Monday, April 5, 2010

Illustrated Shippers

It was a dark and stormy Saturday, so I spent it finishing the collection repacking. It’s all over except for the dusting, and I’m in no mood for dusting.

For those inquiring, there’s nothing super-duper rare, old or weird in my sales stash. There’s definitely some nice quality models here, possible LSQ, but most of them are in the sub-$50 range. (Unless I get lucky at the flea market in the meantime!)

Since my financial condition is slightly less tenuous than it was at this time last year, I’m in no rush to sell; I don’t want to deal with MH$P or eBay right now, anyway. There’s some talk going on about a local swap meet/hobbyist-to-hobbyist sale (local = Southeast Michigan), and if/when it comes to pass, I’ll let y’all know.

It was a bit of a strange experience packing up the last few horses. I decided that a couple of my oldies had to be taken out of the rotation, and since I just so happened to have their original boxes, back into their original boxes they went. One of the boxes in question: an old illustrated Clydesdale Shipper Box:

Now there’s something you don’t see every day!

Shipper boxes were the "de facto" Breyer box prior to the introduction of the White Picture Box in the early 1970s. There were a couple of experiments prior to the White Boxes - the clear Showcase boxes, and the Touchability Boxes. (I covered Touchability Boxes in a post quite some time ago, in fact.) A few select items - like the Horse and Rider Sets, and the licensed products like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin - did come in specially designed packaging, but those were very much the exception, not the rule, prior to the 1970s.

Most Shipper Boxes were pretty plain: a brown corrugated box, with Breyer’s address printed on one side, and "From:" and "To:" spaces printed on the other side. (And yes, they were used for shipping; I’ve owned a few that made it through the postal system!) The name and model number of the item inside was usually inkstamped across the top of the box, on the paper packing tape that sealed it.

Some, but not all Shipper Boxes were illustrated. Why some early boxes - but not others - were illustrated is a mystery. Some are quite common - such as the Fighting Stallion - while others, like the Clydesdale, are rather rare. My guess is that Breyer decided early on to standardize the box sizes, and only the boxes that were designed for one specific model were allowed to retain their unique graphics. Everything else just got the standard plain shipper, with the inkstamped identification across the top.

The graphics on the early boxes are quite pleasing aesthetically; I particularly like the Poodle:

The Western Pony is nice, too:

Illustrated shippers continued to be used until quite recently, mostly for the non-equine models that couldn’t fit in any of the standard packaging schemes. Some of the graphics were nice, but others, not so much. Not quite sure what was going on with the Charolais Bull box, for example - a bad reference photo, maybe:

Illustrated Shippers were also a common feature of holiday mail-order items. The graphics on the Holiday Shippers were all over the map, too - some pleasant, some plain, and some downright weird. This Legionario Gift Set box from Sears is a fairly typical example:

Shippers are still being used today, mostly with items sold factory direct - like the Connoisseurs - or with some of the Holiday Catalog items. They’re sometimes illustrated generically with a repeating running horse (not the "Running Horse") graphic.

Shipper boxes are still a bit of an undeveloped territory as far as Breyer Box research goes - presumably because of fugitive nature: the boxes had to be literally torn open, and torn boxes didn’t make for the best storage.

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