Documentation for early Test Colors is second or third hand, if it exists at all. You might get lucky and run across a photo or an article in an old newsletter somewhere, but most of the time, these things come to us bereft of their history. Or come with a history so distorted, it loses all value as history.
Which is why one of the most interesting - and valuable - things I found in my most recently acquired archive was a copy of one Marney’s legendary sales lists - one with Test Colors on it! Some of those Test Colors I recognize from her photo album - and a few of them are so famous, you’d recognize them, too.
I won’t regale you with what Test Colors they were, or the prices she listed them at. That would be mean, painful and kind of pointless, and lead to a lot of unnecessarily tense online debates and scary live show death stares.
(C’mon, we’ve all done a variation of "Let me express my jealousy over how much you paid for My Holy Grail by silently giving you the Evil Eye for the entire show." It can’t just be me, right?)
What I can tell you is that some of the prices she listed them at were cheaper, in many instances, than the regular run items that were also on this saleslist. A Gloss Charcoal Mustang, for example, would have cost you as much as the most expensive Test Color listed.
There were a couple of reasons why this was.
First and foremost, this was the pre-Internet era: vintage, mint regular runs like Appaloosa Fighting Stallions, Old Mold Mares and such were not as "easy" to come by as they are today. Our selection of molds and colors was also more limited, thus making what did come onto the market, consequently, more valuable.
Second, the Test Color market was different back then. Having a Test Color was just as much a status symbol then, as now, but since most of the tests came through Marney, Marney dictated the prices and availability. And she kept those prices relatively modest - not too far out of line with the going rate for high-end vintage OFs.
They’d still cost you, but you didn’t necessarily have to be a high roller to afford one. And she was cool with time payments, too, if you couldn’t pay it all up front. (She was actually cool with me taking a Test Color home from Model Horse Congress and paying for it later. No, really!)
Another piece of documentation that came with this archive was a letter, from one collector to another, discussing one of the Test Colors on that list (from other documentation that came in the archive, and my own, I’m fairly certain that it’s the same model in question.) Anyway, what struck me was the incredibly roundabout way she talked about it:
I knew a girl that lived right down the street from the Breyer factory, when it use[d] to be in Illinois. She was able to walk right in the factory and pick up some of the test colors that they were throwing out. Since then, this girl has died and the factory has moved to Illinois.Gosh, so much wrongness there, and I’m not talking about the typos. It’s unclear whether the seller confessed to, or provided the additional information in the form of that sales list to the potential buyer, or the person just happened to put the pieces together later on.
In either case, I don’t think there was any malice or deceit intended. I think it makes an excellent illustration, though, of the kind of information loss that can happen within a single generation of ownership.
Write your stuff down, folks!