Monday, May 31, 2010

Paint vs. Plastic

Mostly bodies and craft supplies at the flea market yesterday, with a few odds and ends thrown in the mix. I left a few good models behind - I’ve done well enough over the past two weeks that I could engage in a little "catch and release." (If that Alabaster Old Timer is there next time, he might be coming home with me - he still had his hat!)

One of the things I did find was a not-bad Chalky Palomino Rearing Stallion. Two Chalkies in the space of a month - excellent! I was just going to toss him into my sales stash, but when I gave him his standard dunk-and-scrub job, I noticed that he was a "White Plastic" Chalky, not a "Basecoat" Chalky. White Plastic Chalkies are considerably scarcer than their Basecoat cousins; out of the twenty plus Chalkies I have in my collection, I only have two White Plastics. I wouldn’t mind have a few more.

At first glance, White Plastics and Basecoats look virtually identical. Both have that slightly glossy, opaque "dipped in white housepaint" look. Basecoat Chalkies were actually painted with a rather thick coat of white paint, probably the same stuff they used to overpaint the white markings on Woodgrains. It was used to cover the less-than-white nature of the molded plastic, which was either colored, or extensively contaminated with nonwhite regrind. White Plastic Chalkies, on the other hand, were models that were molded out of opaque white plastic instead of the standard, slightly translucent stuff.

There are several subtle visual clues that help distinguish the two. The simplest and most obvious method: look at the bottom of the hooves. A Basecoat Chalky usually has a rough finish and puddling, as seen here on my othewise spiffy Black Morgan:

A White Plastic Chalky, on the other hand, has neat, clean hoof bottoms, as observed on the flea market-fresh Rearing Stallion:

The problem with this technique is that it’s not 100% foolproof. I’ve seen examples Basecoat Chalkies where the hoof bottoms were either very clean, or were apparently so rough and puddled that they cleaned or ground down at the factory before the final detailing.

Another clue: checking the transitional areas of the paint job, at the edges of airbrushed bald faces and stockings. On White Plastic Chalkies, the paint comes off in tiny flakes, and gives the paint job a scrubbed or patchy look. If the paint flakes off of a Basecoat Chalky, it’ll flake off anywhere, will come off in bigger flakes or chunks, and often reveals the funky color of the plastic beneath.

Mold detail is another: the thick white paint on Basecoat Chalkies fills in some of the finer details of the mold. On White Plastic Chalkies, those finer details are retained. The best, quickest test for mold detail is to flip and check the copyright horseshoe: the crisper and sharper the detail there, the more likely it’s a White Plastic version. If the lettering is blurry or infilled, it’s probably a Basecoat.

For some models, it’s hard to tell one way or another. The Clydesdale Foal I found a couple of weeks ago is a mystery: she has virtually no condition issues that would clue me in to her true nature. Her hooves are really clean and her mold detail is pretty sharp, so I’m leaning towards White Plastic. For most hobbyists, however, it’s a moot point: they’re all good!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I spent a pleasant day yesterday detailing out my car. It’s not something I do on a regular basis, but I had a rough week emotionally, and I needed something to take my frustration out on. That’s how I deal: either I clean stuff, or make stuff. (I started a new quilt project this week, too.)

I was also partly inspired by my recent flea market finds. Cleaning my finds is probably my favorite part of the whole search-and-rescue process, but these last few batches have been more challenging than average. Here’s that Hartland Polo Pony I mentioned earlier, for example:

That’s what she looks like after I spent two days working on her! She took a little longer than average because I haven’t had the best luck rehabbing Hartlands. There’s something to the paint jobs or the plastic that doesn’t respond quite the same way that Breyers do, and I’ve found that they require a gentler, more cautious touch. Generally I don’t do much restoration after cleaning, but I might give this old girl a few touch-ups; she’s had a hard life, and I think she deserves it.

(Some clumsy clod stepped on her head! I'll spare you the gruesome closeup.)

I take a pretty conservative approach to conservation and restoration: most of my models don’t get "restored" beyond degreasing, cleaning and unyellowing. Even my repairs to broken pieces tend to be temporary and removable: white glue only. I’ve found that this approach leaves less to explain should I ever have to sell or upgrade the model in question.

I wrote an entire booklet on the subject restoration and conservation (out of print, for the time being) but honestly, 90 to 95% of models don’t need much more than a basic cleaning to bring them back to their former glory. And most of that can be with a few basic supplies: a good quality dish soap, Lestoil, cotton swabs, toothpicks, paintbrushes, that sort of thing.

I’ll occasionally use bleach for unyellowing, or substitute some other degreasing agent for Lestoil, but that’s about it. Oh, I’ve experimented with other stuff, believe me: that’s why I’m rarely hesitant to pick up the icky-sticky bodies everyone else leaves behind. If you’re lucky, you can make a bad model better - and if not, into to the body box it goes!

In most cases, everyone gets the same treatment: a light rinse with warm water, a gentle rubdown with either dish soap or Lestoil, undiluted, and a full body dunk in a bucket or sink of hot (but not boiling) water for a half an hour or so. Add more soap or Lestoil to the water, as necessary (a couple of capfuls is usually sufficient.) Dark marks and particularly dirty nooks and crannies will get worked over with cotton swabs or brushes dipped in soap or Lestoil, and very gently scrubbed while still wet. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Models with labels or stickers, of course, wouldn’t get the full body dunk - in those cases, I use cotton swabs or pads for spot cleaning to keep the fluids away from those critical areas.

I’ll use toothpicks to pick away any odd bits of glue, house paint, or any other foreign substance that happens to find itself attached to the model in question, though your fingernail will work in a pinch. Both are soft enough that a little slip won’t lead to the kind of scratch that’s likely to happen with a knife blade.

And that’s about it. It might take a day or two to clean a really sorry looking specimen (like my Polo Pony) but most of your finds can be shelf, show or saleslist ready in an afternoon or less.

There are two popular cleaning techniques I will recommend you avoid: toothpaste and hairspray. Both are used as spot cleaners to remove dark marks; toothpaste is used as a slightly abrasive scrub, and hairspray as a mild solvent. They both "work" in the sense that they do remove the marks in question, but they also have a tendency to remove the paint, especially if you haven’t had a lot of practice with either.

Both of them also leave residue behind that’s almost as hard to remove as the offending marks. (The toothpaste, believe it or not, is the harder of the two to remove!) Sometimes I’ll use one or the other if nothing else will work, but only if I follow up with rubdown and full body dunk.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Winning Sunday

As I mentioned before, this past Sunday’s flea market was another winner. It wasn’t as mind-blowing as last week’s spend-a-rama, but any day with cheap Breyers, Hartlands and Hagen-Renakers in it is most definitely not a loser:

Yeah, I’ll confess to it: the first thing I did when I got home from the market was run into the closet and test the Hartland Child of Prague for glowiness. No such luck, but I didn’t have that version before, so I’m still keeping him. The Buckskin Polo Pony is another keeper, even though he has significant condition issues: I love that mold, and that color is not easy to find.

I have no idea what the big goofy-looking horse is; it appears to be styrene, mounted on a solid oak(!) base. I’m assuming it was some sort of beer/liquor promo: it certainly smelled like it lived in a bar for a couple of decades. (And he was …sticky! Eww!) There are no identifying marks or labels anywhere, though. My reference files come up a little short in advertising promo department, so if anyone out there can provide clues, or point me in the right direction, it would be much appreciated.

At first glance, he almost looks like a high-end home d├ęcor piece, the kind interior designers would pay good money for if he was made of wood, metal or stone. Sculpturally, he reminds me a little of the Mortens Studios horses - awkward, yet appealing and well-finished - but I have absolutely no clue if there’s any actual connection.

Even though I have a sneaking suspicion he might actually be worth something, I think I might be keeping him, too. I have no idea where I’m going to put him if I do. He's huge!

The booklets are those injection molding manuals I mentioned in passing last time. Lots of fun bedtime reading ahead of me - no, really, I do love reading about the mechanics of polymer flow, and methods for correcting flow lines and flash. It’s all relevant to the discussion here, you’ll see.

Here’s a close up of the H-R I found: the A-297 Prancing Arabian. (I didn’t put him in the group shot, because there are a couple of giant, hairy mutant spiders crawling around the basement floor. Big spiders and little H-Rs don’t mix - not in this house, anyway.) I can’t remember the last time I found an H-R horse at this flea market. I’ve found other minis, dogs, and even a few Disney pieces, but the horses are super-scarce. It’s probably a consequence of having several major H-R collectors in my territory: there just aren’t that many left in the wild here anymore, at least compared to other manufacturers.

He was in a large grouping of Japanese China dogs, that I only happened to notice because there were H-R knockoffs among them. (Including yet another Greyhound "Comet" - one of these days I’ll find the real thing!) I bought the best of the bunch, but other than the Greyhound (and the horse, of course), they’ll probably all end up in the sales stash.

Most of the rest will be going on the sales list, too - a nice mix of stuff, with a little bit of everything for everybody. My room sales prospects are definitely looking up this year. Sales weren’t bad last year, but that was more a result of having a superior location - in the 100s - and being somewhat confined to my room due to me injuring myself (and thus making extensive room hopping out of the question.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Deja Vu, All Over Again

Something quick and dirty today - more scheduling difficulties, again. I promise to make up for it by finishing all of those half-written blog posts I have sitting in my hard drive, including my latest flea market report (almost as awesome as last week), the swap meet analysis, and maybe even the Tenite and injection molding follow-up. (I think the Universe is trying to drop me a hint along those lines anyway: among the things I found at the flea market yesterday were some injection molding manuals. All the subtlety of a sledge hammer, yeesh!)

I just noticed something the other day - another possible case of mold updating/replacement. First, the much-anticipated BreyerFest Giselle/Gilen combo of Stage Mom and Child Star:

And, from the 1963 Breyer Dealer’s Catalog, here’s the Running Mare and Foal combo, Sugar & Spice:

Ooh, spooky!

I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but it sure seems like it, doesn’t it? Running mares, running foals, two distinct shades of gray/black, with cutesy alliterative names? Has someone at Reeves - gasp! - been doing their homework?

If so, good job guys - and this time around, don’t wimp out on the Buckskins. I think they’d look fantastic in that color. Though true Charcoals and Alabasters would be nice, too. (Gloss or matte - I’m not picky!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shiny, Glowy Horses

A few other things came up, so my forensic analysis of the Swap Meet will have to wait until later in the week. I also became rather distracted by that box of quilt scraps I bought on Sunday; all of my spare "thinking" time has gone towards puzzling those pieces together. (I guess my brain enjoyed the challenge of reassembling that Double Wedding Ring more than I realized!)

I forgot to mention that the guy who sold me the wicked white platform go-go boots also had a stash of vintage Black Light posters. If I had had more money, or more space in the car, I would have definitely brought a couple of them home. I love Glow-in-the-Dark stuff: I even keep a small collection of early Glowy Hartland religious figurines in my bedroom window as a makeshift, retro nightlight.

Hartland was using phosphorescent plastics in the early 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2003 that Breyer had cause to, in their Halloween program. Phosphorescent plastic kinda-sorta makes sense for religious figurines, but not for horses so much, especially if you’re big into recycling the scrap plastic as regrind. The inevitability of accidentally mixing the Glowy plastic with the standard white stuff was probably also another factor in their hesitation.

I liked the concept of Reeves’ Halloween program, but I wasn’t completely into it when it began. Halloween was never a big holiday at our house: I liked the candy, and watching other people dress up, but mostly I thought of it as my Uncle Fred’s birthday. He didn’t just revel in the coincidence, he lived it: slicked black hair, a goatee, and a mostly black wardrobe were part and parcel of his identity. (Such a sweetheart, too - of all my departed relatives, I think he’s one of the ones I miss the most.)

It wasn’t until they came out with Merry Widow that I became a believer. A Traditional-scale Breyer horse - that glows in the dark? Sold!

I was a little upset about the Glowy G2 Andalusian keychains they used as giveaways at BreyerFest that year, naturally. Combining two of my favorite things - Stablemates, and phosphorescent plastic - in one neat little package? Argh! I took some comforting in believing that I’d get one eventually; the event that they gave them away at was not well-attended, and they had to have had a lot left over. Right, right?

Yes, they did. But no, I don’t.

The Glowy Keychain is one of the few recent SRs that hasn’t made it into the Ninja Pit of Death, or Grab Bags, or Shopatron. It’s one of Reeves’ few pure "promo" horses, outside of the BreyerFest Volunteer Gift Horses (but even those you still have to work for, technically.) Either Reeves gifts you one, or you buy it from someone who was gifted.

Enough of them are circulating around now that the prices for them have dropped out of the stratosphere, but I still can’t cross that line and actually pay for something I know someone got for free. It just feels weird to me. I also don’t buy other people’s Volunteer Horses, for pretty much the same reason. (Additionally, they tend to be too expensive, even the so-called "homely" ones.)

The reason given for the end of the Halloween program was that they "ran out of ideas," but the Halloween-themed SRs for the invitation-only events since then (VRE and LSE) argues against that. I suspect the sales were probably lagging just enough to no longer make the program economically viable, but I don’t have access to the sales records to know for sure.

It’s also true that the Missouri Fox Trotter "Frankensteed" wasn’t all that popular among the LSE attendees last year, but I believe that was more a function of the relatively high piece count compared to other available SRs, and attendees’ unreasonably high expectations. (Nothing less than "Test Colors for Everyone" would have satisfied the critics, in the end.)

I think there’s still enough support for the idea to continue making Halloween Horses on a limited basis. There’s already a modestly successful, existing program that it could be incorporated into: the Shopatron Web Specials.

(If you're looking for idea, people at Reeves, may I suggest a metallic orange Belgian with a painted, glow-in-the-dark Jack O’Lantern face on it?)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bestest Flea Market Day Ever

I was expecting the flea market to be pretty darn good this week. The weather was pitch-perfect: bright, warm, sunny, and dry. Everyone who wouldn’t - or couldn’t - come out before came out in droves. And oh man, was it ever awesome. Y’all who turned down my offer to cruise the flea market today better crack open one a cold one, because you’re going to need it.

The flea market I go to has a reputation for being one of the best in this part of the country, mostly because of its eclectic mix of stuff. It lived up to that reputation today; if the car wasn’t already loaded with stuff, I could have spent my entire wad and then some. Midcentury Modern furniture, pony hides, gorgeous costume jewelry, vintage swords, a tricorn hat (!), Corgi Puppies (!!), lifesize human sculptures (!!!) - you name it, it was there.

The first big find of the day: oh, just a box with 19 vintage Stablemates, most of them in superb condition. So superb that a few of them might make it into my own SM roster as upgrades:

Most of these babies are from ca. 1975-76, based on the grouping, colors, and overall level of detail. (One of these days I’ll get to my post about how the early Stablemate molds might be the one exception to the rule concerning mold wear.)

The Classics are body quality - all intact, just rubs and scuffs. Good body box filler, being Love molds and all. All of these guys were found together; the Mustangs are absent the copyright horseshoe, which is typical of the early Classic Mustangs. It’s a characteristic they share with the Classic Racehorses and a few of the Stablemates - I wonder if there’s a story there we’re missing?

Here’s the rest of my booty:

The POA is body quality. The Clydesdale Foal is a Chalky, and in wonderful condition - just a couple tiny nicks, and eartip rubs. He might be an upgrade, too. The Red Mill Scottie is adorable, and Mom has already claimed him. The Bulldog is a Robert Simmons piece; I don’t go out of my way to collect Robert Simmons stuff, but if it’s cute and cheap I’ll pick them up.

The box of quilt scraps was the most expensive item of the day, at $15.00. (I’ll save you some suffering and not tell you what I paid for most of the horses.) There are at least two, maybe three bed-sized quilts in there, so it was more than worth it.

The photographs are of Willie Shoemaker, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Steve Cauthen - and they’re all signed. A signed picture of Steve Cauthen on Affirmed as they win the Preakness, the day after this year’s Preakness? Whoa, dude. I’m not much into horse racing nowadays, but the coincidence was just too freaky to let slip by.

But here’s the one item that moves this particular day at the flea market from merely awesome to one for the record books. Shoes aren’t normally something I look for at the flea market: I wear a women’s size 11, and the selection in that size range is - to put it politely - rather limited, especially at the flea market. When I found out these babies were my size, I knew they had to come home with me:

Your eyes are not deceiving you. I bought myself a pair of White Vinyl Lace-Up Platform Boots.

I so totally want a cape and a superhero identity now, a la the movie Kick-Ass. Can you imagine me prowling the hallways of the Holiday Inn in those things? (Look, up in the 200’s - it’s Superhobbyist!)

I’m sure all my peeps at the Swap Meet will double-dog-dare me to do it anyway. (Oh, some of the things we have planned!) More on that tomorrow, though.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Dumpy Revealed

What is the exact relationship of the In-Between Mare to the Family Arabian Mare? It’s generally been assumed that they were two separate and distinct molds, but Dumpy’s Delicate Condition - and what it reveals - points towards a more complex situation:

It’s a little hard to see (mostly because of my subpar photography skills) but there’s an extra mold seam line on her posterior, right where the tail comes closest to the rump. It intersects with the other seam line running down her right hind leg, creating an elongated "bubble" shape.

It’s most peculiar, because there’s no reason for it to be there that I know of. While the area itself is a little on the tight side, it’s not so tight that it would require special gating to get it to mold properly.

My first thought was that it was a repair. There’s an irregular seam line on the inside of the left hind leg that’s obviously the result of a crack or some similar damage; maybe this little "bubble" is evidence of another repair?

A repair - or a remodel?

Now is a good time to revisit the FAM/IBM/PAM tail comparison: here’s the handy little illustration I created to help clear the inexplicable confusion between these three old ladies:

Notice how the tail of the In-Between Mare touches her rump, then swings back out? The point of contact for the tail is in the same position as the bubble seam on the Family Arabian Mare.

Well, isn’t that … interesting.

Does that mean that the Family Arabian Mare mold is actually the In-Between Mare mold - just heavily remodeled, a la Halla/Bolya? Or did Hess take an In-Between Mare (either the original sculpt, or a casting from the original mold) and continue reworking it until they settled on the Family Arabian Mare’s design, and cast a new mold from that?

The smoothness and regularity of the bubble seam suggests a mold remodel, rather than a resculpt, as the more likely scenario. The tail was pulled away from her rump and resculpted, and the hole that was created in the process had to be plugged - and in the process, created another seam. The direct remodel of the mold would also go a long way towards explaining the FAM’s rather odd proportions: there’s only so much you can do to remedy a mold, once it’s been cast.

According to Marney’s book, the In-Between Mare mold still existed as a separate and independent mold, at least until the early 1990s. I’m not so sure it did. As I’ve pointed out several times before, Marney is not the most reliable or trustworthy source: the IBM and the FAM are remarkably similar at first glance, and I can see how she could have confused the two.

The truth could be very, very different. I don’t have direct access to the molds - and I didn’t have the knowledge or the foresight to ask way back when I (very briefly) did - so what we have here is another case built on thin evidence and speculation.

As long-time readers know, this is about par for the course, when it comes Breyer history.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Her Name is Dumpy

Not a bad flea market day; it was unbelievably cold, but clear. I picked up a nice Matte Black Walking Angus Bull, and a Jorgen Jensen Pewter Ring. I passed up some bodies; the prices were good and they were all intact, but none of them were high-demand or easy movers. I’ll consider them later in the season, when I’m desperate to fill up the body box for BreyerFest. A few good books, too, but like the bodies, they can wait.

The ring is a tad small, but adjustable, and very much my style: substantial and modern-looking. It was also a bit of a steal; because it has an adjustable shank, the vendor had tossed it into a box of cheap, "gumball-machine" jewelry. Awesome!

The Bull is very nice, too - just a bit dirty, with a few minor marks. He was also a good deal too, because of the whole "lacking the Breyer mold mark" thing. He wasn’t quite as exciting a find as the ring, though, because I already have one in that particular variation. (Paid way too much for it back in the day. Oh well, live and learn.) Once he’s had his bath, it’s straight to the saleslist for him.

Speaking of variations, here’s one you don’t see every day:

See? Told you.

She’s another one of those eBay impulse buys from a few years back - I mean, how could I NOT buy her? The price was reasonable, and you just don’t see that many models performing essential body functions - that body function, anyway.

You see variations in the tail positioning all the time, especially in newer models with thinner tails, like Strapless or Lonesome Glory. But the Family Arabian Mare? Good grief, it’s practically a tree trunk!

There’s an indent at the base of the tail that points to the plastic being warm and bendable when it occurred, which makes me think her little accident before she left the factory, not after. The tip of the tail is slightly flattened, too, but still bears the factory paint - further evidence of some strange factory shenanigans. The kind of impact required to move a tail of that density would have left a mark - on both the horse, and whatever it came in contact with.

I suppose there could have been some strange confluence of events outside of the factory that could have led to her acquiring this most distinctive characteristic; we’ve all seen our share of some pretty messed-up models on eBay. But the fact that she’s in otherwise decent shape - no smoke stains, bloating, or major finish damage - rules out most scenarios I can dream up.

(I can, however, imagine the reaction of whatever person - child, or adult - who may have received her as a gift. And why she didn’t get played with all that much.)

One good thing about her unfortunate condition is that it revealed something - something I’ll cover in my next post.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Swap Meet Stuff

Well, that week could have gone better. A lot better. More health problems to deal with - not me, but for everyone else. Even Sherman (my station wagon) is acting up - though I’m hoping the "check engine" light is just him going all Drama Queen on me again, and not something requiring serious mechanical intervention. (Not something I can afford right now.)

(And yes, my car's name is Sherman.)

One week to go before the big Swap Meet thing. I finally finished compiling my saleslist - way bigger than I expected - and I’ve been dragging all my BreyerFest room decorating supplies out of storage. I’ll be making some other arrangements tomorrow - snack and supply shopping, inquiring about party trays, etc. All the usual panicky, last-minute stuff.

I might not even get a chance to actually sell any of my stuff in the end, but that’ll be okay, if everything goes modestly well. The model horse hobby needs events like this, and if we can pull it off, that would be awesome. And if so, it could even become a semi-regular event, and spearhead future community-building efforts - you know, all that stuff that got discussed in that thread on Blab back in December.

Oh, the details: It’ll be Saturday, May 15th, at the Romeo Community Center, 361 Morton Street, Romeo, Michigan, across the street from the baseball field. (If you’ve been to Detroit Rock City Live, it’s the same location.) It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; if you’re coming to sell and need to set up, we’re allowed in the hall at 9 a.m. There will be a small table fee to help recover part of the cost of the hall rental and supplies. If there should be - heaven forbid! - any extra cash from that, it’ll get donated to charity. (I’m not anticipating it, but you never know.) Table space is limited, so while a reservation isn't necessary, it might be a good idea.

Shoppers and the general public will be allowed in at 10 a.m. There may well be some non-hobbyist foot traffic, as Romeo will be having its annual Victorian Festival that day as well. (So, you know, behave yourselves!) We have to be out of the hall by 5 p.m. If anyone wants to keep the party going, my house is literally less than a half mile away from the Community Center, and anyone who wants to peruse the collection or take a look at the reference library, they’re more than welcome. (I’ll try to make the house "presentable.")

That’s it for today. I have the whole weekend off, so I’ll try to get in another actual Breyer History post in there somewhere. It looks like we might have some decent weather on Sunday, so there might be a flea market report in the near future, too.

(BTW, nobody in the picture above is for sale. It's just a group shot of a random corner of the house; that's what it looks like after I did the major culling.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Working Class Poodles

I had the chance but nope, didn’t do it. Didn’t click on the Shopatron link and order a leftover Smokin Hot Chic. She’s pretty and all, but I just blew a wad on jewelry-making supplies (the latest craft obsession), and there’s no room for her anyway. More horses need to go out of the house, not come in.

Since I’ll be going full-bore crazy over the next week and a half making sure the Swap Meet goes off as planned (more on that tomorrow) my posts this week and next will be short and sweet - and hopefully, a little more frequent; I know I’ve been slacking!

My mind’s been on puppies lately. We had to replace our furnace last week, so our near-future puppy plans a little in doubt; the money just might not be there. The thought of not having a bouncing baby terrier tearing up the house apparently disturbed me so much that I found myself wandering the aisles of the local PetsMart on Friday, engaging in a little "pet" therapy.

I have most of the Traditional Breyer Dogs - not all, but most. Of all of them, I think I have the most of the Large Poodle - not sure why, I just do. It might be one of those regional things - they seem to show up in the markets here more frequently than the other more "common" Breyer canines, like the Boxer the Bassett Hound.

There’s also a multitude of subtle variations on the earliest Poodles - the Black and the White - that have fueled my previously unrecognized obsession. My favorites are the "Blue Collar" Poodles, especially my Black one:

We’re not entirely sure when the Large Poodle debuted; we know it was in production by 1957, since it’s seen in an ad for both the Black and the White in the June 1957 issue of Western Horseman, and in the 1957 Sears Wishbook (the infamous "French Poodle Sewing Kits.") I suspect that 1957 was the introduction date, but I don’t have any additional data to back it up my suspicion.

We’re pretty sure that the "Blue Collar" variations are the earliest, though. All of the reference photos of the Poodle prior to 1963 are in black and white, so all the evidence comes from the Poodles themselves. All Blue Collar Poodles I’ve seen lack the mold stamp - put on the mold ca. 1960 - and my MIB White Poodle with the Illustrated Shipper box (allegedly from the collection of an early Sales Rep) has a handpainted Blue Collar.

They are also relatively scarce, compared to the Red- and Pink-collared ones. The White Poodle is far easier to come by than the Black in the Blue Collar variation; I’ve had at least a half dozen Blue Collar Whites pass through my hands, but only one Blue Collar Black. Oh, I’ve tried: my Blue Collar Black is in much rough shape than he appears, and I’ve been trying to upgrade him for years. No luck: either I’m a little too late, or a little too short on the cash whenever a better one appears. Lucky for me he’s molded of solid black acetate, so his scuffs are not too noticeable.

So, why the disparity in the numbers? There are two possible theories. One, it could have been by design: maybe the Black Poodles were originally intended to come with Red Collars all along, and the Blues were a very brief anomaly. I prefer the second theory: I think the Black Poodle debuted slightly later than the White Poodle - maybe just by a few months, even - and by that time, they were already starting to phase out the blue paint in favor of the red, likely as a cost-cutting measure. (One less step in the painting process: just use the tongue paint as the collar paint!) Hence, the relative scarcity of the Blue Collar Blacks.