Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stablemates Grail #2

Today was a day full of indignities.

First thing this morning: I had to spend an hour trapped in a voice mail system trying to get a problem resolved. Awesome way to start my day, especially since I’m somewhat telephonophobic. If there’s any way to resolve something without resorting to the phone, I’m going to do it, but that was not possible in this situation.

The problem was fixed, at least, but the day continued rolling downhill. Then I logged on to Blab to see everyone hyperventilating over the latest Exclusive Breyer Event. What’s with all the freaking out by everybody about everything lately? Flurry, Icicle, the Indian Pony, the Tractor Supply SR…

Chill out people, seriously. Take a deep breath and go back to making pumpkin pies for Turkey Day. (If anyone needs a spare, Mom made three. They're worth the drive!)

Okay, all the downer stuff is out of the way - onto Stablemates Grail #2, something that was hitherto unavailable to me not because of a lack of funds, but because I wasn’t sure any existed at all:


The #7100 Wooden Stablemates Stable, from 1976. Still in the original box - with the original instructions!

For years I assumed this item - and the corresponding Traditional Wood Stable - didn’t even exist. I never saw one for sale anywhere, I knew no one who had one, and it doesn’t even appear in any of the 1976 price lists that I’ve seen or own. I thought it, like the notorious Breyer Rider Gift Set (the one with the first Palomino Adios) was never formally released, or released in such small numbers that it might as well have never existed at all.

It does appear on some early Bentley Sales Discontinued Lists, such as this one from December 1978:


(If I remember correctly, this was the same sales list that I ordered a Red Roan Running Mare off of, funded by accumulated allowance and unspent lunch money. It was sold by the time my money reached them, so I ended up with a credit of $6.50, which I then applied to my second choice: the Special Run Solid Black Mustang, who was the same price. Yes, I suck.)

The average price of a Traditional Horse then was 5.99, and a Stablemate was 1.49, so 14.50 for a Stable was wicked expensive. I could buy two Traditionals and at least one Stablemate with that kind of money. Twice as much, for the Traditional Stable. So buying it back then never crossed my mind. Horses, and lots of them, that's what I was aiming for!

Years later, looking back at those sales lists, I just assumed that these Wood Stables were never officially released to the retail market. Whatever little stock they did manufacture was probably offered to mail order companies like Bentley Sales to unload, discreetly.

That was pretty much Standard Operating Procedure back then, actually. Whatever odds and ends Breyer had knocking around their warehouse, outfits like Bentley Sales would pick up. (Literally, in the Bentleys’ case!) Recently, or not so recently discontinued stock, Christmas catalog overruns, leftovers from live show special runs or promotions, whatever.

This particular Stable is stamped on the outside with the address for Mission Supply House, not Bentley Sales. I don’t know what that means: was it shipped to and then purchased from Mission Supply House, or did Mission Supply House have a role in its manufacture?

I say that because the paper that the various stable parts are still wrapped in is from Florida - and oddly, dated from 1974. (Anyone want a 1969 Pontiac Bonneville? Only $988!) It could just be a coincidence - someone opening the package, decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and then rewrapping it and putting it away somewhere.

Yet the notion of Breyer subcontracting the manufacture of things that did not need to be painted or molded was not farfetched, even at that early a date. That’s definitely something I’m going to have to do some research on.

As to why this item didn’t/couldn't sell, the contents of the box told the tale: knotty wood, stapled leather hinges, and unfinished edges? It was so NOT worth it. It makes the corrugated cardboard stable look posh in comparison.

The Bentleys Discontinued Lists that I have list the Stablemates Stable as late as 1981; the Traditional one, it's gone by Spring 1979. That doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of quantity - 100 and 200 piece Special Runs lingered on these lists for months or even years - and the nature of the product led me to believe that those few that once did exist were no more. I was happy to be proven wrong.

4 comments:

Second Childhood said...

Those were the good old days, $5.99 traditionals and $1.49 stablemates! I remember the #1 item on my list for Santa one year being the traditional wooden stable. My world was slightly small at the time, so if it wasn't in the Sears Wish Book or carried by Milton Bradley Toy Store it simply didn't exist for me. So, I guess I saw it in one or the other. Sadly, Santa had a shortage so Daddy to the rescue. Daddy was handy with a saw and had a ton of patience. He crafted a custom 2 story stable with a loft and made a fence, too! Not sure what became of the fence but I still have the stable. It needs maintenance but thank goodness I kept it all these years. This is one time I'm thankful to add a item to the to do list. :)

ANDREA said...

I begged Dad for years to make me a Wooden Stable of my own, but let's just say he was not terribly proficient in the use of woodworking tools. (Think Homer Simpson.)

He did make me a scooter out of a pair of roller skates, a couple of two-by-fours, and some handlebars salvaged from an old tricycle. Hillbilly engineering at its finest!

Anonymous said...

What's up with criticizing other hobbyists lately? Might want to step off your own high plastic pony and take the hiss back our of History Diva. Your whole opening paragraph makes you sound bitter and like maybe you need to take a break and bake some more pies.

LostInAn80sFog said...

The Traditional version of this recently made its way down from my attic, so should you need to look at one for research purposes for somesuch just say the word. It's not inconceivable the family bought it from the Bentley's after we discovered the hobby via a newspaper article about Congress. I have numerous pictures of it housing my models, particularly my beloved Halla, labeled 1977.