Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Even More Adios

Frappe’s quick sellout was a bit of a surprise. I don’t mind being wrong in this case, if only to take pleasure in seeing some of the other know-it-alls being silenced as well. (A little schadenfreude every once and a while ain’t a bad thing.)

In my case, though, my reservations weren’t with the model, but the circumstances: the economy, the holidays, the rare-model-grabfest coming up at the end of the week, and the overall grumpiness of the hobby-at-large kinda had me feeling that it might take a little longer than a mere 24 hours.

(And now Reeves is throwing grab bags into the mix this week, too. So tempting…must resist!)

At first I thought maybe everyone had a same reaction to the color that I did, but now I’m thinking that an awful high percentage of buyers bought duplicates.

I understand this on one level: everyone wants to make a little extra cash any way they can nowadays.

On the flip side, speculating is just plain bad for the market. It’s not just the money issue (with a few winners, a lot of losers) but there’s also a perception issue: it distorts the perceived value of a model in the marketplace, and that can have a more lasting, and more damaging, effect on the market.

When the value of a model changes, it’s rarely because of a physical change in the number of models in the market. (That does happen, but not as often as you might think nor in the quantities generally imagined.) What changes is the perception: if it is perceived as rare, popular, or hard to get, more hobbyists will want it. If it’s perceived as less rare, less popular, and easier to get, less will.

The actual quantity is almost irrelevant: things change when you hit the sub-200 piece threshold, but I’ll talk a little bit more about that in my LSE discussion later this week. I’m not into a mood to go into a deep philosophical discussion about the nature of model horse market today anyway.

I do want to discuss something I did find at the flea market this past Sunday, that I briefly mentioned in the comments of the last post: a biography of Edward Marshall Boehm.

No joke. I seriously thought I was being punked at first. (The book in question is Edward Marshall Boehm: 1913 - 1969, by Frank J. Cosentino, published in 1970 by The Lakeside Press.) I picked it up, flipped through it, found the pics of Adios, and then started looking for cameras or familiar faces in the crowd to jump out at me and yell "Psych!" Nope, just my crazy flea market mojo at work again.

Here’s one of those pictures: the Boehms presenting the first Adios to the Millers on October 14, 1968 (sorry about the moire pattern - the scanner is being temperamental):

I will take the hint that the universe is giving me and finally cover the Boehm Adios issue.

Simply stated: there really isn’t one. I think Nancy Young rather conclusively proved that the Breyer Adios and the Boehm Adios were sculpted concurrently; and their similarities are mostly a result of the source materials both Boehm and Hess relied on. (Hess adapted the small bronze trophy Adios based on the original, life-sized sculpture by James Slick; Boehm probably used the same photographic references Slick used to create the original bronze.)

But here we go with the perception thing again: until Nancy did her research, the belief was that Breyer copied the Boehm. The fact that a large number of early releases were copies from other manufacturers - most notably Boehm - reinforced the notion. The notion has been dispelled largely through Nancy’s thorough research, but it still crops up from time to time (whenever someone runs across a Boehm Adios, basically.)

But the idea also tends to get a boost from the "Breyer can do nothing right" crowd. You know these folks - they’re usually the first folks to post their opinion of anything Breyer, and it’s always negative. There’s not actually a lot of them out there, but they’re persistent and omnipresent, and the sheer volume of their comments masks the fact that it’s actually a rather small pool of crankypusses repeating the same complaints over and over and over again.

(There's the perception issue, again!)

Canon among this crowd is that if Breyer did something right, well, they had nothing to do with it in the first place. They got lucky, it was an accident, other collectors have unsophisticated artistic tastes, etc.

So naturally, the assumption of the "Debbie Downer" crowd is that any success the Adios mold has had in the model horse marketplace is almost entirely because it’s a copy of something else. Something superior.

In a sense that’s true: the Breyer Adios is a copy of the Trophy-scale Adios, which in turn is an adaptation of a much larger work. But it wasn’t the Boehm. They just happen to look similar because they both ultimately came from the same source material.

Just because it’s more limited, and done in a more expensive medium doesn’t change that fact. I certainly wouldn’t reject a Boehm Adios out of hand if one were to show up at the flea market, but if I had to choose between it and a beautiful, minty Presentation Adios, I’m nabbing the Presentation Adios, hands down. Not just for sentimental reasons, but because I also think it’s a better sculpture.

More on the Boehm book later in the week. Aside from the LSE commentary, I have another flea market find to discuss. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I haven't heard about this before.. ( because I wasn't into breyers before I got into the hobby.. I know ! weird huh? and had horses all my life too!) do you by any chance have a photo of both to show us. ? is the Boehm one in porcelain then?
Rebecca Turner