Friday, January 31, 2014

Finally, Levi Himself

And here he is, in all his true splash-spotted glory:

There’s been a small bit of controversy about Levi not being an exact replica of the paint jobs and stickers of old. His whites are Chalky or Semi-Chalky, and the sticker refers to "Cellulose Acetate" rather than "Tenite".

I’ll tackle the sticker part first.

The sticker was probably altered for a couple of reasons. Tenite is the brand name of the Cellulose Acetate manufactured by the Eastman Chemical Company. What brands of plastics, and when they were used, is not something I’ve tracked much at all. If Reeves is using other brands of Cellulose Acetate, using the brand name from another company may not be appropriate.

(BTW, different brands of Cellulose Acetate are basically the same, with some minor chemical differences - sort of the way all chocolate chip cookies recipes are nearly, though not absolutely identical. You’d still want to avoid mixing different recipes together because the results might be a little unpredictable, depending on the blend.)

Also, by making the sticker somewhat different from the originals, it removes the temptation to transfer the sticker to someone else.

As far as the Chalky points go, that’s a Vintage feature - most notably seen on releases such as #27 TV’s Fury and the late 1950s version of the Black Beauty Western Horse and Pony.

It seems a little odd to include in a rereleased version of the Appaloosa Mustang’s paint job, especially since I can’t recall ever seeing any Chalky Appaloosa Mustangs.

The first theory that pops into my mind is that it was done to minimize unscrupulous people in the near or distant future from claiming the items as true 1960s vintage.

There may well be some actual vintage Belgians floating around in this color. I don’t know of any, personally, but enough oddball discoveries have been made in recent years that I’m not willing to discount the possibility. (Remember the Gloss Gray Appaloosa Quarter Horse Gelding?)

As I’ve all hammered into your heads, there’s still tons of stuff we don’t - and probably will never - know about the early history of Breyer. Vintage Glossy Chalkies are scarce enough that making that addition to a new Vintage-style release at least seems like a safe bet.

There was one instance of Reeves releasing a Vintage-style item that turned out to have been released before. Though we’re still not sure whether its status was a Test Color, a microscopic Special Run or exceedingly brief Regular Run: the Charcoal Five-Gaiter.

Reeves probably didn’t know about it when they released Rhett in 2001, and I was only familiar with it because I had met the then-only-one-known Vintage Charcoal at a local live show. At the time I assumed he was merely a Test, until another turned up on eBay, which made me think there might be more to his story than that.

A much less elaborate explanation (and thus, more likely) could be this: they liked the way it looked. That was pretty much the explanation they gave us for the Red Bay coloring on the original Traditional Sham, when we protested.

The lack of eyewhites on my Levi doesn’t bother me one way or another. Eyewhites on Gloss Gray Appaloosas were more the exception, than the rule.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Almost Like The Real Thing

My schedule is continuing to be uncooperative, as is the weather. And the body: it did its best to catch up on Saturday with all the sleep I lost during the week. Caffeine can only take you so far, apparently.

But I did make a little progress on Levi - I opened the outer box, but the inner box will have to wait until my next truly free moment, which should be…late Wednesday? I’ll be so glad when this January is over.

As far as what I can see, so far - so good! The box isn’t an exact replica of the White Boxes of old - it’s not shrink wrapped, and it’s made of higher quality materials. But in every other regard, looking at it makes me feel like I’m a 12 years old at Circus World again, trying to decide between the Belgian, the Yellow Mount, or that neat new San Domingo.

(Took me forever - until last year, actually - to find just the right Yellow Mount, but I am still without a worthy San Domingo. This year, perhaps.)

If you're curious, the iconic Breyer display font is called Neil Bold, and it’s not too hard to find a legitimate copy nowadays. I tried locating one a few years ago, but I could only find the knockoff versions in those "1001 Fonts!" collections you’d find at the dollar store. I don’t know if it was a question of rights or lack of coolness that kept the real thing from getting digitized until recently, but I’m glad it’s available now for our graphic designing pleasure.

Oh, the T-shirt possibilities!

In case you were wondering, yes, I did have a little bit of input into this year’s Vintage Club offerings. The Powers-That-Be asked for some opinions and suggestions, and I offered some. Well, actually, a lot. (Others were asked too, I am guessing. I am not the only Breyer History Nerd out there, just the most vocal one.)

Some of what I asked for came to pass, particularly the boxes and ephemera. I am glad that the response to those improvements has been very positive. It gives me some reassurance that I know what I am doing, at least some of the time.

That’s something everybody could use, model horses or otherwise. (Speaking of: Miss Susan - nice job on the Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt top! Not quite brave enough myself to do a hexi quilt just yet.)

It will be interesting to see what, if any, of my other suggestions get implemented.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Also Not Levi

Because Thursday was not the day off it was supposed to be. And some unrelated computer problems. The cold is not helping either.

The week was not completely horseless, however, as I found this little beauty during a rare moment of respite at the local Salvation Army: a Walker-Renaker "Horse of Different Color"!

Missing a couple of flowers on the other side of his head, but otherwise perfect. My three other Walker-Renakers - all dirt mall rescues - are also damaged in some way (as am I), so he’ll fit right in. I’d rather they be broken before I make their acquaintance, than have my clumsy self finish the job.

(FYI: I was tipped off to the existence of possible costuming items at said store, hence the side trip. I have been getting …notions…. Family is being unusually helpful in this regard. Strange week, all around.)

Rajah also made his appearance this week; thankfully the grace period for placing a pre-order runs through next week, giving me some time to actually think about it instead of jumping into the decision feet first.

I’m leaning towards Yes. The price is very good, the deposit is doable, the mold is lovely, and the native tack designed by hobby tackmaker Vicky Norris is an awesome bonus. It is very reminiscent of the much-coveted Proud Arabian Mare Gift Sets of the early 1970s, of which I only have a box. I’d show you a picture of it, if I could find it - the problem being my mind is slightly more disorganized than my stuff.

I also have the flier, and the horse, but those were obtained separately and cribbed together into three-fourths of a set, so I’m not sure it really counts as one. Especially since the odds of me completing it by finding the halter in a random box of goodies is about the same as me finding a diamond ring in a box of gumball machine jewelry - i.e. not very likely.

I won’t discount the possibility entirely, as I did find a pewter Jorgen Jensen ring in a box of junk jewelry once.

Considering the scary high prices that the Arabian Mare Gift Sets bring nowadays, I find it a bit puzzling to see some dismissive chatter about the tack part of this Special Run. Especially so soon after the funky Totilas wooden base Web Special offer that now has others (including me) wondering why I didn't take Reeves up on that offer.

Although I am not one of those people who collects tack, there are many hobbyists who do, so I don’t think it’d be all that difficult to sell it off if need be. Or do what I did when I was younger: throw all the loose and unwanted bits into a spare shoebox in the closet, until I decided they weren’t unwanted anymore. Or if I really, really didn't want it, toss it into a "free with shipping" box. I used to do a lot of those back in the day.

I haven’t had a chance to do more than a light skimming of the discussion of the Rajah - heck, I can’t even remember the last time I trolled for research data on eBay - but from what I’ve seen most of the criticism has been focused on - the paintjob?

I agree that the Light Dappled Gray not the most exciting choice, and perhaps a bit overused at the moment. We should all know by now, however, that the photos Reeves provides are only an approximation of reality: a middling Photoshop retouch of a likely Sample piece, at best. If I’m going to decide to the contrary on Rajah, it’s going to be something that I know is a problem already (the eternal triumvirate of time-space-money) rather than what might be.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sticker Restoration

The schedule changed again, so the little bit of time I thought I had to compose my thoughts tomorrow is gone. Levi will have to stay in his box until Thursday, which is (thinking optimistically!) my next day off.

In the meantime, here is a picture of something that I will, eventually, have for sale once the work schedule returns to something more normal:

There’s nothing particularly special about this Matte Gray Appaloosa Family Arabian Stallion, other than his sticker. He was part of a box lot I bought a little while ago that I hoped would result in some upgrades. That didn’t happen: this guy is in about the same condition - maybe a shade less - than the one I already have in my collection. Good, though not great.

Stickered models - even the mere Family Arabians - are not a hard sell, so I’m not foreseeing a difficult time of it when time makes itself available.

I show him to you because there appears to be a discussion going on - one generated in the Blab "Let’s Generate a Controversy" thread - about the ethics of sticker restoration.

I take the middle ground in this debate: I see no problem restoring or replacing a sticker on a model that has previous evidence of a sticker: either a fragment, or the yellowed residue.

If there is no evidence to be found, there is no sticker to be replaced. In fact, replacing it would be somewhat unethical, because you are adding something to it that it didn’t have before that could also substantially affect its value for the better. A situation not unlike Glossing.

In situations where restoration is a viable option, the issues surrounding it are twofold.

The first is the source of replacement stickers. One could take a sticker off of a far more damaged model. The problem is finding a suitable match; it might be difficult to find another Albino Five-Gaiter with a sticker to swipe, for instance.

And if you do, there’s the issue of removal: even under the most ideal conditions, a 40+ year old sticker is going to be difficult to transfer over without any damage at all.

There’s always the possibility of reproducing the sticker, but that’s where the second issue comes in: which sticker? There were two styles - Large and Small - and some models came with either. Sometimes the sticker fragment or residue is small enough that it’s not possible to determine which one of these stickers it came with.

Also, while I have been able to track the sticker data with a higher degree of accuracy than I thought possible, 100 percent accuracy is an impossibility, outside of some rare documentation showing up. (Oh yes, I have fantasized about old sticker sheets of Blue Ribbon Stickers showing up on eBay. I do not doubt that there is at least one sheet out there, even a partial one, somewhere.)

I’ve done some sticker restoration on some of my models, but it’s been more of the "reconstructing what’s been left behind" type. I’ve uncurled, uncrinkled, reglued, and reattached pieces. I can’t recall if I’ve ever touched up any of them with paint, though I wouldn’t object to it personally, as long as it was discreetly done.

The same would go with the replacement of missing portions of stickers, though I think replacing more than half of it might be wandering into ethically dubious territory, especially if it's the top half with the identifying information.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


It feels very strange to be relaxing in an office chair and not have to go to work or to bed within an hour or two. After nearly two weeks of that, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself! Other than clean up the debris left behind. I’ve been picking up stuff all day, and I’m still finding articles of clothing in inappropriate places. (I have a better throwing arm than I thought!)

My Vintage Club Levi arrived a few days ago, but he still hasn’t been opened yet, because work. I am somewhat encouraged by most of the comments I’ve seen in passing this week. More on him next post.

The Grab Bags appear to be what I - and most other hobbyists - assumed they would be: a mix of BreyerFest Specials, Regular Runs, Classics and MiniWhinnies sets. I haven’t seen any reports of crazy-awesome things like Samples or Artist’s Proofs, but it’s still a little early yet, and not everyone wants or needs to share. (Which I am totally fine with, BTW. Some joys are best enjoyed in private.)

I wouldn’t have minded getting a Tinseltown - the dun Lonesome Glory BreyerFest SR from 2010. I wasn’t real crazy about his color back then, but I’ve warmed up to it considerably since then.

Speaking of duns, one of the more captivating new releases for me is the GVF Sjokolade, on the Henry Fjord mold:

I know there’s been some concern expressed that there might be some difficulty distinguishing his paint job from the original Henry release, or from the WEG Reissue, but if the web site photos are anywhere near the ballpark, I don’t think we have a lot to worry about.

The real horse has brown points, not black or charcoal, which makes sense since his name means "Chocolate" and his barn name is "Hershey"! Even if the color isn’t quite there on the model itself, it looks like they’re loading him up with a different order of detail than the previous Fjords had - better than the Henry, and just plain different from the WEG model.

I think it is a safe bet that this model - in Gloss or Semi-Gloss - will turn up as a prize model in this year’s BreyerFest Youth Show. A highly coveted prize, if my recent experiences with the mold continue to hold. Popular fellow he’s been, lately.

If I’m not lucky enough to locate the Sample "Hershey" this year, I’ll be more than content with just a nicely shaded Regular Run one. Assuming I have the room for him by then.

Off to enjoy the rest of my evening, lounging in flannel jammies, eating clearance Christmas candy and catching up on my TV time. Boring and mundane never felt so inviting.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grab Bags and Trakehners

As I was going to or coming from work on Tuesday (possibly simultaneously!) the notion of Grab Bags popped into my head. As in, "It wouldn’t surprise me if they broke out a Grab Bag offer while I was away."

Of course they did! I was home just long enough - and at the right time - to order one if I wanted to. I decided to take a pass on the offer because I haven’t had the time or energy to deal with the small handful of packages I’ve gotten in the past two weeks. Another box of stuff could possibly send me or my family over the edge.

(Even Vita. The little weirdo loves to peel and eat packing tape off boxes.)

Generally I’ve had pretty good luck with the Grab Bags in the past. I think some people are being overly optimistic on what "special items" may be contained within, though. I’m guessing it’s more along the lines of BreyerFest SRs, Mid-Years, recently discontinued items, Blossoms and other web site doodads - you know, similar to before.

Cigar Aintrees and St. Bernard Beethovens, rather than Vintage or Premier Club anythings. (I’ve been wanting a Beethoven, but they’ve been trying to sell the leftovers in the NPOD for the past few years at original retail, which I thought was a tad high.)

The super rare or desirable stuff has tended to be the exception, not the rule.

Here is a picture of my fabulous #54 Trakehner, who I received for Christmas in 1979. I’ve shown him around before, but I think you can understand why:

Most models have some degree of variation in their paint jobs, as a consequence of having multiple painters over multiple years of production.

The original release of the Trakehner seems to have had more variation than most in his six year run (1979-1984). I’ve seen him light and dark, brown-based and red-based, with extensive shading and none at all.

The earliest ones, like mine, were a bit fancier and more seal brown than the others, but the other variations I haven’t been able to date and track as closely, nor distinguish quite as distinctly. Sometimes I think they painted him the shade of bay they happened to have leftover from whatever they were painting the day before.

Whenever the topic of "The Trakehner Society" Trakehner comes up, though, I always take a deep breath. Like the Kansas City Shams or the Florida El Pastors, he’s another one of those models for whom many are claimed to be, but few truly are.

In fact, I don’t think there’s been a single verified one outside of the one with the unassailable provenance. The paint job is a solid bay - somewhat different than many/most #54 Trakehners, but not that far out of the normal range of variation we see on the original release.

So unless someone is able to give you some solid, inarguable documentation or provenance, the best answer to the offer of a Trakehner Society Trakehner is "No, thank you."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Adding Some Texture

Just when I thought I’d be getting one or two nights of reprieve in my schedule - boom! - out comes the revised schedule.

Money good, but sleep also good. Crossing my fingers for next week being slightly more plentiful with the latter.

For what it’s worth, I wasn’t meaning to be sarcastic at the close of my last post. Over the past several weeks I’ve had a number of people in my circle - friends, coworkers, other hobbyists - comment on the recent outbreak of "niceness" on the Internet. And not favorably!

While we all claim to desire less rancor, conversations and debates are a little less lively or textured if we completely suppress every bit of negativity. So I find it comforting to see that the hobby - to a degree - is still bucking the trend a bit.

I wish the orneriness was a little less predictable - especially the writing off an entire BreyerFest based on a handful of the 30-35 different releases they’re going to throw at us part. If you want models made to your exact specifications and desires, there are other avenues for that. BreyerFest is - or should be - about way more than the pursuit and purchase of more horses, new or used.

Anyway, back to some actual model horse talk. I had about a half an hour to kill last week between assignments, and I had a chance to stop at a toy store I don’t normally go to because it’s way on the other side of town.

They had some Icicles! I was all excited until I got to examine the three they had left on display: they all had overspray and/or those gloss "goobers" that have been a real problem for Reeves lately. Darn it! Oh well, that’s what I get for trying to save a little money on gas.

What was even more interesting to me was the assortment of Trakehner Hicksteads they had. I have commented before that the ones I saw previous had a very buffed or polished look to them, which I found a little off putting. I missed his slightly textured surface, which I think is part of the mold’s charm.

They had Hicksteads with the old textured finish. Sitting on the shelf next to the smoother ones.

What does that mean? I’m not sure. Did they manufacture some from previously molded stock, or are the "buffed" ones just subjected to a more rigorous prepping process? Gah! I haven’t seen enough Hicksteads in person to judge, and the ones I’ve seen on eBay mostly use the stock photo of a textured Sample piece from the web site, which is not helpful at all in judging the relative rarity of each version.

My guess would be that the textured one is scarcer. But that really is only a guess.

Of course I want one now, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be over in that part of town any time in the next two weeks, which may turn it into another Icicle for me - i.e., another item to add to the want list.

More on the Trakehner, next time.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


If there’s some sort of merit badge for driving in extreme conditions, I totally earned one this week. The new vehicle arrived today; I was supposed to pick it up on Tuesday, but the weather and my schedule conspired against me. More about the car another day, when I actually have time to say something meaningful and coherent about it.

(Yes, he does have a name.)

As expected, they dropped the preliminary information for BreyerFest this week; the Guest Horse is a Friesian shown by Carson Kressley, named Gooitzen fan Teakesyl. On the Goffert mold.

From the comments being bantered about on the Breyer Facebook page, you’d swear Reeves had dropped a Baby Ruth into the proverbial swimming pool. 

I don’t have a problem with this model at all; I’ve been wanting a Goffert for the herd for some time. The paint job on the original release was a bit plain - one that let the sculpting do the work of the paint job, basically - and none of the subsequent releases have really captured my heart enough to keep them.

I really, really liked the Christmas Horse release a few years back, the one in a pearly Cream color, but I’ve been a wee bit hesitant to buy any of the models in that series. That tends to lead to me wanting to buy up the entire series, and I just can’t do that. (If I had ever found one in the Sample boxes of NPOD though, that might be a bit different.)

Besides, Black isn’t always Black, especially nowadays. Aside from the model probably being matte, having gray hooves, and a silvery base, there are a host of other details that could make this release as different from the original Goffert as the Smart and Shiney was from the Big Chex to Cash.

Just a few of these include: handpainted tri-colored eyes, additional facial detailing, horseshoes, point slightly darker than the body color, dappling, and a lighter and differently colored base coat (like the original release of the Traditional Moody Andalusian).

In fact, a preliminary look-see of the photograph of the Sample horse seems to show some light dappling and possibly some brown undertones.

Aside from the contests, which don’t look all that interesting to me, I’m kinda liking the stuff they have planned so far, especially the guests. Friesians, Carson Kressley, Icelandics, and Jousting? No complaints!

In terms of additional Special Run announcements, the presence of the Knights of Iceland means that there’s going to be at least one Icelandic release. I wonder if that means we’ll be seeing a Special Run on the Porcelain Moody Icelandic Horse? I would not mind that in the least, either - in porcelain, or plastic.

I only just skimmed the comments on Blab on Facebook to confirm that the usual commentary is going on. ("I am extremely disappointed!" "More money for me to spend at the hotel." "Totally dropped the ball on this one."  Etc.) Predictable, but also oddly comforting, especially during this most unpredictable part of the year for me.

Back to work, again.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reversal of Fortunes

In between dealing with my current transportation challenges, a work schedule of nothing but double shifts, and weather that can truly be described as "frightful", I may be somewhat scarce on the Internet for the next week or two. Any surprises the world of model horses springs on me will probably not be experienced in real time.

("There was a Special Run for what? When? Oh, nuts…")

New horse purchases will also be scarce for a while. The money situation is okay, but I do need some time to get used to the new budget - now with car payments!

I sure hope that pretty Dapple Gray Marwari Reeves was promising us as a Collector’s Club Exclusive doesn’t show up until the spring bulbs start sprouting. 

Another loose end I failed to tie up was the arrival of the wild splash spot Knabstrupper variation, who I picked up shortly before Christmas whilst I was shopping for some last minute baking supplies. The store had a number of them to choose from - he's not a popular little bugger in these parts, I guess. So here he is next to neater little brother:

Yes, that’s an Idocus Snowman standing guard. He arrived several weeks ago; I went to a local farm store chain to pick up something else entirely, and they just happened to have a really, really nice example on their shelves. Since I knew that they were in short supply - and he was on sale - I bought him just in case someone I knew was looking for one.

No one mentioned anything, and since the new car decision had to be pushed up a couple of months, I changed his status here this week from "hold" to "sold - to me".

He looks great in that color, and I love the growth rings that they painted on his hooves. (But his eyes are just plain black dots. Very odd.) I am somewhat amused by his manly assets; it’s far more common for a Breyer "stallion" to actually be a gelding (or genderless) than the other way around. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Loose Ends

With more sadness than I anticipated, I must report the passing of Sherman, my 2002 Teal Blue Saturn LW300 Station Wagon. We had over 100,000 miles together, including innumerable trips to the flea market, a half dozen visits to BreyerFest, and one semi-harebrained emergency excursion to Chicago.

I pulled the plug today after the estimate of repairs from the latest escapade came in, and the cost to repair … was no longer justifiable. I had to let the Big Blue Drama Queen go. After I hung up the phone, I spent a few minutes in the office alone, crying like I lost a friend.

I will miss your awesome sound system, your generously-sized interior, your heated leather seats, and your smooth ride. Goodbye, Sherman Aloysius Gurdon, Rust in Peace.

Until his replacement can be located, I’ll be driving the family truck to work. I don’t think this will be long-term, as I’ve already located a couple of good prospects I’ll be looking at over the weekend. Another station wagon, I’m hoping; it’s fun to drive the truck, but a lower center of gravity and large enclosed cargo space are more suited to my needs.

Okay, now for some eye candy, to lighten the mood. And to tie up another loose end.

As I was going through my picture archive the other day, I discovered - to my amazement - that even though I’ve chatted about him repeatedly, I’ve never actually shown you my beautiful Sorrel Fighting Stallion here. So, here he is:

I picked mine up for almost nothing - for the cost of a better-than-average vintage Bay, basically - at BreyerFest several years ago, back when the Sorrel Variation was still a relative lightweight in the Vintage Breyer scene.

They were not unknown, but not as big a deal as they are today. A couple months back I was doing some random bits of research via Google and eBay, and the prices I saw they were bringing made my eyes blink a little erratically. I’m glad that he’s getting the attention he deserves, because I love that color on him, but I’m also really glad I manage to snag him back before he was cool.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Five-Gaiter Sorrel is a color that absolutely NEEDS to be revived - preferably as a Vintage Club-related release. Newer mold or vintage, I don’t care, thought I think it’d be both fitting and dashing on the Clock Saddlebred.