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.