Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dubious Ideas, Some Revisited

Made my last purchases of the year yesterday; I walked into the local Salvation Army looking for boots, gloves and scarves, and walked out with a Stormy body, a Bay Running Foal body, and an RCMP-licensed Plush Horse that Vita desperately wanted to steal.

(I guess since a couple of her toys from XMAS are still on my "operating table", she thought he was fair game.)

The newest additions to the body box have made me think about a BreyerFest idea I’ve had knocking around my head for a few years now: a Homely Horse Challenge. I’d pick a common and usually unwanted body box filler - like the Running Foal, or the Grazing Mare - and challenge hobbyists to do something creative with it. Realistic, Fantasy, Decorator, doesn’t matter, just as long as it’s still recognizable as that mold. (No melting it into an armature or using just select pieces.)

Alas, sponsoring something like that would involve display space. And prizes. And time to judge things. So, it’s probably not a workable idea right now. I’d definitely love to do it someday, if only to get more hobbyists thinking "inside" the body box, so to speak. You don’t have to start with Pretty or Interesting to end up with Pretty or Interesting.

Speaking of BreyerFest, Reeves put up the first info on 2014’s event - basically a teaser telling us that tickets and more information will be up soon. The only other stuff worth noting at this point is that there are going to be special commemorative programs and other "pre-event" merchandise available to advance ticketholders.


They also mention that the applications for everything will be made available at the same time, including the one for volunteering, if you’re interested.

Since I have to work extra early tomorrow (yes, I know), I wanted to reiterate quickly one more point before I bid the year, the night and the post adieu. Dubious Rare Glossies are dubious.

This time the model in question is a Captain - the Special Run Charcoal Clydesdale Foal made as Raffle piece for the Touring Events, back when Reeves still did such a thing. There were ten pieces made, I believe.

Anyway, there’s one on eBay that looks and sounds … questionable. Especially since it appears to have significant damage to the finish, and not the kind that usually happens to a Factory Gloss Charcoal finish.

I’ve seen lots and lots of models; I can’t say that I’ve seen everything, but I’ve seen more than most. I have seen true Factory Gloss paint jobs with runs, drips, variable thickness in the gloss, fingerprints and the like.

These are the exception, however, not the rule. My tendency is to question questionable Glosses unless I’m able to see them in person, first. That’s just not possible in this case, so bidding on it is not even an issue for me.

(Not that it would be, anyway. Still saving up for that new-ish car…)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Hobby Resolutions and Stuff

I’m a little out of sorts today, though I’m hesitant to tell you why or how, because I’m not exactly sure if I know why or how.

I’ve related a few stories here - and in my Samplers - of the kind of things that only seem to happen to me. And if you’ve met or talked to me in person, you’ve heard stories stranger still. It’s like I’m a magnet for weirdness.

What happened today was not particularly horse- or model-related, so I’m not going to elaborate on it much further. Except to say that if someone else had told me the same story, I would have accused them of cribbing it from a Hallmark Channel Special.

Anyway, being in the reflective mood that I am, I’ve given some thought to some of my model horse goals and grails for the upcoming year.

First, I think I’ll try to attend at least one local (Michigan or Ohio) live show. My only objectives in that regard are to (a) have fun, and (b) not embarrass myself overmuch. I don’t plan on winning or qualifying anything, and if I do, the possibility of showing at NAN is remote. No time, no space, no money for that.

Second, I’ll try to finish off at least a couple of customs that I’ve had knocking around the craft closet. Most of the ones furthest along are fantasy-type creatures, so it’s unlikely they’ll end up on mine or anyone else's show string. (Though if one turns out the way I hope, I might make more in the future. To sell.)

Third, I’ll be dialing back on the local horse shopping for the first half of the year. My holiday sales went very well, but they just barely made a dent in the "inventory" I acquired via box lots and herd culling. I’m not going to cut back going to the flea market - that’s just crazy talk - but I’ll be making fewer pit stops at toy stores and junk shops, and put an end to the late-night eBay trolling.

Fourth, any extraneous purchases I do make will be focused on old favorites: Traditional Man o’ War, the Pacer, the Western Prancing Horse, older Stablemates. I’ll still keep an eye out for more ephemera, naturally, and might even have some to sell, once the work load dies down a bit in a month or so.

Fifth, I hope to finally finish inventorying and processing those ephemera lots I’ve acquired over the past couple of years. There’s a lot there I want to share with you all here.

And finally, I was to do something real wild and crazy for BreyerFest next year. I have no idea yet what that would be at this point, though. Ninja Flash Mob? Early Friday Morning Picnic at the Horse Park? Impromptu Dance Party in the hallways of the CHIN? Treasure Hunts involving MiniWhinnies in indiscreet locations?

That’s all for today. Still need to finish decompressing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Classic

Decided to take the Eve off from blogging. The Hyacinth took a little bit more effort than I expected, but turned out pretty nice. I’m definitely doing something simpler next time, though. Crocuses sound good.

Santa came with a new and easily adjustable quilt frame (yay!), some fancy chocolates and some cash. No models under the tree this year - bought for or by me - unless you count this guy I picked up on sale a few weeks back, when I needed a quick horse fix:

I have changed my mind and decided that I like the "Best in Show" Quarter Horse better than the Thoroughbred. His head still weirds me out a little - spooky eyewhites, gah! - but he has more personality and "presence" than the Thoroughbred, who now feels a little generic in comparison. The Bay Roan paint job doesn’t hurt, either!  

I was a bit bummed out by the Breyer Christmas Present, which turned out to be a "20 percent off (almost) everything on the web site" Sale. This was not surprising, but they’re gonna have to cough up some actual Christmas Decorator type things one of these years. The Red and Green kind, not just Silver Filigree. It doesn’t have to be free or cheap. Heck, I’d settle for some Breyer-branded swag, like a bandana, scarf or potholder.

I’d never lose my scarf at work ever again. ("Did someone lose a scarf…oh, never mind. It's Andrea's.")

I’ve already decided on my New Year’s Resolution for next year, aside from the usual nonsense (lose weight-exercise more-read more good books-etc.): finish all my old craft projects before I begin anything new, including quilt projects dating back from the previous millennium. I made outstanding progress back in November with the quilts, and I’d like to keep the momentum going.

Especially now that I have a quilt frame I can actually use that doesn’t also take up half a room.

That's all for today. Tomorrow’s my last day off before I have to go back to work, and I really want to get that quilt frame up and functional. I have to sew up all the Christmas toys Vita has already destroyed, too. "Ballistic nylon"? Yeah, right!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spot Check

Reeves really shouldn’t have sent all those special offer e-mails this week, getting my hopes up and stuff. Though I am tempted to buy the Totilas with the strange and awkward base, just because so many people are making fun of it.

That usually translates into highly desirable oddball item in a few years. There’s always the slight possibility that what we see might not be what we get, too.

I’ve been good so far and I haven’t used the Western Horseman Discount code yet, so I shall consider it.

The week was not completely model-free. I found two inexpensive bodies and a Goebel Wachtmeister cat at the local Salvation Army, and this beauty on eBay:

Not the glossy, black and white speckled thing I was hoping for, but an almost no-spot Appaloosa Western Prancing Horse? That's nothing to sneeze at!

He’s definitely all Original Finish: I see no tampering or spot removal. He just … doesn’t have that many spots. Sometimes you'll see a model with significantly more spots or freckles on one side compared to the other, but his other side is almost as spotless as this one.

The vast majority of Appaloosa Western Prancing Horses are way more spotted than this, with some edging into fleabitten or roan territory. Pieces with bigger and fewer spots are less common, but pieces with almost no spots are rarest of all.

I haven’t seen any yet with no spots that weren’t tampered with in some way, though.

This means I now have FIVE Appaloosa Western Prancing Horses. I’m not sure if this means I have either reached or exceeded my quota yet. My original intent was to upgrade my Buckskin; I have one who is adequate, but better is better. The latest prospect shot out of my price range (darn sticker, again), so this fellah became my consolation prize.

In case you were wondering, he does have those two "spots" in his unspeakable area.

I'll be cutting it short today to work on this year’s Christmas Beading Project. A life-sized Hyacinth:


FYI: No, I can’t read Russian. I’m following the pictures, and winging the rest. Not because I’m being hardcore, but because all the best online beaded flower patterns are in Russian. So far, so good; three buds down, 21 more to go…

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Edge Case

I used to fantasize about what the homeliest, least desirable Special Run in the world could be. At one point, I thought a Metallic Lime Green Khemosabi with Magenta points could be it.

What would most hobbyists do, presented with a model like that - something really rare, but also really homely? Especially if the quantity was very low, and the price was very high? What desire would win out?

You’d be able to find at least a handful of people to buy such a thing, because some people would buy anything, some people would buy it for sheer absurdity of it, and some people actually even like Khemo. (He does have a nice head and neck.) Even so, I couldn’t see more than a handful selling, because Metallic Lime Green Khemosabi, yo.

At least, that was what I thought until this week.

Naturally I thought I’d at least have a shot at the Marshall. It’s a Polled Hereford Bull: not many people collect those, beyond the standard one (and in very rare cases, the Woodgrain as two.) It’s Gloss Splash Spot Black Pintaloosa: again, not all that popular a color combo, especially on a Bull, for Heaven’s sake. And the price was a heady (though not completely unreasonable) $225, $75 more than the last super-scarce Bull SRs, last year’s Vault Sale Logan and Colton.

He’s as close as Reeves has ever gotten to actually issuing a Metallic Lime Green Khemosabi.

Alas, in spite of my best efforts - and those of several others entering for me - there will be no Marshall at my doorstep by Christmas. My little herd of Polled Hereford Bulls shall be leaderless. I’m not even going to entertain thoughts of wait lists.

I briefly considered buying one second hand, but the prices I’ve seen so far are far out of the range of what I’m willing to pay. The price I paid for my half dozen PHBs, combined, doesn’t add up to the minimum bid most Marshalls are starting at. And I certainly haven’t seen many willing to trade it for anything.

I’m trying to take solace in the whole affair by looking at it as a lab experiment of my hypothetical Lime Green Khemosabi in action. Actually, a better term for this is "edge case": as something pushed so far out to the edges of known or acceptable parameters of its particular case that it challenges what those parameters actually are.

Looking at the fact that there were over a dozen Marshalls up for sale less than 24 hours after the notifications went out, I think I now know the answer to the question of the Lime Green Khemo: Money beats weird and homely.

I think it is interesting that in recent cases when items similar to this have been offered on a "first-come, first-served" basis, the likelihood of immediate reselling appears to be less than when it is offered on a raffle basis. There were immediate resells of Logan, Colton, and Ghost but not half of their 40 piece runs. Most of the people who did buy them kept them, or sold them discreetly (i.e. not on eBay or MHSP), or at least not immediately.

And in the case of the Christmas Kitten "Angel", it actually took a few days to sell out at all.

I think this is because the primary (though not sole) motivation of buyers in online direct sale situations is its emotional value: a desire for the object in and of itself.

In the case of raffles - online and offline - many people look at them strictly in terms of financial value: whether they really want the item or not is irrelevant. All that matters is that it has value to other people. The cost to enter these raffles is nil, financially and emotionally.

There has always been a market for Bulls in general, and that may be skewing the numbers slightly. Yet I had heard no hue and cry for a PHB SR, and most everyone thinks it funny when I tell them that one of my "Design a Test Color" fantasy models is a Wedgewood Blue PHB. (The other being the FAS Yellow Man o’ War.)

Some Marshalls have resold, and will resell. But then, what of the rest? Will the prices die down to a more reasonable level?

I'm not so sure I could buy even if it did, but I will refrain from saying anything further. I’ve cried the few tears I allow myself for such things, and made some Christmas cookies. And even though I am not a particularly religious person, I will pray also that the next weird-ugly-rare SR is not a FAS Yellow Man o’ War.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Ordinary Bay

Yes, I am aware of the Web Special Polled Hereford Bull Marshall; as I told a friend of mine, it’s almost as if Reeves designed a Special Run specifically to punk me. (Glossy Black? Splash Spot Appaloosa? On the Polled Hereford Bull?) Throw in a $100 Gas Gift Card and a box of fancy chocolates, and that's all the Christmas gifting I need right there.

But as my time is short (again!) today, I’ll just stick to what I originally had planned: that minor variation that has recently captivated me. Here he is!

The Bay Stock Horse Stallion - with gray hooves. Terribly exciting, isn’t it? (Feel free to roll your eyes.)

The Back Story: earlier this year, an auction for a similar Bay Stock Horse Stallion entranced me. I had been vaguely aware of the variation, but I hadn't really paid much time or attention to it, until I saw THAT one. I was amazed what a difference gray hooves made in "dressing up" an otherwise pedestrian Bay.

The hooves on the earlier one were so dramatically light that it did not go unnoticed by others. I don’t think I ended up even being the first underbidder on that auction. The price wasn’t super crazy, but it seemed expensive for a Stock Horse Stallion who wasn’t a Test Color or super-scarce Special Run.

Since then I had been looking for another, with varying degrees of intensity. The very few that I did find were either overpriced or in subpar condition. I spotted this guy in a modestly priced group lot; his hooves aren’t as light or as neatly painted as the one who obsessed me previously, but the price and condition were right.

The gray-hooved version is a later, rather than an earlier variation. The earliest Bay Stock Horse Stallions had the B mold mark, and this one has a smooth, buffed area where that mark used to be. I have no idea if the gray hooves were just one of those things they did just for the heck of it, or it was an "end of the run" variation they did to boost sales.

I haven’t spotted this variation in any Breyer ephemera; all the ones I’ve seen so far have had solid black legs, all the way down. I haven’t had a lot of time recently to do deeper research, so I may well be wrong.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Equal Time for the Palomino

In the interest of fairness, here is my Palomino Quarter Horse Yearling - with a Blue Ribbon Sticker!

She has the USA mark, so she’s probably slightly later than the Liver Chestnut one. (1970 was the year that the USA marks were introduced for most - but not all - existing Breyer molds.)

Stickers on Quarter Horse Yearlings are uncommon, because the mold was introduced in 1970, which I believe to be the last year for the Blue Ribbon Sticker program. Other molds and releases introduced that year are also somewhat uncommon with stickers, including the Indian Ponies, Yellow Mount, the Scratching Foal, and the Dall Sheep.

(There was a really nice stickered Dall Sheep on eBay a couple weeks ago, in fact, but he was just a little bit out of my price range. Darn it all!)

If I am recalling correctly, this Yearling was purchased in a group lot with several other rarities, so whether or not she was a bargain is a matter of debate. I am happy to have her, whatever her "real price" was.

I suppose in the market as it is now, I might make that money back, but I rarely seem to make a profit on box lots like some people do. The storage tub of Hartlands I found earlier this year was the exception, not the rule. (I still have a few odds and ends left from that lot I need to sort and price out!)

I’ve listed genuinely rare items that sold for body prices, and I’ve listed perfectly ordinary things that generated crazy bidding wars. It usually averages out in the end, but it does make me wonder sometimes if the effort I spend in preparing my sales items is mostly for naught.

(Other than the cleaning. I find that personally therapeutic, regardless of the return on investment.)

That’s why I tend to take a somewhat measured approach to box lots. Either they have to be cheap enough that I can at least break even selling them as bodies, or there has to be one or more items in the lot that are collection must-haves - AND I can still get most of my money back selling the rest at body-level prices.

I just bought a nice little box lot earlier last week that fell into the latter category. Most of you will laugh when you see what it was that motivated me to buy it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

That Liver Chestnut QH Yearling Variation

There was unwelcome company and an unexpectedly busy start to the work week, so I have little time for more than a drive by today. So here’s a picture of a well-known, but rarely seen older Variation:

The Two Sock Version of the #101 Liver Chestnut Quarter Horse Yearling. This was the original version of the paint job, released in 1970; consequently most, if not all, of them will not have the U.S.A. mold mark.

Most of the earlier Breyer ephemera that features the Liver Chestnut Yearling shows the two sock version. The Palomino - released the same year - did not come in an equivalent variation; if it did, I have not seen one. She always came, and was shown, with four socks.

The Two Sock Liver Chestnut Variation was not released that way for long, and is a relatively rare bird. It took me several years to find this particularly lovely example at one of the earlier BreyerFests. I wouldn’t mind upgrading to one with a Blue Ribbon Sticker, but with the prices stickered models have been commanding recently, that’s probably not likely.

If I recall correctly, this little girl was pretty affordable. Although quite rare, this variation is lightly collected because Quarter Horse Yearlings as a whole aren’t very popular, outside of the occasional Test Color, Chalky or Stickered example. Oh, and the Presentation Series pieces, of course. There was a really neat Chicago Era Matte Alabaster Test one on eBay a little while back I found quite fetching, but alas, a lot of other people did too. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The First Unicorn

There’s another new Special Run on the Breyer web site - a set of Classic Unicorns with sparkly pink blankets, named Bella and Mozart:


No word or clue on the quantity count, since Breyer put a 12 piece order limit on it. (No "typing in a ridiculously high number to see how many it will put in my cart" gambit.) I’m intrigued: the price is good, and it’s the Classics Hansel and Gretel Pony molds that I adore. But I really am trying to limit my purchases until the end of the year.

I’m not all that into Unicorns, either, though I’ve been working on this one old Breyer Unicorn rehab project for forever:

He was in my body box for a couple of years. I can understand why: he was beat up, bent up, had a broken leg, and he’s the Running Stallion, whose creative anatomy is too much for even me to bear most of the time - though I have a rather astounding number of examples in my collection.

I don’t go out of my way to find Running Stallions: they find me. I even have a Salesman’s Sample in Bay, somewhere in storage; he’s not substantially different than a standard production run Bay, but he was cheap and came with a really good provenance, so who was I to say no?

Believe it or not, the #210 Running Unicorn was Breyer’s first official "fantasy" horse - one that wasn’t just painted an unrealistic color, but actually came with the extra accoutrements. In the Running Stallion’s case, these were a beard and a horn.

I wasn’t entirely thrilled by his release in 1982; I liked the idea of having a "real" Breyer Unicorn, but did it have to be the long and tipsy Running Stallion, who enjoyed wreaking havoc on my shelves with impromptu games of dominoes?

That was my first priority when I decided to tinker with the Body Box Unicorn: make him stable enough to stand up even to one of Vita’s full-on stampedes. Since then he’s sort of been my go-to project whenever I have leftover epoxy that I do not want to throw away. (Today that came from a repair of one of Mom’s many thrift store lamps. No, there were no horses on it.)

I don’t know where I’m going with him, artistically, other than not painting him some shade of gray or white. I’m not going to do much to him structurally, other than working on his legs a little bit more, and maybe his muzzle. Like most of my other custom projects, he’s not going anywhere, so the only person he has to please is me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Neat, or Messy?

I bought myself a little something when I went out Black Friday shopping on Friday - literally:

A Regular Run Stablemates G4 Driving Horse as a Knabstrupper! There was just something about his chunkiness and the black polka dots that said "take me home", so I did.

Another reason why I picked him up was because all the examples that I’d seen before had more random and irregular spots more typical of the standard splash spot technique, while this fellow (and the two friends he was hanging with on the clip strip) had the more carefully painted/placed spots. They are similar - but a little better executed, I think - to the spots seen on the Vintage Club Harlequin last year.

The recent Vintage Club Stablemates release of Jackson has a few of these "placed" spots mixed in with the smaller splashier ones. They are black, as opposed to dark gray/charcoal; if you take a look online, you’ll notice that the black spots on each Jackson are more or less in the same place.

I can understand why Reeves would want to perfect this technique: it would result in fewer spots in unfortunate places. This is especially important on smaller scale models like Stablemates, where a single bad spot could obliterate or distort a fine but essential detail, like an eyeball.

Yet I hope that this technique merely becomes another tool in the paint kit, and not the standard. As cute as this Knabstrupper is, he’s still a little too reminiscent of early hobby repaint jobs for comfort. The ones we did without benefit of reference photos and stuff, because our imaginations were better, anyway! (That’s what I told myself.)

What this means, of course, is that when I go to the store tomorrow, I’m gonna have to cruise past the toy aisles and see if I can get myself another Knabstrupper. The messier one, this time, because a Gallant needs his Goofus.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Trouble with Midnight Sun

Sort of took the day off yesterday; I even did a little bit of real-world shopping, mostly for necessities, but some Black Friday coupons were involved. Camping out in the Michigan cold? Definitely not!

I’ve been meaning to tackle the issue of Midnight Sun and other Big Lick models for a while, but I didn’t start to collect my thoughts on the subject until the latest long and complicated discussion on Blab.

I lost track of that discussion for a while, so other than bringing up a few points as to why the mold could still be viable in collectibility, I stayed out. Been dealing with a lot of family drama, and I’ve been trying to minimize my contact with it within the model horse world, too.

(Hence my slight shortness on the subject last time. Mom’s been obsessing over a neighbor’s antics to the point where I wonder why she even has cable.)

A brief history of the mold is in order: Midnight Sun really isn’t Midnight Sun: it was originally sculpted as a generic Tennessee Walker, and his identity was assigned later. There’s a possibility that Chris Hess may have partially based the original sculpt on the Grand Wood Carving sculpture of Talk of the Town, the son of Midnight Sun whose exaggerated action gave birth to the Big Lick phenomenon.

Midnight Sun molds can be competitive in collectibility. I know of at least one early 1970s Marney SR in Red Chestnut (a run of five), and the 1984 Congress SR in Flaxen Chestnut, which is a very pretty shade of chestnut, all issues of the mold aside. And Test Colors, of course.

The original Black release of the Midnight Sun does have at least two significant variations that could also be competitive.

The Chalky version is one, naturally. I don’t think I need to explain that.

The earliest (nonChalky) Midnight Sun releases have very distinctive and "clean" (no overspray) gray hooves. It’s quite different from the gray-brown hooves you see on some of the Chalkies and other early examples. It is relatively uncommon; I have one, but he’s in storage right now.

So, if I were judging collectibility, I would not rule the mold out automatically, as long as the model was properly documented/curated as such. In collectibility, we are looking at the model more as an art historical object than as a true representation of a horse. It can be both, but theoretically the anatomical and ethical issues shouldn’t necessarily play a big part in collectibility judging.

Nevertheless, the situation in the Walker world is unique and serious enough that an acknowledgement of the real world issues in the documentation would be necessary, to make it clear that it is being shown as an art historical object only.

As to whether or not I would place it would depend on what’s on the table; in most cases, I think, the mold’s probability of success is relatively low, because desirability does play a part in evaluating collectibility, and the mold has been declining in desirability for some time. This is why I think banning the mold outright is unnecessary: declining desirability will remove it from the showring with less commotion than a ban.

We cannot obliterate the Midnight Sun mold from our history. Aside from the practicality of doing so, they can - and need to - serve as reminders of what has happened before. Erasing things doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening again, and in fact might make it worse should it reappear. Because for too many people, the absence of evidence does equal evidence of absence.

This is also why I am fine with the Midnight Sun in collectibility - but only as an historical curiosity that should still be studied, not as something that needs to be promoted or perpetuated.

I can understand if some judges want to take swifter action, and take a hardline stand against the mold in all contexts and all situations. I don’t have a lot of Midnight Suns in my collection, outside of the Congress Special Run and the various Black variations, and I doubt I’d ever show any of them in collectibility anyway. I have so many more models that would be more suitable in such classes.

Midnight Sun is at the heart of the discussion that’s raged in the model horse hobby for years: should it strive for absolute realism or idealization? Depict the real horse world as accurately as possible in miniature - warts and all - or "perfect" it with the most idealized/correct representations of breeds or breed standards? (What Does Exist vs. What Should Exist)

While many hobbyists say they are striving for "absolute realism", what they’re actually going for is closer to idealization. If idealization becomes the default standard (which I tend to think it will, eventually) then I believe it is imperative that we strive to promote more humane training methods and natural gaits, and discourage those that are not.

(Note: I don’t necessarily have a problem with either judging philosophy - realism or idealism - as long as the judge or showholder makes it clear which philosophy they subscribe to ahead of time and I can adjust my showstring accordingly.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stablemates Grail #2

Today was a day full of indignities.

First thing this morning: I had to spend an hour trapped in a voice mail system trying to get a problem resolved. Awesome way to start my day, especially since I’m somewhat telephonophobic. If there’s any way to resolve something without resorting to the phone, I’m going to do it, but that was not possible in this situation.

The problem was fixed, at least, but the day continued rolling downhill. Then I logged on to Blab to see everyone hyperventilating over the latest Exclusive Breyer Event. What’s with all the freaking out by everybody about everything lately? Flurry, Icicle, the Indian Pony, the Tractor Supply SR…

Chill out people, seriously. Take a deep breath and go back to making pumpkin pies for Turkey Day. (If anyone needs a spare, Mom made three. They're worth the drive!)

Okay, all the downer stuff is out of the way - onto Stablemates Grail #2, something that was hitherto unavailable to me not because of a lack of funds, but because I wasn’t sure any existed at all:

The #7100 Wooden Stablemates Stable, from 1976. Still in the original box - with the original instructions!

For years I assumed this item - and the corresponding Traditional Wood Stable - didn’t even exist. I never saw one for sale anywhere, I knew no one who had one, and it doesn’t even appear in any of the 1976 price lists that I’ve seen or own. I thought it, like the notorious Breyer Rider Gift Set (the one with the first Palomino Adios) was never formally released, or released in such small numbers that it might as well have never existed at all.

It does appear on some early Bentley Sales Discontinued Lists, such as this one from December 1978:

(If I remember correctly, this was the same sales list that I ordered a Red Roan Running Mare off of, funded by accumulated allowance and unspent lunch money. It was sold by the time my money reached them, so I ended up with a credit of $6.50, which I then applied to my second choice: the Special Run Solid Black Mustang, who was the same price. Yes, I suck.)

The average price of a Traditional Horse then was 5.99, and a Stablemate was 1.49, so 14.50 for a Stable was wicked expensive. I could buy two Traditionals and at least one Stablemate with that kind of money. Twice as much, for the Traditional Stable. So buying it back then never crossed my mind. Horses, and lots of them, that's what I was aiming for!

Years later, looking back at those sales lists, I just assumed that these Wood Stables were never officially released to the retail market. Whatever little stock they did manufacture was probably offered to mail order companies like Bentley Sales to unload, discreetly.

That was pretty much Standard Operating Procedure back then, actually. Whatever odds and ends Breyer had knocking around their warehouse, outfits like Bentley Sales would pick up. (Literally, in the Bentleys’ case!) Recently, or not so recently discontinued stock, Christmas catalog overruns, leftovers from live show special runs or promotions, whatever.

This particular Stable is stamped on the outside with the address for Mission Supply House, not Bentley Sales. I don’t know what that means: was it shipped to and then purchased from Mission Supply House, or did Mission Supply House have a role in its manufacture?

I say that because the paper that the various stable parts are still wrapped in is from Florida - and oddly, dated from 1974. (Anyone want a 1969 Pontiac Bonneville? Only $988!) It could just be a coincidence - someone opening the package, decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and then rewrapping it and putting it away somewhere.

Yet the notion of Breyer subcontracting the manufacture of things that did not need to be painted or molded was not farfetched, even at that early a date. That’s definitely something I’m going to have to do some research on.

As to why this item didn’t/couldn't sell, the contents of the box told the tale: knotty wood, stapled leather hinges, and unfinished edges? It was so NOT worth it. It makes the corrugated cardboard stable look posh in comparison.

The Bentleys Discontinued Lists that I have list the Stablemates Stable as late as 1981; the Traditional one, it's gone by Spring 1979. That doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of quantity - 100 and 200 piece Special Runs lingered on these lists for months or even years - and the nature of the product led me to believe that those few that once did exist were no more. I was happy to be proven wrong.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stablemates Grail #1

Tying up some loose ends today - literally, as in I’m trying to finish tying/tufting a wool comforter project by weekend’s end. It’s not hard, just tedious, but it’s been unfinished far too long. I want it done and gone from my mind, and from the craft closet.

It’s also been colder than heck the past couple of days, and I could really use a "new" comforter that’s less temperamental (and immovable) than the dog.

So anyway, the latest grail arrived today - and here it is, in all its glory:

A #3085 Stablemates & Stable Gift Set: new in box, with the original shrinkwrap! I’ve only been wanting this since it came out in 1976; Santa cheaped out on me that year and only got me the Cardboard Stable, which I still have - fully assembled and now housing my miniscule collection of Stablemates customs.

Alas, a lot of other hobbyists apparently didn’t get one either, so locating an affordable set - until this week - was an impossibility. I had already acquired the horses separately, years ago, before they became too pricey.

The only problem with this set is the fact that it is still shrinkwrapped. While that is a huge boon to its value, it is problematic for me from a research standpoint: if I remove the wrapper to inspect and document the contents, there goes some of the value.

(And yes, that’s an original price sticker on the shrink wrap, too. I’ll spare you a bit of suffering and not let you know what that price is. It even made me wince, and I’m not generally a wincer.)

I’m not usually one who’s big on the "mint in box" thing, but being a vintage Stablemates grail that I’ve only been looking for for most of my life, I’m thinking I’ll have to make an exception here. (BTW, it wasn't super-expensive, either, but if the opportunity presents itself...)

Research problems aside, this fills a big hole in my vintage, pre-Reeves Stablemates collection; I still need the Silverplated Saddlebred, the Poop Paperweight, the holiday mail-order ones in the illustrated shipper boxes, and various assorted Chalkies. All just as, or even more hard-to-come-by as an unopened Stablemates & Stable Gift Set.

However, in my next post, I’ll reveal the other recent Stablemates grail acquisition that is arguably even rarer than any of those.

And when you see it, you’ll understand why.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This is Not About Lady Phase

The car is back today, and running great. I spent most of the rest of the day running all the errands I couldn’t for the previous five. I had access to the truck, but some of the places I regularly go are a little dodgy, and an old station wagon with 150,000 miles on it is much less likely to be messed with than a shiny red truck with less than 25,000 miles on the odometer.

(Fear not for my safety - I’ve lived in the Metro Detroit area my entire life. I know what I’m doing!)

Just the other day I was moving a few things around, and I was struck by the need to look at the mold marks on my Lady Phases. I was aware the copyright horseshoe/mold mark changed a while ago, but like a lot of those molds, I hadn’t been keeping track of exactly when those changes occurred on the Lady Phase.

I think it was relatively early; unfortunately, I packed away most of my more recent (post-2004) Lady Phases during the latest inventory. The oldest recent one I have out right now is a 2009 BreyerFest Sprinkles, and she has the newest mold mark. So before then, at least.

So why am I nattering about this? Well, I took a peek at my Mother Lode Lady Phase, and guess what? She has an older mold mark.

What that means is that Reeves (probably) wasn’t exaggerating when they said that they found them in the warehouse somewhere. They really are old stock - or were painted on old unpainted stock. (Leftover bodies from Hope N Glory?)

This may or may not be news to you. I tend to gloss over discussions of the Lady Phase mold online because the conversations tend to go hyperbolic quickly, and sometimes involve conspiracy theories, and I’m not a big fan of those. So if the mold mark thing is not news to you, that’s why.

I kind of wish more hobbyists approached things that way: not that of willful ignorance, but a studious distancing from group opinion and/or peer pressure. If everyone looks at something the same way, from the same angle or perspective, I do not think it is truly being seen or evaluated properly.

What everyone is looking at, essentially, is an image. As Rene Magritte pointed out in his famous painting The Treachery of Images (i.e: the "Ceci n’est pas une pipe" picture): a painting is a painting of an object, not the object itself.

I know, a little deep. It’s just my Art History degree showing. (It does that sometimes.) Still, something worth thinking about, the next time one gets into a discussion about anything Breyer-related. Especially mold- or sculptor-bashing threads. Remember: every mold is someone's favorite. Even Lady Roxana or Khemosabi.

Something a little less philosophic next time. Maybe something on one of my recently acquired grails. (Another one this week, quite unexpectedly!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On the Dots

It’s been a quiet weekend here, for the most part. I had a touch of …something, so I thought I’d just stick close to home and sleep whenever the body told me to, which was quite a bit.

It was a good news-bad news sort of weekend, too. The good news? The medical bill I was worried about is only a fraction of what I thought it was going to be. (Whew!) The bad news? The minor repairs I took the car in for on Thursday turned out not to be.

In the end, though, it was a wash. Basically, what I thought I’d be paying for the car, I paid for the doctor, and vice versa. And I had been saving a little extra for the medical bill, so there’s no sense of financial urgency. Everything’s covered, everything’s good - for now.

Still, more money would be even better, so it was good motivation to work on the sales stuff in between my periodic lapses into unconsciousness. I should have a few more goodies up on MH$P on Monday or Tuesday. One piece that won’t be up for sale quite yet is this fascinating fellow:

An earlier Bay Jumping Horse with a fourth, short sock on his left hind leg! Usually it’s either no sock, or a full stocking on that leg. It’s not one of those "faux" socks you see sometimes when the painters stopped a little too short of the hoof in order to paint it tan or gray, and end up creating fuzzy little oversprayed pasterns and coronet bands. No, it’s an actual sock, as this shot makes even more clear:

Also clear in this shot, obviously, are his scrotum dots. I have no idea why Breyer started painting those things like that in the late 1960s. Since it was around the same time that Breyer was taking hobbyist demands for greater realism and detail more seriously, I suspect this was one of their more unusual responses.

It’s not like they hadn’t lavished painted detailing on those areas prior; it is not difficult to find earlier Fighting Stallions, Rearing Horses, and Bulls with enhanced assets. Still, kinda weird, and something we haven’t yet seen in any Vintage Club release. (I wouldn’t mind personally, but I can understand if others might object.)

The Jumper won’t be for sale for a while yet because he still needs a bit of clean-up work; he was probably the messiest of that lot I picked up last week. He is definitely not staying: I still have way too many Bay Jumping Horse variations in the herd. Most of them, I’m not sure how, managed to survive the last purge.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Relativity Theories

Managed to resist the siren call of Flurry - so far. If they’re still around for whatever kind of sale they’re going to have for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, that might change. Right now I’m focused on paying existing bills and making space. I’ve listed a few odds and ends on eBay and a couple of fancier pieces on MH$P; I’m hoping to get more of the same up and running at both locations by the beginning of next week. 

Another thing I don’t have to worry about? Paying for Aspen, because I didn’t get drawn. I actually entered every day on that one, with the same effect my entering only once policy has for me the year previous: Nada. I went online to check on Tuesday, and the minute I saw five - FIVE - Aspens in a row listed on MHSP, I knew it was time to go occupy myself with something in the real world.

(Wait list? Very funny. Never been pulled from one, ever. Frankly, I'm beginning to think y’all are making the whole thing up.)

I did get a box lot of a dozen models earlier this week - the price was right, and who doesn’t love opening a box full of horses? The pictures looked promising, and I thought there’d be a treasure or two worth keeping in it.

I was superexcited until I opened the box: it was a dump bin lot. All the horses were piled together at the bottom of the box, unwrapped, with a big wad of kraft paper on top occupying the bulk of the space within.

Darn nonhobbyists box lots!

At least it wasn’t newspaper. And nobody was broken. The box was new, too. Okay, maybe not so bad for a box lot after all.

Actually, the horses weren’t that bad either, once I cleaned them up. The worst of it was that none of the hoped for exotic treasures or upgrades materialized. The only one of the bunch I will probably be keeping, ironically, is the one in the worst shape: a Gloss Charcoal Family Arabian Stallion - with a sticker!

(His good side, if you can believe it.)

Years ago I bought myself a Foal in similar condition - Gloss Bay, instead of Gloss Charcoal. I thought it’d be a good thing to keep him around to remind myself - and show others, perhaps - of the relativity of value. Just because something is Glossy and Has A Sticker doesn’t mean it’s worth anything.

I just wish I could remember what I did with that crazy Gloss Palomino Family Mare I had, the one that had the factory-whittled-upon neck (with the perfect paint job, also factory!) The three of them would have made a lovely family, I think.

Come to think of it, in all my years of collecting and the thousands of models that have passed through my hands, she’s only one of three models I can say that I’ve actually misplaced. As opposed to having been stolen, lost in the mail or a part of a deal gone bad. (Did I ever tell you about the time some girl faked a near-death experience to get a model out of me? Weirdest eBay transaction ever.)

The Family Mare just…disappeared. I have no idea where she went. An otherwise ordinary #94 Chestnut Belgian that I was cleaning up in the garage one day also just went away; I suspected Mom put him a box that got tossed into the attic somewhere, but repeated attic purgings say otherwise.

The third and most recent was a #435 Secretariat, still clipped to his box backer board. I was running short of storage space in the truck from BreyerFest a few years ago, so I stuck him underneath one of the seats. That was the last time I saw him. I check underneath the seats still, hoping that whatever wormhole he fell into has reopened and redeposited him there.

(I may have more affection towards the Secretariat mold than most, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t stolen. That’s just silly talk.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh, Gee

All I can say of the past few days is that I am ever so glad that I decided against writing a novel this month. (Spare time? What’s that?)

There’s been a bit of discussion on Blab over how next year’s Vintage Club bonus Stablemate came to be. For those not in the know, it’s a G1 (Hagen-Renaker, Maureen Love mold) Draft Horse.

Especially since it’s considered common knowledge that the leases for all the Hagen-Renaker molds were not renewed, quite some time ago. As far as anyone knows, they still haven’t been, though there’s much speculation that maybe there’s been a change in their legal status.

I have no idea if that’s the case. Recent history suggests a more mundane answer: leftover bodies in the warehouse. You know, like the Reissues that appeared at BreyerFest this year, and reappeared on the web site a short while ago, which now appear to rather conclusively be from old molded stock.

As for the quantity in question (500), well, you can store an insane number of Stablemates in a very small amount of space. One of my all-time favorite memories of the "good old days" was at one of Marney’s garage sales, when I plunged my arms into a giant drum full of hundreds Stablemates. My arms were covered in little scratches made from tiny ears and hooves, and I was totally okay with the damage.

I can’t remember the exact dimensions of the drum (three feet deep, at least) but there had to have been several hundred bodies in it, easily. The Draft Horse is on the smallish and more compact side, so 500 pieces in a single drum? Entirely plausible.

(They were 25 cents apiece, by the way. Not rubbing it in, I just know some of you were wondering about it.)

In fact, this little tidbit, from page 303 of the updated Fifth Edition of Nancy Atkinson Young’s Breyer Molds & Models had me tossing and turning one night last week, as I was doing a research project unrelated to the blog. From the entry for the Stablemates Thoroughbred Lying Foal mold:
"However, whereas normal Breyers are made from opaque white cellulose acetate, the keychain foals were cast from a colorless transparent cellulose acetate to which color - amber and black - had been added, according to Stephanie Macejko (conversation of March 1995). Stephanie noted that Breyer molded many experimental foals (which are now in storage) before achieving nicely colored ones…"
A bunch of swirly, allegedly unattractive G1 SM TB Foals now in storage? Is it any wonder I couldn’t sleep? (Wouldn’t they make awesome party favors at BreyerFest next year? Paint them solid silver or leave them as is, we’re not fussy.)

Anyway, back the Vintage Club Drafters…

I am not privy to the legal details involved, so everything that follows is speculation. (I am also not a lawyer.)

The lease could relate specifically to the use of the mold, and not the pre-existing bodies. If that's the case, then Reeves is free to do what they want with the unpainted bodies they have on hand, but is forbidden to mold more.

Extra bodies are a consequence of the molding process, and stockpiling molded bodies for future use has been a standard operating procedure since the beginning of recorded Breyer time. Therefore, it might be difficult to argue that Reeves couldn't sell items molded under the terms of the original lease, especially if both the lessor and the lessee were aware of that procedure when the leases were originally drawn up.

Even with the most sophisticated inventory management systems, it is impossible to predict exactly how many of an item will be needed, or how many will end up damaged or otherwise spoiled. Operating costs also dictate that they have to run a certain number of pieces from a mold every time they drop it, too. (This is why whenever you see a small run on a mold that’s been out of production for forever, it’s either made out of stockpiled bodies, or a precursor to a larger run in the future.)

The argument that they don’t constitute finished/saleable merchandise wouldn't hold up either, since Reeves has been putting unpainted Stablemates in their Activity Kits for years.

What all that pseudo-legalese means is that everyone out there getting all hot and bothered about the possibility of the return of Proud Arabian Mares: you might want to take a deep breath put a few more ice cubes in your drink. There's a very real possibility that nothing has changed.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Worth Its Weight

In response to the question of whether the Family Stallion and Foal also come in masked-bald variations, all I can say is: I’m not sure. I did some preliminary research last night after finishing another big project, and I didn’t see any obvious cases anywhere. So either they’re much scarcer than the Mares (I saw lots of her!) or they didn’t make them at all. Or I was really, really tired and missed them entirely.

It is worth noting that the Mare is the least popular of the three molds, so they might not have felt the need to update them. Or had enough to cover orders.

Second, for those of you who still want to buy a Wintry-themed Glossy Draft Horse, but are not all that into the price, color, or very existence of Aspen (the Silver Filigree Brishen Web Special), there’s a smaller scale, cheaper, more plentiful and more easily acquired one now up on the Breyer web site. His name is Flurry:

(Photo slightly adapted from the web site. Copyright and all that Reeves International.)

They’re not explicitly saying so, but it sounds like that’s exactly what he’s intended to be: a more affordable alternative to Aspen. Piece count, as far as we can tell, appears to be in the range of 1000 - about the same as an average BreyerFest Ticket Special.

I don’t know if I’m getting one yet. If he were a Mold B Shire there’d already be one winging his way to me, because I don’t have one of those yet and can’t afford any of the others on the market. (The free shipping offer this weekend IS NOT HELPING, though.) I was bad and bought a bunch of other stuff this week already, including this glorious thing:

Yes, a trenchcoat made out of silver faux snakeskin and lined with gray and black cheetah-print fake fur. At this point I don’t care if I come up with a BreyerFest costume idea to incorporate it into, I am just going to wear it around the hotel and the Horse Park and looking fabulous, in spite of the heat.

(Via the local Salvation Army, of course. As you can see, Vita is considerably less impressed.)

There was another recent arrival, one that didn’t cost me a thing - Jackson!

Real splash spots, the right shade of gray, and hooves darker than his legs? Yes! Now that’s more like it! I think he might be Tenite, too, but I haven’t fondled him enough to know for sure. I know, let’s weigh the evidence scientifically, using the postal scale! I just happen to have a newer Stablemates Jumper sitting on my desk, too:

Yep, Tenite!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An Uncommon Hope

I did get my JAH Annual the other day; I haven’t had a chance to look it over too closely because I’ve been preoccupied with older and more pressing business. I did notice that this year’s Volunteer Special Clydesdale Mare was given a name after all: Opry. At least, I think it’s Opry: I also noticed a higher percentage of typos than average, so for all we know, it could be Oprah. (Which would be fitting, since Oprah’s name was misspelled on her birth certificate!)

Since I am in the middle of a project with a deadline (Not NaNoWriMo! Thbpp!) here’s another interesting Variation I dug up during the recent inventory - on a Yellow Palomino Family Arabian Mare:

Her facial markings are masked! It’s a little hard to tell because the color is so light, but it’s not the softer airbrushing typical of the standard Breyer bald face. There’s a definite edge and shape to it.

I thought at first that it was either a case of someone getting creative with the nail polish remover, or just one of those random production variations that turns up from time to time. The collection that I found her in ruled out the first theory, and research on eBay showed me she wasn’t alone in the world, so she wasn’t a one-off, either. She’s legitimately a Variation.

Most hobbyists focus on Variations that occur early in a model’s run, because typically that’s where most of them occur. Either corrections are being made - like with Misty’s pattern or Halla’s star - or simplifications to the production process are.

Less common are alterations that occur near the end of a model’s run. They tend to get overlooked because they occur more frequently on common models with extended production runs: whatever changes are made are attributed to being of the random sort, if they are even noticed at all.  

They’re less common because a model that’s been in production a kajillion years isn’t going to rack up huge numbers at the end of its run, new facial markings or not.

Why these changes were made is more of a mystery. It seems unlikely that they would have thought that a minor tweak in the paint job would boost sales sufficiently to justify another production year.

My guess would be that these kinds of models represent "end runs": last batches of lower-selling items that were made sometime after the last previous batch, to cover projected sales.

It’s possible that they had enough of an item warehoused that the mold wasn’t put into production for an extended period of time. When time came around to making another batch of this item on the verge of discontinuation, maintaining consistency with previously issued pieces was not a high priority. Close enough is good enough.

If some collectors or hobbyists did happen to notice the difference, all the better - and more space in the warehouse! If not, well, it was going to be discontinued anyway. No harm, no foul.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Marks of Larks

After pontificating about my disinterest in minor color or finish variations, I will now show you the kind of minor variations I do see fit to have in my collection:

No, it’s not the color that piqued my interest in these Rugged Larks - though the difference is a nice little bonus. What I find significant between the two: one has a mold mark, and the other does not. (BTW, yes, I did discuss the unmarked one before, here briefly.)

The mold mark is so small and slight that most hobbyists would consider it just as inconsequential - if not moreso - than the color. It’s a small, flat area with a copyright symbol and the words "BREYER REEVES" next to it. If you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t see it. (I’m not even going to try and photograph it!)

The model without the mold mark is, naturally, the earlier one; there’s even a third #450 Rugged Lark with yet another mold mark - the number 97, added to the mold when Lark was reissued in 1997. (That one I do not have. Yet.)

I consider minor mold variations to be far more significant - and interesting - than minor paint variations, because unlike paint jobs, the changes are intrinsic to the mold itself.

All models painted on a given day may look different, but all models molded on that same day are going to be structurally the same - unless there was a repair or tweak made to the mold that very day, mid-production. If you’re familiar with the injection molding process, you know that this is very unlikely.

Because they are not so easily or quickly modified, mold changes are traceable through time in a way that paint jobs are not. Even if the changes only involve the subsequent removal of an added mold mark, it can still leave evidence behind. Such as in the case of the early Sea Stars, which I’ve discussed in greater detail in an earlier post, here.

By tracking minor mold variations, we are able to more precisely date models of questionable origins, and discover "hidden" Special Runs and Reissues otherwise indistinguishable from Regular Runs, like my Bloodhound with the USA mold mark.

(The #325 Bloodhound was discontinued in 1968 - well before the addition of the USA mold mark ca. 1970!)

The fact that Reeves apparently has - or had - several skids worth of older bodies with earlier mold marks does complicate things, though I hope that our current standards of documentation will render the issue moot.

What’s scary here is not my obsession over mold marks, but the fact that I have four different Rugged Larks in my collection, even after the culling. I only culled a fifth because the BreyerFest SR The Lark Ascending has become something of a minor grail, and I wanted to make room, just in case.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Team Misty

One of the first things I noticed during the inventory cull: my goodness, I have a lot of Misty Variations. I don’t have the exact number at my fingertips, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was enough to field a baseball team. Here’s a somewhat more common member of Team Misty:

What’s notable about this collection is that it doesn’t include the Cold Cast Porcelain, the Special Run Flocky, or the more recent reissues with fancier shading. All of mine are Variations of the standard #20 Misty of Chincoteague.

I’m not giving any of them up, either. This isn’t a case of unconditional love or obsessive obscure Variation-hunting: each one of them is clearly and obviously different from each other even to the less-attentive among us. Hand-airbrushed, 3-Eyed, 4-Eyed, Matte-Finished, Gloss-Finished, Bi-eyed …

Everything except Chalky: Misty is probably one of the rarest Chalky Era Chalkies out there. The 4-eyed Gloss Misty - the alleged Gold Standard of rare Mistys - is positively common compared to the Chalky. I can’t even recall the last time I saw one for sale outright, and it wasn’t a pretty sight the last time one came up on eBay. (Except to the seller, maybe!)

The funny thing is that I’m really not all that into Misty herself - the book, or the mold. (FWIW, Born to Trot is my favorite Marguerite Henry book.) It’s the history of the mold, and all its changes through time that fascinate me.

I’ve been lucky enough to run across most of my Misty models via my usual cheapskate channels: the flea market, the Salvation Army, in box lots. The only one I had to pay "retail" for was for the hand-airbrushed one I found on eBay. For reasons I’d rather not elaborate here, I felt justified in making an exception in her case.

I am sometimes baffled by some hobbyists’ need to collect multiple variations of more recent molds. I understand the love, but the variations are often so minute (It’s slightly Semi-Gloss! The points are dark gray, not black!) that I sometimes find myself scratching my head. Really?

Some of it is the residue of our history: Regular Run models hung around long enough (decades, sometimes!) that legitimately distinct Variations did emerge over time. We could justify having multiple examples of the same release because they really didn’t look the same.

Nowadays releases come and go in an eyeblink - like that odd-looking Pinto Sporthorse Gem Twist - so the opportunity for true Variations to arise is rare. So the standard drops: what would have been considered within the normal range of variation suddenly becomes A Variation. 

Sometimes I get some flak for not "seeing" some variations as Variations, especially in more modern releases. You have to look at it from my perspective: it’s not that I don’t see them, it’s that I had to make a choice between width and depth. Neither choice is perfect: you’re going to lose some data either way.

You can’t focus on both either, because that’ll drive you crazy. There are already enough subtleties to Breyer History that I don't need to complicate it with even more.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wyatt and the Premier Club

Aside from the fact that it was October, and kind of miserable weather-wise (there are no "good" days with sleet in them!) the events of the previous 24 hours highlighted the stark contrast between the different parts of my life. And the realization that there’s nothing I can do, right now, to fix the parts that don’t work without also messing up the parts that do.

I guess this is more of a fair warning in case the tone here gets a little more melancholic over the next couple of weeks. I’m dealing with some heavy stuff again, people.

Don’t worry, the model horse stuff is mostly working. Some parts of it are actually way fabulous, but we’ll get to that a little later in the week. First up: let’s talk about the Premier Club.

I haven’t talked too much about the Premier Club, for a couple of different reasons. First, it’s a club all about first releases on brand new molds: there’s not a lot of history there to talk about, yet.

Second, it’s the drama: gosh-almighty, some of the online arguments about the latest Premier Club releases make the goings-on on the NAMSHA-Discussion list look quaint and dignified.

I know I’m going to sound like a total tool for saying this, but Reeves really does care about the quality of the product. They have a problem not dissimilar to mine: the different parts of their company "life" are in conflict, and there’s no good way to disentangle the two without one or the other suffering.

As important as the hobbyist market is, the general retail market will always come first. It has to: that’s where the bigger money is, and where new hobbyists come from.

Brishen might not have been a success in the niche of a niche market that the Premier Club is, but the money that they invested in that mold will pay off for them in the long run in the retail market. Little kids who love horses don’t love them for their anatomical correctness, they’re buying the fantasy of a horse. And like it or not, the more recent Moody molds like Brishen are the epitome of little-kid fantasy horses.

The profits of molds like Brishen end up funding molds like Latigo - the third release in the 2013 Premier Club - and Wyatt, the first release of 2014. And look at him!

(Note: It’s a photo taken from the web site, slightly reformatted to fit here. Copyright and all that Reeves International. The mold was sculpted by Morgen Kilbourn, if you didn’t already know.)

He’s so awesome it’s making ME contemplate signing up for the Premier Club, which is crazy. I still haven’t completely finished the herd culling to accommodate this year’s acquisitions. And next year’s Vintage Club. And some of the just announced 2014 releases, and the new Appaloosa Performance Horses, and…

As big as a hit as he appears he will be, Wyatt is not going to be as profitable a mold as a Brishen, at least in the short term. He’s on a base: bases cost money, and they get lost, warped or broken. The parents of our hypothetical nine year old proto-hobbyists are going to look at a future Regular Run release of Wyatt and find themselves thinking that a Regular Run Brishen might be a more sensible choice - with his thicker legs and lack of a base. (The Wyatt mold strikes me as a fancier kind of thing that Grandma or Santa would bring, anyway.)

Loving Moody molds isn’t going to damage those budding hobbyists later on in life. Most of us grew up in the Hess mold era: frog eyes, sketchy genitals, bowed tendons, and husky-looking Palomino Arabians. We turned out fine, in spite of it all.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Wow, so much exciting world in the Breyersphere over the past two days: new molds, new releases, new sculptors, significant changes to the Vintage Club…that I’ll get to in my next post. Partly to digest what I’ve seen, and partly to sort out what I can say about it.

In other more personal news, I finished the collection culling. Sort of. Items have been pulled into and out of various boxes. Roughly 50-75 pieces are strewn about the downstairs and are awaiting pricing, photographing, and the editing of their files from my personal collection database.

All of which will take considerably longer and be a lot less fun than the sorting and reacquainting process. Because getting up to speed with old friends is way more pleasant than updating one’s database and sales list.

One pretty fellow I managed to get reacquainted with was my Chalky Sorrel Five-Gaiter:

Alas, he is not one of Those Chalky Five-Gaiters: an Overpainted Decorator. Nope, he has a U.S.A. mark, so he’s a post-1970 model. I suppose I could imagine that he MIGHT be an overpainted Gloss Palomino, since some of the last of that release did come with that mold mark, but I haven’t heard or seen any evidence of that being the case.

Nor do I intend to find out, because he is otherwise awesome. In fact, he was a regular in my liveshow string back in the 1980s. I doubt he’d do all that well in the ring today, because while he may be Special - a Chalky in Nice Condition - he’s not Special Special like an Overpainted Decorator.

Still, I’m totally okay with that, because he came with a unique and fascinating backstory worth a dozen Decorators.

I found him in a funky little antique/junk shop not far from the Wayne State University campus, in Detroit. I was living on campus, and in my off hours I would wander around the nearby neighborhoods, the kinds that you don’t seen on the national news because they don’t fit the narrative of a dead or dying Detroit.

It was a tiny little enclave of late Victorian homes nestled somewhere in between the University campus and the headquarters of the Burroughs Corporation. All the buildings around it were bland, industrial, and/or deliberately non-ornamental: it seemed almost like a mirage.

In the basement of one of those homes was this little shop, and in that shop I happened to find a few Breyers. I can’t recall if the Chalky Five-Gaiter was there on my first visit, or a later one: I made multiple visits to this place because, as much as I loved visiting the DIA and the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, you really couldn’t buy stuff or strike up a conversation there.

(I had a job on campus, so I did have money to spend on such fripperies. Family was not as thrilled to find new horses hidden in my laundry bag…)

It’s been years since I ventured into that neighborhood; whenever I visit that general area, it’s either to the Library, the DIA, or for work, and none of those places are anywhere near where that neighborhood was.

I’m not even sure if it’s there anymore: there’s been a lot of redevelopment in the area since then, and I can easily imagine it gone. Another junk shop that I used to frequent - the one that the art students frequently raided for materials for their more esoteric projects - certainly is. (Esoteric = boxes of glass eyeballs, old sound effect records from the 1940s, ancient issues of Tiger Beat, etc.)

Part of me doesn’t want to know what happened to it - the shop, the neighborhood, or the people in it. I rather like that little neighborhood as it resides in my mind, and in this horse.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another Science Experiment

I decided the first big project of the week off: the herd culling I’ve been griping about. It’s going well so far; I’d say I’m about halfway through the boxes I wanted to get through. It’s not going to result in a lot of "Big Money" sales, but I'll do okay. Some oddballs, variations, some items with better than average shading, things like that.

There will be some good stuff from this year’s NPOD sales also - nothing that I’ve already featured here, just a few rarities and Samples I had been wavering on. Nothing wrong with them, per se, just not enough room in the stables.

One of the non-NPOD oddballs I’ve decided to surrender is this old Classics Sagr:

Yes, he’s a Shrinky AND a color variation. The variation is not his neon-bright red chestnut coat - that’s a consequence of the shrinking process - but the white mane and tail. Later releases of the original Sagr had a mane and tail that were almost pale enough to pass for white, but this Sagr’s mane and tail were genuinely unpainted white, back when the Sagrs still had distinctly flaxen ones.

I picked him up at one of Marney’s Model Horse Congress garage sales in the 1980s: I can’t recall which year, though I’ll look that up when I finally get around to listing him. (Possibly as early as this week, depending on how the rest of the week, and the culling, go.) He is a Variation, and he has an excellent Provenance, so I won't be giving him away. But he leaks and he reeks: he oozed rather profusely when I took him out of his bag to inspect him, as you can probably see from the preternatural shine to his head.

I’m not expecting a lot out of him, monetarily, unless there happens to be a run on leaky Sagrs that I am not aware of. As to the reasons why he is leaving my collection, I already have one creepy/weird Science Experiment - aka "The Toad" - on premises, and I don’t need another to tend to.

(Note: everything is going on MH$P first, before it hits eBay. All those nonpaying bidder stories I’ve been reading have been making me nervous.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Getting My Horse Fix

I suppose you’ve either heard or gotten the e-mail by now that Reeves is offering BreyerFest Special Run leftovers to this year’s ticket buyers, including Laredo, Twill, Short Ribs, Two Step and the adorable pinto Haflinger Buckaroo. (Not trying to "sell" him; I just happen to have mine on my desk right now and happen to think that he is.) If bling’s more your thing, other merchandise is being offered too, including mugs, t-shirts and pillows.

I am mulling over getting a Laredo, just for the sake of having an example of that mold variation in the collection. One of the bigger projects I had planned - that I hope to get to after some of the more space-eating things are under control - is creating vector clip art/line art of every known Breyer mold and major mold variation (Halla and Boyla = Yes. Old Mold Mare and Proud Arabian Mare = Probably not.)

Aside from the fact that I love playing around with vector drawing programs, having a library of scalable art of every Breyer mold, all in the same style and format, would be pretty darn useful for a whole assortment of reasons. For the blog, for my research, for Sampler illustrations, maybe even for crafting. (A redwork quilt of Breyer molds, anyone?)

I already have tons of vintage clip art, both stats and originals, but none of it is consistent in terms of style, scale, or format. Some of it was even done before the molds themselves were finalized, like the very early clip art for the Classics USET Gift Set:

I know I've had it up here before, but it just fascinates me for some reason. It's like I'm looking at Breyer molds from an alternate reality. (Is it the reality where Palomino Family Arabians are super-rare, Khemosabi is awesome, and Decorators are no big deal?) My "style", such as it is, is more like this:

I was kind of hoping I could hold off getting a Laredo until next year, after the collection culling. Not that I’m expecting a huge run on him, but it’s so convenient to let my fingers do the clicking…

No, I already bought a few horses this week.

I had to stop at the store yesterday on my way home from work to pick up a few odds and ends, and I saw that said store had just gotten in the new assortment of Stablemates Mystery Foal sets. Since I am a sucker for anything black pinto, and anything roan, and I am not immune to needing a horse fix every once and a while, into the cart they went.

I’ll open them up as a reward when another one of my multitudinous projects is done. (Sunday, I hope?)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shifting Priority

I was distracted yesterday by a non-model-horsey project out in the garage that took longer than anticipated, so I decided not to rush myself on the blogging. I have most of next week off, so I figured there would be plenty of time to play catch up.

Speaking of, I will definitely be taking a break from the NaNoWriMo thing this year. It’s not for a lack of ideas or inspiration; it’s more a matter of changing priorities. While cleaning out my craft supply stash for the garage sale a few weeks back, I was mildly horrified by the number of unfinished projects I found, and how emotionally attached I was to them still.

So I’ve decided to spend November finishing as many of those things as I can, instead of starting another novel that will just become another project in my already considerable queue.

I suppose most - or at least, many - of you have heard about or seen the pair of Connoisseur Swirling Sky samples that turned up on eBay this past week - in China. One finished, one unfinished.

I have no doubt that they are "authentic" - in the sense that they were factory-made, and not faux-finished. I’m rather surprised, actually, that it took this long for listings from China to show up on eBay, considering that production has been going on there, more or less, for over a decade now.

I briefly considered bidding/buying, but two things held me back.

First, of course, was the price: another Swirling Sky Sample surfaced in the Sales Tent/Pit this year, and was resold on eBay for a price less than the Chinese seller’s initial listing prices. In spite of all the drama surrounding the "Friday Morning Festivities", the resell prices on most of the Samples and Oddities found within are not outrageous.

There are always a few real gems in the mix, yes, but the value of most is in the eye of the beholder. The Swirling Sky Andalusian is not one of the higher-demand Connoisseurs, also: I found him to be an interesting concept that didn’t completely work. I wouldn’t have tossed him out of the keep box if I had found him, but his absence doesn’t sting as much as the Sample Clydesdale Mare Palisades.

(I’ve been halfheartedly shopping around for the Picture Perfect Black Pinto Clydesdale Mare as a suitable substitute, but dang, I didn’t realize she was so popular, too!)

The second point of hesitation was that it was directly from China.

We all engage in rationalizing behaviors when it comes to pretty ponies of questionable provenance. I bought a number of pieces from the eBay vendor "newtoymens", for instance, and there have been times when I have been guilty of the sin of omission whilst negotiating at the flea market. Then there’s the issue of me being privy to information that many of you are not, and whether that rises to the level of "insider trading", though I like to think that I’ve given almost as much as I’ve gotten, on the blog anyway.

Everyone has different comfort zones, and they don’t necessarily overlap: what I’m comfortable with you might not be, and vice versa. Buying something directly from China, I’ve discovered, is out of my comfort zone. (More precisely, the answers to the questions such items raise.)

Which is fine for me, because I need to sell more, not buy more. Anything that keeps me from clicking the "Buy It Now" button.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Test Color Teasing

Just to show you that I am not always a complete tease, here are a few of those Test Color photos I mentioned in passing last time:

These are all fairly typical of the kind of Test Colors available to hobbyists in the 1980s, in terms of both molds and colors. Neat, but there’s nothing to them that makes them stand out from the regular Breyer rabble, especially to newer hobbyists or those not particularly versed in Breyer minutiae.

I wouldn’t mind owning any of them, mind you, and I suspect a lot of you feel likewise. Yet I rather doubt most of them would be competitive outside of Collectibility today. (That is a pretty shade of bay on the Phar Lap, though!)

The term "Test Color" is an awfully generic one: at its broadest and least specific, it can refer to any model that was not made as part of a production run. This could even include items that were once in regular production, but were not when it/they were produced. (My NPOD Big Ben might fall into this category, for instance.)

A Test Color could be a Cull, a finished/touched-up Cull, a happy accident (i.e. a mistake) of the painting process, a lunchtime frolic, misinterpreted painting instructions, a gift for a friend or family member, something done to fill up some downtime…

Or it could be an "true" Test Color: an item painted to demonstrate/illustrate/test a new or potential production run item, either a Regular Run or Special Run.

Some newer hobbyists, who are most familiar with the term through the BreyerFest auctions, tend to think of Test Colors almost as Factory Customs, since many of the ones that are offered for auction nowadays have a higher degree of finish than most production items. (I am always amazed that some get a little indignant when the tested color actually, you know, gets used a short time later. What do they think the word Test in Test Color means?)

The models you’re seeing above are likely the kinds of Test Colors that originated via Marney Walerius, a hobbyist who had somewhat free rein at the factory in the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes she rescued genuine Test Colors from the various nooks and crannies of the facilities. Sometimes she fished stuff out of trash barrels and finished/fixed them.

And sometimes she made them herself: to satisfy a notion, to propose an idea to the Powers That Were, for compensation, or for various promotional purposes (live shows, raffles, tours, prizes, etc.) So in a sense, many Chicago-era Test Colors were Factory Customs, too.

Sorting this all out after the fact, as you can imagine, is something of a headache. An item that’s classified as a Test Color could have been multiple things: it could have been something Marney did on a whim, AND later got used in production somewhere along the line. True Test Colors were often given away as gifts or tokens of appreciation (or compensation!)

In most cases, it’s been easier to refer to a nonstandard model - something that goes above and beyond being just a variation - as a "Test Color", because more often than not, we will never know the specifics of its creation.