Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Marney Mystery Model

Here’s another treasure from the same garage sale that produced my "unblue" Buckshot:

Neat, eh? In case you are unversed in early Breyer Action Stock Horse Foals, here’s what a standard, factory run Bay Pinto should look like:

Another example of what just a little black paint can do!

He was in a box with a small cohort of similarly painted ASHFs. I can’t remember the exact number - more than three, definitely less than ten. I rummaged through the box for the nicest example, and put him in my buy pile with the Buckshot.

Like the Buckshot, he’s another one of those unclassifiable creatures who passed through Marney’s hands. Were they culls she happened to rescue and touch up? Test colors? Or a variation that was considered for production?

I admit I rather like the notion that they were a variation considered for production. The timeline makes it a plausible idea: the mold was introduced in 1984, and I found and acquired him in 1985. There were all sorts of crazy things stashed in every nook and cranny of the old Chicago factory - often dating back several years - so it’s conceivable that they could have been tucked away in some forgotten corner for a mere year or so.

As with most Marney models though, I have no idea. They could have been mistakes, pulled from the production line before they were boxed for shipment. Maybe Marney had plans for these little ones that never came to fruition: intended as live show prizes, raffle or auction items, or gifts.

Or she could have had no input on these models at all. The Stock Horse Family may have been her "pet project" at Breyer, and she pretty much had free rein to do whatever she wanted at the factory, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she had any hand in these particular models. It’s just as likely that they were just another part of the debris she found while cleaning out the factory.

That garage sale was an overwhelming event for everyone involved, and I can’t recall if anyone else noticed the specialness of those Foals that day. (At least one other did survive, so I have my suspicions.) However, most of the items within Marney’s garage were considered bodies, so it’s possible that some of them were sacrificed on the altar of creativity.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Kind of Blue

I love watching shows about hoarders: there’s something fascinating about the psychology of persons insulating themselves from the world with massive amounts of stuff. I have a lot of stuff, too, but it’s all neatly organized and contained, and I don’t have any issues with purging things when I need to.

Part of the appeal of those shows for me is that I’m currently dealing with a semi-hoarding situation at home: not me, but my family members. It’s come to a head this week with a long-delayed home remodeling project that includes the space in which I work, and keep the larger part of my collection.

Everything in those two rooms has to be removed, and much stink is being made about how much "stuff" I have. The fact that the rooms now being used for storage were already packed to the ceiling with everyone else’s stuff is irrelevant: the mess is somehow all my fault.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the progress was so slow. There’s no impetus to get the job done in a timely fashion; the only person whose life is being severely impacted is mine, and apparently that’s completely okay with everyone else involved.

I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. If the next few weeks - or months - of posts have a more somber tone than usual, now you’ll know why. The one small physical domain where I had a small modicum of control is currently not in my control. And I’m not happy about it.

I may be feeling a bit blue, but this Buckshot isn’t:

The Buckshot mold debuted in 1985, the same year I found - and purchased - this intriguing horse from Marney, at her post-Congress garage sale. He’s probably a cull of the original release of Buckshot; he has all the characteristics of a #415 Buckshot, except that his distinctive blue-gray base color missing.

I presume he’s a cull, and not a test color, because of something you can’t see in the photograph, and something I can only describe to you due to my current technical difficulties: he has a blotchy, blobby blue dorsal stripe. It’s not unattractive or unrealistic, but it was enough to send him to reject bin, and from where Marney must have rescued him.

What I can’t answer is whether he was discarded "as-is," or if Marney found him in a less finished state, and completed the job. She did a lot of that; many culls could be made passable with a touch of black paint.

What’s intriguing about this "accidental" test color is that he may have been more influential than many an intentional one. Within a few years, we had a number of Breyer production pieces in this color, including the #830 Quarter Horse Stallion (on the Adios mold) and the 1989 JAH Special Quarter Horse Yearling.

Breyer usually described models with these paint jobs - both the gray/black, and the chestnut version that slightly preceded it - as roans. But depending on the size of the spots, or the scale of the horse, they were also labeled fleabitten grays, or even Appaloosas. It may not seem like a big deal now, but they represented a startling change of pace from the almost comical "big freckle" roans of the early 1970s.

The problem was that they were not really a good representation of any of those colors or coat patterns. I think most collectors realized that this new painting "style" was a transitional step towards more realistic roan, fleabitten gray, and Appaloosa paint jobs. As Breyer’s painting techniques improved, many of these models from the "light roan" era have been dumped into the fickle, saturated aftermarket.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More Loose Ends

Have you seen the train wreck that is today’s Daily Breyer entry on the Facebook page? Holy cow, that’s bad! They’ve had some doozies before, but I this one’s so wrong, it’s not even wrong. It’s wrong in a way that should win a prize for wrongness.

The Old Molds were not introduced until 1958, and the Stallion - who became the Family Arabian Stallion - didn’t arrive on the scene until (probably) 1959. Except that Saturday Night Fever pictured on Breyer’s Facebook page is actually the Proud Arabian Stallion, not a Family Arabian Stallion. And the PAS wasn’t officially released until 1971.

Seriously, how do you manage to confuse the Proud Arabian Stallion with the Family Arabian Stallion? Even my Mother can tell the difference, and her only involvement in the hobby is pretending not to dust my collection when I’m in Kentucky for ‘Fest!

I know in the grand scheme of things these details don’t matter that much, but researching the details of Breyer History is what I do in the hobby and for the hobby. It’s upsetting to see how little the company I research seems to care about getting its own history right.

There, I feel better now. Every once and a while you’ve got to get a rant out of your system, you know?

My schedule for the next couple of weeks looks a little rough, so I’ll spend the rest of my post today tying up some loose ends.

The Woodgrain Donkey pics in the surprisingly robust Donkey discussion thread are duly noted. I’ll probably categorize it as a Test, or part of a small SR of the Ranchcraft type. I still think a lot of hobbyists may be confusing sightings of the Red Mill Donkey for the Woodgrain one, though. I don’t know how rare the Red Mill Donkey is, but it’s certainly less so than a Breyer Woodgrain Donkey would be.

I also live by the motto "Trust, but verify." I’ve had way too many experiences with folks swearing that they heard, or saw, or owned something that turned out not to be what they thought it was. It’s a big problem, especially in the realm of Glossies, Chalkies and Tests; anything questionable of that nature needs an in-person inspection before I’m comfortable in declaring it authentic.

Yes, I am aware of the eBay auctions with the dumbbell stickers - and the insane prices that went with them! The nature and limited release of these stickers means that they’ll always be numerically rare, but $400 rare? I don’t know how long that price point will be sustainable. And I thought the $25 I spent on mine back in the 1990s was a bit high.

A lot of foofah was made on Blab over a report that a couple of Web Specials (Riley, and Summer Solstice) turned up at a hardware store somewhere in the Minnesota, at a slightly discounted price.

The Sales Rep in question probably had some discretion of throwing in some choice items from the warehouse to help close this particular deal; instead of older regular runs or special runs with larger piece counts, they just happened to be Web Specials. This sort of thing happens way more often than most hobbyists realize. Hobbyists don’t pay much attention when the items in question are more common; if they notice them at all, they just write them off as old store stock, and walk on by.

If they still have Summer Solstices and Rileys come June, I think the remainders will end up in the NPOD. Along with the remainder of the Dealer Special Autumns, Medalist Ponies, and whatever "gotta have it" model turns up between now and then. And who knows - maybe the leftover LSE Frankensteeds, too. (From what I’ve read, all of the LSE participants had a chance to buy one, and passed them by; seems only right that the rest of us mere mortals have a chance.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More Treasure Hunt Madness

Well, the whole Treasure Hunt thingie went from zero to crazy in nothing flat, didn’t it?

It’s still a little too early to tell if this is just an early release of the now-standard Treasure Hunt variations, or something that will carry on throughout the year. My guess is that it’ll be a year-long thing, partly based on the fact that Breyer "primed the pump" in early December with that odd poll on their Facebook page that asked, ambiguously, "Glossy or Matte? Which will it be?"

Glossy or Matte what?

Well, now we know.

I’m not sure if I’ll be participating this year. I like the Othello mold well enough, but I need to resolve a few things around the house (time, space, money - the usual) before I start buying more Traditionals, especially ones as shelf-consuming as Othello. I’ll probably cave if I see a Gloss Summer in person. Or the Bay; he looks especially fine in that color, don’t you think?

I’m just glad they’re releasing him in colors other than Gray.

Have you noticed that certain molds seem to be afflicted by a certain lack of imagination in their color schemes? Othellos get the Gray treatment, the #58 Hanoverian always ends up some shade of Bay … and the poor #156 Haflinger mold, a dozen different variations of Chestnut or Palomino, including the newest UK Special!

On some molds it’s understandable that the color scheme is somewhat restricted. The vast majority of Lipizzans are gray, so it’s not surprising that the Classic Lipizzan always ends up that color, especially since the pose he’s in is almost breed-defining. (Though I think it's another mold that would look smashing in a simple, shaded bay.)

But the Othello or Haflinger molds? Not so neatly defined. I know a lot of hobbyists get annoyed that they have to resort to some odd crosses to make their OF showstring competitive. It doesn’t bother me so much, since the world is full of oddly colored and not-so-typey horses. Seems more realistic to me.

(People, too. According to my ethnic background, I’d be some sort of Belgian Partbred or Warmblood: Belgian + Polish + Hungarian! And from the hair color, a bay roan sabino one, at that.)

Like the rest of you, I’m curious to see what color "Winter" will be. I’m hoping for something a little more daring, like a Snowflake Appaloosa, or a Reverse Leopard Appaloosa - something that’ll look wintry, without having to resort to Gray. Again.

(I doubt many of us would object to a Gloss Charcoal. Including me.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

English Lesson

Sorry, had some last minute changes to my schedule; apparently the chaos that ended last week bled a little into this one. I haven’t been seeing much daylight lately, either, and that’s probably contributing to my slightly (ha!) sour mood.

Alas, I have no time to comment on all the latest gossip and news in model horse land today (like the gloss Treasure Hunt Othellos!) It looks like I’ll have some time to catch up on Saturday. In the meantime I’ll just reprint a useful little cartoon from last year’s Sampler:

It was fun to do; I love to draw, but most of my creative energies have been focused elsewhere. (Right now, I seem to be in a Decoupage phase. As in actual cut paper, not the Connoisseur Sucesion.) I have plans on doing more in the future with this concept - here, and in the Samplers. It won’t be a regular feature though, just something done when the mood strikes, and if the subject matter works with it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Old Timer Cull

The end of last week was a rough one, whew! Multiple shifts, sleep deprivation, home remodeling, a mild sinus infection and a death in the family. (I knew her, but not well, even though she lived nearby. Like most family matters, it’s … complicated, and that’s about as much as I’m comfortable sharing.)

Let’s spotlight another treasure from my collection: the Old Timer cull!

Culls, for the otherwise uninformed, are unfinished or partially painted models that somehow escape the factory. Somewhat more "finished" culls - like this fella - were reportedly donated to orphanages and other child welfare organizations.

This one is pretty old: he has no USA mark, and he has tons of shading, typical of early alabaster Old Timers. (Some of them have so much gray shading, in fact, that you could almost classify them as "light smoke" or slate gray.) Another feature that gives away his age is the lack of "infill" in the upper corners of his headstall: just the straps are painted, not the area inside them. I don’t know when this detailing changed, but it happened very, very early in the original run. (A handy visual tip to keep in mind, if all you’ve got to judge an Old Timer by is a not-so-great photograph.)

There are several things wrong with this old boy. First - and most obvious - is that his blinkers are missing. In this case, they weren’t broken off, they were never added in the first place. The slots where the blinkers were to be inserted are free of any traces of glue or broken blinker bits.

The blinkers were molded separately and attached late in the production process, after most of the painting had been completed. There are two reasons why it was done that way. One, making them integral to the mold would have been problematic, because thin and projecting pieces of plastic like blinkers would have been prone to warping and breakage during the molding process. Second, it made painting the eyes a lot less challenging for the painter!

He’s missing his hat, too, an occurrence so common that Reeves could probably make a tidy profit in selling spares. (Hint, hint.) Being a cull, it’s just as likely he never had one to begin with. The gold detailing is missing too - all of the rings, buckles, keepers and chains are unpainted.

As you may have guessed by now, the Old Timer is an extremely complex, and expensive, mold to produce. There’s so much work that goes into an Old Timer that rumor had it that Breyer/Reeves was losing money on every one they made. However, customer demand was so great that they felt obliged to continue production even after it ceased to be profitable.

This brings up an interesting point: the models that collectors might see as being the most popular aren’t necessarily the most popular among the general, non-hobbyist public - and vice versa. We see it happen from time to time online (remember the bizarre run on the Khemosabi mold on eBay a while back?) And it happens in the physical world, too, especially with Old Timer. Some of the antiquers I deal with will slap a premium price on an Old Timer - and they know they’ll get it, eventually. The "serious" collectors will walk away, but the casual collectors? They’ll consider it.

The same dynamic explains the inexplicable prices found in your average antique shop. They’re catering to dilettantes and interior decorators, not the serious hobbyists. Occasional trips to your local antique malls are a lot less stressful, once you keep that in mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shades of Gray

I was going to write about the BreyerFest stuff today, but I haven’t had the time to do much more with the JAH Supplement beyond looking at the pictures. I’ll get to it next week, when I’m a little more lucid - and better read. Since I’m short on time and feeling a little cranky from my jacked-up schedule, let’s discuss another lovely piece from my "newtoymens" collection:

It’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but this little Donkey is a test color. He’s the same color as the #376 Brighty, the 1991 re-release in that quirky gray-brown dun color with the white belly and muzzle, and shoulder striping. Being that it is an undatable "newtoymens" piece with no real provenance, I don’t know if he was a test color for Brighty, a rejected test for the 1992 Election Donkey with the Brighty paint job, or even a test for another release entirely.

Some molds have lots of test colors floating around, and some have almost none, and the old Donkey mold is one of the latter. I’ve seen more test pieces on the Brighty mold - and even the Kitten - than the old Donkey. Part of the reason is that there haven’t been that many Donkey bodies lying around to experiment with: aside from his brief return in 1992, he’s basically been out of production since the mid-1970s.

Why the Donkey mold has been missing for so long is a matter of debate. I think a lot of collectors just assume that, like the Fury or the old Racehorse, he’s an old, dated mold that has been superseded by newer, more popular donkeys. We have the Brighty, the Companion Series Miniature Donkey, and now the cutie-pie Stablemates Donkey to fill in the gaps of the donkey-loving collector’s heart.

There may have been some damage to the mold that prevented or limited his return, too. According to former Breyer employee Steve Ryan, the Donkey mold was allegedly damaged in the aborted attempt to move production to Mexico in the 1970s. I don’t know how much truth there is to it; my interactions with Mr. Ryan did not inspire confidence in his grasp of Breyer History.

While real-life donkeys don’t come in quite the same color range as their cousins do, they certainly come in more colors than the old Breyer Donkey has: gray, gray, gray … and gray. There’s a lot of variation in that boring gray paint job, though, and one could amass a nice-sized collection of its many variations, from pale gray to near-black.

There are a few bay and Five-Gaiter Sorrel Donkeys from the 1960s floating around, too, but their color is sometimes so dark and muted that they are sometimes mistaken for just another shade of gray. And they may well be, as we have no documentation of it being a separate release or special run item.

There have also been rumors of Woodgrain Donkeys. I’m willing to entertain the notion of their existence, possibly as another Special Run item for the Ranchcraft Lamp line, but so far I haven’t seen one that passes historical muster. Red Mill - a company that manufactured figurines out of a crushed pecan-shell composite material - did make a fairly good copy of the Breyer Donkey, and that might be fueling the rumor.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Boldly Going

Interesting choice of BreyerFest Celebration Horse this year, don’t you think? I was wondering how they’d bring the "Hollywood" theme: All Glory’s owner is William Shatner. Yeah, the one and only. Sweet!

The story so far is that only his wife Elizabeth will be on hand; man, could you imagine the autograph line that would ensue if he did? I don’t normally get my models autographed, but I’d make an exception here!

I’ve long considered the model horse community to be just one of the more peculiar offshoots of SF fandom. When I received my first issue of the MHSJ, back in September 1978, I was both delighted - and relieved - to discover that so many of my fellow hobbyists shared my other nerdy obsessions.

I was a bit too young to watch Trek in its original run, but my brother and I both avidly watched the animated series in the early 1970s. I received the complete series as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, and was surprised at how well it has held up. (The animation was cheesy - pure Filmation - but the stories were solid.)

This isn’t Reeves’s first encounter with Trek: remember the 2003 Best School Horse Contest Winner #1251 Commander Riker? He only happened to be named after TNG’s "Number One," but it still gave me a bit of a thrill to my hobbies collide unexpectedly.

Come to think of it, I did pick up a Commander Riker in the NPOD last year, among the boxed up warehouse leftovers. And he was in a leftover "Madison Avenue" box. You know, of the Rejoice mold. (Spooky!)

I’m not all that displeased with the mold choice; All Glory may be a Standardbred, technically, but in a photograph on the inside cover of the BreyerFest 2010 supplement he looks almost exactly like Rejoice mold. I think we’ve become a bit spoiled on the "new mold for BreyerFest" idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new mold shows up in the Tent Line SRs, or in the NPOD itself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dark Mustang

There’s nothing overtly special about the next horse, except that he’s gorgeous. Behold my very dark buckskin #87 Rearing Mustang:

I paid a pretty penny for him - more than I thought I would have to pay, anyway - but some models just have to be had, y’know?

Added bonus: he has painted eyewhites, too. (A little hard to see, but trust me, they're there.) That’s a rare feature on early Buckskin Mustangs. It was my primary motivation in buying him; the fact that his color was so dark and rich was just a nice bonus.

Painted eyewhites were not a universal feature of all early Breyer paint jobs. Some models and some colors never had them, and some models rarely came without them, like the Brown Charcoal version of the Mustang. Beyond the Alabaster exceptions (they weren’t necessary!) there doesn’t appear to be much rhyme, reason or rule to early eyewhites.

At first glance, my dark Mustang could probably pass for Bay. There have been rumors of Bay Mustangs floating about for years, presumably based on the fact that the color was a part of Breyer’s limited color repertoire in the early 1960s. Surely they must have at least considered the idea, right?

I don’t doubt that there may be a few authentic, vintage test color bays - either gloss, or matte - out there somewhere. But I highly doubt that there was ever a regular run or special run of them, however brief, as I’ve speculated might be the case with the Gray Appaloosa Shetland Pony. At least with the Shetland Pony, there do appear to be a handful of authentic pieces out there. All of the "bay" Mustangs I’ve seen in person were either later tests or, like this boy, exceptionally dark buckskins.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brandy, Instead of Whine

Let’s see, the online discussions have moved on from griping about the Western Elegance set, to griping about the BreyerFest Specials. I guess "having a more positive attitude" wasn’t on anybody’s New Year’s Resolutions list.

Interesting that they’ve chosen the Saint Bernard as one of the Tent models; we haven’t seen much of that mold like, ever. We’ve only seen him twice before - in his original release #328 from 1972 through 1980, and as #321 Brandy in 1995-96, alongside a number of other Traditional Breyer Dog molds.

I have the original version; picked him up ages ago, at a toy store that carried discontinued merchandise exclusively. (Man, I loved that store - imagine a toy store where the only new stock was old stock - and every week was a surprise! Sadly, it has long since ceased to be.)

I never got around to getting the newer Saint Bernard, mostly because his paint job was so unappealing: what was up with that greasy-looking yellow-brown color, anyway? And aside from the color, it didn’t look all that different from the original release. If I wanted another Saint Bernard, I’d go looking for that neat cast iron knockoff, instead.

I did eventually add another (plastic) Saint Bernard to my collection:

I think he’s a preproduction piece for Brandy: the colors are right, and he’s hand-airbrushed. (The regular run piece is masked.) I can’t know for sure what he is, because he was one of those models that came to me via the mysterious eBay seller "newtoymens."

Remember him? He of the cartloads of mysterious models, some of which seemed to be test colors, culls and oddities? I got outbid on the "flashier" stuff, but I did manage to get this guy, among others.

I wasn’t able to get any more information out of him than anyone else was. Most hobbyists thought he was a Breyer insider, but if he was, he wasn’t a recent one: none of the models - the regular run pieces we could date, anyhow - dated past 2000. It’s more likely he was a middleman of some sort - either a jobber, or a guy who knew jobbers and sold their "merchandise" for them.

I have a couple other interesting "newtoymens" pieces I should probably put in this month’s blog post rotation…

Monday, January 4, 2010

Appy New Year

Just spent the entire weekend going through and cleaning up my research notes - I think I ended up with more than what I started with! One of these days I’ll finally be able to "touch bottom" and work my way back up to the surface. Not any time soon from the current state of my desk, however…

In light of my increased work schedule, I’ve come to a decision on my blog posts for January: I’ll be sticking to smaller, shorter topics for the time being, instead of the graduate-level dissertations I’ve been lapsing into. I’ll profile some historically-interesting models from my collection, spotlight rare or noteworthy color variations, offer annotated scans of some rare or unique items from the archive, that sort of thing.

(Don’t worry, the dissertations will be back - eventually!)

To kick things off, I offer you a rare and unusual variation many collectors miss: the "Gray Appaloosa" Azteca:

The #85 Dapple Gray Azteca is know for its many color variations: white tail, gray tail, semi-gloss, matte, wild dappling, and so on …but this variation is distinct enough to be mistaken for a test color or separate release. (And sometimes is.) It’s very similar to the paint job seen on the Dark Dapple Gray Running Mare and Foal, but with the addition of fine, roany dappling over the rest of the body. You can catch a blurry glimpse of him in the 1980 Alden’s Christmas Catalog:

Christmas catalog photo shoots occur very early in the year - not long after the previous holiday season, usually. So that means he’s an early variation, possibly the earliest. However, the Dapple Gray Azteca I bought in early 1980 (with my leftover Christmas money!) is the standard wild dapple version. So either he was a variation who was quickly replaced with a more standardized paint job, or a painter might have either received less than clear painting instructions for a day. ("Paint ‘em up in dapple gray - you know, like the Running Mare and Foal.")

In either case, there weren’t a lot of them painted this way. I think I see maybe one "Gray Appaloosa" version of the Azteca a year, at best. It took me quite a while to acquire my specimen, and I’ve had no luck in upgrading him since then.

This brings up an important point: dapple gray paint jobs from the late 1970s throughout most of the 1980s were not very durable - in some cases, they’ll rub right off with a little vigorous handling! That’s because by then Breyer had abandoned giving them the clear topcoat that acted as a sealer. It wasn’t until near the end of the 1980s that they "reformulated" the way resist dapple gray paint jobs were done, and made them a little less prone to everyday wear and tear.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Original Black Beauty

I have a small confession to make: I don’t like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. Most of my attempts to read it ended with me throwing my copy against the nearest wall. It’s not something I normally do with any book that displeases me, so I’ll just chalk it up to my low tolerance for Victorian sentimentality.

When you grow up in an environment encrusted with Victoriana, you either learn to love that particular aesthetic, or ignore it … and I don’t love it. I’m more of a gee-whiz, streamlined, hope-for-a-better-future Art Deco gal. (A bit of a contradiction for someone who researches history, I know.)

On the other hand, I do like Breyer’s early Black Beauties: not the seemingly endless reissues and reinterpretations of the horse from the book, but the color itself.

The color "Black Beauty" first appeared in the ca. 1953 catalog sheets, in reference to the Western Horse and Pony: the Western Horse is #58, and the Western Pony is #44. By 1958, the number on the Western Pony changes to #40, the Western Horse disappears completely, and the Fury/Prancer is now listed as being available in this color. From the 1958 price list:

The term is not used as a color descriptor, but as a proper name. Here’s another part of that 1958 price list that clarifies this point: the model doesn’t come in "Black Beauty," it is Black Beauty:

The Black Beauty terminology is dropped in the 1960 Dealer’s Catalog, and the color simply becomes "Black." The Western Horse reappears in this color, too, as #50. A Mission Supply House mailer from ca. 1961 still refers to all three as "Black Beauty," but Red Bird Sales pages from roughly the same time period call them "Black."

Confused yet? It gets worse: there are at least three different variations of this color!

The earliest "Black Beauties" - the #44 Pony, and the #58 Horse - were solid, glossy black plastic, with metallic gold hooves and trim. The Prancer never came in this variation, as far as I know. It may have been discontinued by 1955, but it’s difficult to tell precisely due to the lack of paper evidence.

The second version of "Black Beauty" was the version I discussed in my last post, with four white stockings, gray hooves, and a masked star or blaze. Only the Western Pony and the Fury/Prancer came in this color. Since the #27 Fury has nearly the same paint job as the #P40 Black Beauty Prancer, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. Black Fury/Prancers are usually only identified as #P40 Prancers if they still have their original chain reins and western saddles.

Both the Western Pony and the Fury/Prancer were used in Horse and Rider sets in this color, adding to the confusion. Some of the Horse and Rider set Fury/Prancers had the wider, Davy Crockett Horse blazes, but not all. This variation appears in the 1958 Dealer’s Catalog.

Dating this color variation is very difficult, especially since they share the same issue number - and markings - as the Plum Browns. The Plum Browns predate the Blacks, and probably "evolved" into the Black Beauties once they ran out of the colored acetate: all they had to do was change the name on the pricelist, and carry on.

All three models came in the third and final version of "Black Beauty." This color is quite distinctive, and in my opinion is the most attractive of the three: bald face, 4 stockings, a white tail tip, and silver trim on the saddle and molded on tack:

This color also varies the most of the three: the markings can be white plastic, or overpainted, or some combination of the two; handpainted eyewhites are also sometimes seen.

A Western Horse in this variation appears in the 1960 Montgomery Wards catalog; it’s possible that they may have started manufacturing it up to a year earlier, but until more evidence shows up, we can never really know for sure.

The same can be said for their discontinuation dates: all we have are rough boundaries here. They all appear in the ca. 1960 Dealer’s Catalog, and are all gone from the 1963 Dealer’s Catalog. I’m pretty sure the Fury/Prancer mold, with the exception of Fury himself, was discontinued in 1961. But according to the Red Bird Sales pages, the Western Horse was still available in 1962.

All three variations are fairly rare; I’ve been told that the solid blacks are the rarest of the three, but it’s hard for me to judge. I purchased a primo pair back in 1980 (one of my earliest "hobby" purchases) and consequently haven’t paid too much attention to their market prices.

I’ve had the most trouble finding the silver-tipped third version, but I think that’s mostly an issue of condition, not availability. Since most third version models were molded in white plastic, and not black, rubs are just more prevalent - or noticeable.