Friday, July 31, 2009

The Power of Suggestion

Here's a little bit of history from my archives, postmarked August 21, 1982: a Breyer Animal Creations “Thank you for your suggestions” postcard. Yep, it was so common back then for hobbyists to write in with unsolicited suggestions that Breyer actually had to have preprinted postcards made to expedite their replies.

Indeed, unsolicited consumer suggestions were one of the main ways that Breyer used to gauge the demand for new molds and new products. Occasionally they'd get a singularly inspiring idea from a lone collector that might lead to a new product, but it was usually more of a numbers game: the more collectors who suggested a similar idea, the more likely they'd consider going forward with it.

(I can only imagine the sheer amount of mail Breyer must have received in 1975 after Ruffian's tragic end; I know it struck a chord with me and all of my other horse-crazy friends of a certain age: i.e. Breyer's target audience.)

Most of us had the common sense (even at that tender age) to know that we would not be receiving credit – or compensation – for our ideas. We were just thrilled to pieces that they had listened to us. And just maybe, we'd think, maybe it was MY letter that finally did the trick, the one that finally convinced them to make it. The only evidence we'd have (at most) would be a letter, or a postcard. But that was usually sufficient.

Things have gotten a little more complicated since then. For one thing, Reeves has now codified this long-standing practice into a concept unto itself: the Collector's Choice Series. Collectors suggest ideas, Reeves selects some of them for us to vote on, and the top vote- and attention-getters get the honor of being manufactured. And the suggester gets credit, and a model.

That hasn't stopped hobbyists from suggesting other ideas outside the parameters of the Collector's Choice Series. We know that Reeves prowls various hobbyist sites (including this one) and many of us aren't shy about expressing our ideas in these all-too-public forums. And like the handwritten letters of yore, it's usually the ones that have momentum, or the weight of public opinion behind them. But sometimes singular ideas get through, too.

I've taken a bit of flak for stating that this year's “Gambler's Choice” idea for BreyerFest was my idea. I had only taken credit for that idea by virtue of the fact that I had suggested it in a thread on Blab that Reeves had specifically requested in order to solicit ideas for this year's Fest. A thread that they obviously read, since they took several other ideas from it as well (the Pink Poodle, the Blue Tortuga Five-Gaiter, the Commemorative Stablemates Set ...)

I wasn't expecting compensation, or for Reeves to give me credit specifically. I only took credit because, well, the dated evidence of my suggestion was there for all to see. I didn't think that it'd be all that controversial. I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow if anyone else whose idea was used had trumpeted that fact, either. We can all stand to get a little ego boost now and then.

Was I upset and a little annoyed that I didn't get the Quarter Horse Gelding in Silver Filigree or Charcoal? Yeah. But I wasn't expecting Reeves to send me one, either. The fact that I had mentioned them specifically in a post back in the beginning of June (as suggested gifts) was just another one of those coincidences brought about by a deep knowledge of the subject matter.

In layman's terms: I made an educated guess.

I also hoped that some would realize from my self-appointed title as the “Breyer History Diva” that I don't take myself all that seriously, and that suggestion was made very much in that vein. My research I do take seriously, but myself, no. I know full well that this pond we swim in is a very small one, and even the biggest fish in this pond are still pretty darn small compared to the ones in the ocean.

Will I continue to make my ideas and suggestions known? Of course I will. That's part of the hobby for me, and for a lot of other hobbyists. Would I like to get credit from the higher-ups for some of those ideas? Sure! But I'm not sitting by my doorway waiting for the UPS truck to drop off my prize for being clever.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on the POA

I was going to follow up with more thoughts on the QH Gelding Surprises today, but I think I need a couple more days to ruminate on them; I'm not entirely happy with what I've written so far. (This will involve more weeding and quilting, I'm sure.)

I'll talk a little bit more about the Pony of the Americas mold, instead.

I still stand by my estimate of 750 pieces for the Toby: I saw the cases they came in and they were labeled “x of 125.” I saw no other boxes marked otherwise that would indicate an additional 1000 pieces that might have been a second shipment, unless they have plans for those additional pieces down the road. (Perhaps as Mattes?) That “1750” quantity doesn't even make sense: 750 pieces is a sensible and conservative 50% increase over the previous Traditional Store Special Magnifico. 1500 pieces I could have understood, too (that's a pretty standard JAH SR piece run) if a little overly optimistic.

I think we're being thrown off by this year's slightly lackluster sales: just because there were a significant number of leftovers doesn't necessarily mean that the piece run was high. It just means that hobbyists put their money elsewhere – in the Stablemates Sets, most likely, which even at a mere 500 pieces took until Saturday afternoon to sell out. At a significantly higher price, true, but with a bigger potential return on one's investment. (As many hobbyists probably realized, $100 for twenty SR Stablemates is practically a money-making machine in a box.)

The fact that they were boxed, and not bagged and wrapped, may have played a factor, too. Some hobbyists may have assumed from the visual evidence that he was a larger or open-ended run, not taking into account that a boxed model takes up more table space than a bagged model. I suspect if Reeves had labeled them – either on the box, or in a sign – with the piece count, we might have seen brisker sales.

I attempted to find my photographic evidence of the existence of the elusive SR Black Blanket Pony of the Americas I mentioned in passing on Monday, but it's still lost in my archives somewhere. It's probably for the best, though, since it wouldn't have been terribly impressive: it was dark, out of focus and kinda small. In other words, it was about as convincing as your average photo of Bigfoot.

I do remember what he looked like, more or less: he was painted just like the Bay Blanket POA, except in black. He had a small, splash-spotted hip blanket, and no other markings; I believe he had striped hooves also, but since I can't find That Darn Photograph, I can't be 100% sure of that.

(Just illustrative: nothing special about this particular guy, other than being a particularly nice example of a Bay Blanket POA from my herd. No stripey hooves, extra details or any of that. I'd love a stripey-hoof version, too, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Oh, how I wanted him so – and I still do. He was one of those mysterious late 1970s or early 1980s special runs that drove us all absolutely mad. Small special runs of every variety were popping up all over the country back then – and tantalizing rumors of others – but we often didn't know about them until a lucky collector happened to run across one at a tack shop or in a horse show vendor's booth. And by then, the original run would have been long sold out, usually into the general (nonhobbyist) population.

I still occasionally prowl around the usual web sites, looking for him. Even though he's actually quite easy to distinguish from the regular run POA Pantomime – who had an extensive blanket, blaze, stockings and tan hooves – I still hold out hope that (just maybe) enough collectors won't know about him, or won't notice the differences. I've lucked out before.

But so far ...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Toby and the Illusion of Rarity

We'll be back to our more-or-less normal, three-posts-per-week schedule starting today. As was patently obvious, neither my head nor my heart was into it last week. I spent most of my free time pulling weeds, quilting, and obsessively following San Diego Comicon coverage. (Still in shock over the fact that Marvel now owns Miracleman. And I SO wanted to see the sneak peek of the Jonah Hex movie ...)

Moving from that universe back to this one … here's another overlooked SR from this year's Fest: the Glossy POA Toby. (Don't read anything into the fact that he's still in his box: I just haven't gotten around to de-boxing everyone just yet.)

Even though he was newly-remodeled mold, and glossy, with an intricate paint job, of rather limited quantity, and less expensive than most of the other Fest specials, he didn't sell out. Normally, any one of those factors could have sparked a hobbyist feeding frenzy. But he wasn't rare enough, unusual enough, or exclusive enough: he got lost among the rarities available to the rabble this year at BreyerFest.

It's really a shame, because Toby is a really, really nice model with a beautiful paint job. It's almost Connoisseur quality: well shaded, with neatly stenciled spots, carefully striped hooves, eyepinks, chestnuts, the whole nine yards. All for only $35!

There were 750 of these little beauties available for general sale in the the Sales Tent (125 boxes, with 6 pieces to a box: 125 x 6 = 750.) That's about half of a normal JAH Special run, and 300 pieces less than the Line Special Cupcake, the gloss bay Newsworthy.

Oh, the mysteries of popularity! And to think, just a few years ago we were on the verge of breaking each other's arms to grab that last Peruvian Paso Magnifico. Maybe it's a good thing that we're not so hung up over the concept of Store Specials now: I think it's a great idea to have exclusive, Traditional-scale horse available for general sale in the tent. Casual or last minute attendees have the chance of getting something special too, without the expense or the bother of getting in the line.

I wonder, though, if the way the Tobies were sold may have affected the way other hobbyists perceived them: the thinking there being that they couldn't possibly be that rare if just anyone could walk in the store and buy them, right? (The topic of what makes a model “rare” I will leave for a future discussion, however.)

The Newsworthy “Cupcake” may have played a factor, too: some hobbyists may have found themselves looking hard at their budgets and flipping a coin to decide which of the two shiny new ponies to take home. Cupcake didn't sell out, either: in fact, only Gala, Sprinkles, the new Arabian Mare and the SM set did. Darn economy! (The Surprise QH Geldings would have sold out, too, if the “surprises” had launched properly, but I'll discuss that in another post.)

I don't know the status of the Tobies that remained unsold; they may just be held back until next year (like last year's SM-scale Tang Horses, which made a return appearance in the Tent), end up on Shopatron (like the Romanticos), or get dumped into future Grab Bags, if that program ever gets restarted.

I got a chance to see the UK Pippins, too – I'm a sucker for a nice bay roan, and he didn't disappoint in person. Unfortunately I was unable to escape my room at the HIN to procure one. My chorus line will have to remain incomplete for now, alas. (No, I don't have the no-one-can-find it Black Blanket Appaloosa SR, either – you know the drill: 'nother story, 'nother time.)

(And yes, I did make a cursory run through of the Tobies in the tent to check for random Matte Finishes. No dice!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Glossy Summer Solstice

Well, I wasn't 100% truthful: I did get a couple of nice things in the tent. I did snag a 2006 USET Authentic in the mixed boxed models for $25, a Gloss Riley, a couple of Del Mars, the Toby, the Stablemates Set, and this little beauty: a Glossy Summer Solstice!

I have no idea how many of the gloss were in the store – significantly less than 200. It was hard to tell in the chaos: if I were to hazard a guess, it'd be less than 50. (I didn't see any of the Matte, but that doesn't mean anything: there was a lot of stuff in there I didn't see. Like the VRE models.) I have no idea if they're going to sell more on Shopatron or elsewhere. He has the same item number as the Matte, which is #712020, and no mention is made of the gloss finish on his certificate: the Gloss Rileys were re-numbered and re-certificated.

(I never got around to asking, either, but that's another story.)

You can't really tell from the (very bad) photograph, but this paint job is BEAUTIFUL. It's very reminiscent of the Rejoice “Gwendolyn” from a few years back: richly shaded, slightly pearlescent, and (unlike Gwendolyn) subtly dappled. I love this color, and I wouldn't mind seeing it on just about anything else. (Do I see Collector's Choice entries in this color in the future? I do!) And he was $70, too - $40 less than the Shopatron Store price for the Matte! A real steal, I thought.

Others were not so impressed. I showed off my Solstice to anyone who walked in the room. (Heck, I've been carrying him around the house for the past two days, and I have nobody here to impress!) I found it a wee bit distressing that they were not as enamored of him as I was. Admittedly, some of them were very young hobbyists who have the privilege of already being so blasé about this sort of thing already. (Am I the only person a little squicked by the fact that the Youth Show at BreyerFest has prizes that are always rarer, and often better, than anything else at the event? What's left to aspire to?)

And when you have two raffles, an Early Bird Special, several different SR and glossy live show prize models, a hat contest, a cake topper contest, VRE models in the Tent, and the Deco Surprise Quarter Horse Geldings, too, he kinda gets lost in the crowd. He's rare, but not THAT kind of rare. Not THAT kind of special.

Still, it is a bit troubling. Every model is technically unique. I didn't realize we were approaching the point at which a model has to be literally unique for it to attract any attention at all.

Y'know, I remember when any special run of less than 500 pieces was considered quite the catch. Then it was only models of 350-piece runs or less that managed to excite collectors. Then 200 pieces became the threshold: anything more than that wasn't “rare” enough to be worth the trouble. Now it seems that in the minds of some collectors, if there's more than 100 of any given Special Run, it might as well be a dog toy. Especially if it's not a new or super-popular mold.

(Speaking of mold popularity, how right was I about the volunteer model this year – a Proud Arabian Stallion! Ha! Still would have loved to have one, though. That's one pretty paint job. Sigh.)

My Glossy Summer Solstice is special to me, and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Those VRE Models in the Pit

For the record, I didn't get any of the VRE models in the tent. I didn't even see them, until after the fact. (Truth be told, I almost completely struck out when it came to the “good stuff” at BreyerFest this year – in the Tent, and elsewhere - but that's another post for another time. One that can't be written until I've moped around the house for a few more days and finished consuming my weight in chocolate.)

There's been considerable hue and cry about the appearance of the leftover VRE models in the Ninja Pit of Death. It came as a surprise to me, too – not that the models were not destroyed, but that they thought it was a good idea to throw them into the tent in the first place.

Bad idea Reeves, bad idea. But I'll get to that in a minute.

I was not surprised that the models were not destroyed: Reeves isn't in the habit of destroying perfectly good models if they don't have to – especially if they're already wrapped and ready to sell. There were rumors of earlier BreyerFest Special Run leftovers (primarily the Three-Piece Classic Thoroughbred Sets) being destroyed and reground, and those rumors weren't the least bit true: I know some of them turned up in the Tent and in other retail venues, including Tuesday Morning.

And if they're not sold as is later on, they're often repurposed: the yellowed JAH Giltedge Hackneys became the BreyerFest Special “Excalibur,” and the leftover Inolvidables became the JAH Special “Causin a Commotion.” (And if you want to go even further back, factory overstock #58 Bay Hanoverians became the fabled Chalky Dapple Gray Hanoverians.)

I wasn't there at the actual Velvet Rope Event to hear what the Reeves employees said first hand about the disposition of the leftover models. I suspect the notion that the leftover VRE Specials being destroyed was probably a combination of misunderstood questions, misinterpreted answers, garbled and incomplete information passed amongst the various Reeves employees in attendance, and wishful thinking on the part of attendees.

That idea just struck me as wrong. It was contrary to what they had done in the past, and the explanation that it was going to be done to “preserve” the value of the VRE models didn't make sense. When you're dealing with piece runs of 100 or less, the destruction of even a handful of models wouldn't preserve the value, it would significantly alter it – up! (Hence the wishful thinking reference, above.) I'd be a little miffed though if I had made my VRE selections based on piece counts, only to find out the piece counts changed afterwards.

I thought Reeves would take the saner route and just use the leftover VRE models as prizes, raffles, auction pieces and giveaways. I don't think too many hobbyists would have been upset if they had done that: they'd still have that cachet of being an exclusive and all that. It's not like they're making “more” of them available – they're just distributing the remainders in an even more exclusive way.

Throwing them in the Ninja Pit of Death was not what I expected. The Medalist Ponies, the exclusive surprise Stablemate Sets, Rileys and Party Girls? Yeah, sure, no problem. Those kinds of things we can plan and compensate for.

The VRE models, not so much: Burbanks marked down to $60.00? What on Earth were they thinking?

The Ninja Pit is almost unmanageable as it is – throwing something that rare into the mix, and marking it down, is only going to make matters worse. Much, much worse. Now that that has happened, hobbyists are going to come to expect it. Unless they make significant changes in the way the Sales Tent is run, an entire army of nunchaku-wielding ninjas on elephants is not going to be enough to control the crowd, much less a single mounted police officer.

I sure would have loved a Burbank, though. It would have made a nice consolation prize in lieu of not getting any of the Deco Surprise QH Geldings.

(Totally my idea, but you guys knew that already. Pardon me while I go mope in a corner and console myself with microwave chicken taquitos.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Usual Post-BreyerFest Funk

My apologies for the lack of posts over the weekend; this BreyerFest was not quite what I expected it to be, but then again, it never is. I knew it wasn't going to go entirely to plan after I fell down that flight of stairs Wednesday night and found myself sprawled out on the floor in the 600's...

I'm still recovering from that little incident, and suffering from the usual Post-BreyerFest Syndrome. I spent most of today unpacking and sleeping, and I'm still not quite up to speed.

And I have to work tomorrow. Fooey!

So you'll have to wait another day or two more to hear about the skunk. And the typhoon. And me being interviewed by the Lexington Herald-Leader. And the McDonald's staffed by the cast from Hee Haw. And the nasty "Bee Woman."

I know, I'm such a tease.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Rules of BreyerFest

I didn't like what I wrote for today, so instead of working up something from scratch, I'm re-presenting a list I've published before in both Sampler form and online: the Rules of BreyerFest.

Some folks have found it very useful.
  1. Don’t take advantage of newbies. We were all newbies, once, and nobody likes being taken advantage of. Period.
  2. Respect the concept of “dibs”: if your roommate/friend/shopping buddy has expressed an interest in a particular model or item, don’t turn around and buy it for yourself.
  3. If a friend wins a raffle or prize model, be happy for them, even if you think you wanted it (or deserved it) more.
  4. Treat everyone equally. Please do not assume that because you’ve never seen or heard of the person before that that makes them a clueless idiot. Most of them didn’t show up to BreyerFest by accident!
  5. If you’re thinking of bringing HSOs to sell, and you have the room, just bring them! Not all of us intend on blowing our wad on the shiniest new baubles at the Tent. Some of us prefer the old junk!
  6. Be helpful: Offer information that may not be obvious, especially when dealing with newer hobbyists. We should consider ourselves ambassadors to the hobby, and act accordingly!
  7. Be polite. It’s hard when it’s hotter than the bottom of a skillet outside, but you’d be amazed at how far even a little gesture (opening a door, saying hello, a bowl full of tootsie rolls) will go.
  8. Don’t take cuts in line. It’s not nice, it’s not fair, and it’s not safe: some of us know how to use a sword. (Yes, I do!)
  9. When all else fails, just smile, and try to keep your sense of humor. And never forget: you’re in one of the few places on Earth where you’re considered normal! That thought alone should make being here worthwhile.
Have a safe trip, y'all. See you there!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Charger Award

The house is a wreck, my brain is melting, and I can't think of a single thing to talk about that doesn't involve more work than I'm willing to invest in right now. Gah!

Maybe I'll prattle on a bit about the Little Bits line. Specifically, about a Little Bit I'm sure a lot of you may not have heard about – or seen. It's the 1989 Charger Award:

It's basically a leftover Charger – a Special Run Dapple Gray Shire made in 1989 for Hobby Center Toys, in Toledo, Ohio – mounted on a wooden plaque with a brass plate engraved with the Breyer logo. Originally it also came with a small plaque on the front that would have said “Charger Award 1989,” but mine lost it somewhere along the way, which would partly explain why I got it for a song on eBay a while back.

These awards were made slightly before the time they started issuing test colors to Sales Reps instead, who in turn discovered they could get quite a substantial little bonus if they sold those (discreetly, through a third party) to the collectors' market. (Thus quickly ending that little experiment.)

The Charger Award isn't as well-known – or notorious – as those Sales Rep Tests; the fact that it's basically a repurposed Special Run of a model from a little-collected line also doesn't help his reputation. Kind of a shame, really. Relatively speaking, he's quite rare – far more rare than even the few other Little Bits that do command some collector attention, such as the Carousel Horses or the Flaxen Chestnut Saddlebred Toy Fair Promo.

As in any hobby, though, value and rarity don't necessarily go hand in hand: there are relatively common models that command crazy amounts of money, and then there are pieces of exceeding rarity that attract little or no attention at all.

Most of the disparity between price and rarity, however, is due to flawed knowledge, or a lack of knowledge: if you don't know something is rare or even exists, you're not likely to go out of your way to purchase it, unless you happen to be a particularly obsessive collector of a particular mold or series in the first place.

My friends are always amazed at the kind of stuff I pull out of the BreyerFest Sales Tent or in the HIN. Sometimes, though, I feel a little embarrassed when I do find something kinda awesome right under everyone else's noses, and often far cheaper than it oughta be. That's another reason why I do this blog: by adding to – and sometimes correcting – the Breyer History knowledge base out there, it makes the playing field a little more level and more fun for everyone.

Really, I don't mind having a little competition. Makes it sweeter, actually: instead of giving me a puzzled look when I show off my next awesome find, you'll actually know what I'm excited about. And then you can show me yours.

Friday, July 10, 2009

It's Glossy Season!

It's that time of year again … when Reeves glosses up some regular run horses as live show prizes, and hobbyists collectively lose their minds. I'm always amazed and dumbfounded how a little gloss can turn a boring $40 regular run horse into an scintillating $500 one.

Don't get me wrong: I love me a shiny horse as much as the next girl. I just can't imagine paying that kind of moolah for one. And since I'm not motivated enough to enter the shows where they hand out those kind of goodies, it's not likely I'll ever win one either. I've never been really strongly live-show oriented anyway – and from some of the shenanigans I've heard some hobbyists go through in the pursuit of the almighty SR Prize Glossies – no thanks. The Ninja Pit seems like a saner, safer bet to me.

There used to be a long standing notion in the collecting community that Glossy = More Valuable. It's true in some sense: the Glossy Finish was largely, but not entirely, discontinued around 1966/7. And some, like the Bay Fighting Stallion, were discontinued in Gloss much earlier than that. But a lot of Glossies were made well into the Matte Finish era, such as the Glossy Charcoal Mustang, Fighting Stallion and Running Stallion. While they are certainly quite lovely, they are not necessarily rare – or at least the kind of rare that attracts a high price tag, like a Dapple Black Belgian or a Gloss Bay Fighting Stallion.

What I find especially amusing is that there are actually MATTE finished models that are significantly more rare than their Glossy counterparts. These were usually models that were originally made in Gloss Finish, and only happened to switch to Matte near the very end of their runs. Since they were likely not selling well by then, these pieces are numerically quite rare, especially when compared to the models entire production run.

One notable example may be surprising: it's the Palomino Western Pony. In gloss finish, the Palomino Western Pony is one of the most ubiquitous of vintage Breyer models: it was made from ca. 1953 through 1973, and was the horsey component of the vast majority of the Grooming Kits sold in holiday catalogs during that time period.

Like its bigger brother the Western Horse, most assume that the Palomino Western Pony also made the switch to Matte Finish. And he did. Good luck finding one though: he's so rare that even in the 1997 edition Breyer Molds & Models, Nancy Young thought he was nonexistent.

I have one in my collection, of course:

I hadn't thought him especially rare before then, either: I had found him several years earlier at a local flea market, and being the mildly obsessive variation enthusiast that I am, he was incorporated into my collection without much fanfare. If I had had to go looking for one to fill that hole in my chorus line, I might have noticed his apparent rarity. But I had one already, and not much motivation to upgrade.

I have made it a bit of a game at BreyerFest every year to spot at least one Matte Palomino Western Pony: I don't always succeed. When I do run across one, I often tell the seller about his rarity: it usually results in rolled eyeballs and skeptical eyebrows. A matte finished model that's rare? And it's a Palomino Western Pony? Yeah, right.

There are others, too, but some of them are still on my BreyerFest want list. I will have to demure; I'm on a tighter-than-average budget this year, but I haven't scaled my collecting ambitions back entirely.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BreyerFest Number Crunching

I'm in full BreyerFest Freak Out Mode right now. Just finished the Samplers, printed up all the wallpaper, packed the horses, taking care of last minute appointments and phone calls, started digging out all the assorted decorations and supplies – you'd swear I was getting ready to invade another country. Here's a quick shot of the basement to give you an idea of the state of my preparations:

(The quilt in the frame isn't going with me, though – the basement's the only place in the house big enough to handle the frame.)

I haven't done my cake topper or hat entries yet, and I'm still working on the whole “Ninja Pit of Death” situation (the degree of my involvement, I mean!) but I do appear to be on schedule, if not a little bit ahead of myself. The fact that I'm not working (much) is probably helping here.

The price and piece quantities of the Tent Line SRs was made public yesterday. Forgive me if this is a recap for any of you:

QH Gelding “Surprise” - 1350 (96) $55
Lady Phase “Sprinkles” - 1150 (82) $50
Small Poodle “Cotton Candy” - 600 (42) $40
Porcelain “Party Time” - 700 (50) $150
Idocus “Buttercream” - 1250 (89) $65
Newsworthy “Cupcake” - 1050 (75) $45
Five-Gaiter “Gala” - 1050 (75) $60
Arabian Mare “Make a Wish” - 1350(96) $65

The total estimated piece count: 8500 items. If there are 300 ticket holders for 14 ticket times, that's 8400 “reserved” pieces. (I'm just guessing based on previous years' counts.) Not everyone redeems their tickets, and not everyone redeems the full amount, so theoretically there should be enough for everyone. Not for every model, but for any models.

The number in parenthesis after the piece count is the approximate number of pieces available per ticket time (there are 14 ticket times, total.) Some of the numbers don't divide evenly – some get held back to cover a limited number of returns or other problems, and others get thrown into other ticket times. We're talking a dozen or less models of any release, so the overage in any one time slot would not be noticeable (unless you happen to be behind the person who gets the last piece of the model you wanted!)

And let me emphasize the word approximate: just because they say there's going to be 1050 pieces available doesn't mean there's going to be 1050 in the market. In addition to pieces made to cover damaged models, additional pieces may be made for dealer packs and gifts. There may be more, there may be less. We're not talking amounts that would affect the perceived rarity or value, since the piece counts are already of a decent size.

For the mathematically challenged, that'll be approximately 450 QH Geldings of each of the three color – one of the lowest piece counts for a Tent SR in years, if you're going strictly by color, but one of the highest piece counts if you count it as a single release (ah, the beauty of the Gambler's Choice!)

Nothing else in the available data really stands out, though I am a bit surprised that Sprinkles is among the cheaper offerings, while Buttercream is among the more expensive – more expensive than the much-buzzed-about Blue Tortuga Five-Gaiter Gala, who also has a lower piece count, to boot. Odd. Makes me wonder if they're going to be doing something special with the Buttercream, like throw in random glossies or make him a Chalky. (Wishful thinking on my part, mostly.)

The Make a Wish Arabian Mare also has a high piece count – and relatively high price. She's the real wild card here: BreyerFest is literally going to be the first time we're going to see her “in the flesh.” All we've seen of her, both at tour stops and online, is a heavily Photoshopped picture with a mane and tail that's pretty obviously a drawing. We should all know better than to judge a model from its official photographs.

That's why though I have already made my preliminary choices, they may change once I get to see them in person. Let's all remember the lesson of the 2005 Galahad: he seemed pleasant enough in photographs, but nothing outstanding. Then we saw him in person – and wow, what a looker! He's still one of my all-time BreyerFest favorites.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pony Gals, Dapples, Luno and the Cartoon Network

Apparently more Pony Gals merchandise has shown up at Target, mostly Classics scale sets not unlike the previous Target SR Play Sets we've seen for a while now. The packaging suggests that there's going to be a full Pony Gals line including Classics, Stablemates, Little Bits and Mini Whinnies scale models (all helpfully color-coded!) It's also interesting to note that the Pony Gals stable I mentioned previously is also shown on the packaging, now with a 700-series SR number.

(First of all, yay on the potential return of the Little Bits/Paddock Pals molds, who had recently been demoted to kit horse status. Poor little guys get no love or respect!)

The question still remains: why? Is this an early launch of a new line, or a Big Box store exclusive? Is it just for Target, or will Kmart, Meijer and TSC also get in on the Pony Gals action?

I'm wondering if Reeves is trying to create a “brand” to market and license, a la The Saddle Club, but with licensing fees flowing coming in, and not going out. Could a TV show or cartoon be far behind?

I say this because several years ago I was one of the few people who actually saw the TV commercial for the Dapples line … on the Cartoon Network. I caught the tail end of one commercial while channel surfing; I ended up watching a couple more hours of cartoons to catch it again. (Yes, I am that obsessive.) I still remember the jingle. And I swear I am not making this up. For one thing, I think I could have come up with something better than this:
Dapples, Dapples, so much to do!
Dapples, Dapples, I love you!
Since it's been suggested that the Pony Gals line was created, in part, to replace the Dapples/Ponies line, and there was an attempt to market Dapples on Cartoon Network, a logical (but admittedly tenuous) assumption would be that the Pony Gals might be heading in the same general direction.

Believe it or not, someone did actually make a cartoon series that featured a model horse as the lead character. The series was called Luno, the Flying Horse, and it was produced by Terrytoons in the early 1960s. A boy named Timmy would command his model horse to take him places, with the magic incantation:
Oh winged horse of marble white,
take me on a magic flight!
Here's a link to prove to you I am not crazy:

Yeah, I know, it's not exactly Academy Award material. These cartoons were made at the tail end of the theatrical market for cartoons by a company known industry-wide for its cheapness; some of them went directly to TV. I got lucky and found a couple of collections of Luno cartoons on VHS sometime in the 1980s. I have no idea where to find them now, except on YouTube.

(BTW Reeves, just to let you know: if you do plan on making a pitch to the Cartoon Network in the near future, please note that they're moving away from actual cartoons. No, I don't get it either.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pony Gals

Something short and sweet today – still busying myself with BreyerFest preparations.

Still no sign of the Pony Gals Stablemates at any of the Targets near me, but I'm not surprised. This is Michigan – nonessential items like model horses aren't exactly flying off the shelves here right now. It's going to be a few weeks, or even months, before they restock.

I'm guessing the situation isn't going to be too different anywhere else, either – it's probably going to be one of those gradual rollouts that'll be dependent on how quickly a store turns over its merchandise. Some will get them sooner than others, but most stores will eventually get some. And, as some folks have pointed out, they might even have a few of them in the Ninja Pit this year for those of us who don't live so close to a well-stocked Target. So there's no need to panic yet.

I did my part to help the process along, and bought some of the previous semi-exclusive Stablemates. I had a dentist appointment that wasn't nearly as expensive as I thought it would be – and I deserved some ponies anyway, dammit! That G3 TB is just the cutest little snot, and I love Peruvians...

I'm hoping y'all have noticed the numbering system on the Pony Gal SMs: they're six digit, 700 series numbers, which means they are special run items (i.e. this being the “acknowledgment” I often speak of.) I don't know if they're going to be exclusive to Target, or be like those quasi-specials that only turns up in certain chains, like the previous Stablemates.

Right now I'm leaning towards them being Target exclusives, only because Target has had some other exclusive Pony Gal merchandise for a little while now – namely, the three Special Run Classic Scale Pony Gals:

720051 Lily, My First Dapple Grey
720053 Daisy, My First Pinto
720054 Abbey, My First Appaloosa

There's also a “Two Stall Travel Barn,” but I'm unsure of that particular item's status (SR, RR, quasi-SR, etc.) since its release number, according to my notes, is 7085 – in line with the regular run numbers. It's basically just the Classics Two Stall Barn Travel Case, molded in different colors with special Pony Gals packaging. (I have to confess that I've been a little lax on my research of barns and accessories. The horses are hard enough to keep track of!)

I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk of these previous specials, but these are products geared towards juvenile nonhobbyists. I prefer to have my horses move only in my imagination, thanks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where's There's Smoke, There's Charcoal

I don't know what's up with the Cream & Cocoa Grazing Mare and Foal Set seen in the the JAH banner ad on Blab, either: my suspicion is that it's an end of the year JAH Special, probably (hopefully?) a Gambler's Choice, like so many of them have been lately.

This is purely speculation on my part: the twist here, I'm thinking, is that you could get any one of four different combos: Charcoal Mare with Smoke Foal, Smoke Mare with Charcoal Foal, Charcoal Mare with Charcoal Foal, or Smoke Mare with Smoke Foal. Four different possible combos, yet only 4 different models total: if you're lucky, you'd only have to buy two sets to get them all.

Breyer did offer these mixed combos before: back at the dawn of Breyer Time (1962-1964, to be precise) you could get mixed Running Mare and Foal sets: you get either get a Smoke Mare with an Alabaster Foal (352), or an Alabaster Mare with a Smoke Foal (351.) The Smoke Mare/Alabaster Foal combo were even used to illustrate the Running Mare and Foal in the Dealer Catalogs back then.

Other combos were available, too, but aside from the Decorators, none of them had unique numbers assigned to them. (If you wanted a “Chestnut” Running Mare and Foal combo, you'd have to write the number 124-134 on your order form, instead!)

Grazing Mare and Foal Sets were briefly available in 1965, and also came with their own unique numbers – 1411 for the Bay, 1422 for the Black, and 1433 for the Palomino – but I have no evidence to suggest they were orderable in mixed combos.

Again, this is purely speculation: with the Cream & Cocoa, they could simply be offering the single set, or maybe just the two different Smoke and Charcoal combos, or whatever. All we've got is a brief, tiny glimpse in a banner ad to go on. I don't know any more than the rest of you on this matter. Heck, the picture is so small, the Smoke might actually be a Honey Palomino! And if that's the case, the “Cream” part of the “Cream & Cocoa” name would make a little more sense.

By the way, there are no true vintage Glossy Smoke models: actually, it's probably better to say that I haven't seen any Gloss Smoke models I could conclusively call authentic. I've seen a handful of Gloss Charcoal models that could possibly pass for a somewhat-dark Smoke, but those are pretty uncommon. It is exceedingly common for a Smoke to be dark enough to pass for Charcoal – common enough that there's often little additional value attached to that variation.

It's probably a little too much to hope that they make the rather nuanced distinction in the advertising between a reproduction of a vintage Decorator color, and a Decorator color done in a vintage style. (And for the record, yes, the VRE Silver Screen Andalusian in Gloss Smoke bugged me a little, too – I don't want hobbyists going off on wild horse chases for models that don't exist. There are enough impossible-to-find rarities out there as it is.)

Ah, well, we'll find out soon enough.