Thursday, May 2, 2013

Paint Them Black

Couple things before I get to the Black Family Arabians.

First, the Sunday BreyerFest Raffle Horse, which is a Liver Chestnut Pinto Brishen. All I’ll say about him is that my computer monitor is defective, because I really don’t see what’s so horrifying about him.

It’s one thing to dislike something, but it’s quite another to take pride in that dislike. Some of the commentary I'm seeing seems to be veering off in that direction.

Second, the One-Day Stablemates are all new molds, in various "Denim"- and "Diamond"-themed Decorator colors, including (gahh!) a Silver Filigree. (They're all on the BreyerFest Blog page, on the Breyer web site.)

They are all awesome, but my favorite is the Icelandic, doing a full tilt tölt. A plastic Icelandic, at last! The Angry/Bucking Horse is pretty neat also, though I’m wondering what to call his color, which is Copenhagen on a clear plastic body. (Clearpagen? Copenclear? Blue Raspberry Snowcone?)

I’m liking them so much I’m seriously considering actually buying some one-day tickets this year, since judging from the reaction I’m seeing online, I’m kinda doubting there will be many - or any - left to sell in the sales tent on Sunday.

Anyway, back to our program.

Here’s the originaluncropped photograph of the Black Family Arabians I showed you previously:

As you might have noticed before, these pieces have hooves that are distinctly nonblack. The vast majority of Black Family Arabians are of the completely black variety. I had heard of Black Family Arabians with brownish or tannish hooves before, but I had assumed they were Test Colors, and not specifically a part of this Special Run.

Someone on Blab opened up a topic in one of the subforums about the hoof color of Black Family Arabians, and I had just archived that very photo above. It now appears that a small percentage of the Special Run - the first batch or so, more than likely - did come with nonblack hooves.

Why did they change to solid black, later on? There are a couple of possibilities. One, Solid Black is easier and cheaper to paint: one color, with no need to worry about overspray issues.

Second, Breyer might have seen it as an opportunity to use up the discontinued Family Arabians in various colors that had been cluttering up the warehouse since the "Implosion" of 1973. Why paint over fresh bodies, when you could paint over unsold leftovers, instead? And since they all came with different hoof colors - gray, pink and black - it might have been easier to deal with that minor issue by getting rid of it altogether.

It was long assumed that the Black Family Arabians were a Special Run for Model Horse Congress in 1978 - one of the first true "Special Runs" targeted towards collectors. And that only about "200" sets were made.

None of that was true, either.

If you look at the photograph more closely, you’ll see a poster on the wall of the comedian Steve Allen, promoting "National Hobby Month". The smaller text on the poster reads "For relaxation…for edification…have a hobby."

Steve Allen became National Chairman for National Hobby Month in 1977, and there’s a 1977 Collector’s Manual on the tabletop display, in front of the Family Arabian set. It's clear that the Black Family Arabians were designed to be a part of a promotion for National Hobby Month, and to be sold in stores.

It was a nationally marketed Retailer Special Run.
There had been "Special Runs" before, technically, in the Christmas/Holiday catalogs, but they weren’t specifically marketed as Special Runs until a few years later.

This photograph was taken for a flier sent to retailers about the Breyer’s participation in the National Hobby Month program. (I don’t own a copy of that particular flier, but I have seen a one.)

Since they were part of a retail program large enough to merit a printed flier, there were obviously more than 200 pieces made. The exact number is unknown - I’ve heard the rumor of around 700, but I don’t have any confirmation of that. Most Special Runs from the late 1970s and early 1980s were in the 100-200 piece range, so a 200 piece count run seemed about right. I don't know how many pieces the Bentley Sales Company ever had in their possession, but whatever amount they had to sell to hobbyists at Model Horse Congress in 1978 were leftovers from a bigger promotion.

While they certainly seen like they’re as rare or rarer than many of the Special Runs that followed, it has to be remembered that a large portion of them were distributed nationally, to toy stores, and not directly into collector hands. It’s very easy for even a relatively "large" special run to disappear into the public market, especially if nobody is looking for them - or has any idea they were all that "special" in the first place.

Think about this: 500 pieces translates into about 10 pieces per state, give or take. 


Anonymous said...

Back when I was a kid my friend bought the black FAM & FAF in a Payless store, they were in the
boxes with the palomino models
on the box. She also received another set (FAS, FAM, & FAF) from
her Dad who had got them from a sales representative-not sure of
what type of store. The
mare & foal that came in the boxes had black hooves and the set from the sales rep. had brown hooves.
I wanted a set so bad but didn't find any in any of the stores in my
area so must have been a few. I have came across 2 stallions and one mare second had at estate sales
antique shows, etc. GREAT article
and picture, love it!

Anonymous said...

I'm using "clearpenhagen" myself.

Fascinating stuff on the black FAs!

Carrie said...

Wonderful entry on the black Arabians. Thank you for sharing such treasures!

Personally, I'm using 'Clearenhagen', although Blue Raspberry Snowcone is my second choice!