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.

No comments: