Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sonny and His Sticker

My Sonny arrived on Friday:

Cute! And if the prices I’ve been seeing are any indication, I am not alone in this assessment.

The only thing that weirds me out a little is the scale. A little bit of that is about the dappling - that’s always been an issue with Stablemates - but mostly it’s the sticker. Was the scale of it off? If we scaled up both the Drafter and the sticker proportionately, until the sticker was the same size as the bigger "name" stickers used on the Traditionals, what size would Sonny be?

So I did the math: turns out that Sonny would be about Classics-scale, a little over six inches tall. So, not too bad.

There were two Classics-scale models that did receive Blue Ribbon Stickers during the Blue Ribbon Sticker Era of the late 1960s: the Bucking Bronco and the Rearing Stallion. The Bronco only received the small "number-only" version of the sticker, but Rearing Stallions can be found with either the bigger "named" stickers or the smaller "number-only" ones.

Back then, though, models weren’t broken out into scales. That didn’t happen until the mid-1970s, when the Hagen-Renaker molds were introduced. Even then, it took a while for those two molds to be reclassified as Classics, and not just diminutive Traditionals.

Physically, the smallest model of the Blue Ribbon Sticker Era to receive stickers wasn’t a Foal: it was the Bear Cub. Stickered Bear Cubs are not commonly found, but that’s because it's hard to keep a sticker stuck on a model with such a heavily textured coat. Other models with heavily textured coats tended to lose their stickers over time for the very same reason. (Good luck finding a Polled Hereford Bull with one!)

This isn’t the first time that stickers have been put on Stablemates, though. Shortly after the Stablemates molds were shipped to China in the early 1990s, they tried putting little gold "Made in China" stickers on the releases that followed.

That didn’t last long, either. I don’t know if the reason was a change in import regulations, or the fact that the stickum on the sticker didn’t stick very well. Annoying little buggers, regardless, and so far they haven’t merited much attention from hobbyists.

Well, back to tending my saleslist. I do have a few of my "better" items up on MH$P now, and will have a few more up by the end of Monday. Not sure exactly when; I’ll be in and out of the house all day with packing and shipping (busy sales weekend!) I’m crossing my fingers that Reeves doesn’t pull any crazy Cyber Monday surprises on us...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dating with Family Arabians

A nice, quiet and peaceful Turkey Day. The rest of the extended weekend will be spent taking care of paperwork and trying to get as much stuff up on MH$P and the like by Monday. If I can manage it, I might even have a special offer up here.

(I am also trying to get one particularly aggravating quilt project done by then, so again, no promises made.)

One interesting aspect of collection buying is that collections tend to be time capsules: most of pieces in a given collection will have been purchased within a narrow span of time. The more pieces you have, the more accurate the dating can be.

The second collection I purchased was datable from 1959 to 1962, a time period I consider one of the most fascinating for Breyer History. A ton of new and more realistic molds were coming in, and the less realistic molds were being phased out. Less emphasis was being put on acquiring entertainment licenses, and more on creating generic pieces with (presumably) fewer production restrictions. And there were more horse molds being introduced, period: in the 1950s, the number of horse and nonhorse molds were often at or near parity.

It’s also one of the lesser-documented eras: aside from some mail-order company sheets, the ca. 1960 Dealer Catalog and 1961 Inserts, and some XMAS catalogs pages, there’s not a lot to go on. Price lists are in short supply, so release dates from that era are difficult to pinpoint. Most of what we know - or think we know - is built on a fragile web of references.

This is why things like the existence of frequent mold variations on the Family Arabian Foal can be so invaluable: it’s one of the few ways we supplement the slender paper trail.

This collection had several Family Arabians in it, of every color. Alas, there were no belly-stamped Foals, but some curled-eartip ones. Except for this Gloss Palomino:

It has the fatter and flatter ears typical of the majority of Family Foals from the 1960s. Here’s a comparison with an Appaloosa Foal from the same collection, with the curled eartips:

I have not been able to track down any Charcoal or Palomino Family Foals with the curled eartips. The few bits of ephemera we have from 1959-1962 suggest that the Palomino and Charcoal Family Arabians didn’t debut until 1961 or even 1962. If the eartip mold changes occurred prior to the release of the Palomino and Charcoal Family Arabians, that would explain the absence (or extreme rarity) of curled eartip versions of them.

Exactly when? That, we still can’t pinpoint. Just a probable sequence.

Anyway, the fact that virtually all of the other models in this collection are datable to this time period also suggests that this Foal - and his entire family, who came with - are likely to be extremely early releases of the Palomino Family Arabians, if not among the earliest.

They were in very, very nice condition compared to the other Family Arabians in the group, which means they were either highly prized, lightly played with, or both. They are so nice I haven't decided yet if they are staying, or going.

That the Palominos could have been highly prized should not be a surprise. Let’s not forget that at the time they were likely purchased, the Palominos were a shiny new novelty. No one had any idea they’d eventually become common to the point of ubiquity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Red Shift

Just to show you that the Five-Gaiter thing wasn’t me being a pill about condition, here’s a box lot baby I do intend to keep:

A poor three-legged Bay Old Mold Foal! Minus the missing leg, he’s in not bad condition - it’s just the typical ear-nose-hoof rubs and stuff. Since I have had a notoriously hard time finding Old Mold Mares and Foals in any other color than Alabaster, a three-legged Bay Foal is a treasure. He can keep my ragged, 50 cent Gloss Alabaster Fighter company!

As mentioned in the comments last post, I am not sure if early Breyer Bays were subject to color shifting like the Palominos. It’s possible, but I haven’t seen enough early New-in-Box Gloss Bays to compare against more "weathered" Bays, nor have I seen any early Bays where the color was noticeably different from one side to the next that could be indicative of prolonged exposure to the sun, heat or other environmental factors.

It’s definitely an issue with Hartland Bays - like many Hartland Palominos, the red base in the paint fades, leaving the models a distinct shade of green (Olive for the Bay; Chartreuse for the Palominos).

The red shift/red fade does happen with some early Breyers, but tends to be limited to those models that came with pinking of the eyes, ears, muzzle and hooves. Since it is limited to accent areas - and the absence of the pinking tends to be so complete - the lack of pinking is sometimes labeled as a variation or production error.

It’s also not that much of a dealbreaker; while we’d prefer the pinking to remain intact, most hobbyists are not going to turn noses up on an otherwise flawless model without it.

There is some color-shifting going on with Shrinkies, to be sure. Chestnuts turn peachy-pink, and Bays turn to Buckskin. But that’s a slightly different process there - a chemical reaction that is primarily a result of a breakdown of the plastic itself, and not a consequence of environmental issues. (Though excessive sunlight, heat and humidity certainly don’t help!)

Whatever other color shifting may be occurring with some Breyer paint jobs, nevertheless I haven’t seen anything green that didn’t start out green in the first place, either by design (Little Bits Unicorns, some of the Classics Blossoms) or by default (Dappled Green Bay Sham).

There’s been some recent speculation that the reason why Reeves hasn’t released any new "Christmas" Decorators may be due to the issues with color shifting or fading, especially with the color Red. Indeed, it could be the reason why the mythical Christmas Decorators might not have made it past the testing phase back in the 1960s.

But here we are speaking of a hypothetical of a hypothetical: we don’t have any confirmed examples of Christmas Decorators in the first place.

Oh, and re: other posts on the topic of fugitive paint, the most recent - I think - was the one last year about the 2013 Volunteer Clydesdale Mare. I really need to index these posts better…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Orange is the New Palomino

So crazy here right now - the second collection came in this morning and I’ve been busy cleaning and sorting ever since. Then they changed my work schedule at the last minute, so that leisurely weekend of horse cleaning I was anticipating vanished!

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get some of the better stuff on MH$P by Sunday afternoon, at least. No promises on that.

Both collections came with Palomino Five-Gaiters, both in similar condition (a little beat, but restorable), but completely different in one important respect: Color!

The Honey Palomino one is obviously older, and the Orange one much newer; he’s so "new" that he comes with a USA mark.

The Palomino Five-Gaiter was in production through 1971, and the USA mark was introduced ca. 1970, so one with a USA mark in itself isn’t all that unusual. A scarce and somewhat undercollected variation perhaps - like so many late-in-their-run variations - but not RARE rare. 

The variation in the color is noteworthy, however. As I’ve mentioned before, early Palominos didn’t start out "Honey", they turned that way. The Honey Palomino one above started out life pretty much the same color as his younger brother.

Breyer eventually switched the formula for the Palomino to something less fugitive (less likely to change color) in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Exactly when is unknown, but it’s obvious it had to have been by 1971. That Orange Five-Gaiter has gone through pretty much the same rough-and-tumble life as the Honey one, minus about a decade's worth of time.

But he’s at least 40 years old - and without a hint of browning.

You can see the same phenomenon with the #22 Palomino Pinto Shetland Pony, too. Later Matte and Semi-Gloss examples from the early 1970s are just as bright and cheerful a shade of orange as the one Five-Gaiter, above. I’ve owned enough of those Shetlands - boxed and unboxed, and in every condition from LSQ to body - to conclude that the lack of a color shift is not anomalous, or due to any special handling. The paint was just different by then.

Sadly, I won’t be able to keep either Gaiter; I’ve been looking for a nice one for years, but the timing isn’t right for either one of these pretty boys. Not sure when either of them will be ready for the sales list, though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Here’s something you don’t see everyday:

No, really! Though it’s what you don’t see in this particular photo that makes all the difference. This Palomino Family Arabian Foal has a USA mark:

(Sorry for the blur. There’s no easy or dignified way of taking a picture of that area!)

Unlike most of the Breyer molds that did receive it ca. 1970, the FAF’s USA mark vanished very quickly, probably within a year of receiving it. Why? I’m not sure. It’s possible that the FAF mold went in for another round of maintenance not long after the USA mark was added, and the mark was lost in the aftermath.

Although the placement of the circular Breyer mold mark itself - aka "the copyright horseshoe" - on that leg does not change (once it migrated there!) its orientation has, suggesting that that particular area of the mold had some maintenance issues before. (Want to lose several hours of time? Got dig up all the FAFs in your house and check out which direction the "C" in the mold mark is pointing.)

Perhaps in the process of revamping that area that time, they put back the circular mold mark but forgot about the USA part, since it was probably a separate mold stamp.

Although all five of the Matte colors the Foals were in production ca. 1970 - Palomino, Alabaster, Bay, Charcoal, and Appaloosa - I have only seen the Appaloosa and the Palomino with USA marks. Recently someone on Model Horse Blab reported that they had a Ranchcraft Woodgrain FAF Lamp with a USA mark, but I haven’t seen it personally to confirm. Seems fairly plausible, though, since some of their Woodgrain Running Mare and Foal Lamps have USA marks too.

We have lots of circumstantial evidence suggesting that many (if not most) of the Lamp Woodgrains were items made specifically for Dunning Industries after all but the Fighter were officially discontinued. Until at least 1970, it seems. But we’re getting a little off track here.

Mold variations are sort of a funny thing in this hobby; unlike most color variations, earlier mold variations tend to hide in plain sight. They don’t get noticed until someone finally stands up and shouts "Hey, look!" And suddenly it becomes another Thing to look for. Much like what is now just starting to happen with the early "Supermuscular" Quarter Horse Geldings.

And remember this: this is the Family Arabian Foal, a model as common as dandelions in an ill-kept lawn. They are plentiful, ubiquitous, and practically invisible. Seen, but not noticed. No one expects much from the Family Arabian Foal.

So here is my shout out, for you variation hunters, lovers of Foal molds, or of Family Arabians in particular: these Family Arabian Foals with USA marks are something you might want to add to your want lists, before the rest of the hobby catches on. Take a second look. Expect a little bit more.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

If It’s Not One SR Set, It’s Another

In the meantime, Reeves released another Special Run Mare and Foal set to go with the other Special Run set released earlier in the week.

While I do appreciate the effort they are putting into trying to appeal to every taste and budget (Classics, or Traditionals? Realistic, or Fantastic?) it sure makes it harder for those of us hoping to make a little extra cash this time of year. Who has time to shop the secondary market when they’re bombarding us with so many new and pretty things?

Of the two sets - the Classic Palomino Unicorns Glitter and Gem, or the Traditional Running Mare and Foal Vixen and Blitzen - I slightly prefer the Traditional set. It’s not a matter of color or scale preference here, it’s the homespun blankets that do it for me. How adorable are they? 

I have a big bag of homespun scraps I’ve been just itching to make into blankets. Time hasn’t been in good supply this year, so that project has been put on hold indefinitely; I’m hoping I might be able to whip up some itty-bitty Stablemates scale ones by BreyerFest next year, at least. Either as fun giveaway items, or as something cute and inexpensive for those of us on a tight budget.

But anyway, yeah, if I had the money right now, I’d be buying the Running Mare and Foal set. I don’t, so I can’t. The spare cash is tied up in a couple of small collections I just purchased, and until I sort and piece them out, buying stuff strictly to please myself isn’t on the agenda.

(Items from those collections are being listed in all the usual places, as they are cleaned and prepped.)

The 75 dollar price tag - a sticking point with many hobbyists on this set - doesn’t seem out of line with me. You’re getting two models and two blankets, plus a free 2015 calendar if you haven’t already redeemed that offer. (Then again, I don’t have a Chamonix burning a hole in my bank account, either!)

They’re making 1000 sets, and the Running Mare and Foal isn’t all that "in" with the in crowd, so I can afford to wait on them. There doesn’t appear to be a specified amount on the Unicorns, but most of the Classics SRs seem to be in that piece range, too (except maybe Mischief Night?) so again, not too much of a worry.

The Running Mare and Foal have come in a ton of releases in their 50+ year history, but Vixen and Blitzen are only the third release in a pinto - the first being the Liver Chestnut Pintos #848 and #849 back in 1991-1993, and the second being the Vintage Club Black Pinto Salt and Pepper.

There have been a couple of Appaloosas on each mold, some funky and unique "solid" colors like the Dark Dapple Gray, and they were among the five molds used in the original Decorator Series in the 1960s, too. So it's not like the releases have lacked for variety or imagination.

Just pintos, for some reason.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Roany Roys

Chamonix for me? Of course not, silly. Silver Filigrees never take the easy way to this house! Eh, I should be selling more than buying anyway (speaking of, anyone need a Bowland?) As for the latest newest Web SRs - a Running Mare and Foal set in pinto - we'll get to them next time.

As expected, the photograph of the BreyerFest Roy is much better seen on paper than it is via an out of focus cell phone pic: shaded Bay, with lighter-colored feathering, dark gray hooves, a slightly sunbleached mane, tri-colored eyes, and light overspray-style roaning. I think hobbyists will be surprised in a good way - once they look at it for what it is, and not for what they wish it was.  

This is not the first time they’ve put a Roan paint job on Roy, but it is the first time that it could pass for a Roan without qualification.

The first attempt was the first non-Roy release: the #837 Belgian Brabant, introduced in 1991, the year after Roy was discontinued. He’s commonly described as a Dun; like most of the other models in the Catalogs and Manuals at the time, he had no official color description.

According to one internal Reeves document I have ca. 1992 (contemporaneous with his production) he was described as a Bay Roan. That’s how I thought of him back then, when I gave him any thought at all: another not-entirely-successful attempt at more realistic roaning.

A few years later, in 1996, they tried a slightly different style of Roan Roy, this one named Sebastian (#953). Slightly different is being a bit charitable; heck, calling him weird would not be out of bounds. How else would you describe a horse with a blue-gray mane, tail and body, and dark chestnut lower face and legs? As a Chimera, maybe?

Either they had some very interesting reference photos to go by, or there was some miscommunication somewhere - the same level of "the telephone game" that gave us a Buckshot Blue Roan Belgian back when.

(Hey, now there’s another vintage color revival I can get behind!)

Anyway, as for the people making yuck faces over Roy - young or old - just treat him the same way you treated the Glossy Black Goffert this year. There are tons of options to choose from. Sell them cheap-cheap, donate them to charity, hand them off to the passing tourists at the Park, chop ‘em up as bodies (it’s a Eustis sculpt - surely there’s something worth salvaging there), paint them orange and use them as high-concept jack o’ lanterns…

Or better yet - use them to upsell the hobby to others (like my National Model Horse Day idea)!

Roy’s ideally suited for the job. His thick limbs and pleasant demeanor make him an excellent first horse for kids. Lots of nonhobby folks (especially older guys!) love Draft Horses in general, out of fond memories of the family farm, beer hitches in local parades, or draft horse pulls at the fair. That it represents a rare breed (Ardennes) with a fascinating and ancient history would appeal to people interested in either history, or maintaining livestock diversity.

And it’s a BreyerFest Celebration Horse, so he’d make a good advertisement for the event, and the hobby itself.

See? Every model horse can have a value and purpose! Even Roy.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Purple Lipizzan

The one nice thing about getting just one Just About Horses per year, instead of four? Only having to scroll through the "Where’s My JAH?" discussion once a year!

It's not that I am unsympathetic. We live in a semi-rural area where they’re constantly reworking the mail routes, so we go through periods where the local system is hyper-efficient, and periods when carrier pigeons seem to be a safer bet. I learned a long time ago to not freak out about not getting my JAH until it was at least a month past its expected due date.

And it would almost never fail: the missing issue would show up the day after I called - or even that afternoon! Often in one of those "Oops, we’re sorry your mail got mangled" baggies.

Anyway, mine came on Saturday, in good shape. Of all the interesting things worth talking about, the one thing that excited me the most was this guy:

The return of the Classics Lipizzan, in the Zodiac Collection. The Classics Lipizzan mold has been out of production since 2004, when he was released in another variation of the Pegasus (#3365 Mystical Pegasus). More importantly, though, the last time he was released as a straight-up horse - no wings, horns or other additional appendages - was in the early to mid-1990s, as a Special Run item for the Wonderful World of Horses Tour.

So he’s been out of production for at least a decade - an eternity in Breyer-time; I don’t think any of the others had been out of circulation that long. Even some of the Hagen-Renaker molds weren’t put into mothballs until 2005.

Sure, he’s Bourbon Street Purple (sorta, I think) and part of a series representing the Zodiac, but those are minor details.

Actually, I really like the Bourbon Street Purple color scheme, too. It’s just that I’ve been pining for a realistic color on the Classics Lippy mold that’s not another aged gray/alabaster, something either rare (Bay/Black/Chestnut) or historical (Appaloosa/Dun). Oh well, close enough!

Most of the other molds being used in the Zodiac series are being - or have recently been - used in production runs, which makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing him again, soon. As I mentioned in my initial discussion about the BreyerFest Western Horse Gossamer, it’s economically impractical to drop a mold for production just for a single, low-run special run item.

I do think the Zodiac series will sell better than the Blossoms series. The two negatives I heard/saw most often in response to the Blossoms series were the limited selection of molds used (only three) and the literal-almost-to-the-point-of-tackiness rendering of the floral decals.

In the Zodiac series, each sign is represented by a unique mold: no duplicates here. And instead of fancy decals, Zodiac signs rendered as hip brands, against Semi-Decorator/Decorator paint jobs. They're almost tasteful.

I don't have a problem with either tasteful or tacky, but I can definitely see that as a consideration in the homes of hobbyists fortunate enough to be able to integrate their collection into their decor.

Aside from the Lipizzan, the Bucking Bronco/Aries and the Warmblood Stallion/Taurus (my sign!) may be coming home with me. More, depending on how they look in person.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Nailed it! The next Web Special, Chamonix:

Silver Filigree Ashquar! Interesting little detail worth noting: the hooves are a different color than the ears and muzzle. Silver Filigrees haven’t been consistent on that point: just as often as not, the head and hoof colors match - most recently on the BreyerFest Silver Filigree Misty.

I’ll be entering every day - my Mont Tremblant needs a boyfriend - but doubt I’ll get him. As with most low-run Silver Filigrees, speculating will likely be an issue with this one. I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t get pulled for one. It’s not like he was a Kitten, a Khemosabi, a Polled Hereford Bull or a Traditional Man o’ War.

(Again, I want to reiterate: it was an educated guess, not the result of any insider intel. I’m just a little better than most at reading the signs. Making a ton of predictions also helps.)

In other news, per the Just About Horses that are just starting to show up, I was also partially right about the imminent reappearance of the Western Horse: there’s a shiny Appaloosa one named Glitterati being offered next year to celebrate the Western Horse’s 65th anniversary.

I thought the mold would show up in the Vintage Club first, but I am on board with this as well. Plus, I think he’d make an excellent model to use for a hobby outreach campaign.

Organizing a "National Model Horse Day" campaign has been in the back of my mind ever since a coworker mentioned National Clown Week back in August. (Yes, she's a professional clown. Not scary at all, either!) If clowns get a week, surely this great hobby of ours is worthy of a day, right? I wouldn't have to be Breyer-specific or anything like that, just a day to publicly celebrate and advocate for the hobby that gives us so much pleasure.

"National Model Horse Day: Because everyone does deserve a pony!"

Okay, off my soapbox now.

The BreyerFest Celebration Horse will be a Bay Roan Ardennes, on the Roy mold. Most of us were expecting something Drafty - likely a Percheron - so an Ardennes is a pleasant surprise. I don’t have my copy of the JAH yet to judge the quality of the paint job, but I’ve been hearing good things.

It’s nice to see more warm fuzzies about the selection of the Roy mold than I expected on Blab. He’s not one of my favorite molds, personally, but I’ve always believed it was partly because he’s had such a bland lineup of paint jobs over the years. The recent BreyerFest Special Run Radar showed just how much a pretty paint job can mend. 

But I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty to the contrary, too. I find it so baffling that some hobbyists are willing to bail on the event based on a the very first release - sort of like bailing on a concert because you don’t like the opening act. While we’ve had both beauties and clinkers over the years, the event hasn’t been exclusively about the "Celebration Horse" for years.

And finally, it seems like the Maureen Love article in the JAH is mostly a tease, and noncommittal on the return of the Hagen-Renaker molds. I’ll have to wait and read it myself to see if I can discern anything more from it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Horse for Nerds

Another recent arrival, a gift from a friend during a recent transaction:

I don’t have the original release of Champion to compare, but he appears to be pinker, with more "airbrushy" socks, pinker hooves, and less yellow in the mane and tail than most of the originals I’ve seen online, though not outside the range of production variation.

None of that is really necessary to distinguish him from the original, since he does have completely different reins - silver, and without the handgun bits - and I’m presuming a VIN number too, since I haven’t taken him out of his box yet.

(Oh, I will - it’s just not safe do so in these parts yet.)

I haven’t picked up the original release yet because all of the ones I found around here had issues, mostly with the reins, which were usually broken or mangled in some unique and interesting way. The last official release on the WPH - the 2004 Tractor Supply Special Run Bay, as Annie Oakley’s "Prince" - had similar issues with the reins, and was really quite hard to come by in these parts besides.

That struck me as odd, because the Western Prancing Horse always seemed to be more of a "model horse nerd’s" horse. He doesn’t have the vintage cachet that the Western Horse, Western Pony, and Fury Prancer do, and his molded tack and saddle make it difficult to update him to more modern tastes. I just assumed that like the original Champion - who had a healthy five-year run - the Hollywood/Western tie-in did most of the work selling him. That's what makes the John Wayne horse Dollor, on the Smart Chic Olena mold, so pricey in the secondary market.

("Nerd" is defined here as someone who not ashamed to love something not because of, or in spite of, but regardless of its popularity with the general public.)

I haven’t seen too many of the Reissue Champions floating around secondhand yet, either, which means he’s likely selling to hobbyists who want him for him, not for what they can get for/with him. He has his fans, but it's more like a fanbase for a beloved Character Actor (like "Cuddles" Sakall) than an A-List Movie Star (like Cary Grant).

Once I get some of the inventory issues sorted out around here, I’ll be on the hunt for the handful of WPHs I don’t have in the herd, including an upgraded Chalky Palomino, the black Vigilante, Prince, and of course the original release of the Champion. The Gloss Bay Pinto is not even on the radar.

A vintage Test Color would be nice, but they’re rather scarce on that mold. Even back then, I guess, he wasn’t all that cool. Ah, well, fine by me!