Widow Maker's” non-equine nature, but I think it's high time that one of the many non-horse molds that helped build Breyer is finally being honored with a Connoisseur release.


Lysette said...

As one who did a BF collector's class with a theme of "More than Just Plastic Horses," it is great to see a discussion of the other animals.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for the Bulls! I love them and can't wait to enter for Widowmaker. Love the cows and bulls and I agree with you on the Blue Roan on their Facebook page. Lovely!

bubbasmom said...

I agree! It's about time one of the bulls got to be a Connoisseur. I'm REALLY hoping my name gets drawn for a Widowmaker:^)