Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorrel Fighting Stallion, Redux

I spent my Black Friday finishing up my 2008 paperwork (got the new toner cartridge on Wednesday.) Now I remember why I put off printing and sorting it all out – I spent way more than I should have on the“nonessential” things. The paperwork for this year should look a lot better; I've cut out most of my retail horse shopping (except for the Target and TSC specials) and I've studiously avoided the temptations of eBay.

There's no moral or philosophical underpinnings to those shopping decisions, beyond a lack of space and a lack of money. From now until I get the herd under control, the only hobby-oriented things I'll be buying are actual necessities: reference materials and office supplies. (One can never have enough binders or index cards!)

I was doing a little research on a topic I had been planning on writing about today, but I found something else instead: more on the possible origins of the Five-Gaiter Sorrel Fighting Stallion. (This sort of thing happens all the time, which is why my list of future topics never gets any shorter.) I was cross-checking some data in my early Breyer pricelists, and something caught my eye:

Look familiar? It's the same photograph of the “Bay” Fighting Stallion we saw in the 1968 Collector's Manual that I concluded was the Sorrel Fighter:

The “new” data isn't really new: I've had it for several years now. It comes from a copy of the Frederick C. Wolf & Son Inc. pricelist, dated May 7-8, 1963. (One page is dated May 7, the rest are dated May 8.) They were wholesale jobbers and distributors based in Tacoma Washington.

Most of the data duplicates what we already know from the official 1963 price list; the importance of this list was that it was the first documentation that showed that the matte and gloss Alabaster Fighting Stallions really were two distinct, separate releases. The 1962/3 Red Bird Sales Pages documents that fact in better detail, but those were found a few years later.

(We're not sure what to make of the “Dancer” nickname given to the No. 31 Fighting Stallion: we don't have any other reference to this name anywhere else. We don't know if Breyer or the jobber made it up. Separate topic anyway.)

What this “discovery” means is that we can push back the possible manufacture date of the Sorrel Fighting Stallion back to 1963. Since this was the same year that the Bay colorway was formally introduced on the Fighting Stallion, that means that the Sorrels may predate the standard “Breyer Bay” version we all know and love.

The only question then becomes: where do the Gloss Bays fit in the chronology? We don't have any references at all for the Gloss Bay Fighting Stallions: no pictures, and no notations on any pricelists, mail order sheets or catalogs of a finish change.

Then, as now, some of Breyer's upcoming releases may have been made available early for holiday orders. My guess – and it's purely a guess – is that these first batches of Fighting Stallions were produced in Gloss, possibly as a part of the 1962 holiday shipments. Once regular production began, they switched over to the Matte.

That wouldn't explain why the photograph shows the Five-Gaiter Sorrel version of the Fighting Stallion, though. If the glosses came first, and they intended the Sorrel color all along, then there shouldn't be any Gloss Bays at all: just Gloss Sorrels. But that's not the case at all. (I also happen to think that more than a few of the “Gloss Bay” Fighters out there aren't 100% authentic, but again, that's a separate topic.)

There was a lot of color confusion in Breyer's early days: the same colors on different models had the same name. The “Bay” Western Prancing Horse was actually the same color as the “Sorrel” Five-Gaiter, and the “Chestnut” Running Mare and Foal were the same color as the “Bay” Quarter Horse Gelding (except for the finish.) And the #36 Racehorse was called “Bay,” but was actually Chestnut.

Maybe somebody – or a lot of somebodies – just got their shades of Bay mixed up. “We didn't mean the Prancing Horse Bay, we meant the Running Mare and Foal Bay!”

Speaking of the Running Mare and Foal, there's another theory about the color switch that I've been entertaining: Breyer may have been engaging in a little “matchmaking.” Customers liked buying matching family sets: since the Matte Bay Running Mare and Foal also came out around that time, maybe Breyer thought that by making the Fighter in the same color and finish, customers would assume that they were all members of the same family, and buy accordingly.

1 comment:

beforetheRfell said...

I have a bay (not sorrel) fighting stallion with grey hooves packed away somewhere. When he surfaces, I'll photograph him along with the similar Running Mare and Foal.