Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ephemera and Granular Data

Sorry about that; it’s been a rough week, personally. Nothing you need to know about, other than it involved lots of heavy lifting, both literal and metaphorical. My workload will be lighter next week, so I hope that helps.

One thing that did lighten my load a little was the arrival of this beefy fellow, who I hope is the last thing I "have to" buy from That Guy in Arizona:

Polled Hereford Bull, with gray hooves and tan, not pink naughty bits. (Looks pinkish in photo, but definitely not in person!) I bid on the first one he had listed, and lost, but then he listed another using the same photo. I won him at a significantly lower price - low enough that it didn’t matter if he was a perfectly ordinary Polled Hereford, which is what most auction watchers probably assumed he was going to be.

So yay, tiny little victory for me. I sold a couple of my (duplicate) Polled Herefords recently, so I’m not 100 percent sure how many I have now. (Five, I think?)

I’m also warming up to the theory that my brother posited to me the other day, about these Arizona models: it could simply be the retirement stash of a Chicago-era Breyer employee.

This Arizona distraction aside, I’ve been trying to focus on the ephemera lately, anyway, due to my time and space issues. As you might have guessed from my earlier post about the 1973 Bentley Sales flier, I’ve come into a few more decent stashes. I won’t say my collection of Bentley Sales fliers is anywhere near complete, but it’s now big enough to merit a decent-sized binder of its own.

It’s neat and fascinating reading, especially when combined with the copies of the monthly sales tally sheets that Nancy Young sent me, years ago. It’s almost the very definition of granular data.

Yet, it’s not quite as helpful as you might think. Very few mail-order house Special Runs were truly "exclusive" back in the 1980s and early 1990s, so adding up the monthly sales figures for any given item for just one company isn’t going to give you a nice, neat number of items sold.

The numbers for special runs - especially pre-Reeves era - are also extremely fluid, more like estimates than hard numbers. They made what they could sell: if that meant making a few extra dozen - or cutting a run short that wasn’t moving - that’s what they did. 

Which ones that happened to, and to what degree, we will likely never know. No matter how finely grained our data on Breyer History get - and believe me, in places it’s positively silt-like - it will never be perfect.

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