Monday, November 30, 2009


I think I might have to break my vow of model horse poverty and buy the 50th Anniversary Golden Charm Pinto FAS Web Special on Shopatron. In my defense, (a) my credit card is paid up, (b) I haven't bought my holiday gift to myself yet, and (c) I will be listing several sales horses on MH$P this week.

Well, at least I have a night to sleep on it.

Writing up the descriptors (the fancy word I made up to describe the kind of data I'm collecting on my herd) is going a little more slowly than I planned. I think it's because I hit the boxes with the Little Bits and Classics first; the boxes with Traditionals-only go by much quicker (fewer pieces per box!) Two boxes per day, with occasional breaks for other long-term projects, should get me to my goal by the end of the year.

But there's the memory factor, too: every model has a story. I'm not just talking about my personal history with the model, or its provenance. It's that I'm finding I could, quite realistically, come up with an interesting and detail-rich history post about each and every model. Here's a good example:

It's an early variation of the Breyer Elephant, in battleship gray. There are two different versions of this variation: one is molded in solid, opaque gray plastic, and the other (like this one) is painted in opaque gray paint. They can be hard to tell apart at first glance; the easiest way is to flip them over and check for paint puddling on his feet. Dating these fellows is rather hard: it's assumed that they were manufactured in the 1950s, but photographic evidence for the battleship gray variation is found the 1963 Dealer's Catalog.

(I'll discuss the problem of dating by catalog photos later this week.)

I found this fellow in a rather large collection of Elephant figurines that included several Breyer Elephants. When I spotted the collection at the flea market, from a distance, I made a silent prayer to whatever deity watches over the flea market that there would be at least one of the really rare Breyer Elephants in the herd (Pink, Blue, Woodgrain?)

Alas, they were all the same shade of gray, save this one. This guy was the only Elephant worth keeping. The rest of them went straight to the saleslist, where they made me a modest profit that was probably wasted on some other crazy flea market purchase, like my giant bucket of sequins or that five pounds of vintage Czech rhinestones. (They were still in their original packaging!)

Did you notice the sticker? Of course you did! It's a gold foil sticker indicating this fellow was a souvenir of the Will Rogers Turnpike in Oklahoma. Breyers with souvenir stickers or decals aren't uncommon; I see them turn up on eBay or the local dirt malls from time to time. They're not factory issue, so they don't necessarily add anything to the value of a model unless the place or date has a certain significance to it.

This one does.

A few weeks after I purchased the elephant collection, I found an old stash of travel brochures from the late 1950s. I don't go out of my way to collect them, per se, but if I find any that interest me on an artistic or topical level, I'll snap them up. They're cheap and fun, and provide an intriguing window into the previous owner's notions of suitable family vacationing.

And every once and a while, you find a genuine little treasure. In this box, I found a brochure announcing the opening of the Will Rogers Turnpike, in 1957! (I'd scan this little curiosity and share, but I can't find it at the moment - the boxes of horses are getting in the way.)

Highway and turnpike openings in the late 1950s and early 1960s were kind of a big deal, so the fact that the state of Oklahoma thought it was worth celebrating is not all that unusual. I just think it's neat that I found two separate Turnpike souvenirs in the same season, at the same flea market in Michigan, and from two different vendors!

I have no evidence one way or another if the Elephant was a souvenir sold specific to its opening, or was just a gift shoppe item that was available for some time afterwards. The paint job is a pretty early one, so I'd like to think that it was – or at least from the time when the road was still new and exciting, and not just a strip of pavement that took you from Point A to Point B.

Should the Elephant ever have to make that journey to Point B, the brochure is coming with him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorrel Fighting Stallion, Redux

I spent my Black Friday finishing up my 2008 paperwork (got the new toner cartridge on Wednesday.) Now I remember why I put off printing and sorting it all out – I spent way more than I should have on the“nonessential” things. The paperwork for this year should look a lot better; I've cut out most of my retail horse shopping (except for the Target and TSC specials) and I've studiously avoided the temptations of eBay.

There's no moral or philosophical underpinnings to those shopping decisions, beyond a lack of space and a lack of money. From now until I get the herd under control, the only hobby-oriented things I'll be buying are actual necessities: reference materials and office supplies. (One can never have enough binders or index cards!)

I was doing a little research on a topic I had been planning on writing about today, but I found something else instead: more on the possible origins of the Five-Gaiter Sorrel Fighting Stallion. (This sort of thing happens all the time, which is why my list of future topics never gets any shorter.) I was cross-checking some data in my early Breyer pricelists, and something caught my eye:

Look familiar? It's the same photograph of the “Bay” Fighting Stallion we saw in the 1968 Collector's Manual that I concluded was the Sorrel Fighter:

The “new” data isn't really new: I've had it for several years now. It comes from a copy of the Frederick C. Wolf & Son Inc. pricelist, dated May 7-8, 1963. (One page is dated May 7, the rest are dated May 8.) They were wholesale jobbers and distributors based in Tacoma Washington.

Most of the data duplicates what we already know from the official 1963 price list; the importance of this list was that it was the first documentation that showed that the matte and gloss Alabaster Fighting Stallions really were two distinct, separate releases. The 1962/3 Red Bird Sales Pages documents that fact in better detail, but those were found a few years later.

(We're not sure what to make of the “Dancer” nickname given to the No. 31 Fighting Stallion: we don't have any other reference to this name anywhere else. We don't know if Breyer or the jobber made it up. Separate topic anyway.)

What this “discovery” means is that we can push back the possible manufacture date of the Sorrel Fighting Stallion back to 1963. Since this was the same year that the Bay colorway was formally introduced on the Fighting Stallion, that means that the Sorrels may predate the standard “Breyer Bay” version we all know and love.

The only question then becomes: where do the Gloss Bays fit in the chronology? We don't have any references at all for the Gloss Bay Fighting Stallions: no pictures, and no notations on any pricelists, mail order sheets or catalogs of a finish change.

Then, as now, some of Breyer's upcoming releases may have been made available early for holiday orders. My guess – and it's purely a guess – is that these first batches of Fighting Stallions were produced in Gloss, possibly as a part of the 1962 holiday shipments. Once regular production began, they switched over to the Matte.

That wouldn't explain why the photograph shows the Five-Gaiter Sorrel version of the Fighting Stallion, though. If the glosses came first, and they intended the Sorrel color all along, then there shouldn't be any Gloss Bays at all: just Gloss Sorrels. But that's not the case at all. (I also happen to think that more than a few of the “Gloss Bay” Fighters out there aren't 100% authentic, but again, that's a separate topic.)

There was a lot of color confusion in Breyer's early days: the same colors on different models had the same name. The “Bay” Western Prancing Horse was actually the same color as the “Sorrel” Five-Gaiter, and the “Chestnut” Running Mare and Foal were the same color as the “Bay” Quarter Horse Gelding (except for the finish.) And the #36 Racehorse was called “Bay,” but was actually Chestnut.

Maybe somebody – or a lot of somebodies – just got their shades of Bay mixed up. “We didn't mean the Prancing Horse Bay, we meant the Running Mare and Foal Bay!”

Speaking of the Running Mare and Foal, there's another theory about the color switch that I've been entertaining: Breyer may have been engaging in a little “matchmaking.” Customers liked buying matching family sets: since the Matte Bay Running Mare and Foal also came out around that time, maybe Breyer thought that by making the Fighter in the same color and finish, customers would assume that they were all members of the same family, and buy accordingly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gray Plastic Chalkies

My next big project will take me to the end of the year, and probably a little bit beyond: I need to inspect the one-third of my collection now currently in storage. There are approximately 40 (40!) boxes to unpack, examine and repack, and each box has anywhere from 10 to 20 models apiece, so my end-of-the-year projection is not an exaggeration.

I pack pretty well, and the storage conditions – while not ideal – are more than adequate, so damage isn't the primary issue here. I did a thorough inventory a couple of years ago and I've managed to keep that up-to-date, so that's not the reason why, either.

Nope, the primary reason for the excavation is research. I'm trying to collect physical data on the models themselves. I'm taking notes on things like color, markings, mold marks, mold changes and other unique or distinct characteristics that help distinguish one release from another. It's tedious, boring but necessary work, especially when you have some models that came in a multitude of “Bay” paint jobs, some of which are worth significantly more than another – and some of which aren't technically Bay!

A secondary benefit of this excavation is that I can unearth and photograph some of my buried treasures for future blog posts. Today's subject is was one of the things I found in my first day back on the project: my Gray Plastic El Pastor!

Gray Plastic Chalkies are just one of the many different subcategories of Chalkies. Gray Plastic Chalkies are models that were molded in a light to medium gray-colored Tenite, and not basecoated with white prior to painting. I sometimes call them Semi-Chalkies because they were nonwhite plastic models made during the Chalky Era (ca. 1973-1976): Breyer just skipped the basecoating step. The most common Gray Plastic Chalkies are Elephants and Donkeys; here's a particularly lovely near-black variation of the Donkey:

The Gray Plastic Chalky Elephant and Donkey are easy to distinguish from the earlier Donkey and Elephant (ca. Late 1950s – early 1960s) that were also molded out of gray plastic. One, the color is different: the earlier ones were a glossier and more battleship gray color, while the Chalky Era ones are more of a mop-water gray. Second, the paint jobs were completely different. The earlier versions only had their eyes painted; on the later ones, additional gray paint is used to enhance the color.

Breyer also used the gray plastic on the Spanish Fighting Bull and the Walking Polled Black Angus Bull to good effect. I actually prefer the Fighting Bull in its gray plastic version: I think the gray plastic horns are less stark-looking than the white ones he usually comes with.

Breyer attempted to go with the unpainted gray plastic on some of their horses, but with less success. With solid colors, or black-painted horses, it wasn't too much of a problem: I have a gray plastic Black Stretch Morgan who's quite handsome. (Haven't unearthed him yet, sorry.) With models like El Pastor, where having a white surface is essential to the proper execution of the design, the gray plastic just makes them look dingy and oversprayed.

Maybe Breyer thought they could get away with it for a batch or two. This was the era of the fuzzy overspray: clean, sharp markings were the exception, not the rule. (Whenever I see someone carping nowadays about a miniscule amount of overspray on an otherwise flawless horse, I'm not sure if I want to laugh at them or call them out on it. Back in the day, we bought Stablemates with untrimmed flashing on them, and we were okay with that! Well, not entirely okay with it, but certainly a lot less whiney.)

The Gray Plastic Chalky horses are less common than the nonhorses, probably because while our standards were lower than they are today, they weren't nonexistent. Did they really think we'd buy a #97 Chestnut Appaloosa Gelding with a gray hip blanket?

(Yeah, really, they made Gray Plastic Appaloosa Geldings. I don't have one – yet.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Puffy Stickers!

My latest big project: going through last year’s horse trading. The spreadsheets were all fine and up-to-date: the work was in the cleaning, sorting and organizing of the paperwork that went into it. I would have finished today, too, if the printer hadn’t run out of toner.

I’ve had too much experience with electronic files being lost, destroyed or tampered with to abandon the security of hard copies. And there’s some satisfaction in seeing it all neatly tabbed, collated and sitting on the shelf in one sturdy little binder. It’s like a craft project, with data instead of scrapbook paper!

Since I was already in the mood, I also started reorganizing my hobby archives. I had my archives in a couple of different locations in the house, and I’m now attempting to relocate all - or most - of it into my office. I knew I had a lot of stuff, but putting it all in one room was quite enlightening.

I’ll go on another day about my efforts to create a true model horse hobby archive; I scrapped my first attempt to articulate my thoughts about it (thus explaining the shortness of today’s post!) And I do want to tidy up the place a bit before I share pictures of what my "library" looks like, anyway.

I will share a couple of things that I found in the move: the Puffy Stickers I mentioned in the post about the J.C. Unger connection a little while back. They were right where I thought they were - in a mixed box of loose bits of Breyer tack.

In case they aren’t quite readable the first sheet has: (Bay) Jumping Horse, Overo Paint, Lady Phase, Trakehner, Traditional Black Beauty, Traditional Man o’ War, (Buckskin) Mustang, Tennessee Walker (aka Midnight Sun) and Legionario III.

Second Sheet: Stud Spider, (Palomino) Family Stallion, (Palomino) Western Prancing Horse, Clydesdale Stallion, (Appaloosa) Running Stallion, (Buckskin) Quarter Horse, Clydesdale Mare, (Bay) Running Mare and the (Mahogany Bay) Proud Arabian Stallion.

They’re in remarkably good condition, considering that they’re nearly 30 years old. The sheets are bent slightly, but I don’t see any yellowing, peeling or cracking. I did keep them in their original wrappers and stored in an unlit closet for most of that time, which probably helped.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Side Stander Clocks

Let’s continue with the theme of "whatever happens to be on or near my desk" with this not-so-little beauty, a Palomino Side Stander Clock:

Unlike the "Horse Over" Clock (now considered largely a Hartland-molded product) there’s little dispute over the "Side Stander’s" origins: the horse Breyer-molded. The base probably is, too - there’s no identifying mark to speak of, but the plastic has the same texture, weight and consistency as the horse, and the molded-in swirly color is similar to the color seen on my square tortoiseshell clock with the early Breyer mold mark.

The clock itself is painted metal, with a "Ceramic Clock Co." label on the back. It is generally assumed that the Ceramic Clock Company was a subsidiary of MasterCrafters: some labels show that they shared the same street address. What the exact relationship is not known to me; I haven’t followed up on that topic, not for a lack of interest, but because of the paucity of the paper trail.

The exact chronology of the two clocks is unknown; it’s believed that the Side Stander Clocks came after the Horse Over Clocks, but when exactly - and how long - I don’t know. I don’t think I have any documentation in my archives that even shows a true Side Stander clock for sale, either. A page from the Fall-Winter 1951 Sears Roebuck Catalog does show the non-Breyer, pot-metal version of this clock: I don’t know who was copying whom, though.

Wherever the truth lies, the horses found on the Side Stander Clocks represent some of the earliest Breyer model horses known, if not the earliest. Both White and Palomino versions have been found; White ones seem to be slightly more common than the Palomino, but that could be a sampling error on my part.

And did you happen to notice this clock is a variation, too? He has two socks, not the standard four! It’s definitely not very common: I’ve only seen two others like this, and both were Clock Horses as well. Four-sock versions of this clock exist, too, so I don't know if this means that the two-sock version was the first version of the Palomino Western Horse, or just an early variation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Anyone remember Steha?

Another short one today - I’m in the final throes of a big, complicated non-horse, non-writing project, and I don’t want to lose my momentum. (It’ll be done today, and then I’ll move on to the next big, complicated non-horse, non-writing project. Yes, I do have way too many hobbies!)

Some hobbyists think that Reeves’ involvement in the wonderful world of model horses began in late 1984, when they acquired the Breyer brand. This is not so: prior to that, they were the exclusive U.S. distributor of Steha Horses.

I didn’t know this until recently, myself. A few years ago, I purchased a couple of Reeves’ Great Lines Catalogues on eBay. These books contain bound copies of dealer catalogs of all of the lines that Reeves imported and distributed. I found a Steha catalog bound in the 1981-82 edition.

I don’t have a lot of data about Steha in my archives, aside from this bound-in dealer’s catalog. Stehas were flocked and haired horses made in West Germany, and were available from the 1950s to (at least) the early 1980s. Here’s a link to a good-sized picture of one:

Stehas were never a big part of the model horse world, at least in the U.S. First of all, they weren’t very realistic: some were nicer than others, but none of them could pass competitive muster, even in the more forgiving earlier days of the hobby. Second, they were rather expensive compared to Breyers: the wholesale prices for Traditional-scale Breyers in 1981 ranged from $3-6; the wholesale prices for comparable Stehas were $14-19! Yikes!

Some Steha items did find a place in the hobby: their carts and wagons were surprisingly nice, and of much better quality than hobbyists were able to create for themselves at the time.

I remember at least one local toy store that carried Stehas in the 1970s, but I never actually owned one. Aside from being expensive and homely, I was never a big fan of flockies in general: they’re hard to keep clean, and they have a nasty habit of yellowing, shedding and disintegrating.

Stehas are rather expensive and hard to come by nowadays, presumably for the same reason. If I had known back then that they’d have a Breyer connection now, I might have parceled out a bit of my allowance money and bought one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adventures in Home Decorating

It’s the question that’s launched a thousand debates at live shows and online: what are Breyers, exactly? Are they toys, or collectibles?

The correct answer: they’re whatever you want them to be. I’m not trying to be clever or coy here: Breyer actually made that "ambiguity" central to their earliest advertising campaign. Their earliest known slogan was "It’s a Toy, a Welcome Gift, an Art Object, because it’s so real" (emphasis theirs, not mine.)

(Sorry for the moire patterning - it's the scanner again.)

Breyer was still a relative newcomer to the world of proprietary products then, and probably seemed like a safe bet to them to shoot for the widest possible customer base. (It’s cheap enough to be a toy, but classy enough to be home décor!)

By the early 1960s, though, different product lines, with different marketing strategies, started to emerge. Some were clearly marketed towards the home décor market - such as Decorators and Woodgrains - while others were clearly marketed as toys, like the Family Arabians (every model, in every color had a name!) Everything else sort-of fell in between: these were the slightly nicer and pricier models that members of the youth market to aspired to, and that the adult market also saw as an affordable and more durable alternative to comparable china figurines.

By the late 1960s, these loose distinctions in their product line fell apart. The short and simple reason why? Hobbyists. Breyer had been aware of the "hobby," such as it was, by the early 1960s, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s - with sales lagging, and the brand in danger of being discontinued completely - that Breyer finally decided to tap into the hobbyist market. And hobbyists preferred a more realistic model horse.

Pieces designed for "home décor" didn’t disappear overnight; they just didn’t get quite the same attention and marketing push that pieces designed for the toy and hobbyist markets did. Woodgrains continued to be made into the early 1970s - mostly as special runs for the Ranchcraft Lamps - and a handful glosses and nonrealistic colors were mixed into the regular run line.

In recent years Reeves has attempted to recapture a larger portion of the home décor market. Someone on Blab recently resurrected an ancient thread - from 2004! - about an attempt by Reeves to grab a bigger piece of that market. A few models featured in that failed launch were later repurposed; I think the 2006 Porcelain release Tally Ho might have been one of them.

Another one of these models was later featured as a Daily Breyer on their Facebook page: Hot to Trot. She’s definitely not my cup of tea - not because of the paint job (that I kinda like) but the mold: Magnolia is not one of my favorite Moody sculptures.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Walking Black Angus Bull

Still being a bit lazy; I’m trying to finish at least one of my big sewing projects by the end of the week, and while I am a good multitasker in general, I am not quite good enough to sew and type at the same time.

I just happened to still have one of my Walking Black Angus Bulls on my desk, leftover from the Boehm posts: I think I’ll talk about him today.

The Walking Black Angus Bull is supposedly based on the Boehm Black Angus Bull, though the resemblance is the weakest among the four known Boehm copies: the original was standing, not walking, and didn’t have a halter. There are other differences, too - enough to make me think that there might have been an intermediate step in the mold’s translation to plastic.

He was a relatively late addition to Breyer’s lineup compared to the other Boehm molds - either in 1959 or 1960, at least three years after the Brahma and the Horned Hereford Bull were introduced. Coincidentally, this just so happened to be around the time that Breyer was having legal troubles with Hagen-Renaker concerning the Old Mold Arabians: could it be that Breyer, spooked by the lawsuit, made some pre-emptive changes to the Angus Bull mold?

There just so happens to be rumors of a Standing variation of the Walking Black Angus Bull, originating in Marney Walerius’s book Breyer Models. On page 23 of this now collectible reference book, it’s listed as a separate version of the #72 mold, released in 1957 and 1958.

No such models have turned up anywhere, however, and I rather doubt they will.

Why do I think that? Well, a lot of Marney’s research was based not on physical documentation, but on memories, hearsay and rumors that she picked up in her many trips to the Chicago factory. But memories, hearsay and rumors are unreliable things, and have a nasty habit of changing over time.

I think there is a kernel of truth in there somewhere. Marney was right more often than she was wrong: it’s just taken us years of research and documentation to sift the truth out of the debris. In the case of the Black Angus, we still don’t have enough objective, independent data to distinguish one from the other yet.

Did she confuse the Boehm Angus with the Breyer Angus? Did Breyer create the mold in a standing position originally, and change it prior to production? I don’t know.

Even after he was released, Breyer continued to tinker with the mold. There are three known "states" to the mold: "poodle cut," "semi-rough," and "full rough." It is generally believed that the "poodle cut" version is the rarest, but the "semi-rough" is not easy to find either, probably because it looks similar enough to the "full rough" on first glance that it gets overlooked. It’s only when you put them side to side that you can really see the difference.

A lot of early Breyer molds had significant mold alterations made early on, with the Clydesdale Stallion’s shoulder being the best known of these changes. The reasons for most of these mold changes - including the Walking Black Angus - is unknown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oasis and the Multi-Molds

No convenient excuses today: I was just being lazy. I had a longer-than-expected work assignment the other day, and I didn't feel like typing. Then I found a couple of movies in the discount bin at the local Big Lots that just exacerbated the problem. (Me and my fascination with cheesy vampire flicks. Sigh.) But I was actually doing some model horsey research at the Big Lots, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

I sent in my entry for the latest Connoisseur drawing Oasis today. My JAH took a little longer than average to arrive at the Ranch, so I witnessed most of fuss and bother from a slightly distant perspective. Was I missing something from the scans? Or was it just the usual carping and moaning? (Too plain! I hated the first tail less! Looks too much like the Bay Missouri Fox Trotter!)

Sure, she’s a little pricey, and she doesn’t have a flashy, ornate paint job that might visually justify the price. But we’re talking about a mold with multiple molding variations: two necks, two tails, two manes (so far.) All three of the known or upcoming releases of this mold differ in both color and shape: it may well be that this particular combination of mold elements may be unique, or rare. So the price justification may come not from the quality of the paint job, but in the mold itself.

Interesting new development, I think.

We’ve had significant changes to molds in the past, but for the most part these were permanent alterations: being able to switch back and forth is something new. (It’s already giving me fits in the documentation department: do I label them by their parts, or give each part combo a label? Grr. Argh.)

Stone paved the way with the ISH and his various mane and tail combos. Emboldened by the success of the ISH, they began to experiment with more drastic and dramatic changes, essentially creating a whole new subcategory of OF models now dubbed "Factory Customs." They’ve improved their processes considerably from their first awkward attempts - leaden lumps of hair being blown in three different directions - but they’re not mass-produced pieces on the same level as an average, regular run Breyer release. Most of the alterations they’ve done have been done post-molding, on a small-scale basis, and are mostly cosmetic.

One of Breyer's earliest experiments with the multiple molding variations was the Classic Shire: we had the head up "Shire A" and the head down "Shire B." We haven’t seen much of the "Shire B" variation, though. All three of his plastic releases have had rather limited distribution: the Bay in the pricey 2405 Delivery Wagon in 2002, the 2007 BreyerFest Contest model Yankee Doodle, and this year’s (now discontinued?) 620 Spotted Shire.

The Spotted Shire’s quick disappearance is being blamed on molding problems. Normally I’m not a big fan of that theory - anytime a mold is taken out of production, even briefly, hobbyists start screaming about molding problems - but there may be some justification in this case. As Reeves’s first serious "multi-mold," he might have some issues that later, more technologically sophisticated ones don’t.

The newer molds have their problems, too: the original, head-down Make A Wish has a funky double shoulder that’s somewhat covered up by her big hairdo. Mane and tail options don’t always "fit" to the body correctly, either technically or aesthetically. I’m sure these mold probably cost more than the average mold, with higher than average maintenance costs.

So far most of the newer "multi-molds" have limited themselves to insertable mane and tail changes; whether we get more molds with more extensive changes will depend on how well the Make A Wish mold performs - both in the factory, and on the shelf.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Grab Bag

I’m still not operating at 100%, but I’m getting there. And along the way I have discovered my new favorite sickbed indulgence: Del Monte Fruit Chillers. (Single-serving sorbets! Brilliant!)

I’ll be doing a bit of a "grab bag" style posting today, wrapping up a few loose ends that don’t merit a single post individually. I’m still feeling a bit scattered from the flu, so I might as well work with it, rather than against.

Speaking of the Grab Bags, I managed to successfully resist their temptations. Part of me feared I would have ended up with a porcelain, and I have a nasty habit of breaking those kinds of things. Especially when I’m slightly disoriented from OTC cold and flu remedies.

Interesting how most of the Medalist Ponies that were sent out in the Grab Bags were the Bronzes - were they going through them by color, or did the bulk of the leftover Ponies just happen to be Bronze? (I can’t recall the ratios of the different colors leftover in the Tent.) Or did they just happen to pick that color because it was the most autumnal of the three colors, and therefore the most appropriate thing to include in a "Fall" Grab Bag?

The second "wave" seem to be including Gold one, so I’m just going with the "by color" theory. And if that’s the case, I still have a shot at getting a Silver one, which is the only one I really want. (It’s one of my stable colors, and the chemical symbol for silver is Ag, which just so happen to be my initials. Hence the want.)

Me and my pedestrian tastes: I think of all the LSE models, I like the Shining N Sassy best. They really put a lot of effort into her: birdcatcher spots, rabicano roaning and mapping on the blaze? Excellent! Not that I have any remote chance of getting her at a reasonable price, even though she’s considered unforgivably "common." I do wonder what’ll happen to the handful of Frankensteeds leftover in the second grabby hands pass through: will there be any controversy when they finally show up somewhere else?

I find it very surprising, still, that there are hobbyists out there that are unaware of the amount of Reeves’s lurking about in the online model horse world. They avoid posting mostly in the interest of not playing favorites (and to avoid the inevitable stream of unsolicited PMs, too.) They will be specifically lurking about on Blab, however, in a thread asking for suggestions for future BreyerFest themes and guest horses. It’s in one of the open, no-pay forums, so if you think you have the next great idea, go for it.

I’ll be doing more follow-up on the Boehm biography in the future; it led me on a couple of interesting and surprising productive research paths, quite literally ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. (Two words: Miniature Golf. No, really!)

The outdoor flea market is closed for the season. We have plenty of antique malls, thrift shops, indoor markets and Salvation Army outlets to keep me sufficiently busy, but I do miss the cheap, unpredictable thrills the outdoor market offers. Like everyone else, though, I’m having a hard time selling anything right now, so less inventory is probably a good thing.

I have a few things I’m giving away (for the cost of postage): back issues of my BreyerFest MGR Samplers. I always end up with a few extra cobbled together from the leftover pages created during the printing process. They’re all complete issues: I just reprinted whatever pages I’m missing from my original computer files. Here’s what I have left, by year:

2009: 7 issues
2008: 7 issues
2007: 3 issues
2006: 2 issues
2005: 1 issue

PM me or drop me an e-mail for availability and a postage estimate, if you’re interested.
I don’t plan on reprinting any more on an individual basis: I might print an omnibus/collected edition sometime in the future, no guarantee though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Boehm's Bull (The Hereford Edition)

No, I wasn’t participating in NaNoWriMo or anything like that. I just have a mild case of the flu that, aside from the sore throat and achy limbs, has made me incredibly lethargic. It’s a little hard to type when your face keeps hitting the keyboard.

Like everyone else who fantasizes about writing the Great American Novel (and hasn’t yet succeeded), I’ve considered participating in NaNoWriMo. My resolution to finish all of my old quilting projects takes precedence, and I’m close enough to realizing that goal that I don’t want to mess it up with another huge time-suck. (Another plus: quilts are softer than keyboards.)

It’s one of the universally held truths of the literary world that one has to get the first million or so words before your writing stops (for lack of a more delicate word) sucking. One of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to give you a deadline and force you to write every day and get those words out of your system.

This blog was started, in part, to help me focus on my writing skills. I may not be dealing with plot, characterization or narrative, but I’d like to think it’s helped me work through a small portion of my "million-words-of-suck." So whenever I finally get around to tackling those big, meaningful writing projects, they’ll go just a little bit smoother. I hope.

Which brings me to the Boehm biography I found at the flea market last week.

The author and editor was a close personal friend of Boehm and an employee, and it shows: it’s more of a hagiography than a biography. The word fawning came to mind in my several attempts to get through the text. Here’s a brief excerpt:

"The next six years were to provide moments of excitement and depression for the Boehms. In retrospect, the hand of God surely over them for there were too many critical times in this period when it appeared the porcelain venture would fail. The great determination and endurance of Edward Marshall Boehm, working seventy to eighty hours a week, coupled with the courage, faith and enthusiasm of Helen Boehm, somehow carried them through each crisis."

He was also loved children, was beloved by Kings, Queens, Presidents and Pontiffs, and could peer into the very souls of animals. (Why, he knew animals so well that he was better at diagnosing the ailments of animals than the vet he worked for!) He was also handsome, talented, selfless, athletic, entirely self-taught, and probably good in bed.

Yeah, it reads does read like bad teenaged fanfic.

It was published a short time after Mr. Boehm death, and Mrs. Boehm undoubtedly had a hand in shaping the final manuscript as a final tribute. It’s not entirely unusable as a resource - there are a lot of lovely sketches, rare personal photographs, and descriptions of his working processes. Here’s a photograph that might look a little familiar:

It’s the presentation piece of the Hereford Bull, given by Mrs. Boehm to President and Mrs. Eisenhower in the spring of 1954. That date is … interesting.

Boehm’s Hereford was introduced in 1950. He was among the first Boehm pieces to be produced for general sale, but he wasn’t the first Boehm Breyer decided to adapt: that would be the Boxer, who was also among Boehm’s earliest releases.

Breyer’s adaptation of the Boxer was available by early 1953: I have a short article from the January, 1953 issue of Playthings announcing his arrival. ("Tenite Boxer Newest Breyer Animal Creation." p.169.) Why Breyer decided to adapt the Boxer first is unknown: his sleek, simplified contours probably made him an safer and bet. Safer and easier than the Hereford and Brahma, anyway.

We’re not entirely sure of the initial release date for Breyer’s adaptation of the Hereford. It was possibly as early as 1955, though the earliest datable reference I have for him is an appearance in the 1956 Alden’s Christmas Catalog (the Boehm-inspired Brahma appears on another page in the same catalog.)

The biography points out repeatedly that Mrs. Boehm was the promotional whiz of the company, constantly seeking out new photo ops, arranging exhibitions, and pestering local media outlets. It makes me wonder what the level of publicity was surrounding the presentation of the Bull to the Eisenhowers, and if any of it made into the Chicago press.

There’s probably nothing to it, but I’ll make note of it on my research-to-do list.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Swing Time

In honor of Daylight Savings Time, let’s talk about clocks today. Let's begin with this beautiful little wreck I found at the flea market last week: a MasterCrafters Swinger!

(Photo lightened somewhat to show the detail - the clock doesn't actually look like it's molded out of chocolate, in person.)

They’re known as "Swinger" clocks because they have a figurine attached to a pendulum mechanism that would swing back and forth. Most of them - including this one - had a girl on a swing, but some have both a boy and a girl, or a bird on a perch. Someone swiped the figurine from this particular example, which partly explains why I was able to snag it for a mere 5 bucks. (It was also dirty, greasy, cracked, and covered in duct tape.)

Most collectors know that Breyer’s first horse was designed as a component for a clock manufactured by the MasterCrafters Clock Company. Mike Jackson, at his Hartland History web site Hartland Westerns, goes into the history of the MasterCrafters Horse Clocks, and there’s no need to duplicate the effort here. (I have a few quibbles with it, but I’m in no mood to start a catfight over tone or details.)

Lesser known is the fact that Breyer made more than just the horse for MasterCrafters. It’s been difficult to track down which parts, and for which clocks precisely: the records (as always) are virtually nonexistent. So far only one clock - one that I discussed in one of my first posts - bears what appears to be an early Breyer mold mark. The clock in question:

It’s possible that the plastic components of the Swinger Clock were also manufactured by Breyer. Nancy Young notes in Breyer Molds & Models that Steve Ryan, during his brief tenure at Reeves in the early 1990s, claimed that Breyer molded those components, but in a footnote comments that Hartland expert Gail Fitch believes Hartland did. I took the opportunity of having a trashed and partially disassembled Swinger Clock to see if I could find any physical evidence one way or another.

Nothing. I found neither Hartland’s Iolite mark nor Breyer’s wavy-ribbon mark. The clock had been messed with before, so it’s possible something was lost or somewhere along the way. It’s also possible that I’m not looking in the right places, that my eyesight is shot, or that it never received any recognizable mold stamps in the first place.

It didn’t hurt to look; it was only a five dollar investment, and I had a fun afternoon disassembling, cleaning and repairing it, at least. (It’s my favorite part of the flea market process!) Once I’m finished repairing and rewiring it, I’ll probably stick something in the empty space left by the missing Swinger. But should it be a Stablemate, or a Tinymite? Decisions, decisions…