Friday, October 29, 2010

Family Arabian Foal: Expatriate?

I’ve spent my spare time this week mostly working on my research note pile. Ah, I had forgotten that most of these notes were the hard, crunchy bits that required additional research and cross-referencing and all that jazz. So progress has been a little slower than anticipated: one page of notes that should take an hour or so to process turns into a three or four hour ordeal.

One interesting little bit I rediscovered in my notes was a speculation I made about the Family Arabian Foal: the FAF might have been among the handful of molds slated to travel to Mexico!

What is the evidence that I base this speculation on? The appearance - and quick disappearance - of the USA mold mark, long before a single mold was shipped to China.

Now, the Family Arabian Foal has one of the most complicated molding histories of any Breyer mold. From the number of subtle - and not so subtle - mold changes I’ve been able to document on the FAF, it seems like it was being almost perpetually tinkered with.

I attribute most of the tinkering to the fact that the mold saw a lot of use: the Family Arabians were the "work horses" of the Breyer line in the 1960s and early 1970s, with the Foal being the most popular of the trio, by far. While some of the changes to the Foal’s ears were done to fix a problem inherent in the original design, most of the other changes were incurred during periodic cleaning and maintenance.

Around 1970 most - but not all - Breyer molds then in production had the "USA" mark added, presumably to satisfy the requirements of international trade law. Among the molds that received the mark was the Family Arabian Foal.

But it didn’t have it for long. Sometime between 1970 and 1982, the FAF’s USA mark disappeared.

The laws requiring the addition of the country of origin had changed by the mid-1970s but Breyer, for the most part, didn’t do anything to remove the marks that had already been added. The molds that had the USA mold mark kept them until recently - basically when all those molds were finally shipped to China.

With two notable exceptions: the Family Arabian Foal - and the El Pastor. El Pastor had his mark removed because he was among the contingent of molds that were sent to Mexico in the late 1970s.

I guess that’s what set my mind speculating. Since the Family Foal was a fairly high-volume piece, I could see a reasonable rationalization for moving the mold to Mexico. Seems plausible, right? It fits within the timeframe. Was the mold mark was removed in anticipation of the move?

Maybe not. The USA mark could have been removed in yet another round of cleaning and maintenance. The scarcity of FAFs with USA marks suggests the mold removal was very early - within a couple years of the mold receiving the mark, and not nearly the decade later the Mexico theory would require.

Complicating the dating of the mold mark removal is the fact that for most of the disputed time period, the FAF came in only one color, and one finish: Matte Palomino. Sure, there were some Chalkies thrown in the mix, and some other colors in the early 1970s, but they’re not helpful for dating. Matte finishes were introduced prior to the USA mark, and some of the Chalkies could have been repainted warehouse overstock.

So confusing! Maybe that’s why had forgotten about the theory in the interim. Too many variables, too many unknowns.

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