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!


Lysette said...

Fascinating work! I have a moose that is mounted on a base that is much thinner than the base on my presentation series buffalo, so I dearly wish I could make out more details on the desk trophy.

dizzijoi said...

My husband brought home a weathervane of the Hereford Bull. I told him that is just a Breyer with a holed drilled but he didn't believe me until I hauled out my copy.

I put pegasus wings on the weathervane one and when it isn't so blasted hot or cold we hoist it up onto the mailbox pole (which is 15 feet in the air). I told him it represents his "Flying Bull" Ranch since he's so full of it. :)

Unknown said...

I am the lucky hobbyist that picked up the "undrilled" SRs back in 1985. They were bought at a stand at a large farmer's market in Lancaster County, PA. The stand was a permanent fixture. They mainly sold wooden furniture (like benches, chairs, tables), weathervanes (with and without Breyers) and Breyer models. The weathervanes were pre-assembled so I never knew who made them until I just read your blog post.

None of the Breyers sold individually had holes drilled in them, and they were all unboxed. One day we stopped by, and they had a Duroc hog, so I snapped it up. The man said he could order other hogs if I wanted, and that's when the order form appeared. It had the whole breyer line plus Hampshire hog, Poland China hog, Duroc hog, another hog (can't remember), Simmental bull, Shorthorn bull, Guensey cow, Jersey cow and Brown Swiss.

I ordered all of the "non-standard" animals and picked them up a couple weeks later. The hog breed I can't remember turned out to be a regular Jasper (Jasper was also listed separately on the order form). The stand was still in operation in 1988 when I picked up another Poland China and a collector friend I was with also picked one up.