Thursday, August 5, 2010

Little, Big

Just admiring my "Small Poodle" Cotton Candy today. The one box/bin they had of ‘em sold out quickly in Pit this year - not a surprise, since they had them marked down to $15, from the original $40:

I had been wanting a Small Poodle for a while, but the chances of picking up one of the earlier releases - either a preproduction/test piece, or one of the Raffle pieces from several BreyerFests back - was slim to none. I didn’t get Cotton Candy last year, because I was a little too focused on nabbing a few of the Surprise Quarter Horse Geldings. Considering how many were left over, it was a no-brainer that she’d be showing up in the Pit this year.

There’s not really much to know about the Small Poodle; nobody, including Reeves, even knew she existed until the 1990s, when a collector found a couple of pieces (one blue, one pink) in the possession of a former sales representative. Reeves had the mold all along; they just didn’t bother to notice the two Poodle molds they had were for two completely different items.

In their defense, not many people had probably bothered to look at the Poodle molds in a very, very long time. The Big Poodle - the doorstop-heavy, Rosenthal-based piece - had been out of production since the early 1970s. He was discontinued right at the beginning of the Chalky/Oil Crisis era, partly because of his weight: all those deep curls consumed a lot of plastic. Why waste good plastic on a couple of low-turnover Dogs, when you could make a half dozen (better selling) Foals from the same amount of material?

When the Small Poodle was made is unknown; we can’t be any more specific than sometime between 1953 (the Boxer) and 1957 (the Big Poodle.) I’m guessing a little earlier in that range - 1954 or 1955 - rather than later, just based on the style of the sculpting. The narrow muzzle and dainty feet are very reminiscent of the Lassie mold that we know was sculpted in early to mid-1955.

Why the Small Poodle mold didn't catch on with the buyers at Toy Fair is unknown. Breakage from the tail might have been a concern: models were packed lightly and if not loosely in their shipping boxes back then. Another possibility is that the lack of a merchandising tie-in: Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were well-known, established media properties, and the Poodle was just … a Poodle. Nice, but nothing special.

I think that was the biggest problem with the Small Poodle mold: she was nothing special. I wouldn’t call her boring, but perhaps a little too quiet and well-behaved - for a Poodle. (Oh yes, I’ve been owned by a few in my time.) The "Spaghetti Poodles" that were a hot decorative item of the time - and the market Breyer was evidently targeting with this item - were also anything but. They were encrusted with rhinestones, feathers, eyeglasses, glitter, fake fur, playing musical instruments, or dressed up in crazy little outfits.

(Not a Poodle, but you get the idea. Don't ask me why I own this thing. I just do.)

While the Large Poodle never received anything dressier than a felt dog coat (for the Poodle Sewing Kit release in the 1957 Sears Wishbook) he was bigger, louder and more energetic mold than our dainty little miss here. He stayed in production longer than Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, too, though that might just be because of lapsed licensing agreements, rather than sales figures.

The Small Poodle, on the other hand, disappeared for forty years. There has to be at least a few other early pieces floating around out there, though. You just don’t run a mold for only two pieces. There’s what, at least 6 to 12 In Between Mares out there, right? There should be at least that many vintage Small Poodles somewhere.

I think - I hope - it’s only a matter of time until another one shows up.


Stockstill Stables said...

I'm not one for pink or poodles but shes a really pretty piece.

Anonymous said...

Until I read your post, I didn't even know this mold existed! Please keep this blog going - I'm learning SO much about early Breyer history thanks to you.
When you say "small poodle", is she still considered traditional scale, or more classic size?

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a Blue Small Poodle. I have the larger Poodle in black with a blue collar.