Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Factory Tour, 1986

Wrapping up some old business here, so it’s going to be more show than tell today.

But the pictures are worth it. Presenting - a Breyer Factory Tour ca. 1986!

From Marney’s files, of course. They’re all in black in white, so I’m assuming that they may have been taken for future reference or use in an article or feature. When I had my first article published in Just About Horses in 1985, I recall, photographic submissions had to be in Black and White.

Here are the painting booths, awaiting fresh victims:

First ones up in the factory - the Traditional Black Beauty! The story I heard was that the first models Reeves manufactured fully under their aegis were the #89 Traditional Black Beauties, so it’s possible they may be them. There are no notes on any of these photos anywhere, so I can’t be sure.

There’s also no way of knowing/distinguishing those early Reeves Black Beauties from the thousands that roam the Earth today. Quality control was a bit of an issue in those days, and seams were a little rougher than they should have been, but that’s about it.

Here’s the warehouse:

I work in inventory services, so this is a sight I see often - though the boxes in my case are usually filled with car parts, electronics, or paper towels. Be still my heart - is that a case of Polled Hereford Bulls (#74) down front? I think we’re going to need to ask for a SKU check and run a variance report on that…

Here’s what I’m assuming is the packaging/fulfillment area. Among the sights I see are Phar Lap, the Lying Down Unicorn, Stormy, the Bay Shetland, the Family Foal, the Black Beauty Family, and some Corrals down front:

Ah, the mysteries contained in those freshly wrapped shrinkwrapped boxes! You both knew - and didn’t know - what you were purchasing. The box would say "Phar Lap" - but would he be awesome, or awful? It was like a retail version of Schr√∂dinger's cat.

And here’s my favorite picture of the group:

I had no idea Ron Burgundy had a brother who worked for Reeves. Huh.

No actually, that’s Tony Fleischmann. They have plenty of awkward and slightly embarrassing pictures of me in their files, so having one picture in my files brings a little more karmic balance to the universe.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Showrights and Stuff

After work on Friday I drove right past the one hobby shop that I knew had the Sahran and Night Mare in stock. I had been feeling off most of the week, but when I realized what I had done, I went right back to bed once I was home. I knew I had to be sick, because the change of seasons wouldn’t be messing with my head that much!

Anyway, here is another photo from the batch of ephemera I recently picked up:

This picture excited me because I own the Sorrel one on the right. It’s not a look-a-like or one of a small batch: it’s the exact same one, because the back of the photo tells me so!

I bought the Pony directly from Linda at BreyerFest in 2012. She already had a pretty fabulous provenance as it was, but having this photo makes it even better, now.

The "NOT FOR SHOWING" written on the back of the photo is in reference to photo showing and showrights, because photo showing was IT back then. If you were lucky you’d make it to one or two live shows in a year - if they even had one in your area - but the average model horse newsletter would have at least a dozen or more photo shows in a month.

The best way to describe showrights would be photo showing by proxy, mostly. You’d buy the rights to show a set of photos  - either as that specific show horse, or as a completely different horse, depending on the seller of the showrights.

Sounds weird, I know, but it made complete sense back then. Hobbyists who didn’t have the time or money to show their models as much as they wanted still managed to get their models out to shows via people who could. Others saw it as a way of showing without having to invest in camera equipment, film processing, or tack and props.

There’d be disputes, naturally, over what kind of showrights were sold, over the ownership of the compensation you might receive from a show, whether the purchaser of the showrights was living up to the agreement, etc. In other words, it could get real messy, real fast.

Photo showing is much less of a thing than it used to be, and cost is less of an issue now with digital cameras and online photo showing. Showrights are not extinct, but a much reduced aspect of the hobby; I’ve met some younger hobbyists who scoff at the notion we ever did such a thing.

But let’s get back to the ephemera.

Because photo showing was a much bigger deal back then, everyone who was in the model horse hobby had a lot of photos, and photo albums. Most were for showing, but some were for reference: we didn’t have a lot of written reference material to go by then, either. Photos were often the only evidence we had that anything existed at all. I was in the hobby for seven years before I ever saw a Decorator in person!

I have no idea how many albums or photos Marney had; I know there are other albums in the possession of others. My most recent batch came from a mostly-retired hobbyist who knew Marney and assisted her family with the dispensation of her estate.

Will there be more to come? Maybe. I have enough to keep me occupied for a while yet, and I understand how hard it is for some people to give up their ephemera. You start sifting through the old fliers, newsletters and photographs, and suddenly a whole afternoon has vanished…

As I mentioned last time, I did digitize one album already, in its entirety. It’s the one I think would be of most interest and value to other hobbyists: it’s primarily Test Colors and Oddities, some of which have since been tracked down and identified. I’ll release this as a CD at some point. (If anyone can give me pointers on how to go about that, it’d be much appreciated.)

What I’ll digitize from the rest, I do not know. The other albums and photos are a mix of everything: photos of bog-standard Original Finish models, Live Show photos, Test Colors, Customs, and (in this most recent pile of stuff) factory photos from ca. 1985/6.

Some of it will be of major interest to hobbyists, and some of it will not: they’ll need more careful editing and curation, at the very least. Like some of my other materials that I’d like to make available to the public, there may be some "showrights" issues that need to be worked out in advance.

It’s getting late, and the weather will be perfect for flea marketing Sunday, so more on this topic next time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Mischief

The seemingly endless parade of Fall Special Runs continues, now with more Classics "Farm Store" Mustang sets, Tractor Supply Specials Maverick (Bay/Dun/Brownish Missouri Fox Trotter) and Travis (Black Pinto Carrick), and now this fascinating little oddment, Mischief Night:

(Photo taken from the Breyer web site Collector’s Club sneak preview page.)

A Classics … Hobo? Interesting mold choice, and one we haven’t seen since the Pony Express Gift Set in 2001. The price is right and he Glows In The Dark, so my next order to Reeves will include him if he’s still to be gotten. That seems likely, since the Classics Hobo has never been a wildly popular model in any color, but you never know with these things.

The appearance of the Hobo after such an extended period of time, on a Special Run with a rather narrow appeal, suggests two different things to me. Either they’re using up warehoused bodies, or gearing up for another production run of the mold in the near future.

We won’t know for sure about the "warehoused bodies" theory until the first ones start showing up, and they can be physically inspected for clues. The photos on the web site are better than we’re used to, but still not helpful clue-wise.

Speaking of, an example of the other Glowing Halloween Horse "Night Mare" just showed up on eBay today, sooner than I expected. I don’t know what’s up with having two different Glowing Halloween Specials this year. Will Glowy Little Bits/Paddock Pal and Stablemates SRs be not far behind?

By the way, I had no idea that "Mischief Night" is what they called "Devil’s Night" in New Jersey; I learned something new today. Technically we’re rather loath to refer to the nights before Halloween by that name any more in the metro Detroit area, for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here.

(Just a helpful little tip if you happen to be traveling in and around our area around that time of year.)

In another BTW, I’m finally getting some stuff up on MHSP! All items there will do a two-week stint before being shopped elsewhere. Extra money this time of year is always helpful, but the additional space will be an even bigger boon, especially now that I have more archival materials to deal with.

More on some of the latest ephemera acquisitions next time, and their origins.

(Before I go, I will answer the most pressing question here and now: yes, I do plan on publishing at least one of the photo albums in the near future. It’s already digitized, I just haven’t had the time to take care of the rest.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Time to Revise My Grail List

Instead of kvetching about the timing of another new release that I want that I can’t buy right now (the Warehouse Find Chestnut Western Prancing Horse) I will instead sigh wistfully over a model I never knew I wanted, and that I know I will never have:

A Proud Arabian Mare painted almost identically to the Splash Spot Leopard Appaloosa Western Prancing Horse. Oh, you beautiful creature you!

This photo is from another one of Marney Walerius’s photo albums, a recent acquisition for the archives. There’s no identification material on the back of the photo, and it’s unlike most of the others in the album in terms of style, size and focus. So who or what it is, is a mystery.

My initial reaction was that it might not even be Original Finish at all - an early BHR Repaint, perhaps - but the photo was found in an album that consists entirely of Original Finish Breyers. Marney must have believed (or known) it to be OF as well.

While it’s possible that they could have used an Old Mold Mare body to test a paint job for the Western Prancer - the Mare was discontinued ca. 1960, the WPH introduced ca. 1962 - it seems more likely to me that it’d be a Test of the Proud Arabian Mare rather than the Old Mold Mare.

First of all, there are a number of photos of other actual Test Colors of the PAM in another of Marney’s  albums, while Old Mold Mare Tests (and variations) are exceedingly rare. Second, there’s the matter of timing: the PAM was introduced in 1971/2, and the Appaloosa WPH was in production through 1973. 

Where this model is now is also a mystery, but that can be said for many of the models contained in these albums. A number of the Tests in these albums have turned up over the years - and I even managed to identify one I had purchased myself, recently. So I am not completely without hope.

Just without room in the budget. Darn you, car payments and doctor bills!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stablemates Riders

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting so many e-mail offers from Reeves lately that the e-mail servers now think I live in New Jersey! No, really, I don’t need to know what the weather is like in Mt. Laurel…

Last week’s most interesting e-mail was a special offer for a Free Stablemates Rider with purchase of 25 dollars worth of Stablemates merchandise. A little weird, but I thought maybe they just had some leftover play set "rigid" riders they wanted to get rid of in a creative way. Today they sent out another e-mail about them: nope, apparently they are a thing they are selling separately now.


Interesting. I haven’t done a comprehensive search yet to see if the paint jobs are unique, or if they can be identified from specific sets. I can’t tell right off because I haven’t been buying many Stablemates lately, outside of vintage pieces to fill in collection gaps, upgrades, and Special Event/BreyerFest ones. (Though I’d like to buy more!)

Regardless, I don’t know if I now need to classify these as separate mold releases or continue to treat them as accessories. I guess it’ll have to depend on how long the program runs.

When I saw the original e-mail, the first thing that popped into my mind were the smaller-scale (about Little Bits/Paddock Pal size) Horse and Rider sets that Hartland released in the 1960s. Like these guys:

The horses to these sets I find occasionally, but the riders I almost never do, which is another reason why I’m reluctant to pass up on the Stablemates Riders. If it is an experimental thing, I’ll probably regret not getting them now while they’re still (relatively) cheap and affordable. Some of the bills for my Kentucky misadventures are starting to come in, though, so it looks like another no-can-do here.

Like Breyer is doing now with their various Stablemates Play Sets, Hartland made a lot of odd bits and quasi-accessories like that back then too, and I find them fascinating. I don’t go out of my way to collect them, but if they happen to find their way here, they tend to stay. I recently purchased a big bag of plastic animals, pursuant to another crazy idea I had rumbling around in my head. In the bag were two Hartland Farm animals, from their "Sunny Acres Farm" series. The Goat, and the Black Lamb:

So cute!

Just goes to show that there’s really no such thing as a new idea in the hobby. Just the same ideas, in endless iterations.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


So here is the one set of BreyerFest Bears I am keeping:

Pretty spiffy, even if they aren’t silver. But they are really pearly! I didn’t get that close a look at them in Kentucky to notice before. Bi-eyes, too, nice. I may have to do a bit of shelf shuffling to keep them in the spotlight here in my office.

Except for the lighter-faced variations, a stickered piece, the Ranchcraft Lamp, and a Chalky Black Cub to match my Mama Bear, my Bear collection is essentially complete. Prices on the Silvers are such that I’m going to pretend that their absence doesn’t count against me.

(I should be glad that this year’s Nonhorse mold was not the Kitten. A Silver Charm Kitten? Not getting the Polled Hereford Bull Marshall was bad enough, thank you…)

Remember when the Nonhorses were among the most hotly sought-after of the BreyerFest Special Runs? You know, items like Oreo the Pig, or Flint the Red Roan Fighting Bull, or Choc the Glossy Buffalo?

Now, not so much. A lot of different factors are in play here.

Some of it might be the selection of molds; some are an easier sell than others. Cattle molds = Easy. Cats, Dogs and Bears = Hard. (Poor Beethoven the Saint Bernard!)

Some of it is the increased number of Special Runs to choose from. Aside from the money issue (never having enough) most attendees, when given a choice, are going to go with one of the horses over any given Nonhorse mold.

Ennui is another reason: the "novelty" of having a Nonhorse Special Run has worn off for a lot of people. Many hobbyists tend to keep the Nonhorse portions of their collection to a minimum, and once that quota is reached, that’s that. It has to be something really spectacular or rare to even be considered.

Piece counts also count: there’s simply a limited demand for some items, regardless of their inherent awesomeness. The piece count on this year’s Bear set was 800 pieces, which seemed high to me. They only happened to sell out online because the odds of getting the Silvers were the best of all the remaining Special Runs.

There is a demand for the Bears - I’ve not had much trouble selling off the duplicates that have come my way - but it’s a modest demand. Unless it’s something rare or unusual (Shipper box, Blue Ribbon Sticker, Chalky, Oddity) the prices they bring are equally modest.

Until I get some things sold around here, I can't even consider trying for more BreyerFest leftovers. That’s now being held up by my printer, behaving badly yet again…

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some of Our Stablemates are Missing!

Like everyone else, I am perplexed by the lack of new new Stablemates. You know, those cute little guys who debuted as the One-Day Stablemates at BreyerFest last year. I was able to secure three of the four this year. No Icelandic "Indigo", alas!

The Andalusian "Chrome" turned up as a raffle item at the Big Easy Bash back in February, as a miniature version of one of the earliest Exclusive Event items, the Legionario Bourbon Street. The Appaloosa/Stock Horse "Dungaree" showed up at the same event as the 200-piece run Moon Pie, in a pretty Gloss Red Bay Overo. And the Icelandic is schedule to appear as a "Mini Me" freebie for Premier Club members, for the new Traditional Icelandic Falhófnir.

There has been no sign yet of my personal favorite - the Bucking Horse "Rivet". (I love the look Chrome is givingt Rivet in this photo: "Dude, seriously, what’s your problem?")

It’s only been about a year since they’ve been released, but we’ve grown so accustomed to such a fast pace to new releases that a year feels like an eternity. Even the original BreyerFest pieces are somewhat hard to come by; Reeves miscalculated the demand for them, and they were sold out by mid-day Saturday. (Some were held back for Will-Calls.)

There have been other Stablemates who have vanished for much longer periods of time. The original H-R/Love Quarter Horse Mare mold disappeared in 1988 due to a molding issue. The rest of the Hagen-Renaker molds eventually followed suit when the lease with H-R was not renewed.

The infamous Palomino "Playmat" Horse came and went in an eyeblink in 2007. Technical/molding issues were also the reasons, allegedly, why he was quickly replaced by the G2 Warmblood for the remainder of that item’s production run.

(One of our local stores had three or four of these Playmat Sets - with the original horse - for the longest time. Silly me didn’t want to spend the $20 on the set just for a single Stablemate. Not one of my brighter moments, to be sure.)

Most recently I have been troubled by the lack of Reining Horse releases. While all of the other WEG 2010/G4 releases have been issued in multiple colors and multiple sets since then, the Reining Horse has seen only one additional release, a Black Splash Spot Leopard Appaloosa in the 2011 J.C. Penney Parade of Breeds set.  I had a fun little project in mind earlier this year that was quashed because there were no affordable, body-quality Stablemates Reining Horse to be had.

Other than possibly some concerns about breakage with the Andalusian's slender ears, I have no idea what the hold up might be. Guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope the problems are more conceptual in nature, rather than technical or legal.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spotty, or Speckly?

Neither one of the Silver Filigree Sherman Morgans turned out to be a Silver Charm, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a decision to make about variations:

Spotty, or speckly?

There’s never really been any consistency with the Silver Filigree paintjob since its introduction in 1993, on the Proud Arabian Mare. Some, like the PAM, have a "plated and spotted" look; others look more like the "Wild Dapple Grays" of the late 1970s that just happen to be Silver instead of Gray. Most of them, lately, have looked like my more speckly fellow - finer and smaller resist dapples against a silver background.

Other than the smaller runs - like the Proud Arabian Stallion "Saturday Night Fever" and Foal "Born to Run", BreyerFest Raffle items from 2003 - there’s been no consistency within the runs themselves, as my two Shermans demonstrate. I saw a third (on Blab?) that was so finely speckled he looked almost like a Freckle-style Roan (pretty!)

A quick survey on eBay suggests that the "spotty" ones appear to be the most common of the variations of Celebration available, though that conclusion might be a result of selection bias. Hobbyists may be keeping the variations they like more - or selling the ones they like less.

Which one is the most rare (other than the Silver Charm) doesn’t matter to me personally. I think I’m going with the spotty one, just because he makes me smile every time I look at him. I wouldn’t mind keeping both, but that can’t happen, at least not now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gone Goofy for Goffert

First, I noticed that a custom I’ve been tinkering with for over a year had started oozing. Then I broke one of my more recently acquired Hagen-Renaker miniatures. Then I get the e-mail from Reeves about Yet Another Special Run - this time, "Kashmir" from the Big Cat Series.

The little cartoon sign above my head that reads TILT finally went off. I spent the rest of the evening working on an abandoned beaded flower project I found in the basement. Horses? What horses?

Anyway, I find the Kashmir most curious. The initial piece in the Big Cat series, the Smarty Jones Kimbia, received a rather cool response. I don’t think many of us would have been shocked if the series had been scrapped or drastically scaled back; there was enough of a delay between the Kimbia and Kashmir to make it seem likely.

What I find even more curious about the Kashmir is the fact that it is the third Special Run on the Goffert mold this year. While it is not at all unusual for a mold to have multiple releases in a given year, they are usually either part of a set or series. In the 1950s through most of the 1970s, many Regular Runs were offered in multiple colorways. (Family Arabians, anyone?) In the 1980s and early 1990s, a lot of Special Runs came in sets of multiple colors, either simultaneously or in sequence. In more recent years, we’ve had the Treasure Hunt, Gambler’s Choice and Surprise models.

In the Goffert’s case, the SRs are from three completely unrelated series: a BreyerFest Celebration Horse, a Brick-and-Mortar Halloween Horse, and a Web Special. This is not unheard of, but definitely a little odd. That must have been some crazy kind of Product Development meeting they had early this year. ("It’s almost time for lunch - let’s just make all the remaining releases on the list Gofferts and call it a day. Who’s up for Chinese?")

Speaking of Product Development, I ran across some interesting commentary online about the Night Mare and the Flagship Store Special Sahran, on the Ashquar mold that deserves some clarification.

First, yes, it is true that Reeves lurks on sites looking for ideas and suggestions. Sometimes they even ask for them, in private or by proxy. However, these ideas and suggestions are very rarely translated into immediate action. You don’t go from zero to Production Run in a week or two, unless it’s a really small piece run and it’s made in the U.S. (The Vault Sale Bull "Colton" comes to mind here.)

Typically it takes months - and in the case of an event like BreyerFest, up to a year - for a model to go from concept to reality. Sometimes little tweaks are made during the production process - let’s make half the run glossy! - but big changes are rare.

When we talk about wanting a certain model in a certain color, and it becomes a reality a week or a month later, it’s certainly not a coincidence. But it’s more a matter that both hobbyists and Reeves are operating in the same environment online, simmering in the same cauldron of ideas and inspirations. We think our ideas are uniquely our own, but chances are, someone else is thinking along the same lines. (For me, it’s a numbers game: I make a lot of suggestions. The more you make, the more likely one of them is going to become reality.)

Anyway, back to the Gofferts. The Kashmir is interesting - I like him more than the Kimbia, but I am tapped out financially. I can wait on him if I have to.

If I happen to run across the Halloween Goffert, named Night Mare, she’ll definitely be coming home with me somehow. You already know I love glow-in-the-dark things, and as a "night person" of Hungarian ancestry, I am totally down with the vampire imagery.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dapple Grays, Real and Imaginary

First up, I’d be remiss to not mention that Frosty, brother of Flurry is now available - the Classics Shire in his Head Down mold variation, aka Shire Mold B. In other words, pretty much exactly what I was asking for last year when they released Flurry!

Alas, he’ll have to wait until I sell a few more horses and pay off a few more bills. With the sheer number of Special Offers and Special Runs we’ve been dealt over the past month, I suspect a lot of my fellow hobbyists are in the same boat.

There’s another set of recent Special Runs that, to my surprise, haven’t turned up yet in any great quantity online are the 2014 WEG Specials. Seen here:


There are 500 pieces each of the four Classics:
  • Alabaster Ruffian
  • Red Chestnut Johar
  • Black Warmblood Mare
  • Bay QH/Frolic Stallion
And (allegedly) 750 pieces each of the four Stablemates:
  • Flaxen Chestnut G2 Morgan
  • Black G3 Warmblood
  • Bay G4 Driving Horse
  • Alabaster G2 Warmblood
And an unspecified number of Commemorative Blankets.

Aside from the Special Run overload, the overseas location (France), the selection of molds (Classics and Stablemates) and the palette of colors (conservative, non-spotted colors) may be tempering enthusiasm in the U.S. as well.

Supposedly they are only going to be available at WEG 2014, but the WEG 2010 leftovers were eventually made available to nonattendees primarily via Grab Bags. I'm not counting on a repeat of that scenario, though: there are still several days to go before the event ends, and Grab Bags have evolved into something else entirely since then.

If leftovers do become available to us at some point, I’d like to get one Classics piece and one Stablemates, primarily for the (very attractive!) packaging. I have no particular preferences on the molds, though if I had a choice I’d definitely pick the Classics Ruffian - the closest I’ll probably ever get to the near-mythical Dapple Gray Ruffian.

I say near-mythical because there was at least one sold via Marney in the early 1980s, on that legendary sales list that also featured the Appaloosa Proud Arabian Stallion:

The other 199 that supposedly exist probably don’t; there may be a handful more, only because Tests then (and now) were rarely unique. What I suspect was going on there was a miscommunication between Marney and Peter Stone, or Marney and someone else at the factory she might have talked to about it.

If 200 pieces had been created, some would have shown up by now. There were a lot of 200-piece or fewer Specials released back then: it was almost the standard piece run for SRs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While many of them are difficult to come by now, they are not impossible as long as you have either the time or money to spare.

I've been looking for that Dapple Gray Ruffian for a very, very long time.

I think it’d be awesome, by the way, if Reeves offered a Dapple Gray Traditional Ruffian at some point in the Vintage Club program, a la Mr. Chips. It would be a nice nod to the Dapple Gray Ruffian rumors, plus I think the Traditional Ruffian mold would look fabulous in it. Either Gloss or Matte would be fine, I don’t care, as long as it's in the same style as the Dapple Grays of the late 1970s and early 1980s: wild and crazy!

Just not for the next few months, though. Everyone's bank accounts would appreciate it!