Monday, January 18, 2010

Old Timer Cull

The end of last week was a rough one, whew! Multiple shifts, sleep deprivation, home remodeling, a mild sinus infection and a death in the family. (I knew her, but not well, even though she lived nearby. Like most family matters, it’s … complicated, and that’s about as much as I’m comfortable sharing.)

Let’s spotlight another treasure from my collection: the Old Timer cull!

Culls, for the otherwise uninformed, are unfinished or partially painted models that somehow escape the factory. Somewhat more "finished" culls - like this fella - were reportedly donated to orphanages and other child welfare organizations.

This one is pretty old: he has no USA mark, and he has tons of shading, typical of early alabaster Old Timers. (Some of them have so much gray shading, in fact, that you could almost classify them as "light smoke" or slate gray.) Another feature that gives away his age is the lack of "infill" in the upper corners of his headstall: just the straps are painted, not the area inside them. I don’t know when this detailing changed, but it happened very, very early in the original run. (A handy visual tip to keep in mind, if all you’ve got to judge an Old Timer by is a not-so-great photograph.)

There are several things wrong with this old boy. First - and most obvious - is that his blinkers are missing. In this case, they weren’t broken off, they were never added in the first place. The slots where the blinkers were to be inserted are free of any traces of glue or broken blinker bits.

The blinkers were molded separately and attached late in the production process, after most of the painting had been completed. There are two reasons why it was done that way. One, making them integral to the mold would have been problematic, because thin and projecting pieces of plastic like blinkers would have been prone to warping and breakage during the molding process. Second, it made painting the eyes a lot less challenging for the painter!

He’s missing his hat, too, an occurrence so common that Reeves could probably make a tidy profit in selling spares. (Hint, hint.) Being a cull, it’s just as likely he never had one to begin with. The gold detailing is missing too - all of the rings, buckles, keepers and chains are unpainted.

As you may have guessed by now, the Old Timer is an extremely complex, and expensive, mold to produce. There’s so much work that goes into an Old Timer that rumor had it that Breyer/Reeves was losing money on every one they made. However, customer demand was so great that they felt obliged to continue production even after it ceased to be profitable.

This brings up an interesting point: the models that collectors might see as being the most popular aren’t necessarily the most popular among the general, non-hobbyist public - and vice versa. We see it happen from time to time online (remember the bizarre run on the Khemosabi mold on eBay a while back?) And it happens in the physical world, too, especially with Old Timer. Some of the antiquers I deal with will slap a premium price on an Old Timer - and they know they’ll get it, eventually. The "serious" collectors will walk away, but the casual collectors? They’ll consider it.

The same dynamic explains the inexplicable prices found in your average antique shop. They’re catering to dilettantes and interior decorators, not the serious hobbyists. Occasional trips to your local antique malls are a lot less stressful, once you keep that in mind.


GWR said...

Those Old Timer hats are a total PITA to get a hold of. I had one on my eBay watchlist a couple years ago (looking for a replacement for my hatless glossy dg find) and it sold for $30. Yikes.

Breyer should definitely sell spares!

Latter-Day Flapper said...

I totally need a hat for my otherwise-lovely glossy dappled OT. Aargh.

Casual popularity, I'm sure, also accounts for the almost-endless run of palomino Western horses and Family Arabs--if it looked like Trigger or Mr. Ed, it sold, right?

Sara said...

How interesting about the strap detailing. I never would have noticed! I look at mine and he has the extra detailing and a small blue ribbon sticker... nice to know he's a very early model!

Horsart said...

im making convincing old timer hats if anyone wants a reproduction. im on Facebook,under Equestrian Stables Haley, i also have an Old Timer Fans closed group on there if any one is interested. thanks. :)