Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Plum Brown

I’m still suffering from a motivational deficit. I tried to brush it off with a marathon of paper shredding yesterday, but the enthusiam didn’t stick. I think it’s the weather: not the lack of sun, but the lack of heat. I don’t get a lot of projects done in the wintertime, because it’s incredibly difficult to get anything done when your swaddled in a half dozen blankets and quilts (unless what you're working on is actually a quilt!)

Laugh if you must, but I was secretly hoping I’d get a zebra-print Snuggie from Santa this year. Nope, just a peachy keen new laptop and some fancy chocolates. And speaking of chocolate…

Here are two different pre-1960 Western Ponies. Notice anything different between the two?

It's a little hard to tell, but the one with darker hooves is dark brown. It’s a color hobbyists call "Plum Brown" because it often comes with purplish undertones, though mine is more dark chocolate-colored. The base color is colored plastic that, as we’ve discussed before, was not an uncommon Breyer painting shortcut in the 1950s.

There are only two models known that came in this brown color: Davy Crockett’s Fury/Prancer horse from the Horse and Rider set, and the Western Pony. Both are painted with masked facial markings, 4 stockings and dark gray hooves.

For the longest time, we didn’t know anything at all about these Plum Brown models, and just assumed that they were a color variation of the Black. We didn’t learn that they were separate and distinct releases until copies of an undated catalog page/flier started circulating among collectors. From the reverse:

It was widely presumed that Breyer also made a Brown Western Horse. It was a logical presumption to make: they did make a brown Fury/Prancer and Western Pony, and our fragmentary documentation from the 1950s didn't rule out the possibility. Why not a Western Horse? Some collectors even claimed that they had one in their herds.

Then I saw one of those alleged Western Horses in person and realized it was just a copy, and not a very good one at that. The plastic was wrong, the color was wrong, the hooves were poorly sculpted - even the reins were wrong! They also have metallic gold shading that’s not seen on either the Plum Brown Fury/Prancer or Western Pony. It’s as if they were actually trying to imitate a bronze finish; I believe the manufacturer of these odd and early knock-offs was probably taking its design cues more from pot metal carnival horses than the plastic Breyer versions.

The Fury/Prancer is far more common than the Western Pony in this color, possibly because the Plum Brown Fury/Prancer was not only used with another Horse and Rider set - the Canadian Mountie - it was also sold separately. The Western Pony mold was used on a few Horse and Rider sets, such as the Indian, the Cowboy, and Kit Carson, but I can’t recall ever seeing an original set with the Plum Brown Pony.

Not much is known about the Plum Brown Western Pony, other than its appearance on that single, undated (ca. 1956) catalog page and his hasty retreat: he was gone from the 1958 catalog and price list. Maybe, as I hypothesized with the Pink and Blue Elephants, he was designed to use up the colored acetate they had lying around the factory.

It may be that the Plum Brown Western Pony’s rarity isn’t as profound as we perceive it: in low light, and at first glance, they can be indistinguishable from the somewhat more common Black Beauty version. None of the Black Beauties are really "common" either, but I’ll discuss that in my next post.

1 comment:

Sherlock said...

Hi, the chocolate brown horse with gold shading you mentioned in your blog is made by Ohio Plastics. They made other colors as well. They are actually more nicely made than other Breyer copies like the Hong Kong or China copies. Another company, Kroll, also made copies -- and they had manes on both sides of the neck! They are of a much lighter weight plastic though and I've found that many don't stand very well due to warping of the legs. Enjoyed your blogs -- especially on the plum brown pony and Black Beauty. I collect Western horses and ponies and two of my favorites are the plum brown and the Black Beauty with silver tack.