Sunday, May 5, 2013

Great Breyer Graveyards

They just listed a few more items from the Big Hobbyist Auction on the Munda’s web site (May 24th) so I’ve decided to temporarily add the Munda’s Auction site to my link list, for your convenience. The listings this go round are slightly better, though much amusement will still be found there. ("Bat Pinto"? Batman had a horse?)

Like a lot of people, I’m currently intrigued and baffled by the eBay auctions of a vendor out in Arizona: what looks like variations, oddities, culls and outright test colors are being auctioned off in rapid succession, and in great quantity. I’ve already bought a couple of what I’d consider
"safe" lots, where I think my potential loss of investment will be minimal if they don’t turn out to be what I think they might be. The first one has already arrived:

A Fawn without spots, and a Doe with darker than normal ears? Yeah, I know, not the most exciting lot of Breyers ever, but remember who you’re talking to here. This is the kind of stuff I eat for breakfast.

There’s been much speculation about these models and their origins. I’ve done a little of it myself over on Blab, but I’ll expand and continue my thoughts here, for the benefit of a wider audience.

There are several locations that seem to be harbors or wellsprings for rare and odd Breyers. Chicago is the first, of course: that’s where the factory was for the first 35 years or so of production. Then there’s New Jersey, the current location of Reeves International, and where full-scale production continued for the next 15 years, give or take, and still continues on a minimal basis.

California is sometimes seen as another one of the Great Breyer Graveyards, though I think its plentitude is exaggerated, a bit. California is BIG, in every sense of the word, so it’s only natural that there’d be slightly more rare and unusual stuff coming out of California than, say, Kansas or Wyoming. I do think that the Decorator saga has its roots out there, due to the Ungers, toy development gurus and longtime Breyer Sales Reps who were also partly responsible for bringing us Brenda Breyer.

The location that has always fascinated me, however, has been Arizona. When I was just getting into the hobby in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I kept hearing stories about crazy things being found at the flea markets in Arizona. I had relatives out in Las Vegas, and whenever it was casually mentioned that we might go on a road trip to visit them, my thoughts always turned to those magical flea markets I heard so much about.

(The furthest west we got was Arkansas. It involved Elvis, the Kentucky Horse Park, a liquor store, and Breyers. Of course.)

A few years ago - when I was working for an antiques dealer, who also was a story unto himself - a number of lots came up on eBay from a seller in Arizona. Lots with multiple pieces of the same item - a half dozen Bassett Hounds, or Benjis, or Charolais Bulls - and one spectacular collection lot with multiple bulls in colors I had never seen before: Brick Reds and Browns and Chocolate Milk Sorrels.

I tried for the lot, but naturally failed: I think it went somewhere in the $4000 to $5000 range, which isn’t as outrageous as it sounds, considering that there were at least 10-12 of those bulls in it, not including the more "normal" looking stuff that was thrown in for good measure. Even at that price, money could have been made.

They looked authentic to me, and apparently, it did to a lot of other people, too.

Since then I’ve always kept a lookout for auctions in the Arizona area, just in case. I’ve come across a few treasures, but I missed this vendor’s auctions earlier this year because I’ve been trying to keep my eBay shopping to a minimum. I was doing so good, until this week!

As to why Arizona, that’s still something of a mystery. Longtime mail-order company Horses International was based in Phoenix, and had many unique Special Runs of its own: perhaps these were samples from the warehouse that somehow came into someone’s possession?

Another theory that I’ve been mulling over is that these were somehow connected to Breyer’s little adventure in Mexico in the late 1970s. Peter Stone got a wild hair and thought that they could move production to Mexico, an endeavor that likely failed due to infrastructure problems. Most - though not all - of these models seem to be from that time period.

It could be that there’s a more mundane reason. Like all of the other Sellers of Unusual Breyers of Dubious Provenance, this seller is not being terribly forthcoming about their origins. Whether it’s because he’s got something to hide, or is just bluffing to cover his lack of knowledge, we also do not know.

All I know is that I performed the Lestoil test on the two most peculiar pieces in my Deer Lot - the Doe with the dark ears, and the spotless Fawn - and nothing but a little dust and dirt came off. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just saw a doe and buck recently here in NY it was in oneida commons