Well, at least I have a night to sleep on it.
Writing up the descriptors (the fancy word I made up to describe the kind of data I'm collecting on my herd) is going a little more slowly than I planned. I think it's because I hit the boxes with the Little Bits and Classics first; the boxes with Traditionals-only go by much quicker (fewer pieces per box!) Two boxes per day, with occasional breaks for other long-term projects, should get me to my goal by the end of the year.
But there's the memory factor, too: every model has a story. I'm not just talking about my personal history with the model, or its provenance. It's that I'm finding I could, quite realistically, come up with an interesting and detail-rich history post about each and every model. Here's a good example:
It's an early variation of the Breyer Elephant, in battleship gray. There are two different versions of this variation: one is molded in solid, opaque gray plastic, and the other (like this one) is painted in opaque gray paint. They can be hard to tell apart at first glance; the easiest way is to flip them over and check for paint puddling on his feet. Dating these fellows is rather hard: it's assumed that they were manufactured in the 1950s, but photographic evidence for the battleship gray variation is found the 1963 Dealer's Catalog.
(I'll discuss the problem of dating by catalog photos later this week.)
I found this fellow in a rather large collection of Elephant figurines that included several Breyer Elephants. When I spotted the collection at the flea market, from a distance, I made a silent prayer to whatever deity watches over the flea market that there would be at least one of the really rare Breyer Elephants in the herd (Pink, Blue, Woodgrain?)
Alas, they were all the same shade of gray, save this one. This guy was the only Elephant worth keeping. The rest of them went straight to the saleslist, where they made me a modest profit that was probably wasted on some other crazy flea market purchase, like my giant bucket of sequins or that five pounds of vintage Czech rhinestones. (They were still in their original packaging!)
Did you notice the sticker? Of course you did! It's a gold foil sticker indicating this fellow was a souvenir of the Will Rogers Turnpike in Oklahoma. Breyers with souvenir stickers or decals aren't uncommon; I see them turn up on eBay or the local dirt malls from time to time. They're not factory issue, so they don't necessarily add anything to the value of a model unless the place or date has a certain significance to it.
This one does.
A few weeks after I purchased the elephant collection, I found an old stash of travel brochures from the late 1950s. I don't go out of my way to collect them, per se, but if I find any that interest me on an artistic or topical level, I'll snap them up. They're cheap and fun, and provide an intriguing window into the previous owner's notions of suitable family vacationing.
And every once and a while, you find a genuine little treasure. In this box, I found a brochure announcing the opening of the Will Rogers Turnpike, in 1957! (I'd scan this little curiosity and share, but I can't find it at the moment - the boxes of horses are getting in the way.)
Highway and turnpike openings in the late 1950s and early 1960s were kind of a big deal, so the fact that the state of Oklahoma thought it was worth celebrating is not all that unusual. I just think it's neat that I found two separate Turnpike souvenirs in the same season, at the same flea market in Michigan, and from two different vendors!
I have no evidence one way or another if the Elephant was a souvenir sold specific to its opening, or was just a gift shoppe item that was available for some time afterwards. The paint job is a pretty early one, so I'd like to think that it was – or at least from the time when the road was still new and exciting, and not just a strip of pavement that took you from Point A to Point B.
Should the Elephant ever have to make that journey to Point B, the brochure is coming with him.