Friday, December 31, 2010


One of my favorite holiday films is the 1947 classic The Bishop’s Wife, starring David Niven, Loretta Young, and Cary Grant. It doesn’t get the same amount of airplay as A Christmas Story, but it always turns up on the TV at least once in the season, and this year it was on Christmas Eve on TCM.

Cary Grant’s character Dudley, an angel, has been sent to provide guidance to a bishop. The bishop (David Niven) more or less dismisses him as a meddler, so Dudley occupies himself with taking care of the needs of the bishop’s wife (Loretta Young,) who is being neglected because of the bishop’s obsession with building a cathedral. In the process, Dudley begins to fall in love with her. In one beautiful sequence, Dudley - whose true nature has not been revealed to anyone but the bishop - finally confesses his love to her, in the most roundabout fashion possible:

I'm tired of being a wanderer. I'm tired of an existence where one is neither hot nor cold, hungry nor full.

I can sympathize - not in being a semi-divine creature capable of working miracles, but of feeling trapped in a strange, liminal state. It’s sort of how I feel about my rather singular status in the hobby: in it, but not of it. Neither well known, nor unknown. Influential, but rarely acknowledged.

Most of the staff at Reeves knows me, or knows of me. But on the flip side, I still get hobbyists asking me for references, or questioning my authority on topics I sometimes, quite literally, wrote the book on years ago. (Ever have a conversation with someone, and realize they’re talking about you in the third person? The first time it happens, it’s funny. The third through seventeenth time, it isn’t.)

Part of it stems from some personal issues: I’ve been on tenuous financial grounds for some time now (partly by choice, partly not) and because of this, I’ve been unable to pursue projects that would have made me a more "visible" personage in the hobby.

The structure of the hobby is also to blame. I don’t quite understand the hobby’s tendency toward rigid hierarchies: a small handful of hobbyists are designated as BNPs within their respective categories, with little room for anyone else in the Treehouse of Awesome.

(You see it not just in what I do, but in every aspect of the hobby. It’s particularly bad in the realm of customizing: you have a tiny handful of designated "superstars," but everyone else? You’re lucky to get more than body price for the pieces you labor over.)

The arrival of my Diamond Jubilee - on Christmas Eve, naturally - really drove the point home. I had briefly considered entering the Diamond Dreams Contest, but aside from the logistical issues, I’m not sure that I could. My stories and my "voice" are known quantities, familiar (if not immediately recognizable) and therefore dismissable.

Ironically, the more anonymous prize model competitions of BreyerFest are still somewhat open to me, and I’ve had a little success there. But, like Dudley, I tire of being stuck in this strange state of being, especially as the New Year approaches.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Not Plain

This brand new office chair is almost too comfortable; I’ve already fallen asleep in it twice! I’m not sure the second time was the chair’s fault, though - I was already exhausted, and the movie I was trying to watch (the 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz) was awful. Slow, boring, and even less like the book than the 1939 film.

Other gifts among my small Christmas booty included a much-needed GPS, a couple of sewing gadgets, a new barn jacket, and a posh corduroy shirt to replace the one Vita ate earlier this year. (I’m wearing it now - mmm, so cozy!)

No horses, again - except the ones I bought myself.

I had to work early on Sunday (Yes, the day after Christmas. Less said of that, the better) and I thought I’d reward myself with a horse; the Tractor Supply with the better-than-average selection of Breyers just happened to be on the way home. There are lots of hobbyists in my neck of the woods, so most of my TSC horse purchases tend to come not from my local store - which gets emptied faster than Vita’s food dish, post-holiday - but from one of the three others within reasonable driving distance. And the one I visited yesterday I consider the best of the bunch.

I had been thinking about the Christmas selection at TSC for a while now - not the SRs, but the regular runs of Isadora-Cruce, Fleetstreet Max, and Bet Yer Blue Boons. I loved all three, and at 40 percent or more off, I could afford to splurge and get myself one.

So, who did the lucky horse end up being?

Would you believe - Templeton Thompson’s Jane?

Yeah, I didn’t believe it at first, either. As I was examining the selection for nits, dings and overspray, my eyes kept going back to the Jane. I’m not a huge fan of the mold, as I’ve explained before, but good golly - the paint job on this one was magnificent! (I know my subpar photography skills are getting in the way of seeing that, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.) The paint jobs on the Janes I had seen before were quite pleasing to the eye, but this girl was miles and miles ahead of all of them.

After much pondering, I put down a near-perfect Bet Yer Blue Boons, and walked this not-so-plain Jane over to the cashier. It didn’t hurt that she was also several dollars cheaper than the other three, with what appeared to be a half dozen clearance stickers of increasing degrees of cheapness plastered to her box. She needed a home, and doggone it, she was going to have one with me.

This sort of thing has happened to me before with the Stock Horse Mare. Several years ago I happened to be in the neighborhood of a Toys R Us, located in a part of the Metro Detroit area rarely frequented by us model horse types. I had used this to my advantage before in acquiring certain TRU exclusives that had disappeared in an eyeblink everywhere else.

I walked in to scope out the selection for any hidden treasures. Would I find a forgotten SR? An cool variation? No, I came home with this little girl:

It’s a little hard to see in my slightly overexposed photograph, but this example of the #852 "Appy Mare" had the most flawless paint job I had seen in some time. She looked good. Too good to leave behind.

I kept telling myself that I didn’t need another Stock Horse Mare, but she was so cheap, and so beautiful, I couldn’t help myself. She had been sitting on that shelf for at least three years, unloved and unwanted. She had to come home with me.

I’ve purged my collection several times since then - sometimes, quite severely - but she’s still around. It’s more than just her pretty paint job, it’s her story, too: unloved, unwanted, unpurchased. It only makes sense that I had to buy her "sister" fifteen years later.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Accidental Vacation

Sorry about the unannounced vaycay - all the year-end paperwork I had planned for next week got bumped to this week, because of heavy additions to my work schedule. I also made the mistake of picking an "easy" project to make for Mom’s Christmas present this year:

French-beaded Marigolds.

My original intent was to make a Christmas Tree, but I thought the Marigolds would be less time-consuming. Ha! You’d think I’d know myself by now.

(And no, I’m not taking orders. I'm still in the "gifts to family and friends" stage. Quilts, I'm willing to discuss.)

Looks like I’m going to get stuck with my Grab Bag leftovers for a least a couple of months - have you seen the race to the bottom the prices took on MH$P? I don’t necessarily think its reflective of a lack of demand for any of these models in particular, it’s more a matter of lots of people being desperate to unload, no matter the cost. I guess I can wait - I’ve got room in the sales boxes, and if all else fails, I can always move them out at BreyerFest. It’ll be a non-NAN year, and I’ve found that you get a higher percentage of offline, low-information or lower intensity hobbyists who wouldn’t have had the knowledge, means or opportunity to take advantage of the deal in the first place.

If anyone wants to make a modest offer on anything in the meantime, though, be my guest.

I don’t know what to make of the random awesome goodies some people got in their Grab Bags. Was it an intentional thing to get us stoked for the next round of Grab Bags, or another one of those "blame it on the intern" type of mistakes? The former seems more likely than the latter, since I don’t doubt we’ll have at least one more Grab Bag dump before BreyerFest next year. There are just too many things floating in the warehouse that didn’t make an appearance in this round. (Why no Pink Poodles?)

I’m all talked out of this Grab Bag topic. Let’s move on to something else.

It’s nice to see that the "one gloss set per case" on the new Giselle and Gilen has been confirmed as a year-long thing. I'd love to have a set, but I was in no mood for more mall crawling, especially this time of year.

I do wonder how long it’ll take the rest of the hobby to find this news - or if they'll even "discover" it at all? I’ve been doing a lot of lurking lately, and I’m a little appalled at both the quality of news being distributed, and the unevenness of the distribution.

You know what this hobby needs? A good, all-purpose, nondenominational news hub. Not a list of links, terms and general information, but honest to goodness news. When things are getting released, contest/entry deadlines, live show and club events by region, artist announcements/open houses, etc. and so on. I do plan on expanding my Internet "presence" next year, so maybe I’ll pencil "…and establish an online model horse news network" on the bottom of the to-do list.

More tomorrow, after I finish unwrapping and assembling the presents. (Including a comfy new office chair! Yay!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Grab Bag Day!

Darn these Grab Bags - I didn’t get anything done today! Grab Bag "Y" landed on my doorstep around lunchtime. The contents consisted of:
  • WEG Mandiba
  • WEG Jamaica
  • Enchanted Forest
  • Bats in the Belfry
  • Pokerjoe
  • Pharaoh
  • Patagonia
  • WEG MiniWhinnies Set
  • Ponies Gone Wild "Gina"
  • Pony Gals SM Swedish Warmblood
  • WEG SM Reiner
Yep, definitely worth it.

I’ll be keeping Jamaica, Bats in the Belfry, Enchanted Forest, the MiniWhinnies Set, and the PGW "Gina." I may or may not keep the Stablemates (as bodies). Everything else will be put up for sale (preferably) or trade.

I haven’t settled on prices yet; I want to wait a bit and see how the market shakes out. I’m not too concerned about making all of my money back on my investment, but getting a little of it back before the end of the year wouldn’t hurt. I just wish other hobbyists would be a little less cagey about revealing their pickings so far.

I’m not surprised to hear that there are multiples occurring from box to box: it seemed overly optimistic of the "8 boxers" to think that there’d be 48 to 54 unique Traditional-scale items spread across the eight different assortments. Haven’t heard about too many porcelains showing up yet, which I find odd, but it is still a bit early yet. How I ended up being one of the early birds this time around, I do not know…

Disappointments: no WEG Snow Globe or doggies. Guess I’ll have to wait ‘til next year’s NPOD for a Beethoven. I was also hoping for one of the bigger plushie horses, for Vita: I’m thought she’d dig having a plushie as big as she is, to play with. (No, not THAT way - that’s what the doggie bed is for.)

My favorite of keepers is the Enchanted Forest. What a lovely paint job on this boy!

You know me, I’m a sucker for a simple, well-executed color. Which, in this case, is a rich, shaded chocolate bay with subtle dappling.

The Jamaica is really nice, too, even if he is just another bay on the Trakehner mold. I’m glad that that mold has had something of a comeback in recent years: whatever his faults, I’ve always considered him one of better of Chris Hess’s later efforts. In this era’s obsession with wild paint jobs, crazy hair, and increasingly extreme action poses, it's nice to see a lot of other hobbyists are rediscovering his understated charms.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

All for G4

I am such a dork. Look at what just arrived in the mail:

NIP (new, in package) with a 1982 copyright date!

More proof that my obsession with Breyer History has probably ruined my ability to enter Collector Classes forever. ("Before judging, please note that the Corral is considered part of my entry. Five page dissertation and bibliography included.")

I love how the label mentions "HORSES NOT INCLUDED." What kind of horses would someone reasonably expect to find in such a package? Something inflatable? Paper Dolls/Standees? Those little spongey "grows in water" critters you find at the dollar store? Cellulose Acetate does absorb water, but not quite that much.

I did buy some actual horses recently: the WEG Stablemates. I bought them during the Black Friday Weekend sale on Shopatron a couple of weeks ago. $15 for a set of 8, including the itty-bitty blanket? Couldn’t pass that up! I bought a Cedric, too, because I still didn’t have a Show Jumping Warmblood in the collection. I know he’s a "regular run" item for next year, but I figured the $30 price tag was about the best price I’d find him at, at least in the short term.

(What I’d really like is an Inconspicuous, but that ain’t gonna happen. A Mon Gamin would be nice, too, but that’s someone I need to handpick.)

Back to the Stablemates. I had seen the G4s before, but I hadn’t had the chance to examine them up close, in person and out of package. After spending the day admiring them, I do have to wonder what all the fuss was about.

There are a few minor issues I have with them. The Driving Horse has thicker than necessary legs, the mane and tail on the Endurance horse are ropey and a little crude, and the barrels on the Dressage and Para Dressage Horses are a bit on the heavy and undefined side.

Other than that, though, these little fellows are really nicely modeled. Their hooves even have frogs! And they have so much personality - I just want to hug that big, drafty Para Dressage Horse:

The Vaulting Horse is much, much better in person too, like a lighter version of the G1 Love Draft Horse. And dare I say it - I think the G4’s head and neck are more expressive than the G1’s. (And before you get your breeches in a bunch, yes, I have seen crisply detailed, early run casts of the G1 Drafter. So there.)

The fault lies, as usual, with whatever photographer or photographers Reeves is utilizing. How they manage to capture the least appealing angle of every model is a wonder for the ages. I will forgive them a little on the Vaulting Horse: the bay roan paint job was a good idea on paper - and good on larger scale models, in practice - but that particular style of roaning just doesn’t work on Stablemates. The way it was applied obliterated some of his finer features.

Not his manhood, though. I certainly wasn’t expecting that part of the anatomy to be so, umm, detailed. Almost to the point of naughtiness. The fact that I opened them late at night, by myself, in the privacy of my basement office only added to my discomfort.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The First Rule of the Flea Market

Hesitating is for losers.

You go to enough flea markets - especially the open air, "live chicken and car parts" ones - and you learn that rule hard and fast. If you find something even remotely interesting, or think it might be something good but you’re not 100% sure of it - your decision has to be made right then and there. Once you walk away from the booth, chances are good it’s not going to be there when you make up your mind a half an hour later.

That’s just how it works at the flea market. The first person to offer a vendor the amount of money he or she is looking for an item, it’s gone. It’s nothing personal: vendors appreciate your interest, but they’re much more interested in your cash.

Considering the white-hot intensity that’s accompanied the past few exclusives, it only made sense to treat the Breyer Holiday Grab Bag deal just like a transaction at the flea market, especially since they put an extremely charitable "8 per household" limit on the purchases.

No room for hesitating. I know my fellow hobbyists all too well. Some of them are just crazy enough to buy that maximum - especially the ones that might have missed out on the Alpine.

So I got up Tuesday morning, logged on at the designated time, click-click-clicked, then went to lunch.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked when I logged on an hour or so later to see that they sold out in less than 15 minutes. I was expecting a quick sellout - within an hour or two. But 15 minutes? Whoa.

The fault here is obviously in the household limit: if these Grab Bags were of "extremely limited" quantities, an 8-piece limit is ridiculous. Four would have been more reasonable - isn’t that what the previous buy limit on Grab Bags was?

Just how limited was "extremely limited," though? There was a rumor floating around initially that pegged the quantity of Grab Bags at 50, but I find that extremely dubious. A Grab Bag purchase poll on Blab is already up to 90, and that’s only counting folks who are on Blab.

If I were to hazard a wild guess, I’m thinking a 150-250 piece estimate is more likely (or 160 to 240, if you’re looking for a "multiple of 8" number.) Blab is awesome, but it does not contain the entirety of the model horse universe within it. Half, maybe.

Like everyone else, I’ve been watching the commentary on Breyer’s Facebook page about the Grab Bags with all the fascination of a car wreck. It reminds me of why I’m not on Facebook: almost everyone on it is either emotionally or physically about 12 years old (if that.) I’ve got enough emotionally stunted people in my life to deal with, thank-you-very-much.

(In case you get curious and look it up: someone with my name IS on Facebook. It’s not me: I think it’s a distant relative in Hungary, but I’m not entirely sure. My knowledge of Hungarian is limited to food items.)

While I think it’s more than fair to call out the more egregious whiners on Facebook - and elsewhere - I’d caution my fellow hobbyists on going too far in the calling out. Posting kissy-face "Shut Up, Everything they do for us is Awesome!" messages everywhere is (a) unproductive, (b) a little nauseating, and (c) untruthful. Reeves HAS been making a lot of boneheaded mistakes lately.

And they do need to be reminded of that.

But there is a difference between holding someone’s feet to the fire, and burning them at the stake.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Shopping

I won’t be putting my name in for Vignette this time around. I got my JAH in time to mail it in, but I made a decision a few weeks ago to refocus the collection: fewer "ooh, pretty horsie" pieces and more "historical/significant" ones. Part of that refocus includes having at least one example of every mold: that was the rationale for my attempt at Alpine.

I love the CWP mold, I really do, but I have lots of Cantering Welshies already.

I’m thinking I’ll probably spring for a Grab Bag: based on the $350 estimated value, there seems to be a high likelihood of porcelains showing up. Party Time, Dances with Wolves, Romantico: we know those guys are cluttering up the warehouse. I don’t have many of the porcelains - because, you know, I’m a big clumsy Buffalo - and this would be a good way of getting one at a price that won’t make me hyperventilate when I do eventually break the poor thing.

Speaking of Buffaloes and Connoisseurs, I’m not sure what’s up with everyone’s insistence that there’s just going to be Connoisseurs this time around, specifically Taima. Wishing for them - nay, almost counting on them? Seems awfully cynical, if you ask me. There’s plenty of other stuff kicking around the warehouse: WEG, recent discontinues, old XMAS stock, Fest SRs, Treasure Hunt items, Fall Dealer SRs, old plushies…

With my luck, I’ll end up with the assortment with all the stuff I already have, like Red Carpet Royalty, the Pink Poodle, and Buttercream. Now that I think about it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: my sales inventory is getting a bit low. But I wasn’t planning on doing any more selling until Spring, and I hate having too much money tied up in inventory.

Maybe I should take my recent lack of horsebuying success as a hint, and blow my teeny-tiny year-end surplus on something more practical, like socks or antibiotics. (If I don’t have whooping cough, then whatever I do have is doing a darn good impression of it.)

In other news, I’m still being kept somewhat preoccupied by the Tack/Accessories Project. I made another discovery today: the Wood Corral was a mid-year or Holiday 1982 release, not a 1983 one. Something didn’t quite seem right with that date, so I skimmed through my Christmas Catalog binders, and voila, there it was in the 1982 Aldens Christmas Book:

As most hobbyists know, the Aldens company ceased operations in December 1982: the company itself didn’t "go bankrupt," but its parent company Wickes did. They sold off as many of the divisions as they could while reorganizing, but a buyer couldn’t be found for Aldens:

The infamous Black Pacer - and I assume, all of the other Breyer merchandise - was shipped back to Breyer, who then passed it to other mail-order companies, most notably Bentley Sales.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Mock Because I Care

It must be the cough syrup talking, because I have an overwhelming need to mock the "Holiday Horse" in the November/December issue of JAH. For those of you who still haven’t received your JAH, here’s a scan of it, so you can play along:

I’m assuming it’s next year’s horse, but the text doesn’t make it clear. Even if it does turn out to be something else entirely (in other words, Rare and Exclusive) that still doesn’t temper my urge to laugh and point at it. I laugh and point at Flockies all the time, hasn’t affected their perceived value any.

Anyway, I spot this beauty in JAH, and the first thought that popped into my head really was "Did they hot glue a bunch of broken ornaments to an oven mitt?"

They nominally discontinued Halloween Horses because of a "lack of ideas," but then they assemble this silly thing, apparently assembled from all of the leftover bits that didn’t make the cut on previous Holiday Horses.

I do still sorta like it, though. With the right amount of money, anybody can have a "pretty" or "classy" holiday display, but I prefer the unique-crazy-weird-tacky-homemade displays this horse embodies. They seem more sincere to me.

That’s the kind of Christmas I grew up with, too: everyone else in the extended family would have the traditional tree with glass ornaments, a sparkly garland, and maybe some tinsel. At our house, we’d have a tree made entirely out of pinecones and chicken wire. Or completely covered in fake pink poinsettias.

(This year’s theme was felt … at least, until our little furry Grinch decided felt was delicious.)

I’ve collected a number of vintage books and magazines with crafts of Christmases past - partly for inspiration, but also for my amusement. I mean, come on, how can you not love "Hobo Santa?"

Or Rudolph, the Zombie Reindeer?

Or my personal favorite:

The actual text accompanying the photograph, from the 1961 issue of Woman’s Day Best Ideas for Christmas:
This Santa scene is very easy to duplicate. Just buy (or make) a Santa suit, fill it with rags, cotton, newspaper, etc., and put it on an outdoor lounge. Scene says that Santa gets tired, too, and he can use a rest himself some time. Add long sheet of paper for list.
I dunno. The first thing the scene said to me that Santa had a cardiac event. Either in, or on his way to the bathroom.

I do like the selection of the Misty’s Twilight mold as a Holiday Horse - it has a very old-fashioned, Currier & Ives feel to it, like she should be pulling a sleigh or sulky. Strange that they’d go with another Bay - the mold already came in that color, as Dover, in 1996 and 1997. It is hard to tell what’s underneath all that bric-a-brac, though: for all we know, she could be a bay roan overo or snowcap Appaloosa.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Whatever I had over the weekend is still kicking the stuffing out of me. The only symptom I have at this point is exhaustion - I actually fell asleep while attempting a change of clothes today! That was entirely the dog’s fault: she was so excited at her first real experience with snow that I ended up taking a couple of nasty tumbles on our walk today. No injuries mercifully, just muddy, soggy clothes.

Speaking of the dog… we do crate her. Vita is almost constantly supervised: it’s literally the moment when our back is turned that the trouble tends to occur.

She doesn’t have any major behavioral issues other than the "wanting to eat everything" one. She’s great with other dogs, good with kids, doesn’t bark too much, is mostly potty-trained, has no problem with the vet, the groomer, inclement weather or the mail carrier.

Well, she likes to run too, but the leash usually puts a stop to her more antic antics.

Most of the problem is that she’s a Wire Fox Terrier. Anyone who had any experience at all with terriers knows they’re not into the "obedience" thing. We just have to figure out a way to convince her that chewing on her bones is way more fun than nibbling on hubcaps and underpants.

Now onto another calamitous event: the Alpine avalanche.

I was among the unfortunate multitudes who never managed to break through the Alpine phone lines. I never even made it as far as an answering machine: all I got was an hour and a half of busy signals. Another Silver Filigree out of my reach. Sigh.

I admire them for experimenting with other forms of distribution, but I wish Reeves would go back to Shopatron for these kinds of specials. I’d rather take the gamble of a canceled order than the agony of hitting redial over and over. It’d eliminate some of the human errors, too, such as the reports I’ve heard of some people managing to get in orders for multiples. (Does this company have no institutional memory AT ALL? Criminy!)

What’s really saddening is to see the level of acceptance within the hobby for what is essentially scalping behavior. No, "everyone in the hobby" does not do it: I don’t. I’ll turn around items I find at the flea market for a tidy profit, but when it comes to collector-direct items, I won’t do it. If I do buy something for someone, it usually goes to him or her at cost plus postage.

What I’m doing is bringing items that were out of the market and putting it back into it. Buying a model like Alpine and slapping it on eBay 15 minutes later is more akin to ransoming: you’re taking it out of the hands of someone who wants it more, and gambling that the monetary difference is worth the effort.

I sure could use the money, but I’m not sure I could live with myself if I did something like that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Is What It Is

That was one Epic Fail Weekend.

First, we discover that all the effort we put into making 150 ornaments for this year's XMAS tree was wasted, because the dog wants to eat them. And she nearly knocked over the tree several times over the course of the weekend. Lovely. (She also ate my favorite sweater.)

Then, I discovered I had a previously unknown food allergy. Swell. (Fortunately, it's something I can easily avoid.)

Third, I caught a rather nasty virus that put me out of commission for most of the rest of the weekend. Awesome. (The Nyquil is.)

Fourth, my computer caught something, too - totally lost my Internet connection for about 6 hours on Sunday. FTW!

The weekend wasn't a complete failure: I did manage to get all the rough data compiled in my Great Breyer Tack Project, all 30 single-spaced pages of it. I have nothing groundbreaking to report yet, other than my shock that the No. 7500 Wood Corral - the long, foldy one - has been in continuous production since 1983. I had no idea. I wonder how much footage that translates into?

It still has a ways to go before it becomes the longest running production item ever - the Palomino Western Horse and Polled Hereford Bull both have at least a decade on it - but it’s certainly the longest running item currently in production. If you’re looking for an excellent "gotcha" question for a Breyer trivia contest, there you go.

Other than the tack project, the only other things I’ve been able to manage in between the various crises are the last bits of my sales for the year. I didn’t quite get what I hoped for anything on eBay - except for a couple of items that bidders absolutely positively thought were Chalkies, despite my entreaties to the contrary.

What is up with that, anyway? Every time I post pictures of something just a shade whiter than average, I suddenly get barraged with requests for pictures of the bottoms of the hooves. The first couple of times I complied, until I realized what they were trying to suss out of those photos. Nowadays I just e-mail back "It’s not a Chalky."

That used to stop them in the past - but now they’re e-mailing me and telling me I’m wrong! What the heck?

Normally I’m not a big fan of the "Do you know who I am?" line of response, but if there ever was a situation that called for it, there it is.

Look, not everyone has the same level of knowledge in the hobby, but I whenever I’m dealing with any hobbyist - in person, on the phone, or electronically - I always assume that he or she is not an idiot. You didn’t just happen to accidentally bump into me on the Internet, at BreyerFest, or call me completely at random.

That’s how I try to write my posts here: I work with the assumption that your visits aren’t completely an accident. It took a little bit of knowledge for you to find me, or at the very least, an interest in Breyer History. I share what I know, and you share with me: we might not be equals in terms of quantity or quality of information, but we each know enough to have meaningful exchanges.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flying Green Unicorns!

Will I be getting the latest Web Special, Alpine? Maybe. You know how I am when it comes to Silver Filigrees. It’s the fact that it’s a telephone-only sale that’s making me hesitate: I’m somewhat telephone-phobic. The sale isn’t until Tuesday, but the thought of spending a couple of hours hitting redial is already giving me the heebie-jeebies. (Yeah, I’m not a very happy camper on HIN Reservation Day, either.)

I’m also a little annoyed by it - not that it’s another super-limited Silver Filigree, but that it’s another super-limited Esprit. Another one, really? Great. That means is that we’re in for several days of hobbyists dismissing him as an "easy pass," and then attempting to buy one anyway to resell to the people who really do want one.

Personally, I was hoping for a Decorator Mountain Goat. Now there’s a mold we haven’t seen in a while - since 2005, to be precise. But could they sell 250 Decorator Mountain Goats? Alas, probably not.

I don’t think they could sell 250 White Moose, either, but that was the speculation du jour on Blab today. Seriously - a White Moose? I love the Moose mold myself, but I can’t imagine them making a white one. Yeah, they exist, but what would be the rationale for making one - aside from a slight association with Christmas, or cuteness?

If you’re looking for an idea that might have some genuine selling power to it, a White Stag would be a better choice. Google "White Stag" or "White Deer" or even "White Hart," and you’ll see what I’m talking about. A "White Stag" would be a natural for next year’s "Fairytails" BreyerFest theme, especially as the non-horse item for the Line Specials.

I doubt they’d do it. One, they already sorta did one for the BreyerFest auction back in 2007: hobbyists kind of get annoyed when a "test color" becomes an actual production run. (Even though that used to be the whole point of test colors.) Two, breakage issues with the tines would be a nightmare, especially if they’re bubble-wrapped and bagged like most Line Specials. I imagine the inevitable Unicorn SR is going to be trouble enough.

Oh, and if you’re going to do a little more research on mythical or legendary horse-type things, do yourselves a favor and check out the awesome Táltos Horse. Here is how he’s described on the Wikipedia (via the page on Táltos, or Hungarian shamans):
The táltos always had a horse, frequently appearing in Hungarian folk tales as a white stallion with wings. However, the Táltos Horse always had jade colored skin, causing them to be mocked by everybody. It is said in myths, that only the táltos could see the real powers hidden in the horse.

When they met, only the táltos could ride the horse, and it was always "flying like thought". This way the táltos is able to meditate (révül).

The horse can have a unicorn horn and wings, visible to the táltos during meditation (révül). The unicorn horn signifies the horse's special spiritual power, as it is a single horn that grows straight out of the brain. The wings define the ability to fly between the three worlds of Hungarian mythology. The táltos horse could have "gold hair", and also eat hot cinders.

Doesn’t he sound like something straight off of a Dethklok album cover?

I know it’s Wikipedia, and therefore of dubious veracity, but dang it - a jade green flying unicorn that eats fire? Now that would be one badass BreyerFest SR.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tracking Tack

Busy, busy, busy: shipping packages, making holiday ornaments, chasing down the dog. I spent a good half an hour today chasing her through the more wooded areas of our subdivision today - and another half pulling all the burrs out of my coat. No sweaters for Vita this Christmas - the little monster loves it cold!

In between the random moments of chaos, I’ve decided undertake another research topic: tack and accessories. (I have the week off, I might as well take advantage of it, right?)

I’ve pretty much ignored the subject of tack altogether: whenever I had a choice between buying more horses, or more tack, I almost always bought the horse. After a few half-hearted attempts at making my own, I came to the realization that I didn’t have that special kind of crazy in me to be a performance shower.

This lack of engagement also extended to Breyer-made tack and accessories, unless it came in a set with a particularly interesting horse (i.e. ill-fated Palomino Adios) or was being modeled by one (the never-released Slate Gray Smart Chic Olena.)

Although Breyers came with molded-on tack and accessories from the very beginning, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that they started selling tack and accessories independent from the models themselves. I’ll only have about 40 years worth of research to do, instead of 60+, and I’m not going to bother trying to track down every color or design change. I don’t think most people are interested in Breyer tack and accessories to that level of detail, yet.

I’m only doing it for my own peace of mind: if it’s a Breyer product, I have to keep track of it. Heck, I keep track of dealer assortment numbers, store assortment numbers, and mold numbers, so why not obsess over tack a while? Someone’s gotta do it, right?

Since I don’t have any great insights into the world of Breyer tack right now, I’ll just share a photograph of a model whose rarity is solely defined by its tack:

It’s the #P45 White Fury/Prancer, with the incredibly scarce English Saddle option: the Racehorse’s saddle, with the Canadian Mountie’s saddle blanket in red.

When the Fury/Prancer was originally released in 1956, it could be ordered with either a Western or an English saddle. The fine print on the original dealer sheet explains why more dealers didn’t go with the English Saddle option: they had to ask for it!

All mention of the English Saddle option is gone by 1958; considering its rarity, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was discontinued by 1957. If you’re lucky, you’ll see maybe one of these turn up in any given year, where they’re sometimes mistaken as a variation of the Canadian Mountie’s horse.

That’s what I assumed when I found mine at the local flea market, until I showed a picture of mine to Marney, and she set me straight. That 1956 dealer sheet - something I didn't have access to, then - is the only paper evidence we have of what it really was.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Appaloosa Yearlings

I’ve never been much of a Black Friday enthusiast; aside from the horses, there’s never been anything I needed so badly that I was willing to stand in line for hours in the rain or cold. There are a few things I intend on picking up today, but there is nothing I need to stand in a line for.

I briefly considered making a Toys R Us run to pick up the half-priced Stablemates set, but then I remembered the mistake I made a couple weeks ago. I had a half an hour to kill before work, the TRU was right across the street, and I thought what the heck, I’ll go check out the Breyer selection.

Not realizing it was the same night as their "Midnight Madness" sale.

That sort of thing happens to me all the time. It’s like I have an internal flash mob GPS. (Have you ever asked yourself "How on Earth did I end up in the middle of a Jesse Jackson rally?" I have.)

With absolutely no segue whatsoever, I present to you my Appaloosa Yearling chorus line:

(You’ll just have to pretend that the Palomino Western Pony is my Chalky Yearling, who for reasons unknown even to me is apparently detained somewhere else for the duration.)

I hardly ever find Liver Chestnut Yearlings, and Palomino ones aren’t super common in these parts, either. But at any given time, I always have at least one Appaloosa Yearling either on my saleslist, or in my body box. If I manage to sell one, the Universe manages to put in an automatic restock order.

That’s how come I have about a half dozen in my collection. You get that many passing through, and you’re bound to find variations. Big blankets, small blankets, different blazes, differently colored spots? Yup, gotta keep 'em.

There’s only one I consciously sought out - the two sock variation. She was a tough one: it took me a while to find her, and she’s not minty mint. It’s definitely an earlier variation, but it’s not one seen in any catalogs or other contemporaneous PR materials: all of the pictures of her from 1971 onward show her with those solid, Sandy Bay legs.

The Appaloosa Yearling is the only Breyer model to come in this peculiar shade of bay-that’s-not-bay. I can’t even recall seeing any vintage test colors that might have sported it. The closest match is the #154 Bay Blanket POA, whose color tends to be much warmer and more orangey.

The fact that the color is peculiar to the Appaloosa Yearling makes me wonder if they were modeling it after a specific, real-life horse. I haven’t found any evidence of that, but it’s another one of those notions I keep in the back of my mind as I mine old horse magazines for other precious nuggets of Breyer info.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Glosses. Whatever.

All this whining about the Winter Othellos is starting to turn me off Glosses. Reeves should have made the Winter a Gambler’s Choice: if the off-the-shelf models in the series were available in Matte and Gloss from the very beginning, the Winters should have been too.

Then the whining would have been confined to individual tales of personal bad luck, instead of devolving into tedious arguments about the incompetence of Reeves’ marketing strategies. There’s much to be criticized there, no doubt, but the level of discourse rarely rises above "I didn’t get exactly what I wanted" = BAD.

I fall into that trap sometimes, myself: it wouldn’t take much effort on my part to construct a fairly righteous rant about my inability to secure a reasonably priced Diamond Jubilee, and the crazy way they seem to have distributed them. (No rhyme or reason, there.)

Speaking of crazy distribution patterns, I have no idea how the whole Gloss Valentine & Heartbreaker thing is going to pan out, either. Is this just a one-time thing, or all year/run long? Totally random, or a true one to five ratio?

It’d be nice if they did stick to the "one gloss for every five matte" ratio. That’d mean 1000 Gloss sets for every 5000 Mattes produced. If we peg the sales at a conservative 18,000 pieces, that’d be 3000 gloss sets out in the wild - more than enough to satisfy demand.

(Yes, really.)

It’s still too early to tell what Reeves is doing at this point. Trotting over to your favorite online dealer and placing an order for a Gloss one seems a little presumptuous to me.

It’s clear that they’re tinkering with different distribution patterns. I’m all for that: the more equitable or random the system, the better. The way it is now, some hobby-specific retailers have sort of gamed the system, and taken the "hunt" out of the treasure hunts.

I like the possibility that any given store might contain some rare or random treasure, even if it means that I might not get everything I want - like a Diamond Jubilee. The trick for Reeves is going to be in finally finding just the right plan - and hoping they won’t have ticked us all off by the time they do.

I do feel kind of sorry for the dealers: this should be the time of the year when everyone starts to get excited about the next year’s releases, tour stops, and the first real news about BreyerFest. Instead, everyone's having another meltdown about another glossy that may or may not be all that rare. And taking it out on them.

If I get lucky, I get lucky. I don’t have the time or the money to chase every shiny object waved in front of my face.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Awesome Thing, Revealed

Behold my awesome thing:

No, it’s not a cash register drawer. It’s a Vanity Organizer, manufactured by the W.F. Goodell Co. of Louisville, Kentucky. Says so right on the front:

The most exciting part of this object is not what it says on the front, but on the back:

It's the old Breyer logo! Told you I wasn’t imagining it!

One of these Vanity Organizers came up on eBay several years ago, but I was outbid, and not by a small amount. The vendor who listed it mistakenly identified it as Bakelite, or Catalin, or some other buzzword that vintage plastic collectors lose their minds at the mention of.

Fortunately, the vendor on eBay who listed my newest treasure actually did his research, and even went into some detail in his listing about the likelihood of this being a Breyer-molded piece. I’d like to think that my earlier blog post about it might have been part of that research, but I haven’t gotten around to asking him yet.

This thing isn’t just huge - 13 by 15 inches - it’s heavy, too: it weighs almost exactly two pounds. If it’s not Tenite, it’s something with a similar density - you could definitely do some damage to someone with it. It’s a little hard to tell from the photographs, but the color is sort of a slightly mottled, swirly brown - think burled wood, not tortoiseshell. It’s not too different from my clock with the same mold mark.

I haven’t found much information about the W.F. Goodell Company, yet. If you Google the name, you’ll find a couple of pictures of a William F. Goodell in the University of Louisville’s online archive. The pictures are from ca. 1930-1932, and mentions that he was a manager for Equitable Life of Iowa, an insurance company.

I don’t know how or when he took the leap from insurance to manufacturing. Or why he would have chosen a custom molder in Chicago over someone more local.

Breyer might really have just been the closest, or the closest one with the lowest bid. More local molders might have turned him down for various reasons. It could have been a friend of a friend thing, too. I really don’t know. There weren’t a lot of custom molders back then to choose from - according to Jeffrey Meikle’s American Plastic: A Cultural History, there were only about 370 molding and fabricating companies operating in the U.S. by 1946.

You might have noticed that each compartment on this tray is labeled for various vanity-type objects - combs, brushes, manicure equipment, curlers and pins. You can tell that a man designed this thing: there are not one, but two separate compartments for "miscellaneous" items! Was Mr. Goodell too embarrassed - or too intimidated - to ask the missus for a little advice about the average contents of a lady’s vanity?

(Her name was Gladys, by the way. Her picture is in the University of Louisville’s online archive, too.)

You know what this latest acquisition means, don't you? I’m only an International Harvester steering wheel and a couple of Money Managers short of a totally rad "Before Breyer was Breyer" Collector’s Class entry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Rarity, Again

I just got a supercool thing in the mail, but since I’m a little crunched for time today, y’all will have to wait a couple of days before I can discuss it in full.

Many of us have gotten used to the using the term "rare" or "exclusive" only when referring to items of exceeding rareness. Since I am somewhat in between topics here, I guess it’s a good time to address the discrepancy between the way I use those words, and the way the rest of the online hobby community does.

Hobbyists who have become blasé about sub-100 piece special runs have forgotten that what they consider "rare" is not what either the greater hobby or the general public considers "rare." The online hobbyist community - and here I refer to those who actively participate in the online community, and not just everyone who has access to a computer - sometimes forgets that it does not encompass the entire hobby.

There are lots and lots of passive, part-time or casual collectors, whose interactions with the hobby may be limited to a subscription to Just About Horses, standing orders with their local toy stores, or lurking online. For many of them, attending BreyerFest - and acquiring any of the special runs distributed there - is out of their reach, physically or financially. All of those special runs, to them, are rare.

Dealer Specials, Web Specials, Treasure Hunt Redemption Horses, and Connoisseur models also fall into this category. If they can’t just walk into a store and buy it when they want it, it’s rare.

That’s why I so often rail about the lack of precision in Reeves’ language. The words they chose were calibrated to a certain segment of the hobby - ironically, to the ones always complaining about Reeves not catering to their specific wants and desires - but did not take the members of the larger hobby into consideration.

Like a certain acquaintance of mine.

I just made a rather big sale (nearly half my saleslist!) to a very nice gentleman whose interaction with the greater hobby is rather limited. He subscribes to JAH, corresponds with a few other hobbyists, but buys most of his models locally. I’m not sure how he managed to get my name, but he always calls me after BreyerFest for the latest gossip - and my sales list.

Most of the stuff that populates my sales list, at any given time, consists of items that most of the online hobbyist community does not consider rare, like this rather nice #103 Appaloosa Yearling. I get most of my "stock" from the flea market, thrift stores, and occasionally from online auction lots: super-rare stuff doesn’t turn up in those venues very often. When it does, I tend to keep it.

(I almost kept this Yearling, incidentally. I already have six other variations, so she had to go.)

While the items I sell to him aren’t considered rare and desirable to us, they are to him. His notions about rarity are shaped by what’s available to him. In his sphere, rarity is a word that can extend to items manufactured in the thousands, not merely the dozens.

So yes, many items sold at the warehouse sale would definitely fall into his definition of "rare."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

8 Buck Hucks

Good gravy Reeves, just when I thought you were starting to "get" it, you pull this kind of nonsense on us again. Here you had us - and me - convinced that this wasn’t going to be anything more special than recently discontinued merchandise, old XMAS stock, and maybe a little of the WEG stuff. You made a big fuss about there not being many "highly limited" SRs.

You might want to review your dictionaries, too. I don’t think the term "highly limited" means what you think it means. Color Crazy Hucks and Fun Foals qualify as "highly limited" SRs to a lot of folks.

Marking stuff up to 80% off was not an endearing move, either. It’s not an incentive, it’s an irritant: $30 Dances with Wolves or $8 CC Hucks do not magically make a 12 hour commute any more plausible.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the concept of a warehouse sale. It’s the execution that leaves so much to be desired.

Onto other things. I think I’ll clear up a couple of issues that came up in the comments section recently.

First, about Shrinkies: yes, I am aware of the existence of more recent Shrinkies. Unlike the late 1980s Shrinkies, the more modern ones occur more randomly - a batch here, a batch there. That suggests to me that the problem is more a result of faulty plastic, than faulty molding. (Bad molding certainly wouldn’t help, though.)

All Cellulose Acetate models will shrink eventually, it’s just a matter of when. If your models manage to make it through the first decade or so of their lives without exhibiting any unpleasant behaviors, I think they’re safe for the long haul, however long that may actual be.

Now, a few more words about shipper boxes.

We call the early, corrugated cardboard boxes shipper boxes because they were designed to be shipped as is. One side typically had the spaces marked out for the shipping and return addresses:

The other side would have the shipping details and instructions:

If you can’t read it, it says:

Contents: Merchandise - 4th Class Mail
Postmaster: This parcel may be opened for postage
inspection if necessary. Return and forwarding
postage guaranteed.

The example illustrated above (from a #22 Brown Pinto Shetland Pony) was obviously never mailed, but some were. I once owned an old Family Arabian Stallion with a used shipper box. (The best part was the return address: Mission Supply House!)

The shipper box was the standard packaging for virtually all Breyers prior to 1973. There were some exceptions - Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, the Horse and Rider sets all came in fancy shelf boxes - but most models didn’t merit that kind of treatment. It was cheap, and practical, especially for mail-order businesses like Mission Supply House. Address it, stamp it, and it’s ready to go!

Shipper boxes worked for retail businesses, too. In the 1950s, 1960s, and into part of the 1970s, most toy stores would have a display of horses on a shelf or a case. You’d make your selection, and the store would then go to the stock room and get you a still-boxed one. A fancy box wasn’t necessary to make the sale.

I imagine that the shipper box might have even been a bit of a selling point, especially to grandparents with distant grandkids. Straight from the toy store to the post office - no muss, no fuss!

I’m guessing that my bull was either old store stock, or a gift that was purchased, and never given. Doesn’t matter either way, he has a happy home on my shelves now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Little Boxes

My sales were rather excellent this week, so today’s post is going to be more pictures than words. (I’ve got about a half dozen packages to get wrapped up and out of here by tomorrow.) Don’t fret, I’ve got some nice, meaty posts in the pipeline.

Much fuss was made recently concerning the petite size of the Giselle Melange’s shipping box. Fortunately, there did not seem to be any issues with damages above and beyond the usual amount of spoilage, aside from the mental duress experienced by collectors world wide upon seeing those boxes for the first time.

This isn’t the first time that Breyer has used boxes that seemed, shall we say, snug. Take a look at my most recent acquisition, an upgrade of my #72 Semi-rough cut Walking Polled Angus Bull, mint in his original illustrated shipper box:

I had been hoping to upgrade my Semi-rough cut for quite some time, but I wasn’t expecting one quite that grand. (An illustrated shipper? Awesome!) He’s so minty-mint, the wrapping tissue is still intact:

In case the snugness of the fit doesn’t boggle your mind, here’s the box in comparison to a Family Arabian Mare. No special reason for the selection of a FAM, other than her ubiquity:

It’s teeny-tiny! (Yeah, yeah, she’s a Sorrel FAM. She’s part of the office herd.)

I already knew how small the mold is (he’s only slightly larger than Classic scale, more or less) but it still blew my mind to see how comfortably the whole package fit into a standard 12 x 12 x 8 Priority Mail box.

The only damage incurred in his 50-year trip through time and space? A pair of very slight eartip rubs.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Metropolis, and Vinegar Syndrome

I was flipping through the channels on the TV machine last night, looking for something to keep me company as I labored on my quilting project. Wouldn’t you know it, the restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was on TCM.

I just about plotzed with joy, until I realized that I had already missed the first hour. I’ve made a point of not watching a film that I’ve already missed a significant portion of, unless I’ve seen it before. While I’ve seen Metropolis - several times, actually - this near-complete version, with nearly a half an hour of previously lost footage, might as well be a completely different film.

That film and I have a history. It was one of the first films I obsessed over. An influential science-fiction masterpiece of the silent era, the original cut lost shortly after its original release? It seemed so romantic, mysterious and alluring: I pulled my first all-nighter in my early teens just to watch a blurry, incomplete print on a fuzzy UHF channel. (Only rich folks had VHS machines back then.)

I didn’t see it again until college, when an electronics company gave a presentation about their latest newfangled video player, using the Giorgio Moroder version. I had only seen snippets of that version in the video for Queen’s Radio Ga Ga, one of my favorite music videos then or ever.

That song eventually inspired Lady Gaga, and then Lady Gaga inspired me at this year’s BreyerFest.

Let that be a demonstration of my ability to weave Breyer into virtually any conversation about anything.

Actually, there’s a much less roundabout reason here for discussion old films and the restoration thereof: vinegar syndrome. The topic of shrinkiness and ooziness came up again on Blab a few weeks ago, and much mention was made of "vinegar syndrome," which is the term that film archivists use to describe the breakdown of film stock. Film stock that’s made of almost exactly the same stuff that Breyers are made of.

"Almost exactly" is the operative phrase here. While the base materials are the same, the manufacturing processes and plasticizer ratios are different, as are the conditions each product is subjected to. Even the most banged-up of carpet herds lives a far more genteel life than any given film print.

I know from personal experience: I worked in a movie theatre for several years. That whole "frame melting on screen" thing? Saw it live, ladies. (We had old projection equipment, so I got real handy with the splicer.)

The irony of it all is that acetate film stock was invented as a more stable and less explosive alternative to nitrate stock, which had a habit of spontaneously combusting. (Metropolis's original negative was on nitrate stock. The fire that destroyed it, however, was not spontaneous.)

Breyer shrinkiness and ooziness are undoubtedly the effects of a form of vinegar syndrome, but it’s also obvious that the Shrinkies of the late 1980s were outliers, rather than the norm. There are far more models that are just fine, and will continue to be for some time to come.

We don’t really know what the shelf life of an average Breyer model is, or will be. It took about 25 to 30 years for vinegar syndrome to become a problem in the film industry, but it hasn’t been all that much of a problem with Breyers - yet.

Some of that can be attributed to the fact that hobbyists are already doing everything "right" in terms of mitigating acetate degradation - storage in cool and dry places, away from extremes of heat and light. We’re only about 60 years out on this product, and only time will tell if vinegar syndrome becomes a more widespread problem.

For what it’s worth, I’m not worrying too much about it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I went against my better judgment and bought a couple of things online this week. That’s what I get for doing research on the Internet - you start playing around with obscure keywords searches, and the next thing you know there are invoices in your inbox.

So I decided to take a break from research yesterday and get stuff ready to sell - taking photos, writing descriptions, pulling out packing materials, and all that. I already managed to list a bunch of stuff on MH$P today - nothing spectacular, but decently priced. (And as an extra incentive - it's all postage paid!)

It probably wasn’t a good idea to list it today, with everyone freaking out about the Breeders Cup and Zenyatta, but at least it’s done and out there. Anything that doesn’t sell there is going to get dumped onto eBay eventually, along with all my other bric-a-brac. If I’m really motivated, I might even get an Etsy shop going and finally put some of those spare quilts of mine online.

I see that Reeves is having a warehouse sale of its own coming up. A little too far away for me to cash in on, but a nice gesture for anyone in the area, I suppose. I do like how they put that little disclaimer on the bottom about the absence of extra-special stuff. I’m sure a lot of folks who go to the sale will conveniently ignore that last sentence anyway, and get miffed when they don’t find it.

They’ve got one Black Friday sale and it ain’t in November, folks.

I think, at most, they’ll have some leftover Holiday stuff and maybe a little bit of WEG merchandise. The rest of it will just be recently discontinued merchandise and overstock - all the fun stuff that usually ends up at Tuesday Morning or T.J. Maxx.

Here’s another thing I found while poking around the Internet the other day, in the middle of my research on the Dapples/Ponies line: another Little Debbie Snack Cake Special!

I don’t normally collect the Dapples/Ponies items, but if I happen to end up with a dash of extra cash somehow, I just might spring for a Swiss Roll. The previous two sets in the series - Ginger and Oatmeal Crème - were cute, but the customized saddle pad with the blue gingham trim on the Swiss Roll sets off my squee-meter.

I think it’s because I’ve been experimenting with gingham in some of my recent quilts. Gingham’s not the easiest material to work with, because the checked patterning tends to overpower most conventional designs. I’ve managed to come up with a few satisfying solutions to the "gingham problem," so a Swiss Roll might be a nice little tribute to my artistic triumphs.

Has fewer calories, too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The weather is cold, damp and generally yucktastic - the perfect time to work on warm, fluffy things. So I pulled out the quilt that Vita the Destroyer almost killed and ate over the summer, and popped it into the "new" hoop I got over the weekend. The quilting is going to be of the quick and dirty kind - it’s not going to look as lovely as I hoped, but it will be done.

Imperfect, but completed > perfect, but unfinished.

Speaking of the unfinished, I continue to slog through the research note pile. It’s getting there. As usual, it’s the newer stuff that’s slowing me down - it’s all those itty-bitty details I failed to note when I had the chance. Details I didn’t think I needed, or thought I had written down, and didn’t.

I’ve been trying to clean them up as I go by spot checking on various Internet sites, with limited success. Three different sites will give me three different answers - or even worse, the same answer I know is just flat out wrong! The most disheartening part is many of the things I look up - obscure, and sometimes not so obscure SRs - have vanished entirely on the Internet. Not just things I’ve taken notes on, but things I’ve owned.

I often complain about the gaps in the historical records, but the bigger problem isn’t the gaps, it’s the volume. There’s sixty years of history, several hundred molds, several thousand releases, and variations after variations. With so much data to be known, it’s no wonder that so much data gets lost in the shuffle - or that so many hobbyists totally zone out of the subject altogether.

Until they run across something they think might be worth something. The assumption is always that previously unknown = rare. No, sometimes unknown is just unknown, or unrecognized: just because you’re not familiar with it doesn’t make it rare.

On the flip side, some of the things we deem as familiar and common are anything but. I’ve always been amused, for example, that the Brown Pinto Indian Pony with Indian markings is considered more desirable than the one without, because it’s the ones without that are more scarce.

One example from my personal experience is the original SR Affirmed. Not the Traditional release on Cigar, or the "accidental" SR Gloss, or the ornament: the one from the Classic Triple Crown Set, released through Hobby Center Toys in 1988. Here’s mine:

Notice something different about him? Yeah, he’s got a couple of hind stockings, something the real-life Affirmed did not. Since he was purchased shortly before my brief hiatus from the hobby - where my contact with other hobbyists and their models was rather limited - I made the assumption that that was the way all the Affirmeds had been made. The other horses in the Triple Crown Sets weren’t very accurate representations, either, so I shrugged it off as just one of those things.

A few years later, when I actually saw other sets that weren’t mine, I realized it wasn’t. It didn’t make that big a difference in the way I valued the model: the "real" Affirmed was one of my great loves back in the day, and I cherished this representation of him, rare or not.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The flea market was cold and quiet today. I found a few good deals, including a quilt hoop (for a buck!) and a 1968 copy of The Care & Training of the Trotter & Pacer (with dustjacket!) There were a few models, but nothing worth the effort. I need to move more models out of the house, not into it. Gotta get cracking on the sales listings again…

If one of my pending deals goes through this week I just might buy myself a Bats in the Belfry as a reward. I love the mold, and the paint jobs on the ones I have seen so far have been exquisite.

To be honest, I never had a problem with, or really understood, the hate-on over the fuzzy bats on the original Nosferatu. The reason I never got around to buying one was because the Cigar mold doesn’t fit on my shelves. I love my Wanderlust, my QVC Seabiscuit, and my Glossy Affirmed (swoon!) but darn it, those suckers eat up a lot shelfy real estate. The Nokota Horse isn’t exactly petite either, but he’s got that multiple posability thing going on, and I can work with that.

I was making a few minor corrections and additions to my Nokota Horse file yesterday, in my ongoing effort to get my pile of research notes under control. Sigh: out of its 12 releases so far, 6 of them have piece runs of 100 or less. Here I thought the whole Esprit thing was bad. Fully half of the runs of the Nokota Horse are completely inaccessible to me, and likely always will be.

The Newsworthy mold isn’t a lot better: out of the eight releases so far, only the original release would qualify as a regular run, and even that only ran for about a year and a half. I'm not sure what to call the Enchanted Forest - a midyear release already on the Discontinue list? I guess that’s what he gets for the sin of merely being Bay.

All of these super-brief runs and micro-runs on new molds got me thinking about that question I posed earlier this year: is Reeves really heading towards a "Test Colors For Everyone!" business mode, a la Stone?

I hope not. It’d completely wreak havoc in the hobbyist sphere, where there’s already a huge issue being made over the effect that a handful of "big spenders" have been making on the hobby as a whole. What happens when they can - for a price - pretty much order whatever the heck they want?

I take a little comfort in the fact that most of the models I’ve seen come out of all of these "Make Your Own Test Color" programs haven’t been all that appealing to me. I guess it’s a side effect of being able to get whatever you want: most hobbyists are going to go for something completely, utterly idiosyncratic. It’s so completely tailored to their likes and dislikes that it won’t "fit" anyone else.

That’s also why I’m one of the lone voices out there arguing that models coming out of those programs aren’t really Original Finish. They meet all of the technical requirements - painted in the factory, with factory techniques - but in every other regard, they’re customs. They’re made to order, with a single defined customer in mind.

At best, I could concede them being another category: the Factory Custom.

Most shows are starting to break the RR and SR categories into further subdivisions - separating earlier Regular Runs from later ones, and low-piece count Specials from the more plentiful ones. I suppose, in the not so distant future, they’ll have to have a Factory Custom/OOAK subdivision, too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Family Arabian Foal: Expatriate?

I’ve spent my spare time this week mostly working on my research note pile. Ah, I had forgotten that most of these notes were the hard, crunchy bits that required additional research and cross-referencing and all that jazz. So progress has been a little slower than anticipated: one page of notes that should take an hour or so to process turns into a three or four hour ordeal.

One interesting little bit I rediscovered in my notes was a speculation I made about the Family Arabian Foal: the FAF might have been among the handful of molds slated to travel to Mexico!

What is the evidence that I base this speculation on? The appearance - and quick disappearance - of the USA mold mark, long before a single mold was shipped to China.

Now, the Family Arabian Foal has one of the most complicated molding histories of any Breyer mold. From the number of subtle - and not so subtle - mold changes I’ve been able to document on the FAF, it seems like it was being almost perpetually tinkered with.

I attribute most of the tinkering to the fact that the mold saw a lot of use: the Family Arabians were the "work horses" of the Breyer line in the 1960s and early 1970s, with the Foal being the most popular of the trio, by far. While some of the changes to the Foal’s ears were done to fix a problem inherent in the original design, most of the other changes were incurred during periodic cleaning and maintenance.

Around 1970 most - but not all - Breyer molds then in production had the "USA" mark added, presumably to satisfy the requirements of international trade law. Among the molds that received the mark was the Family Arabian Foal.

But it didn’t have it for long. Sometime between 1970 and 1982, the FAF’s USA mark disappeared.

The laws requiring the addition of the country of origin had changed by the mid-1970s but Breyer, for the most part, didn’t do anything to remove the marks that had already been added. The molds that had the USA mold mark kept them until recently - basically when all those molds were finally shipped to China.

With two notable exceptions: the Family Arabian Foal - and the El Pastor. El Pastor had his mark removed because he was among the contingent of molds that were sent to Mexico in the late 1970s.

I guess that’s what set my mind speculating. Since the Family Foal was a fairly high-volume piece, I could see a reasonable rationalization for moving the mold to Mexico. Seems plausible, right? It fits within the timeframe. Was the mold mark was removed in anticipation of the move?

Maybe not. The USA mark could have been removed in yet another round of cleaning and maintenance. The scarcity of FAFs with USA marks suggests the mold removal was very early - within a couple years of the mold receiving the mark, and not nearly the decade later the Mexico theory would require.

Complicating the dating of the mold mark removal is the fact that for most of the disputed time period, the FAF came in only one color, and one finish: Matte Palomino. Sure, there were some Chalkies thrown in the mix, and some other colors in the early 1970s, but they’re not helpful for dating. Matte finishes were introduced prior to the USA mark, and some of the Chalkies could have been repainted warehouse overstock.

So confusing! Maybe that’s why had forgotten about the theory in the interim. Too many variables, too many unknowns.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Such an aggravating day! Not a single darn thing went right. I just had to throw out a sewing project that absolutely refused to cooperate. It was one of those easy, "one day" projects, according to the magazine I took it from - ha!

I hate wasting all that time and fabric, but sometimes you’ve just got to cut your losses and move on, y’know?

Speaking of vexations, let’s get back to Fury. Here’s a not very good photograph of a variation you don’t see too often: no socks!

There are lots and lots of variations on the original Fury, but that's not today's topic. Today's topic is much more fundamental: when was he released?

Breyer was pretty good about developing and marketing products of the licenses they did acquire in the 1950s. Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Circus Boy all came out in a timely manner, not long after the shows debuted. But not Fury: even thought the show debuted in October 1955, I haven’t been able to find any documentation for the Fury model prior to 1958.

The Prancer mold was up and running for the Davy Crockett set by mid-1955, so the Fury model could have been good-to-go for the Christmas 1955 season, but no mail order catalogs from that year have shown one. He’s nowhere to be found in the multitude of 1956 articles and press releases, either. I wouldn’t rule out 1957 - there’s still plenty of digging to do there - but I don’t see him any of the 1957 materials I have at the moment.

It seems odd that Breyer wouldn’t have release a Fury until 1958 - nearly two and a half years after the show went on the air. Did someone else have the license for a model, and fail to make good on it? Was there a legal issue that had to be hammered out? Or was the licensing program for the show just a little slow on the draw?

The research I’ve done on non-Breyer Fury merchandise so far seems to hint that licensing for the show didn’t get fully underway until about … 1958. There were a few bits and pieces before then, but 1958 seems to have been the year they decided to go all out with books, comics, puzzles and the like - all the usual dime store novelties boomer kids dropped their cash on.

So that last possibility might be closest to the truth. 1958 might be the Fury’s true release date - unless further evidence proves otherwise.

Even though the merchandising might have gotten off to a late start, it wasn’t short-lived. Fury merchandise continued to be produced well after the show stopped production in 1960, in part because NBC kept the show on - renamed Brave Stallion - as a part of their Saturday Morning children’s programming until 1966. The same year - not coincidentally - that Breyer finally discontinued the Fury for good.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Little More About Kit

Reeves released photos of the Sneak Peeks for 2011, and the biggest nonsurprise there is a Giselle and Gilen set. They look quite lovely in Bay - continuing in the whole Running Mare and Foal theme, maybe? (I was secretly hoping for a Black/Dark Gray mare and light/white foal combo, myself.)

I hope their imminent arrival spares a few of the SRs - especially the beautiful Melanges - from the chopping block. (A matching foal for her would be a fine and lovely thing, I think. Aren’t we about due for another Web Special? Hmm.)

I had a serious case of writer’s block yesterday, so I spent the day going through my pile of unprocessed research notes. Not the new stuff I picked up at the main branch of the DPL back in September: most of this pile is old research, some of it dating back to the 1980s. I never had a framework to put it into before, but now that I do - along with the time to do it - I figured I might as well tackle it.

Most of it is secondary or supplemental research, the kind of data I’d find while researching something else for work or school. I’d get bored, or squirrely, or nauseous from the fumes of musty old issues of Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and off I’d go in search of something more interesting (or at least, less aromatic) to read.

One of those more interesting reads was Hal Erickson’s Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years 1947-1987. After looking up all my old favorites - Superman, Star Trek, Mr. Ed - I then proceeded to look up some of the shows I knew Breyers were based on: Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Fury, and … Kit Carson.

While doing my original blog post on Kit Carson, I was rather curious about the reasons why the show had, despite its popularity, so quickly disappeared from public consciousness. Lots of shows from that era continued on in syndication for decades, accruing new generations of fans. But not Kit Carson: the show seems to have just gradually faded away.

I had initially chalked the lack of enthusiasm about the show to its lack of originality. Erickson goes into a little detail about this:

Filmed at Republic Studios, the 104-episode Kit Carson was for a time syndicated television’s top-rated Western. Today it is largely forgotten. Perhaps this is because Carson was so derivative of most of the other Westerns of its era that one wonders why the producers were never sued.


Actually, the biggest reason why Kit Carson vanished was because its star, Bill Williams, didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. Erickson, again:

Former RKO leading man Bill Williams played Kit Carson; he approached the role as a job of work, with minimal exertion of personality or enthusiasm, and when the series ended, Williams declared publicly that he never wanted anything to do with Kit Carson ever again. Such words were the "kiss of death" to a syndicated western, where continuous personal appearances were ever so important.

As I mentioned before, pursuing a license from might not have been that big of a concern for Breyer. That the show was no longer being promoted nationally may have made it even less of a priority. They had already made their pile of cash from the Davy Crockett mold, and any profit they made from the Kit Carsons, however small it may have been, was theirs free and clear.

Next time we’ll talk about a TV license that worked out well - very well - for Breyer: Fury.