Saturday, February 28, 2015

British Relations

I don’t have anywhere else to put this, but as I was catching up on the news earlier today I came across this picture, and I think the hobby needs to see it:

That pretty much sums up my early experience in the hobby, ca. 1978-79. There are so many SF and Fantasy references in pre-Internet model horse newsletters and zines that a reasonable argument could be made that the hobby ought to be categorized as another subsection of that fandom.

Now for something more timely.

Here are some actual in-the-flesh pics of some of the Best of British line, including the mysterious reappearance - again - of the G1 H-R Draft Horse in the Stablemates set (as a Suffolk Punch). Not included are those of an upcoming mold, a new Fell Pony named Waverhead Model IV, by Kathleen Moody. There’s a picture of her with the original sculpt at BreyerFest last year:

I don’t know much more about the Best of British line than anyone else does, though if I had the energy and gumption I could probably pull a few strings and change that. Rumor has it that the launch will be in the UK first (naturally) followed by a US/worldwide release by Summer, with more items added to the line by Fall, including the Fell.

I’ll guess that his release will be tied somehow to the "international collector days" mentioned in the last Just About Horses annual - one in Canada, and one overseas.

In light of the recent controversies, it’s interesting to see just how many British breeds and/or British celebrity horses Breyer already has in its lineup, from the Clydesdale Stallion (ca. 1958) forward. Just speaking of Traditional molds, there’s the entire Clydesdale Family, the Traditional Shetland, the Bell-bottomed Shire, the Cantering Welsh Pony, Bouncer, Aristocrat, Llanarth True Briton, Black Beauty (ad infinitum).

More is always better, and better is always better, but objectively there’s been no shortage of "British" critters in Breyer’s past. What there has been - until recently - is a shortage of ponies, British or otherwise.

Think about all the times in the past when a new pony release meant one of four things: another Shetland, another Cantering Welsh, another Haflinger, or another Pony of the Americas. (And sometimes for variety’s sake, a Classics Merrylegs.) We had other pony molds, like Misty and Stormy, the Galiceno, Henry the Fjord, and Midnight Tango, but they rarely got a lot of love in the form of new releases.

Some molds, like the Hackney Aristocrat, didn’t see a lot of action because they were not well-received. But the others? Heck if I know.

The turning points came Flash in 2004 and Bouncer in 2007 - two well-received molds who have since been released in a rainbow of colors. Newsworthy arrived in 2008, and was a more modest hit; in 2011 couple of Classics-scale Eberl Pony molds received more acclaim, then late last year came Croi Damhsa.

And later this year we will be getting a Fell.

So things are getting better on the pony front, anyway. Now about that shortage of Draft Foal molds…

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whatever Will Be

As I was culling my way through some boxes over the weekend (the parts where I wasn’t asleep. Nasty little head cold!) I came across the Proud Arabian Stallion Kalico, a 1999 Show Special Run who I thought was especially pretty when I bought him.

And I still do, because he survived the cull. There’s something about the combination of Tobiano Pinto on the Proud Arabian Stallion mold that seems to work for me; I also am rather fond of the 2009 Volunteer Special After Party. I think the pinto patterning on both of them breaks up the mold visually, and makes him look a little less like the large side of beef he sometimes comes across as, especially in darker and less carefully shaded colors.

Even though he’s one of the less desirable Volunteer Specials, After Party’s price is still a bit too high for my budget.

I am going to assume the same situation will apply to this year’s Saturday Raffle piece, too, another Tobiano Pinto PAS, named Que Sera Sera. Ooh look, mapping!

Because even though it is a Proud Arabian Stallion, it’s still a Raffle Model, and there are enough Proud Arabian Stallion fans out there to make winning difficult, and reselling profitable and not too painless for less interested winners. My Kalico wouldn’t mind a long-term visit from his French cousin (Toile?), but alas, he’d have to fly coach.

Interest in the mold does seem to be on the upswing, which I attribute to partly to the upswing in "vintage" molds in general, to some rather nice recent Auction pieces (remember that beautiful Gloss Black Appaloosa?) and the last Exclusive Event rarity, the Gloss Chestnut Beignet.

As always, a nice paint job can cure a lot of ills. (Though not my cold. Probably.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

For The Third Time

He’s a beautiful model, actually, though saddled with a rather unimaginative name: Le Taureau. It’s French for The Bull.

Still on the fence whether or not he’ll be on my buy list: I’m going through another one of my "I own too much stuff" phases, and I’m trying to buy less of everything, in general, outside of incidental finds at local thrift stores. (Still looking to replace that stolen scarf!)

Another reason for my ennui about him? This is the third go-round for the Spanish Fighting Bull as a "Stand in Line/Ticket" Special Run. Several of the horse molds have reached that milestone, but he is the first Nonhorse mold so far. His first appearance was in 1999, as the Red Roan Flint, and again in 2004 as the gray-brown pinto Magnifico.

The Brighty has been a BreyerFest Special three times, as well, but only once - 2005’s Oliver - as a Ticket SR. He was a Diorama Contest Prize in 2010 (the Red Dun Pinto Cameo) and a Store Special in 2013 (Tennessee Titan).

The Small Poodle has appeared twice - or five times, depending on how you count the "Surprise Poodle Raffle" of 1997, where they raffled off four pieces each of four different colors: Gray, White, Apricot and Gloss Black. The other time being the pink Cotton Candy in 2009.

The Longhorn Bull has appeared twice (2001’s Mesquite, and 2007’s Alamo), as has the Pig (1999’s Oreo, and 2013’s Short Ribs). All of the other Nonhorses have appeared only once, if at all.

Nonhorse molds that haven’t shown up as BreyerFest SRs yet include: the Brahma Bull, the Polled Hereford Bull, the Polled Walking Angus Bull, the Standing Black Angus Bull, the Elk, the Moose, the Deer Family, the Large Poodle, the Pronghorn Antelope, the Bighorn Ram, the Zebra, the Bassett Hound, the Standing Donkey…

It’s a way longer list than even I expected, even if we factor out the handful of these molds that have appeared in the auctions, like the Glow-in-the-Dark Elk, and the infamous "Fruit Stripe" Zebra.

Some of these would be a tough sell  - Glacier aside, how many things can you do with the Pronghorn Antelope? - and others would probably be cost-prohibitive, like the Elk and Moose and their delicate antlers. Benji and Tiffany pretty much tanked when they were released, so a new release of either of those seems unlikely, no matter how cleverly you could work it into a theme.

Even so, four of the Bull molds: Inconceivable! None of them as exciting as the Spanish Fighting Bull, perhaps, but still deserving of some time in the blistering hot Kentucky-in-July sun.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rather Roundabout Rationalizations

Oddly, I feel a little disappointed that the Nonhorse Special Run for BreyerFest is probably going to be on a Spanish Fighting Bull.

Even thought it’s an activity most associated with Spain, bullfighting also occurs in France, for better or worse. Here’s a picture of a member of La Race Espagnole in a color similar to the preview picture:

(Just a head’s up: this is very addictive web site for minutiae-obsessed folks like us. Oh, the customizing possibilities!)

My disappointment stems not from the fact that it’s a Fighting Bull release, and the spectre of bullfighting that it brings up, though I do find that problematic. Most of my disappointment is that I got myself all het up about the possibility of another Dog or Cat release.

The decision on Reeves’s part was a no-brainer: cattle molds sell better than the Cats and Dogs, period. The Creepy Meow "Patches", the Collie "Jester", the Poodle "Cotton Candy", the Saint Bernard "Beethoven"? All had leftovers, some for years. Cattle? Mostly sell-outs.

Well, I can always hold out hope for a little something in the "Grande Marche Souvenir Shop". If I can manage to make it in this year before everything sells out there, too.

Getting back to the oddness of the mold selection, I did a little research that makes it seem a little less odd. First and foremost, the stock is being considered for inclusion in an effort to create - or recreate - a low-maintenance cattle breed that could essentially defend itself against large predators. (Could you imagine a Fighting Bull and Cougar Gift Set? That could be neat!)

In the past, the Fighting Cattle breeds were also used in an attempt to recreate the ancient Aurochs, a now extinct primitive wild ox that was essentially a game animal in Europe. Some reconstructions on this Wikipedia page bear more than a passing resemblance to the Fighting Bull mold:

There’s an excellent illustration there of an Aurochs fighting off a pack of wolves, in a pose very similar to the Breyer.

One of the earlier reconstruction efforts was, alas, tied to a rather dark time in human history, and for less than enlightened purposes. More modern efforts focus on the hope that a recreation could, in addition to assisting cattle breeders, also help fill the place of its wild ancestor in the European landscape.

Also, Aurochs are prominently illustrated in the famous Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, in southwestern France. That'd be a rather roundabout way of getting a cattle mold into the SR lineup, but a better attempt than others (like the Stretched Morgan in the British-themed year. Still scratching our heads over that one.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Catching Up Is Hard To Do

The overnight project will be wrapping up this week, thank goodness; it’s not the hours, but being out of sync with the rest of the world that’s been starting to get to me a little. Am I a half-day ahead, or a half-day behind? I have a hard time telling.

I’m tempted by the latest Grab Bag offer, but unless a must-have turns up in one of the boxes, I’ll probably give it a pass. I have too much stuff in my sales box already anyway, and I’ve hardly made a dent in the latest culling effort.

Like everyone else, I am also intrigued by the color mix of the AQHA 75th Anniversary Quarter Horses. Roan and Dun have been mentioned in the PR materials but only Bay, Chestnut and Palomino have shown up so far. Allegedly the color mix is going to be closely tied to the proportion of each color in the registry, which means … we’re going to be seeing a lot of Chestnuts (about 33 percent of QHs registered) and Bays (20 percent).

In fact, that’s what the majority of AQHA mold releases have been so far to date, outside of a smattering of Roans and the Aged Gray #1242 Joe Bailey’s King. The selection of colors in its past - and the selection and percentage of colors they are planning with this new release - tell me that Reeves knows who their target audience for this mold is: real-world live Quarter Horse owners and breeders. Not hobbyists.

The AQHA Horse is not exactly beloved by the hobby community anyway, for a variety of reasons mostly related to its rather plain and homely nature. There’s also some controversy about the mold’s origins, but I’d rather not dive into that thicket today.

He’s not my favorite mold, either; all I have of him is the QVC version in the "wrong" shade of Chestnut, and a Pretty Buck who may or may not be a Sample. He was a little something I picked up in the NPOD in its early days, when most Samples were not distinguished, or all that distinguishable.  I bought him because I liked his paintjob - supposedly Buckskin, but very reminiscent of "Five-Gaiter Sorrel", a favorite color of mine.

I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Golden Buckskin or some variety of Black; the only Buckskin we’ve had so far on the mold has been the Pretty Buck, and the closest we’ve gotten to Black has been the Blue Roan - the original #1160 in 2002 and the recent Reissue. It hasn’t appeared in any flavor of Decorator or even Glossy, outside of a few oddities. I get the feeling we probably won’t be seeing too many of either in the Anniversary release, even if they do decide to get wild and crazy on us.

There’s an interesting question: if they make a Silver Filigree AQHA Horse, will anyone buy it? I would, but you know I’m weird.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In the Family

Today needs a picture of a puppy. Here’s Vita, being rudely awakened from her beauty sleep yesterday:

I had a coworker that I had affectionately nicknamed "my little puppy", because she reminded me a little of Vita: small in stature, with short tousled hair, a sly and subtle sense of humor, and always first among us to greet and comfort others.

Sharon passed away earlier this week, suddenly and unexpectedly. We’re all taking it very, very hard at work. She was loved by everyone who knew her: I can think of no better epitaph for anyone.

(BTW, Vita has been a most effective grief counselor this week. When she's bad, she's Bad, but when she's good she's Wonderful.)

On a lighter note and slightly more cheerful note, here’s what I was going to write about this week - the Breyer Bolo Tie.

This is an example of one of the original releases that I found (of course) at the local flea market. One of the horn tips on the skull is broken, but since you don’t see them " in the wild" very often, I was happy just to rescue it.

The Bolo Tie was Breyer’s first retail "wearable" item, being released in 1972 and lingering in the line through 1976. Although it wasn’t hugely popular, it is also not a real difficult item to find in hobbyist circles: I think a lot of hobbyists bought them just for their sheer oddness, thus keeping most of them "in the family".

It was released with either black or brown woven plastic strings under the same number, #501. It was sculpted by Bob Scriver, who over a decade later gave us the Traditional Buckshot mold.

The Bolo Tie was reissued at Breyerfest as a "surprise" Special Run, in the arena sales area before it earned its "NPOD" sobriquet. First in 1998 in a similar colorway - charcoal gray with either brown or black woven leather strings - and then in 2000 in metallic gold and silver.

The SRs sell for about the same price the originals do, when they come up for sale: most of the people who bought them in the store have also kept them. Although rare, in a technical sense, they’re one of those specialty items that appeals mostly to nerdier among us. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Not What She Seems

One of the advantages of switching to overnights at work for the time being is that I’ve managed to miss most of the drama involving Copperfox. It’s kind of hard getting angry or righteous at 7 a.m. in the morning, after working the previous 12 hours.

As for my opinions of the matter itself, I’ll have to decline on commenting, as I was once in a very similar position myself many years ago. Nothing that progressed to the point of incurring any legal or financial burdens, fortunately, but it did provide me some insight and and a certain degree of circumspection.

Here’s another little nugget I unearthed recently:

At first glance, she looks like a Buckskin Touch of Class. Since the Touch of Class mold was never released in Buckskin, either as a Regular or Special Run, the first assumption would be that she’s either a Test Color or a variation, right?

Well, that’s what I thought when I bought her, too. You don't see many Tests, Variations or Oddities of the Touch of Class; she's not the most popular of molds, so she doesn't get around much. As you likely know by now, I sort of have a thing for Tests and Oddities on unpopular things, so I was somewhat excited when I came across her on the Internet some time ago.

However, when I received her it was very obvious that she was a Shrinky who had color shifted in a particularly appealing way: to a Golden Buckskin, instead of the more typical Greenish or Grayish variety.

Funny how slight changes in the paint formulas can lead to such different chemical reactions!

It's probably a moot point with this Touch of Class, since she's not the kind of thing most hobbyists would take to a show anyway, but I've often wondered how we'd classify something like her.

While it has some similarities to the situation we have with older Breyer Palominos, in this case the color has changed not from one shade to another, but from one thing (Bay) to another thing (Buckskin).

Yes, I am aware that Buckskin is a dilution of Bay, genetically, but we're talking paint and intent here. She wasn't meant to be Buckskin: when she came out of the factory, she was a run-of-the-mill Bay. It was a fortunate combination of chemistry and environment made her the way she is today.

Perhaps we can create a "fun" class for Bloaties, Shrinkies, and other ne'er-do-wells who would otherwise be collectible? We all have a few environmentally-challenged beloveds in the herd just itching to get in the ring, even if only in jest...

I wouldn’t mind seeing a Touch of Class in this color for reals, but considering the lack of popularity of this mold, it seems to be a ways off. Especially since she was just released this year in flaxen chestnut in the new #1727 "Let’s Go Racing" set.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

All Dalled Up

I’ve decided that this month I’m going to devote a little time to shuffling and reorganizing the collection, a shelf or a box a day. It seems a less intimidating task that way, plus it gives me the opportunity to stockpile some photos for future posts and topics.

First up are a couple of "office buddies" who are going back into storage; a pair of Bell-bottomed Shires are taking their place in the desktop rotation:

The #85 Dall Sheep was probably released in 1970, shortly after the Bighorn Ram mold it was based on was introduced; the ephemera of that era is, to be charitable, less than clear on the subject. While the original release of the Bighorn Ram continued in production through 1980, the Dall Sheep was discontinued in 1973.

As you can see, in spite of his relatively short production run, he came in two distinct color variations: Gray, and Tan. The Gray ones seem to be more common than the Tan, but I don’t know to what degree. I’m not even sure which variation came first. There are, supposedly, a few pieces out there that have a mix of gray and tan shading, but I can’t recall seeing one personally.

Even though the Gray one may be the more common of the two, I prefer him to the Tan, if only because blue-gray color of the paint contrasts nicely with his pretty brown eyes, an unusual feature for any Breyer release from the 1970s. It’d be decades before see brown eyes again on any Breyer production piece, Horse or Nonhorse.

Although it’s a relatively uncommon Nonhorse release, Dall Sheep aren’t too expensive or too difficult to find. The only exception to that would be if you’re looking for one with a Blue Ribbon Sticker: the few I’ve seen always ended up a little bit beyond my financial comfort zone.

Monday, February 2, 2015


FYI: This week starts the overnight project at work, so I might be even harder to get a hold of for a while. On the plus side, the schedule will be a set one rather than my usual on-call one; on the other hand, it’s overnights, so I’ll probably be sleeping through breaking news and any potential web site surprises.

I didn’t win a Solar because I didn’t enter for him. I did really like him, but I didn’t love him, and I thought it’d be much better for someone who loved him to win him outright rather than by proxy. I’ve never had much luck doing that, anyway.

I have to admit that when I read the e-mail about him, describing him as "The first horse in our Celestial series", these are the "Celestials" that came to mind: Link 1  Link 2

Comic book artist Jack Kirby at his most cosmic! Come to think of it, if Jack Kirby were to design a model horse, Solar would probably be a pretty good approximation: a large, dynamic two-page spread of a horse that might not work biomechanically, but still manages to work visually.

(And if you’re looking for some inspiration in naming your own Solar, follow the links. I’m partial to "Exitar" myself.)

In other news worth commenting on, it appears that they are actually going to do something about the Glossy Prize situation at the Youth and Children’s Show: scaling the prizes back to Limited Editions, Web Specials, and Regular Runs. There will still be some actual Glosses given to the Grand and Reserve, but they will be identical to the Section prizes in the Open Show.

Thus providing much less temptation to the parents and guardians of potential entrants to enhance their charges’ showstrings, and encourage older and/or more competitive entrants to move up to the Open Show.

I know there’s some concern that the kids will get "less desirable" Web Specials and Limited Editions foisted upon them, but I don’t think that’s a foregone conclusion.

Even with popular and very desirable Web Specials and Exclusives, there’s always going to be a "failure rate" on purchases: entering for Web Specials is easy, but sometimes coming up with the money when the time comes is hard.

With a model like Solar - a run of 350 pieces - a very modest failure rate of two percent translates into seven models. Those are the kind of models that we often see in the sales area/NPOD, and that many collectors assume are rejects or returns. A few of them may be, but most of them are there simply because of a lack of funds.

The real question is whether or not Reeves will make the right decisions about what models to choose as prizes. Models that they have specifically designed for younger hobbyists haven’t always gone over so well.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.