Sunday, October 31, 2010


The flea market was cold and quiet today. I found a few good deals, including a quilt hoop (for a buck!) and a 1968 copy of The Care & Training of the Trotter & Pacer (with dustjacket!) There were a few models, but nothing worth the effort. I need to move more models out of the house, not into it. Gotta get cracking on the sales listings again…

If one of my pending deals goes through this week I just might buy myself a Bats in the Belfry as a reward. I love the mold, and the paint jobs on the ones I have seen so far have been exquisite.

To be honest, I never had a problem with, or really understood, the hate-on over the fuzzy bats on the original Nosferatu. The reason I never got around to buying one was because the Cigar mold doesn’t fit on my shelves. I love my Wanderlust, my QVC Seabiscuit, and my Glossy Affirmed (swoon!) but darn it, those suckers eat up a lot shelfy real estate. The Nokota Horse isn’t exactly petite either, but he’s got that multiple posability thing going on, and I can work with that.

I was making a few minor corrections and additions to my Nokota Horse file yesterday, in my ongoing effort to get my pile of research notes under control. Sigh: out of its 12 releases so far, 6 of them have piece runs of 100 or less. Here I thought the whole Esprit thing was bad. Fully half of the runs of the Nokota Horse are completely inaccessible to me, and likely always will be.

The Newsworthy mold isn’t a lot better: out of the eight releases so far, only the original release would qualify as a regular run, and even that only ran for about a year and a half. I'm not sure what to call the Enchanted Forest - a midyear release already on the Discontinue list? I guess that’s what he gets for the sin of merely being Bay.

All of these super-brief runs and micro-runs on new molds got me thinking about that question I posed earlier this year: is Reeves really heading towards a "Test Colors For Everyone!" business mode, a la Stone?

I hope not. It’d completely wreak havoc in the hobbyist sphere, where there’s already a huge issue being made over the effect that a handful of "big spenders" have been making on the hobby as a whole. What happens when they can - for a price - pretty much order whatever the heck they want?

I take a little comfort in the fact that most of the models I’ve seen come out of all of these "Make Your Own Test Color" programs haven’t been all that appealing to me. I guess it’s a side effect of being able to get whatever you want: most hobbyists are going to go for something completely, utterly idiosyncratic. It’s so completely tailored to their likes and dislikes that it won’t "fit" anyone else.

That’s also why I’m one of the lone voices out there arguing that models coming out of those programs aren’t really Original Finish. They meet all of the technical requirements - painted in the factory, with factory techniques - but in every other regard, they’re customs. They’re made to order, with a single defined customer in mind.

At best, I could concede them being another category: the Factory Custom.

Most shows are starting to break the RR and SR categories into further subdivisions - separating earlier Regular Runs from later ones, and low-piece count Specials from the more plentiful ones. I suppose, in the not so distant future, they’ll have to have a Factory Custom/OOAK subdivision, too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Family Arabian Foal: Expatriate?

I’ve spent my spare time this week mostly working on my research note pile. Ah, I had forgotten that most of these notes were the hard, crunchy bits that required additional research and cross-referencing and all that jazz. So progress has been a little slower than anticipated: one page of notes that should take an hour or so to process turns into a three or four hour ordeal.

One interesting little bit I rediscovered in my notes was a speculation I made about the Family Arabian Foal: the FAF might have been among the handful of molds slated to travel to Mexico!

What is the evidence that I base this speculation on? The appearance - and quick disappearance - of the USA mold mark, long before a single mold was shipped to China.

Now, the Family Arabian Foal has one of the most complicated molding histories of any Breyer mold. From the number of subtle - and not so subtle - mold changes I’ve been able to document on the FAF, it seems like it was being almost perpetually tinkered with.

I attribute most of the tinkering to the fact that the mold saw a lot of use: the Family Arabians were the "work horses" of the Breyer line in the 1960s and early 1970s, with the Foal being the most popular of the trio, by far. While some of the changes to the Foal’s ears were done to fix a problem inherent in the original design, most of the other changes were incurred during periodic cleaning and maintenance.

Around 1970 most - but not all - Breyer molds then in production had the "USA" mark added, presumably to satisfy the requirements of international trade law. Among the molds that received the mark was the Family Arabian Foal.

But it didn’t have it for long. Sometime between 1970 and 1982, the FAF’s USA mark disappeared.

The laws requiring the addition of the country of origin had changed by the mid-1970s but Breyer, for the most part, didn’t do anything to remove the marks that had already been added. The molds that had the USA mold mark kept them until recently - basically when all those molds were finally shipped to China.

With two notable exceptions: the Family Arabian Foal - and the El Pastor. El Pastor had his mark removed because he was among the contingent of molds that were sent to Mexico in the late 1970s.

I guess that’s what set my mind speculating. Since the Family Foal was a fairly high-volume piece, I could see a reasonable rationalization for moving the mold to Mexico. Seems plausible, right? It fits within the timeframe. Was the mold mark was removed in anticipation of the move?

Maybe not. The USA mark could have been removed in yet another round of cleaning and maintenance. The scarcity of FAFs with USA marks suggests the mold removal was very early - within a couple years of the mold receiving the mark, and not nearly the decade later the Mexico theory would require.

Complicating the dating of the mold mark removal is the fact that for most of the disputed time period, the FAF came in only one color, and one finish: Matte Palomino. Sure, there were some Chalkies thrown in the mix, and some other colors in the early 1970s, but they’re not helpful for dating. Matte finishes were introduced prior to the USA mark, and some of the Chalkies could have been repainted warehouse overstock.

So confusing! Maybe that’s why had forgotten about the theory in the interim. Too many variables, too many unknowns.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Such an aggravating day! Not a single darn thing went right. I just had to throw out a sewing project that absolutely refused to cooperate. It was one of those easy, "one day" projects, according to the magazine I took it from - ha!

I hate wasting all that time and fabric, but sometimes you’ve just got to cut your losses and move on, y’know?

Speaking of vexations, let’s get back to Fury. Here’s a not very good photograph of a variation you don’t see too often: no socks!

There are lots and lots of variations on the original Fury, but that's not today's topic. Today's topic is much more fundamental: when was he released?

Breyer was pretty good about developing and marketing products of the licenses they did acquire in the 1950s. Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Circus Boy all came out in a timely manner, not long after the shows debuted. But not Fury: even thought the show debuted in October 1955, I haven’t been able to find any documentation for the Fury model prior to 1958.

The Prancer mold was up and running for the Davy Crockett set by mid-1955, so the Fury model could have been good-to-go for the Christmas 1955 season, but no mail order catalogs from that year have shown one. He’s nowhere to be found in the multitude of 1956 articles and press releases, either. I wouldn’t rule out 1957 - there’s still plenty of digging to do there - but I don’t see him any of the 1957 materials I have at the moment.

It seems odd that Breyer wouldn’t have release a Fury until 1958 - nearly two and a half years after the show went on the air. Did someone else have the license for a model, and fail to make good on it? Was there a legal issue that had to be hammered out? Or was the licensing program for the show just a little slow on the draw?

The research I’ve done on non-Breyer Fury merchandise so far seems to hint that licensing for the show didn’t get fully underway until about … 1958. There were a few bits and pieces before then, but 1958 seems to have been the year they decided to go all out with books, comics, puzzles and the like - all the usual dime store novelties boomer kids dropped their cash on.

So that last possibility might be closest to the truth. 1958 might be the Fury’s true release date - unless further evidence proves otherwise.

Even though the merchandising might have gotten off to a late start, it wasn’t short-lived. Fury merchandise continued to be produced well after the show stopped production in 1960, in part because NBC kept the show on - renamed Brave Stallion - as a part of their Saturday Morning children’s programming until 1966. The same year - not coincidentally - that Breyer finally discontinued the Fury for good.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Little More About Kit

Reeves released photos of the Sneak Peeks for 2011, and the biggest nonsurprise there is a Giselle and Gilen set. They look quite lovely in Bay - continuing in the whole Running Mare and Foal theme, maybe? (I was secretly hoping for a Black/Dark Gray mare and light/white foal combo, myself.)

I hope their imminent arrival spares a few of the SRs - especially the beautiful Melanges - from the chopping block. (A matching foal for her would be a fine and lovely thing, I think. Aren’t we about due for another Web Special? Hmm.)

I had a serious case of writer’s block yesterday, so I spent the day going through my pile of unprocessed research notes. Not the new stuff I picked up at the main branch of the DPL back in September: most of this pile is old research, some of it dating back to the 1980s. I never had a framework to put it into before, but now that I do - along with the time to do it - I figured I might as well tackle it.

Most of it is secondary or supplemental research, the kind of data I’d find while researching something else for work or school. I’d get bored, or squirrely, or nauseous from the fumes of musty old issues of Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and off I’d go in search of something more interesting (or at least, less aromatic) to read.

One of those more interesting reads was Hal Erickson’s Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years 1947-1987. After looking up all my old favorites - Superman, Star Trek, Mr. Ed - I then proceeded to look up some of the shows I knew Breyers were based on: Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Fury, and … Kit Carson.

While doing my original blog post on Kit Carson, I was rather curious about the reasons why the show had, despite its popularity, so quickly disappeared from public consciousness. Lots of shows from that era continued on in syndication for decades, accruing new generations of fans. But not Kit Carson: the show seems to have just gradually faded away.

I had initially chalked the lack of enthusiasm about the show to its lack of originality. Erickson goes into a little detail about this:

Filmed at Republic Studios, the 104-episode Kit Carson was for a time syndicated television’s top-rated Western. Today it is largely forgotten. Perhaps this is because Carson was so derivative of most of the other Westerns of its era that one wonders why the producers were never sued.


Actually, the biggest reason why Kit Carson vanished was because its star, Bill Williams, didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. Erickson, again:

Former RKO leading man Bill Williams played Kit Carson; he approached the role as a job of work, with minimal exertion of personality or enthusiasm, and when the series ended, Williams declared publicly that he never wanted anything to do with Kit Carson ever again. Such words were the "kiss of death" to a syndicated western, where continuous personal appearances were ever so important.

As I mentioned before, pursuing a license from might not have been that big of a concern for Breyer. That the show was no longer being promoted nationally may have made it even less of a priority. They had already made their pile of cash from the Davy Crockett mold, and any profit they made from the Kit Carsons, however small it may have been, was theirs free and clear.

Next time we’ll talk about a TV license that worked out well - very well - for Breyer: Fury.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Horned Herefords, Pt. II: The Rarities

Remember when Chalkies weren’t that big a deal? They really didn’t become a "thing" until about 10 or 15 years ago. Hobbyists knew about them, and some of us even kinda-sorta collected them, but generally they didn’t elicit much of a reaction except among the true diehards.

The one good thing about Chalkies being not all that cool back then was that you could amass a fairly decent sized collection of them, at unscary prices. I can't recall exactly how many I have at the moment, but it's definite in the dozens.

One that I do regret not acquiring - back when I could - was the Horned Hereford Bull.

Some Chalkies are more rare or more desirable than others, and he certainly falls in that category. He’s not the rarest of Chalkies, but he inspires the kind of prices that make it seem so. Part of the reason so is because he’s what I call an Anomalous Chalky - Chalkies that weren’t made during the "Chalky Era," ca. 1973-1976.

A lot of hobbyists tend to think of these Anomalous Chalkies as being even more desirable than the standard Chalky Era Chalkies precisely because ... they’re anomalous. Chalkies from the 1950s and 1960s just have to be more rare and more valuable than the ones from the 1970s!

Actually, it’s hard to determine. I think they are a little scarcer than later Chalkies because of the way the technique was employed back then. A substantial portion of the Breyer line - not all, but most models - were made as Chalkies during the Chalky Era out of sheer necessity. Some of those Chalkies are definitely harder to find than others, but finding any Chalkies from that time period isn’t all that difficult. I picked up three or four of them this year, alone.

(I know, I know, my flea markets are better than yours. Blah blah etc.)

The Anomalous Chalkies - especially the earliest ones, from the 1950s - were made on a case by case, as-needed basis. Ran out of white plastic? Mold them in whatever color we’ve got, and paint ‘em over. Need a few pieces in another color to fill an order? Repaint the overstock.

Is it possible that some of the individual Chalky releases from the 1970s might be more rare than some from the 1950s and 1960s? Yes. The problem in determining that isn’t just one of time (its ravages, and the distance) but also of knowledge. There are a lot of low-information hobbyists out there that do not know what they have. Look at how many collectors still can’t tell the difference between the Family Arabians and the Old Molds, especially when the consequences of not knowing are so darn high!

The other Horned Hereford rarity may come as a surprise: it’s the Matte version. Yep, they made them in Matte, albeit very (very) briefly at the end of his very long run in 1981. Hobbyists are accustomed to assuming that the Glossy version of any given model is the rarer or more desirable one, but that’s not always the case.

The Horned Hereford Bull is one of those special cases. I know he’s rare, because I’ve been searching for one, unsuccessfully, for several years now. I don’t know if he’s more rare than the Chalky, but I think I’ve only seen one verifiable Matte in the past ten years. It wasn’t in the best condition, so I passed him by.

Silly me won’t be making that mistake again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Horned Herefords, Pt. I: The Commons

I actually found some models at the flea market this weekend. Nothing super-special - an Appaloosa Performance Horse, a Five-Gaiter, and a Red Roan Scratching Foal - but good finds still, especially when I thought the outdoor markets were tapped out for the year.

The vendor in question actually had more, but being a little more strapped for cash than usual this week, I had to leave them behind. They were good bodies at an even better price, but financial issues aside, I had just cleared out most of my bodies, and I really didn't want more cluttering up the office. (Hey, I didn’t spend all that time cleaning and organizing for nothing!)

Let’s try something short and uncomplicated today: Horned Hereford Bull variations. There are four significant variations on the original #71 in Brown and White - more if you count the different shades of brown, but I usually don’t. Today we’ll talk about the two most common variations - the airbrushed, and the masked.

Here’s an example of the airbrushed variation: the head and neck are masked, but the legs and belly are not.

(Yes, it's the one I have up for sale on MH$P. Any takers?)

The earliest photographs of the Horned Hereford Bull, however, show it completely masked. As it is here, in the November 1956 issue of Toys and Novelties:

So you’d think that would mean the partially airbrushed version is rare, right? Not really. Airbrushed Herefords are a little uncommon, but not uncommon enough to attract a much higher a price. He appears to have been in production in this variation as late as 1960, judging from his appearance in the 1960 Dealer’s Catalog.

But when did the completely masked version finally make its appearance? I couldn’t tell you. That version of the Hereford - one with the true production paint job, and not the obvious test piece from 1956 - finally appears in the 1963 Dealer’s Catalog. Whether the masking was new for that year, or something that happened in the time between the two Dealer’s Catalogs, is currently unknown. There’s no documentation from that period reliable enough to make that determination, just those same stock shots from 1956. (Those darn stock photos - the bane of my existence, they are!)

It’s strange that it took so many years for Breyer to change the masking to reflect the original concept. If it was selling just fine before, why bother tinkering with it later? Boredom? A make-work project? Did the original mask get lost in the factory somewhere until the cleaning lady found it?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Next time: the rarer variations.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time, Space, Rarity

At one point in my very productive yesterday, I had a rubber mallet in one hand, and a FAM body in the other. The absurdity of the moment stuck with me throughout the rest of the day, and as a service to my fellow hobbyists, I will now pass that moment along for your own private amusement.

Do with it what you will. (Need an idea for NaNoWriMo? There you go.)

On a more serious note, let’s get back to the notion of rarity. In light of some of the outrageous prices some rare - and not so rare - items have been bringing lately, it’s definitely a concept that would benefit from an extended discussion.

A couple of days ago, I was updating my files on the Esprit mold, and I was not pleased at what I saw: out of the four releases this mold has had so far, only one of the three - the original #9101 in Dappled Gray - is actually attainable to most hobbyists. There’s only about 30 of the Gloss Dappled Gray BreyerWest Volunteer Model, about 30 of the WEG Volunteer Special, and (allegedly) 250 of the Chestnut "Media" SR.

One of these "Media" Esprits was just auctioned off for a sum well into four figures. (A sum, in fact, that would have relieved me of most of my debts for the rest of the year, if I had been so fortunate to be on the receiving end of such largesse.) In order to collect this mold, one would have to be either extremely lucky, or extremely wealthy.

Since I am neither, it is unlikely that I’ll be seeing many Esprits in my collection in the near future. Sure, there’s the likelihood of future releases, the possibility of BreyerFest SRs, and the slim chance that a few of those Media SRs might end up in the NPOD. But when a mold gets off to such an exclusive start, it’s rather hard to work up the enthusiasm for collecting it in the first place.

It seems odd that the Esprit with the highest piece count among the three rarities is commanding the highest prices, but rarity isn’t merely a matter of numbers. When and Where - the Time and Space of it all - make as much of a difference in the perception of rarity as the actual quantity. The Chestnut Esprit was a gift to "the media," and not to us. The number of them that are in hobbyist hands (at the moment) is smaller than the number of either Volunteer Special. Even though more will inevitably make their way back to us, the perception of extreme rarity will persist for a while.

While it may seem that this is a new phenomenon, there are vintage molds that have disproportionate rare-to-common ratios, too. The Elephant is the most famous of these: how many of you out there have the Blue, the Pink, the Woodgrain and the one with the Howdah?

The piece runs on those Elephants is unknown, but undoubtedly very small: the Blue, Pink and Howdah Elephants only appeared in the ca. 1958 PR materials, and the Woodgrain not at all. But just how small? A few hundred - or a couple thousand?

It may seem absurd to think that rarities like those Elephants could have been made in the thousands, until you factor in Time and Space. They were released in a Time before the hobby was truly organized, much less catered to. And the Space they were released into was not just the hobby, but the world.

A 1500-piece SR may seem "large," especially if it’s distributed exclusively within the hobby. Distribute it to the world though, and it seems vanishingly small. Even if you limited to just the United States, that’d still average out to only 30 pieces per state. (Good for hobbyists in small or low-density states like New Hampshire or Wyoming, not so good for ones in big or high-density states like California or New York.)

The actual number of Pink-Blue-Woodgrain-Howdah Elephants in the hobby proper is hard to gauge, but I doubt it exceeds more than a couple dozen of each. Yet I feel I have a greater chance of acquiring those Elephants than I do the Esprits. The possibility of getting lucky is very real. It’s already happened once: I found a Howdah Elephant on a very slow day on eBay a few years ago.

The Esprits? Not so much. As I hinted above, there’s a slight chance that the supply of Media Esprits within the hobby will go up. Most of the scenarios I see - not just the NPOD, but as raffle and door prizes - won’t result in significantly lower prices for the rest of us, at least not in the short term. Now that a certain plateau has been set, many of those lucky enough to acquire one by these means aren’t going to settle for much less.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The SHM at TSC

Our local Tractor Supply finally got their Holiday stuff set up; in the past, they’ve been among the first to get the goodies in, but not this year. I had no plans on buying anything - hello, painfully-tight budget - but I did want to inspect the goodies for, you know, research purposes.

The Ranch Horse "Popcorn" was way nicer than I expected him to be; those dark, muddy promo photos did him no justice at all. In terms of chestnut paint jobs, I still prefer the SR Easy Jet, but I wouldn’t turn a Popcorn down if he just happened to end up in my mailbox or under the tree this XMAS.

He’s unnumbered, except for the export serial number mumbo-jumbo, so I assume he’s an open-ended run (limited to orders, not to a set quantity.) That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’ll be more of him than the limited-to-quantity exclusives; indeed, there might be considerably less, considering that sales haven’t been all that great on some of the more recent TSC exclusives. Popcorn’s nice, but I don’t see him generating the extra sales that a tie-in like John Wayne or Bonanza would.

Stores might be order less, and stock up on items with quicker movers. Like maybe those Classic Stock Horse Families? Boy, those sets are nice. (And more of the Tail Up Foal! Yes!)

Man, it was really hard not walking out with the Prince Plaudit one. I like how they mixed it up and included all of Breyer’s different Appaloosa paint techniques in that one set: you’ve got splash spotting, airbrushing and masking. A nice, subtle nod to collectors there, I think.

When I walked out of the TSC today, though, it was one of the other SRs that stuck in my mind - Templeton Thompson’s Jane, a Stock Horse Mare who comes in a rather nice shaded chestnut, too. She also appears to be another open-ended run; I’ve been told that she’s another TSC exclusive, but you know how it’s been with some of these farm-store SRs lately.

While the Stock Horse Stallion does have a few deficiencies, he’s not completely unattractive as is, especially with the right paint job. The Mare, on the other hand, well I … the nicest thing I can say is that the potential is there. I know it because I’ve seen it: several years ago at Model Horse Congress, D’arry Frank had an amazing custom of a SHM for sale I would have bought in a heartbeat, if I hadn’t been a destitute college student at the time.

What amazed me was that she wasn’t a "drastic" custom - and this was back in the day when that word actually meant something. Just some corrections, a slight head tuck, legs moved slightly, and she wasn’t just pretty, she was beautiful. Beautiful enough to make me actually flip over the price tag and take a look, even though I knew she wasn’t anywhere in my league, financially.

Yeah, I know, it’s D’arry Frank we’re talking about here - one of the few customizers who could make a Khemosabi live show competitive. But when you see something like that, it makes you realize that every model horse is beautiful - or at least has the potential to be.

I have no idea how well Jane will sell; she’s clearly another item that’s geared towards the non-hobbyist portion of the model horse buying public. Ironically, she might end being more "rare" than the Popcorn, though it’s more a matter of time and space, than numbers. Something I’ll talk about in greater detail in my next post.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pinto Stock Horse Stallions

As you can tell, I haven’t been very motivated lately. It’s not just the WEG thing. It’s October, and October’s never been a good month for me: an unusually high percentage of my friends and relatives who have shaken off the mortal coil have done so in October. (So far, so good, but there’s still a lot of October to go.)

We’re entering the slow time of the year for the part-time job, which means less income - to cover the same amount of bills. More actually, because of the dental emergency. (Just got a friendly "reminder" to pay the remainder of that. By this Friday, I hope.)

Because of the money situation, I wasn’t terribly motivated to buy anything at the flea market today, beyond a few grocery items and a new squeak toy for Vita. There were things to buy: some nice bodies, and a herd of hilariously funky flockies that someone had enhanced with glitter and rick-rack. I don’t normally go for flockies of any kind, but the fact that someone went out of their way to "customize" them did bring a bit of a smile to my face.

So what have I been doing? Finishing up old business, putting some way-too-distracting craft projects in storage, filing and reorganizing. I’m a bit behind in updating my research notes, so I’ve put a bit of a hold on the library visits until I get caught up. I need to focus on the newer stuff anyhow; while I may be on the verge of finally untangling the greater mysteries of the 1950s, the past couple years’ worth of releases are mostly a blur. (There were what, like 60 some items for WEG, alone? Sheesh.)

One recent release I do plan on buying when the money situation sorts itself out: that awesome JC Penney’s Two-Horse Set - the one with the Bay Smart Chic Olena and one of the coolest-OF-pinto-paint-jobs-evar Stock Horse Stallion.

Most of the Stock Horse Stallion’s previous pinto releases have been pretty blah. The LSE "Dallas" was pretty sweet, and I love my Sam I Am, but all of the easier-to-get Pintos? Total snoozers.

I can remember being a little surprised - and a tad bit disappointed - when my original Black Pinto Stock Horse Stallion arrived on my doorstep in early 1981. I had ordered him based on the photos I had seen in the Collector’s Manual I had received from the Bentley Sales Company:

Him, I found exciting. I love black pintos - and a minimal, mostly black one? Perfection! In fact, everywhere you looked in 1981, you found a different Black Pinto Stock Horse Stallion. Here’s another one, from the 1981 Alden’s Christmas Catalog:

Marney might have designed that one specifically; she had photos of both sides of one an awful lot like it in her photo album:

Also exciting? The San Domingo test from the 1981 Dealer’s Catalog. I’m not a huge fan of San Domingo, but I thought he looked freaking amazing in an airbrushed minimal black pinto:

Clearly the mold itself wasn’t ready in time for the photo shoot for the Dealer’s Catalog, so the next best thing - the San Domingos - had to be substituted. The stores placing their initial orders wouldn’t have been overly concerned that the final product varied somewhat from the Dealer’s Catalog; while I wouldn’t say that it was an expected occurrence, that sort of thing happens enough to not be that big a deal. Most toy buyers at that time wouldn’t have noticed, or cared, that the molds or the patterns didn’t match. They ordered black and white spotted horses, they got black and white spotted horses. No biggie.

Now the Collector’s Manual, that was a different situation: that was going straight into the hands of hobbyists and other consumers. While the hobby, and the model horse market in general, was not as sophisticated as it is now, the difference would have been noticed. And commented on, either to the toy store, or to Breyer itself.

Evidently the shoot for the Collector’s Manual was put off long enough to get some actual Stock Horse Stallions in there. The paint jobs weren’t finalized by then, but at least it was the right mold. Breyer would get a slew of whiny letters (including mine) about the catalog paint jobs not matching the production paint jobs, but not in the same quantity, or intensity, that a San Domingo subsitution would have brought.

As for the wide variety of pinto patterns, I’m not sure what was up with that. I do know there was a genuine dispute over the pattern, partly stemming from the fact that Peter Stone apparently didn’t know (at the time) the difference between Overo and Tobiano. But did each version represent the actual, viable production item at the moment of that photo shoot, or were they just whatever random test pieces they happened to have lying around?

If any of these early test pintos happen to turn up in the near future, I’d certain consider pouncing on them, regardless of my current financial stake.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Kit Carson?

Because there was a television show, that’s why:

The Adventures of Kit Carson was a relatively popular program from the earliest days of the Western television boom; over 100 half hour episodes were produced from 1951 through 1955, and ran in syndication for several years afterward. It was popular enough to merit a Coca-Cola sponsorship:

Just about the only thing the television show shared in common with the real-life frontiersman Kit Carson was the name. The real-life Kit was a rancher, trapper, soldier, Indian guide, explorer - a veritable 19th century superhero. On television, Kit and his Mexican sidekick "El Toro" spent most of their time like any other "White Hat" Westerners - righting wrongs and fighting crime on the frontier.

It’s quite obvious to me that Breyer’s Kit Carson is based on the character from the television show, and not the historical figure. The Breyer set replicates Kit’s signature look from the show - clean shaven, a fringed buckskin shirt, neckerchief and cowboy hat.

The show did have some merchandise associated with it - comic books, neckerchiefs, possibly a cap gun - a modest line up from a time just before the great Western TV merchandising boom. It doesn’t appear that Breyer actually pursued a licensing agreement with the show, however. The production of new episodes had ended by the end of 1955 anyway, so it could be that they weren’t pursuing any new licensees by that time.

Kit Carson was also just as much a public domain character as Davy Crockett, so maybe they didn’t feel it was necessary to arrange one. The mold had already paid for itself, several times over, and it’s doubtful that a license would have been worth the effort to acquire.

All of the Horse and Rider Sets were discontinued by 1960, at the latest: they’re nowhere to be found in the 1960 Dealer’s Catalog. It’s possible that they could have continued production through 1959, but I don’t have any company catalogs or pricelists from that year to confirm or deny.

By that time it was clear that Breyer was moving more towards a critter-only lineup; it’d be nearly twenty years before they’d bring rider figurines back, in a slightly more kid- and hobbyist-friendly form.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Breyer's Davy Crockett, Part 2

Sorry about the brief hiatus. I was feeling a little bit down the past couple of days, with the crummy weather and all that. Finding out that the rerelease Man o' Wars finally sold out at the WEG didn’t help, either.

(Everything I needed to say about the crazy-stupid prices some of the rereleases have been bringing on eBay, I said on Blab. I said what I felt, and I meant it. It didn’t win me any friends, I’m sure, but so be it.)

So, let’s get back to Davy Crockett.

As I demonstrated in my last post, we’ve finally determined that Breyer’s Davy Crockett was a 1955 release, and was probably a part of the fad spawned by Disney’s Davy Crockett episodes on Disneyland. Now comes the question: what happened after that?

Disney had come up with a couple of new Davy episodes by the fall of 1955, and would re-air all the Davy Crockett episodes for some time to come, but the fad was pretty much over by the end of 1955. Crockett-themed merchandise was still selling - but not at the insane pace it was at the height of the craze, and not enough to justify continued production.

That probably included Breyer’s Davy Crockett, too.

It’s certainly possible that Breyer continued production of the Davy Crockett somewhat into 1956 to fill late Christmas 1955 catalog orders, but by the spring of 1956, the Davy Crockett mold has already been rebranded - repainted, retooled, with a new horse and accessories - as Kit Carson:

So while we can’t determine when Davy was discontinued with absolute certainty, it appears that he was almost exclusively a 1955 release. The Kit Carson set remained in production considerably longer, through at least 1958; he appears in both the Pricelist, and the Dealer’s Catalog from that year.

In spite of the longer production run, the Kit Carson is a harder set to find than the Davy Crockett. It’s not so odd, when you give it more than a moment’s thought: Breyer’s Davy Crockett was released at the height of the fad. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if all of Breyer’s resources, for the summer of 1955, were dedicated exclusively to meeting the demand.

There’s some tangential evidence of that: the 1956 Breyer line. Breyer released not one or two, but at least five new molds in 1956:

  • Brahma Bull
  • Horned Hereford Bull
  • Lassie
  • Rin Tin Tin
  • Robin Hood

The money to make and market all of these molds had to come from somewhere, and the most obvious source is the windfall from the Davy Crockett.

What about the MasterCrafters Davy Crockett Clocks - where do they fit in? I’m not sure. The theory that they might have engineered another models for mold tradeoff, just like the Western Horse, is still a viable one. It would have been much quicker - and neater - to simply make the necessary arrangements between each other, rather than get the banks involved in the first place.

If that’s the case, then it would mean that the Clocks and the freestanding Davy Crockett figurines could have been released simultaneously, allowing both of them to cash in. And in Breyer’s case, cash in enough to significantly expand the business.

Ah, if only I had more evidence!

We’ll finish up next time, with Kit Carson. (More to him than meets the eye? You bet!)