Wednesday, September 29, 2010
There’s never been any doubt that the Davy Crockett was a Breyer release, but outside of the box the occasional set turns up in, there’s no official company document that specifically says so. The set appears in mail-order catalogs in 1955, but no mention of the manufacturer is made in the catalog description.
We have a 1956 sheet that mentions the Kit Carson - basically the same mold, with a new paint job and accessories - and Kit is also shown in the 1958 materials (Dealer Catalog, and Pricelist.) But poor old Davy is conspicuously absent. It’s almost as if he didn’t exist - except for the fact that he rather obviously does.
I finally found the "evidence:" the original announcement, in the "New Toys on Parade" section of the August 1955 issue of Toys and Novelties:
The August 1955 date is interesting. Most of the announcements I’ve found for Breyer’s new releases have been in the January through March range - right around Toy Fair time. Now it’s possible that the magazine might have had a backlog of pieces to run in the "New Toys on Parade" section, but I rather doubt there was a five or six month delay in this case. I think Davy really was a Mid-year release, and a rushed one, at that!
It had been long assumed - but not proven, until now - that Breyer’s Davy Crockett was a part of the onslaught of merchandise marketed during the infamous Davy Crockett fad of 1955. Here’s a pretty good summary of this brief, intense mania that caught everyone - even Disney, himself! - by surprise:
(Warning: it’s gray text against a black background, and may be a bit hard on the eyes.)
Seeing the huge profits the "first responders" were making, just about every toy manufacturer rushed their own Davy Crockett-themed merchandise to the market. Licensing wasn’t really an issue - as an historical figure, Davy was essentially in the public domain. As long as you didn’t use anything specific to the Disney show itself - like the theme song, or Fess Parker’s likeness - you were free to make whatever Davy Crockett merchandise you saw fit. Such as this rather creepy vinyl doll, from the same page the Breyer Davy appeared:
The fad was well underway by February, when the third episode of Davy Crockett aired on ABC’s Disneyland. If Breyer’s announcement was printed in August, it had to have been sent in by July, and photographed by June - which means that it took them four months, five months tops, to get their Davy Crockett from concept to execution. Impressive!
If you needed anymore proof of the awesomeness of Breyer’s primary sculptor and moldmaker Chris Hess, there it is.
The Davy Crockett fad was pretty much dead by Christmas 1955. And so was, I believe, the production of Breyer’s Davy Crockett. I’ll discuss that, and a whole lot more, in my next post.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I love it, regardless. I got it as a birthday present about 25 years ago, right when I was just getting into Art Deco. I still fantasize about owning a genuine Art Deco bungalow, with topiaries in the yard sculpted into strict geometric shapes and a mantle showcasing my Modernistic Bucks and Does.
Funny how my seemingly unconnected hobbies and interest tend to collide with one another like that. You wouldn’t think that you’d be able to link Breyer models with the Art Deco movement, but yes, you can.
It’s fairly well known that Breyer didn’t design the Modernistic Buck and Doe; they were originally designed for Nosco Plastics in Erie, Pennsylvania by a man named Don Manning. We’re not entirely sure how Breyer ended up with the molds, yet, but I did find another tantalizing lead during my last research trip.
But we’re not going to talk about the Buck and Doe today. Nope, I’m just going to show you another example of my hobbies colliding. Notice anything familiar with last Sunday’s Prince Valiant? (Click to enlarge.)
Did Andalusians even exist as a breed during King Arthur’s time? Hmm.
A lot of comic illustrators have issues with the equine form, but thankfully Gary Gianni’s not one of them.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I couldn’t, of course. Last week’s work schedule really messed me up (gone from home for two days, slept through most of a third) and while the limited Internet access was probably as good a coping strategy as any for dealing with the WEG specials, it’s not something I could avoid forever.
And boy howdy, did it hurt like heck. The exclusive SRs are nice - I wouldn’t mind the Gold Raven, or that Palomino Roxy - but it’s the premium reissues that are really killing me, especially the matte POA Toby and the (cry-sob-whimper) Traditional Man o’ War.
Stab me in the heart, why don’t you Reeves?
Yeah, and real smart move, not limiting the low quantity SRs to one per person, or so many per day. Were they really expecting all those SRs to last for the bulk of 16 days, without any purchase limits? If most of the advertised - and unadvertised - exclusives are gone by now, there’s gonna be a lot of unhappy campers over the next two weeks. (Unless they pull more "surprises" out later in the week.)
My current coping strategy for the rest of the duration of WEG? I’m treating it like every other recent acronymic event (LSE, VRE): ignore, then mope. It’s too far away for a day trip, and I don’t have the money anyway. Might as well be another LSE or VRE, without the formality of a ticket raffle.
At this point I really can’t say any more about the event that wouldn’t involve the heavy, repeated use of expletives. So I won’t.
The flea market was adequate today. The weather was clear, if a tad cold. There seemed to be fewer crazy/creepy people milling about, but more outright tourists - you know, the kind that buy ornamental corn, painted pumpkins, and trivets made out of bottlecaps.
Lots models, but not much worth buying - everything was either body quality, or slightly overpriced. I found that odd, since prices usually start going down near the end of the season. I did find an okay Horned Hereford Bull that’s now sunning in the window, and a few neat old books (nothing horsey.) I also found the Swinging Girl part of a Mastercrafters Swinger Clock - not the clock, just the girl on the swing. It's just my luck, though, that I’m still missing a part to install it in the one clock incomplete clock that I have.
I do have a couple of research-intensive posts in the pipeline, including a little something about the Davy Crockett that I’m hoping to have ready by tomorrow. My schedule is a little less strenuous this week, or at least it appears to be so from first glance.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
This was 1952, though, not long after Breyer had decided to enter the toy market in the first place. The Krenziens had been representing Breyer since the very beginning – a mere year or so earlier – but they were not yet seen as a “name” brand, like Slinky.
From the research I've done so far, however, it appears that the Krenziens were definitely working on that problem. Breyer was prominently featured in Krenzien ads a few years later, and Breyer returned the favor in 1955. It was grouped with similar ads from other Krenzien clients, so it may have served as a branding exercise on the reps' part:
Did the Krenziens provide services above and beyond aggressive representation? Whether it went as far as product development – as seems to be the case with Breyer's West Coat representatives, the Ungers - I can't say for sure. I haven't seen anything to suggest that … yet. The fact that the Krenziens' home office was in Chicago does make me wonder about the closeness of the business relationship.
I'm not sure when the Krenziens stopped representing Breyer; I know it was quite some time ago, but I haven't gotten far enough along in my research to even put a rough guess on the date. Breyer didn't start listing their reps in their Dealer Catalogs until the 1970s, and they seem to have been long gone by then.
Yes, the firm itself still around, though it has since changed its name to Krenzien, Krenzien and Associates, and now focuses more on sporting goods. I suppose one of these days I should call them up and see if they can provide anything useful.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Unfortunately, I have a lot of debt to pay off over the next few months - mainly stemming from that emergency dental appointment - and most of my spare change has to go towards that, plain and simple. My recent sales listings have been helping a little bit but not enough to justify Melange.
The fact that customizers are confessing a willingness to pay almost double RR price to use Melange purely as a body - regardless of the quality of the model they receive - is also weighing heavily in my mind. I’m sorry, but that’s just flat out nuts. That, and the hobbyists who are trying to sell the ones they haven’t even mailed away for yet, are almost motivation enough to throw my order in the mail. (And shout "No Melange for you!" as I do it. No harm done - the mail ladies already know I’m a little daft.)
The flea market was rather quiet today: not a lot of vendors - or merchandise. Even though the weather was as perfect as a September morning could be, it had rained almost perpetually for the three days previous. The sky was blue and almost cloudless, but apparently not cloudless enough for a lot of people. (Pansies!)
One thing there was a lot of were kittens there - the real-life puffballs, not the plastic kind. Oh, I was tempted: Vita was raised with cats and would probably be fine with one in the house, but I’m not authorized to bring home anything that eats, so there they had to stay. I did spend an inordinate amount of time admiring the fiesty little monsters, who were the spitting image of our favorite "creepy meow," the #336 "Calico" Kitten:
While this particular Kitten was referred to as a "Calico" in the Breyer catalogs throughout its entire run (1966 through 1973) it’s not actually a Calico, it’s a Tabby. To be more precise, it’s a Red Mackerel Tabby. "Mackerel" Tabbies have stripes, as opposed to "Classic" Tabbies, which have swirls and splotches. If you need visuals, there’s an excellent chart on top of this page:
(It’s also a useful link to help you impress, annoy or disturb your friends with your knowledge of cat color genetics.)
So the Kitten is painted in a real cat color, more or less. They just gave it the wrong name. (Something they did with the horses, too. "Bay" Racehorse, anyone?) It’d be several years before they’d release an actual "Calico" Kitten - the 2000 BreyerFest SR Patches. And to give props where it’s due, they did a pretty good job on her, too.
Back to the Kitten above: I found him at the very same flea market, years and years ago. He was an upgrade: my first "Calico" Kitten only had a handful of stripes, while this has more than your average zebra. Since these stripes had to be hand-airbrushed, fewer stripes tend to be closer to the norm on this release. I don’t know how to explain mine. In my imagination, I see a couple of bored painters having a stripe-painting contest, but it’s probably something more boring than that.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
One thing I found rather distracting in my previous research excursion was the non-Breyer horse stuff. It wasn’t just the Hartland material, it was all of the other model horsey things I was running across, like this ad for Lido:
Lido wasn’t exclusively a model horse manufacturer; model horses were just something they added to their toy line in the 1950s. Most of the secondary manufacturers from the 1950s and 1960s were like that: Westerns were "hot," and it made good business sense to add a few horse and/or cowboy pieces to their toy lines.
What made Lido a little bit different from the others is that the other companies were, by and large, copying Breyer and Hartland. Lido was one of the few who was forging ahead with original molds and concepts.
Most of these secondary lines of horses died out by the end of the 1960s, and so did Hartland, before it was revived a short time later (and later, and later again.) Breyer almost gave up the ghost itself around that time too, but fortunately for us they did not.
Other known manufacturers from that time period included Pressman, Ohio Plastics, and Kroll. They turn up from time to time, usually as unidentified knockoffs. Like this odd, but not bad Pressman version of the Stretched Morgan, in Alabaster:
That one’s managed to fool me more than once, at the flea market! He has probably played a part in those "Alabaster Stretched Morgan" rumors that crop up from time to time. The actual existence of a few true Alabaster Stretched Morgans does, too:
(Marney’s album, again.)
Among my favorites are the "textured tack" horses by an otherwise unidentified maker, an example of which is seen here on, of all things, a knockoff of the original Breyer Western Horse Clock!
They’re referred to as "textured tack" models because the Western Horse and Pony copies that they made have an odd, wire mesh texture to their tack. They’re otherwise remarkably good reproductions. They even "feel" right: they’re either made of some type of Cellulose Acetate, or a similarly sturdy plastic.
Oddly enough, the clock case and the base seem to be made of a different type of plastic; it feels like ABS (Styrene) to me. (BTW, the plumber’s chain reins are original, but the saddle probably isn’t.)
The fact that the entire Breyer Clock was knocked off - not just the horse, but all the "trimmings" - fascinates me. Was the original Breyer Clock itself so popular that it inspired its own knockoff? Who was this third company that made these horses - and what happened to them? Why did they decide to go with Cellulose Acetate, when many of the other secondary manufacturers didn’t? Did they have bigger plans?
What a different landscape we could be living in, if only we had a third serious contender in the model horse market back then!
Monday, September 13, 2010
I’ve written about it before, and even made a t-shirt out of it, I loved it so much. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the ad in and of itself: it’s the same ad that Breyer ran in both Toys and Novelties and Playthings through most of 1952. What’s important is the dating: the copy above came from the February 1953 issue of Toys and Novelties. In the March 1953 issue, a new version of the ad appeared in the same magazine:
The Boxer replaces the Money Manager!
This was around the same time the Boxer made his debut at Toy Fair; in fact, it was in the "Toy Fair" issue that included the full page, full color ad for the Boxer. There was at least one other version of this ad, with Breyer’s street address crammed into the lower right hand corner box, that started appearing in 1954. The library was getting ready to close by the time I cracked open that volume, and I didn’t have the time to get a copy of it.
Is there’s some historical significance to the street address? Well yeah, a little. We’ll get to that topic some other time.
This ad doesn’t offer much from a research standpoint: it doesn’t really add much to our knowledge of Breyer History. We’ve already established that the Boxer came out in early 1953. All it does, at most, is visually signify the end of Breyer’s Money Manager era.
One thing these stack ads do "do" for me is make me wish Reeves would do something with these neat old graphics. Don’t you think the Boxer ad would make an awesome iron-on patch, or dress up a tote bag real nice?
Most of Reeves’s current ad and graphic work is competent, but not particularly inspiring or evocative. (I really don’t like the bumper sticker/badge logo with the dropped R, but I’ve learned to live with it.) There are probably some legal hurdles that would prevent the reuse of some of that older material, but some of the powers-that-be at Reeves could at least try to incorporate some of the aesthetics of the older advertising into their newer material to spice things up a bit.
It might make good business sense, too: Breyers aren’t quite as iconic as Barbie or Tonka, but going a little retro on some of the ad campaigns might help boost their status a bit. And you can’t tell me that Breyer History isn’t any less interesting than Barbie’s or Tonka’s.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Yeah, a Rugged Lark cull! The money situation being what it is, I shouldn’t have laid out the cash, but I felt sorry for him. He’s about as low on the totem pole of desirability as you can get. And weirdo me, I just had to have him.
I’m pretty sure he’s a cull: his forelock is unpainted, his lower legs were unfinished, and he lacks shading in the usual areas. The paint on his mane is rather sloppy, so that’s how he ended up in the cull bin in the first place. It looks like someone touched up his hooves and face a bit to make him more presentable.
Well, as presentable as a Rugged Lark can be.
His head and neck are pretty tragic, but I don’t completely dislike the mold. It’s the pose that he’s been sculpted in: I find his inherent awkwardness appealing. Too many model horses - OF, customized, resin, whatever - are a little too conventionally or artfully posed, and in the process come off as a little less realistic, at least to me.
I can remember being in my life drawing class, years ago, and the instructor imploring us to not shy away from the awkward poses. (These were people we were dealing with, by the way, not horses. Naked, and rarely the most attractive, either.) Our bodies can get into all sorts of awkward positions, and those positions can be beautiful, too, if done well.
Rugged Lark’s problem is that sculpturally, he’s not done well. I’m not a stickler for anatomical accuracy, but even I have my limits. (Unrealistic and unattractive are two different concepts: unfortunately for Rugged Lark, these concepts collide.) I’ve been tempted to get a Rugged Lark body and clean him up - while retaining his basic body pose and attitude - just to prove my point about the awkwardness. Customizing is something of a low priority in these parts, alas, so the point going to remain unproven for now.
The Rugged Lark mold hasn’t come in a very wide range of colors. Two bays, two chestnuts, a gray, and very briefly in a rather nice dark bay pinto. The only piece anyone even remotely wants is the BreyerFest SR of The Lark Ascending back in 2003, and that’s only because he had a very limited piece run (500) and a pretty nice paint job. I missed him back then, and had hoped to add him to my collection by now but so far, no luck. He's an expensive little bugger, especially on my budget!
For the time being, I’ll just have to settle for my cheaper, funkier, not-quite-bay boy.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
There’s no story behind the contender for World’s Ugliest Afghan on the couch. It’s just a huge, hideous conversation piece that came in an auction box lot several years ago. (How huge? We sometimes use it as a slipcover - for the couch!)
Work took me within a couple blocks of the main branch of the Detroit Public Library yesterday, so I took advantage of the proximity to do a little research. Six hours of hardcore page turning, and I barely made a dent in the stacks!
I found tons of stuff: most of it was confirmation of facts we had already intuited from other known sources, but it’s good to have dated materials to back up your conclusions. One of the first things I found was Lassie, featured here in the "New Toys on Parade" section of the January, 1956 issue of Toys and Novelties:
The fact that it’s the January issue, and not the March suggests that Breyer might have Lassie on the shelves by Christmas (March = Toy Fair.) Absent any concrete evidence of that, I’m completely fine with assigning a 1956 release date for the mold.
Another interesting piece of information comes out of an article in the August 1955 issue of the same magazine. In it, they list several licensors and their respective licensees. The entry for Lassie lists Breyer as one of that property’s licensees, but the entry for Rin Tin Tin does not.
(As far as I know, there’s no familial relationship between the Stones of Stone Associates, and the Stones of Breyer.)
But we’re pretty sure that Rin Tin Tin came out by 1956, too. It had been assumed from the 1955 copyight date on the original Rin Tin Tin box that he may have even predated the Lassie. The earliest mention I’ve been able to find of Rinty, though, is in a full-page ad for Breyer’s manufacturer representative, Krenzien, Krenzien & Dunlap, in the March 1956 issue of Toys & Novelties (i.e. their "Toy Fair" issue.) So, what’s up with that?
It could have been a simple omission, or perhaps an issue with the license came up. The date on the box could be referring to the show itself. (Complicating that assumption is the fact that the show premiered in late 1954, not 1955.) Or, I’m just missing some data, somewhere.
It might be a little while before I get back to the DPL and find out for sure - time and money are the issue here, not safety. I have plenty of fresh material to process in the meantime, and you’ll get to see a good portion of it over the next few weeks.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
What I’ve skimmed on Blab and Haynet only confirms that suspicion. "Blah blah blah too expensive, blah blah blah double shoulder, blah blah blah it’s not glossy, blah blah blah I don’t think it’ll sell out." Why must the ghost of Riley haunt every single discussion of every web-based special from now until forever? (Oh, and when does Matte Finish = Regular Run?)
I haven’t been a total ascetic, though. I have bought a few model horsey things recently. Nothing new, expensive or shiny, just interesting historical pieces, fairly priced. (Don’t worry, you’ll get to see them soon. They have to get here, first!)
For example, I did buy the world’s grungiest clinky today at the flea market today. I had passed him by for the past couple of weeks because, frankly, I didn’t want to touch him. He was sticky. Before:
After a liberal application of soap and water, I discover he's actually gloss gray, not matte palomino!
Most Japan clinkies go straight to the sales stash, but I think I’ll let this guy chill in the china cabinet a little while. I think he deserves it.
Speaking of cleaning, I’ve been doing a little more of that in the office. Part of the motivation is the dog, of course: the fewer things I have to fish out of her mouth, the better.
The other motivation? Those darn hoarding shows, again. Specifically, the episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive that happens to feature a member of the model horse hobby community. I haven’t actually seen it yet: my work schedule and my TV watching schedule haven’t been cooperating lately, and The Learning Channel limits access to their programming online. (No, I’m not going to pay for it online, either.)
I am most worried of what might happen if the rest of my family sees it: as I’ve brought up before, there are some hoarding tendencies in my family, but I’m the one that gets accused of it, again and again. ("See! We knew all of you were crazy!")
Anyone who has been to the house, however, knows otherwise: except for the areas where I actually do work, everything is quite tidy and habitable. Moreso now that Evil has developed a taste for gingham and calico. (She also likes frogs and acorns, but that’s not really an issue inside the house.) If you didn’t wander into the bedroom or office or look in the closets, you’d hardly know I had a collection at all.
Mental health is one of those topics we’re just not allowed to talk about in the model horse community. In some ways, justifiably: the stigma of mental illness is still so huge that even insinuating that there might be something amiss with anyone is taboo. Few of us are trained mental health professionals, and the behaviors we see are reflected through the already skewed prism of the hobby.
But we’ve all seen instances where there was clearly something amiss, above and beyond being in the hobby in the first place. Even if we don’t speak of it online, we do speak of it in person. We might annoy each other from time to time, but I don’t think any of us takes any lasting pleasure in watching a member of our community suffering, or spiraling out of control.
I fully acknowledge that I use the hobby as a coping mechanism: my life is better with it, than without it. It also gives me some sense of power, control and mastery, things I don’t have in the "real world."
It'd probably come as a surprise to most of you, however, that if someone offered me a life free of some of the worse things I’ve had to deal with over the past few years, with the price being me abandoning the hobby altogether, I’d pay it. I have lots of other interests that would fill in the empty spaces left behind.
As long as I could donate the research materials to the research facility of my choice: I couldn’t leave you guys completely high and dry, now.
A more cheerful subject next time, I promise. Maybe I'll throw in a puppy picture or two.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
As I was cleaning him up, some of his paint flaked off. Since he was already in not-collectible shape, it wasn’t a big deal. Some black paint jobs from the 1970s have a tendency to do that; I tend to chalk it up as either the consequence of poor prepping and cleaning, or the heavy-handed application of the paint, both common occurrences back then. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a bad batch of paint, too.
He is genuinely OF - fake black paint jobs used to be as common as fake gloss jobs are now, but there was nothing here to indicate anything amiss. No weirdness going on over or under the paint. Just bad paint, period.
I’ve seen enough model horses in my time that I hesitate to dismiss anything except the most obvious of fakes, as fakes, especially if the only evidence I have is a low resolution JPEG on the Internet. I’ve seen genuine OF models with flaked paint, handpainted details, acetone touchups, bad trim jobs, smudges, drips and fingerprints - all the usual giveaways of fakeness. My SR Solid Black Mustang has a gigantic drip, and I bought him straight off the Bentley Sales Discontinued List!
(He was one of the last ones they had, so I couldn’t get a replacement. I prefer to think of it as a beauty mark.)
Then there’s this little beauty on eBay. Warning: I’d put down any drink you have in hand before clicking on the link:
I’d so bid on him if I wasn’t totally broke, or knew others would be totally gunning for him. The story that he came from the factory that way? In light of what I’ve seen, totally possible. (And in the likely event it isn't true - look at him, man! His paint finish is near mint!)
It wasn’t the runs, drips and errors seen on some of the models involved in the (still ongoing) Gloss Nokota business that made them dubious in my eyes. I’ve seen those kinds of flaws on genuine OF models, and it’s not the "tell" everyone thinks it is. I’ve gotten a lot of good models by taking long second looks.
A greater indicator of fakeness is the behavior of the seller involved. If it looks like, walks like, and smells like a con job, it’s a con job. After all that’s happened, the minor involved in that deal still has Internet access and is still attempting to wheel and deal. Whether the models involved are real or were somehow legitimately obtained is irrelevant.
The fact that some hobbyists are still debating whether or not she’s even worth dealing with is the strangest, saddest part. Is the prospect of a Gloss that no one else has or has even heard of so tempting that some hobbyists are willing to throw common sense out the window?
If any good comes out of all of this, it’ll be to cool off the overheated Gloss market, and maybe - just maybe - have Reeves reconsider the whole Glossy Prize Model idea in the first place. While it’s mostly hobbyists to blame in this whole mess, Reeves really ought to be stepping up to the plate - to make their Glosses a little less easy to fake, at the very least. (A decal, signature or numbering?)