Friday, April 30, 2010

Rejoice, and my Opinion of Opinions

The birthday was not unpleasant; I got a new paper shredder, some spendy cash, and dinner was topped off with Bumpy Cake. (A local delicacy - basically a giant chocolate cupcake with two layers of frosting. Add a scoop of chocolate ice cream to that, and you’ll be napping to bedtime. Which is exactly what I did.)

Then the mail came and my new driver’s license was in it. Gah! The makeup didn’t help. It’s not awful, per se, but I definitely don’t look well - I look more like a potential organ recipient than a potential organ donor.

Speaking of bad photographs, the usual nattering nabobs of negativity are ripping up the newest Connoisseur model - a homozygous bay pinto Rejoice, named "Pandora" - based on what’s clearly another awful photo job. How many times do we have to go over this, folks? Never judge a Breyer by its PR photo.

(And c’mon Reeves, you’re no better! It takes all of what - fifteen minutes? - to lighten, brighten and do a little minor color correction in Photoshop. I’m still trying to figure out what color Hollywood Glamour is supposed to be!)

I prefer the Rejoice mold to the Clock Saddlebred. It has nothing to do with anatomy or breed correctness: she’s more lively and animated than the Clock Saddlebred, who seems a little bit like a poseur to me. I think I have the same number of examples of each in my collection, though with BreyerFest (and maybe, the Connoisseur drawing) that may change soon.

One of my all-time favorite BreyerFest Specials is my lovely, lovely Gwendolyn, one of the more desirable specials for 2005. She was already at the top of my list before I arrived in Kentucky that year; her scarcity and striking looks made her many hobbyists’ top pick, as well. I got lucky and managed to snag one of the last ones in my line time:

I love her color - whatever it was supposed to be. I presume it was an attempt to create a shaded black with a metallic sheen, since it’s not too dissimilar to Summer Solstice, and the Bluegrass Bandit "Devil’s Food Cake," who were both advertised as such. Whether it’s actually realistic or not is not a concern of mine; she looks good in the paint job, and that’s all that matters to me.

As far as the "metallic" debate goes (which - good grief! - managed to ooze over into Haynet during Blab’s down time last week) I’m not a hater. Sure, there have been a few instances where I think Reeves has gone a bit overboard with the metallic paint, but I think that’s been the exception, not the rule. A healthy horse, well-groomed, does shimmer; a little touch of metallic in the paint actually adds to the realism.

I wish I could find the picture I took at a BreyerFest several years ago of the Haflinger Aristocrat TOF to illustrate my point; you’ll just have to trust my word and my memory here. He and a few other guest horses were walking past the crowds assembling near the tent for the raffle drawing; the light of the afternoon sun raked across his chestnut coat, and at that moment he looked just like a living, breathing Golden Charm. I remember turning to the person next to me and remarking "And some people say that Decorators aren’t realistic!"

From the commentary on the boards, though, you’d think that metallic paint was the Worst! Idea! Evar! in the history of model horsedom. I suspected that the reality was a little bit different, and probably more in line with my closer-to-neutral opinion.

Not because I think my opinion is always right, but because I don’t think Reeves would be doing something for so long if the models weren’t selling.

A poll on Blab from several months back backs me up on my opinion of the opinion. As I’ve explained before, I don’t normally hold most online polls in very high regard; they’re just too easy to manipulate. This poll was a little bit different: it only allowed a user a single vote, and the voter’s name was attached to it. You couldn’t "swing" the poll one way or another, unless you managed to persuade your compadres to vote likewise.

And the majority opinion? Most folks were fine with metallics, as long as they were done well, and within moderation.

So what explains the disparity?

I've struggled for half a day trying to come up with an elegant, inoffensive way of putting this, but the brain just isn't cooperating, so I'll just plow right to the heart of it, instead: just because a small handful of people - or even one person - expresses the same opinion over and over (and over and over ...) does not mean that their opinion represents the majority. One opinionated person expressing the same opinion twenty times is not the same as twenty different people expressing the same opinion, even if it takes up the same amount of bandwidth.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Semi-Pinto Charolais

It rained yesterday, so no flea marketing to report. I’m not as upset about it as I should be, because we really, really needed the rain. My garden was looking pretty pathetic! (With all the weeding and cleaning I did today, I think I can safely upgrade it to just "sad-looking.")

I see Reeves added a charm bracelet to their jewelry line, in addition to adding a new charm "Passion" (Huck Bey). A charm bracelet - what a surprise! Not. They’re also selling the charms and the chains separately; the chunkier chain’s more my style, but everything’s still a little too pricey for me.

I certainly wouldn’t object to a piece or two if someone were to give them to me as, say, a birthday gift… (Which is this week, in case I’m being too subtle here.)

To wrap up the bull kick I’ve been on this week, here’s one more oddball from the herd; I call him my "semi-pinto" Charolais, for obvious reasons:

Both sides are similar: light brown airbrushed "pinto" patches on his chest, hindquarters and behind his shoulders, similar to the airbrushed chestnut pintos of the early 1970s, or the later Medicine Hat Thoroughbred Mare and Suckling Foal. The areas are quite distinct; there’s little attempt to blend it in to the rest of the body.

I found him on eBay several years ago; I’ve seen a few others since then, so it must have been a short-term production variation. Most run-of-the-mill Charolais Bulls have little in the way of body shading - some on the legs, a little on his chest and underside, but subtle and more gracefully shaded, usually.

I have no idea if he’s from early in the production run, or late; the other qualities of the paint job suggest "later" to me, but I’m just guessing. He could be early; he’s very reminiscent of the well-known early "super-shaded" Charolais variation, a model much in demand by Breyer aficionados everywhere. They look much like the photograph seen in the 1975 Dealer’s Catalog:

Sigh. So handsome.

I don’t have an actual "super-shaded" Charolais myself; he’s one of those models who, while not exceedingly rare, always manages to slip from my grasp. (The early Traditional Man o’ War with eyewhites is another who taunts me this way.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Charolais Specials, Part II

Clearly, there was some sort of relationship between Robbins Metal Craft and Breyer, beyond that of buyer and supplier: Breyer was not only manufacturing models specifically for the company, they were providing them photographs for their sales brochure.

But here’s the funny thing: there’s no mention of the word Breyer in the brochure. There was no mention of Breyer in the packaging either, or at least in the one complete Weathervane I purchased off of eBay several years ago:

Yep, the Simmental Bull, Mint in Box. It cost me a pretty penny - way more than I usually spend - but it was shortly after I had sold one of those early AQHA Ideal Quarter Horses, also MIB, for an almost equally absurd sum, so it worked out for me. (Remember the astronomical sums people were paying for them, not that long ago? Ah, the mysterious economy of eBay!) Here's a better shot of the assembly instructions:

I think I got the better deal, of course - how many MIB Breyer Weathervanes are out there, anyway - and a special run, to boot? But, I digress.

So how do we classify these things? My first tendency is to classify all of them - even the "Regular Run" items - as Special Runs, but with the eternal caveat: only if you’ve got the evidence or provenance to prove it. Just like the fakesters out there glossing up run-of-the-mill regular run critters, anybody could - theoretically - drill a hole through any given model and claim it’s a Weathervane SR.

The kind of evidence you’d need would be something like the original box, the original weathervane it was mounted on, or the visible evidence that it was factory painted after - not before - being drilled. (A fully assembled and mounted weathervane in a showring? Now that’d be a sight to behold!)

Just how rare are these things, anyway? It’s hard to tell. If you do a little Internet snooping, you can even see that Robbins is still in business, and still has a few Breyer weathervanes in stock: (click on "full-bodied" link)

It’s hard to judge which models were made, in what quantity, and over what period of time. It’s conceivable that the SRs might have been better sellers than the "regular run" items, or that many of the items listed in the brochure were never made at all - or if so, only in limited quantities. It’s yet another topic that merits much further research. For what it’s worth, the contents of my Simmental’s box were wrapped in a local Missouri newspaper, ca. 1985 (the company is based in Missouri, so I’m assuming it was original) so the SR Bulls were made, or were available, at least that long.

Another complication is the fact that, while mighty durable, Breyers don’t make ideal weathervane ornaments. If a few years of continuous exposure to the elements didn’t do most of them in, the lightning strikes certainly would have.

So, what’s the relationship between the weathervane SRs and the plain old undrilled SRs? Did Robbins sell the undrilled SRs, or were they available to other retailers and mail-order companies?

Anecdotal evidence documented in Nancy Young’s Breyer Molds & Models mentions an order form with numbers identical to the ones seen in the brochure, seen by a hobbyist lucky enough to find the (undrilled) livestock SRs for sale at a flea market back in 1985. Whether that order list was from Robbins, or another supplier, is unknown. (I’d like to think so, but I’d prefer to know so.)

Another wrinkle in this story is something from the brochure I didn’t show you last time:

Does that mean Desk Trophies = Presentation Collection? The photo is in black and white, and too murky to make out the base in any detail. I don’t think anyone has ever established who was responsible for mounting the Presentation pieces - I had always assumed someone more local to the factory, like the Riegseckers.

It truly leaves me at a loss for words. Was Robbins involved in the manufacture of the original Presentation Collection? Was it a continuation of the old program, or something new? Does that mean that the Presentation Collection may have led to the creation of the Weathervane SRs? If these models were a continuation of the Presentation program somehow, how do we classify them?

Gah! It makes my head hurt more than it already does.

To end on a slightly more amusing note, here’s a vintage Robbins ad from a 1981 Kentucky newspaper:,1704732

Ouch! I was kinda wondering how they’d mount the Fighting Stallion on the rod. Poor, punctured King!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charolais Specials, Part I

I won’t go into the gory details, but I was sick yesterday - the kind of sick that requires one to be within sprinting distance of a bathroom. I’m somewhat better today; I can swallow, stand upright, and talk in moderately coherent sentences. I did have to spackle on a couple pounds' worth of makeup to make myself look a little less cadaverous for my driver’s license photo today, though. (I was so pale, I was verging on transparent.)

Anyway, as promised, here’s a picture of my SR Shorthorn Bull:

The first thing you’ll notice is that his eyes aren’t painted - he’s a cull! A little unusual, especially for an SR as rare as he is, but that’s not his most interesting feature. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The early SR Charolais Bulls - both the Shorthorn, and the Simmental - are mostly a mystery. We don’t know the exact circumstances of how either one came to be, how many were made, or even exactly when they were made. They started showing up sometime in the early to mid-1980s, mostly on everyone’s want lists.

We know that at least 288 of the SR Simmental were sold through the National Simmental Association, ca. 1983. The Simmental does seem to be somewhat more common than the Shorthorn, but it’s hard to tell because, like a lot of early SRs, they weren’t sold directly to the hobbyist market. There could be hundreds more of them, sitting on the shelves or in the closets of nonhobbyist cattle fanciers, unaware of either the hobby or their rarity.

It’s unclear if the Simmental was specifically designed for the NSA in the first place. Why do I say that? Let’s turn to this little document I found on eBay a number of years ago:

Weathervanes? With Breyers on them? What does that have to do with the SR Bulls? Take a look at the inside spread and see:

Let's look a little closer at the little box of text in the corner:

The brochure is copyright 1976; the photograph looks very similar to the photos used in the 1976 Breyer Dealer’s Catalog and Collector’s Manual - so much so, that I believe they’re from the same photo shoot. Does that mean that the Bulls were originally designed as SRs for Robbins Metal Craft, as early as 1976?

Maybe. The dates for the brochure seems right: the colors and typography of this brochure are so very, very 1970s. But it’s possible that the brochure could have been reprinted for years, and the "additional ornaments" text in the corner could have been added in a later printing. Is there any actual evidence of the SR Bulls being used - or at least sold - as weathervane ornaments?

You’ve already seen it. Here’s an aerial shot of my Shorthorn:

Yep, he was drilled for mounting. You can see that there are traces of airbrushing inside the drill holes, which means that he was drilled prior to being painted.

He’s not just a cull, he’s a weathervane cull. Advertised in a brochure illustrated with photos straight from Breyer.

Intrigued? More on this story, later in the week.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today was Opening Day!

Technically, "flea marketing" never really begins or ends around here; even when the weather makes outdoor shopping less than feasible, we still have lots of antique malls, resale shops, estate sales and indoor markets to keep us occupied. But for most of us, the "official" opening of the season is when the outdoor markets officially open for spring.

Actually, the flea market opened last week, but I was working and it was raining. It’s an outdoor market, and I’m not so diehard that I’m willing to tromp around in the mid-April rain looking for a bargain. I’ll put up with the cold, or the heat, or the sun, but I draw the line at stuff falling from the sky.

It was cold, but borderline tolerable (until the old men started complaining about the weather - if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s small talk about the weather!) There was stuff worth buying - a few interesting books, some body quality Breyers from the early 1980s, a few vintage Hartlands - but nothing rising to the level of me wanting to take it home. I’ve dealt with the person who had the bodies before, and she’s willing to dicker on price, so if she’s there next week things might change.

Everyone has their own shopping secrets strategies when it comes to the secondary market. Most hobbyists keep pretty mum about them, often to their detriment, I believe. I’m all about sharing information, though, with both hobbyists and dealers alike, and I think my success at the flea market is a reflection of that philosophy.

I happen to live at a happy nexus of model horseness, too: in a relatively affluent suburb just on the edge of horse country, where Breyers have been a continuous presence in the local retail market, and where the model horse hobby has had a long and enduring history. (Did you all know that the first Model Horse Congress was held in Michigan? Truth!)

In other words, the Breyer "brand" has a ubiquity to it here that manages to temper antiquers’ fantasies about just how much a "Genuine Vintage Breyer" can actually bring. Some of them definitely try - and occasionally succeed - but at least here hobbyists have some negotiating room, price wise. Breyers aren’t so rare that the casual collectors will snap up any old thing at any crazy price.

I know that a lot of hobbyists are not enthusiastic about sharing information about Breyers - good or bad - with antiquers. If they know more, they’ll charge even more than they’re already charging, right?

No, not in my experience. Most antiquers specialize in certain items or categories - furniture, glassware, car parts, toy trains, pottery, whatever - but won’t pass up buying something out of their usual categories if they think a little profit can be made from it. They have to rely on word of mouth, or on general price guides to guide them. If they run across a small stash of horse shaped objects, they’re not going to go out and buy a "dedicated" price guide of any sort, as that might cut into their already slim profit margin.

This is where I think our secretiveness gets in the way: when we fail to share information in a constructive or positive way, the people who are lacking this information not only know it, they respond it kind: by either raising their prices, or being equally uncooperative.

Years ago, I decided to head off this problem by creating a "price guide" of my own to give to the handful of dealers I had managed to develop a comfortable working relationship with. I categorized everything by rarity, from "extremely common" to "extremely rare," and gave a rough price estimate of what I would pay for models in each category.

I think my prices topped out at $200-250, for items in the "extremely rare" category, which included mostly Decorators, a handful of Woodgrains, and a few early SRs. Everything else was significantly less. I also included a page or two explaining condition issues, boxes and other stuff.

You know what? It worked. Prices didn’t go up significantly, and the dealers felt that they were negotiating in good faith.

It also helps that I’ve been going to this market long enough that dealers know I’m a regular - and that I’m willing to pay a little extra for something really good. Not necessarily up to retail or hobby market value, but a price both of us could be happy with.

There have been days when I’ve left some modestly good items on the tables - nothing super-rare, but in good condition and decently priced - and watched the festivities.

Oh, some of the things I’ve seen!

I won’t name names - because I’m awful with faces, and I can’t - but I can remember one particular pantomime two collectors put on in front of a dealer, over a Woodgrain FAF. It was $10, and near mint. It was a performance so contrived it would have made William Shatner blush.

The dealer didn’t budge on the price, and they walked away. I gave the dealer a quick glance - she was a semi-regular, and I had dealt with her before - and she gave me a knowing look back. It’s one thing to play a little dumb; it’s quite another to play stupid.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Angus Black and Angus Red

Is today Friday or Saturday? I’ve lost track. It was another rougher than expected week; I didn’t make it home from work one night. (Chocolate cupcakes were involved. That’s all I’m saying.)

When I’ve had a few moments to think this week, I’ve been thinking about, of all things, the Standing Black Angus Bull.

Nobody thinks much about the #365 Standing Black Angus Bull. That’s because there’s not much to think about. He was introduced in 1978, as an updated and more to-scale replacement for the Walking Angus Bull, and discontinued with most of the "Farm Friends" molds in 2004. He came in basic solid Black, without much (if any) shading. Some have glossed eyes, and for a few months in 1997, he came with bi-eyes.

And that’s about all there is to know.

I do have one in my collection, but only by accident. A few years ago on eBay I bought a large lot of Breyer non-equines that included, as its main attractions, a SR Hampshire Hog and a Polled Holstein Cow and Calf set. A Black Standing Angus Bull just happened to come with. Even though I didn’t have one in my collection at the time, he was initially slated to go to the saleslist with some of the duplicates in the lot.

I decided to give him a reprieve. I still had a bit of room to work with back then, and I figured, what the heck? He had fallen into good company, so he must have had some merit I hadn’t noticed yet. No harm in keeping him around.

There was a little bit of sympathy in the decision, too. While he’s not a part of the display collection at the moment, I always manage to shoot a bit of positive mojo his way whenever I run across him in the storage collection. I totally understand the whole "not being noticed" thing, buddy; you’ll get your moment in the sun someday. (Like me, I hope.)

In contrast, his one SR counterpart, the Red Angus Bull (aka "The Big Red One") has enough history, complications and attention to spare. He was an early SR in an era when we didn’t have a lot to choose from (something that would change very, very quickly in the early 1980s) and a non-horse SR? Now that was something!

There were about 1000 models made, in four batches: 100 of the first batch, 200 of the second, 300 of the third, and presumably 400 of the fourth. The first batch of 100 is easy to distinguish from the rest, as they came with pinkish noses: the subsequent releases did not.

Later releases can be distinguished from each other by their hand-numbering: each batch had a slightly different numbering system. The first batch was over 100 (i.e. "23/100") the second over 200 ("145/200"), the third batch over 300 ("223/300"); the fourth batch didn’t indicate a batch quantity number ("278.")

Mine’s from the second batch: I’m not feeling up to photographing the numbering between his front legs to show you, so I’ll just scan the certificate he came with instead:

I still have the box he came in, too: just an ordinary illustrated shipper for the #365. The box is as I received it, save for the tape being yellowed and all that; all I did was slit the box open, pulled the bull out, and tossed the box in my closet, like a good little history nerd. The handwriting is original, and not my own.

I'm not normally a big fan of his "dead red" coloring, but it looks good on him. Breyer thought so too, and followed up a short time later with another SR Bull release - the Shorthorn Bull, on the Charolais mold.

I have one of those too, sorta. It's another long story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Old Man" Mesteno

In the on-again, off-again discussion about Shadowfax on Blab, more fuss is being made about Alborozo, again. The insinuation at the heart of the griping is that Reeves "destroyed" the mold because it was either (a) deliberately ticking everybody off for some unknowable reason, or (b) too stupid to realize what an awesome thing they had.

I don’t know the precise circumstances as to why the Alborozo was done the way it was done, but I’m pretty sure wasn’t some vast conspiracy to deprive us of something awesome. It was more like a combination of marketing gimmick, contract negotiations with an artist who had been burned before, and some technological experimentation. That the model itself turned out as nice as it did was just an added benefit.

And you know what? Chances are, if the mold had been allowed to continue production, we’d have picked it to pieces by now, and be so over it anyway. His rarity is a part of the reason many love him so.

We might see a few more glossies, a few tests, and whatever leftovers there may still be in the warehouse, but that’s it. Get over it, folks. He’s done and gone. It’s Spring - go work out your frustration on your garden or your closet, or something. (And if you don’t have a garden or closet to work on, you’re more than welcome to work on mine.)

There are quite a few molds that have had extremely limited - or even singular - releases, though their rarity or singularity has more to due with being too dated, too specialized or just too darn weird to justify new releases. None of these molds, as far as I know, have been "destroyed," so there’s still a slim possibility that more of their kind may grace our shelves in the near or distant future. A short and very incomplete list includes:

Standing Black Angus Bull
Standing Polled Hereford Bull
Modernistic Buck
Modernistic Doe
Mesteno: Reflections

Some of these models are hot commodities: good luck trying to find the Red Angus Bull - the Black Angus’s single SR release - or one of the Woodgrain Polled Hereford Bulls made for the Ranchcraft Lamp Line. The Modernistic Buck and Doe was manufactured in quite a few odd colors and finishes by its original manufacturer, Nosco, prior to Breyer acquiring the mold ca. 1959-60, but not a lot of collectors are familiar with - or even associate - those earlier releases with the Breyer ones. Benji and Tiffany? There hasn’t been much of a call for Traditional Series Dogs since the 1960s, period. (There might have been some licensing issues, too.)

The Mesteno: Reflections is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Although not wildly popular in their original release, most of the Mesteno series has seen new life in the Wal-Mart Mustang line. I’m not a huge fan of them myself, but some of the colors they’ve been released in have been quite attractive.

But the "Old Man" Mesteno, as I like to call him, hasn’t been among them. He had only one release - his original one - and hasn’t been seen since. He was the last mold in the series, too, and consequently had the shortest run of all the original Mestenos: just 1996. My "old man" came in a box lot from the infamous "newtoymens" guy on eBay, so he might be a test piece, station sample, or saleman’s sample:

Like most of the Mesteno series, he didn’t "translate" well into plastic, but he’s not completely unappealing. He’s not quite as dashing as the original ("Young Elvis?") Mesteno, but he has a nice silhouette and photographs well. He works better as an "art" horse, rather than a "show" horse: if Reeves does get around to releasing him again, a more decorative finish - Ageless Bronze, Marble or even Woodgrain - would really do him justice, I think.

Might be a good, low-investment way of breaking into the home d├ęcor market they’ve been eyeing for a few years now, too. (Just sayin.’)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Swap Meets and Holy Grails

When most hobbyists fantasize about their holy grails, it usually involves test colors, vintage rarities, or an ultimate fantasy dream horse done by a hot, in-demand artist.

For me, right now? It’s a job with a desk and a chair. I appreciate all the hours I’ve been getting at the part-time job recently, but a regular schedule with "normal" hours would be heaven right now. The unpredictability is exciting, but it’s hard for me to meet my other commitments, like blog posting and swap-meet organizing.

(And getting a puppy, finally! More on that at a later date, though.)

Anyway, the swap meet/party/model horse get together is a go for May 15th; once I finish up this post I’ll be working on hammering out the rest of the details. It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., set up beginning at 9 a.m. There will probably be a small, nominal fee for tables to help cover the cost of the hall rental. More details early next week.

Since it’s being done on such short notice, it’s going to be a relatively casual affair; if the response is any indication, though, a bigger and better event may be planned for the future. There’s definitely a demand for small, regional model horse conventions that don’t necessarily revolve around live showing. We’ll see how it goes, and take it from there.

So it appears that the "final" list of Tent Line SRs has been made:

Pictures of most of the samples, on display at Equine Affaire this week, have also been circulating; as expected, new photos are starting to change opinions, mostly for the better. I’m not normally a porcelain person, but the level of detail lavished on the Indian Horse "Dances With Wolves" is giving me pause. Wow, seriously wow.

There’s also a mystery horse: a long-tail Lady Phase in what I’m guessing is a really peculiar (yet intriguing) no-spot Appaloosa. It’s not shown in the list of SRs on the blog, so there’s some speculation about her status - is she Tent Line Special, Store Special, or something else?

Radar has been more or less confirmed as the Store Special, but there’s nothing to say that the Lady Phase couldn’t be either. Or maybe she’s an entirely new type of SR classification we don’t know about yet. As for Radar, I’m definitely warming up to him; the close up shots of his sweet face are winning me over.

Has anyone else noticed that Reeves is being very forthcoming with the item numbers this year, too? We even know the item number for the Early Bird Special Opening Night - according to the Facebook page, he’s #711126. Much appreciated, Reeves, really and truly. Keep it up!

More and better posts next week; the work schedule looks a little less hectic.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Illustrated Shippers

It was a dark and stormy Saturday, so I spent it finishing the collection repacking. It’s all over except for the dusting, and I’m in no mood for dusting.

For those inquiring, there’s nothing super-duper rare, old or weird in my sales stash. There’s definitely some nice quality models here, possible LSQ, but most of them are in the sub-$50 range. (Unless I get lucky at the flea market in the meantime!)

Since my financial condition is slightly less tenuous than it was at this time last year, I’m in no rush to sell; I don’t want to deal with MH$P or eBay right now, anyway. There’s some talk going on about a local swap meet/hobbyist-to-hobbyist sale (local = Southeast Michigan), and if/when it comes to pass, I’ll let y’all know.

It was a bit of a strange experience packing up the last few horses. I decided that a couple of my oldies had to be taken out of the rotation, and since I just so happened to have their original boxes, back into their original boxes they went. One of the boxes in question: an old illustrated Clydesdale Shipper Box:

Now there’s something you don’t see every day!

Shipper boxes were the "de facto" Breyer box prior to the introduction of the White Picture Box in the early 1970s. There were a couple of experiments prior to the White Boxes - the clear Showcase boxes, and the Touchability Boxes. (I covered Touchability Boxes in a post quite some time ago, in fact.) A few select items - like the Horse and Rider Sets, and the licensed products like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin - did come in specially designed packaging, but those were very much the exception, not the rule, prior to the 1970s.

Most Shipper Boxes were pretty plain: a brown corrugated box, with Breyer’s address printed on one side, and "From:" and "To:" spaces printed on the other side. (And yes, they were used for shipping; I’ve owned a few that made it through the postal system!) The name and model number of the item inside was usually inkstamped across the top of the box, on the paper packing tape that sealed it.

Some, but not all Shipper Boxes were illustrated. Why some early boxes - but not others - were illustrated is a mystery. Some are quite common - such as the Fighting Stallion - while others, like the Clydesdale, are rather rare. My guess is that Breyer decided early on to standardize the box sizes, and only the boxes that were designed for one specific model were allowed to retain their unique graphics. Everything else just got the standard plain shipper, with the inkstamped identification across the top.

The graphics on the early boxes are quite pleasing aesthetically; I particularly like the Poodle:

The Western Pony is nice, too:

Illustrated shippers continued to be used until quite recently, mostly for the non-equine models that couldn’t fit in any of the standard packaging schemes. Some of the graphics were nice, but others, not so much. Not quite sure what was going on with the Charolais Bull box, for example - a bad reference photo, maybe:

Illustrated Shippers were also a common feature of holiday mail-order items. The graphics on the Holiday Shippers were all over the map, too - some pleasant, some plain, and some downright weird. This Legionario Gift Set box from Sears is a fairly typical example:

Shippers are still being used today, mostly with items sold factory direct - like the Connoisseurs - or with some of the Holiday Catalog items. They’re sometimes illustrated generically with a repeating running horse (not the "Running Horse") graphic.

Shipper boxes are still a bit of an undeveloped territory as far as Breyer Box research goes - presumably because of fugitive nature: the boxes had to be literally torn open, and torn boxes didn’t make for the best storage.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Break

Had to take a few days off from the Internet - the weather’s been so nice it seemed a crime not to go out and enjoy some of it. Though I’m sure some people definitions of enjoyment would not include so much yard work, heavy lifting, and the trapping of groundhogs. (Evil beasties, grr!)

I have to admit I haven’t been paying too much attention to the horses this week, either: I think it’s the collection purge and repack that did it. I’ve been doing my daily lurking and a little field research, but the horses were definitely not my first priority.

Once the flea market opens (two weeks!) I’ll be just fine. Nothing like cheap, plentiful horses to get the heart going again. (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be rubbing it in. I’m perfectly willing to share the wealth, provided you’re willing to meet me at my house at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings to caravan it. No joke - neither the time, nor the offer!)

I did spot new Pony Gals merchandise at Target this week: new molds, even. Smaller, unjointed, My-Little-Ponified versions of Jasmine, Chloe and Dixie, in Play Sets with hair manes and tails and various accessories:

7088 Jasmine Travel Boutique Play Set
7089 Dixie Travel Barn Play Set
7090 Chloe Travel Arena Play Set

They’re cute, but not my thing. The whole MLP thing was a little after my time.

I’m a little more excited about the small-scale resin "Big Lex:" a SR being done in conjunction with Lexington’s visual identity program, which will include a big giant blue horse:

The dramatic sculptural likeness of "Big Lex" will become a beacon for visitors and a popular tourist attraction during the World Equestrian Games. A banner based on traditional horse racing graphics can be draped across the Big Lex sculpture to announce special occasions and upcoming events.

I’m not normally a big fan of resins, but as this will be a small-scale reproduction of a big giant blue horse, I’m all in. Because y’all know about my obsession with giant fiberglass livestock - and if you don’t, you will in the near future, now that the weather’s all nice and stuff…

Like everyone else, I’m also excited to see that Giselle and Gilen will debut in plastic at BreyerFest, presumably as a Tent Ticket Special. They’ll be sold as a set, with Giselle in light gray, and Gilen in baby black. I guess that solves the riddle of what the hot, must-have item will be this year. I hope that means a 2011 regular run release - or dare to hope, a Fall 2010 release - follows. (If only to save those coveted SRs from the customizer’s knife.)

There’s also some talk that Reeves is in talks with the owner of one of the horses that played Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax in The Lord of the Rings films, as a possible 2011 Celebration Horse. That’s led to speculation on next year’s theme, with the bulk of commentators seeming to think that it’s "Horses in Literature." Yeah, maybe, but there are other possibilities: "Legends," "Fantasy" or even the dreaded "Pretty, Pretty Princess" theme that was hinted at in the beginning of the Theme Suggestion thread on Blab a few months back would all work with Shadowfax.

I’m not a big fan of the Literature theme, mostly because (gasp!) I’m not big into horse-themed literature, beyond Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley. Too much sentimentality and wish-fulfillment for my tastes. The rights issues could be a bit of a problem, too; the Tolkien estate can be difficult to work with.