Sunday, June 29, 2014

Feeling Old

On Friday I got a speeding ticket - less than a mile from home! - and had a minor shelf accident in the office that resulted in a tragic break on a not-easily-replaced item.

Then I apparently caught some nasty flu-like thing. At first I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something - the plants outside are growing like crazy with all the rain we’ve been getting - but I’m beginning to suspect that it’s something more than that. I was hoping to see the doctor before my trip anyway…

So yeah, poopy weekend. Nothing much at the flea market, either, outside of a few interesting books (from a large collection of vintage Archaeology textbooks - neat!) So here’s a find from last week I never got around introducing you to, a nice older Alabaster Old Timer:

He has residue from a small Blue Ribbon sticker, a green hatband, no in-fill on his headstall, and no USA mark, so he’s definitely early-early (1966-1968). He was found with a really pretty two-sock Bay Jumping Horse, and an excellent early Pacer with a brick-red halter.

Since I already have plenty of variations of both the Jumper and the Pacer, I left them behind for others to discover; I have too much to sell as it is. On the other hand, the only Alabaster Old Timer I had previous to this fella was an early cull.

Although the Alabaster is less common - discontinued in 1976, eleven years before the Dapple Gray - it's not THAT rare. But I have had a much harder time than I expected locating a passable Alabaster for my collection locally.

Some of the reasons have to do with condition: Old Timers of all colors don’t weather the years well. They literally get loved to pieces: hats go missing, ears get chipped, blinkers get broken off. The Dapple Grays have a tendency to suffer more paint flaws, rubs and scuffs than the Alabasters do; unlike the slightly more modern Alabasters of the 1970s and 1980s, most of the gray shading was sprayed under the clear topcoat/sealer, and not over.

As to the specific reasons why the Alabaster Old Timers aren't as plentiful here as I expect, presumably it's the same reason why I can't find nice Liver Chestnut Quarter Horse Yearlings around here.

This guy does have a few minor dings, but everything else about him is wonderful - and he has his hat! The hat was worth the price I paid for him, alone.

(Seriously Reeves, you could make a mint selling the hats individually.)

The Giant Brown Bunny is a Ucago, and not for sale. Not sure how he ended up in this corner of the office, but I decided not to argue with him. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

One, Two, Three...

Head’s up: I was just informed a few days ago that the basement, where my office resides, going to continue being messed up through July and part of August. So you’ll be seeing more "scenic" photos here in the next several weeks.

I haven’t been online much the past few days; I’ve been spending most of my free time dealing with BreyerFest stuff. (My printer was possessed by demons yesterday. Grr.) All I’ve done online is skim the auction pictures, download the PDF of this year’s program, and do a few quick look-sees to make sure the model horse world hasn’t burned down while I was out.

Crazy things start happening the closer we get to Kentucky, you know, and I don't want to be completely out of the loop!

Like everyone else, the price on the Bluegrass Bandit Store Special Champagne Wishes gave me pause. I want her, badly, but $250 for a 350-piece Special may be just a bit too far for me; I was expecting something more in the $200 range. The pricing seems a little out of place, too, since everything else - except the Surprise SR - seem so modestly priced this year. (The Western Horse Gossamer is only 50 bucks?!)

I know they’re just trying to get a cut of that sweet secondary market cash, but I might just pass her up and stick to the danger-mystery-excitement of the Sample boxes.

I'm also a bit shocked that the piece count for the Surprise Model "Pop the Cork" is so high - 2700 pieces? Which works out to 675 pieces per color, though I am also assuming that those colors may  be split into Gloss and Matte. (If so, 550 Matte and 125 Gloss? Just wild guessing.) My first ticket isn’t until Friday afternoon, so I’ll have some time to decide if he/she is worth it to me.

Since I need to get back to wrestling for the soul of my laser printer, here’s a picture of my Mr. Chips:

He’s pretty! I wouldn’t mind seeing this colorway on anything, old mold or new.

My only quibbles are that (a) I would have preferred the loose mane to the braided, and (b) I’m a little disappointed he’s not the six-spot version! You know, like this:

I have no idea why Breyer made the earliest of the Leopard Pony of the Americas that way. As you can see above, I do have a splash spot Test Color of the original Leopard POA, and she has just a sprinkling of spots on the near side, too. So the sparseness of the spots was intentional.

Truth be told, I actually prefer few-spot Appaloosa patterns, but I’d rather have the whole horse be that way, not just one side. The six-spotted version is so odd that my only guess is that they might have based the pattern on a specific horse or reference photo.

Because you know how good real horses are at following the rules and stuff. Every time I see a real live Splash Pinto, my first reaction is always "Who dumped a couple buckets of paint on you?" Yet I'd still bid on the Splash Pinto Strapless auction piece, if I had that kind of cash to spend. (I don't.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Here’s a photo of the knockoffs, from a manufacturer called Meritus:

As far as I know, Breyer didn’t do a whole lot to combat companies making knockoffs of their molds back in their Chicago days. The reasons are obvious: a high percentage of their own molds at that point were knockoffs themselves. If they did decide to pursue, the manufacturers that Breyer copied from might have started getting ideas, too. Things could have gotten very messy - and very expensive - in a rather short period of time.

Pot, I’d like to introduce you to kettle.

One company that they apparently did fight - and win - against was Meritus.

At some point I did buy a Mint in Box Meritus horse - I think it was the Classic Arabian Stallion - for my archives. I no longer have either the box or the horse, but I do remember that the legal disclaimer sticker that was slapped on the box had a rather wonderfully indignant tone to it.

It was something like: Those jerks made us put this stupid sticker on the box! Except a little more polite and legal-sounding, though not much.

I can’t locate the original ad or sales list that I bought it from, but here’s a clip from one of Marney’s sales lists, ca. 1984, where she was selling some herself (click to enlarge):

The reason I believe Breyer pursued legal action in this case was that Meritus copied no ordinary molds: they were the Classics Quarter Horse and Arabian Families. These were molds leased from a company - Hagen-Renaker - that sued them back in the late 1950s.

If they were not legally obligated to do so, Breyer may have felt it was the right thing to do anyway, to keep in Hagen-Renaker’s good graces. And possibly to keep from losing the leases.

I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping these particular guys. I’d love to locate another Mint in Box example with the legal disclaimer, again, for my knockoff collection; I’m not sure why I got rid of it in the first place.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Perfect Compliance

Long week; no need for details, really.

All I’ll say is that is that I don’t think I’ve ever looked this forward to going to Kentucky than this year. It has nothing to do with the theme, or the models, or what I have planned. I just need to get away, and shrink all my troubles down to the size of the model horse hobby.

I haven’t been home or online much the past couple of days, so the post about the history of the Classic Quarter Horse Family knockoffs will be up on Saturday, Sunday at the latest. The carpet in the office is getting cleaned anyway, so it’s probably best not pull the necessary references and add to the chaos.

I have been skimming the pictures of the BreyerFest auction models. Cheapskate me has no plans on bidding, of course. But the past few years of auction models have served as previews of concepts to come, so I’m viewing them more as a "Coming Attractions" trailer.

My favorite so far is the Red Dun on the Latigo mold: I can imagine that color looking good on any number of molds. I love the minimal pinto on the Bluegrass Bandit, too - in fact, one of the few customs that I did for myself way back when was a Family Arabian Stallion in a very similar pattern. But as a production run item? I don’t know if it’s feasible. (Bully if it is!)

I noticed today that the Blab discussion about the Auction pieces has basically descended into a Volunteer SR speculation thread. I have no plans on joining in there; I wasn’t picked this year, so it’s a moot point for me anyway.

Though I secretly hope for a Silver Filigree Family Arabian Stallion - I think it would be very appropriate for an Anniversary theme, and harken back to the first Volunteer Model, the Silver Filigree Proud Arabian Mare - it will be something more mundane. Matte, Realistic, a modestly popular mold that doesn’t require a base, and possibly something from their warehouse body stash.

(Though the FAS is among the body-stashed. Hmm.)

Another mold to cross off the list will be the Midnight Sun.

I will confess that I did break down and buy the Reissue Red Bay "Redmond", more as an historical curiosity than for any specific love of the mold. It most likely represents the last release of this mold, ever. The paint job is also very, very nice - and one I wouldn’t mind seeing on other molds, either. (Vintage ones, especially!)

I think the fact that Breyer spotlighted the "Walk on Washington" on their Facebook page earlier this week makes that abundantly clear that they are aware of the mold’s history, and have no intention of making any more. The Redmonds were made from warehoused bodies made back when, and that this release was a way to use up them up.

I’ve seen some talk - again on Breyer’s Facebook page - about calls for "retiring" the Midnight Sun mold entirely. I’m not sure what people are asking for here: the mold is "retired". It hasn’t been in production since 2002.

A floridly-worded public statement? A video of them throwing it into the Atlantic Ocean? A by-invitation-only regrinding party of any Midnight Suns still in the warehouse?

(Okay, I would actually want to attend the regrinding party, as long as we got to throw models in ourselves. And it’s not limited to Midnight Sun.)

I do think they missed an opportunity with the Redmond release to use it as a way to generate funds and awareness for Walking Horse advocacy groups.

Something along the lines of "When this mold was released back in 1972, there was a lack of knowledge about the abuses going on in the ‘Big Lick’ industry. We have not issued a regular production item since 2002; we have not molded any new pieces since then, and have no intention of doing so in the future. The recent Internet-only Special Run item ‘Redmond’ was generated from previously-molded and warehoused bodies. A portion of the funds generated by the sale of this item will go towards [charity/group name here]."

It wouldn’t make some portions of the model horse hobby happy, but some of those portions are never happy, and like to make a public show of it.

It’s good to encourage a company to do the right thing, but it’s unrealistic to expect perfect compliance from a company you neither run nor own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Feeling My Oats

What do you do when someone offers you a basket of horses?

You buy the basket of horses, of course! Especially since the basket got thrown in for free! Sweet!

No actual Breyers or Hartlands, just some Hong Kong copies and a Barbie Dallas. There’s nothing here I intend on keeping, though I will be talking about the Classic Quarter Horse copies later in the week; there’s actually a really interesting story behind them. But today is definitely not the day for me to go rummaging through my reference files.

(If there’s anything here that’s interesting to you, by the way, most of these guys will be in my very well-stocked Dollar Table selection at BreyerFest this year. The Barbie Dallas won’t be, though - he’ll be a couple dollars more, and either be sitting on a shelf or in the body box, depending on the space situation.)

I also picked up a nice - though not mint - Adios, some cool minis, a couple of adorable handmade ceramic Bloodhounds from ca. 1971, another stack of old quilt blocks, and a vintage fluorescent pink floral muu muu. Apparently I'm going as my Grandma Jankowiak for Halloween this year. (Tillson Street, here I come!)

There were a few other horses I passed up. Most of them were a bit overpriced - 18 dollars for a slightly yellowed and bloated Bay Running Mare? No can do.

I also got into a slightly heated shouting match with one dealer whom I normally respect. He picks up Breyers from time to time, and they tend to be both decently priced and in good shape; I always try to give his booth a little extra attention when I happen by.

Yesterday, he had a Hartland Regal Saddlebred. You know, this guy:

(Link to recently ended eBay auction)

It was a little rough, with some dings and a few sloppy old paint touch ups - about average for the 11-inchers. The price was actually good for the mold and the condition it was in, but he insisted that it was a Breyer, and I must have been feeling my oats that day because I insisted on telling him that it wasn’t.

"It’s a Breyer."

"No, it’s not."

"Yes, it is."

There was about five minutes of that, followed by him walking away, and me just shaking my head and laughing, not believing the whole thing just happened.

I’ve been going to this flea market long enough that I like to think that I have earned the trust and respect of most of the regular vendors: they know I am not going to baldly lie to them when it comes to the horses. If they ask questions, I answer them honestly and truthfully, and I’ve even occasionally given some of them advice on pricing and marketing! So it came as quite a shock that this guy went almost immediately into "You want to rip me off" mode. 

I never got around to telling him that it was a Hartland. Didn’t buy it either, even though I could have made a nice profit from it. I had already bought my basket of horses, and my glorious you-can-see-it-from-space muu muu, so it’s not like the purchase was going to make or break my day anyway. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sentimental Favorites

You guys are making me so jealous of all your crazy awesome finds lately. Poor little me couldn’t even find the time to make it to my local town-wide garage sale today.

Though I did recently go on a road trip for work with a coworker and discovered that he also enjoys horse racing and going to estate sales. He’s somewhat familiar with Breyers and Hartlands, and asked for some reference materials on Hagen-Renakers. So perhaps some nice finds will be winding their way to my house soon.

Let’s get back to the Classics Racehorse discussion.

Since I tend to think that most modern collectibles are a dicey proposition for investing in the first place - with some rare exceptions - I try to avoid telling people to buy certain items for investment purposes. Hobbyists and collectors are exceedingly fickle, and what’s hot and pricey today could literally be almost worthless tomorrow.

Most Classics are not that valuable. There’s some residual value in most of the Hagen-Renaker Classics - like the Arabian and Quarter Horse Families - as customizing fodder, but outside of Test Colors and Chalkies, most of the value is sentimental.

Even when the piece runs are rather limited and/or hard to come by - like the Bay Andalusian Mare, the German Special Runs, or some of the BreyerFest SRs - the prices remain rather modest. Of the more modern pieces, the only exception here is probably the Classics Shire, particularly the head-down "B" version: there have been only a limited number of releases, none of them easy to acquire even when new.

But when it comes to the Classics Racehorses - the original releases on the original 5 (then 6, with Ruffian) molds - I think there is some genuine potential there. Especially pieces like this - a Silky Sullivan with a Dumbbell sticker.

(Though to be completely honest, anything with a dumbbell is a sound investment. Mine certainly would be, if I harbored any thoughts of selling him. And no, I don’t.)

In the case of the Classics Racehorses, it’s not just a Breyer: it’s also a portrait of a famous racehorse on a mold that has not been and probably won’t be in production again for some time. Throw in additional goodies like boxes and tags, and voila - the closest thing you’ll have to a sure bet, monetarily.

Not Decorator or Rare Woodgrain money, but not everything can be.

What’s nice about some of the earlier Classics Racehorses, too, is that can be identified by their lack of mold marks. I don’t know why that was; perhaps there some legal quibbling over the terms of the lease with Hagen-Renaker, or a technical difficulty, or they were in such a hurry to get them to market that they simply forgot. The Proud Arabian Foal, various members of the Classics Family sets, and some of the Stablemates were also mold-mark-free.

Regardless, the absence of the mold marks can be a boon to us at the flea market and garage sale level. No mold marks = can’t be identified as a Breyer = cheaper prices (usually, and only if box-free, naturally).

I know Reeves has been putting some thought into trying to make the Classics more collectible again; my only thoughts in this regard is that if they want to go the celebrity race-and-sport-horse route, Classics may be the place to go back to.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gold, Silver and Chrome

My brother was way more into the Triple Crown coverage this year than I was, peppering me with trivia and questions; he was even bragging to people at work that he had met Affirmed.

(He did. With me, of course, at BreyerFest several years ago.)

It’s not that I didn’t care; I had far too many other things keeping me distracted this year, and I didn’t want to get caught up in the drama that follows. I have enough drama in my life right now. (Yesterday’s: Vita running around the house with a roll of pennies. How she got it, and what she had planned with it, we’re not sure…)

When the next Triple Crown winner comes around, we will know: it will be a foregone conclusion before the races are even run.

If there are more Breyer Thoroughbred molds to be made in the near future, I would rather they be on significant historical figures, rather than the hot or fashionable horses of the moment. They’re an easier sell in both the retail and the secondary market; people whose only interaction with horse racing is going to a Derby Day party once a year, for instance, are more likely to know Secretariat than Terrang.

(Even in his heyday, poor Terrang didn’t get as much respect as he deserved!)

In the rare cases when I will tell people about what constitutes a good investment, Breyer-wise, my first suggestion is the early Classics Racehorses. Especially if they’re New in Box pieces without the mold marks. But I'm digressing; I’ll talk about them more in my next post.

For a Stallion, I’d like a new Man o’ War. For a variety of reasons, the Classics Man o’ War mold is no longer available to us; the #47 Traditional Man o’ War, as much as I love him, is simply too old-fashioned and out-of-date for most buyers today.

And dang it, it’s Man o’ War: like Black Beauty, he is so iconic he should be a perpetual part of the Breyer line: Matte, Gloss, Special Editions with bases and tags, Woodgrain, Ageless Bronze…

For the Mare, the painfully obvious choice is Kincsem, only one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

To make her different from some of the more recent Thoroughbred and Warmblood molds, I’d want to see her in a simple standing pose.

Don’t get me wrong: all of these vigorous and more ambitious sculptures are great. I love the Nokota Horse in all his pure twirly awesomeness. But really, there’s nothing more beautiful than a classically-posed Thoroughbred in peak racing condition.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Weather Reports

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today; probably something I picked up from the assignment in the hospital late last week. No trip to the flea market today! (It ended up raining anyway.)

So it’s another day of odds and ends.

I had my first BreyerFest nightmare Friday night. This surprised me, since I usually start having them earlier in the year. But so far all the little projects that I need to get done prior have been going reasonably well.

Even my two ticket times are fine; I’m not crazy about the 10 a.m. Saturday ticket, since that means I’ll only have one shot - not two - at the Store Special Bluegrass Bandit, who's going to be the insanely hot item this year, I think. But I’ll deal, and sharpen my elbows if necessary.

I’m so not on board with the Sunday ticket times. I know they’re doing it to increase the number of tickets sold; there are only so many people you can push through a ticket line in an hour, barring medical emergencies. But that means the sales of extras are getting pushed to the very end of the event, and I am not keen on that development.

If I don’t have any volunteer commitments (none that I know of, this year) then I like to high-tail it right after the Sunday raffle. Hanging out that extra hour or so just means a longer drive - and possibly, another day off of work I have to schedule for.

Following up on some recent comments…

Regarding the history of Peter Stone and Breyer/Reeves, that’s sort of a tricky subject for everyone involved, and not something I feel I can discuss in a direct way in a public forum.

Let me put it this way. I think it’s one of those topics that makes me think that we really need someone from the outside to write the history of the hobby. Not to get into any details, but it would be better if we had someone who could be more objective about it.

Putting on the graphic designer cap: regarding the dropped letters in logos, yes, it’s done to draw the eye. I was never fond of the dropped R in the previous "coffee can" logo though, because it looked more like a mistake than an intentional act of design. If it looks like a mistake, it’s perceived as a mistake. (And ergo, the people start looking for more…)

For the record, I don’t think Breyer has had a clear, consistent or successful brand identity since the early 1980s. It’s gotten better in the past few years, but it still seems a bit too bland and corporate to me. When I look at the most recent logos, I don’t see "legacy toy company with a slightly quirky fan base".

And finally, because I just scanned it for another project entirely, here is a picture of that one quilt block that I was recently preoccupied with, Odds and Ends. Most of the web searches for the block name will give you something completely different. THIS is the one that piqued my interest:

All of the other sewing projects - outside of the BreyerFest stuff - have pretty much been put away for the time being.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Had to Laugh

So I’m down in the basement yesterday, scanning and recreating some Breyer logos and stuff, mostly for illustrative purposes - and because it keeps my Illustrator skills sharp.

(Just to make it extra clear: for educational use and for fun. They don't go on anything I can sell.)

Plus it’s kind of an interesting design challenge in and of itself. By recreating the logos, sometimes you find little clues about the thinking that went into the design.

I’m recreating the most recent logo - the "blue pill", I like to call it - and I’m poking around for the matching typeface, or something close enough to tweak into shape.

When I found the match, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

It’s Stone Sans Serif, Semi-Bold.

Stone? Really?

Good graphic designers know that research is as important - if not moreso - as your technical skills, especially when it comes to brand or corporate identity projects. The more you know about a company or brand, the thinking is, the better able to are to capture its essence in a logo.

I am 99.95% sure that the person or persons involved in the logo redesign didn’t know anything about Peter Stone; Reeves has done a pretty good job of disappearing him from their version of Breyer History.

Someone who only has a passing interest or knowledge of Breyers or the Hobby - and who most likely wasn’t around in the Signing Party heydays of the 1980s and 1990, either - isn’t going to know about him. Heck, even many newer hobbyists think that Peter was just some guy who worked for Breyer for a while.

Yeah, only for the first fifty or so years of his life.

So anyway, I had a good giggle fit over that for about 15 minutes, imagining the tiny possibility that it might not be a coincidence.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Guessing Game

Another good day at the market; there’s some stuff I can’t show you now, but you’ll be seeing it, eventually. (Heh.) Here’s all the stuff I suspect you’re really interested in anyway:

(And yes, I know the photo is out of focus. It’s the best my tired, shaky hands can do today.)

Two-thirds of a Hartland Tennessee Walker Family and a pretty spiffy Horned Hereford Bull. The bow the Bull sports isn’t original; I think his previous owner used him as a Christmas decoration. Since he looks so cute with it, I’m leaving it on him.

I have all three already - a complete TWH Family, and a Horned Hereford Bull new in the original illustrated shipper box because of course I would, so everyone here is going on the sales list.

The Bull, outside of a little yellowing, is immaculate; his previous owners obviously took very good care of him, in every respect. The Walkers are in good shape, not perfect but better than most, with a little bit greening that tends to happen on the Mare.

Like most older Breyer Bulls, the Horned Hereford ran for a very long time - from the mid-1950s through 1981 - and is a popular piece among hobbyists and nonhobbyists alike.

Unlike most of the other bulls, however, his 25 year run didn’t produce a lot of variation. Some of the very earliest had airbrushed, rather than stenciled markings and were a little bit browner than later pieces; the very last of them, ca. 1980-81, came in Matte. (And is a pretty rare piece to find, too.)

But all of the models made in-between were remarkably consistent. The brown did vary from a chocolate pudding-like brown, to red, to a coffee-with-cream color similar to the Five-Gaiter Sorrel, but this variability isn’t something we can track or date with any consistency.

So unless he comes with documentation, a sticker, a box, a tag, or in a group of models that we can triangulate a date on, it’s very difficult to determine how old an average Horned Hereford Bull is.

This guy is no different. He was a singleton, from a dealer who had no other Breyer pieces, and who possibly bought him second hand as well. (The Hartlands came from another vendor.) I have a hunch he’s from the early 1970s, but that’s just a hunch.

Regardless of how old he actually is, he’s a beautiful boy, and if I didn’t already have my Mint in Box one, he’d be staying.