I finally found one of my most coveted grails:
It’s the #154 "Bay" Blanket Pony of the Americas, with the factory striped hooves. It’s the version that appears in the Dealer’s Catalog and Collector’s Manual in 1979, the year it was released, as well as on the original version of the box it came in (which I also have, but can’t find at the moment.) Here it is in the Dealer's Catalog:
This is what a more typical Bay POA looks like, with dark gray-brown or black hooves:
You’ll notice that the color appears to be different too - it’s definitely darker and richer in the striped hoof version, with darker splash spotting. However, I haven’t seen enough of these variations to tell if this is an actual characteristic of this particular paint job, or a consequence of the natural variation that occurs over the length of production.
I had’t noticed much variation in the paint job of the Bay POAs before, but I it’s also true that that’s not the first thing I’ve been looking for when I’ve been looking at them. It’s those darn hooves that have transfixed me ever since I saw them on the darn box, ca. 1979. The Bay POA that came in that box - the same non-striped one you see above - was by no means deficient qualitatively, but it wasn’t the one I really wanted. I wanted the one with those cute little striped toes!
After several years of looking, I had become convinced that the striped hoof versions were, like so many other items seen in the catalogs and manuals of the times, preproduction or test pieces that were either long gone, or now beyond my reach. Those striped hooves, I reasoned, must have been deemed a detail that was deemed too fussy, or funny-looking, or too expensive for long-term production.
Then eBay came along, and I started seeing just enough of them to convince me that they may have been a legitimate - albeit very briefly issued - variation. Or possibly used on the original salesman’s sample pieces: I have noticed that salesman’s samples do seem to turn up on eBay with a greater frequency than normal, due to the very nature of the site.
In either case, I realized that my "grail" wasn’t completely unattainable.
Alas, I wasn’t the only one who was looking, apparently. I always got outbid or outmaneuvered, until now. Now I can exhale, and find another possibly-not-unattainable grail to obsess over now.