Thursday, May 28, 2015

1990: The Year of Shiny and Chrome

In another forum and in pursuit of another nerdy passion, discussion turned to the quality and degree of worldbuilding in Max Max: Fury Road. In particular, the dialogue: in a world that’s worn, rusted and broken, the words "shiny" and "chrome" have become slang for awesome/glorious/wonderful.

I laughed to myself a bit when I read it: in a vocal segment of the model horse community, shiny and metallic are already considered positive attributes.

Though the sentiment is not universal; indeed, in the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, Breyer ran away from making shiny and metallic things precisely because they were not considered good, in any sense of the word. The Decorator items – including the metallic Gold Charm and Florentines – had completely tanked. Hobbyists and collectors were also demanding more realistic-looking horses, and that meant more Matte Finishes and less Gloss.

The Decorators were discontinued by the mid-1960s, and Glosses gradually petered out through the 1970s, with models like the Dapple Gray Old Timer and the Brahma Bull finally making the transition to Matte in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Occasional newer Glosses did turn up in the 1970s – some of the early Stablemates, those infamous Gloss Dapple Gray Shires, randomly glossed things they’d toss in boxes just for the heck of it…

Technically, the first "modern" Glossies were the Enchanted Doll House Special Run Alabaster Family Arabians, in 1988. Other than the mold marks and changes, and the date "1988" written in ink on their bellies (under the gloss), they were nearly indistinguishable from older Gloss releases. Which is why they really didn’t make that big of an impact in the hobby world.

They were kinda boring.

The same could be said of the next new Gloss – the Western Horse in Gloss Brown Pinto, a Just About Horses SR in 1990. It was pretty much the same model as the original Vintage release, except for a slip saddle instead of the original snap. There were some minor mold and paint changes, but nothing dramatic.

It was that year, though, that we saw a more heroic return of the Gloss Finish – and finally, the return of metallic Decorators. On the same model!

That first new metallic Decorator was the Signing Party Special Run Gold Charm Secretariat. He wasn’t a perfect duplication of the Gold Charm models of old – he didn’t have the white mane and tail typical of the paint job – but we were happy to see it again, anyway.

The Glossy came a few months later: the Sears Wishbook Special Run Gloss Racehorse Set featured the Sham, the Traditional Man o’ War, and Secretariat – again!

Even though they were little more than Reissues, the Gloss Finish a thin and pale imitation of the Gloss Finishes of old, and their coloring bordered on the fluorescent (especially the Shams – yikes!) this set finally clicked for some weird reason.

Unlike the Gold Charm Secretariat or the earlier Gloss SRs, the Gloss Racehorses are still a rather desirable set among hobbyists; it is not an easy one to come by nowadays, especially complete.

No comments: