Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year; the first thing that popped into my head was "Personal Assistant," but that’s not going to happen. Not unless either one of us comes into some unholy amount of money in the near future.
If it should ever come to pass, the "new hire" would have to be a model horse hobbyist, because one of the job requirements would be to listen to me kvetch about it live and in person, so my family wouldn’t have to. (And that would be my gift to them!)
(In reality, I’ll probably end up with some DVDs, a couple of books, and an undisclosed amount of cash-to-be-named-later.)
Anyway, back to the online kvetching.
You may have noticed that I use the hedging phrases I think and I believe quite a bit here. The words probably and maybe get a lot of mileage, too. They aren’t just affectations in my writing style, like my propensity for bad puns and adverbs. There’s a reason for it: it’s inherent in the material I’m working with.
As I’ve explained before, the internal records of what Breyer did before they were purchased by Reeves (and for some time afterwards) were sketchy, to put it kindly. All Marney had to work with, at one point, were the fading memories of a few long-time employees, and a loose box of unsorted (and often, undated) papers.
We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve filled in a lot of the gaps - but like the fossil records, there are still many gaps left undocumented. (Oh how you vex me so, 1959 through 1962.)
Even though we have a good idea of what might have happened, there’s very little certainty in any of the history prior to the mid-1980s - and in a surprising amount of it since then. Just when we think we’ve got something figured out - bam! Out pops another oddity, or some previously unknown special run, or a photograph that makes us all go "What the…."
Hence, my use of hedge words. I’d rather leave room error when it comes to Breyer History, than make a flat assertion of fact. The hard evidence to make those flat assertions often just isn’t there. Saying I think gives you the leeway to make corrections - or at least, look less like a fool than the person saying I know.
In this regard, Test Colors are the bane of my existence. Unless you’ve got the paperwork, or a solid provenance (usually via Marney, or a former Breyer employee or contractor) it’s pretty darn well impossible to confirm a Test Color as such. The body of documentation I have on hand regarding Test Colors is rather limited, and a lot of it resides not on paper, but in the most unreliable form of documentation: memory.
From time to time someone will show me a model and ask for my opinion on it; in many cases, it’s an owner or potential buyer hoping that I can confirm it as a Test Color. I’m sure a lot of them are disappointed when I can’t give them the "Definite Yes" they’re looking for. In more than a few instances, they’ve trotted it over to another expert willing to give them the more affirmative answer they’re looking for.
Some have a higher likelihood of being genuine than others, for whatever reasons, but absolute certainty? That I can rarely give.
I hate the way that so many hobbyists - including many that should know better - toss the term "Test Color" around so lightly. Especially when it’s quite obvious that the model can be more easily explained as something else: a Variation, a Cull, or even a previously unknown special or regular run.
It’s not just about the value: there are lots and lots of variations that can compete quite well in that area with Test Colors. I hate it because the words "Test Color" convey more status to a model than any of those other descriptors do. It’s all about the status for some hobbyists nowadays - you just can’t be a serious collector without at least one genuine rarity in the collection, right?
I guess I was lucky that I managed to get some Test Colors - real, honest to goodness ones straight out of the Chicago factory - before they became such a thing. They were always a "thing," even back then, but not at quite the same level of intensity.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t want a few more for my stash, but it’s a little less about status in my case, and more about the history. A Test Color that was an actual test color for something, and not some random weird thing? That’s more my speed - and usually cheaper, too.