Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Black Scratch Fever

(Scheduling issues again. The rest of the week is free and clear, thank goodness.)

I think of all the Fun Foals that have come out - barring any last minute surprises - the Black Scratching Foal is my favorite.

I’ve wanted a Solid Black Scratching Foal for a while - a really long while, actually. When I first entered the hobby back in the late 1970s, I read either a rumor or an ad that mentioned an all-black Scratching Foal, and I immediately wanted it with every fiber of my being. (You know, the way any 15 year old girl wants anything.)

I’m not sure why a Solid Black Scratching Foal tickled my fancy so back then. There were lots of rumors of lots of other "Solid Black" test colors - and some actual, genuine Solid Black special runs - but nope, the Scratching Foal was the one I really wanted. It was a foal, it was cute, and it was rare. That was enough to do it, I guess.

(I did buy the Solid Black Mustang and the Family Arabians, eventually. Our special run options were a little more limited back then.)

I’d occasionally run across an alleged one or two, but careful inspection would always reveal the truth: Fake. It was the splash spots on the Foal's butt that would be the tell: painted over, they’d leave a slight raised edge, visible in raking light.

I did get pretty close with one - a cull from the estate of a former Breyer employee I purchased on eBay a while back. Check out that cute roany butt:

I have at least three other Black Appaloosa Scratching Foals - the original one I got for Christmas in 1978, one with a Blue Ribbon Sticker, and one without the USA mark. The one without the USA mark is probably the rarest of the three; the mold debuted in 1970, the same year that the USA mark was added to most - but not all - existing Breyer molds.

The 1970 Dealer Catalog features a photo of a test Scratching Foal with four stockings. Here’s a scan of my not-so-great copy. I have a better copy somewhere, but it’s still lost in the chaos.

I’ve looked in vain for this variation. (How else do you think I ended up with four different Black Appaloosa Scratching Foals?) I don’t think it exists beyond the original test piece, or pieces. Many Appaloosa Scratching Foals have gray hooves; sometimes the gray shading extends up the leg a little, giving the illusion of socks. But that’s as close as most of us will get, barring the appearance of more culls or test colors.

Just one more note here: you might notice the clean edge to the Catalog Scratcher’s blanket. It’s not masked: it’s "neatly" airbrushed. The painter would paint the outline of the blanket first, then paint up to that outline. It's not just a catalog thing: I’ve noticed quite a few of the early Black Appaloosas - the Running Stallion, Lying Down Foal, and the Scratching Foal - came with very neatly airbrushed blankets.

I don’t know if it was a specified technique for a while, or a quirk of one painter or group of painters. A similar technique was used on early versions of Jasper, the Market Hog - but that was probably an instance where they were making do until the painting masks were ready.

The earliest Stud Spiders - the ones sold in the 1977 J. C. Penney’s Christmas Catalog, and into early 1978 - had very neatly airbrushed front socks, too, so I’m thinking that the outline trick was just another technique in the painter’s arsenal of tricks - being able to substitute skill, for stencil.

At least until the production quotas started catching up with you.


BluelineGoddess said...

The scratching foal is my favorite traditional mold. I have 3 black appaloosa scratchers too - kept trying to "upgrade" my copy, though one is definitely body quality only (same with the liver chestnut - have 2, on in the body box). The two black appy scratchers are pretty different - one has gray hooves and black spots, the other black hooves and gray spots:

Anonymous said...

I have a pure black scratcher with a couple chips but no USA stamp. She's pretty cool. Result of a yard sale. She was CHEAP too!