Saturday, January 31, 2015

Honey vs. Chocolate

I was hoping that they’d bring back that wonderful dark Glossy Bay they put on some of last year’s "Pop the Cork" Surprise Model Nokotas; judging from the prices they were (and are, still) commanding, he was the clear favorite of many. And guess what shows up on the Breyer Blog last week?

A Glossy Bay Ashquar, named Ganache. It’s still too early for me to decide if he’s going to be on my want list, but I’m going to hazard a guess that he’s going to be on the list of many others. 

The popularity of this new "Chocolate" Gloss Bay is somewhat reminiscent of the popularity of the vintage "Honey" Gloss Bays, best typified by the Old Mold and Family Arabians, such as this set I sold recently:

(Yeah, I know, the eyewhites on that FAM were scary! And 100 percent real, from what I could tell; they too, were a part of that ca. 1959-62 collection.)

Contrary to what many hobbyists assume, Gloss "Honey" Bays were not that common a color in the Vintage Glossy Era (pre-1967). Aside from the Old Mold/Family Arabians, the only other Regular Run release that came in that color was the Clydesdale Stallion.

And only for a short time: he was one of the first models to switch over to a Matte Finish from the Gloss, by 1963.

The #36 Racehorse was nominally "Bay", but was in reality Chestnut, and the Western Prancing Horse debuted in a "Bay" ca. 1962 that was identical to the Five-Gaiter’s Matte Sorrel. The Glossy Bay Quarter Horse Geldings tended to be more reddish-brown than true Honey. The Running Mares and Foals were the same color as the Gelding, except Matte, though some veer into Semi-Gloss/High Satin territory. (Inexplicably, they called those two "Chestnut" in the catalogs and pricelists!)

There are so few genuine Gloss Bay Fighting Stallions floating around that I cannot honestly make a judgement call on what their "standard" color is supposed to be. They switched him over to a Matte Finish around the same time as the Clydesdale, leaving that color to the Family Arabians alone through the middle of the 1960s. All the Bays that debuted after 1963 were Matte.

There are a few Test Color/Oddball Glossy Honey Bays roaming the hobby landscape, too, including the famous Gloss Bay Pinto Western Prancing Horses. (Wanna talk about grails? Sigh…) I’ve always suspected that the Shetland Pony was supposed to have come in a Gloss Bay, originally, but so far I’ve seen no physical evidence.

So, just like almost all the old Vintage colors, it’s far more commonly seen in more modern releases. (Woodgrain would be one of those exceptions, though I’m thinking for not much longer.)

When the Weather Girl mold finally makes her comeback, I am so hoping that they release her in all of the original Old Mold colors: Gloss Shaded Alabaster, Gloss Appaloosa, Woodgrain, and especially the Gloss Honey Bay.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The B Word

The last official "flea market find" last year was an H-R Donkey Harry; this year’s first official find?

A #376 Brighty - 1991! He’s not a rare animal - they made him up through 2005 in this particular version of brownish-gray - but he is a reliable seller in the aftermarket, as most Marguerite Henry-inspired molds are.

Other than one ear rub and a few bits of house paint splatter, he seems to be in excellent condition. That’s a bit unusual, considering I found him at the local Salvation Army Store, sitting next to the extremely scary dollar-store clown figurine that’s been terrorizing that store for about a month now. (Brighty was holding his own, but I’m sure the save was appreciated!)

What’s nice about the Brighty mold is that he doesn’t have any significant mold marks, so casual shoppers and other non-Breyer-obsessed people will tend to pass over him. Not without a quizzical look or two, though, including the cashier who rang him up for me yesterday:
"Is he…plastic?"

"Yes, he is."
Hey, she never brought up the "B" word, so I didn’t offer. It doesn’t seem to matter too much in my part of the country anyway, but I know I am extremely lucky to be in that situation. (More than once at my local dirt malls have I heard the cry "Hey, Horse Lady, I got something for ya!" And miraculously, they often do.)

There were some other equine-themed things in the store, but nothing else worth bringing home, other than some crafting supplies.

Alas, this little Brighty probably won’t be staying; I promised myself to keep my model purchases to a minimum for the front half of the year, at least. If he had been the 2007 model and book set rerelease (#1295) with that happy, self-satisfied little smile painted on his face, it’d be another story. That one has become my favorite of all the Brighty releases, outside of the original Chalky Gift Set ones.

Since I’m possibly going on overnights (and overtime) for the next month or so, it’ll be a while before I get him or anything else listed.

Though if anyone has a body-quality Traditional Kitten (or two) they’d be willing to trade for him, I’d be willing to make the time. I am so enamored of my Chartreux idea that want to make my own, regardless of Reeves’s plans. Maybe a Silver Filigree one, too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rock On, Lobster

Just a little something today; a long-delayed project decided it needed to be done yesterday, and it threw my weekend plans completely off course.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the care and thought that’s been put selection of the colors, molds and motifs in the Zodiac series. This series has been a long time in development, and it shows. So much so that unlike the Blossoms, I have been giving some serious thought into buying the entire series.

Okay, I’m not thrilled that "my" horse (Taurus) is pink, again, but at least they jazzed him up a bit with some pleasing bronzy highlights, and a slightly naughty-looking bull:

The one model in this series that did give me a bit of a giggle fit was Cancer, on the popular Black Beauty mold:

What’s up with the lobster? Sure, they’re both crustaceans, but a lobster is not a crab.

This faux pas is not enough to dissuade me from potentially buying the series; my arch-nemeses time, space and money will be the more likely culprits there. But it is kinda funny: even in a series where every detail was obviously labored over, mistakes still happened.

You’ve probably heard the saying Perfect is the enemy of the good. There’s a tendency in this hobby towards perfectionism: the notion that model horses are somehow perfectible in a way real horses are not, and that nothing short of absolutely perfect is acceptable, either on the shelf or in the show ring.

It’s not a healthy idea, nor an achievable one. Aside from the philosophical problem - what constitutes perfect, exactly? - perfection is boring. If everything were perfect, there’d be nothing to talk about.

We should strive for better, instead: better is always doable. 

Some mistakes are groaners, but sometimes mistakes are just…funny. Cancer’s butt lobster is funny. And in its own way, endearing.

(I can’t believe I just wrote the phrase "Cancer's butt lobster".)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Always Room For Another

FYI: I made some changes to my links; more may be added in the future. For the record, adding the OMH link does not mean I am leaving Blab. As far as drama goes, it’s not a topic-specific problem, but a people-specific one. Same people? Same dramas eventually, whether it’s over politics, preferred brands of mustard or judging standards at NAN.

I am of the opinion that more forums lead to better forums. Heck, I’d start my own, if I had the time. My recent forum activity has been somewhat minimal lately because I’m (a) currently in the busy season at work, and (b) working on some other personal and professional concerns that are a higher priority now. I’m hoping most of what I need to get done will be done by the middle of the year, and I can get back to my more usual level of intensity.

And now back to the show.

From its earliest days, this mold has always been known as the Western Prancing Horse, or Western Prancer:

So to see this in the solicitation e-mail for the Vintage Club Two-Bits made me do a double-take:
Two Bits' glossy leopard appaloosa pattern is borrowed from the Western Prancing Pony, and the color has rarely been seen in the Breyer line since the 1960s.
Western Prancing Pony? The only recollection I have of this mold ever being called a pony is with the Red Dun #889 Ranger - Cow Pony, from 1994-1995. The WPH mold did "replace" the Fury/Prancer mold in the Breyer line ca. 1962, and the Fury/Prancer is ponyish in size compared to Breyer’s other horse molds then.

But the WPH is clearly intended to be horse-sized.

The part about the splash-spot nature of the Vintage Club Two-Bits’ paint job is true: it was a very rarely seen color even back in the old days, and best known as a color specifically associated with the Western Prancer. There was a brief renaissance of the color in the early 1990s, most notably with the release of two Special Runs - on the Pony of the Americas mold, and as a part of the BHR Balking Mule set - though in those two cases they were Matte, not Glossy.

It’s a color that’s also known for its great variability. Some have big spots or little speckles, many spots or only a few. The points vary widely too, from high to low, and from black to charcoal to light gray. You could spend a lot of time collecting many different variations of the Appaloosa Western Prancing Horse, and I have:

Always room for more!

Monday, January 19, 2015

More Creepy Meows?

While I was brainstorming ideas for BreyerFest the other day, the most delightful and obvious idea drifted into my head: what if, instead of the Poodle, the Nonhorse mold could be a Cat? More specifically, the famous Chartreux cat? The kitty model on top of the CFA’s Chartreux information page bears some striking similarities to our favorite "Creepy Meow":

The last official Special Run of the Kitten mold was the "Angel" (above) from the infamous 2012 Vault Sale. The next previous was the 2003 Christmas release Tom Foolery, featuring a Black and White Tuxedo Kitten tangled in a string of holiday lights. He’s the only Kitten I haven’t gotten around to acquiring yet, more out of laziness and distraction than a lack of availability.

The last time we saw a Kitten Special Run at BreyerFest was 2000, with the Calico Patches. That release helped popularize his nickname of "The Creepy Meow", because his leftovers haunted the NPOD for years, startling newer and/or less savvy hobbyists…

While the original "Big Poodle" mold is the most obvious choice for a French-themed year, that mold hasn’t been in production for over 40 years. In addition to the retooling costs inherent in updating a mold out of production for that long, there may be additional issues. The original Big Poodle mold was prone to molding problems - mold flow cracks, in particular - and requires a lot of raw plastic to manufacture.

(The "Small Poodle" mold is sweet, but it doesn’t have the same presence that the Big Poodle does. The last release of that scarce mold - the 2009 Cotton Candy - also strikes me as a bit too recent for a BreyerFest Nonhorse re-release.)

The Kitten, on the other hand, was more recently manufactured, and as far as I know, doesn’t have any significant molding or cost issues. And we haven’t seen the mold at BreyerFest since Patches.

Another nice feature of a BreyerFest Kitten SR is that it may lead to more Kitten releases in the near future, including a much-hoped-for (in the stranger parts of Breyer fandom) Silver Filigree Kitten.

The decision of what Nonhorse mold to go with was made months ago, and I genuinely have no idea which one they decided to go with. For all I know they could have gone with the Basset Hound, which is also a French breed, and a mold we haven’t seen much lately. Since the #324 Chaser in 1995-1996, to be exact.

I wouldn’t object to him, especially since I’m on a bit of a dog kick right now, but I’d rather have a silvery-blue Kitten first.

Friday, January 16, 2015

So Far, C'est Bon

I am absolutely exhausted today; this week had way too much drama in it, even for me. Most of my day off tomorrow will be spent "quilting it out", both literally and figuratively.

As for the blow up occurring on Blab right now, I’ll leave my thoughts and comments on that on Blab itself, once I’ve collected them. (More sleep is required.) All I’ll say on the matter here is that I don't give up hope easily.

As for more positive news and thoughts, the initial BreyerFest 2015 information dump has been made, more or less on time and with pictures that are halfway decent. A few of them, ici:

My only disappointment with the Sunday Raffle Horse - a Buckskin Blanket Appaloosa Wyatt - is that it means we won’t be getting a more attainable Special Run of the Wyatt for BreyerFest. It doesn’t rule out a more-affordable-anyway Mid-Year or other SR release during the year, but whenever you get your hopes up even a little, there's a bit of a sting.

The Bay Strapless Store Special Oration is lovely, and a good match for both the actual horse, and for the mold. He is similar to the Pottery Barn SR of the Strapless, but the Oration has the braided mane and tail, while the PB Strapless has the loose versions of both. Although I prefer the loose mane and tail versions, I might be willing to concede on that point. I never seem to be in the right place at the right time for the Pottery Barn one, anyway …

The Early Bird Raffle Horse is also nice, a Palomino Sabino Idocus named C’est Bon:

If I do win one (ha!) I am so naming him Simon Le Bon, just because. He reminds me a little of the Store Special Palomino Halla from a few years back, but I like C'est Bon better.

There’s no mention of the prizes for the Diorama and Costume contests, yet. (I didn't see it when last I looked, at least.) For a costume I’m thinking something involving swords, since I don’t often get to use my mad college fencing skills in real life. (I attended Wayne State University: it was almost a requirement!) Or maybe not; whatever I choose to be will depend on whatever the flea markets and thrift shops offer me.

As far as the Diorama Contest goes, I got nothing so far. It’s become such a frustration for me that I’m thinking of just letting go of the notion altogether. Intellectually, I know it’s nothing personal; they don’t like my style, and I am not my style. If I’m a German Expressionist artistically, I’m never going to win at a French Impressionist show.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Missing Pieces

While I take a great deal of pleasure locating and reassembling ephemera and other documentation for the hobby in general and Breyers in particular, locating and reassembling my own personal ephemera and documentation isn’t quite as much fun.

Long story, short: everything that needs to be replaced should be replaced - or be in the process of it - by the end of the week, except my scarf. (Seriously, the scarf, too?)

As I’ve had my fill of drama this week, I will simply show you another pleasing addition to the herd, again from that most excellent ca. 1959-1962 collection:

There’s nothing particularly dramatic, distinct or noteworthy about him, other than being a very pretty example of a Gloss Dapple Gray No Muscle Clydesdale. He has the finer dappling characteristic of the earlier Dapple Grays, which morphed into something much wilder a couple of years later. I believe he was the first model to sport the now beloved "Resist" Dapple Gray paint job.

Gray is a relatively uncommon color in the actual breed, but on the Clydesdale Stallion mold it almost borders on common. There have been so many variations, Special Runs, and variations within the Special Runs that it’s hard not to run across a Dapple Gray Clydesdale Stallion or two (or ten!) along the way.

The original #82 release - especially in its No Muscle form - is still a nice prize for any Vintage collector’s collection. Even though he was discontinued in 1966, he was a popular guy, so it's not difficult to find a quality examples at reasonable prices.

Some of the late 1970s Special Run Dapple Gray Clydesdales used to pricey back in the day. Special Runs were a much scarcer commodity back then, though, and not so easy to come by first hand. Either you found out about them via a friend, or a friend of a friend, or from one of the handful of mimeographed model horse newsletters or ‘zines you subscribed to that didn't always come in the most timely fashion. Timely defined here being by the end of the first week of the month.  

This new guy would a significant upgrade to my other #82 Dapple Gray Clydesdale, but that old guy is not going anywhere either. He has a shoe-shaped dent on his barrel and missing ear that give him character; as I have a few missing pieces and dents, myself, I think we make a good match.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Seeing Things

Here is Glacier, with his older and more conventionally handsome cousin:

There’s no VIN, and the detail put into the painting finishwork makes it pretty obvious that the Glaciers were U.S. made. I especially like the subtlety of the eyes: dark brown with a large iris and black eyeliner. They give him a dark and mysterious look, like he’s seen things.

I had been toying with the idea of using him as trade bait, but I think he’s staying. He’s got stories to tell me, man.

Some hobbyists were a little overly concerned about the sample in the promotional picture having what looked like a bent leg. I knew that wasn’t going to be the case with the actual production pieces because experience has been telling us, over and over, that you really can’t go by the photographs Reeves sends out to the world.

You wouldn’t think it would bear repeating at this point, but it does. I’ve noticed that even Reeves is starting to put "actual production may vary from prototype shown" in the fine print of some of their offers now. It’s something that should have been in the fine print since forever, but I’m accepting the improvement as an improvement, and moving on.

Though I think it would be awesome if they did do raffles/drawings for some of the actual prototypes, in addition to the semi-regular raffles/drawings for everything else. Aside from being really cool models to have, in general, they already come with a ready-made and easily acquired provenance you can use to trump the local live show competition. (The model in your documentation? That’s mine.)

It would reduce my chances of acquiring more prototypes in the future, but as I slowly go through another slight herd reduction, I have to accept the reality of not being able to have them all, anyway.

As for the echoing refrains of "Why can’t all Breyer models be of this quality level?" It’s not primarily a matter of old techniques vs. new, or U.S. manufacturing vs. China: it’s a scalability issue. Quality is much easier to control when you’re dealing with 40- or 50-piece runs, and not runs in the hundreds or thousands.

I think that’s the number one issue with the Premier Club. A Connoisseur-quality club with an unlimited membership cap sounds good at first, until you realize Reeves had a hard enough time with quality control with the original 350-piece runs on the Connoisseurs.

Quality control on the Vintage Club has been somewhat better, but the piece count is lower - 500 vs. 750+ for the Premier Club - and the paint jobs are less complex, and therefore harder to mess up. There are still some Vintage Club issues, particularly the lack of fidelity to the original paint jobs, caused partly (and ironically) by better quality control: the "imitation" overspray on Running Mare and Foal Salt and Pepper being the most amusing example of that.

There’s no way to completely eliminate flaws and errors in anything that’s mass-produced, even in relatively small runs. Things can get better - they can always get better - but perfection? Rarer than a Wedgewood Blue Antelope.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

More is Not Always Better

This model was one of the unexpected delights of a recent box lot:

Easily the prettiest Gloss Palomino Fighting Stallion I’ve ever owned! I knew he was in there when I purchased the lot, but since I haven’t had much luck with Gloss Palomino Fighters, I wasn’t expecting much.

What makes him outstanding isn’t necessarily his condition. He’s not perfect - there’s yellowing, and a few minor rubs - but the amount of money and/or effort I’d need to upgrade him to a "live show quality/live show ready" piece means he’s probably sticking around a while.

His color is really nice - sort of halfway between the Orangey Palomino he was when he was issued, and the Honey most of the early Gloss Palominos turn into. He’s deeply glossed too, typical of earlier pieces, ca. 1961/2. (He was a part of the ca. 1959-1962 box lot, so that makes sense.)

No, what makes him swoon-worthy is his body shading: this model has some of the nicest body shading I’ve seen on any Vintage, Original Finish model. Whoever painted him was either one of the better painters on staff, or was having an exceptional day at work.

"Body Shading" is the term I use to describe monochromatic (single color) paint jobs where shading is achieved by working with the musculature of the model itself, and using the underlying plastic as a secondary color. Lighter areas are lighter because there’s less paint there, and darker areas are darker because there’s more.

All it took for a richly shaded finish back then was a single color, applied with a deft touch. Some practice and talent played a part too, obviously; I’ve had my share of flat-looking Vintage pieces, especially on the Palomino Fighter. That’s why this guy stands out so for me!

The "Body Shading" technique was the primary way of shading models throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, but not the only way. With Alabaster models, for example, they had to take the opposite approach: contrast was achieved by shading the grooves of the musculature directly, usually with a fine gray line.

Executing the "Linear Shading" technique well also took some skills and practice; I’ve seen a few examples that looked like they were tagged by unusually incompetent graffiti artists. 

Both techniques are still used today, but usually in tandem with other techniques, and multiple layers of paint. As this Fighting Stallion shows, more is not always better.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


Hobby resolutions: focus on collecting/upgrading the dogs, upgrading my pre-Reeves Proud Arabians, and completing the Roemer collection; finish sorting and archiving the latest ephemera acquisitions; and finally, doing a 5 percent herd reduction for space reasons.

That last item might not sound like much, but that will cull about 100 pieces from the collection, mostly Traditionals and Classics. (No Stablemates! I can hide those anywhere.)

I got home late from work yesterday, and I’ve spent most of my day off sorting through my giant box of unfinished sewing projects (another resolution), so the Glacier who arrived yesterday will not get his glorious unveiling until Monday at the earliest.

Though I’m a little scared to even open him up, at this point. Not out of possible disappointment - that's an uncomfortably narrow box he's in - but because of the prices realized by a couple of them on eBay this week.

I’ll be up front with y’all and confess that I come from a working class background: my family thinks splurging on an occasional Big Gulp and a bag of Doritos is wanton excess. Investing more than $250 on any model makes me uneasy, even if I know it is worth more - or will be in the future.

And I’ve also spent a lot of time at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales and antique shops, and I’ve seen the fallout of collectible "investment" bubbles everywhere, new and old.

The current prices for Glacier are part of a bubble. That bubble will pop soon, if it hasn’t already, but it will leave us with a legacy of Glaciers listed at hyperinflated prices for a while.

The 1984 Just About Horses Saddlebred Weanling was like that for a long time. Because of the flawed way they were distributed (by mail, and not limited to one per person), it created a lot of frustrated demand. The prices at one point reached the $200-350 level - and that was in the late 1980s and early 1990s!

I went without one for years (decades, actually) until the prices finally dropped to the $100 level, which seemed more reasonable and fair for a Special Run model with a 1000 piece run and some historical significance.

Prices will come down, eventually, because they have to. The hobby does not have enough hobbyists at that income or intensity level to sustain them.  The handful of buyers who can afford them don't want them or already have them, and the buyers who do want them can't afford them - or justify the purchase financially.

It might take a while; we've all seen certain models on eBay and MH$P that have been there for years. (In some of my more annoyed moments, I find myself gesticulating at the screen and yelling "Just cut the darn price and let it go, already!")

Glaciers will never be "cheap" - he was a 40 piece Special Run, in a popular Decorator color, on a mold with very few releases - but they’ll become affordable. Or at least, not unimaginably unattainable. (Still waiting for that moment on Marshall, probably in vain. Alas!)