Saturday, December 31, 2011


I finally found one of my most coveted grails:

It’s the #154 "Bay" Blanket Pony of the Americas, with the factory striped hooves. It’s the version that appears in the Dealer’s Catalog and Collector’s Manual in 1979, the year it was released, as well as on the original version of the box it came in (which I also have, but can’t find at the moment.) Here it is in the Dealer's Catalog:

This is what a more typical Bay POA looks like, with dark gray-brown or black hooves:

You’ll notice that the color appears to be different too - it’s definitely darker and richer in the striped hoof version, with darker splash spotting. However, I haven’t seen enough of these variations to tell if this is an actual characteristic of this particular paint job, or a consequence of the natural variation that occurs over the length of production.

I had’t noticed much variation in the paint job of the Bay POAs before, but I it’s also true that that’s not the first thing I’ve been looking for when I’ve been looking at them. It’s those darn hooves that have transfixed me ever since I saw them on the darn box, ca. 1979. The Bay POA that came in that box - the same non-striped one you see above - was by no means deficient qualitatively, but it wasn’t the one I really wanted. I wanted the one with those cute little striped toes!

After several years of looking, I had become convinced that the striped hoof versions were, like so many other items seen in the catalogs and manuals of the times, preproduction or test pieces that were either long gone, or now beyond my reach. Those striped hooves, I reasoned, must have been deemed a detail that was deemed too fussy, or funny-looking, or too expensive for long-term production.

Then eBay came along, and I started seeing just enough of them to convince me that they may have been a legitimate - albeit very briefly issued - variation. Or possibly used on the original salesman’s sample pieces: I have noticed that salesman’s samples do seem to turn up on eBay with a greater frequency than normal, due to the very nature of the site.

In either case, I realized that my "grail" wasn’t completely unattainable.

Alas, I wasn’t the only one who was looking, apparently. I always got outbid or outmaneuvered, until now. Now I can exhale, and find another possibly-not-unattainable grail to obsess over now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coincidence, not Intent

Like a lot of hobbyists, I was sort of expecting that since it was intended as a "gift" that there would be few (if any) of the Glossy War Horse SRs up for pre-sale. Then one person gets a $500 offer, and bingo, at least two others turn up on MH$P with similar starting prices.

Oh well. At least none of them have shown up on eBay. Yet.

(Nothing wrong with them reselling it, but I always thought the number one rule on regifting was being discreet about it. I suppose "not listing it on eBay" counts as discretion, nowadays.)

I wouldn’t read too much into Reeves having an account on eBay themselves, now (breyeranimalcreations); according to their profile, they’ve had it since February of 2009, and are only now starting to use it, presumably as part of their increased online presence.

I don’t foresee them using the account to actively compete against other hobbyists/vendors; I could see them using it to make things like Test Colors, Artist’s Proofs, and charity models (like Hermes?) available to people who couldn’t attend or participate in the events they are usually exclusive to. That would be a good thing, I think. (Online auctions ending simultaneous to the BreyerFest ones would create some interesting theatre, don’t you think?)

As I mentioned in the last post, the only 2012 release I’ll be actively looking for in the coming year will be the new Fury/Prancer, partly because he was so completely unexpected. He’s right up there on the list of "models least likely to get a rerelease," at least as a free-standing piece.

I wouldn’t call myself the Fury/Prancer mold’s number one fan, but I like him enough to put him in my masthead. A Black Pinto Prancer was one of my first "official" hobby purchases; I bought it, sight unseen, excited at the possibility of owning a model that was born before I was.

The color they selected for the new release is interesting; when I first saw it, it made me think of the small SR or Test Color batch Bay Pinto Western Prancing Horses Breyer made sometime in the late 1960s. Here’s a picture of one from Marney’s album, which I presume was hers:

I’m going to assume the selection of the color is a coincidence, and not an intentional homage to this known Breyer obscurity. They wanted to go with a suitably vintage-looking paint job, and the Fury/Prancer came in just about every color they made back then, except some variation of the Bay. Reeves could have gone with something solid, like a Charcoal, or with another pattern, like Gray Appaloosa, but I get the sense they were fairly committed to a pinto paint job.

If the mold’s currently in production, there’s always the possibility of one of those other vintage-flavored releases this year, right? I’d especially be interested in a Gray Appaloosa one, myself.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rinty and The War Horse

I should probably go buy a lottery ticket: not only did I win one of those auctions I didn’t think I had a shot on, I got picked for the Glossy War Horse giveaway, too.

I had completely forgotten about it most of Christmas Day, until my brother asked me about it. I had a good excuse: dinner included Barbecue Ribs, Mashed Potatoes with cheese and bacon, Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic Breadcrumbs, and Rhubarb Pie. I think cookies may been involved, but I might have passed out before then.

The office was already looking a wee bit crowded, but now it looks like my plans to lay off any serious selling until Spring might have to be modified.

I might still put it off. Other than the Vintage Club stuff, and the "Limited Edition Retro Release" of the Fury/Prancer next year, I don’t foresee myself adding too many more herd members between now and then. I like the Roan Bouncer, too, but as hot as that mold is right now, I’m more than happy to let other folks buy up the first few batches. There's always the possibility that Reeves might pull another semi-random gloss/matte thing too, like they did with the Valentine and Heartbreaker set.

(With the Lady Phase set most likely, if they do. Because the possibility of random gloss Bouncers is a little too terrifying to contemplate.)

Among my more conventional holiday gifts was the book about Rin Tin Tin I had mentioned earlier. Just as I suspected, the "figurine" that inspired the author Susan Orlean to write the book - and to which she devotes the entire prologue to - was a Breyer Rin Tin Tin: there’s a picture of one right on page two.

I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but from my brief skimming of the text, it's not only central to the narrative, it's actually called out as a Breyer. So what we’ve got here is a book by a bestselling author that really was inspired by a Breyer model.

Sweet. I mean, I would have bought the book anyway, since I'm also a little obsessed with silent movies in general, but goodness, silent movies and Breyer models, all in one book? Put the cookie dough back in the freezer, ladies, I am out for the count.

In light of their promotion surrounding The War Horse (another story about an animal, set during the First World War), of the launching of the Vintage Club, and (what I presume will be a series of) Limited Edition Retro Releases, re-releasing the Rin Tin Tin seems like the most logical and obvious thing to do, n’est-ce pas?

Regardless, it’s still a book worth adding to your Breyer reference library, if you’re into that sort of thing as much as I am. (As I assume a significant portion of you do.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

More Condition Issues

I sometimes joke that if I were any more clumsy than I already am, I’d qualify for a handicapped parking permit.

Well, just to let you know, I’ve fallen down the steps twice now, in three days. Nothing damaged, as far as I can tell, but I already have a rather high threshold for pain (on account of the clumsiness) so I might not be the best judge.

My Silver Filigree Weather Girl also survived a slight tumble, fortunately while still boxed. (It wasn’t me, I swear.) I have to say that I’m liking these new shipping boxes Reeves is using now. They’re a lot strong than they look, and a lot sturdier than the ones they were using previously, which looked and felt like they were made out of recycled paper towels. They are a bit snug in the size department, though. I know they’ve got size requirements to meet, but an extra half-inch here or there would definitely inspire a little more confidence.

While we’re on the topic, look what just happened to show up on eBay this week - a 1979 Lady Phase, with some interesting condition issues:

1979 Lady Phase

Before y’all get super-upset with the hobbyist in question, let me remind you that things were a little different back then. Making alterations - adding or removing markings, or tweaking the mold - wasn’t that big a deal back then. Even I did it: I will not go into detail, but I did some unspeakable things to an SR Red Roan Running Mare.

We were all young and kinda dumb. Plus, you know, there were a bunch of different buckskin Lady Phases floating around, and we didn’t bother trying to distinguish between them until much later, when we realized, duh, that some of them really were sorta rare. (And I didn’t realize that the Running Mare was an SR one until the damage was done.)

It looks like the latest NAMHSA controversy has flamed out. As expected, it was much ado about nothing. Not nothing nothing, but blown out of proportion to the actual incident. More proof that an e-mail list is good for nonlinear information (announcements, requests, questions that do not require lengthy answers) and not for anything that requires follow through, or follow up (debates, discussions, socializing.)

Just to clarify, the kind of web site or hub I’m envisioning probably wouldn’t include a discussion forum. Discussion forums are good for the things that e-mail lists generally are not (debating-discussing-socializing), but not so great with handling nonlinear information, especially when topics start to drift.

It’s the nonlinear information that I’m most concerned about: news and general information that should be available to most people - hobbyists and nonhobbyists alike - with just a click or two, without any further involvement or commitment. The bulk of it would include announcements about special runs, contests, live shows, volunteer opportunities, real horse stuff of specific interest to hobbyists, model horses in the media, etc.

(I'm not sure articles on more narrowly defined topics would be necessary, or helpful, at least in the beginning.)

The rest of it would be devoted to promoting the hobby online, especially to the hobby-curious, with general information of what the hobby is about, what it entails, and where to go for more information. The sort of thing I imagined that NAMHSA should have been doing from the onset, rather than going all in on a national show, instead.

If we want to get serious about making the hobby to grow and prosper, we need to make the online hobby presence less intimidating to newbies, and easier to navigate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Information Wonkery

Did a little Snoopy Dance yesterday upon receiving notification of "winning" a Mont Tremblant. I’m thinking of calling her Le Quatrieme, which roughly translates from the French as "the fourth one", since she will be my fourth Silver Filigree.

I suspect that she’ll probably be the last horse I get this year, though, since it’s very likely that I’ve used up the last bit of good karma I had to get her. I’m not writing off The War Horse drawing or any of the eBay auctions on my watch list, yet, but I’d totally understand if I come up zero for everything else for the remainder of the month.

Which is fine, actually. Bills to pay, and all that.

I see that they shipped out the Stablemates Hermes models this week - and no surprise, someone turned around and sold one already, for a nice little profit. It’s nobody’s business but the buyer’s and the seller’s, I suppose, but I does make me wonder if the buyer was fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the distribution of the model.

It’s become quite clear to me that the information about Hermes hasn’t been as widely distributed as it should have been.

Sadly, this is rather typical of the online hobby, as a whole. One of the things that drives me absolutely crazy is that, in spite of its relatively small and self-contained nature of the online hobby, reliable information does not travel well within it. Information that is - or should be - widely known or generally accepted just isn’t.

It’s not too bad in places like Fallen-Leaves or Blab where, because of the format, anything and everything becomes grist for the mill. The problem there is more of the "operator error" type: there are individual members of those boards who seem phenomenally clueless, but the information is still theoretically available to them. And sometimes, a question from a genuinely uninformed hobbyist will sparks a worthwhile debate or discussion.

Whenever I take one of my semi-regular trips to places like Haynet, or Breyer’s Facebook page, however, I always find myself taking a deep breath before I click. Questions of fact you thought were answered months ago, and in excruciating detail, are still up for debate.

It’s partly the audience: these are the kind of places where low-information, low-involvement, or very narrowly focused hobbyists tend to congregate, and where high-information, high-involvement, more general interest hobbyists have largely fled for greener pastures. These places have become largely self-contained, and where new or revitalizing information rarely seems to venture.

Part of me wants to help out in some of the lower-information forums, but the very format of these places simply isn’t really designed to handle either extended discussions, or to aggregate information, as the current brouhaha going on in the NAMHSA-Discussion Yahoo Group illustrates all too well.

Transitioning these low-information hobbyists to more high-information formats would seem to be the solution to the problem, but it’s not as simple as that. Some people are very wedded to their information sources of choice - and very much against others.

I agree, in theory, that the Blab forum format would go a long way in tempering some of the periodic dust-ups that occur on the NAMHSA-Discussion list, but there is a not-insignificant group of hobbyists who’d rather eat live goldfish than even venture there. Either because of the reputation it has among certain classes of hobbyists, or because the format itself seems too overwhelming.

If I had time to create a non-partisan, model horse news hub, I’d do it, but I don’t. I barely have time to answer my e-mails or edit my link list, much less start a hub.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mont Tremblant, Etc.

In retaliation for the kind of crummy day I had today, I ate most of a large bag of M & Ms. Probably not the best move on my part, but it really was the best choice of solutions I had available to me.

I also opened my Fall in Love today; he’s very nice. A couple of odd little flaws, but nothing to freak out about. His masking is very clean, and he has just the right amount of shimmer in his coat. I’m not quite sure where to put him yet; the odd shape of the Nokota Horse mold makes it a little difficult to accommodate on a shelf.

The name of the SR Mont Tremblant Weather Girl suggested to me the kind of vacation "the right kind of people" take during their winter break. So I was fully expecting the announcement of the lottery/drawing to happen over the Christmas weekend, with the winners being notified on the first day after the holiday (as just the thing to blow your gifted moolah on!)

This weekend? Okey-dokey.

The piece count on her is interesting - 350, instead of the 150-200 piece runs we were assuming were (going to be) the norm with the revamped Web Special program. It may still be the case, with Mont Tremblant’s upped piece count due to the overwhelming demand the Silver Filigree special runs have had in the past. I don’t think it’ll affect the resale value too much, either: the run is still (technically) quite small, and the demand for Silver Filigrees (and Weather Girls) is still quite high.

The announcement of a "gift horse" drawing - in the form of a 100 piece gloss SR for The War Horse, on the Foundation Stallion mold - is a very pleasant surprise. I may be indifferent to the charms of the movie itself, but not to a super-limited glossy Foundation Stallion.

I wonder if they’ll be making gifting a semi-regular thing? (Hmm. Limited Edition pastel-colored Stablemates in Easter Egg packaging, for Easter? I could go for that!)

Lost in the hubbub surrounding the special runs was announcement of the resolution of the international ordering problems on the Breyer web site. Remember when everyone was getting all righteously indignant about this last month?

It gets fixed, and nobody seems to notice or care, presumably because they’ve all moved on to the next outrage. Which I’m guessing is Thrillseeker, based on the length of that thread about it on Blab. (I didn’t get drawn for one, so my interest in that discussion has been fairly minimal.)

Speaking of, it seems that Reeves has finally decided on making its presence known there as "NewBreyerHelper." They haven’t formally said as much, but it does appear to be someone using the editorial we in postings about matters pertaining to the web site today. An interesting development, to say the least (I wonder how many "friend" requests they’ve gotten by now?) I’m guessing it’s part of a run up to the "forum" Reeves has mentioned in passing on the new web site.

I’ve got holiday projects to finish, so toodles…

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 1963 Dealer's Catalog

Sure wish I could remember what brand of batting I used on the quilt I finished yesterday, because it felt like I was quilting through cardboard. I can just barely flex my fingers today, so if you see any typos above and beyond my usual quota, there’s my excuse.

(Web surfing’s been extremely entertaining today, to say the least.)

I got all excited last week when I noticed someone had listed a "1965" Breyer Dealer’s Catalog on eBay. Alas, it was only a 1963 with the 1964 inserts:

A true 1965 Dealer’s Catalog is very similar to the 1963, but comes with an extra, bound-in signature, rather than loose insert sheets. Since I have the 1963 and the 1964 inserts, I didn’t pay any more attention to the auction after that. The letter that it came with would have been nice, but I already have two that predate that.

I was doing a little bit of research on some completed listings yesterday, and when I ran across it again, I did a double take on the price. I really wasn’t expecting it to go quite that high: I thought it’d land somewhere in the $200-225 range, not $300+.

It is true that I paid about the same amount of money for my 1963 Catalog with 1964 inserts. However, my lot also came with the Red Bird Sales pages that included the (so far) only known documentation for the original Buckskin Running Mare and Foal. When I bid on that lot way back when, the majority of my money was going towards those extras. The Dealer’s Catalog just happened to be an excellent "comes with."

What was shocking to me about the price on this latest auction is that the 1963 is probably the least rare of the pre-1970 Dealer’s Catalogs. They’re by no means "common," but of all the other known Dealer’s Catalogs, the 1963 is the easiest to obtain - easier than most of the late 1960s, even.

I think that is because I think Breyer printed up way more of them than they did of any of the other early Dealer’s Catalogs.

But why, and to what end?

I suspect that Breyer blew a big wad of cash on the 1963 catalog in an effort to upgrade the image of the brand in the eyes of retail buyers. It was clearly designed to do more than just sell specific products to existing buyers: it’s 16 pages, and in full color. Most of Breyer’s PR materials prior were either smaller in scale, or made limited use of color printing.

In some respects, I think it might have also served double duty as Breyer’s first "Collector’s Manual." It wouldn’t surprise me if Breyer had kept a few cases of this Dealer’s Catalog in the offices to mail out to all the kids that were writing to them back then. My 1963 Catalog came in a lot with a similar letter to a prospective collector, too.

It’s still a very, very good thing to have in anyone’s reference collection, but dang, I sure hope that price is not a harbinger of future ephemera auctions to come.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buckskin Lady Phases

The Seasonal Affective Disorder must be kicking in, because I’m feeling spectacularly unmotivated today. I haven’t even begun making one of Mom’s Christmas presents, and the other two aren’t looking so hot either.

I have lots of time on my hands for the next two weeks, so everything will be fine. It’s just the getting started part that’s hard, especially when you’re trying to finish at least a half dozen other projects, too.

Here’s one of those handful of things - besides Fall in Love - that I’ve added to my own herd recently:

It’s the 1980 Model Horse Congress Buckskin Lady Phase, the one with the pinked nose, B mold mark, and black eartips!

That means I now have examples of all three Buckskin Lady Phases special runs: the 1979 VaLes Solid Buckskin with charcoal/black nose, the 1980 MHC Special Run, and the 1983/84 J.C. Penney’s Buckskin with bald face.

(Yes, I know the JCP one comes in a solid-faced variation. Notice that I prefaced my statement with the phrase "examples of"? )

One of the most infuriating bits of misinformation that gets passed around on the Internet is that of the alleged rarity of the Buckskin Lady Phase. A case could be made for the 1979 or the 1980 ones being especially difficult to acquire, and I wouldn’t argue with that: there were only about 200 made of the 1979 SR, and about 240 made of the 1980.

On the other hand, however, the J.C. Penney version was probably one of the most popular Christmas special runs Breyer ever made: according to Nancy Young’s Breyer Molds & Models, around 8,000 sets were made over the course of its two year run.

Eight thousand pieces is not "rare," neither then nor now.

I can remember a time when Buckskin Lady Phases were so common that customizers resorted to using them as bodies. Lady Phases became unexpectedly hard to find right around the time she was discontinued in 1985. The story goes - as I heard it from Marney, anyway - was that the last batch of Lady Phases made before she was discontinued in 1985 were lost in a fire.

With no fresh bodies available in the store, no new regular runs on the horizon, and several hundred - if not thousands - of Buckskin ones cluttering up hobbyist shelves, what else are you going to do?

(FYI: I don’t believe enough Buckskin Lady Phases were lost to customizing to affect their overall rarity. Enough to skew the perception within the hobby, maybe, but not overall.)

In the intervening years, a lot of hobbyists conflated the 1979 and 1980 special runs with the later J.C. Penney run. You’d think with all the Buckskin Lady Phases floating around that hobbyists would do the math and realize that they weren’t quite as rare as they thought they were.

Alas, many of our fellow hobbyists just aren’t that good at math. And are all too often plagued by the ghosts of wishful thinking.

Even so, the 1979 and 1980 special runs are still genuinely hard to come by. On average, I see about one of the 1979 pieces up for sale or auction per year, if that; the 1980 examples aren’t a whole lot more numerous.

I was lucky enough to get my 1979 one in 1979, straight from the dealer (yeah, I’m THAT old.) I had been shopping around for a 1980 for some time now, but the few that had come up recently had been significantly out of my price range.

This little lady wasn’t because (obviously) she wasn’t mint. I’m not much of a shower, so I’m totally okay with that. I’m not exactly mint, myself.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Showcase Collection

My Fall in Love arrived today, but I haven’t opened it yet, because there’s nothing better than getting a box with your name on it in the mail, am I right? I just want to savor that moment a little bit longer.

(No, I’m not waiting ‘til Christmas. I have another package coming in a day or two, so I’ll open it then.)

I was just going over my horse paperwork again, yesterday - good gravy, I bought a lot of stuff this year. Fortunately, the bulk of the purchases consisted of either items I was picking up for others, or were a part of those three collections I acquired (over 100 pieces, right there.) I really didn’t buy too much for me myself, outside of the things I picked up at BFest.

Even after all that buying, I only have about two tubs worth of horses in inventory - a lot for most hobbyists, but about average for me. I should be happy to have as "little" to sell as I do right now, other than books and bodies. Even less would be better, but with the Mont Tremblant coming up, I’m not going to hold my breath. Whatever sells, sells.

If you’re interested in buying anything of mine, all the hobby things that I want to sell will be listed on MH$P by Friday night. The only other stuff I plan on selling by the end of the year will be a few non-hobby, non-horsy odds and ends I might toss on eBay sometime over the weekend.

Speaking of both boxes and eBay, you’ve probably noticed that pair of horses in Showcase packaging - a Palomino Five-Gaiter and a Bay Family Mare - and the prices they’re bringing.

(From the 1971 Collector’s Manual)

There were 54 different models that were released in the Showcase packaging from 1970 through 1972, though because of the fragile nature of the plastic used to make the plastic clamshell box, it’s highly unlikely anyone will be able to acquire a complete collection. A few pieces, including the Black Grazing Mare, Alabaster Western Pony, Smoke Running Mare and Foal, and the Appaloosa FAS and FAM were only available for a single year, making them rarer still.

Here’s the list, more or less; I didn't distinguish between the two slightly different variations in the packaging itself (also worth noting: they dropped the trailing zero on the issue numbers for the Yellow Mount and the Indian Ponies after 1970):

0130 Bay Arabian Stallion
370 Appaloosa Arabian Stallion
380 Appaloosa Arabian Mare
400 Palomino Arabian Stallion
410 Black Pinto Western Pony
430 Palomino Western Pony
450 White Western Pony
470 "Famous Thoroughbred" Man o' War
480 Black Morgan
490 Bay Morgan
500 Palomino Arabian Mare
520 Sorrel Five-Gaiter
530 Palomino Five-Gaiter
550 Black Pinto Western Horse
570 Palomino Western Horse
700 Alabaster Arabian Stallion
0800 Alabaster Arabian Mare
800 Clydesdale
830 Clydesdale Mare
840 Clydesdale Foal
970 Sorrel Appaloosa Gelding
980 Buckskin Quarter Horse
1010 Liver Chestnut Quarter Horse Yearling
1020 Palomino Quarter Horse Yearling
1030 Sandy Bay Appaloosa Yearling
1100 Smoke Western Prancing Horse
1110 Buckskin Western Prancing Horse
1120 Palomino Western Prancing Horse
1140 Bay Western Prancing Horse
1150 Appaloosa Western Prancing Horse
1190 Red Roan Running Mare
1200 Alabaster Running Mare
1210 Smoke Running Mare
1230 Dapple Running Mare
1240 Chestnut Running Mare
1300 Alabaster Running Foal
1310 Smoke Running Foal
1330 Dapple Running Foal
1340 Chestnut Running Foal
1400 Bay Arabian Mare
1410 Bay Grazing Mare
1420 Black Grazing Mare
1430 Palomino Grazing Mare
1750 Brown Pinto Indian Pony
1760 Buckskin Indian Pony
1770 White Indian Pony
2000 White Old Timer
2010 Charcoal Arabian Stallion
2020 Charcoal Arabian Mare
2050 Dapple Old Timer
2110 Alabaster Proud Arabian Stallion
2120 Mahogany Proud Arabian Stallion
5000 "Famous Standardbred" Adios
5100 "Famous Paint Horse" Yellow Mount

It’s one of the few examples of rare packaging that I don’t have in my collection yet, and at those prices they been bringing, it’s not going to happen anytime in the near future. I guess I got a little spoiled that I was able to acquire all of the packaging examples I did before this crazy little boomlet on them took off.

I’ll just have to wait - and hope - that one shows up in these parts someday.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scary Christmas

This is what we have to resort to in order to have a Christmas tree this year:

Everything (except the fort) is made from felt, fabric or gold lame. We may eventually replace the deck furniture with some picket fencing or that plastic lattice you put under your porch to keep the groundhogs out, so we don’t have to spend out days chasing the canine version around the house with her latest treasures.

Speaking of Christmas, here’s your "Scary Christmas" craft item for the year, from my vintage craft archive:

It's Frosty’s Cousin Slushy!

It’s from an otherwise tasteful book of simple, understated holiday craft projects called Christmas Magic, written by Margaret Perry, and published by Doubleday in 1964. I had high hopes for the book when I picked it up last year at the local book sale - if they thought a drunken snowman with a mace was worth putting on the cover, it had to be good, right? Alas, nothing else in it was quite as frightening. Bummer.

I started listing more stuff on MH$P this week, again; more average stuff, nothing especially noteworthy. Then again, their lack of spectacularness just might make them stand out. How many people are selling their Thrillseekers and Fall in Loves, anyhow? I understand needing to make a quick buck around the holidays, but the odds of selling aren’t so great when you’re competing with 15 to 20 other identical items.

(I’m still mulling over the right way to sell all of my extra bodies. I might just list most of the less trendy/correct ones together and have people mix and match their own assortments.)

I suppose I should have something a little bit Breyer and/or history related here, for a change. So here’s something that's also vaguely Christmas-y, a nice old Breyer #77 Elk:

This example is actually quite early; he lacks the USA mold mark, which means he’s from 1968 or 1969. That’s pretty much the only way you can distinguish an early Elk from a later one, unless you’re lucky enough to find one with a Blue Ribbon sticker. The paint job on the original release of the Elk, which ran from 1968 through 1997, didn’t vary much. Earlier ones tend to be a little more brownish, and later ones a bit more reddish, but neither the variation nor its correlation with age is strong enough for most collectors to bother with.

His giant rack doesn’t help, either. Like the Moose or the Longhorn Bull, he’s another one of those models that eats up way too much valuable shelf space.

I put off getting an Elk for several years, hoping I’d find a nice, cheap one at the flea market eventually. Despite the model’s long run, though, I never did find one at a suitable price or condition there.

I found the Elk of my dreams on - where else? - eBay.

In a fit of boredom or curiosity one day, I started clicking on Breyer Elk auctions, and happened to find this fellow - complete with a detail shot of his mold mark, sans USA. Normally I make fun of eBay listers who post mold mark shots, which I usually mock as the sign of a Breyer amateur. (Silly peoples, most of us clicking on the auction don’t need no mold mark shot to tell us it’s the real deal.)

In this case, it was actually helpful, since it provided me the one real clue to his true age. He didn’t have a sticker, but that was his only real negative. The price was right (very cheap) as was the condition (very near mint.)

You know, come to think of it, I still haven't found a whole lot of Elks at the flea markets around here, since then. Interesting.

Friday, December 2, 2011


50,328 words later:
It turned out better than I expected it to be; it actually has a beginning, middle and end, a (somewhat) coherent plot, and a few genuinely touching moments. Not bad for something that has just about everything in it except ninjas and zombies.

(I’m saving the ninjas for the BreyerFest novel. Duh. Zombies, on the other hand: just not a fan of the concept.)

I have no delusions that it’s anywhere near publishable, though I’m not sure if I’m going to chalk it up as an interesting experiment, or make an attempt to fix it later. I do believe could be made publishable, but I so do not want to even look at it right now. I am all fictioned out for the rest of the year.

If I do it again next year, I’ll probably switch genres and go with something more traditionally science-fictional. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age (1930s-1940s) SF; back in high school, when I wasn’t writing mopey fantasies about my magical flying horse who could talk, it was crazy SF pastiches neither my classmates nor most of my English teachers completely got. (I must admit, in retrospect, that A. E. van Vogt was probably not the best choice to model my writing style after. Hey, at least I hadn't heard of Harry Stephen Keeler at that point.)

Another win this week: Fall in Love. That sort of took me by surprise, since my luck with the Web Specials in the past year has been so not good. (Must have been my time!) Interesting how they made it "orderable" to the winners via their accounts on the web site. That’s actually a modestly intelligent way of doing it. (No icky phones, yes!)

That makes him Nokota Horse number five here. I’d love to have more, but eight out of the ten releases of the mold that I don’t have came in piece runs of less than 100, and six of those eight were piece runs of less than 50. I’d probably have more success trying to collect Faberge eggs, on my budget. Or the Esprit mold.

I was going to close out with a picture of the Christmas Tree, and show you why we’re calling it "Fort Christmas Tree" this year, but the camera wasn’t cooperating today, partly a consequence of my brother upgrading my computer system this week. (Like the Breyer web site, the system is still not quite fully operational.) I’ll have to try again, tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Note to self: stop buying collections from non-collectors. Way more work than they’re worth, frankly. Nothing more disheartening to pick up a box and hear loose bits rolling around - loose bits that you know aren’t Stablemate-sized.

I don’t mind a good-sized body box, but mine is now verging on the ridiculous. Anyone in the market for some older bodies? No respectable body box should be without a few vintage clunkers!

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the word vintage, especially in respect to Reeves’ new "Vintage Collectors Club." Some collectors are understandably a little concerned about what Reeves’ definition of the word might entail.

The word vintage originally applied only to wines; it migrated across the rest of the collectible spectrum when the word antique fell out of favor, a consequence, partly, of the fact that it does have a legal definition. (In most jurisdictions, this definition is usually something along the lines of "an object of personal property of 100 years of age or more.")

Like the word rare, however, vintage has been bandied about in the world of collectible so much, and so carelessly, that it has essentially lost all meaning.

If I had my druthers, I’d define vintage in the Breyer world as "any mold, model or color originally designed, produced or released prior to the acquisition of the Breyer brand by Reeves," which would include anything made prior to 1985.

It’s a (relatively) neat and clean cut off point, and it’s by no means an arbitrary one, either. The acquisition of Breyer, by Reeves, represents a significant turning point in the history of the brand. After that point, molds and models became a more realistic, and a more "finished" product. Reeves has spent a considerable amount of effort catering to the collectibles crowd, a trend that existed in the Chicago era from the very beginning, but which did not become fully implemented until the Reeves era.

There’s also the Chris Hess factor: if there’s any one thing that hobbyists agree on, it’s that Chris Hess molds are vintage. The bulk of Hess’s work for the company was done by 1985: only Touch of Class in 1986, and the much-delayed Secretariat in 1987, remained to be released.

A time-based definition could work, too: "any mold, model or color originally designed, produced or released at least 25 years ago." Or whatever number we happen to decide sounds reasonable. Twenty-five seems like a reasonable enough distance from the present, for me. (I think it used to be the same amount of time required to get a "classic" license plate in Michigan, but don’t quote me on that.)

I have no idea what concept of vintage Reeves has in mind. I suppose, like most things, they'll just make it up as they go along.

Cutting out early again: I’m trying to finish the novel tonight. I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow, so I am free to pull an all-nighter, if I have to. I don’t think have to - I only have about 1500 words to go, more or less, which should take about 3 or 4 hours to pull out of me. However, I’m starting to get harassed by the rest of the residents of this household on my general lack of non-novelly activities in said household.

Better for me if I can get done as much as I can tonight, and leave the rest of the day to defending Fort Christmas Tree. (More on that, next time.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fall in Love

Got all my shopping done on Friday in the space of an hour; fortunately, all I had to do was pick up a couple of things at Walgreens and a few supplies from the craft store. Clipped my coupons, got up at a leisurely hour, did my business, and went home. No "competitive shopping" for me.

(Ironically, I was kinda-sorta pepper sprayed once, in the relative safety of my own home, because someone was too cheap to go buy a can of ground pepper at the store. Peppercorns + Food Processor = Bad Idea. 'Nuff said.)

I spent the rest of the day cussing at (a) dumb people on the Internet, (b) a quilt project that’s way more complicated than it looked on paper, and (c) the Nano novel.

It’s been a good experience for me, but I will be glad to be done with it and move on to other things for a while. I just finished a really emotionally draining scene today, and I am wiped out. (Main character kisses her ex-boyfriend for the first - and only - time. In front of his wife and newborn baby. Didn’t think the scene was going to go there, but dang, that’s where it went.)

Since the new Breyer site didn’t get its hard/official launch until Wednesday, and with most folks having minimal ‘net time on Thursday, it makes sense that the Fall in Love Web Special is being handled as a general, open to the public release.

Running a lottery for the first Web Special a few days after they start offering Collector’s Club memberships - with one of the perks of the membership being the ability to enter drawings for Web Specials? Might strike some folks as a little questionable, both legally and ethically.

I am glad that they abandoned the "don’t call us, we’ll call you" notification method, though truthfully, the lottery method is probably going to make it even less likely for those of us without compliant friends and relatives to "win."

I’m just gonna do my one e-mail entry a day, and hope for the best. I just bought another (small) collection this week, so I won’t be completely heartbroken if it doesn’t happen. (IOW: don’t offer. Seriously. Short on the moolah here.)

I suspect that the Silver Filigree Weather Girl "Mont Tremblant," will be offered strictly to Collector’s Club members, since I’m assuming that that will be at least another week or two in the future - or long enough as Reeves deems the notification timeframe as sufficient.

I’m also assuming is going to be by lottery first to Club members, with the leftovers (if any) being offered to the general public.

(Yeah, I know, leftover Silver Filigree Weather Girls: such a silly thought.)

Well, anyway, like I said, the novel left me a bit wiped. Time to veg out in front of the telly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Web Site

I have to work on the last day of the month, so I’m trying to get a little bit ahead of myself on the Nano novel just in case. Unfortunately, the words were not cooperating today; I’m ahead, but not as much as I want to be.

Maybe I should go work on a quilt or two to clear my head. It’s been a crazy week; I think I deserve it.

Anyway, I was playing with the dog the other day, and it occurred to me that we somehow managed to raise a completely skeptical dog. Vita’s willing to play with you, even though she knows - or suspects - you are not being entirely honest with her when you do. (I’m not going to run up the stairs after the ball, because that just means you’re trying to get a head start on me when we’re playing hide and seek.)

She’s skeptical, but not cynical: even thought it’s true that we’re not always one hundred percent truthful with her, we’re truthful - and sincere - enough to make it worth her while to play with us. If she were cynical, she’d just run off with the ball and play with it by herself every single time.

Anyway, that’s sort of a roundabout way of explaining why I haven’t participated in any of the online discussions about the soft launch of the new Breyer web site on Monday. I’m a skeptic, not a cynic. But I also know better than to toss a ball into an arena full of cynics.

(Another grating thing: if I have to read one more post by hobbyists asking about the remaining issues on the JAH subscriptions, I swear I’m going to go outside and violently break something. People who regularly drop hundreds of dollars on a single model, whinging about twenty dollars worth of subscription fees? Talk to the hoof!)

Yeah, Reeves is not handling the launch as well as they should have; I’m surprised that it took them until this evening to finally send out an e-mail notification about it, and nothing at all on their Facebook page yet, as far as I can tell. (NOTE: I don’t "do" Facebook.)

I’ll just assume they did this "soft" launch as a way of working out the bugs with the early adopters in time for whatever they have planned for Black Friday/Cyber Monday (the web special Nokota, I presume?)

As for the web site itself, s’alright. It’s a little too cluttered for my taste, but I’m a design minimalist at heart. I’d rather they started out simpler, and scaled up, rather than hit us with that level of complexity early on. You know, show us they have mastered basic math before hitting the trigonometry textbook.

The Collector’s Club has turned out to be just an online JAH/forum/online store special access subscription type thing. Eh, whatever. Not crazy about the fee, but it’s not any different than paying for a subscription to a magazine or online forum. During the signup process they asked for an online ID, which I’m assuming means that they really are planning on implementing some sort of discussion forum in the future. (That ought to be …interesting.)

The only other thing I signed up for was the Vintage Club, since that’s my natural inclination. A lot of hobbyists are extremely concerned that the models that they’d be "forced" to buy through the program will be unsellable turkeys, but honestly, I am not that concerned. I’m going to assume that they’re going to stick with fairly "safe" (pre-1965) vintage molds and colors for their first offerings, and they’ll be asking for input from subscribers for the subsequent rounds.

If I had the money and the space, I would have signed up for the Premier Club, too, but I don’t, so I didn’t. Simple as that. I was a little concerned about the undefined piece counts on what’s essentially a Connoisseur Club, too, though if the quality holds up, the piece count would be moot.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Not the Heat

Slowly grinding out those words on the novel: I’m just about caught up to where I need to be, finally. No major breakthroughs, though I think I finally figured out what to do with that painting by Nicholas Poussin.

Seventeenth Century French Classicists and Sasquatch? I know, I know, this novel has bestseller written all over it! (Actually, it seems to have more in common with that new movie The Descendants, which is completely coincidental, since I hadn’t even heard about that movie until about a week ago, and most of the notes for my novel were written about ten years ago.)

I did not win a Thrillseeker. I am okay with that, especially now that a procedure that I’ve been putting off that not related to my teeth may need to be done sooner, rather than later. Nothing serious, just a little bit beyond my budget, and my laughable insurance. I may have to sell something pricey to help pay for it, though that will have to wait until I finally get those 50,000 words out of my system.

I also have a funny feeling that Reeves has something planned within the next week, either for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. No specific intel, but it would make sense: two more web specials, a new web site launch, a couple of clubs that you need to sign up for, all allegedly by the end of the year…

I also would like to officially announce that The Toad will not be making any more public appearances. I got a good gander at him earlier this week, and good gravy, he’s gotten even scarier.

I think I’ve figured out the key component of ooziness: it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. We’ve always had minor but noticeable issues with humidity at the house - a bit too damp in the summer, a bit too dry in the winter - but The Toad became a better barometer than any gauges we had.

While heat does play a part - warm air can hold more moisture than cold air - if you have to make a choice between moderating the heat, or moderating the humidity, turn up that dehumidifier, folks. (If you need any more convincing, it’ll have the added benefit of reducing the risk of mildew, too.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Design Nerdiness

Reeves launched an updated Breyer logo a couple of days ago on its Facebook page and in its e-mail communications, and I appear to be the only person who’s happy about it. Well, not so much happy, but glad to see the old logo gone.

Man, I hated that thing. It had overstayed its welcome, as far as I’m concerned; most of the other logos and identity programs the Breyer line has had over the years rarely stuck around for long, but that darn "coffee can" logo lingered for decades.

I called it the "coffee can" logo because it wouldn’t have been out of place on a coffee can. Or anything else. And that was my biggest pet peeve about it: it was just so depressingly generic. All the typefaces in the world they could have based their identity program on, and they went with an off the shelf version of Helvetica Black?

I have nothing against Helvetica family of typefaces in general (so much better than it’s red-headed stepchild, Arial), but Helvetica has a reputation for being almost invisible. That’s sort of the point - and the popularity - of Helvetica: it’s designed to not get in the way of readability.

But it also doesn’t convey much of anything, emotionally. It’s just …there.

Then there’s the issue of the typography itself: namely, that "dropped" letter R in the logo, which was allegedly done intentionally to "catch your eye." You know the saying that "if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck"? If it looks like a mistake, and feels like a mistake, it’s probably a mistake. Whether it was intentional or not.

(I remain convinced that the design firm that created this identity program had to have been blowing smoke in their faces. No, no, it’s meant to be that way, really!)

I had/have no problems with the color scheme: blue and yellow/gold have been a part of Breyer's design history since the 1960s - first with the Decorators, and then as a part of the Blue Ribbon Sticker program. I wasn’t too keen on the use of yellow as the dominant color on the packaging, though: while it’s true that it’s very eyecatching (definitely a plus, in a retail environment), yellow is one of the most difficult colors to work with from a design perspective. The right shade can look luxurious - but the wrong shade can look cheap.

It also has some uncomfortable associations with that all too common Breyer problem of, y’know, yellowing plastic. (Unless the intent was camouflage?)

While I’m not too keen on the three-dimensional "bubble" effect on the new logo (a tad too trendy, if you ask me), and it still seems a bit generic, it does feel like a step in the right direction. A little more refined, and up-to-date. I’ll have to see what the web site - and the rest of the new identity program - looks like before I make my final judgment.

(For the record: yes, the redesign of the web site really is happening, and no, I’m not at liberty to reveal anything about it.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Apple Jack

Argh! My apologies to anyone who’s been expecting a reply or response from me; this novel appears to be eating my brain. There’s way more plot here than I anticipated. I have no idea where it’s all coming from. (Though I am grateful for it.)

It also made me completely forget about the Breyer Fun Day on Saturday. There was a live show this past weekend, too, but it was at least an hour and a half drive, through some fearsome traffic and construction. Just not worth the effort, especially since I wasn’t buying, selling or showing. Some serious and intense socialization would have been good for the soul, but hey. I decided to go with "novel" this month, instead. Too far in to give up now.

I did go a couple miles out of my way to buy a horse yesterday, though technically, it wasn’t for me, but a friend. It was an Apple Jack:

He does have a few flaws, but he was way better than the other one on the shelf. I’ll be stopping by another store on my way back from work on Wednesday to see if I can upgrade, and if not, no big whoop. He’s cute, but there's no shortage of cute here.

I might regret it a few months or few years from now, (as I am with the Classic Shire B, in Pinto), but I do not have infinite shelf space. I already have a couple Bouncers, including my lovely Seren, and I suspect we may be seeing another Bouncer as an SR for next year’s British-themed BreyerFest, anyway. (As a British Spotted Pony, maybe? Yes, please.)

As for the condition issues that everyone’s been freaking out about, I guess I should rephrase my commentary on my Pamplemousse a bit (which I haven’t bothered to return, and I rather doubt I will.) It wasn’t the flaws that made me question keeping him, it was the timing. Every year I think I can get a little ahead of myself in the fall, as far as my finances go, but this year - like the last few - it hasn’t worked out that way.

But when he came, well, I could think of a half-dozen more useful places the money could have been spend on, at that moment. That handful of flaws present became just a few more nits to pick.

If he were an A+ super awesome OMG oh so bee-you-tee-full paragon of perfection, it might have tamped down my apprehension a bit. But he wasn’t. Staring at that sample Pamplemousse at BreyerFest didn’t help either.

Oddly enough, some of the reactions I’ve been seeing about flaws - on both Pamplemousse, and Breyers in general - within the model horse web have provided me some much needed amusement. Oh, if only the greatest aggravation in my life was finding a couple pieces of lint on a plastic horse!

You know, I’ve been hearing that Breyers haven’t been made "the way they used to be" since I’ve been collecting, which is longer than many of you have probably been alive. (I used to buy my Stablemates at Kmart - for 99 cents apiece! You do the math.) If Breyers have truly been going down hill since then, we’d all be collecting little puddles of vaguely horse-shaped plastic by now.

The quality curve has been going up for some time; most of the quality control issues we’re seeing now are slight regressions on that upward trajectory, not some precipitous and unrecoverable drop.

Most of the production problems Reeves is going through now are a consequence of scale, not a lack of caring. They probably underestimated the demand for Pamplemousse, and in an effort to meet the demand, created an environment where some quality control issues cropped up.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the production demands for the Pamplemousse contributed to the relatively short - and flaw ridden - run of the Apple Jack. The production timing certainly seems about right.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I Googled The Greening of Whitney Brown movie that Reeves has been pushing all over its Facebook page, which I presume is in anticipation of some sort of Special Run release. The description, straight from The Internet Movie Database (
Whitney, a spoiled pre-teen from Philadelphia, is forced to move to the country when her parents feel the squeeze of economic hard times. A fish out of water, far from her comfort zone, she befriends an amazing horse, and undertakes a misguided journey back to her old life, only to discover that her family is her home.
More schmaltz. Sigh. I swear, my next NaNo novel is going to be an attempt to write a YA horse story completely free of sentimental claptrap, where nobody learns nothing, and the horses are absolutely ordinary in every way.

I’m still a little behind on the word count on the current one, but I’m gaining ground. I was worried that I was running out of steam a couple days ago, but then I took a quick inventory of everything that still had to happen yet, and I think I’ll be good for almost the next week or so.

(Interesting fact learned today: Microsoft Word spell checks words like Trakehner and Saddlebred, but is totally okay with Sasquatch. Read into that whatever you wish.)

I almost laughed out loud the other day when I was giving one of my coworkers a ride to work. Out of the blue, she asked me "You seem to know a lot about collectibles. Could you tell me about Hummels?"

I momentarily thought she was punking me, until I realized who it was I was talking to: she’s probably the most guile-free person I’ve ever met. Apparently there was some sort of family dispute over an elderly relative’s collection, and she really did want an honest appraisal of the market for them.

Unlike most of the other collectibles mentioned in that Yahoo article, I think Hummels will eventually make a comeback. They’re well made, have something of a history behind them, and there’s definitely some inherent and appealing (to some) sentimentality there, too. It might take a generation or two, but the market for them will rebound as a new generation of collectors discovers them.

Most collectibles go through a faddish stage, before they fall back to their more natural levels of interest. During the Depression, for instance, stamp collecting became a huge fad - with many enthusiasts regarding their collections as a viable alternative to a bank account. (Not a completely unreasonable conclusion to make, considering the time.)

Believe it or not, I don’t think model horse collecting has ever achieved the status of a "fad." I think there have been internal fads - certain molds or certain colors becoming inordinately popular, for a time - but the model horse hobby, itself? No, not yet.

It’s always been on the periphery of it, though. There’s already a vague, widespread knowledge and understanding of them as a collectible among the general public. (Note: antiquers and flea market vendors are not the general public.) It never takes more than a sentence or two of conversation with anyone I've ever met before I see a glimmer of recognition in their eyes.

I’ve always wondered what it would take for the model horse hobby to make that leap to the "big time." Celebrity endorsements (actual A-Listers, not B-List Country Music Artists or Reality Show Contestants)? Funny viral Internet ads? A documentary on Animal Planet?

I know a lot of hobbyists have been fearful of the possibility, and the price inflation that could come with it. Seems like a silly concern, considering the way the market is today. Could provide a point of pride, too. Yeah, I was into it way before it was cool.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Catch and Release

Spent the past couple of days trying to get through a bit of a philosophical roadblock in the NaNo novel, and catching up on the word count. Haven’t had much time to think about the horses in the meantime. (Though, ironically, one of the few bits that involved the horses came up in the plot today.)

I did spot another Gloss Valentine and Heartbreaker set, though, at a store I normally wouldn’t have gone to, except for work. I was sort of surprised to still see it there, especially since it was unaccompanied by any of the more common matte-finished ones, on the shelf.

I didn’t buy it: I didn’t need it. I did a "catch and release" on the set, and let it go. Let someone else have the joy of finding it.

Sometimes hobbyists forget - and even I forget - that what an active, vocal subsection of the hobby wants or prefers isn’t necessarily what the general public, casual collectors, or the silent majority of hobbyists want or prefer. They didn’t switch over to matte-finishes in the late 1960s for nothing.

Reeves seems to have done a better-than-average job in estimating the desire of the online hobbyist community for this variation. The prices are a bit elevated on eBay and MH$P, but not hysterically so.

It’s a little too soon to tell if the prices will remain there. The market is in such a state of flux right now. It’s really difficult to tell if the determining factor in that state of flux is the economy, or market saturation. I tend to think it’s the economy: people aren’t buying, because they don’t have the money to spare.

When you’re flush with spendy cash, you can always find room for more horses. Don’t lie: I know you’ve spent just as much time as I have "rearranging" your herd to accommodate just one more horse to the shelf.

Of course, you could switch to Stablemates, but considering the sheer number of Stablemates releases there have been in the past 35+ years - and the average Stablemate addict’s propensity for rationalizing away every slight variation as "essential" - that’s really only a short term solution.

(Been there, done that.)

I’m hoping to be all caught up where I need to be on the novel by tomorrow, so the next post should be somewhat more substantial.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stablemates are Not Tote Bags

Something short again, today: I had a particularly brutal overnight assignment that left me unconscious for a good part of yesterday, leaving me a few hundred words behind my daily writing goal. I probably won’t get a whole lot done today either (sigh, company) but I can’t afford to worry about it too much.

The more I worry, the less I get done. I have tomorrow off, and a schedule completely free of obligations. I'll be fine.

By the way, did anyone happen to notice that one little tidbit of BreyerWest information that sort of got lost in the hubbub over the judging? Someone from Reeves said that the leftover Fontanas were specifically going to be earmarked for the BreyerFest sales tent next year.

Yeah, I know: a tossed-off comment from a single, unnamed Reeves employee is not exactly a firm ground to base any speculation on. (Heck, the suggestions of one of those employees may have exacerbated the judging debate. All the more reason why they need to hire folks with a wee bit more model horse experience, methinks.)

They could have just as easily said "They’ll end up on the new web site," or "We’re not quite sure what we’ll do with them yet." Both standard and acceptable nonanswers. Casually mentioning that they’re probably going to "the BreyerFest Store" (aka the NPOD)? Most peculiar.

Knowing them, it’s probably nothing – most of the other BreyerWest SRs have ended up in the NPOD, and it really shouldn’t be that big a deal that Fontana might end up there, too. Yet, I can’t recall them ever mentioning – in public – what leftovers they were specifically earmarked for the store before, especially nine months out. It’s almost like some clever word-of-mouth marketing. (I know, I know, I’m ascribing them way too much cleverness.)

It does make me wonder about those little ASPCA donation/pledge "Hermes" gift models, too. They made 75 of them to give to donors/pledges of $100 or more, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to get 75 donors at that level. The NPOD seems like the most logical place for them to go, but the fact that they were made specifically as a possible incentive for donation might bring up some ethical issues.

I can imagine some folks might be willing to pony up the $100 dollars for them in the NPOD on the condition, perhaps, that the money generated from those models also goes to the ASPCA. That would get around the money issue; if they’re still being used to generate donations, problem solved. (Unless they just donate the remainder to the ASPCA free and clear, to do whatever they see fit with them. Or something else along those lines. That would work, too.)

There’s also the issue of it being a "gift with donation" thing in the first place: I have to admit that the act of offering them kind of squicked me out. A limited-edition Stablemate is not the same as a tote bag or t-shirt. Yeah, there are folks out there who’d be willing to pony up some cash for a Breyer tote bag or t-shirt (see also, the NPOD) but nothing on the same scale as rare, glossy Stablemates.

The person making the donation is already getting a tax deduction for their act of charity. Possibly being able to make money on that act of charity, by reselling the gift that came with? Now there’s an awkward scenario.

I suspect that most hobbyists who have made the required level of donation aren’t thinking of selling, or if they are, it’s only for the sake of generating more donations in kind.

I pity the kind of backlash the first secondary market seller might face, regardless of their motivations. It’s a gift, and they can do with it whatever they want, but an awful lot of hobbyists aren’t quite as charitably minded towards their fellow hobbyists.

(Often for good reason. Sigh.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Without Much Ado

Yes, I am a glutton for punishment:

I wasn’t sure I was going to do it, but I figured if I could churn out a decent amount of text the first day, I’d go for it. Besides, the rigor of writing daily will be good for me, even if the writing itself isn’t.

Like all my other attempts at fiction writing, the plot’s the problem. 3,300 words in, and so far the most exciting thing in the whole exercise is an old lady in a Cadillac who drives too fast.

It shouldn’t interfere with the blog; if anything, it ought to help it. I mean, I’m already at the keyboard, right? What better way to avoid writing, than with more writing? Well, I suppose I could avoid writing with quilting, but I just finished another difficult project over the weekend, so maybe not. (At least, not this week.)

I haven’t been paying much attention to the model horse biz the past few days; I’m still doing my usual Internet rounds, but I think I’m still shaking off my October funk. I did notice that they’re coming out with another Traditional Man o’ War - this one, a representation of "Joey" from the book War Horse:

Some hobbyists are in a bit of a snit because, goodness gracious, it’s the Traditional Man o’ War, and not something showable. Apparently every new release nowadays has to be on a brand-spanking new mold, or one of the half-dozen or so "acceptable" older molds.

(Guys, you do realize it costs more than $50,000 to bring a brand new mold to market, right? It’s not just one guy working in a workshop anymore, a la Chris Hess.)

I haven’t read the book; I actually don’t read that much equine fiction, as I’m not that big a fan of schmaltz. (Not saying that that book is, just that there seems to be an unnaturally high correlation between the two concepts.) Whether or not he’s an accurate representation of the horse in question, I have no idea.

And I don’t really care. What I do care about is that it’s another Traditional Man o’ War (yay!) and the paint job, from what I can see on Breyer’s Facebook page, seems pretty nice.

(Gosh, do I dare dream that the sample turns up in the NPOD next year?)

I’d like to think that all my recent jibber-jabbering about the Traditional Man o’ War might have had a tiny effect on the selection of the mold, but probably not. He was just due for another release. The press release I linked to above mentions "an affiliation with Michael Morpurgo to make the portrait model of ‘Joey,’" so it’s possible that the author might have had a hand in selecting the mold, just like the Shatners did with All Glory last year.

In other words, it may be more "much ado about nothing," again.

Look, you got three new Eberls this year, new releases of two older ones, and at least two more new molds the next. No worries folks, there'll be plenty of Eberl goodness to go around.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Clubbing, Pt. II

I didn’t feel like risking hypothermia, so I skipped out on the flea market today: we missed the snow, but still got the cold. There hadn’t been much to see the past few weeks anyway, and I had already blown my wad on Saturday on a couple pairs of work shoes and some quilt supplies at the local Salvation Army.

(Unworn Sanita Professional Clogs, in my size, for nine bucks? Darn right, I’m buying them!)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again: collectibles aren’t that good of an investment:

There’s been some discussion of this on Blab already, but since it ties in with previous post about the new Breyer programs, I’ll add my two cents here, rather than there.

The article refers to collectibles that are considered worthless in the secondary market - among them things like Beanie Babies, Norman Rockwell plates, Hess Trucks, Precious Moments, and anything sold by the Franklin Mint.

Why are they worthless? The article itself doesn’t provide a point by point checklist, but it basically boils down marketing: these are mass-produced items that are specifically targeted towards the collector’s market, and marketed (implicitly, or explicitly) as "investment" vehicles.

The only problem is that when it comes time to "cash in" your investment, the buyers aren’t there.

Seems like Breyers could fit into that definition rather neatly, right?

There are certainly a great many Breyer models that are essentially worthless: take a look at the sheer volume of items listed on eBay and MH$P, many of them priced at body-box level. On the flip side, there are also models that have a great deal of value, and have a good chance (I believe) of retaining a good portion of that value in the long term.

In that sense, I think Breyer models have more in common with collectibles like comic books and PEZ dispensers, rather than Beanie Babies and Precious Moments figurines. While the market for more recently minted comic books, PEZ dispensers and Breyer models is not great, it is not without occasional bright spots. The market for vintage pieces? Also not great, but with a little effort and research, you’ll do okay.

So, what distinguishes comic books, PEZ dispensers, and Breyers from the more worthless types of collectibles?

One word: History.

Having a history means that there was some distance between the start of manufacturing and the onset of direct marketing. That means that there’s a body of "stuff" made prior to the active or organized involvement of either the company or of collectors. It’s stuff that has become genuinely rare or hard to get in good condition because it got used up, worn out, and thrown out - as opposed to direct-marketed things that went straight from the factory warehouse to the collector’s attic.

There’s also history in its more intimate sense: did the objects themselves impact life or history in a meaningful way? Both comic books and Breyer models, for instance, contributed significantly to the happiness of countless children. (They were both certainly a part of mine.)

And thirdly, the history itself should also be interesting on its own. Was there mystery, drama, or complicated legal actions in that history? Lost objects, lost opportunities, or a universe of questions worth investigating?

You’re reading a blog devoted to that third type of history, so I think you already knew that.

Will I be joining up with either of the two new Breyer "clubs"? I remain undecided. My mind's been on other things, lately.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Clubbing, Pt. I

I will confess that the most exciting part of the JAH was finding out that there’s going to be a (somewhat) local Fun Day event! Yeah, there aren’t going to be any special models involved, but I just might go out and see it for the fun of it. I got a chance to help out, briefly, in the Craft and Activity Tent at BreyerFest this year, and the energy there was so amazing.

The other thing that I notice up front - wow, there were a lot of typos! You think they’d have put a little extra effort into the proofreading, it being the final issue and all.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - the "5 New Programs" everyone is getting all hot and bothered about. Well, six, actually, if you count the Breyer Collectors Club, which I’m assuming is going to be an amplified version of the e-mail program they have now, coupled with exclusive subscriber-only content and offers available via the new web site. Sort of like an online version of JAH. Since no printing or physical mailing will be involved, I’m guessing the subscription fees will be nominal or even nonexistent.

The Vintage Collectors Club, and the Premier Collection are subscription-style clubs: sign up, pay up, and models and other stuff are shipped to you on a timely basis for a year. Either program will cost you around $500 a year to belong: $540 for the Vintages ($135 x 4 models) or $525 for the Premiers ($175 x 3 models). The former is for "vintage" mold enthusiasts, while the latter is tailored towards fanciers of more realistic newer molds.

The Vintage Collectors Club is limited to 500 subscribers, but the Premier Collection makes no mention of an upper limit. They’re also a little vague on whether or not pieces will be made available to non-subscribers at a higher price, or a later date. They use phrases like "Only members are guaranteed a reservation for all three pieces" and "Members also receive priority in shipping" in the copy.

The Breyer Blossoms thingie is described as a year-long "continuity program", which appears to be just like a subscription club, but with Classics-scale molds, no extra stuff, and with the ability to option out of the program after purchasing just four pieces. Items in the program can also be purchased separately (if you just want your birth month flower, I guess) at a higher price. I'm assuming they'll go with different themes every year: the Zodiac, Holidays, etc.

The Equestral Crystalworks are miniature crystal versions of Traditional molds, available exclusively through the new web site, starting in January. No subscription, prepayments or any of that required. (It’s a little unclear whether or not you have to sign up for the Breyer Collectors Club just to buy stuff on the web site.)

The Breeds of the World series are smaller-scale resins (in-between Classics and Little Bits/Paddock Pals) and will be available either via the web site or via retailers. In other words, they’re just Regular Run items that don’t require you signing up for anything at all.

I’ll comment more on the individual programs next time; I still haven’t had a chance to go through the magazine as thoroughly as I’d like. Company came over, there was some drama with the dog, carpets got cleaned …

Monday, October 24, 2011

BreyerWest, Mostly

My JAH arrived today. I haven’t finished rifling through it yet, though from what I’ve read so far, my suspicions about the content of the online discussions seem to be right - as in, a lot of the information being discussed isn’t.

So there’s going to be two more Web Specials by the end of the year - one on a favorite mold (a Decorator Nokota Horse) and another in a favorite color (Silver Filigree Weather Girl)? I wouldn’t mind either, but I suspect I will be getting neither. Nothing to do with my finances - where there’s a will, there’s a way and all that - it’s just that my luck with the Web Special program hasn’t been so good lately.

I don’t even want to imagine what the aftermarket prices on a Silver Filigree Weather Girl are going to be. The prices I’m seeing on the BreyerWest Volunteer Glossies are scary enough.

So they put a different tail on the Roxy mold, for Fontana? Hmm. I wasn’t super-keen on the original tail, but it did reflect the character of the horse it was modeled after. A different tail might be more in line with what’s in fashion in the show ring, but I tend to prefer models that have a more specific - as opposed to a more generic - character to them.

I’d have to see one in person before I pass judgment. It might be a while; with all of the other programs and Special Runs coming up in the next couple of months, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be picking up one of the leftovers. (I’m assuming there were - I haven’t heard otherwise, but I might not have been looking in the right places.)

In other BreyerWest news, Reeves cut back on the show awards, and gave out plain old unglossed Regular Run models to Sectional Champs and Reserves - the horror! (Glosses were still awarded to the Overall Champs and Reserves.) Needless to say, that ticked off a few showers, who evidently thought they were entitled to such things; their kvetching about it apparently helped sour the mood of everyone within earshot.

All I can say is that it’s about time they cut back on those awards; all they’ve done is drawn out the worst in some hobbyists, who have done some very devious things in the past to win. This change is something I’ve been advocating for years, and it looks like a lot of other hobbyists are coming around to my line of thinking, too.

The only mistake they made was in not announcing the change in the program earlier. The way the awards were advertised - as "special Breyer awards" - left a little too much open to interpretation.

Whether this is a preview of downgraded awards to come at BreyerFest, I don’t know. Still, I think something should be done. If not Regular Runs, then something else.

For instance, I wouldn’t mind a modified version of the current program, but with an identical range of prizes awarded at all three shows, rather than three different sets of awards. Sure, that would "up" the piece count on all of the awards, making them slightly less rare and/or valuable, but they’d still have the cachet of being exclusive to the show. A program like that might have the additional benefit of cutting down on the de facto proxy showing a bit.

Or how about coupons redeemable for Breyer merchandise, like Green Stamps. One more Sectional Reserve, and I can get an Equestral Crystal horse! (LOL - could you imagine the little booklet they’d have to include in the show packet for that?)

As you can tell, I've obviously had way too much sugar today. Darn Lemon-Walnut Zucchini Muffins.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

More for the Archive

My copy of the last issue of JAH hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m loath to discuss anything contained therein until it does. I get the sense that there’s a lot of misinformation getting mixed in with the online discussion of it, and I don’t want to unwittingly perpetuate or validate any of it.

I will say I am quite amused by the "access to copies of vintage Breyer memorabilia" they’ll allegedly be including as a perk of the Vintage Collector’s Club membership. Really? Guys, I’ve seen what you got, I’m not that impressed.

(Admittedly, it is me we’re talking about here: I have an original flier for the Money Manager hanging on my wall.)

Speaking of, I picked up a couple more things for the archive yesterday - at the local Salvation Army, of course. First, a copy of the novelization of For the Love of Benji, the film that the notorious Benji and Tiffany Gift Set was based on:

The movie itself did okay on its own - my paperback is a 25th printing - but the success of the film didn’t translate into success for Breyer: they got stuck with a warehouse full of unsold Gift Sets. Some them eventually ended up in the possession of the Bentley Sales Company, who in turn sold them directly to collectors, well into the 1980s.

Second, a copy of The Pony Champions, the sequel to A Pony for Keeps:

I didn’t think anything of it at first; I just reflexively tossed it into my buy pile, like I do with every other horse-themed book I find. Books sell pretty well for me at BreyerFest, and at the prices I pick them up at, I really can’t go wrong with that approach.

Anyway, I didn’t realize what it was until I was inventorying it later in the day, and noticed the names that the names seemed awfully familiar. Of course, the picture on page 12 also helped:

That’s an Old Timer, Ruffian "Lula," Misty, and the A Pony for Keeps Gift Set on the shelf, and a Trakehner "Abdullah" in the window!

And as if that wasn’t enough to convince me to add it to my archive, the fact that the book was also signed by the author didn’t hurt.

I’ve found other signed books here, too; it’s probably a consequence of the location. This is the same "better than the average" Salvation Army where I found the Kaiser Goose Girl a little while back. Is it any wonder that it’s become a regular stop in my rounds?

(Ironically, I’ve never found any actual Breyer merchandise at that location. Hartlands, H-Rs, and miscellaneous china pieces? No problemo. Actual Breyers? Not a one.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Other Rare Pluto

BreyerWest is on the other side of the country, and I am kinda broke, so the fact that it slipped my mind until about yesterday isn’t shocking. I do have a few relatives out that way I could have tapped for a pickup on Fortuna, but I really have to stick to my budget, now that work has officially entered the "slow" season.

I’m currently hemming and hawing on what to do next - another seasonal job, or ramp up the Internet biz? The former would be better for the budget, but the latter is long overdue and may eventually provide a small, year-round income stream. One more thing to think about…

Here is an example of another mold we’ve rarely seen in recent years - the Traditional Lipizzaner Pluto:

This one is the Pluto made specifically for "The Wonderful World of Horses" touring show, in early 1997. The show had been selling the Pluto for several years before it was discontinued, and I assume that Reeves continued to produce them for the show for some time after.

How do I know that this piece is from early 1997? Aside from the 1997 Collector’s Manual it came with, he has factory bi-eyes - a feature that didn’t start appearing until late 1996, and was discontinued by the end of March, 1997. The original #475 Pluto was discontinued at the end of 1995.

The sticker on the upper left hand corner of the box also identifies it as an "Exclusive 28th Anniversary Edition for The WONDERFUL WORLD OF HORSES Starring the ‘World Famous’ Royal Lipizzaner Stallions" (the funky punctuation and capitalization theirs, not mine.)

However, the box label reads "#475 Pluto, The Lipizzaner" - in other words, identical to the Regular Run - so I’d probably classify it more as a "Post Production Run" than a Special Run: a Regular Run item made after its discontinuation, per a standing order from a good (i.e. paying) customer.

Regardless of his status, you don’t see these guys too often; the vast majority of whatever quantity was made were sold as souvenirs to attendees of the show, and not specifically to hobbyists. Hobbyists walking past the sales booths wouldn’t have thought of them as anything other than ho-hum Regular Run Plutos.

Outside of his box, I doubt many would recognize him as anything other than the Regular Run. You’d think that the bi-eyes would be a big "tell," but a lot of collectors seem to be a bit fuzzy on their significance. That’s part of the reason why he’s one of the handful of models I still keep in its original box. If it ever comes to me having to sell him, I want to make sure there’s no mistaking him for a standard #475.

(FYI: that’s a bit of protective foam paper behind him, to prevent box staining.)

I found mine on eBay in late 1999 - not long after they were made. He was a little on the pricey side but well worth it, I think, since I so rarely see them for sale. He’s scarcer than the Spiegel Pluto, at any rate. (That I don’t have. Sigh.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Equus Non Grata

I didn’t go to the flea market today. Work didn’t go well the night before (everyone was at each other’s throats, for some reason), the weather was iffy (overcast, drizzly), and I didn’t feel all that awesome to begin with (an unfortunate choice of snack foods, I think.)

I need to get cracking (again) on the stuff I already have to sell, anyway. Life sort of got in the way of me putting things up on eBay, so it looks like I’ll be starting up the MH$P sales again. Like before, nothing impressive, just the usual middle-of-the-road shelf sitters and collection fillers.

Everything sells eventually, but some models are harder to sell than others. One mold that’s become an incredibly difficult sell of late is the Midnight Sun:

For obvious reasons, of course: in light of the recent attention being paid to the continuing practice of soring in the TWH show community, the mold itself has become (justifiably) something of a pariah. Few hobbyists dare to sneak any into their showstrings nowadays, lest they get labeled as condoning the practice.

We haven’t seen a new release on in the Midnight Sun mold since 2002, and I rather doubt we ever will, again.

Other molds have fallen "out of fashion" before, such as the Appaloosa Performance Horse and the Quarter Horse Gelding, but that was due more to shifting tastes than the increasing awareness of abusive showing practices.

I suppose one could still sneak Midnight Suns in under collectibility; an historical entry would require way more ‘splaining’ that it’d be worth. Especially since the true historical type of Tennessee Walking Horse is closer to the Bluegrass Bandit or even the G3 Tennessee Walker than the Midnight Sun mold - which itself doesn’t even really depict Midnight Sun!

And again, the mere existence of such an entry would also bring up the insinuations of acceptance on the shower’s part.

In some ways, the situation with the Midnight Sun mold has become somewhat analogous to the situation that exists with some of the more offensive forms of African-American memorabilia. Should they be preserved purely as a matter of historical interest, or should they be shunned - or even destroyed outright - to actively discourage that line of thinking from ever arising again?

As someone who considers herself something of an historian, I fall somewhere in the murky middle. Blotting out any part of our history may feel right or good, but it rarely works. Even if you manage to eliminate it entirely, it still leaves a hole, and a hole can be as problematic as the thing that once filled it.

I suspect what will actually happen to the Midnight Sun molds will be more of a continuing diminishment - of both interest, and of controversy - to the point of it becoming an embarrassing footnote. Most of the releases of the Midnight Sun, save for the 1984 Model Horse Congress SR, are plentiful enough that a spike in interest due to rarity will probably never become an issue. (Unless hobbyists get all crazy and start using their spare Midnight Suns as kindling.)

I have a small number of Midnight Suns in my collection - mostly variations of the original release, in black - and I have no intention of tossing them in the nearest bonfire. They’re a part of the historical record, for better or worse. I won’t go out of my way to acquire more, unless they happen to fall into my lap somehow, or have some historical significance (i.e. a Marney Test.)