Sunday, May 31, 2015

Judgment Calls

I got lucky on eBay last week a scored a good - and cheap! - body box lot. When I mean good, I mean it included (a) better than average Classics, and (b) a couple of bodies I could use. Also included in this lot were these two pieces:

The Running Foal is a very loved and abused Chalky from the 1970s; it was the most damaged item in the lot, naturally. Yet in today’s superheated Chalky market, even a model in this condition is worth something.

That wasn’t the case even a few years ago, when I found myself selling a very sad-looking Chalky Adios to someone who fully intended on customizing it. I really didn’t have much of a choice in that matter; I needed the money, and no one else seemed interested in him.

As far as other models that fit this equation - rare, but trashed - I really don’t have a firm opinion on what should be done with them. Of course I’d rather have someone keep them Original Finish, but body quality is body quality: sometimes you have to let a few go.

In regards to the question of restoration, I am neither for it, nor against it. My personal preference is for minimal restoration: repair the breaks, unyellow it, clean it up, stabilize it (add a leg to stand on, if necessary). I might do a few touch ups, as long as they’re not obtrusive.

But if someone wants to do a full restore on him, I’m good with that, too. Which is why this guy is going on the regular portion of my sales list, and not being tossed in the body box like the rest of the lot will be. Might as well minimize any further damage, right?

The Kelso is a little better - rough, but in a less breathtaking way. What’s interesting about him is that he’s an early Classics Racehorse without the mold mark; the first batch or two of the Racehorses didn’t get the mold stamp.

We’re not sure why the mold marks happened later - either it was forgotten in the rush to get them to market, or (my theory) they were still hammering out the legal details of the leasing contracts. This lack of a mold mark sometimes works in our favor at the flea market or yard sale: no mold mark = not a Breyer!

He has the beautiful body shading typical of the early Classics, but he also has the rough seams, burrs, fuzzy gray overspray, and sloppy detail work that was also part of the package back then.

He’s going straight to the body box, though: he’s not someone I need right now, and he’s just common enough that he doesn’t merit shelf space. He’s got excellent mold detail, and is a Love Classic, so I doubt he’ll stay in there long.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

1990: The Year of Shiny and Chrome

In another forum and in pursuit of another nerdy passion, discussion turned to the quality and degree of worldbuilding in Max Max: Fury Road. In particular, the dialogue: in a world that’s worn, rusted and broken, the words "shiny" and "chrome" have become slang for awesome/glorious/wonderful.

I laughed to myself a bit when I read it: in a vocal segment of the model horse community, shiny and metallic are already considered positive attributes.

Though the sentiment is not universal; indeed, in the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, Breyer ran away from making shiny and metallic things precisely because they were not considered good, in any sense of the word. The Decorator items – including the metallic Gold Charm and Florentines – had completely tanked. Hobbyists and collectors were also demanding more realistic-looking horses, and that meant more Matte Finishes and less Gloss.

The Decorators were discontinued by the mid-1960s, and Glosses gradually petered out through the 1970s, with models like the Dapple Gray Old Timer and the Brahma Bull finally making the transition to Matte in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Occasional newer Glosses did turn up in the 1970s – some of the early Stablemates, those infamous Gloss Dapple Gray Shires, randomly glossed things they’d toss in boxes just for the heck of it…

Technically, the first "modern" Glossies were the Enchanted Doll House Special Run Alabaster Family Arabians, in 1988. Other than the mold marks and changes, and the date "1988" written in ink on their bellies (under the gloss), they were nearly indistinguishable from older Gloss releases. Which is why they really didn’t make that big of an impact in the hobby world.

They were kinda boring.

The same could be said of the next new Gloss – the Western Horse in Gloss Brown Pinto, a Just About Horses SR in 1990. It was pretty much the same model as the original Vintage release, except for a slip saddle instead of the original snap. There were some minor mold and paint changes, but nothing dramatic.

It was that year, though, that we saw a more heroic return of the Gloss Finish – and finally, the return of metallic Decorators. On the same model!

That first new metallic Decorator was the Signing Party Special Run Gold Charm Secretariat. He wasn’t a perfect duplication of the Gold Charm models of old – he didn’t have the white mane and tail typical of the paint job – but we were happy to see it again, anyway.

The Glossy came a few months later: the Sears Wishbook Special Run Gloss Racehorse Set featured the Sham, the Traditional Man o’ War, and Secretariat – again!

Even though they were little more than Reissues, the Gloss Finish a thin and pale imitation of the Gloss Finishes of old, and their coloring bordered on the fluorescent (especially the Shams – yikes!) this set finally clicked for some weird reason.

Unlike the Gold Charm Secretariat or the earlier Gloss SRs, the Gloss Racehorses are still a rather desirable set among hobbyists; it is not an easy one to come by nowadays, especially complete.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tacked Up

It may have been a holiday weekend, but model horse business kept me occupied for most of it. I purchased items for the costume, tinkered with the diorama, rewrote several articles, reworked the sales list, did a bit of design work on the BreyerFest paperwork, and I just finished archiving about a year’s worth of hobby e-mails, because that’s ephemera, too: it just happens to be of the electronic sort.

FYI: as far as the Midyears go, many online dealers already have them listed on their respective web sites. It’s not my policy to recommend one online dealer over another, because I am fortunate enough to have several local toy stores from which to handpick, and my experiences ordering online (beyond the Breyer web site) have been rather limited.

If you need any other assistance, the Halloween Horse’s name is Ichabod and he’s a Fighting Stallion covered in skulls. And he glows. So awesome.

Some of the other Midyears include the Best of British releases, and a Pacer. Others, too, but I noticed the Pacer because it is a Pacer - with a yellow halter! I love it when they use more unusual or flamboyant colors on halters like that. My favorite, in that regard, would be the beautiful "Payne’s Gray" halter on the Matte Bay Quarter Horse Gelding in the 2001 Riding Academy Gift Set release for JC Penney. The funky colors used on the 2009 Surprise Quarter Horse Geldings are also cool, though maybe a shade less so because of the unattainability of the Silver Filigree, Smoke and Charcoal ones.

Molded-on tack is definitely not a thing with collectors nowadays: they want their horses clean and unadorned. All of my first three horses - the Man o’ War, the Pacer, and the Western Prancing Horse - came with molded-on tack, so I have not had much of an issue with it personally.

It’s been years since any new Breyer injection mold has come with molded-on tack or accessories (excluding ribbons and braids); the Balking Mule was the last "new" mold with any, in 1968. It wasn’t until 1995, with the release of the Fine Porcelain Premier Arabian Mare, that we started seeing new molds with molded-on tack again. Just about all of the newer molds with molded-on tack have been Nonplastic releases designed to appeal more toward the "home decorating" crowd than the collecting-playing-showing ones.

Two factors put an end to mold-on tack on plastics. The first was the moving away from the questionable practice of adapting and appropriating of molds from other companies for their own use; as I explained before, most of those early tacked-up molds were based on preexisting molds from other companies.

The second was hobbyist influence: by the late 1960s, Breyer was taking the hobbyist movement, and the advice of the individual hobbyists, more seriously. We didn’t want molded-on tack interfering with our own tack, for play or for show. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Design Challenges

Yesterday I was so tired I nearly fell asleep at dinner. I thought my exhaustion was due either to work and all its assorted little dramas finally catching up with me, or maybe it was a bit of the bug making the rounds at work.

Then I took a quick look at the all the hobby news and business that went on this week, and saw what the problem really was: it was a really busy week, hobby-wise! More Web Exclusives were released, pictures of Midyear releases (another glow-in-the-dark Halloween Special!) were floating around, I heard reports of Warehouse Specials being found at Tuesday Morning, and another BreyerFest SR picture was released (Translucent Classic Warmblood for the Souvenir Shop, named Art Nouveau!)

I think he’s pretty awesome, even if some don't think he’s Art Nouveau enough. Personally, I don’t think of the concept as French enough: Art Nouveau was more of a global movement that just happened to be very, very popular in France. Art Deco, on the other hand, did originate in France. The term Art Deco came from the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts (Exposition Internationale des Arts D√©coratifs et Industriels Modernes) held in Paris in 1925.

Reeves missed a perfect opportunity here to rerelease the Modernistic Buck and Doe - that were, most likely, originally designed and manufactured during the Art Deco era itself.

Too obscure? Possibly too hard a sell at an ostensibly "horsey" event? Probably, but a girl can dream.

What I think finally pushed me over the edge was the new BreyerFest contest - for customizing.

I was intrigued enough by this contest to spend a few rare minutes poking around my body box earlier in the week. I like the idea of the contest a lot, but when I finally read the rules I was persuaded out of participating. The winners will receive an exclusive, one-of-five piece Special Run valued at $1000(!!!)

Extremely high stakes lead to extreme behaviors; while I like to think better of my fellow hobbyists, the potential to win something really rare and/or valuable hasn't always brought out the best in us. I have enough responsibilities re: BreyerFest this year, so I’ll just stick to my more familiar heartbreaks.

If I were to design the contest, I would have either broadened the categories - more prizes, more winners, less bad behavior - or made it a little bit more like the others. That would mean adherence to a concept, and a very narrow window of time to complete it. That way it would mean that entries would be more likely created specifically for the contest, and not pulled from the shelf or made by others.

As far as concept goes, I’d go with specific molds - older, more difficult, or less popular ones that aren't considered proper body box material. Anyone can make something beautiful out of a Weather Girl or an Alborozo, but a Touch of Class or Lady Roxana? Now that’s something I’d like to see - or even compete in.

Speaking of…yes, I am aware of the "The Sound TWH Challenge". Hobby customizers of all pay grades are challenged with making a non-Big-Lick horse out of a Midnight Sun, with the sales of said models going charity.

A good idea, in spite of the fact that it seems to be a Facebook-only thing for now.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Long Horns

I was doing some Spring cleaning in my office yesterday, and made a little discovery as I was rearranging the Longhorn Bull shelf:

That the horns of the Longhorn Bull had been shortened somewhat over the years was something I already knew and understood; the 7.5 inch wingspan on the original releases is gigantic, and something of a packaging nightmare. But I didn’t realize they were shortened by two inches! (One inch per horn - from the base, I assume.)

I was so fixated on the quirky, changeable positions of the horns - up, down, turned around - that I didn’t notice the length of the horns had changed that dramatically. Holy cow!

This Palomino/Tan Longhorn is the only vintage one I have out at the moment - he’s so vintage, he even has eyewhites - so I can’t say when the shortening occurred. All of the others that I have on display are post-1998, and all have the shorter horns.

It was probably a while ago; for some reason it’s these kind of "What the… when did that happen?" changes that go unnoticed for years, while we fixate on the more inconsequential ones.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Secondary Passions

Two things got me through this week: anticipation about the new Mad Max movie (the cathartic beauty of post-apocalyptic car chases!) and a trip to the toy store to ogle some of the latest and greatest.

It wasn’t the horses that got me the most excited - though I found myself unexpectedly tempted by the lacey masking on the Chestnut Pinto Cantering Welsh Pony Smokin Doubledutch - it was this product that almost gave me palpitations:

Yes, it was the model pony pouches. It wasn't the product itself: I am reasonably proficient with a sewing machine and could whip up a half dozen on own in a lazy afternoon, if I had one. Though I do think it’s great that Reeves is bringing this hobbyist-derived innovation to the general public.

It was the fabric: the Blue ones have Gem Twist silhouettes printed on it, and the pink have Gem Twist, the Show Jumping Warmblood, and Newsworthy (and maybe Cigar? - I’m not, and wasn’t about to be, one of those people who opens up sealed packages at the store).

As someone whose secondary passion is quilting, I am stoked about the existence - as part of an official product - of Breyer-themed fabric. If they were ever to release the fabric as a separate and independent item, I would buy a bolt of each, no question.

I had a notion last year to make a quilt adapted from last year’s 25th Anniversary BreyerFest graphic. It would have been a fairly easy and straightforward applique-style quilt: they were solid silhouettes against solid backgrounds. The enemy of that idea, again, was time; like most of my other horse-themed quilt concepts, it’ll have to simmer in the "future projects" binder for now.

I have made a couple of model horse quilts in the past; one featured Hartland Tinymites that I used to teach myself applique, and another featuring the Rearing Stallion, made for a coworker. That quilt is long gone, but I made a mini quilt out of the test block for it:

I was just thinking about that Rearing Stallion quilt, actually, because I was leafing through my copy of the most current (May/June 2015) issue of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, and spotted this intriguing photo:

You might not see it from my quick and dirty scan, but the Gloss Palomino Fighter residing on the shelf is in near-mint condition, with good pinking.

Normally I go through my quilt magazines every few months and tear out the interesting articles and ideas, but this one is going straight into the model horse ephemera stash, intact.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Not sure how I managed to win an Astru:

I think I entered once on Friday; because of work and hobby-related matters, last week was a blur. That e-mail was a very pleasant sight yesterday, regardless!

The color selection on this Web Special was a little peculiar, I thought. In the Cleveland Bay mold’s short career (introduced Mid-Year 2006, as Tregoyd Journeyman) he’s already appeared in four other Gray releases. There’s Limerick, the 2008 BreyerFest SR in Gloss Dark Dappled Gray; the 2010 WEG Autograph Horse in an Aged Gray/Alabaster; and the O’Leary’s Irish Diamond, in both Matte (Regular Run) and Gloss (2010 BreyerFest Show Prize).

And later this year, we’ll be getting a fifth with Murphy, a Vintage Club Exclusive release in Vintage-style (Gloss) Dark Dapple Gray.

I kept checking the photograph to see if I could determine something special about Astru. Is he Chalky? Iridescent? In possession of the "Tinkerbell" glitter? Does he glow in the dark? The text of the e-mails makes me wonder if there's more than meets the eye here:
Like the faithful stars that shine so bright at night,
Astru is ready to trot his way into your home!
His bright and beautifully dappled grey coat is reminiscent of the bright stars that twinkle down from the midnight sky.
Even if none of those possibilities comes to pass, there is one feature that does distinguish Astru from the other Gray Cleveland Bays: his mane. All of the other Grays so far have come with the loose mane, not braided like Astru. So even if he's an "ordinary" Dapple Gray, there’s that, at least.

His name struck me as a bit peculiar too; although I consider myself a bit of an astronomy buff (I collect old astronomy textbooks!) the term "astru" was one I had either not seen or noted before. Apparently it’s a Romanian word that means "heavenly body", as in an asteroid or a comet.

It is also the name of a Hungarian Black Metal band, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Reeves was going for. Unless someone in the office has, ahem, unusual dark tastes in music...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Minor Discoveries

Here’s that Western Prancing Horse I’ve been promising all week; he’s looking a little less yucky, though he does need a bit more work before he goes on the sales list:

He’s not all that impressive, at first glance - just a standard #110 Smoke Western Prancing Horse from the late 1960s, sans saddle. But even with a model as ordinary as this, there are a couple of points worth discussing.

The first is the "souvenir" decal for Lexington, Kentucky. Those decals aren’t an unusual thing to find on a model horse - I’ve seen Breyers, Hartlands, Hagen-Renakers, and all manner of Japans with them - but they are just unusual enough that they come up as a topic from time to time in the e-mails I receive.

As something that was added to a model after it left the factory - by a gift shop or at the tourist trap - the presence or absence of a tourist decal doesn’t significantly add or subtract to a model’s value.

The only value a decal like this one adds to a model depends in the significance of the location highlighted in the sticker. In the case of this Western Prancer, it does: Lexington is a place of great significance to model horse people, as it is the home of the Kentucky Horse Park, and BreyerFest.

The second feature that struck me about the Prancer was the reins: they’re an unusually bright shade of gold. Most of the reins I see are have the same level and color of tarnish as the wire bit that’s threaded through the bit holes, but not in this case. They’re clearly made of slightly different materials.

At first I thought the reins might have been a later replacement - perhaps from a Hong Kong knockoff - but I didn’t find any evidence to support that theory. Some Hong Kong reins are made of a lighter metal (aluminum?) and don’t have the same brassy heft that Breyer reins do, but the reins here "feel" right. They just don’t look right.

This suggests is that around this time, Breyer either switched their chain rein suppliers, or the suppliers of the chain reins changed the way they made them.

It’s a minor detail, admittedly, but sometimes minor details point the way to more significant discoveries. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Green Plastic?

There’s been a bit of talk about a couple of Green Donkeys that turned up on eBay recently. Are they real? And what’s the deal with the rather interesting prices the vendors are trying to sell them for?

On the first question, yes, Breyer did use Green Tenite for a while: it was one of the more exotic colors they purchased during the Chalky Era of the early 1970s. I’ve seen it most commonly on the Standing Donkey mold, but the Mare from the Thoroughbred Mare and Foal Gift Set was also molded in it.

There are some Classic Quarter Horse Foals that come in a very light, limey green that may or may not have been related to the more vibrant "Kelly Green" of the Donkey and Thoroughbred Mare.

Most of the other Colored Tenite of the Chalky Era came in more naturalistic colors, like gray, brown or rosy-purple-pink: the rubs on Chalkies molded in those colors are still noticeable, but they don’t stand out as much as the rubs on Green ones do.

Although they are "real", most of the Green Plastic models I’ve seen floating around the model horse community are NOT Original Finish pieces. Most appear to be Chalkies stripped of the paint they wore when they shipped out of the factory, presumably because they were in an otherwise unsellable condition.

I guess you could call them "reverse" customs: instead of paint being added to the model, the paint is completely taken away. Obviously, I think it’s improper to show it as an Original Finish piece, though it has been done.

Are there authentic unpainted Colored Tenite models from the Chalky Era out there? Yes, of course. I have an unpainted opaque white plastic G1 Saddlebred, and a couple of "test shots" molded out of contaminated regrind (with little black floaty bits!) Those Lime Green Quarter Horse Foals I mentioned above are the real deal too, though I’m not sure if they were from the 1970s or not.

There may be a few genuine Kelly Green pieces from the 1970s. But I can’t recall seeing one that I could comfortably call "Factory Unpainted".

As for those prices - yeah, wishful thinking. They’re not that rare, either painted over or stripped.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Good Start

Something short today; I’ll be juggling quite a few things over the next two weeks, and I want to get it off to a good and proper start.

I think this qualifies as a "good day at the flea market":

I bought a bunch of other stuff too, but I’m sticking to the models because that’s what most of you are here for. They weren’t even all that there was, but they were the best of today’s crop. Not a bad start to the season, I think!

Everything here will be for sale, eventually. They’ll all need some serious cleaning first: the Western Prancing Horse isn’t the dirtiest, least-touchable thing I’ve ever bought, but he’s definitely in the Top Ten.

(Is it because they look like horses that some people are predisposed to storing them in barns?)

I’ll be talking about the Prancer in greater detail later in the week, once he’s made presentable. There are a couple of interesting features to this particular WPH that make him a little more interesting than your average Western Prancing Horse. 

The Rearing Stallion does have a balder-than-average face, but he isn't all that interesting to me otherwise. That mold's been a little bit of a "meh" for me lately, so that might play a part in my disinterest.

In other news, the fourth One-Day Stablemate is the G3 Thoroughbred in Dappled Rose Gray Tobiano Pinto, with fleabites, by the name of Meringue:

He’s not one of my favorites of the newer molds - his long, mulish ears kind of bother me - but oh dear, that paint job is something, isn’t it?

I sure hope they plan on making a lot of these little guys. Otherwise, there may be some issues.

Actually, there have only been a few years since they started issuing One-Day Stablemates that they’ve sold out before the end of the event, primarily when they switched over from a single release to multiple releases. It used to be that leftover One-Day Stablemates were not an uncommon sight in the Sales Tent, sometimes as early as the Sunday afternoon of the year they were released.

Last year there was a bit of progress: they managed to make enough that they are still for sale in the BreyerFest leftovers section of the web site - in boxed four-piece sets, at a slight discount. That’s how I got mine!

Judging from the online reactions, I think the One-Day Stablemates may be the "IT" items this year. While supply may not have been a problem last year, we all know that it takes a while for the lessons Reeves learns to stick.

In other words, I recommend anyone who really wants them to pre-order and/or arrange pickups. Better to be safe than sorry!