Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Midnight Sun Mystery

You’d think that a day that featured ducks with hats, boat anchors and a trip to the bead store would have been more entertaining than it actually was. It wasn’t bad, mind you, but it definitely had the potential to be epic.

It did leave me a little bit exhausted, so today’s another light research day. Let’s talk about another picture another horse that became a Breyer model. Here’s Midnight Sun:

What’s different here is that the picture has just as interesting a story behind it as the model itself. I found it at the local flea market - a market so awesome it’s where other antiquers do their shopping, and where I make most of my fabulous finds.

There used to be quite a few horse farms in the area, and running across framed horse prints or photographs isn’t that unusual. What made this particular print stand out was the size - 24 by 28 inches, framed and matted! And beautifully hand-tinted, an obvious labor of love. It was cheap - I think the vendor was only asking five bucks for it. How could I possibly pass it by?

My first reaction when I saw it was "Ooh, that has to be Midnight Sun!" Or at least someone with a strong family resemblance; the photograph didn’t show up in my initial research, so I just assumed it might have been one of his foals. Eventually, someone either on Blab or Haynet did track the photograph down in an early 1950s encyclopedia and it was, indeed, Midnight Sun himself. (Whoever you were, thank you!)

It made me wonder how this picture ended up in Michigan, of all places. Most of the non-model horse materials I find around here relate to horse racing, of both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred variety. (I find a little bit of Polo-related stuff, too. Apparently a big thing in Detroit in the 1920s!) A huge portrait of a Tennessee Walking Horse Stallion stands out.

I didn’t get many clues from the vendor. I had engaged in the usual flea market banter with him, and the only information he could offer was that the picture, and his other horsey items (books and tack, mostly) came from an estate sale in Tennessee. The picture still had its paper label on the back, indicating that it had been framed in Nashville, so that part rang true.

It was the faint inscription in pencil that’s bothered me, though. I won’t try to give you a close up of the section in question; it’s more impression than pigment, and impossible to photograph. It took me a while to translate it, but it reads:

"To Mrs. Eddie Eggert, Harlinsdale Farm"

Oh dear. It’s not just a nice picture of Midnight Sun - it seems that this might be an honest-to-goodness Midnight Sun artifact. Do I possibly own something I’m not supposed to own?

I haven’t really followed up on the possibility, yet. If someone wants it back, I have no problem in returning it. It’s just sorta been a low priority, and I rather like having this mystery hanging in my office.

Anyway, back to the model itself. The Midnight Sun model isn’t based on Midnight Sun, it’s probably based - at least partly - on a sculpture of his infamous son, The Talk of the Town. Infamous in that his weird, exaggerated gait was responsible for setting in motion the "Big Lick" notion that’s been the bane of the breed ever since.

The sculpture in question is by Grand Wood Carving, a Chicago-based manufacturer of fine art quality wood carvings, whose sculpture of Whirlaway was copied by Breyer as the #36 Racehorse, and whose entire line may have been the inspiration for the Woodgrain Finish. Here’s a scan of a lousy multi-generational copy that I have in my archives:

The story of Grand Wood Carving’s Breyer connections and coincidences is enough to fill at least a week’s worth of posts, and I don’t have the time or energy to go into it today. (I'll get to eventually, no worries.)

Anyway, the original mold was created as a generic Tennessee Walking Horse, not a portrait model. Peter Stone asked for suggestions of famous TWHs from the association down in Tennessee, and they offered up Midnight Sun. Unfortunately, Peter didn’t do any follow up research, or provide samples of the future model to the right persons who would have set him straight. Midnight Sun was flat shod, and came from the pre-Big Lick era!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Smoking Hot

Another rough week, over with.

Finished doing the purge today - and it wasn’t quite as drastic as I thought, or hoped for. I did not expect to be so unreasonably attached to certain molds, for one thing (the Cantering Welsh Pony? Really?)

But the process is as done as it’s going to be, except for the selling. I am most definitely not welcoming that; I’m contemplating on the wisdom of getting a table at the swap meet this year instead of dealing with all the fuss and bother of eBay or MH$P.

Of course, now I have the immediate issue of where I’m going to store all of my "new" sales items. It’s only going to get worse, now that the flea market season is almost upon us, too. While I’ve been pretty good about staying out of the stores and off of eBay, I feel like I have a moral obligation to rescue any lost little equine souls I happen to find there.

I’ll just have to postpone worrying about it until it actually becomes an issue. I have enough real problems to deal with at the moment.

So Reeves announced the QuarterFest and BreyerWest SRs: the Gloss Dapple Gray Lady Phase "Smokin Hot Chic" and the light chestnut/dark palomino El Pastor "Escondido," respectively. They both seem quite nice, given the photographs they’ve provided. I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be adding either to my herd due to the ongoing space issues, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Of the two, I’d pick the El Pastor over the Lady Phase; I have a soft spot for the Spanish Breeds, and I already have the earlier version of the Dapple Gray Lady Phase, with black points and the resist dapples. A second dapple gray would be nice, but not a necessity.

Here’s a nifty old file photo of the real El Pastor, from the October 1969 issue of Western Horseman. The similarity of the El Pastor mold to this photograph (right down to the swish of his tail!) makes me wonder if Chris Hess used this photo as one of his sculpting references.

I have to say I’ve been quite amused by the frenzied online reaction to the Lady Phase: it sort of reminded me of the good ol’ days of JAH, when they still ran classifieds. Whenever someone wrote an article about a particular mold or model, the next two or three issues would be filled with want ads begging for the featured model. (Sometimes quite literally: "If you have any free models, send them to me!" ads were just as much a nuisance then as now.)

It makes me wonder if one of the factors influencing the online frenzy is the same absence of information that drove the desires found in the JAH classifieds. You’d think that with all of the information available online, that hobbyists would be somewhat more informed about upcoming and current releases, but it’s just not the case. How many times have you seen some new SR or variation discussed to death on some online forum, only to see it brought up a few days or weeks later by a clueless someone who thinks they found something new and mysterious?

(Seriously people, would it kill you to do 30 seconds of research before you post something? Gah!)

The somewhat more muted reaction to the Escondido tells me that most of the crazy for Smokin Hot Chic is it being a combination of "Lady Phase" and "Gloss Finish." I like Lady Phase, but I’m not going to lose my mind if I don’t get one. A lack of space and money tends to reorder your priorities that way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stud Spider's Wraps

Hey, look what I found in the rubble - my Stud Spider leg wraps!

These wraps came with a nice old Stud Spider I bought on eBay a few years ago. I’m pretty sure he was actually one of the original 1977 Gift Set releases from the J.C. Penney’s catalog; the model has all the hallmarks of an early piece - the more intricate blanket masking, and a neatly airbrushed short sock. (The original release of the Stud Spider has quite a complex series of subtle and not so subtle paint and masking changes - intricate enough that I’ll have to cover them another day.)

Here’s the picture of "Stud Spider" in his rocking red wraps, from the 1977 catalog. Note that the model isn’t actually Stud Spider, but an Appaloosa Performance Horse test piece stand-in. I’m guessing that the mold still wasn’t ready when the catalog photo shoot took place earlier that year.

The 1977 Christmas release was the only set where the leg wraps were actually included as a part of the Gift Set. They had been planned all along; they were specifically mentioned in the Spring 1977 issue of JAH, in an article discussing Stud Spider’s imminent release:

The sculpture of "Stud Spider" has been completed and will be available in a Breyer gift set. The set will include an informative booklet on Appaloosas and leg wraps for "Stud Spider". Look for "James Brolin’s Stud Spider" this Fall.

But they were not included in the subsequent mass market version of the #3080 Stud Spider Gift Set in 1978.

Why were they canceled? Was it a quality control issue, a safety issue, or simply one of cost? I have no idea. They’re pretty cheesy looking, so quality control is my bet.

Whatever the reason, it was obviously a last minute decision, because the leg wraps did make their debut later in that year - separately, as a special offer through the Spring 1978 Just About Horses. (The very first issue I received as a subscriber!) They were subsequently available through the Bentley Sales Company, and possibly other mail-order firms. I remember them being available for a number of years afterwards, so they obviously had a ton of them.

Yes, I was a dork and ordered a set, though I’m not entirely sure where they are now. Probably in that big box of miscellaneous Breyer tack lurking in my closet.

I don’t hold out a lot of hope of finding them in salvageable condition, if they’re still in there. I had to put the ones I received with my eBay Spider in a plastic sleeve with archival cardboard backing because they’re slowly and rather messily distintegrating. (Those black flecks in the background? Not dirt!) They were backed with foam rubber, and anyone whose had any experience with older Fighting Stallions knows that foam rubber doesn’t age well, even in the most archival of conditions.

There’s a chance that the leg wraps were bought separately and included in the auction by sheer coincidence, but the physical clues seem to point towards my early Stud Spider being a true 1977 release, thus making the leg wraps plausibly original. He didn’t come with his box or any other documentation, so I can’t be 100% sure.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ice, Ice Baby!

I just found out over the weekend that this "remodeling" process will leave me with 30 feet less shelf space. So a modest culling of the herd has now turned into a major one.

It would have been nice if they had told me about this when the process started two years ago, when I could have modified my spending habits slightly, and done a less drastic accommodation over time. Nope.

And since I can neither afford to move out, or rent a storage unit, I must now add "significant herd reduction" to my list of labors. I’ve managed to get about two-thirds of the way through so far, with a busy work week ahead.

That means less intricate topics for the interim, I guess. The Tenite stuff will have to be put on the backburner.

The next Collector’s Choice selections are up for voting, and for once, I actually really like all three: a Flaxen Chestnut Bouncer, a Gloss Charcoal Pinto Big Ben, and a Gloss Dapple Chocolate Ethereal.

My favorite is the Ethereal: I love that color. If it’s anywhere near the color of a true Rocky Mountain Horse, he’ll be stunning in person. We can’t be sure from the photo: as usual, the image available to us is awful, and too small to manipulate effectively in Photoshop.

I hope it doesn’t hurt his chances in the voting. It’d be nice to have a more affordable, regular run Ethereal in the line. All of the other releases on this mold have either been limited, or expensive. All I have is the 2007 BreyerFest Times Square (whom I love, and is not being culled - no way!)

He’s also my favorite for another reason: the name. There was a rather heated discussion about the Web Special Silver Snow on Blab when he came out; some hobbyists wanted Reeves to produce more of them to satisfy the obvious demand - and to cover confirmed orders that were canceled later in the week. I wasn’t keen on the idea for a multitude of ideas: it would set a bad precedent, the value of the model was partially dependent on the initial piece count, etc. My suggestion was a second December Web Special with a similar piece count: a Gloss Charcoal Othello that I called "Black Ice."

The Ethereal would make a more than adequate substitute, I think. (And for the record, I’m not taking credit for the idea; it’s just a happy coincidence. I also happen to think that some ideas are so strong and so natural that they come up again and again. You know, like Dapple Gray Lady Phases.)

I was initially put off by Ethereal’s rather florid appearance when he finally arrived on the scene in 2006, but I’ve warmed up to the mold considerably since then. I’m not big into "fancified" horses with big hair, but it works on him. He has a beautiful silhouette, too; I was big into making Breyer silhouettes a few years ago, and I was struck by his lovely contours:

(Roemer makes a nice silhouette, too. Really!)

There was a Chocolate Silver Dapple Ethereal in the 2008 BreyerFest Auctions. I can’t recall him specifically, since most auction pieces get filed into the "beautiful but unattainable" part of my brain, and that file gets purged on a regular basis, just to minimize my suffering.

Whether or not I really love an individual auction piece tends to be irrelevant to the purging process. The ones I do remember tend to hit some hot button - a new technique or color, or the reintroduction of an old one. Or it's a rare combination of mold, color and markings, like the Dark Bay/Brown Peruvian Paso with the heavily-spotted stockings. (Favorite mold + a favorite color + favorite markings = Swoon!)

From the photos I’ve seen of him online, that piece seems to be lighter than the proposed Black Ice, but with the quality of the Reeves’s photos, who knows? We’ll have to see how the voting turns out first, and whether we’ll even get to see him on the shelf.

I am concerned that the type of voting poll they’ve enlisted this time around allows for multiple votes from anonymous voters. I am not fond of anonymous online polls: you sacrifice accuracy for the convenience of automation. A few overly enthusiastic voters with too much time on their hands could seriously sway the outcome of the vote, and not necessarily towards the will of the regular voting public.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On Radar

Overtime this week, again. The money is greatly appreciated, but I’d rather be here, writing. (Or even better, have a job that involves writing. I think the folks conducting SETI are getting more of a response to their search than I am to mine. Anyone want a copy of my resume? Relocating is not a problem!)

So Radar is Roy. Hmm, didn’t see that coming. I thought they’d go with a lower price point like they’ve done with the past couple of "tent specials," but maybe the relatively simple paint job is the cost-cutting move here.

We haven’t seen Roy in a while - over a decade, in fact, with the 740 Percheron Cross in Black, and the 1999 Sears Holiday SR in Alabaster. He’s pleasant enough a mold - not a favorite, but I don’t dislike him, either. Part of the problem is that most of the colors he’s been released in have been uninspiring; I think it says something that my favorite color on him is the Black. The 1992 Liver Chestnut’s not bad, either, but I’d like that color on almost any mold.

I know Francis Eustis has a lot of fans in the model horse community, but I’m not one of them. It has nothing to do with whether or not Roy is a faithful translation of Eustis’s work, or the rumored friction between him and Breyer. It’s entirely subjective: most of his work - though well-done from a technical standpoint - simply does not move or inspire to me. End of story.

Now, if I happened to find a Eustis Original somewhere in my travels, for a reasonable price, I’d certainly not hesitate to rescue it. (I did find one once, locally; the price was … amusing.) I would probably turn around and sell it to someone else who’d appreciate it more. I might hesitate a bit if it were one of his Drafts; I like his Drafts more than the rest of his work. His reverence for the heavy horses really shines through them.

I have an interesting article about Eustis in my archives; there was a long and well-illustrated article about him in the August 1970 issue of Western Horseman, "Animal Sculptor and Painter: F.W. Eustis." Here’s a photo from the article of him working in his studio:

Another interesting note: on the third page of the article, there’s also an announcement of the winners of Breyer’s "Name the Yearling" Contest. The contest was not a Western Horseman exclusive, but Breyer did promote it heavily there - another topic for another time, of course. A number of the names included on the list of winners were variations of Roy, inspired by the fact that the contest’s prize was a yearling sired by Roy Deck.

And 19 years later, Breyer releases a Eustis-sculpted model, named Roy. Just a coincidence, I’m sure, but a spooky-cool one!

So anyway, as you might have guessed, I’m not quite as enthused about the Radar as the chattering class on Blab are. I’ll have to see a better photograph before I make my decision; if the paint job is anything like that of the UK SR "Strikey," it might sway me. They seem to have done a nice job detailing out his face, so I will try to be optimistic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Friday Morning Madness

There will be no fussing about March Madness brackets and predictions here; basketball was more my Dad’s thing, and since he’s been gone I haven’t had the heart, or courage, to watch even a fraction of a game.

I used to be pretty good at that sort of thing; when other little girls were fantasizing about being ballerinas, doctors and airplane pilots, I dreamed of being a handicapper - much to the horror of my elementary school teachers, surely. (I still have my notebooks of racing statistics I kept, tucked away in my relic boxes somewhere.)

The only "Madness" I’m interesting in handicapping in nowadays is the Friday Morning Madness now known as the NPOD.

For the uninitiated, NPOD = Ninja Pit of Death. It’s the "affectionate" nickname for the early Friday morning sales crush in the Breyer Sales Tent, where several hundred people attempt to fit into a roped off area slightly larger than my living room. The objective: grabbing whatever leftover warehouse goodies are to be had before anyone else does.

Last year’s Pit left a less-than-pleasant taste in my mouth that still lingers, which is why I’ve sort of avoided the subject since then. I’m not completely soured on the experience yet; I’ve found some real treasures in the NPOD over the years, and I still hold out hope for more.

I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about buying any more horses right now. It’s that time of year when I’m not even certain I can make it to Kentucky this year, much less brave the indignities of the NPOD. Everything seems so uncertain right now: job, money, life.

But it is also almost Spring. And what good is Spring without hope?

So here’s a few predictions about the contents of this year’s NPOD:

There’s the usual stuff we see every year, more or less: early releases of the Holiday items, Mid-Years, the J.C. Penney’s Catalog items (this year, and last), the first batch or two of Tractor Supply and/or Mid-States Specials, some Fun Day Classics, and maybe leftover Target Pony Gals odd and ends.Some early releases of the WEG exclusives? No doubt.

Then there’s the Ghosts of BreyerFests Past: Buttercream, Cotton Candy, Party Time, Cupcake and probably a few of last year’s POA Toby. Older things, too, depending on what they unearth in the warehouse.

The last several JAH Specials haven’t sold out, and I doubt the Grazing Mare and Foal set "Cream and Cocoa" did either: beautiful paint jobs, not so beautiful prices. That’s a no brainer. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more Party Girls show up too.

Another no brainer: last year’s Dealer Special Autumn. Another beautiful paint job, and well-received. But do the math: An average JAH Special runs about 1500 pieces, and they haven’t been selling out. They made 2000 of the Autumn - a better price, and a slightly different distribution strategy, but still pretty plentiful.

There might still be a few Medalist Ponies left: they managed to run through the Bronzes and Golds in last year’s Grab Bags, but I didn’t hear many (any?) reports of Silvers being shipped. Were there fewer of the Silvers left, or had they not gotten to them yet by the time the program expended itself? We’ll find out.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the Web Specials. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect to see Rileys and the Summer Solstices, and perhaps a few more gloss Summer Solstices. Some of the online "combo" exclusives - the horse and book, or horse and tack packages also sold through Shopatron might show up, too, though most folks will be passing over them looking for "more exclusive" things - unless those combos unexpectedly come with unadvertised SRs.

The Connoisseurs? I don’t know. I know lots of hobbyists are beginning to suspect that the Fighting Bull "The Widow Maker" will be showing up: apparently they’re still sending letters from the back up list, which isn’t a good sign because the drawing was back in October. He was pricey, and some hobbyists avoid anything non-horse, so I guess it’s possible. I dunno.

The handful of leftover Halloween Missouri Fox Trotters from last year’s Lone Star Experience are also a puzzle. Everyone at the event had a second chance at them, so theoretically there shouldn’t be any complaint IF they end up in the tent. But after last year’s VRE fiasco, Reeves probably thinks those models are radioactive. Raffles and prizes may be a better bet for them, unless they actually follow through on their promise to limit "Sample sales items" to one per person.

(Which would be sensible, as would a numbering system for early risers. But they haven’t, don’t seem likely to, and I don’t have the authority to implement.)

Will there be other specials in the Tent, a la Toby? If you’ve been reading the literature, you’ll know this to be so: the draft horse "Radar" will have his own exclusive in the Tent. What model this will be I don’t know. The logical choice would be the Classic Shire, except that the mold has a bit too much feathering for him. (I know, I know, since when has a little historical or breed accuracy stopped Reeves?) Like Toby, I think he’ll be fairly limited, but still plentiful, unless he turns out to be drop dead gorgeous or is more limited than Toby’s 750 piece run.

Anything else? I still hold out hope for the slightly defective Play Mat Stock Horses: they’d easily sell through at a buck or two, as bodies. I wouldn’t mind seeing more bodies in general: the "whiteware" box of assorted bodies last year was a good idea in theory, if not in execution. Some collectors like having unpainted examples of their favorite molds: a better assortment of bodies, sold singly, would go over very well.

Then there’s the leftover Alborozos. They must have a few of them kicking around the warehouse. They can’t do anything with them, except paint over a few for test pieces. There’s definitely a demand for them - but I can see how getting rid of the extras could be as troublesome as the Halloween Fox Trotters.

I could go on, but it’s getting late and I have to be up early again, tomorrow. See y’all on Friday or Saturday, thereabouts.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Forgotten Belgians: SR Dark Palomino

Finally found the Tenite brochure I was looking for, yay!

I was already halfway through my next post by the time I unearthed it, so Tenite is not tonight’s subject. Another nearly forgotten Belgian is: the 1984 SR Dark Palomino Belgian, made for the Riegeseckers.

He’s nearly identical to the regular run #94 Belgian, except for the white mane and tail. Estimates put the piece count at around 200 - rare today, but not an untypical run in 1984.

Man, I remember 1984 - that was a rough year to be a college student and a Breyer collector on a budget. That year saw the release of the Buckskin Adios, the Palomino, Dapple Gray and Red Chestnut Pacers, the 7-piece G1 SM Draft Horse Set, the MHC flaxen chestnut Midnight Sun, the Kansas City Sham, the Red Roan Belgian, the Light Palomino Belgian and the Dark Palomino Belgian. And an insane amount of Holiday Catalog stuff: enough to fill up nearly two pages in the J. C. Penney’s Catalog, alone!

The number of SRs don’t come anywhere near to rivaling today’s breakneck pace, but in some ways it was way worse: it was pre-Internet. If you weren’t lucky, or well-connected, you’d easily miss out on some of the choicer items, like I did with the Dark Palomino Belgian. And you wouldn’t even know you had missed out on it until you saw it at a live show four or six months after it sold out. Oh, the pain!

Because of his similarity to both the regular run Flaxen Chestnut, and the even harder to find Light Palomino, the Dark Palomino SR was quickly forgotten. I kept him on my want list for years, even though most hobbyists I talked to had no idea who or what I was talking about.

In some ways, I figured his anonymity would work in my favor: if and when I managed to find him, I’d be able to get him for a song.

I did. I lucked out twice, in fact: first on MH$P, and then not long after on eBay, in a box lot with a bunch of other mid-1980s horses. I contemplated doing a two-horse hitch, until a lack of space and money made the decision for me.

A few years ago, Reeves released a very similar and rather popular model, the 777 Belgian. How similar? He has the chestnut body color, 4 stockings, and white mane and tail. But put them side by side, and the similiarities fade in comparison to the differences: the 777 also has a masked blaze, dark shading on his muzzle and ears, a red tail ribbon, and his right front hoof is tan, not gray.

Because of the 777 Belgian, the SR Dark Palomino still doesn’t attract much attention, or much money on the secondary market. So if you’re a Belgian lover,looking for something special to add to your collection, take a second look at the Chestnut ones. They might not be what they seem.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bacon Resistant, and Mayonnaise Proof!

You wouldn’t think that it’d take over two years to paint and wallpaper three and a half rooms, would you?

Since it probably won’t be until the end of this year before this process is apparently done, I’m going to have to soldier on without access to some of my research materials. They’re not in any apparent danger: I literally cannot reach them without moving half the contents of the room. And I can’t do that, lest I anger the gods of painting and wallpapering.

I’ll focus my attention today on one of the documents I do have access to: it’s PP-101B, Tenite Acetate - Chemical Resistance. If you want a copy for yourself, it’s available as a PDF from Eastman, the company that manufactures Tenite. I’ll give you a moment to find it via your search engine of choice, if you’d like to read along.

(Trust me, it’s worth it!)

Most of us who’ve had any extended experience with Breyers in general know that while they’re durable, they’re not indestructible. They can yellow, warp, stain, shrink, crack, ooze and all sorts of unpleasant and unattractive things. Some of it is beyond our control - the result of a bad batch of plastic, too much regrind in the mix, machine (or human) error. And other times, it’s a previous owner’s bad decisions that lead to the damage - chain smokers, we’re looking at you!

Over the years many of us have developed techniques to fix some of the more fixable damage. If I happened to have an otherwise unsalvageable horse, I wouldn’t hesitate to subject it to whatever I happened to find around the house. (Within reason, and usually in the garage.)

Silly us. All we really had to do was ask the company that made it.

This document lists several hundred chemicals, commercial and household products, and what the "Observed Condition of the Plastic" was after being exposed or immersed in it for a given period of time.

Most of the stuff that was tested was of an industrial nature - hydrocarbons, acids, esters and alcohols that most of us wouldn’t be keeping anywhere near the house or garage in the first place. The results for some of those tests are quite predictable, too: it dissolves in a solution of 10% Nitric Acid within a week. Duh!

Some of the results were a surprise: apparently mothballs (naphthalene) are not good things to keep around your horses. The results "Showed considerable plasticizer exhudation" after only 24 hours. Yikes - that sounds like oozing to me! Though I have to admit that my curiosity is now piqued; I’m tempted to toss a body in a sealed box with some dollar store mothballs to see what would happen.

The most amusement comes from the "Commercial and Natural Products" section. Everything from Jet Fuel to Coffee Grounds was tested. Toothpaste, Horseradish, Chocolate Syrup, Lard and Blood(!), too.

The reason for this eclectic mix of test subjects is that Tenite Acetate is also used in food and chemical handling and storage - the machinery that processes it, and the containers that it’s stored in. You’ll be happy to know that if you accidentally lose a model in a vat of mayonnaise, or drop it in a bowl of bacon drippings, it’ll be fine. (Unless you happen to have dogs in the house.)

Not so fine: Lipstick, Kool-Aid, Lysol, Lighter Fluid, Budweiser Lager, and Vicks Decongestant. (Sound like an interesting party to me!) Catsup, Mustard and most Gasolines also leave stains.

I could go on - the document is 13 pages long, and full of win. Who would have thought technical documentation could be so entertaining?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gold Ribbon Belgian

Sometimes I think some hobbyists get a little bit too carried away with the concept of variations. Remember when those slightly semi-gloss, slightly-nicer-than-average Smarty Jones models were found in Grab Bags last year? The fuss was all out of proportion to the amount of variation, I thought.

Yeah, some of them were pretty sweet, but they were also within the range of normal variation for any average, regular-run model. It wasn’t something intentional or planned. A little scouting or judicious handpicking through your favorite dealer could have netted you a model just like it, or better, without the begging on MHSP or the mess of unloading the rest of your Grab Bag.

On the flip side, there are many models that are ignored or undervalued because their subtle differences from the norm - or from similar runs - are missed completely. An excellent example of this is a permanent resident of my office, this SR Dapple Gray Belgian:

Can you see what makes him special, rare and different from the half-dozen other Dapple Gray SR Belgians? It’s not the powder-matte finish, the sparse dappling, or the black mane and tail.

The tail ribbon is painted metallic gold.

He’s the rarely seen - or shall we say, rarely recognized - special run from Eighmey’s Wagon Shop in Waterloo, Iowa, released in 1986. Not many were made - my guess would be in the 150-200 piece range, similar to the equally hard to find Palomino and Dark Palomino SRs from roughly the same time period.

He’s very similar to another SR Belgian released a short time later - through a number of mail order dealers, mostly notably Your Horse Source - though that one came with a yellow tail ribbon with red crosshatching. They made significantly more of that SR, probably around 450-500 pieces; he’s nowhere near as rare as the gold-ribboned one.

I missed out on the gold-ribbon Belgian when he first came out. Maybe I didn’t have the money at the time, or I didn’t hear about him until after he sold out, or I was distracted by something else. I really can’t remember.

Several years later I found one for sale at BreyerFest - just a few rooms down from my own, at the HIN. The seller was quite surprised when I recognized him for what he was - and that I didn’t object to the price. (The price wasn’t high - it was just more than the more common red and yellow-ribboned one.) She had brought him because another buyer had expressed an interest in him initially; it was late Saturday night, and it was obvious that the buyer had either lost interest, or lacked money.

So he came home with me, instead.

The Belgian mold was prone to subtle, hard-to-differentiate SRs in the 1980s - likely the result of cost cutting, not a lack of imagination. I don’t know who was planned or ordered first, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Eighmey’s SR and the slightly later SR were manufactured concurrently. Make one big batch of Matte Dapples - put gold ribbons on the pieces going to Eighmey’s, and yellow and red ribbons going to everyone else.

Two different SRs, for the cost of one. Less cost = more profit!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jewelry Type Stuff

I’ve been mired in spring cleaning and administrative non-horse nonsense all week. I also managed to resolve to long-standing problems, both in my favor (though one will mean slightly less income. Totally okay with that.) That means I should be back to my regular posting schedule by next week.

The posts about the injection molding process will be delayed slightly, however, since my research materials on the subject are still lost in the chaos. I’m also trying to find the right balance of trivia and useful information that’ll make you all sound both smart and funny at your next live show, dinner party, or job interview.

I did find a little time today to skim the BreyerFest Supplement. In particular, I was looking over the workshop descriptions. I’m not really interested in attending any - heck, I could probably teach at least half of them - but I am curious to see what’s going on in those parts of BreyerFest that I don’t normally attend. A lot of hobbyists (myself included) get a little too wrapped up in their little niches, and I think it’s necessary and useful to go exploring outside of one’s comfort zone every once and a while.

Even still, it did seem a little odd to see two jewelry workshops in the lineup at BreyerFest. Looking through my BreyerFest ephemera I see that it’s something that’s been going on for a few years now. I know jewelry making a popular activity right now, but I didn’t realize it was popular enough in the hobby to support two workshops. Interesting.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; I took a class at a local community college couple of years ago myself and loved every minute of it. (I got to play with fire, hammers and anvils!) Jewelry of an equine nature is in plentiful supply in the hobby, and there’s no shortage of jewelry artists plying their customized wares at the HIN every year, either.

But I can’t help but think of these workshops as marketing support for Reeves’s "Equine Jewelry Collection," the new Enchantmints Jewelry and Music Box line, and possibly as an exploration of the market for jewelry making kit in the Craft Kit lineup.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m totally down with all of these ideas - especially a Craft Kit if it manages to incorporate MiniWhinnies somehow (like a charm bracelet. I’d totally buy that - one to make, and one to keep MIB, ‘natch.) While I may not have much room in the house for more plastic ponies, there’s still plenty of space in my jewelry box.

Alas, the price points for the Equine Jewelry Collection are just too rich for my blood, even for the Sterling Silver pieces. Until the prices drop, or my income increases, most of my jewelry acquisitions will continue to be of a DIY nature.

The Enchantmints stuff is cute - maybe a little too cute. The market may skew heavily to the feminine side, but that doesn’t mean we’re all into the girly-girl stuff. I like jewelry and shoes and shopping for clothes, but I’m definitely not down with the pink and pastels. I wanted to be a princess, too, but the kind that got to carry a sword and fight dragons and ride horses. In addition to wearing a tiara and a sash and having lavish parties with foreign dignitaries and all that jazz.

What does any of this have to do with Breyer History? Not a whole lot, other than the usual hair-pulling documentation issues. I’ll have something more model-related in my next post.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Black Scratch Fever

(Scheduling issues again. The rest of the week is free and clear, thank goodness.)

I think of all the Fun Foals that have come out - barring any last minute surprises - the Black Scratching Foal is my favorite.

I’ve wanted a Solid Black Scratching Foal for a while - a really long while, actually. When I first entered the hobby back in the late 1970s, I read either a rumor or an ad that mentioned an all-black Scratching Foal, and I immediately wanted it with every fiber of my being. (You know, the way any 15 year old girl wants anything.)

I’m not sure why a Solid Black Scratching Foal tickled my fancy so back then. There were lots of rumors of lots of other "Solid Black" test colors - and some actual, genuine Solid Black special runs - but nope, the Scratching Foal was the one I really wanted. It was a foal, it was cute, and it was rare. That was enough to do it, I guess.

(I did buy the Solid Black Mustang and the Family Arabians, eventually. Our special run options were a little more limited back then.)

I’d occasionally run across an alleged one or two, but careful inspection would always reveal the truth: Fake. It was the splash spots on the Foal's butt that would be the tell: painted over, they’d leave a slight raised edge, visible in raking light.

I did get pretty close with one - a cull from the estate of a former Breyer employee I purchased on eBay a while back. Check out that cute roany butt:

I have at least three other Black Appaloosa Scratching Foals - the original one I got for Christmas in 1978, one with a Blue Ribbon Sticker, and one without the USA mark. The one without the USA mark is probably the rarest of the three; the mold debuted in 1970, the same year that the USA mark was added to most - but not all - existing Breyer molds.

The 1970 Dealer Catalog features a photo of a test Scratching Foal with four stockings. Here’s a scan of my not-so-great copy. I have a better copy somewhere, but it’s still lost in the chaos.

I’ve looked in vain for this variation. (How else do you think I ended up with four different Black Appaloosa Scratching Foals?) I don’t think it exists beyond the original test piece, or pieces. Many Appaloosa Scratching Foals have gray hooves; sometimes the gray shading extends up the leg a little, giving the illusion of socks. But that’s as close as most of us will get, barring the appearance of more culls or test colors.

Just one more note here: you might notice the clean edge to the Catalog Scratcher’s blanket. It’s not masked: it’s "neatly" airbrushed. The painter would paint the outline of the blanket first, then paint up to that outline. It's not just a catalog thing: I’ve noticed quite a few of the early Black Appaloosas - the Running Stallion, Lying Down Foal, and the Scratching Foal - came with very neatly airbrushed blankets.

I don’t know if it was a specified technique for a while, or a quirk of one painter or group of painters. A similar technique was used on early versions of Jasper, the Market Hog - but that was probably an instance where they were making do until the painting masks were ready.

The earliest Stud Spiders - the ones sold in the 1977 J. C. Penney’s Christmas Catalog, and into early 1978 - had very neatly airbrushed front socks, too, so I’m thinking that the outline trick was just another technique in the painter’s arsenal of tricks - being able to substitute skill, for stencil.

At least until the production quotas started catching up with you.