Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thick and Thin

If the horses I found Sunday were from the estate sale, I didn’t miss anything: ordinary pieces in ordinary condition. The prices weren’t ordinary, which is why they didn’t come home with me. What did? Just this:

A Battleship Gray Elephant. Good condition, just a couple of small rubs and a small crack on its side, pretty typical of a piece from that era (early 1960s.) I don’t know what it is about this mold, but it’s prone to little cracks and splits in the oddest places. Is it all the bumps, cracks and wrinkles built into the mold that contribute to the problem?

That would make sense, except that there are several other contemporaneous molds with rough finishes that don’t have the same problem. You don’t see it in the Donkey, or the two rough-coated Bulls. The Poodles do tend to get weird little mold flow lines or "squiggles" on their sides that sometimes turns into a crack over time, but that’s not quite the same thing, I believe.

Mold flow lines - which I might have explained before, but I’ll cover here again - are created when the leading edge of hot plastic cools in a mold during the molding process, creating a little wrinkle on the molded surface. It’s not a crack, but it does create a slight weakness in the plastic that could become a crack under the right set of circumstances.

The "right set of circumstances" that leads to cracking include rough play and handling, and storage in an uncontrolled environment (extreme changes in heat and humidity). Neither situation is likely to happen in my house, or in any of yours most likely. To put it plainly, you really shouldn’t be too concerned about finding mold flow lines on your vintage pieces. The odds of them becoming a structural problem are very, very slim.

The problem with the Poodle stems from his weight: he weighs nearly a pound! (For comparison’s sake, the Brahma Bull weighs a mere 12 ounces on average - almost a quarter pound less.) When you’re injecting that much hot plastic into a mold, you’re going to have the kind of cooling issues that lead to mold flow lines.

I strongly suspect that the Elephant’s issues stem from too little of the material, rather than the too much. If there’s not enough plastic to compensate for day-to-day changes in heat and humidity, it’s more likely that the plastic will simply split at its thinnest points, whether there are mold flow lines present or not.

I haven’t been brave enough to cut open a spare Elephant to prove my theory, though. I haven’t run across that many body-quality Elephants, either. Plus, body box Elephants are already a tough sell; cutting them in half wouldn't improve the odds.

I already have one of these fellas, so on the saleslist it goes. He shouldn’t be too expensive, when I finally put him up for sale. Battleship Grays are a bit unusual, but not particularly rare.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

No Retail

Don’t you hate it when you go to a yard sale or estate sale, and you can see the spaces where the model horses used to be? You go to enough of them, you just know, y'know?

There was an estate sale just down the road from my house, and I had to work that morning, so I couldn’t go until several hours after the sale had begun. All I found by then were a few odds and ends that hinted at the existence of better things: a few stray (common, nonhorse) H-R minis in a jewelry tray, a partially assembled Traditional-scale Stagecoach in the basement, a Perillo Indian Nativity set on a bookshelf.

Bit of a bummer, yep. Maybe I'll get lucky and some of those "missing" horses will show up at the flea market tomorrow.

Oh, in case you were interested, the dental work went fine: very little pain or discomfort, except to my checkbook. I wore my Beatrice hat, and the dentist honored his agreement to knock a chunk off of his fee. (Yes, he is awesome.)

I still have one more appointment to go, so once I wrap up some old business, I’ll start listing more goodies on MHSP soon. I’m seriously contemplating selling another one of my NPOD finds - a Sunshine Celebration "Daytona" - but I’ll wait a week or so and see how everything else shakes out, monetarily. (I hesitate, because I strongly suspect that the Daytona was a photography sample, too. You know my feelings about that.)

I’m in the middle of one of my periodic china cabinet purges; my space for chinas is strictly limited, and I’ve been finding way too much "finger candy" lately. Plus, some redecorating/dogproofing had become necessary. None of those pieces will be for sale until next year, unless you want to swing by the house for a shopping trip. (You can also come over just to shoot the breeze. Give me a couple days’ notice, and I’ll even bake a cake!)

Here’s a closer look at the Bucking Bronco I found last weekend; it’s the #730 Bucking Bronco in "Rose Dun," though he looks more like a Blue Roan to me:

He’s not particularly rare, but he is a nicer-than-average example. He tends to get overlooked because of his similarity to two earlier releases: the #191 Smoke Gray, and the Bentley Sales Steel Gray SR in 1988. In spite of their relative rarity, neither one of them is in high demand, either. Being Classic-scale, and not terribly performance-friendly, does that to a mold.

Although I’m a big fan of the Bucking Bronco, I hadn’t picked up this one - or any of the more recent releases. It’s not due to a lack of enthusiasm, it’s primarily a consequence of my "no retail" buying policy: I very rarely buy models off the shelf, at full retail. It’s gotta be something I know is either very hard to come by, or is so captivating somehow that it has to come home with me right then and there.

Plus, I’ve found that if I’m patient enough, most of the regular run models I want will eventually come to me via the flea market, in a trade, in a group lot, or at BreyerFest.

Every time I do break the rule and make an off-the-shelf splurge, I inevitably find one for half the price - or better! - a few months or a few years later. Not every time, but often enough.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Interesting Twist

FYI: I wasn’t even aware of the high-priced resin on Auction Barn while composing my last post on money and value. I had seen that the discussion thread on Blab was insanely long, but hadn’t bothered to take a look because (a) I don’t have that kind of money to spend, (b) I don’t do resins, and (c) Auction Barn is just barely on my radar. (No slight on the site itself, it’s just that there’s generally nothing there of interest to me.) Me being totally crunched for time had a little to do with it, too.

It’s a shame that some thoughtless commenters have made the usual thoughtless comments, and have completely derailed what could have (actually, should have) been a meaningful discussion about the impact a sale like that has on the hobby. Instead, all we get are endless posts about how awesome capitalism is and how good this is for everybody involved - opinions that area about as controversial as the cuteness of kittens and puppies, and about as relevant.

I’m still a little discombobulated from the oral surgery yesterday, so that’s about as far as I’ll venture on that topic, for now. I’m hoping to incorporate most of what I need to say about it in an upcoming post about perspective (the philosophical kind. I’m decidedly less intrigued about the artistic variety.)

I finally found a little time yesterday to clean up the office a bit, so here’s a photo of a few of the weekend’s findings:

The Fighting Stallion is going to be a restoration experiment, the Bucking Bronco is a keeper (near mint, and just super!) and since I already own that particular variation of the Gem Twist, he'll be heading to the sales list after a bit more work.

The Gem Twist is from the first year of production (1993) and though you can’t see them in the photos, he sports the long, fully painted braids. The second version had the same braids, but with "ribbon dots" instead, and the third version had remodeled ribbons with similar dots. I don’t own the second version, but that’s more a matter of a lack of will than a reflection of its rarity: I have no idea which one is the rarest, to be honest. Haven’t bothered to do the research, though I probably should.

Aside from the ribbon remodeling, there was another significant, but invisible, change made to the mold: it was made less tippy. The earlier examples of the Gem Twist mold are extremely unstable; that glorious Moody tail made him exceptionally bottom heavy. You’ll find some that are "weighted" correctly, but it’s very hit or miss, and the guy I picked up Sunday is definitely a miss.

(He’s in otherwise pretty nice shape, other than a light scuffing and yellowing, so whoever owned him previously didn’t play with or display him much.)

Later models made with the Gem Twist mold tend to be less tippy, so Reeves was evidently aware of the problem, and took steps to correct it. I suspect some work was done on the interior surfaces of the mold (some areas shaved, others built up?) to even out the weight distribution. He’s still not the most trustworthy model on the shelf - none of mine are currently on display, mostly because of "Hurricane" Vita - but it does take a little bit more than a sneeze to knock the later examples over.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stock Market

Good, good day at the flea market today - lots of cheap, cool stuff, just the way I like it. I could have easily blown my whole wad, without much effort, on things like "Pajamas of Oriental Splendor" (seriously, that’s what the box said!), a chunk of petrified wood, or an animatronic Elvis head (no joke.) I decided to stick to my core competencies: Breyers, books, and minis.

(No pic today - it’s late enough as it is, and my time management skills apparently went on vacation sometime last week. Anyone who’s still waiting on a package or e-mail from me, I am working on it!)

Other than the indiscretion with the Valentine and Heartbreaker set, I’ve been so good with my money over the past two weeks. I’ve been rooting around the deepest, darkest corners of my closets before venturing out shopping, and rocking the coupons when I do have to set foot in the nearest enclosed retail compound.

Money is probably my least favorite topic to talk about in regards to the horses, especially in the contentious area of estimated price or value.

I am not completely uninterested in how much certain models are worth, but I am a little disturbed at how obsessed many hobbyists are with tracking prices - creating spreadsheets, graphs and flowcharts, like it’s the stock market. It is, kinda, but I’ve never been one to think of my horses as that crucial a part of my investment portfolio. (If I come close to breaking even, I’ll be happy.) Its mutable nature also turns me away: my time is better spent tracking down the unknown - and there’s a whole lot of that, in Breyer History - than keeping track of the unknowable.

When pressed, I can spit out the necessary numbers for you, and I’m usually not too far off the mark. I work in inventory services, and any one who works in that industry develops an almost savant-like ability to estimate price and quantity with just a quick glance. But as a general rule, I’m more interested in figuring out the "why" than the "how much".

Like with the Traditional Spirits and Rains: I do not particularly care in how much they’re "worth," except for the fact that their going prices are preventing me from adding them to my collection. I already have a Rain - the Lady Liberty BreyerFest SR from a couple years back - but I never got around to getting a Spirit when I could. (Technically I did own a Ringmaster - for about a week. It was a pick-up for a friend.)

I think there are a number of factors in play with the Spirit and Rain prices. One, neither mold has been in production for three years: that’s an eternity, nowadays. Two, there have been limited number of releases on each mold - two for Rain, and three for Spirit - and because of the cartoonish aspects of the molds, not a lot of future releases seem likely. And three, it’s the movie, silly: movie merchandise sells, and animated movie merchandise sells really well. A quick visit to the toy department at Kmart, Target or Walmart can tell you that.

The fact that the models are fairly good representations of the characters as they appear in the film also helps. (As they say in the industry, they’re very "on model.") That would help explain why the secondary market for the Classic and Stablemates Spirit merchandise isn’t quite as superheated. Out of its proper context (box and/or accessories) there’s nothing to distinguish them from any other Breyer Classic Mustang releases. There’s no mistaking the Traditional Spirit and Rain for anything other than what they’re supposed to be.

That’s also another reason why I have to roll my eyes whenever I see a hobbyist kvetching about Spirit’s eyebrows: you know, if it wasn’t for those eyebrows, you wouldn’t be able to sell your MIB Spirit for 150 dollars now, would you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

At Random

Been in a quiet, contemplative mood for the past few days. The weather’s been cool and rainy, a reminder that the Fall season is on its way. Fall is my least favorite time of the year, as I may have explained before: about the only thing it has going for it is cheap school supplies.

Haven’t been thinking much about the horses, either, other than the sales items I’ve been posting on MHSP.

Sales are going okay. More would be better, but I’m grateful to have sold what I have so far in this market. I’ll continue to list things through the end of September, then I’ll move on to different moneymaking venture for the month of October. Still trying to decide what, exactly. (Etsy? eBay? Banner ads on the blog?)

One of the ideas I’m mulling over is finally releasing the contents of Marney’s photo album. Most of the work is done; I just haven’t been sufficiently motivated to "package" it. I know there’s a market for it: if there’s one thing that sells consistently, it’s reference information, especially about hobby history.

(There’s no rhyme or reason to the pictures scattered throughout this post; I just picked a few from the album at random. Mostly for your enjoyment, and partly to taunt you.)

I am also seriously contemplating doing NaNoWriMo this year. I have an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a while, and it feels like it’s ready to be written. I’ll have to dig out my research notes and character sketches to see if any of the material is salvageable.

I never actually "wrote" any of it. Just like the rest of my writing, I need a certain level of familiarity with the subject matter before I feel comfortable enough to string words together. That’s why I haven’t covered some rather obvious subjects here, yet: if I don’t have a sufficient mastery of the material, I don’t feel I could write about it in a competent manner.

If I can’t write about it competently, whatever I do write will feel like a disservice to my readers. Nothing aggravates me more than to read something by someone who clearly didn’t do the homework (that would cover most of the Internet, I think.)

I better log off early today, and finish wrapping up some of those packages.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mmm, Waffles

Good weekend at the markets:

The Donkey’s a Chalky, the Japan is unstickered but also unbroken, and the Misty body was a freebie. Unshown: a stack of Arabian Horse News magazines from the early 1960s, and another box of unfinished quilt blocks.

I left a lot of good stuff behind - including a rather fine late 1970s Traditional Man o’ War(!) The prices were good, but as they say on the picking shows, "there wasn’t enough meat on the bone" to bother. I have enough marginal stuff to sell as it is, and these tirekickers are getting tiresome.

(I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Internet needs a "minimum age requirement." Or, at the very least, a reading comprehension test.)

None of the models are keepers; the Donkey is tempting - I don’t have a straight up Chalky one - but I need the money more, and Chalkies are so super hot right now. I already have enough - and find enough, every year - that sacrificing a few to the greater good doesn’t bother me much.

What’s really neat about this Donkey is that she has such clear, distinct waffling on her hooves:

"Waffling" is a term used to describe the texture - similar to that of a waffle - found on the hooves of many early Breyers. It’s typically seen on models that received a "full body" coat of paint: Glossies, Basecoat Chalkies, and Matte Topcoats. The waffling pattern, it is assumed, comes from the perforated drip racks the models were placed on.

Not every vintage Gloss, Chalky or Matte Topcoated model has waffling; sometimes the excess hoof "goop" was cleaned up or ground down during the finishing process. It depended on how messed up the hooves were, and how industrious the painters and finishers were that day, I suppose.

The quality of the hoof bottoms usually doesn’t affect the value of a model one way or another, unless it’s particularly bad. Sometimes the presence of waffling can enhance the value, especially in the case of a finish that may be deemed of questionable authenticity. It’s pretty hard to fake a detail like that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Presenting Itself

I just happened to be in That part of town where That farm store is, and what’s sitting on the shelf waiting for me? I swear, I was there just to see if they might have one of those Rocky Mountain Horses!

A glossy Valentine and Heartbreaker set. Sigh. I couldn’t just leave them there, either. Who knows whose hands they’d have fallen into? I had to rescue them! Such a quandary - keep, or sell to one of my regular customers, who’s still looking?

Argh! Time to futilely list more items on MHSP while I decide. (If any of you are interested in a cheap thrill or two, all my listings include postage, just to simplify things. Sometimes when you start dickering about postage, it slows the process down. Money’s great, but I want ‘em gone, too.)

(BTW, that store still had a couple of older Zenyattas from last year, if anyone’s still looking, and any deal needs sweetening.)

To clarify the book scanner thing: book dealers go to used book sales with handheld devices that can tell them how much a book’s current resale value is; if it’s greater than what the book sale is charging, they’ll buy it for their inventory.

I go to used book sales for (a) cheap/obscure reads, (b) to add to my collection, and (c) to stock my BreyerFest sales stash with fun little extras. I don’t make enough to justify buying a scanner, plus I think it’s tacky and a buzzkill. There are some sales that ban the use of scanners outright, though the local sale is not one of them, unfortunately.

I might be listing a few of my better sale books on MHSP too, once I run out of horses to list. Nothing expensive there, either. (Sorry, no Paul Browns - those are keepers!)

So yeah, I saw the Presentation Man o’ War on eBay; I didn’t even bother bookmarking it for later. It went for well over double what I could theoretically pay. Paying for my teeth and my tires take priority right now.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that Presentation Series pieces were considered … well, not all that big a thing. A lot of collectors then (as now) weren’t too keen on the whole attached base thing. Why spend extra for one with a base, when you could get a freestanding one cheaper? It was nerdy-cool to have a few in your collection - especially if you were a completist - but they weren’t the high demand budget-busters they are now.

Some have been found in this area - mostly Adios, which is not a surprise: there used to be a number of Standardbred farms in the area. The Adios model itself is a fairly easy find around here. I’ve come close: I’ve found a few mounted trophy-like things, but no true Presentation pieces, yet.

I’d be happy with any of them. I’m not particular; I only "need" one for the collection. Aside from cost and rarity, those bases take up an ungodly amount of shelf space: it just wouldn't be practical. Now, I wouldn't turn down a nice-sized collection of them if they did happen to fall in my lap somehow, but what are the odds of that?

(Yeah, I know, it's me we're talking about. When, not if, etc.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Defining Things

Went back to the book sale on Monday for the "by the box" sale. I can now safely say that I my book stash is now fully stuffed.

It’s mostly dollar-table stuff, but I generally do pretty well with that. People might hesitate a bit on fifty dollar horses, but not on fifty cent Scholastic paperbacks. Fifty cents here, a dollar there - it all adds up. (Why yes, I do roll my pennies and deposit them in the bank. What, don’t you?)

I’ve been thinking about the term "Grail" a lot in the past couple of days. I don’t have any philosophical or etymological problems with it, the way I do with other hobbyist terms. (Nobody who owns more than a dozen models actually "congas" them, "Congo" is a country in Africa, and hobbiest is NOT A WORD AT ALL. And while I’m on a tear here, may I point out that definitely and defiantly are NOT different spellings of the same word?)

I am a little troubled by its overuse, however. Everything everyone has ever wanted for more than five minutes becomes a "Grail." If you can turn around and get a Grail within six months of it being released in the first place, or with a very large application of money, it’s not a Grail. It’s just something that was on your want list.

When I think of Grails, I think of quests that are years in the making. Models that may not necessarily be "rare," but always seem to elude your grasp, no matter what you do. (And some of the things they make you do are exceedingly stupid.) They taunt you, revealing themselves (casually) in the hands of your nemeses. They walk into your room at BreyerFest in the arms of someone who purchased it in the room next door. (The one you hadn’t had time to visit yet.)

They elude you so that you question whether you’ll ever own them. They make you question if you’re even worthy of owning them. They make you wonder whether the pursuit is even worth all the anguish it's caused you. They make you cry - and make you feel stupid for crying.

Those are Grails.

A Grail is not a singular thing: the heart can hold many different desires. I can rattle off at least a half dozen Grails of my own, each a unique little ache:
  • Traditional Man o War with eyewhites, battleship gray hooves, and a sticker
  • A Presentation Series piece (doesn’t matter which one)
  • A Vintage Decorator (ditto)
  • Woodgrain Polled Hereford Bull Lamp
  • The Ford Pinto Family Foal
  • The 1980s SR Black Blanket Appaloosa POA
The odds of me finding these models via another hobbyist - or at BreyerFest - are exceedingly remote. Oh, some of them will be "available" eventually, but not at a price I can afford (the spare change thing? I really do that.)

I have to depend on lucky strikes on eBay, or at the flea market, and occasionally on the hubris - or outright ignorance - of other hobbyists. This is where the research helps: it’s so much easier to find and acquire rare and wonderful things before everyone else realizes how rare and wonderful they are, too.

Or after everyone has moved on to the latest, trendiest things. I am so glad that I managed to get all the Traditional Man o’ Wars that I’ve got, for instance, before he became cool again. (Didn’t see that one coming, honestly, but glad to have y’all join the party.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On a Grail

I must have been the only one standing in line for the book sale that didn’t have a scanner, but I did all right in spite of my "handicap"; even after I factor out the keepers, I should be able to at least double my money on what I found. Mission to replenish my book "sales stash" accomplished.

(It also made up for today’s trip to the flea market, which was a washout - literally. Eh, we needed the rain.)

It’s been a busy three days: cleaned out my closets, finished two mini quilts, read two books, reorganized my quilting binders ("Must Do", "Might Do", and "Good Ideas") and packed up some sales items. If I hadn’t slept in this morning, I probably would have baked a batch of cookies, just for kicks.

A couple of bad incidents have made me focus my attentions on anything but the horses. One appears to be a tirekicker with negligible reading skills; at least I have only one more day of waiting before it goes to the next person on the wait list. (Note to self: change tirekicking policy to a three day maximum, not seven.)

The second incident was me being exceptionally stupid: I hesitated on a Buy It Now on eBay, with fatal consequences. The price wasn’t bad, but after paying out all the money I’ve had to in the past couple of weeks, I made a now incomprehensible decision to bid, instead of buy outright.

The auction got canceled a couple hours later, then relisted.

I was momentarily relieved (ah, it wasn’t auction interference!) But then realized then and there that I had already "lost" the auction, well before it was over. Sniping software was irrelevant: what I could afford to pay pales in comparison to what others can, and surely others would see what I saw.

And they did.

And I was sniped, with three seconds to go, with nary a creeper bid in sight.

It was a Chicago employee lot. With one of my grails in it. An item that I had been sniped before on, about ten years ago. Gah! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of sharing my wisdom via this blog. Why create more (unnecessary?) competition for myself? Every time I give away another "secret," I know it means I’ll be paying for it in ways like this.

But then I see hobbyists making very, very dumb decisions based on bad information, and my desire to correct it - to have them make a decision based on good data, not bad - overrides my own desire to succeed as a hobbyist. If you’re going to spend money foolishly, it might as well be for right reasons.

And I also feel a little bit guilty because I have such a huge informational advantage, and I’d hate to be seen as taking too much of an advantage (or profit) in that. I always forget that there are other hobbyists who do not have that compunction. (Indeed, as some of you have seen in the NPOD, some seem completely unburdened by it.)

I still do okay, in spite of myself.

Nevertheless, I’ll be beating myself up for months over that hesitation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Paying For It

More bad news from the dentist; so much for me paying off the credit card from BreyerFest early. No new horses for me for a long while!

On the plus side, I’ll be getting a discount on my next visit. Provided I wear the Princess Beatrice costume to the office.

No, I’m not joking. Hey, I put a lot of effort into that outfit, I’m gonna make it pay!

I did have one new arrival this week (purchased pre-dentist); you’ve probably already seen it, but I just wanted to confirm your suspicions about who ended up with him:

The #114 "Bay" (Five-Gaiter Sorrel) Western Prancing Horse, with the Transitional Saddle. Isn’t he purty? He’s absolutely immaculate, as if someone pulled him straight out of his shipper box.

His near flawless condition leads me to believe he came from the factory that way, though it’s impossible to say. Sure, the saddle doesn’t really fit, but we’re talking a Breyer of mid-1960s vintage here: whether something was in scale or not was pretty low on their list of priorities back then.

(All four legs intact? Check. Ears not chipped? Check. Reins attached? Check. Saddle? Oops!)

Funny how the two Transitional Saddle models I’ve seen on eBay have both been on Western Prancing Horses, and not the Western Horse itself. It’s definitely something worth noting, though it’ll have to take a couple more examples before it rises about the level of mere coincidence.

You probably saw the price I had to pay for him, too. Not expensive, but also not as cheap as I had hoped, either. (Partly my own fault, but we'll talk about that some other day.) On the other hand, it is that time of the year when I buy myself one or two small horse-shaped luxuries on eBay, budget be darned. I was lucky enough to still have a little bit of money in the Paypal account to cover it, this time.

Not a bad little item to "end" the year on, I suppose. Outside of whatever I happen to find at the flea market, antique mall or thrift stores.