Monday, June 28, 2010

Condition Issues

Would you believe I found another MasterCrafters Clock? This one is the "Swinging Playmates:"

I’ve wanted to start a collection of the Breyer-based MasterCrafters stuff for years, but most of the pieces I found were either way too expensive, or way too trashed. And now I’ve found three in the space of one year!

That sort of nonsense happens to me all the time. I spent many fruitless years searching for a Balking Mule, only to find three in the space of a week. There were several consecutive years where my flea market season was not complete without at least one Charcoal Fighting Stallion turning up. And let’s not even get into my issues with the Black Stretched Morgan: I love the mold dearly, but I find so many of them I sometimes feel like they’re stalking me. (Why can’t one - just one! - of them be a Woodgrain?)

I found lots of other good stuff, too, including a gorgeous and extremely matte-finished early Bay Fighting Stallion with footpads; I was a little hesitant to buy him at first because he seemed a bit rough, but he cleaned up well. The only sure keeper in the bunch for me, besides the Clock, is this Classic Arabian Foal cull:

I suspect he was an honest accident, and not a hobbyist’s piece that arrived there via an estate or garage sale. Every once and a great while an unfinished piece will turn up in a family set from the 1970s or 1980s. It was nothing nefarious; quality control was just a little more lax back then.

I bought models off the shelf in the 1970s: rough seams, painting bloopers, fuzzy gray socks were a par for the course. When you were shopping for a potential show horse, you didn’t worry so much about conformation or breed type: what you hoped for was something reasonably free of major paint or body flaws. I roll my eyes every time someone whines that "they don’t make Breyers the way they used to." Yeah, they sure don’t: they make them better.

Speaking of condition issues, the Foal was found in a rather large collection of horses, mostly dating from the 1980s. They were a reasonably decent lot, quality wise, except for one thing: most of them were mildew dappled. It was a shame, since some of them had beautiful paint jobs. The prices were reasonable, so I picked out a few of the choicer items, and left the rest behind.

Mildew dappling is most often seen on models with matte-finished bay, chestnut or palomino paint jobs, usually from the 1970s or 1980s. The mildew attacks and eats at the topmost surface of the paint, creating an effect not unlike resist dapples. Whenever I see a listing on eBay or MHSP that mentions dappling on a vintage model that’s not supposed to be, I almost always assume mildew is at fault. There are a few genuine vintage test colors of dappled non-grays, but they’re pretty rare and fairly distinctive.

Why models of that time period are prone to mildew is unknown. By that time, the clear topcoat that was sprayed over most matte-finished models had been discontinued, and I suspect that that’s what was preventing the mildew from forming before. It "sealed" the plastic from direct exposure to the mildew spores. That might explain the absence of widespread mildew damage on Alabasters and Dapple Grays: they continued to get this topcoat for some time after it was discontinued elsewhere.

There’s not a lot that can be done to reverse mildew damage. I’ve found that a quick, modestly strong bleach bath helps. It doesn’t eliminate much of the dappling, but it does kill off the mildew and keep it from spreading.

My clock also had some condition issues, but they’re mostly internal: like my previous find, the clock mechanism doesn’t work. Oh, the irony - the only one of my three Swingers that works is the rather sad one now residing on my saleslist.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some Final Fun Foal Thoughts

So it looks like that many of the last round of babies in the Fun Foals program - the all-black Grazing Foal, Scratching Foal, and Running Foal - were probably just repainted leftovers from the less popular Mom and Dad match-ups. That’s not a surprise: the Wixom/Mustang combo was by far the most popular of the four, especially after the earliest orders started arriving. A little black paint, and voila! A little something extra special for those last minute shoppers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if these little ones were painted stateside, too; it wouldn’t make sense to send them back to China for such a simple repaint job. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these leftovers - original recipe, or crispy - end up in the Pit this year. The slight possibility of a Black Scratcher or two being in attendance just might be reason enough to justify breaking in my shiny white platform boots.

(BTW, those boots are definitely coming with me this year. I’ve been trying for the past couple of days to brainstorm a most excellent Hollywood Costume idea incorporating them, without success. You know, I was never that motivated to dress up for candy for Halloween! And anyone who knows me knows I love my chocolate.)

Breyer’s done this before (the repainting of foals, not just the humiliation of hobbyists via silly dress-up contests.) Many of the Black foals available in the 4000 Classics Arabian and 4001 Classics Quarter Horse Blister Pack Assortments in the 1970s were repainted culls. The one way you can tell? A bit of bay or chestnut paint will show through the airbrushed transitional areas on the head or legs.

Someone on Blab a few weeks back suggested that this program - selling Classics Foals individually, sans a parental unit - be reinstituted. I’m all for that, for a number of reasons.

First, it already has a history as a successful program: the original Classics Foal Assortments lasted about ten years. Second, the Adults are already available individually: why not the Foals as well, to make our own custom family sets? Third, you can’t go wrong with adding another low-priced (and presumably, high-volume) piece to the line.

And finally, the cuteness factor: hello, these new Classics Foals are absolutely adorable. I’m slightly obsessed by the newest member of the herd, that little cutie pie first seen in the 62006 Pinto Horse and Foal set. (Is there an "official" name for this foal, yet? Or one we’ve all sort of agreed on?) I’d buy multiples of that one, for sure.

The only drawback I can see is the cost - of the packaging. There might not be enough profit in packaging and marketing individual Foals. Reeves has been selling Foal 2-Packs for a while now, at pretty much the same price point as one Adult. Customers may expect - or demand - that the prices on the individual Foals be exactly half that price. Twice the packaging, for the same amount of money? Yeah, that might not work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moose Variations

I swear this local flea market has a sense of humor. Among the odds and ends I found this week? A Bergen Toy Cow:

It was in one of those giant miscellaneous junk boxes full of finger candy - cheap plastic toys, buttons, beads, ephemera, other crafty bits. I laughed, and tossed it in my buy pile. It wasn’t my best find of the day - that title would have gone to an Old Mold Stallion in Woodgrain - but it was the most amusing one.

I want to take a brief break from the Tenite tech talk and focus on less research-intensive subjects this week; most of my attention right now needs to be on getting my BreyerFest paperwork in shape. Let’s begin with another beloved denizen of my office: this lovely "Chocolate Moose."

He has handpainted pink nostrils and black antler tines. He does have the USA mold mark, so he’s not a super-duper early one, but he’s one of the nicest ones I’ve had the pleasure of setting my eyes on. I’m quite delighted to share his company.

The original #79 Moose ran from 1966 through 1996, and his color ran the whole gamut from nearly black to almost tan. While the darker ones tend to be from earlier in the run, and the lighter ones later, there was no true consistency to the paint job from batch to batch or year to year. The "Chocolate Moose" variation is, naturally, among the most desirable.

The most desirable Moose is, without question, the Presentation Series one. Actually, all of the Presentation pieces are considered quite rare, with the exception of the Adios, who is only slightly less so. I’ve found a few trophy mounted Breyers in my time, but no true Presentation pieces so far, Moose or otherwise.

He has had only two other releases: the #387, in a pale chestnutty color, and the #398, in a dark shaded dun with tan antlers. I haven’t had any luck securing a decent #387; he was only available for two years - 1997 and 1998 - and the paint job seems unusually prone to damage. I do have the #398, and a unique one at that. How unique? Here’s his head shot:

Isn’t he adorable?

He’s another one of those "newtoymens" models. I don’t know if he’s a test piece, an oddball who was pulled from production, or a little something someone at the factory whipped up for their own amusement. Maybe they were experimenting with different antler placements? Or was it merely a fortuitous fixturing failure? I haven’t examined enough of these later Moose to make the call.

The Moose’s antlers were molded separately and attached post-molding. He’s not unique in that respect: lots of models, including the Big Poodle, Elk, Bighorn Ram, Cow, and most of the Bulls also have separately molded body parts. What’s unique about my Moose is his complete lack of symmetry, well beyond the normal degree of variation we usually see for these sort of things. The Longhorn Bulls are notorious for the amount of variation in their horn placement, but individual models tend to be symmetrical, whether they’re pointing up or pointing down.

And not quite as amusing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Acetate, Butyrate and Propionate - Oh My!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Breyers haven’t always been made of Tenite Acetate. I’m not talking about the Stablemates and Little Bit/Paddock Pals, both of whom made the transition to ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) some time ago. There have been a couple of times in the past when Breyer used other types of Cellulose Acetate.

The first known incidence of this is from the early to mid-1970s: the Chalky Era. Since Tenite was expensive, and in short supply, Breyer went overseas to purchase the off-brand Cellulose Acetate they needed to continue production. It might not have been "Tenite," but it was still the same stuff chemically - more or less. It’s not the color this stuff came in that made the difference: the pigments used to color Cellulose Acetate have little effect on the plastic’s basic properties. It’s the formula itself: every manufacturer has their own, subtly different recipe for Cellulose Acetate.

Because each brand of Cellulose Acetate is slightly different chemically, it’s generally not a good idea to start mixing them together - just like it’s not a good idea to mix different brands of the same kind of paint together. So the brittleness some Chalkies are known for may not just be a result of a different "recipe," it could also be the result of a slightly incompatible regrind mix.

In the late 1970s, Breyer again was forced, due to cost, to switch to a different type of Cellulose Acetate. This time it was Cellulose Acetate Propionate (CAP.) CAP is most definitely not compatible with plain old Cellulose Acetate: the literature from the Eastman Chemical makes it very clear that mixing the two is a very bad idea. (Oddly, it can be mixed, to some degree, with the third form of Tenite - Cellulose Acetate Butyrate, or CAB.)

The "B" mold mark was added to molds during this time period - ca. 1979-1982 - to help distinguish the Propionate-molded models from the Acetate-molded ones, and prevent regrinding accidents. It’s assumed that the "B" mark was added to most Breyer molds in production during that time period - but we don’t know for certain. I’ve been casually keeping track of that data point just to confirm or verify. And who knows? Maybe a surprise or two will show up. (I keep track of all sorts of crazy data points. It’s a wonder I get anything done at all!)

But why did they use a "B" mark - shouldn’t it have been "P" for Propionate, instead? I wonder if they originally decided to go with the Butyrate form of Tenite instead, and only switched to the Propionate at the last minute. The molding properties of the Butyrate form of Tenite are more similar to the Acetate than the Propionate.

It’s probably only a coincidence - maybe it was just a "B for Breyer" thing, or a random mold stamp they picked up. Or maybe it was just an artifact of their internal production process: they may have simplified things for the workers by referring to the two different plastics by letter, rather than by name. If Acetate was "Plastic A," then Propionate could have become "Plastic B." No clue.

In general, both Propionate and Butyrate are more dimensionally stable, and can hold detail better than Acetate. However, these properties come at a price: less flexibility. That lack of flexibility results in this sort of thing happening more often:

A lot could have been done to manipulate Propionate and Butyrate to behave more like Acetate - either by changing the plastic formula (adding or subtracting plasticizers) or recalibrating the molding process (manipulating the heat, the pressure, or the injection speed.) It must have been too much of a hassle: they opted to go back to Acetate once it was feasible to do so.

While most molds had the B mold mark removed by 1982, it lingered on for years afterwards on a small number of molds, most notably the Rearing Stallion. Some molds seem to be more rare than others with the B mark, but I don’t know of many hobbyists who collect them the way, say, Chalkies are collected.

As far as I know, Traditional-scale Breyers are still made from Cellulose Acetate - though I am unsure if it is specifically the Tenite brand. I haven’t seen the word "Tenite" in any of the promotional literature lately, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. As the saying goes, the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Unique Properties of Cellulose Acetate

You’ve probably heard by now about the demise of Giant Butter Jesus. The drive to Kentucky this year will not be the same without the dairy-like Divinity’s presence. You would have thought, though, that for the amount of time and money they invested in him that the church would have gone the extra mile and upgraded him to sturdier stuff than wood and styrofoam.

(Big Lex is going to be fiberglass, right? Right?)

Now, onto the stuff our stuff is made of: Tenite.

Tenite is the brand name for a family of cellulosic plastics created by the Eastman Chemical Company of Kingsport, Tennessee. It was formerly known as the Tennessee Eastman Corporation, a subsidiary of the Eastman Kodak Company. There are actually three different forms of Tenite: Cellulose Acetate (CA), Cellulose Acetate Butyrate (CAB), and Cellulose Acetate Propionate (CAP.) Breyers are usually made of the Cellulose Acetate form of Tenite; that’s not always been the case, but we’ll get to that in the second part of this discussion.

Cellulose Acetate was developed as a more stable and less flammable substitute for Cellulose Nitrate, or Celluloid. It was first used to manufacture photographic film and textiles: it’s the stuff Rayon is made of. The solid, moldable form of Cellulose Acetate was put on the market in 1932, and it basically made the plastic injection molding industry possible: prior to that, most plastics were either extruded, cast, or formed by hand, which made mass production labor intensive and time consuming.

Other plastics hit the market not long afterwards, including Tenite II, or Cellulose Acetate Butyrate, in 1938. Other companies came up with their own varieties of Cellulose Acetate, often with their own unique brand names.

Here’s the cover to a promotional brochure for Tenite, ca. 1940; one could easily imagine it sitting on someone’s desk at the Breyer Molding Company way back when. There were other booklets available on molding, and one on its properties/specifications, but I don’t happen to have either one in my archives - yet.

The brochure is lavishly illustrated; although we’re still several years before the model horse boom, there are some equine-themed items among the products displayed, including Bergen cowboys, and a Lone Ranger Yo-yo!

The brochure goes into great detail about what an ideal material Tenite is for toy manufacturing:
"Tenite is also used for game pieces and toys. Chessmen, mahjong pieces, and poker chips may be injection molded complete in only a few seconds, eliminating hand-carving, machining, and polishing operations. Toy trains, airplanes, and automobiles are safer and less expensive to produce in Tenite than similar articles made by swedging nitrocellulose sheeting. Jackstones, toy soldiers, whistles, and babies’ teethers of Tenite are practically unbreakable, light in weight, and colorfully attractive."
Little wonder why Breyer decided to stick to Tenite when they began to mass-produce the Western Horse, eh? (Well, there weren’t a lot of other plastics to choose from, either - might as well go with what you know.)

Though the original form of Tenite has largely been eclipsed by more modern plastics, and by other forms of Tenite, there’s a reason why it’s still the go-to material for the model horse industry: it feels good! Or, as the brochure also explains:
"Because it is a low conductor of heat and takes an exceptionally smooth finish, molded Tenite is very pleasant to the touch."
It’s no coincidence that the other uses for Cellulose Acetate today include toothbrushes, eyeglass frames, and tool handles: all of these surfaces come in close, regular contact with the skin.

The text also notes that "in certain formulas, Tenite is virtually odorless and tasteless." An important consideration back then, but amusing today: isn’t the aroma part of the charm? Who among us hasn’t taken a long, deep sniff after deboxing a brand new arrival? I know I’m not the only one who’d be willing to buy a "New Breyer Horse" scented car air freshener.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Updating and Site Maintenance

Nothing much at the flea market yesterday, just odds and ends I didn’t want to negotiate over. I wasn’t feeling so great either; I was still a little woozy and dehydrated from spending most of the past two days cruising the village-wide garage sale with Mom. She complains we never do anything together, so I was sort of obligated to go, but my arm didn’t need that much twisting.

She found a nice vintage floor lamp and some dishes; among many other things, I picked up this fabulous upgrade of my Mastercrafter Swinger Clock:

It’s complete and immaculate - like someone took a time machine on a shopping spree in 1950! (Holy Decorators - it still has the paper safety tag on the electrical cord. How often do you see that?) Ironically, unlike the duct-taped beater I picked up last year, the clock mechanism doesn’t work. I have plenty of other clocks - Breyer or otherwise - that do, so that wasn’t a deal breaker. Off to the saleslist for the beater!

Speaking of my saleslist, I was just going through my preliminary BreyerFest preparations here - and as usual, feeling dreadfully behind. The saleslist is just about the only thing I have "finished." My biggest worry is what topics to cover in the Sampler. I don’t lack for ideas, but I sometimes wonder if I should revisit and rewrite some topics that I’ve covered here already. Not everyone has access to the blog, and it might be nice to re-release this information to another audience. I have a long day tomorrow, and plenty of time to think about it.

Another thing I’m thinking about is adding a few more features to the blog itself. I’m definitely considering adding a "Recent Comments" tracker. Partly to keep a lid on spam - it hasn’t been too much of a problem here, yet - but also to keep track of newer comments being made in older posts. I know I tend to stop looking, or commenting, on posts once they drop off the front page, and I was quite surprised to see the number of interesting, substantive comments I had missed when I was doing a little site maintenance a week or so ago.

Don’t worry, I won’t go all "Big Sister" on you - heck, I’ve barely "monetized" the blog beyond the obligatory Paypal donation button.

Next up: we finally start talking Tenite!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kansas City Shams

I was dismayed to discover that there was nothing in my body box suitable for my Celebrity Look-a-like Contest idea. Nuts! Maybe I’ll get lucky and find something at the flea market in the next few weeks, so I don’t have go to and buy something new from the store.

I have nothing against customizing - I just hate buying brand new models to customize. Part of it is my "rehab" mentality: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. My bigger problem with it is that there’s that slight possibility that you just might be destroying something special in the process - especially if you’re working with a new release. Most mold and paint changes occur early on in a model’s run, but we don’t really become away of some of these changes, or value them, until later releases of the same mold or color come out.

The Kansas City Shams are a good object lesson. At least one was lost that way, because it was assumed that the batch available at that show were production run Shams - or were going to be. Both Mr. Rudish, and hobbyists in general, were a little miffed when the Sham debuted in 1984 in a flat Red Bay, and not the "Golden Bay" described in loving detail in the book. It was assumed that the color correction was made, and the Red Bays were going to be the variation, not the standard.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. Rumors floated around that they had given the remainder of the Golden Bays they had produced to Sears for their 1984 Wishbook orders. Imagine what a nice surprise that would have been on Christmas Day!

Alas, there was little truth in the rumor. The paint job on the Sham did vary widely throughout its run - ranging from neon orange, bright red, to darkest mahogany - so it’s possible that a few of those early Sears Wishbook Shams could have been some shade of Golden Bay. But they were not the true Golden Bays from Chris Nandell’s Heart of America show.

Another complicating factor is that Breyer evidently did struggle with getting the Sham’s color just right: there are a lot of Bay test pieces floating around, and most that I’ve seen appear authentic, or at least not obviously faked. I even have one myself; if you look at him closely, you’ll notice that his mane and tail are hand-airbrushed, not masked like the production run piece:

(I purchased him from the estate of a man who had worked for Breyer in Chicago. He was not listed as a test color, but all the clues were there.)

There are a lot of dubious Kansas City Shams floating around. He’s so desirable - and potentially lucrative - a thing that many sellers start throwing around the "Kansas City" claim the moment they set eyes on a slightly lighter than average Bay. If every model claimed to be one on eBay were authentic, he’d be more common than most of the Special Runs of the early 1980s - ones measures in the hundreds of pieces, not in the dozens.

If you’re ever offered a Kansas City Sham, make sure the seller shows you the paperwork: the provenance, chain of ownership, receipts, whatever. And if they don’t, give ‘em the old stink eye and walk away.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spot On

Did I forget to mention I got my Spot On the other day? She’s my eighth Connoisseur, so I’ve decided to call her Octavia:

I was not as enthused as I normally was when I saw my name on the Spot On draw list. It wasn’t the Connoisseur "fatigue" that some folks are quick to bring up every time a new Connoisseur is announced; I still get a little thrill every time I "win" one. It’s just that this time, that brief moment of happiness was mixed with concern over where I was going to put her.

I really have to consider my purchases very carefully now, since the recent remodel left me with significantly less storage space than I had before. It’s cheaper and easier to just avoid buying something in the first place, rather than have to go through the agony of purging something later.

I wasn’t going to decline her; I have this silly notion in my head that if I ever skip a Connoisseur opportunity, somehow I’ll never win anything again, ever - Connoisseur, Raffle, Bingo, whatever.

I’m so glad I have her now. Her paint job is simply exquisite. I kept her on my desk for several days, taking in all the nuances of shading and masking. In spite of its busyness, it seems to enhance the detail in the mold: I hadn’t noticed before what an athletic, muscular girl Roxy is. My only other Roxy is the BreyerFest one, and the flat black paint job tones down her muscularity somewhat.

I’m not real keen on her braided mane and tail. Aside from the fact that they’re slightly out of proportion to the rest of the model, the Roxy mold strikes me as more of a "jeans and t-shirt" girl. Don’t get me wrong, she "cleans up" real nice, but she looks more comfortable, and more herself, with her hair down.

There have been five releases of the Roxy mold in her first year of release, though only two - the original Roxy, and the current regular run Bet Yer Blue Boons - are readily available to most collectors. Well, maybe not the original Roxy, for much longer: I have noticed a considerable uptick in interest in her lately, more than your average BreyerFest Celebration Horse.

Five releases in one year may seem like a lot, but back in the 1960s, that was pretty much business as usual. Molds like the Fighting Stallion, Mustang, the Running Mare and Foal, and the Family Arabians all came in multiple colors - simultaneously.

Back then, there were a limited number of molds to choose from, so it made sense to release all of them in as many colors as possible, to maximize sales. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that multiple simultaneous releases became the exception, not the norm. More molds were available, and many of them were breed-specific, limiting their possible color choices anyway. The multiple simultaneous releases, ironically, became more prevalent in special run releases, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s. Special runs of the Pacer, Shire, SM G1 Draft Horse, Hanoverian, Phar Lap, Indian Pony, Balking Mule, Belgian, Bucking Bronco - all were released in multiple colors simultaneously.

Except for the some of the Treasure Hunts, and the occasional Gambler’s Choice release, these simultaneous releases (regular run, or special run) don’t happen very often anymore - with Traditionals. A recent exception has been the Ethereal Collection - I was just skimming the 2010 Collector’s Manual, and it seemed weird to see all four of them there. Doesn’t it feel like each Ethereal should have been discontinued before the following one was released?

Multiple releases are not uncommon among Classics and Stablemates releases today: they come out with so many different gift set combos in any given year, there’s bound to be a little overlap. They’re smaller, and cheaper, so for devotees of those molds it hasn’t been a huge burden keeping up with them - aggravating sometimes, but not as spatially or economically devastating as a Silver or Othello obsession might be.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Being a Tiger

You probably heard about the not-quite-a-perfect game controversy this week, right? That didn’t help alleviate my funky (not the dance floor kind) mood. Detroit - the city, the team, the region - just can’t catch a break sometimes.

It’s been that way for a while. Not for the past few decades, but centuries. The City’s official motto is Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus. In English: "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes." It’s not something new or recent: it was adopted in response to a fire that completely leveled the city - in 1805.

A couple days later, Mom wanted to do a little local garage sale hopping. Pickings were a little slim - it was late in the day, and the pickers had already finished picking - but look at what I found in spite of it all:

A Lomonosov Tiger Cub! I really shouldn’t keep him, but I will. I have to: it feels like a gift from my late grandfather, Louie. He stood by his team, and his city, in good times and bad.

So can I.

Yeah, we know things are desperate and messed up, but it’s not hopeless. The city I know is not the city the rest of the country knows. But I’m at least glad that the rest of the country got to see a little of what I’ve seen all along, reflected in the way everyone here acquitted themselves in the matter.

Following up on the discussion of the volunteering subject, here are a few more words on the matter. I was going to just add them to the comments in the previous post, but it was starting to run a bit long, and I didn't want them to get lost in the shuffle.

I have no problem with show-specific specials, the kind anyone who happens to be attending can simply purchase by standing in line and paying the money - like the BreyerWest or QuarterFest Specials. If there's any problem there, it's in the distribution and selection of the events that get them. The specials involved haven't been so rare or desirable that it's become a problem, yet. (The LSE/VRE events are definitely on the edge, though.)

I also have no problem with raffle items: as long as the opportunity to purchase tickets is available to all participants. Most raffles work towards the benefit of both parties financially: the raffle holder gets money for their cause, and the raffle winner gets a treasured prize in return.

Live show and volunteer models are problematic because they are now seen by many as entitlements, the benefits of which flow almost entirely to the receiver. The problem with entitlements is that, for better or worse, once it's been established, the potential receivers are loath to give it up.

That's what the brouhaha about the Youth show prizes was about, and why I included them, in passing, in the original discussion. Reeves is trying to scale back to prizes more appropriate to the nature of the show, but many aren't having it. They’re now seen as entitlements - an entitlement that’s now also disincentivizing some showers from moving beyond what is essentially a teaching show. (Useful baseball analogy: what’s the point of moving up to the Majors, if there’s better money to be made in the Minors?)

A similar dynamic is going on with the volunteer specials.

Because of inertia, expediency, or old-fashioned politics, some people will be volunteers for as long, or for as often, as they want to be. I think that the volunteer model encourages some of those folks to continue, at the expense of others who are equally capable, or have a different or fresher approach. If you have skill or expertise in an area that’s already being covered by someone else, the only option that’s left to you is to toss your application into the highly competitive general applicant pool.

Reeves tries to emphasize that the models are a gift, and could stop the practice at any time. But the entitlement has been established, so going back to a standard volunteer package is unlikely at this point. Creating a second tier of volunteers that will work for food? That bird won't fly (and might not survive a legal challenge, either.)

Time for me to be a Tiger and move on. And hope for better things: I was watching TCM the other day, and I came up with what, I think, is a brilliant idea for the Celebrity Look-a-like Contest. (No telling, no clues - y’all will have to wait and see!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Compensation Packages

Been feeling a little down for the past couple of days - rejected as a BreyerFest volunteer, again. Man, it’s a big enough blow to the ego to get turned down for jobs that pay cash money, but for one that doesn’t? Ouch.

Of course, that’s not quite true - it does "pay" to be a volunteer. Everyone goes out of their way to say that oh goodness, no, I’m volunteering for the honor of it all - but let’s face it, the gratuity you get for that honor - an SR horse - is a very strong motivator for many. I rather doubt so many people would be as eager to apply if all Reeves offered was the standard convention volunteer package: t-shirt, hat, lunch, and free admission.

That’s not going to happen, of course. Those of us trolling Blab a few weeks back saw the carnage that ensued when the possibility of Reeves scaling back the Youth show prizes to something a little less financially rewarding was brought up. The sense of entitlement was … well, rather depressing. I didn't realize that fabulous rare prize models were now a live show necessity.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the hobby before it was about the money - or less so, anyway. You showed for the glory of it all, for the big, giant rosettes and having your picture taken and possibly featured in Just About Horses or the Model Horse Gazette. If you volunteered in some capacity - to hold a show, or judge one - it was just because the activity itself was so fun and rewarding in and of itself.

You did it because you loved it, and your compensation was the boost it gave to your reputation - and admittedly, your ego. There’d be financial compensation, indirectly, in the form of name recognition, especially if you had a secondary talent like customizing or tackmaking, but that was not your primary motivation.

There were some early experiments with volunteer, gift and prize models in the pre-BreyerFest days. Some of those 5 to 7 piece Test Runs/Special Runs that originated with Marney in the 1970s were a part of that experimentation: most of those were raffle pieces, presumably for fundraising and local show promotion. (Ah, if only I could have had a few for the Swap Meet! I’m getting to that post, I promise.)

Then came the Black Proud Arabian Mare. Oh, boy.

The story goes that they were created as a gratuity to a series of Breyer-sponsored liveshows - presumably as fundraisers and for local show promotion - but that’s not exactly what happened. Rumor has it that some showholders kept some of the models for themselves. Let me emphasize that that’s what I heard, and not what I know: it might have been the intent all along to allow these showholders to keep a piece as compensation, and the griping I heard was just the usual sour grapes.

The following year there were a handful of Red Bay Cantering Welsh Ponies made, and the 1987 Congress program specifically stated that the showholders would be receiving some as gifts. I have no idea if that was included to help dispel the rumors, or just coincidentally convenient phrasing. (And as I’ve brought up before, Marney’s writing skills were less than helpful.)

And that was it, until they instituted the live show at BreyerFest some years later. I have no idea if the rumors played a part in the discontinuation of the original program, or if other factors played a greater part, like complaints from "ungifted" showholders. Or was it the creation of BreyerFest itself, just a couple years later? Another question without an answer.

I’ll still do what I normally do for BreyerFest this year, with the camaraderie of my cohobbyists as my only compensation. It would have been nice to have been able to tell people behave themselves in the NPOD line, and have some small authority to back me up on that. An authority that only comes to those among the gifted, in some hobbyists’ eyes.

(I would have done it for a t-shirt and a footlong tuna sub. Any maybe a bullhorn. Heck, I'd still do it for that.)