Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Golden Anniversary: Breyer’s Man o’ War

As I am really busy right now taking care of various odds and ends, I will post the contents of the flier I created for the Man o’ War display I presented at the Hands-On Hobby at BreyerFest this year. I will make paper copies of the original available to everyone who wants one, eventually, along with extra copies of the Sampler. 

In the meantime, does anyone have any spare 28-hour days lying around? I could really use a few...

Man o’ War’s history with Breyer began in 1967, with the release of the #47 Race Horse – Man o’ War. Sculpted by Breyer’s original moldmaker Chris Hess, this Traditional-scale piece was one of four new molds – including the Pacer, Bear and Bear Cub – to debut that year.

Many collectors are aware that Breyer’s original #36 Racehorse is based on a wooden sculpture of the famous racehorse Whirlaway, made by Grand Wood Carving Company of Chicago, Illinois. Less well known is that the Traditional Man o’ War (the model that eventually replaced the Racehorse, discontinued in 1966) also appears to be based on a Grand Wood Carving design.

Like most Breyer releases of the 1960s and 1970s, the #47 Man o’ War would go through many subtle – and not so subtle – changes through the years. The earliest Man o’ Wars, for instance, came with opaque “Battleship Gray” hooves and large, prominent eyewhites, a beautiful and eye catching variation that is highly sought after today!

Another scarce variation of the Man o’ War was the one released as part of the Presentation Collection in the early 1970s. This series consisted of then-current production models, mounted on wooden bases with brass nameplates, and marketed as trophies and home decorating pieces.

It wouldn’t be until the 1990s that Breyer enthusiasts would see more unique and distinctive Man o’ Wars. In 1990, a Special Run in Gloss was issued in a three-piece “Race Horse Set” (along with a Gloss Sham and a Gloss Secretariat) that was available through the Sears Wishbook.

He was also chosen – along with the Legionario, the San Domingo, and the Sham – to be a BreyerFest Raffle model in 1991. Twenty Gold Charm Man o’ Wars were raffled off at the BreyerFest in Kentucky that year, with another being sold at the Benefit Auction.

Although the mold itself has come in many other colors since the original release was discontinued in 1995 (most notably as his son “War Admiral” in 2003-2004) the original Man o’ War has also been re-released twice since then.

Man o’ War first reappeared as a Special Run, with slightly different shading and a Certificate of Authenticity, for QVC in 2002. He returned a second time as a Special Run for the World Equestrian Games, when the event was held at the Kentucky Horse Park 2010. Only 48 pieces of that particular Special Run were made, featuring a laminated hangtag and a more accurately masked star and stripe.

A Classics-scale mold of Man o’ War, a Hagen-Renaker design by Maureen Love Calvert, joined the Breyer line in 1975. The original #602 release remained in production until 1990 and like its Traditional counterpart, he also came in multiple variations. There are least three different facial markings – a straight blaze, a broken stripe, and an irregular star – and multiple gradations of Chestnut, from light orangey brown (usually earlier) to dark red (usually later).

Although it was included in a “Famous Race Horses” gift set available in the 1975 Sears Wishbook, it wasn’t until this year that the Classics version was formally re-released (as #9149) for Man o’ War’s Centennial.

In 2013, Breyer issued its third unique Man o’ War release, a Christmas ornament (#700662) in their popular Race Horse Series. But for fans of “The Mostest Hoss There Ever Was”, every day is a reason to celebrate his life and legend – whether it’s with one special Breyer Man o’ War model, or more!

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