Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cobbler, not Scones

Up until Thursday night, I had a leisurely Saturday all planned out: bake some scones in the morning, write a long, detailed blog post in the afternoon, and then an evening finishing up a couple of small sewing projects that I’ve allowed to drag on just a bit too long.

Nope, nope and … nope. Sigh. The scones are going to have to wait. Hope you don’t mind the quick little cobbler I’ve thrown together today.

If you’re doing another Appaloosa Connoisseur model and you’re going to go with a "Great Artist" theme, the guy who did the spotty-dotty thing was Seurat, not Kandinsky. It was Kandinsky’s friend and contemporary Franz Marc - cofounder of "Der Blaue Reiter" (The Blue Rider movement) - who had the larger fondness for horses. Google "Franz Marc" and "Blue Horses": you tell me that a big-butt Belgian in the same shade of blue as the "Big Lex" would not be an absolutely perfect addition to this series.

I’m not holding out a lot of hope for the idea: I doubt they’d go for two German Expressionist artists in a mere four-horse series. (How about the Traditional Zebra painted in a primitive bay or dun, as a Lascaux Cave horse? Too obscure?)

This is no knock on the winner, but the winning entry for the Diamond Dreams Contest was almost exactly what I imagined it would be. Most of my fondest - or best - model horse memories involve fires, plane crashes and celebrity cameos: more like a Nicholas Cage movie, than a Hallmark Special. My live hasn’t had all that many Hallmark moments. (It’s not a knock on Hallmark, that’s just how my life’s turned out.)

I do have one story with a talking animal … no, that one wouldn’t have worked, either.

I think most of you know my opinion about events like the Sunshine Celebration down in Florida: they’re contrary to the spirit of egalitarianism that helped build the hobby. Having a super-exclusive event with super-exclusive horses that the same handful of people go to every darn time is a bad thing.

I wish they would stop doing them, but it apparently makes them enough money, and strokes the egos of the right kind of people. I’ve been studiously avoiding adding my commentary to all of those discussions, because I’m just too tired and distracted to deal with the ensuing Kabuki theatrics.

It looks like the "Oven Mitt" Horse really is the 2011 Holiday Horse. Some hobbyists are using it as another reason to Breyer-bash, but really, it’s more funny-bad than bad-bad. No matter how much thought or effort you put into something, every once and a while you’re going to end up with a first-class turkey.

Speaking of Breyer and Christmas, look what I found in The Spirit of Christmas, Book Four (published in 1990, by Leisure Arts):

If Reeves was looking for something a little bit different in their Holiday offerings, they could do worse than to offer a Santa on a Reindeer. Add a little dressy, carousel-inspired tack, a Victorian-inspired Santa with a sack full of (preferably non-candified) treats, and there you go. And if they really wanted spice things up, every ninth one would have a red nose (the Elk, not the Santa.)

FYI: the creepy brown thing next to the clock is supposed to be a gnome. The book includes a pattern for it, if you're the kind of parent inclined to dement your children's holiday dreams.

(And it's not even the scariest thing in this alleged holiday idea book. Two words: Santa Moobs.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The First Overo

I’ve been the recipient of all kinds of news over the past several days - good, bad and disconcerting - so I’m feeling a little out of sorts today. Nothing I need to make public yet, though a few friends might be on the receiving end of some entertaining rants very soon.

(Ever hear the term "roving right fielder?" That’s what I’m feeling like, right now.)

Now here’s something that I bet most Breyer collectors haven’t given much thought about: who - or what - was the first Breyer overo pinto?

It’s not who you think it is:

Yes, it was the #113 Black Pinto Western Prancing Horse, introduced a good seven or eight years before Yellow Mount arrived on the scene in 1970.

That’s assuming that the white mane and tail on the WPH were not intended as the consequence of his pinto-ness. I think it the white mane and tails on most early Breyer pintos was just another weird quirk in their painting standards, kind of like the solid leg on tobianos thing has become today. No one I knows refers to plain, straight-up Charcoals as even the most obscure kind of pintos. (Though I’m sure someone could come up with a reference photo somewhere.)

(BTW, even I’m starting to get a little annoyed by the solid-legged tobiano thing. I’m pretty laissez-faire on the issue - it’s the boilerplate griping from other hobbyists every new release sparks that’s really starting to cheese me off. It’s not cute or funny anymore, Reeves. Controversy doesn’t always automatically lead to more sales.)

Yes, Prancing Horse’s markings are more abstract and stylized than the standard, real-life overo, but so were most Breyer pintos, prior to Yellow Mount. That stylization was a result not of ignorance, but of the existing state of their painting technology back then; fancier, more detailed paint masks were more expensive to make, and easier to break.

The investment of time and money into the painting mask for Yellow Mount was another signifier that Breyer was moving towards catering to the hobbyist market, and their demands for greater realism.

I don’t think Breyer ever referred to the Western Prancing Horse as an "Overo" Pinto; they didn’t start using the terms Overo and Tobiano until the 1970s, and even then they applied it either inconsistently, or incorrectly.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

BreyerFest 2011 Sneaks

Most of my headspace has been occupied, inexplicably, with obscure quilt patterns from the 1930s, so the follow-up to the molded-on tack discussion will have to wait a few more days. I’ll talk about some of the just-announced BreyerFest SRs and stuff instead.

First and foremost, let me do a virtual Snoopy Dance on the return of the Mountain Goat. I’m sure this guy was in the works before I brought up the notion in my Alpine post back in December - the idea seems quite obvious, in retrospect. I’ll probably have to buy a couple of them - one for me, and one for one of my regulars, who’s been politely hassling me for a Mountain Goat for a few years now.

The Unicorn is, alas, predictable and boring. You’d think they could have dressed it up with something a little more imaginative than twee bits of garland - what, they couldn’t spring for a gold mane and tail, a jade green paint job, or some stylized flames? Nope, it’s the same old pastel blandness. I wasn’t likely to buy it anyway, since it’s a porcelain, but I was hoping they'd at least put a little effort into it.

I’m feeling a little indifferent to the Black Tie Affair, a model I’m assuming will be the Store Special. The mold looks good in pinto; I just haven’t been feeling it for the Huck Bey mold lately. Interesting how the Store Special seems to have evolved into the undercard/second string guest horse SR.

The Big Ben looks good in pinto, too, but I’m feeling equally indifferent to the dingy-looking pinto SR. He’s come in a couple of pinto SRs recently - Monaco, and the Collector’s Choice Gathering Storm - so maybe that’s why he’s not really wowing me at the moment. Maybe he’ll look better in person. (Duh, what am I saying - of course he’ll look better in person!) But will he be better enough to overcome my current lack of enthusiasm?

The Red Bay Appaloosa Show Jumping Warmblood is interesting; I don’t have a loose-mane version of that mold yet, so it fits into my buying program. I’d need to see one in person - and all of the other as-yet-unnamed SRs - before I make my final selections. (Aside from the Goat: he’s non-negotiable.)

No complaints here on the Celebration Horse: the Esprit mold looks very nice in a lightly dappled pearl white. He reminds me a little of a gorgeous, near-perfect Templado I had to part with last year. I do need an Esprit for the collection, and all the other Esprit releases aren’t really available to me.

(The whining and sniping about him on Blab, though - yeesh. Every release can’t be designed specifically for you, darlings.)

I can’t think of anything at the moment for the "Happy Endings" contest. The fairytales I’m familiar with are the undistilled, unDisneyfied versions that mostly end in death or maiming. (Go find the "original," pre-Perrault version of Cinderella and you’ll see what I mean.) When I do think of "happy endings," I can’t think of anything that’s not a little - or a lot - risque (the inevitable consequence of having a masseuse for a roommate last year.)

It might be moot, since I already have a pair of shoes for a potential costume contest entry, if there is one.

Or maybe I’ll get really, really lucky and win one of those Early Bird Raffle models. A silver bay splash spot appaloosa El Pastor? That’s … different. Certainly more imaginative than the porcelain unicorn.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ravel, Zenyatta, and Returning the Favor

I was in a slightly out-of-the-way farm supply store (not a TSC) for work yesterday. (It’s not far away at all, just in a direction I very rarely go.) I was a little surprised at the sheer size of their Breyer selection: there were cases and cases of Rising Suns, S Justadreams, and Zenyattas just stacked on the floor. They even had a bunch of the Costco Deluxe Stable Sets - the ones with the Palomino Duchess and the "Mini-Me Dallas" Johar.

Anyhow, after work I found myself going back to take a second look at some particularly attractive Idocuses. (Idoci?) I grabbed a couple to compare - a deep, dark bay one, and a very pretty lighter bay with just the right amount of metallic undercoat. For a moment, I found myself thrillingly contemplating the possibility that I had run across a super-cool variation, until it finally dawned on me that I was comparing an Idocus with … a Ravel.

In my defense, I had been running on about five hours of sleep over the past two days. Nor had I seen a sufficiently large enough sample of Ravels and Idocuses in person to discern the amount of natural variations in the two releases, and the point at which they would start overlapping.

I would have bought them both, regardless of the status of their finishes, had I had the money in the budget for them. But, I didn’t. I did sort of tuck the nicest Idocus of the bunch in the back of the shelf, just in case I change and/or lose my mind in the next few days.

One thing that might draw me back to that store is that huge stack of Zenyattas. Wasn’t she supposedly sold out at the warehouse? Well, I found out where they were stashing them!

The real kicker was that they had been on sale since before Christmas, if the date on the sign next to the stack was any indication. Even the not-sale price was pretty darn reasonable. I’m going to assume, given the nature of the area the store is located in, that the only horsepower the local heathens truly appreciate is the kind that comes with four wheels and a tonneau cover.

I’ll admit I haven’t been all that into the horseracing scene lately either - to the degree that I was in the late 1970s, anyway - so the apparent shortage of Zenyatta models wasn’t a huge concern of mine. She’s pretty, and I do love the color, but I’m well stocked here on Lonesome Glory molds. If I have to buy another Lonesome Glory, it’ll be either the Phar Lap (because of that beautiful color), or the Red Rum (because I was so in love with the real thing, back then.)

It did feel a little weird leaving that huge stack of them behind. I know that the arrival of a fresh batch of Zenyattas to dealers is imminent, so buying a few to gamble on eBay would probably backfire on me the way it always does whenever I attempt to speculate.

However, as a way of returning the favor(s) done for me on the Diamond Jubilees, I’d be more than willing to pick up some for anyone out there, for cost + tax + postage. Cost + tax would be either $28 or $35 each, depending on whether or not they’re still on sale. (I can’t imagine why not, but maybe someone at the store might have heard about that little "Horse of the Year" Award a certain someone picked up this week.) Postage would be actual cost plus insurance, of course.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I didn’t find any Diamond Jubilees in the store, thank goodness. That would have made for a decidedly untidy workday - and a completely different kind of blog post.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Molded On Tack

I never did get around to talking about the Quarter Horse Gelding, did I?

I was never much of a Bonanza fan - I have nothing anything Westerns per se, it just never clicked with me - so I have no idea how appropriate a mold the Quarter Horse Gelding is for Chub. I certainly don’t object to the selection: the more Quarter Horse Geldings, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

It does seem a little odd to me that we’re seeing him in Bay, again: he's now up to four Bay production runs:
  • 99 Gloss Bay (ca. 1960-1966)
  • SR Matte Bay (ca. mid-1980s)
  • 410401 Riding Academy Set (2001 J.C. Penney’s XMAS SR)
  • 1453 Chub
Dude's getting almost as bad as the Hanoverian or the Trakehner! To make matters worse, he’s even been used to test other shades of bay, including this one for the Dan Patch release of the Pacer:

(He doesn't seem like an obvious choice to test a Pacer's paint job, does he? It took me a couple of months to realize duh, it was the halter.)

Fortunately, each of these Bays is different enough in markings, shading or finish for misidentification to be fairly minimal. The only issue some collectors might have is with the Matte Bay SR, who is so rare that many are either completely unaware of his existence, or mistake him for something else entirely. (Something I discussed in greater detail back in May 2009.)

It’s funny that until recently, I never gave much thought to the Gelding’s molded-on halter, until the whining from hobby’s peanut gallery made it an issue again.

A not-insignificant number of the earlier Breyer molds came with molded-on tack and accessories: the Western Horse and Pony, the Fury/Prancer, the Racehorse, the Walking Angus Bull, both versions of the Poodle, and the Western Prancing Horse. What’s interesting is that most of these molded-on tack molds were derived from - or at the very least, were inspired by - molds from other manufacturers.

(FYI: The "most" part of the previous sentence will be addressed in my next post.)

It makes me wonder if the Quarter Horse Gelding was derived from a still-unidentified secondary source. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, if it did. Grand Wood Carving - the Chicago-based company that inspired Breyer’s Woodgrain finish, and at least three other Breyer molds - is the most likely suspect. My reference materials are a little thin in that department, though, so it’s going to have to remain a hunch for now.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

That Charcoal Five-Gaiter

I suppose you’ve all heard of it, seen it, or bid on it by now. For those of you who haven’t, here’s the link:

Charcoal Five-Gaiter

That means there are at least three - or possibly four - vintage Charcoal Five-Gaiters now in collector hands. As I said on Blab: one is an oddity, two is a coincidence, but three or four now becomes something else.

But what kind of something else - a special run, regular run, or some crazy sort of color variation?

My guess is that it represents yet another brief, early regular run model, like the Buckskin Running Mare and Foal and (possibly) the Appaloosa Shetland Pony. From the level of detail on these models, it’s also possible that these models were sales rep pieces from a proposed regular run that was cancelled before it went into production, sort of like what happened to the original Small Poodle.

The ribbon colors on the Charcoals are identical to the Gloss Palominos, and some have suggested that these fellows are just a more-peculiar-than-average variation of the Palomino. That’s a very appealing notion: the Five-Gaiter’s distinctive "Honey Sorrel" coloring appears on a number of early models (the Family Arabians, the Fighting Stallion, the Western Prancing Horse) as an apparent variation of Bay.

Another point in that theory’s favor is that term "Charcoal Palomino." As I’ve discussed before, "Charcoal Palomino" is a term that appears in some early Breyer-related ephemera, and was used to describe the color we now simply call Charcoal. That term, as far as we know, still hasn’t shown up on any actual Breyer materials from that time period (yet), so there’s still a slight chance that it was a term coined by the mail-order companies instead.

Gloss Charcoal and Gloss Palomino were both introduced as new Breyer colorways at roughly the same time - ca. 1961 - and if they were using the term "Charcoal Palomino" to describe the Charcoal, I could see how that could have lead to interesting mistakes happening. (Are some of you salivating at the thought of Gloss Palomino Mustangs? I know I am.)

Rather than regrind the otherwise perfectly good mistakes, they could have discreetly mixed them in with the regular shipments. Or perhaps, they made it a one-time-only, oops-we-made-a-mistake offer.

As always, our lack of documentation from the era is a problem.

Bidding got real crazy, real quick, so I’m not even going to entertain the thought of putting one in.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Candy Packers

It’s a mostly-pictures kind of day: too tired to string a lot of words together.

Montgomery Wards, 1956:

Aldens, 1956:

Montgomery Wards, 1958:

Mmm, candy! These fellows are part of a smaller subset of the value-added models that populated holiday mail order catalogs in the 1950s and 1960s. Hobbyists are more familiar with the other sets - the Grooming Kits, Sewing Kits, School Kits, and so on - because their "added value" was not meant to be eaten.

The "Candy Packers" most commonly appeared in the Montgomery Wards catalog, and is from where I derived the name. No specific name or brand is attached to the half-pound of hard candy that came with them; it was probably some generic store-brand mix.

It’s not likely that an "intact" Candy Packer is going to be found because - well, it’s candy! I’m also pretty sure the first thought of anyone finding a horse with a fifty-year-old bag of hard candy is going to be more like "Ew, ew, throw it out, throw it out!" rather than "Hey, let’s put this on eBay!"

(I know, I know, that’s not the case with vintage PEZ. But I think that stuff has a shelf life measured in centuries.)

If Reeves wants to get some slower movers off the shelves, throwing in a free bag of candy wouldn’t hurt (unless it’s Spearmint Leaves or Circus Peanuts. I’ve been known to indulge in some questionable eats to satisfy my sugar cravings, but that’s where I draw the line.) M&Ms in a custom blue and gold mix? Suckers in the shape of the Breyer logo? I’d go for that.

One thing I wouldn’t go for? This:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gathering Storm

Never fails: I go away for a few days because of work commitments, and actual news breaks out. (A mild sinus infection didn’t help matters, either.)

"Collector’s Choice" models becoming online exclusives? I didn’t see that coming. Since the voting for these models has been an online-only affair, it only makes sense that the sales of the models selected would go that way, too. It’s the model that the online model horse community selected, not the entire model horse buying public.

I’m not quite sure what to make of it, yet. Some of the issues inherent in the sales method - rapid sellouts, limited availability, crazy price points - aren’t going to be that big a deal. It’s going to be available for six months, which should minimize the information gap. If you’re a member of the model horse community, and don’t find out about it in time to order (or find someone to order for you) in six month’s time, you might want to rethink the way you interact with the Internet.

I am somewhat more optimistic than most hobbyists about Reeves dealing with Shopatron's international sales problem, especially if they are going to commit to "onlining" their direct-to-collector sales. Until that problem is corrected, it’ll probably generate a small industry of "pickup" services, a la BreyerFest. (I’ve had a lot of experience shipping items overseas, so I’d do it if I had the time. But I don’t.)

I am a little concerned about the availability of the model to offline hobbyists, though. How will they explain the disappearance of the Collector’s Choice from the catalogs? Will they even advertise it at all? Will there be other direct-purchase options available to those folks (Phone, Fax, or Fun Days?)

As for the model itself - a Gloss Charcoal Tobiano Pinto Big Ben, named Gathering Storm - I think he’s quite lovely. I liked all three of the voting choices they offered us back then, though the Chocolate Ethereal was my favorite. I’m assuming that this means the flaxen chestnut Bouncer is going to be the Fall Collector’s Choice model, since the test piece for the Ethereal was offered as the Raffle Model for the JAH subscription/resub drawing at BreyerFest last year.

I might pick the Big Ben in the Spring, for my birthday, depending on the finances. I have a lot of other things I have to commit to before then - new glasses, car repairs, possibly some minor (but necessary) elective surgery - so it’s a big if.

How would I get around my prohibition against buying any new models for myself this year? Easy: I’d rationalize him as a purchase of a new and (momentarily) unique production paint job. (Oh, there are a probably a few tests floating around, but tests don't really "count," y'know.)

Some of Breyer’s early Black Pintos paint jobs came with white manes and tails - the #113 Western Prancing Horse comes immediately to mind - but the color and quality of the black paint used on Black Pintos was quite different from that used on contemporaneous Charcoals.

Early Gloss Charcoals tended to have had a brown undertones and some body shading, while the early Black Pintos were usually an inky black, and minimally shaded. Some did have pangare-like shading on the undersides of their barrels, but I don’t think it was a conscious effort to add a touch of realism, or even something that was a part of the painting specs. It was just the way they (or perhaps, a certain member of the painting staff) painted them for a while.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gratitude, and the Social Graces

I was going to talk about molded-on tack and the Quarter Horse Gelding today, but since another matter came up in comments of my semi-annual "poor-pitiful-me" post, I will address that instead, before it becomes something it isn’t.

Yes, by some very odd circumstances, I did end up with two Diamond Jubilees. A very dear friend offered to get me one from one of her local stores, and I accepted. There was a gap in our communications over the matter, and for a period of a few days I assumed that something had gone awry with the deal.

In that brief interregnum, another dear person offered to get me a Diamond Jubilee, and fearing the first had been lost, I also accepted her offer. As you may know, my personal life experiences have taught me that back-up plans are a very, very good thing. I didn’t want to turn down the second offer, because I felt if I did, that would guarantee the first deal would collapse as well.

(That’s just how my life seems to work. That’s also how I ended up in the financial situation I’m in right now, but that’s not something I'm going to discuss here.)

The second Jubilee will be going to another good friend and customer who had also experienced a great deal of difficulty in acquiring a Diamond Jubilee. Part of my motivation for looking for a Diamond Jubilee was to find him one, too: on more than one occasion, his generous purchases have gotten me through some tough times. I wanted to find him one as an expression of gratitude on my part for being such a great customer.

As for gratitude, I must confess that I am very, very bad at the social graces of giving and receiving it. Wherever the blame lies - in nature, or nurture - it’s irrelevant. I acknowledge it as a personal failing, and I’ve spent a great deal of time in trying to overcome it. If I have failed to acknowledge my gratitude to any one of you, please know that no personal slights were intended. I am grateful - very grateful - for everything the hobby has given me. I just have a very hard time saying so, sometimes.

I had some reservations about making the Liminality post, but in the end I decided to click "Post" because I knew that some of my fellow hobbyists could sympathize with my plight. The hobby, as an entity itself, is not real good at acknowledging or validating the contributions of its members, except (in so many cases) after they’re quite literally gone.

And should be it for the mopey-dopeyness, until my annual "they rejected my BreyerFest Volunteer Application, again," post in late May.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions and Other Things

Since we are at the beginning of a new year, shining a small spotlight on one of the newer Breyer foal molds seems appropriate. Let’s focus on one of my newest additions, a Classic Warmblood Foal:

Even though the TSC was more or less on the way home from work that day, it seemed wasteful to only buy a Jane. Surely there had to be something else I could pick up while I was there, right? Everything else I needed or wanted was sold out at this TSC, and Vita hadn’t finished destroying all her XMAS gifts by then, so I took a quick swing by of the general Breyer area. Lucky for me, a nice example of the Classic Warmblood Horse & Foal set was still available - and on sale. I could "justify" it, too, in the name of research: I didn’t have a Warmblood Foal yet.

Unlike her fellow foals in the Classics range, we haven’t seen much of the Warmblood Foal. Other than the 62008 Horse & Foal set, she’s only appeared twice before: in the 2008 Walmart Mustang set "Red Rain and Raindrop," and as Ember in the 1391 Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions set.

We’ll be seeing more of this year, as a part of a Classics "Nurturing Set" that includes a couple of Companion Animals and one of those mildly creepy dolls Reeves insists on tossing into every gift set nowadays. There’s a picture of it in this thread on Blab, if you haven’t seen it yet:

If you haven't already perused that thread, you might want to check it out just to get a gander at the ASPCA Benefit Set. It's adorable: the Ranch Horse looks fabulous in a dark flaxen chestnut - way better than the chestnut on the TSC Popcorn - and the two Companion Animals that come with are squee-inducing cute.

I doubt I’ll be picking it up - or much of anything else - for the collection this year, however. That’s because I just finished going through my year-end paperwork.

I thought I’d get it done earlier rather than later, this time around. Part of the motivation was my resolution to put the year behind me as quickly as possible; I have a bad habit of dwelling on (and in) the past, and plowing through the paperwork now was a good way to begin the New Year.

The other component to the motivation was to see if that nagging suspicion about my personal budget was correct. Alas, it was: I spent more than I should have (on the horses) last year. I broke even on BreyerFest, and I turned a profit, technically, on what I bought for resale. The problem was that I bought too much for the personal collection.

Through some course corrections I did at the end of the year - big sell-offs on eBay, MH$P, etc. - I managed to mitigate some of the damage, but "no new (current/store bought) horses" has officially been added to this year’s resolution list. I’ll make the usual exceptions for research (like the Warmblood Foal,) historically significant pieces, and anything I happen to run across while out picking. Research materials and ephemera, naturally, would also be exempted.

BreyerFest pays for itself, when I’m disciplined enough to do it, so that’s not going to be too big of an issue, and I’m not expecting a huge onslaught of Silver Filigree SRs, so I’ll just deal with the temptation if and when they do show up.

Not being able to indulge in the newest, latest and greatest isn’t going to be much fun in the short term, but it’ll at least give me more time and money to devote to some other projects I’ve been putting off, both hobby and non-hobby.

On the non-hobby end, I’ll be looking to increase my web presence via a "working" web site - more than just the basic redirect page I have now. It’ll have a little bit of hobby content on it, but it’ll primarily be a personal/portfolio site, focusing on my life and creative activities outside of the hobby.

I do plan on launching at least one more hobby-oriented blog or site, too. I’m still in the very earliest stages of planning and research on that particular project, so don’t get your hopes up yet. It took me a good three or four months to finally commit just to this blog, and the learning curve here was modest. I’m just sort of something I'm thinking about, and all I'm doing right now is scoping out the things I need to do, and to learn, to make it happen.