Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Details, Again

Sorry about that. I couldn't find the picture I wanted to use for my next topic, so in addition to all of the other junk I had planned to finally deal with, I had to sort through my research slush pile, too. This made me a little cranky and not in any humor to write. (And the picture is still missing. Fooey!)

Onto the next topic.

Have you noticed that Reeves seems to have dropped the ball on the history details, lately? They were doing decently there for a while – a few minor errors here and there that were probably just typos – but the most recent Daily Breyer postings on their Facebook page have been really sloppy. Not one, but THREE of the Hagen-Renaker Maureen Love sculpts have been featured (the Classic Mustang Stallion, the Classic Swaps, and the Stablemates Thoroughbred Mare) with wording that suggests they were sculpted for Breyer in 1975 or 1976. Again!

As I've said before, the lack of mention about Hagen-Renaker could be some sort of legal technicality related to the terms of the leasing contract, but the wording could have been so much better. Instead of “sculpted in 1975 by Maureen Love Calvert” it could have read “sculpted by Maureen Love Calvert and released by Breyer in 1975.”

Similar words, with quite different meanings: the former says that Maureen sculpted them in 1975, implying it was for Breyer, while the latter leaves room for H-R: Maureen sculpted it, and Breyer released it in 1975. If the leases should be renewed in the future, the latter statement would not need the extensive rewriting of history that the former would need. (Can you tell I've had some legal training?)

Anyway, as recent controversies have highlighted, Reeves really needs to parse their words a little more carefully. Not just because of the possible legal ramifications to the company, but because it affects collectors directly, when it comes to something like Collectibility Judging.

As a recent commenter pointed out, it's a real problem when the Collectibility judge decides to stick to the “official” sources for their information. While it may seem like it's nitpicking on my part, it's not, if either the judge or the shower relies on the Facebook page as their reference. It's an “official” page, written by actual Reeves employees, and is thus given a measure of credibility that a shower's personal research may not. Even if the shower's information is correct, and the “official” information is wrong.

It's not just the H-R molds they've been getting wrong, either: they also gave the Traditional Man o' War a release date of 1969, instead of the correct date of 1967. Kinda weird, since it's something that's never really been a point of dispute, since most of us history buffs have copies of the dated 1960s pricelists that make most of the release dates from 1964 through 1969 fairly clear. (Most, but not all. You know the drill.)

Here's another missed detail that I just noticed last night as I was doing a little paperwork for the newest members of the herd. Notice something “off” about the Pony Gals Stablemates packaging?

Here's a scan from the back:

And here's a scan from the front:

Since when did Big Ben become a Stablemate? Or is there something they're not telling us about the upcoming G4 molds? ;)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

QVC and Midnight Tango

This shows you where my mind has been lately: as I was watching QVC hawk the “Waiting for Santa” Play Set on Tuesday, all I could think about was the fabric in the flipping sleeping bag. Were the fabrics also exclusive? Could I get bolts of them anywhere?

I'd so totally buy a bolt of Breyer-branded fabric. I've been itching to make a Breyer-themed quilt for years. Fabric with preprinted logos and models would make things so much easier. And just imagine all of the other possibilities: show bags, table covers, tote bags and purses, slipcovers, curtains, evening apparel...

Back to the Play Set. It's nice to see the Midnight Tango mold again; poor thing hasn't been getting much use lately, which is a shame. Since his introduction in 2000, he's only had four other releases:

461 Midnight Tango
1173 Boone's Little Buckaroo
1180 LTD's Red Cloud
4116 Paint By Number Kit

Contrast that with the Traditional Silver, who has had over twenty different releases since 2001. (I don't have a particularly strong opinion of the Silver mold itself one way or another, so I'm sorta baffled by his popularity. And mildly relieved I didn't get pulled for the Early Bird Raffle Silver at Fest this year.)

Even Bouncer has had as many releases since his debut in 2007 (five, if you count the Gloss show prize pieces.)

I didn't get the set, partly because I finally found some of the Pony Gals stuff at a local Target (more Mini Whinnies, yay!) and because they pointed out, several times, that the set would be available later in the year through other retailers. Other retailers they didn't identify, naturally.

I'm going to guess that this set is going to be another one of those “Big Box Specials,” available for somewhat limited distribution either at one or several of other Big Box retailers like Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, etc. or through the various local farm chain stores serviced by Mid-States Distributing. Or some combination thereof. Maybe even Tractor Supply: even though the TSC specials are usually labeled as TSC exclusives, the past couple of years they've also been getting a lot of semi-specials in their Holiday toy mix (repackaged older specials, re-issued discontinued items, leftover Wal-Mart stuff, etc.) We'll find out soon enough.

Yes, I am aware that TSC and Mid-States have their own exclusives independent of the other retailers; I'm just trying to come up with a suitable term that covers items that don't appear in any catalog, yet appear in a multiple store chains (i.e. the Bay Appaloosa Classic Frolic Stallion – first at Meijer, now also in Kmart.) “Big Box Specials” is about the best I can come up with at the moment.

Speaking of the notion of “exclusives” I wonder how much the Burbank controversy affected the sales pitch on QVC. I know other collectors have been annoyed by the fact that QVC has advertised other items as “exclusives” that have turned up elsewhere, either as regular runs or store specials. In my admittedly limited exposure to QVC, they've generally been pretty good about parsing their words to cover that possibility, but not pushing it too hard, lest it affect their sales. It was interesting how they really went out of their way to point out the fact that “exclusive” really meant “on QVC first, at this special price.”

I believe that The Nutcracker Prince is technically a true QVC Exclusive; it's not the horse, but the ornament that's packaged with it that makes it so. It probably has its own issue number and all that, but that's something I haven't followed up on yet. (Most QVC items do, or used to, regardless of the model's status as a regular run or special run. Another one of those documentation quandries we have to deal with.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nokota Horse and Multiple Posability

All this fuss over a model nobody wanted in the first place. I would have loved one, since he's a favorite mold of mine, but I was apparently on the wrong side of the table in the tent this year.

I am referring to the “B” word. Burbank. The subject of a thread threatening to eat Blab.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised at the sheer amount of outrage: I thought it was common knowledge that it is not wise to depend on Reeves for the most reliable information. This kind of conflicting language and information has been a problem with Reeves for years. It has always been wiser to rely on their actions, not their words. And their actions have always defaulted to selling leftovers, not regrinding them. Always.

I'm not going to get into the controversy over it here. You probably can guess what my opinion is: I just haven't bothered to post it on Blab yet because I'm still finding myself a little asocial. And I doubt it would sway hobbyists one way or another, anyway.

Let's talk about one of the Nokota Horse's more interesting features instead, one he shares with only a handful of other Breyer molds: multiple posability!

“Multiple Posability?” Huh? Just a fancy term I coined for unjointed, unarticulated models that can be posed in more than one position (usually just two.) The Nokota Horse can either rest on three feet, or his hind legs and tail, for that extra added oomph. The other models that share this trait include:
  • Robin Hood Rider
  • Traditional Rearing Mustang
  • Bucking Bronco
Many nonhobbyist eBay sellers seem to think that the Fighting Stallion and Rearing Stallion have multiple posability: one wonders what they think the footpads and flat-bottomed tails were for. I sometimes try to rationalize - optimistically, I know - that maybe it's just easier for them to photograph it that way.

Here's a pic of the Robin Hood Rider from a mid-1950s sales flier:

I've always thought it took some clever and creative thinking to design a rider figurine that also works as a standing figurine, without the benefits of joints.

A few years later, in the ca. 1961 insert sheets, we had Breyer touting the Mustang's posing options:

Note the fact that his front hoof is intact. In spite of their apparent awareness of his multiple options, they seem to have abandoned the notion of multiple posability with the Mustang early on: the front hoof of most early Mustangs still had their hooves trimmed, including my beautiful and extremely early Buckskin Mustang with eyewhites.

(The quilt frame is taking up the spot where I normally take photos, so a dinky, unused avatar will have to suffice here. And yes, this guy so totally needs a post dedicated to him someday.)

The third older mold that received this multiple posability option was the Bucking Bronco. In the earliest Dealer's Catalogs in which he is featured, it is noted in his description that he “(Stands in two positions)” (parentheses theirs, not mine.) I'd include a pic of my copy, but my copy is less than ideal.

Neat, eh? It's a feature I hope they can manage to incorporate this kind of posability into more molds in the future. Because those articulated, bionic Pony Gals things give me nightmares.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Giselle and Gilen

Darn, picked up another shift, so something short again today...

I'm actually somewhat relieved that I didn't get pulled for Gilen. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the Breyer Nonplastics in general. I am clumsy and I tend to break things: this is why I collect plastics.

I cherish the chinas I do have: I love my Gloss Brown Heather, my beautiful Bay Xayal, and the fabulous Galway Warrior, among others. But except for rare instances like the Galway Warrior, I try to avoid spending full retail on Nonplastics, because it would absolutely crush my heart when the time comes for me to accidentally break it.

I'm about as clumsy as someone can be without qualifying for some sort of disability. I trip over my own feet, fall out of bed, walk into walls, and unintentionally drill holes into myself. I'm so clumsy I once injured myself while READING. So the damage will occur at some point in the future, as long as the model in question remains in my custody.

It's a tragedy to break something regardless of how much I pay for it, of course, but breaking a $10 piece is a smidge less painful than breaking the $150 one.

I suspect that's one of the reasons that left a number of the Connoisseur Giselles unclaimed.

I was rather surprised by the appearance of the Giselles in the sales tent. Connoisseurs in the tent isn't something that's happened before, to my recollection. (I've heard rumors, but nothing substantiated.) At first most of us assumed that these may have been overruns to compensate for broken and damaged pieces, but that turned out to not be the case: they were numbered, and part of the run.

I grabbed one at first, and then put her down. She's pricey, and she's not plastic. As beautiful as I think she is, I just couldn't justify it, on top of all of the other goodies I had sitting in my buy pile. A lot of other collectors thought the same way, since there were still a handful of them left even on Sunday, when the tent pickings are notoriously slim.

She was also not distinctly and overtly glossy, or sporting a flashy pattern, factors that helped the previous Nonplastic Connoisseur Tenacious. Being a brand new mold by a relatively popular artist wasn't quite enough to convince your average Breyer collector that she was worth the investment.

The interest in these molds is there, in plastic: I overheard one Reeves employee give a practiced, and pointedly noncommital answer to the question in the Gallery this year. (And I suspect that was only one of many times they were asked.) I have no idea if or when the Gilen and Giselle will make the transition to plastic. I suspect we'll be seeing the Great Horse Shire first, since the test piece for Party Time was plastic.

If I had been drawn for Gilen, I suspect I would have found myself on the hunt for a Giselle anyway, just to keep the family intact (because keeping him apart from his Mama would just be mean!) And then would have secluded them into the deepest, darkest, and safest part of my china cabinet, away from my awkward self.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collectibility, Part 2

Up front: I think documentation is a very good thing, and something that I'd be doing if I were showing more actively. But I'm not a big fan of making documentation a requirement in Collectibility judging. Suggested and highly recommended, yes, but not required.

Collectibility, as it is judged now, is something relatively “new” to the live showing world. When I was showing in the mid to late 1980s, Collectibility was definitely a factor in judging, but it was not a separate class unto itself. The eight to ten piece “Collector's Class” was a regular feature at many shows, but then as now, placings were awarded to the assemblages, not to individual models.

Collectibility as a “judgeable” class category is mostly a reaction to the influx of newer, more “realistic” molds, and the desire to keep these older molds competitive in the show ring who would not otherwise be able to compete.

Since it is a something newer, and something that has no corollary in the real horse world to model it after, I think there needs to be either some degree of flexibility in the rule, or a transitional period to get everyone up to speed on the practice. The first step would be in making it “suggested” or “highly recommended” practice in the show rules, rather than a requirement. How that would be implemented, I have no idea. Like I've said, I've been an infrequent shower in the past decade, and I haven't had much involvement in NAMHSA beyond the occasional lurking in the various discussion boards.

Personally, I'd be reluctant to disqualify something entirely just because it lacked documentation, especially when it's something that could be extremely competitive without it. A mint in box Woodgrain Stretch Morgan with a gold foil Tenite sticker really doesn't need further explanation: if a collectibility judge doesn't know what that is and why it's being judged for collectibility, they probably shouldn't be judging collectibility in the first place.

However, I think documentation may be still be very useful, even in the most obvious of cases such as a Woodgrain Morgan.

First off, documentation at its most elemental level is useful as a tiebreaker: if you have two equally fabulous models, the one with the superior documentation has the edge, because it shows that the hobbyist has put in that extra work, as opposed to someone who just plops a model into the class and hopes that their model's sheer greatness will overwhelm all comers.

Second, documentation demonstrates the hobbyist's knowledge about what he or she collects. Any hobbyist with a little bit of luck could find something exceedingly rare, but I'd give the edge to the hobbyist who knows why it's rare, and is able to articulate why. That's showing me that they're a collector, and not just an accumulator.

And third, documentation may help in further distinguishing a model in ways that are not visible to the naked eye. It may be a particular rare, obscure or subtle variation. It may have an interesting or significant provenance. It might have a unique or important history independent of its mold or color.

Documentation isn't an automatic pass: not all research materials are created equal. Internet sources, for example, are of varying and sometimes dubious quality. I wouldn't discount them entirely, especially if it is the only source of information about a particular model or variation, but I'd give a strong preference to printed sources, or back them up with other relevant citations and cross-references.

Some arguments have been made that documentation removes the need for a Collectibility judge to even know the subject at all. On the contrary, I think that the judge would need a strong working knowledge of the available reference materials to be able to judge if the attribution and documentation has been done properly in the first place. Someone who misidentifies their models in their documentation is hindering, rather than helping their entry.

In cases like that, an absence of documentation actually works in the hobbyist's favor. You get no added benefit by not including it, but you also aren't accidentally sabotaging your entry, either, with sloppy or incorrect research. Sometimes it's better to let the model speak for itself.

(For the record, if anyone wants to use anything I've posted here as part of their documentation, feel free. Just cite the web site address and the date of the post. No guarantees are given or implied: whether the judge accepts it as credible or not is their own prerogative.)

Programming Note: I probably won't be home for any significant amount of time tomorrow. Next post on Thursday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Collectibility, Part 1

Sorry about that – I was a little under the weather there for a couple of days. I'm appreciating the extra hours the boss has been giving me (as does my bank account) but it's certainly starting to take its toll on me physically. I think I've spent most of the past two and a half days sleeping! (And when not sleeping, quilting. Good for the nerves, not so good for the fingertips.)

I was just thinking about the issue of showing in Collectibility classes and the need for documentation. It was a bit of a heated topic there on Blab last week, but I was a bit too exhausted, both mentally and physically, to add my perspective to the discussion when it was going full blazes.

I have given a great deal of thought to what standards I would apply if I were to either show or judge collectibility. That's where my interest in history intersects with the live showing aspect, after all: if I'm going to show or judge in the future, that's where my focus is going to be.

I'd like to preface my comments here with a few qualifying remarks. One, I've only occasionally live shown in recent years. Not for a lack of local opportunities – there's a show literally less than a mile from my house – it's just that my hobby energies have been focused elsewhere. Two, I've also never judged: I've been consulted a few times on collectibility standards, but never actually been asked to show up and actually apply them. (FYI: I haven't been actively seeking that role either, but I'd consider it if it ever came up.)

I'd break it down into four basic criteria: Condition, Quality, Rarity and Desirability.

Condition is the easiest to explain, and understand: it is a measure of the state of preservation of a model. Is it yellowed? Are there any flaws visible to the naked eye, such as rubs, scratches, chips, breaks, paint skips, missing pieces? If restoration has been done, has it been done well? Has it been brought back to its original factory state, or have questionable enhancements been made?

Quality is a measure of the production value of a given model. Not all models of a given run are created equal: some have better shading, cleaner seams, tighter masking or more details. If I were to hazard a guess, only about one in ten production models is live show quality, and only about one in 100 approaches flawless (no model is completely flawless: you can always find something.)

Rarity is not simply about comparing piece counts: some models may have higher piece counts than others, but that doesn't necessarily make them “less rare.” The way the model was distributed, sold, or advertised has an effect on rarity, as well as the when. This is particularly a factor with older or less well-known special runs from the 1970s and 1980s. Some of these weren't necessarily targeted exclusively towards the collector's market: many of them were sold to the general public, and have since become “lost” to us, like the recently discussed Black Blanket POA.

Finally we have Desirability: I call this the “Want It” factor. Some models are simply more desirable than others: an Indian Pony is going to be more desirable than a Lady Roxana. Certain colors are more desirable than others, too: Glosses are the hot trend currently, as are certain non-realistic colors such as Silver Filigree or Charcoal. This is the most subjective of the criteria: every judge is going to have slightly different biases and preferences when it comes to what they would consider “desirable.”

Documentation will have little effect on the judging Condition or Quality. Most flaws or demerits in these criteria are plainly visible to the eye, and can rarely be explained away. There are instances where documentation can spin the less than pristine state of a model into a positive factor in its collectibility. I have a couple of test colors painted on bodies with rough, uncleaned seams: I would explain that these rough seams indicate that they are probably true test colors, likely from the preproduction phase. The rubs and dings on a cull could also be explained away: they are to be expected on models thrown into reject bins, which were likely rejected because of a previously detected mold or paint flaw in the first place.

Documentation is more of a factor in the criteria of Rarity and Desirability. As I hope I've demonstrated in some of my posts, there are many models that are more – or less – rare than we perceived them to be. Not every judge is going to be as well-versed in the scales of rarity for every single model. Faced with a large or involved class, they may opt to ignore what may appear, at first glance, to be a more common version of a model.

The original release of the Midnight Sun is an excellent example here: there are several different versions of the original release in black. One of them is actually rather scarce: the earliest version, which came with distinctly light gray hooves. (And quite different than the more common gray-brown hooves version, which I'd show you if I knew exactly where my Midnight Suns were. Which I don't, at the moment.) Pointing out that particular detail, especially if it is done accurately, not only helps the judge evaluate the Collectibility of a model more accurately, it also demonstrates that the shower has done their research, and that's also a plus.

Desirability, as I said earlier, is the most subjective of my criteria. What is it beyond Condition, Quality and Rarity that makes this model special enough to be considered “more collectible” than others? This is where documentation can make the difference between placings: in a way, it's sort of the “interview” question in a beauty pageant. And like a good response to any interview question, it's the short, concise, and well-phrased answers that give you the edge. And again, it's another opportunity for the hobbyist to show that they've done their research.

See. Told you I spent a lot of time thinking about this!

In regards to the original discussion on Blab, my opinion is this: if documentation is required by the show rules, then that's where the discussion ends, obviously. But for a number of reasons, I'm not in favor of documentation becoming a mandatory requirement, at least not yet. And as for why, I'll explain that tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Topic, and Off

I've had a bad habit of leaving a lot of topics open for future discussion; sometime in the very near future I'll go through my posts and make a list of all the topics I've left behind.

Part of my problem is that I tend to “think aloud” when I type; I probably should edit myself a little more in that area to keep the less well-formed ideas from becoming a distraction.

Another part of the problem is that I have a part-time job that is not very intellectually stimulating, so I amuse myself by picking a particular topic to keep the mind-numbing tedium at bay. Sometimes these days are very long, and I find myself straying rather far afield from my original topic. This intellectual exercise has had some effect on my writing, naturally.

Here's an interesting case in point: I had a surprisingly fruitful shopping expedition on Sunday, and I picked up this very nice Mare and Foal set for not much more than a pittance:

I spent most of my longer-than-expected day contemplating all of the various topics I could pursue in discussing this charming pair. And I decided that today, I'd just write about how hard it is sometimes to just pick a darn topic.

I could talk about their most obvious feature, which is their extreme yellowness (something that is being worked on as I type.) I could discuss the various remedies for it, the pros and cons of every method, and about restoration issues in general. I once wrote an entire guidebook on the subject, so I could go on for several days about that.

Or, I could talk about the fact that except for their extreme yellowness, they are in otherwise immaculate condition, and how that in itself is a very unusual thing. Common models just aren't common in mint condition. And there are several reasons why that's so.

I could also spend an entire post talking about how I believe that this is probably an intact #352 Sugar and Spice Mare and Foal Set. The evidence is mostly circumstantial, based on their color, condition, the dealer I bought it from, the kind of merchandise she specializes in and the estates sales she buys from (among other things.)

And as a subtopic, I could go on about how I sometimes, when I find an entire collection for sale, make another intellectual game of estimating when that collection was purchased - and if it's from an estate, which family member it belonged to. (Have I mentioned the 15-year rule yet?)

I also happened to find, coincidentally, another Woodgrain Running Mare and Foal Lamp at the very same flea market that day. I could discuss the reasons why I decided to buy the more “common” Smoke and Alabaster, and leave the “scarcer” Woodgrains behind. It had more to do with my collecting philosophy and my relationship with the flea market and its dealers, rather than the price or condition (the former was fair, and the latter was very good to excellent.)

I could go on. Can you see why I had such a hard time finishing term papers in college?

For the record, they are currently being sunned in the bedroom window; I weighed the risks between wet bleaching (residue lift, peeling, milkiness) and sun bleaching (bloating, fading, color shifting) and decided to go the slower, more passive method. I've had some good luck in the window with a couple of recent patients (including a test color!)

They are probably permanent residents, unless an even more attractive and/or inexpensive set comes along. I have a very nice Charcoal Running Mare, but not a true Smoke, and I've tried for years to find an attractive and close-to-mint Alabaster Running Foal. And I am loathe to break up a family that's been together this long.

(Oops, was that another topic, whizzing by? Rats.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Traditional Foal Shortage?

Still having some time management issues here. I didn’t realize how far behind last week’s crazy work schedule put me. And that rambly post I had been working on all weekend was, frankly, an unpublishable mess. Something I wasn’t in any mood to rewrite last night, especially since I had to be up early this morning for the BreyerFest Reservation Roulette.

So I’ll just spread out what I was attempting to cover in that one post over the course of the week. They’ll be a little shorter than average, but they’ll have the added benefit of actually making sense. And today’s topic shall be… Traditional Foals!

I was originally going to present some research to show you all that there was a dire shortage of Traditional Foal Molds, and that Reeves should do something about it. This was partly in response to a comment about the need for another Draft Horse Foal (something I agree with, wholeheartedly) and also an observation made in light of the recent Fun Foal releases.

The funny thing is that I did the research, crunched the numbers, and guess what? There isn’t a shortage, or at least, there isn’t a significant percentage difference when compared to the Classics or Stablemates line. Foals comprise about 11 to 13% of all three lines, depending on how you calculate it.

For the record, there are approximately 17 different Traditional Foal molds - 16 if you discount the Proud Arabian Foal, who is currently unavailable, or 18 if you want to include the Quarter Horse Yearling:

Action Stock Horse Foal
Clydesdale Foal
Family Arabian Foal
Grazing Foal
Le Fire
Lying Down Foal
Phantom Wings
Proud Arabian Foal
Quarter Horse Yearling
Running Foal
Saddlebred Weanling
Scratching Foal
Sea Star
Standing Stock Horse Foal
Suckling Foal

I haven’t included the Connoisseur Foal Gilen yet, since he’s still technically unreleased, and his status as a production plastic mold is still uncertain. (I did not include any exclusively non-plastic molds in my original calculations of the Traditional line anyway, precisely for that reason.)

There were several factors that skewed my perception of the Foal situation. First and foremost was that we’ve had number of new Classics and Stablemates Foal molds that have come out recently. Since 1997, we’ve had six new Stablemates Foals, four Classics, but only three Traditionals (Amber, Ashley and Le Fire.)

Second, there may be more Classics and Stablemates molds historically, but some of those molds were created to replace the Hagen-Renaker molds that are now unavailable for production: the Classic Arabian, Quarter Horse and Mustang Foals, and the G1 Thoroughbred Standing and Lying Down Foals. If you just count the molds that are available, the percentages fall back in line with the Traditionals.

Third, most of the Traditional Foal molds are quite old. Prior to Amber and Ashley, the next youngest Foal mold is the Action Stock Horse Foal, who was released in 1984 - 13 years earlier! While they still retain a lot of sentimental charm, they’re from another time period altogether, both historically and artistically. There have been only three new Foal molds in the modern, post-Chicago era.

Actually, the age issue may be argument enough for more Foal molds. While the Clydesdale Foal is still as cute as he ever was, I’m not so sure he really "belongs" with Wixom, any more than the Family Arabian Foal would go with the new Arabian Cross Mare. These foals were designed for a different time, and a different line.

So, here’s hoping that Gilen is a harbinger of things to come.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Silver Filigree

I didn't run out of things to write about: I ran out of time this week to write! I was totally not expecting to get overtime at the part-time job this week. The lack of food, the lack of sleep, being away from home for days: I was starting to get BreyerFest flashbacks at one point. (In a rare spare moment, I even bought some Stablemates because if I was going to suffer a little, I deserved some ponies...)

Anyway, back to the horse business. I'll deal with a few questions that have come up in the past couple of weeks in a long, rambly post later today or tomorrow. Right now, it's something a little more focused: let's talk about the color Silver Filigree.

Silver Filigree is one of the “newer” Decorator colors, first issued on the lovely and highly coveted 1993 BreyerFest Judge's Model Proud Arabian Mare. It wasn't used again until 1999, when The Ginger Horse commissioned a Legionario in that color as a special run for Equitana that year. It had been used sporadically since then, but within the past couple of years it appears that Reeves has decided that Silver Filigree – and hobbyist favorite Gloss Charcoal, to a degree – are their Decorator colors of choice to drive us all crazy.

While other Decorator colors have lost a bit of their luster with recent reissues, the “mystique” of Silver Filigree continues unabated. That's mostly because except for the Legionario “Grane of Gotterdammerung,” who had a healthy 2000 piece run, virtually all of the other Silver Filigrees Reeves has issued have either had extremely low piece counts, restricted distribution, or both:

Proud Arabian Mare: Volunteer Model (30)
Saturday Night Fever (Proud Arabian Stallion): BreyerFest Raffle (26)
Born to Run (Proud Arabian Foal): BreyerFest Raffle (26)
Quicksilver (Clydesdale Foal): BreyerFest Contest Prize (<30)
Silver: Treasure Hunt Surprise (250?)
Silver Snow (Othello): Web Special (200)
Surprise (Quarter Horse Gelding): BreyerFest Gambler's Choice (10)

That's not including tests and auction pieces, which are by nature either unique or close to it. (And I just noticed that five of the eight official releases were BreyerFest-related, too! Interesting.) There may also be a very small run of Running Foals (less than five?) that was associated in some way with the Ginger Horse's promotion of the Grane model, but I've only heard rumors of this little fellow, and no pictures, so I'm a bit reluctant to list it as something official. (Any pics or links would be appreciated!)

It's a smart move, albeit a frustrating one for those of us who absolutely love the color: by associating a certain color with rarity and exclusivity, it makes new releases in that color even more desirable. That's what fueled the online feeding frenzy with the Silver Snow: for a lot of collectors, it was a rare chance to get an example of a rare color, at a reasonable price.

Remember when we used to get the same thrill when they started rereleasing the old Decorator colors on new molds? They still have the power to excite hobbyists – especially when a new or popular mold is involved – but they are no longer as rare and exclusive as they used to be. If you really want a Florentine, Copenhagen, Gold Charm or Wedgewood Blue and you're not extremely picky about your choice of mold, you can get a newer release for a not-scary price (well, maybe not Wedgewood Blue, just yet. Talk about another color that drives collectors crazy!)

The only Silver Filigrees I have so far are the more “common” Grane and Silver Snow – and I was lucky to have a friend help me with the Silver Snow. I'd love any of the others, but I don't have that kind of money or luck right now. Maybe I'll be lucky or rich in the future: I doubt we've seen the last of this color. (Silver Filigree or Charcoal would look mighty fine on the Stretch Morgan, don't you think? It would also probably cause my head to explode.)

No discussion of Silver Filigree is complete without mentioning the fact that we also owe its existence to the power of suggestion. And in this case, it's one of those rare instances where one person was responsible: the late hobbyist Shirley Ketchuck. The Powers That Be at Reeves liked her idea, and started making their own.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Intentional, or Accident?

Something short and sweet today – I'm in the middle of an unusually heavy work week, and I'll have to be heading out the door here in a moment.

I haven't been picking up a lot at the flea market lately – there have been good models, and cheap models, but I've had to watch my pennies more closely than usual. I did get a super-nice El Pastor/Paso Fino Desperado yesterday, though. Slightly yellowed, but otherwise dead mint: not something you'd normally see in your average flea market model. He might even be better than my personal Desperado, but I haven't had time to take him off the shelf to compare.

The El Pastor mold has been overshadowed for some of the newer, flashier and manlier Spanish molds, especially the Peruvian Paso and Alborozo. He definitely deserves a little more attention than he's been getting of late: as many of you already know, he has a fascinating and complicated mold history. but that'll have to wait for another day when I'm not so crushed for time.

Instead, let's look at one really interesting El Pastor: it's a 735 Paso Fino in Blue Roan, made from 1998 through 2000.

In case you didn't immediately notice, he's rather different than your standard Blue Roan Paso Fino, who looks more like this. (Actually, there are two rather subtle but distinct variations of the standard paint job too, but I plan on including them in an extensive post about subtle variations in the near future.)

I spotted this oddity on eBay several years ago, still in his original box and everything, so I knew he was authentic. You see mistakes from time to time – socks missing, socks on the wrong legs, the wrong color hooves – but this goes beyond basic painter oopsies: it looks intentional.

It's possible that he's just one of those errors-by-omission: you see those from time to time too. An error-by-omission means that the model missed a stop in the painting process: the eyes aren't painted, the hooves aren't painted, or maybe some handpainted detail like chestnuts or eyewhites were missed.

In most of those cases, though, the mistake is quite obvious: those models look unfinished. My Blue Roan Paso Fino doesn't look unfinished, though that just might be a happy accident of the painting process. Maybe the tan shading on the hooves was undershading that would have been mostly oversprayed when they finally got around to finishing up his legs. (The legs are often – but not always – the last part of the model to be painted.)

Or he could have been intentional: there were reports of other variations of other models from that time period that were subsequently confirmed to be intentional, such as the small batch of 767 Glossy Black Proud Arabian Foals. And we still hear about variations cropping up on more recent models, too, in spite of the fact that Reeves has assumed tighter controls on the painting process. Some of them are accidents, presumably of miscommunication (both language, and distance) or of old-fashioned painter error. We know some of the more plentiful ones (in spite of mild protestations to the contrary) are most definitely of the intentional variety, especially the recent glossy variations. (They see how crazy collectors get when a little bit of gloss is involved.)

I don't know the true origins of my Blue Roan Paso Fino: was he truly a mistake, or was he an intentional one? I haven't seen any others like him, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I just happened to notice him at the right moment. That's how it is with most variations.