Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gray Plastic Chalkies

My next big project will take me to the end of the year, and probably a little bit beyond: I need to inspect the one-third of my collection now currently in storage. There are approximately 40 (40!) boxes to unpack, examine and repack, and each box has anywhere from 10 to 20 models apiece, so my end-of-the-year projection is not an exaggeration.

I pack pretty well, and the storage conditions – while not ideal – are more than adequate, so damage isn't the primary issue here. I did a thorough inventory a couple of years ago and I've managed to keep that up-to-date, so that's not the reason why, either.

Nope, the primary reason for the excavation is research. I'm trying to collect physical data on the models themselves. I'm taking notes on things like color, markings, mold marks, mold changes and other unique or distinct characteristics that help distinguish one release from another. It's tedious, boring but necessary work, especially when you have some models that came in a multitude of “Bay” paint jobs, some of which are worth significantly more than another – and some of which aren't technically Bay!

A secondary benefit of this excavation is that I can unearth and photograph some of my buried treasures for future blog posts. Today's subject is was one of the things I found in my first day back on the project: my Gray Plastic El Pastor!

Gray Plastic Chalkies are just one of the many different subcategories of Chalkies. Gray Plastic Chalkies are models that were molded in a light to medium gray-colored Tenite, and not basecoated with white prior to painting. I sometimes call them Semi-Chalkies because they were nonwhite plastic models made during the Chalky Era (ca. 1973-1976): Breyer just skipped the basecoating step. The most common Gray Plastic Chalkies are Elephants and Donkeys; here's a particularly lovely near-black variation of the Donkey:

The Gray Plastic Chalky Elephant and Donkey are easy to distinguish from the earlier Donkey and Elephant (ca. Late 1950s – early 1960s) that were also molded out of gray plastic. One, the color is different: the earlier ones were a glossier and more battleship gray color, while the Chalky Era ones are more of a mop-water gray. Second, the paint jobs were completely different. The earlier versions only had their eyes painted; on the later ones, additional gray paint is used to enhance the color.

Breyer also used the gray plastic on the Spanish Fighting Bull and the Walking Polled Black Angus Bull to good effect. I actually prefer the Fighting Bull in its gray plastic version: I think the gray plastic horns are less stark-looking than the white ones he usually comes with.

Breyer attempted to go with the unpainted gray plastic on some of their horses, but with less success. With solid colors, or black-painted horses, it wasn't too much of a problem: I have a gray plastic Black Stretch Morgan who's quite handsome. (Haven't unearthed him yet, sorry.) With models like El Pastor, where having a white surface is essential to the proper execution of the design, the gray plastic just makes them look dingy and oversprayed.

Maybe Breyer thought they could get away with it for a batch or two. This was the era of the fuzzy overspray: clean, sharp markings were the exception, not the rule. (Whenever I see someone carping nowadays about a miniscule amount of overspray on an otherwise flawless horse, I'm not sure if I want to laugh at them or call them out on it. Back in the day, we bought Stablemates with untrimmed flashing on them, and we were okay with that! Well, not entirely okay with it, but certainly a lot less whiney.)

The Gray Plastic Chalky horses are less common than the nonhorses, probably because while our standards were lower than they are today, they weren't nonexistent. Did they really think we'd buy a #97 Chestnut Appaloosa Gelding with a gray hip blanket?

(Yeah, really, they made Gray Plastic Appaloosa Geldings. I don't have one – yet.)


GWR said...

Neato! I have a gray colored plastic Donkey myself, he has little blue, green, and red streaks in the plastic, too.

Stockstill Stables said...

does the donkey have a mold mark? I was checking mine.. he does not. he looks normal plastic to me.

beforetheRfell said...

There was a lot of regrind going on 2002-2003 right before the Traditionals headed to China. Many Cedarfarm Wixoms, Black Stallions (Sham), Andalusians, Bucephalus, and Quo Vadis models are colored plastic beneath their black paint with many of the latter two having their foreheads painted white before masking so that the marking would be white. Very similar to old style chalkies.

Anonymous said...

My husbands Grandmother just passed away and the only thing he really wanted was the fighting bull Breyer statue she had. I was just trying to research and find out if I could get any history on it for him and have found a large number of similar items on the internet , but nothing concrete , so I thought I would ask around. It is the Mexican fighting bull and is black and white and he can remember having around at his Grandma's as early as 1971. It has no numbers on it but is stamped with the circle "Breyer molding company" stamp inside the right rear leg. Any information would be great. send it to me at , my name is Heather. I appreciate your time.