Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Working Towards a Better Average

Work ran late Saturday night, so I was in no condition to go to the flea market on the first Sunday of the season. I wasn’t too upset, because I found this lovely pair at a local Salvation Army Store, a couple days prior:

The #3055 Classics Arabian Stallion and Mare; both have gray hooves, which dates them closer the end of their production run, and that ran from 1973 through 1991.

Earlier variations of the Stallion and Mare have tan hooves, and the earliest have different markings: an added star on the Stallion, and two (hind) stockings instead of four on the Mare. Those changes didn’t occur simultaneously - Star-faced Stallions aren’t difficult to find, but Two-stocking Mares are uncommon - but the variation history of the original Classics Arabian Family is a longer and more complicated post for another time.

Considering the fact that I fished them out of a large dump pile of used toys, they are in remarkably good condition. I must have found them not long after they were consigned to the heap! I can see only minimal playwear and damage.

The roughness of the seams and overall construction quality, on the other hand…that’s the topic I wanted to focus on a bit today.

For their time period, the seam quality of these two models is about average. I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse. If I had bought the selfsame set back in the 1980s, I would have been neither surprised nor appalled by what I would have seen when I opened the box.

Would they have been considered "Live Show Quality" back then? Maybe, maybe not; as the hobby cliché goes, it would have depended on what was on the table that day. 

We were not unfamiliar with the concept of handpicking back then, so I imagine a somewhat experienced hobbyist (with more than one live show on her resume) might have weighed her options, and could have considered them performance prospects.

Even back then, performance judging was weighted more towards the quality of the tack and the  accuracy and appropriateness of the setup, than the horse. That’s what we told ourselves, anyway. All too often (as is the case today) the prettiest or most elaborate had the upper hand, regardless of quality or fidelity.

When I see rants about the quality control issues today and how great models were "back in the day", my mind goes back to the models of the 1970s and 1980s, typified by this Stallion and Mare. We remember the bests of things, and the worsts of things. What was average tends to fade from memory because it is average.

Did we want and hope for a "better average" back then? Oh, heck yeah! We made our complaints known, viable competition arose, and things starred getting better.

They will continue to do so, though most of the improvements that need to be made today feel almost insignificant compared to what has been made.

BTW, I spent a good 10 to 15 minutes searching in vain for the matching Foal, but he never showed up. I did manage to score a more recent Breyer doll and a Little Bits body, so all my time spelunking wasn’t completely wasted.


Susan said...

Those two Arabians are a nice find and indeed would lessen my disappointment of missing opening day at the flea market. :) I look forward to seeing your flea market finds this year. :)

Jenzy said...

I didn't even realize there were two different hooves variations. Just looked at my two mares and stallions and I have both. Squeee!!!!

xyzzy said...

Funny thing — I almost never find Breyers, but a couple of years ago, I found a late-80s CAF from the same era at a garage sale. Now I guess I know where her parents were... ;)

I think that seam/paint issues on today's models stand out because the deeply-carved muscles direct the eye to the body's detail, while the old smoother muscle style causes the person to focus on the body's general outline. Just my theory, though.