Saturday, October 12, 2013

Test Color Teasing

Just to show you that I am not always a complete tease, here are a few of those Test Color photos I mentioned in passing last time:

These are all fairly typical of the kind of Test Colors available to hobbyists in the 1980s, in terms of both molds and colors. Neat, but there’s nothing to them that makes them stand out from the regular Breyer rabble, especially to newer hobbyists or those not particularly versed in Breyer minutiae.

I wouldn’t mind owning any of them, mind you, and I suspect a lot of you feel likewise. Yet I rather doubt most of them would be competitive outside of Collectibility today. (That is a pretty shade of bay on the Phar Lap, though!)

The term "Test Color" is an awfully generic one: at its broadest and least specific, it can refer to any model that was not made as part of a production run. This could even include items that were once in regular production, but were not when it/they were produced. (My NPOD Big Ben might fall into this category, for instance.)

A Test Color could be a Cull, a finished/touched-up Cull, a happy accident (i.e. a mistake) of the painting process, a lunchtime frolic, misinterpreted painting instructions, a gift for a friend or family member, something done to fill up some downtime…

Or it could be an "true" Test Color: an item painted to demonstrate/illustrate/test a new or potential production run item, either a Regular Run or Special Run.

Some newer hobbyists, who are most familiar with the term through the BreyerFest auctions, tend to think of Test Colors almost as Factory Customs, since many of the ones that are offered for auction nowadays have a higher degree of finish than most production items. (I am always amazed that some get a little indignant when the tested color actually, you know, gets used a short time later. What do they think the word Test in Test Color means?)

The models you’re seeing above are likely the kinds of Test Colors that originated via Marney Walerius, a hobbyist who had somewhat free rein at the factory in the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes she rescued genuine Test Colors from the various nooks and crannies of the facilities. Sometimes she fished stuff out of trash barrels and finished/fixed them.

And sometimes she made them herself: to satisfy a notion, to propose an idea to the Powers That Were, for compensation, or for various promotional purposes (live shows, raffles, tours, prizes, etc.) So in a sense, many Chicago-era Test Colors were Factory Customs, too.

Sorting this all out after the fact, as you can imagine, is something of a headache. An item that’s classified as a Test Color could have been multiple things: it could have been something Marney did on a whim, AND later got used in production somewhere along the line. True Test Colors were often given away as gifts or tokens of appreciation (or compensation!)

In most cases, it’s been easier to refer to a nonstandard model - something that goes above and beyond being just a variation - as a "Test Color", because more often than not, we will never know the specifics of its creation.   

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