Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Foiled Again

In case you didn’t get that e-mail a few days ago, there is/will be another Special Run for Stablemates aficionados to hunt down. They hid it at the bottom of the promo e-mail for the new Pacer release Foiled Again:

Don’t miss out on a special Stablemates Version of Foiled Again available at the Hambletonian! For a day of family fun, visit Harness Racing’s Greatest Day, the $1 Million Hambletonian Day. Breyer’s special edition Stablemates version of Foiled Again will be the kid’s giveaway item, Saturday, August 8, at The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, NJ. Visit The Hambletonian at the Meadowlands for more information.

The link should be active. What it says:

Giveaway: 2015 commemorative Hambletonian baseball cap to adults and special commemorative kids gift - a limited edition Foiled Again Stable Mate (with paid admission, while supply lasts).

(Yep, that’s how they spelled it.)

There was a similar promotion for the Hambletonian’s 75th anniversary back in 2000, but in that case, it was just the Regular Run Stablemates Standardbred in Red Roan, with a specially printed sticker slapped in the center of the rosette portion of the packaging. I’m not even sure if that Reeves had any involvement with it, beyond filling the track’s order. 

Those are not that hard to come by, and not too expensive, but I think that’s largely a function of the fact that it is just a slightly repackaged Regular Run item. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t gotten around to adding one to my collection yet.

A Special Run item of a well-known racehorse that Breyer is cross-promoting may be a different order of thing.

I’d love to get one – a limited edition Stablemates Standardbred? Please and thank you! – but I am not physically a child and I can’t take yet another day off from (paying) work for horse business. I’ll just have to hope that they are plentiful enough to not be too expensive later on in the year.

The Stablemates from last year’s WEG are hovering around the $25 range, which isn’t too bad, considering especially since they were sold overseas. (Expensive for me is anything over $30 for a single item.)

Actually, I am a tiny bit fearful that some of the surprises that await in the Ninja Pit this year will be of the Stablemates variety; perhaps some of those leftovers from the 2014 WEG, and maybe even some of the Highland Pony keychains that caused a bit of a stir at Toy Fair the year before last.

Darn it, just when I was thinking it was safe to start dipping my toes back in the Stablemates pond! Another thing I have to tell myself not to worry about…

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Mysteries of BreyerFest

Well, I finally had my official "BreyerFest nightmare" last night, and it was a doozy. All I remember of it now is that it involved Polar Bears and the color purple. I vaguely recall that the resolution was a happy one, too.

I will take this as a good portent.

I haven’t been giving much thought to what the last two "mysteries" of BreyerFest - the Surprise Special Run, and the Volunteer Model - will be. I’ve been too busy dealing with other things to give them much thought.

Last year’s Volunteer Model - a Liver Chestnut Show Jumping Warmblood - was Matte, Realistic, a Solid Color, on a more modern mold: chances are that this year’s model will be something that is at least not one of those things, if not more. The model from the year previous - the Gloss Palomino Clydesdale Mare - was also a Solid Color, so something Pinto, Appaloosa or even Dappled seems a safe bet.

For the "Quelle Surprise" Special I am hoping for something that could pass for a Selle Francais - like Giselle, Gem Twist or even Newsworthy - but a few hobbyists have mentioned the Esprit and the Make A Wish/Justadream molds as a possibilities, and I could see that, too. The latter, especially: like the Roxy Surprise from a couple years back, they could switch up the manes and tails.

What’s important here is that it has to be a mold that hasn’t had a lot of previous releases, and hasn’t been done as a Surprise Special OR as a Treasure Hunt item, either: that would rule out Silver, Lady Phase, and Othello. (Seriously, what colors are left for them?)

Other than the usual assortment - at least one each of Appaloosa, Solid, and Pinto - and the Glosses, they might throw in an additional surprise to the surprise, like a Silver Filigree, Charcoal or other Deco. That went over pretty well last year - in spite of some of a few glitches - and with the upped piece counts, there ought to be at least one true "rarity" in the bunch.

While I don't think a half Matte/half Gloss Special is likely this year, I wouldn't rule it out. (If so, can it please be the Red Bay Pinto Totilas Enchante? Gloss Bays are sort of a thing with me now!)

As for the additional Mysteries that will lie within the Ninja Pit of Death, I am not even going to try and speculate. This is not for a lack of ideas, but of desire: I have other commitments that will keep me out of the Pit this year, so for the sake of my sanity I’m going to avoid even thinking about it.

Plus, the last time I wasn’t able to make it there, they dropped those "Home Decorating Show" weighted models and the super-rare German Stablemate Special Run sets, both of which haunt me still.

I’m trying to comfort myself with the thought of being able to sleep in a real bed on Thursday night, but it’s a small comfort.

So help me though, if something in there turns out to be purple, or a Bear

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hey Sailor

While everyone else is squeeing over the horse itself, it’s the box that the latest Vintage Club release Running Stallion that’s getting me all excited:

They brought back the gold foil sticker, seen only on the earliest examples of the "White Picture Boxes" from ca. 1973. Like, coincidentally, this Black Appaloosa Running Stallion example I sold recently:

The only slightly bothersome thing about the newer box is that the "picture window" is too big. In the originals, the picture window was cropped in such a way to accommodate the identifying mold and color text, or sticker.

It also just looked better, aesthetically. As my art school instructors were so fond of beating into our heads, white space is a design element, too. Don’t be afraid of it! White space improves readability by allowing you to focus on the most essential elements of the design.

Too many designers and artists feel like they need to fill up a page or image area, when all that does is create a lot of visual clutter that you feel obligated to read.

It’s not just about the box: the Breyer web site has a similar problem. Even though the site is relatively "flat" - theoretically, you don’t have to click more than a couple times to find the page you are looking for - finding them in those long lists of hyperlinks and images can be a challenge.

More is not always better.  I'd be willing to click through an extra page or two if it didn't mean staring at a single page for five minutes trying to figure out which one of the fifty-plus links will take me where I need to go.

My Running Stallion is quite nice, by the way. No significant issues - other than a slight roughness on a couple seams, similar to some of my original Running Stallions from the 1970s. Unlike those Running Stallions, though, my "Sailor" stands just fine, even on carpeting! Though I've been lucky in that regard: most of my vintage Running Stallions are not tipsy, at all.

(Maybe because, like the Stretched Morgan, I've found so many over the years that I've been able to pick and choose. Another long story, that one.)

I am please that I got the Wedgewood Blue - my favorite vintage Deco color! But I would not have been unhappy with a Gold Charm, either. From the pictures I’ve seen online, Reeves did a stellar job with the Gold Charms this time around. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chilling Out Over Lascaux

It figures that the one year I genuinely don’t have time to do any actual shopping at the Kentucky Horse Park - outside of my ticket times, and those might be a challenge to redeem too - Reeves decides to spring something on me that I’ve been begging for for years. Behold, the Caves of Lascaux, on the Zebra mold:

Between this, the Art Nouveau, and whatever the Stablemate is going to be, the Souvenir Tent is killing me! Someone on Blab recently nicknamed the Pop Up Store/Souvenir Tent the "Tent of Despair" - that sounds about right! Especially for me, this year.

I’m counting on some factors work in my favor this time, though.

First, this item is not a surprise, in any sense of the word. Surprises of any kind tend to create a feeding frenzy. The flea market mentality kicks in: Buy first, ask questions later.

Second, it’s not Silver Filigree. The mere existence of a Silver Filigree anything makes hobbyists crazy. The Zebra is just another Deco.

Third, it has decals/stenciling on it: while I don’t have an issue with them, many hobbyists would have preferred an unadorned Primitive Dun. (I tend to think that this is Reeves’s way of reserving that concept for a different Special Run or Series down the road.)

Fourth, it’s not someone or something like Misty. Aside from being the sentimental favorite of so many, last year’s Misty release also harkened back to the first Raffle Model, the Gold Florentine Misty. There’s not a lot of history or sentimentality attached to the Zebra mold.

Fifth, it’s the Zebra mold. While it has been out of circulation for ten years, and except maybe for me hobbyists haven’t been clamoring for its return. Honestly, there’s more of a desire among a certain class of hobbyists (the ones who like weird stuff) to revisit the Modernistic Buck and Doe, than the Zebra.

Sixth, the odds are that the piece count will be on the higher end, not the lower. Whenever a mold that’s been out of production for a while - like the Zebra - reappears, it means one of two things: either the piece run is going to be on the larger end, or there will be other new items on the same mold in the near future. It’s not cost-effective to drop and run a mold for just a few hundred pieces.

(Of course, that raises the possibility of a small run of Lascaux, with other small runs to follow. For the sake of my rationality, I am choosing to ignore it.)

Seventh, even though the Silver Filigree Misty "sold out" last year, the release reappeared on the web site sale of BreyerFest Leftovers a few weeks after the event, anyway.

So those are all the reasons I’m trying to convince myself to go about my BreyerFest business and chill out about the Caves of Lascaux release.

Friday, June 19, 2015


For the record, I will be trying my darndest to get to Breyer’s "Sweet Home Chicago" Exclusive Event this year. It’s within a reasonable driving distance, and I already potential traveling companions if need be. There was some business I wanted to conduct in Breyer’s "ancestral homeland" anyway, so the trip could turn into an extended weekend for me.

I sort of suspected that Chicago was going to be the location this time around, with Reeves celebrating Breyer’s 65th Anniversary this year. It’s also an anniversary for me, of sorts: it was 30 years ago that I attended Model Horse Congress, in the Chicago suburbs.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it was like a combination of BreyerFest and NAN, organized almost completely by hobbyists, for hobbyists. It was my first vacation out-of-town, without my family.

It was wonderful, beautiful and terrifying. I’ll get around to writing about it here, someday.

While I’m sure they’ll try to incorporate a drive-by of the original factory for the Event, there probably won’t be much to see there. The building is nondescript, there hasn’t been a horse in the place in nearly 30 years, and it’s not like we’ll see the ghostly shadows of models past painted on the walls or fragments of Woodgrains embedded in the pavement.

It’d be nice if we could get a historical marker or plaque, but I think we have a better shot at either organizing a National Model Horse Day, or getting "Breyer Horses" inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame.

It’s about darn time that there was an Event in this part of the country, though. In the hobby’s earliest days, the Midwest was the hub of the hobby, with Model Horse Congress being The Event. Not having had an "Exclusive Event" there in more modern times was starting to feel weird. Sure, BreyerFest is in Kentucky, and not all that hard to get to for Midwesterners, but this is a different class of thing.

The rumor going around is that the tickets may be sold individually rather than in pairs. It’s based on some vague wording in the original announcement on the web site:
"The event will be limited to 200 Collectors Club members…"
I certainly hope this is the case. Another one of my sticking points with these Events is the "two-by-two" rule on ticket buying: it effectively shuts out all of us singletons who don’t have family members as reliable back ups.

In an Event that exclusive, I’d rather have a higher percentage of the attendees actually be hobbyists. This isn’t like BreyerFest or any other convention where capacity isn’t that big an issue. The guest list is limited, and The Event is The Event: being able to wander off and do your own thing is not a part of the package.

Whether I actually get a ticket (or tickets), though, is another issue entirely. Ironically, if they do open up the tickets to individual sales, they may sell out faster than the pairs. My work schedule changed recently, and after what happened with the last Event, I’m a little fearful that I might not be online when the announcement is made.

I’ll just have to worry about it when the time comes. I have enough to worry about now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pencil Sharpener Knockoffs

Here’s another horse on a different kind of base:

Mint in Box, even! Here’s a picture of the back to show you why this is Breyer-related:

The horse itself - a knockoff the Hartland Tinymite Morgan, in this case - is about half the size of a standard Stablemate.

I vaguely remember these sharpeners when they were new, ca. 1976; they were a part of the glut of antique-looking dime store merchandise manufactured to capitalize on the Bicentennial. There was a huge range of sharpeners, usually in the shape of something old or antiquated like a treadle sewing machine, gramophone, steamboat, or coffee grinder.

These sharpeners are still pretty plentiful both online and offline, though finding a boxed item is unusual. This was a little bit before people started obsessing over keeping their collectibles Mint in Box. Some of these might have actually been used as - gasp! - actual pencil sharpeners!

This one was definitely kept as a "collectible", as it was one of several pieces in a nice-sized collection at the flea market. This is the only one I bought because it was the only horse-shaped one the dealer had. Some of the nonhorse ones were kind of cute, but saw no reason to get into pencil sharpener collecting beyond the model horse knockoffs.

I’m assuming that the manufacturer decided to appropriate these molds to represent an antique horse figurine of some sort: a bookend, a pull toy, or a doorstop. The molds that were copied were far from antiques, though: the G1 Morgan Stallion and Thoroughbred Mare were just released in plastic the year before.

Hartland Tinymites were discontinued a few years earlier, but I suspect the manufacturer might have copied him from the Hong Kong knockoffs that could have still been available at the time. These sharpeners were made in Hong Kong, too, so they might have even had an example already in hand.  

Of course, the only other sharpener I had in my knockoff collection was also the Tinymite Morgan. It’s an excellent upgrade, at least!

If Reeves is looking into another way of repurposing Stablemates into a quasi-useful object, pencil sharpeners might be a fun alternative to another keychain.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Black Stallion's Resin Prototype

I just noticed this while doing a little research for something else:

This is a picture from the 1981 JC Penney Christmas Catalog, with the pre-catalog release of the Black Stallion Race Set being offered. The Black Stallion was officially released in 1982, but was available by the Fall of 1981, mostly via mail-order. (Sorry about the poor quality of the pics today - these are scans of an old color copy.)

This wasn’t an unusual thing back then: if a mold was ready for production, they put it in production, no dithering about release dates. My Aunt Arlene got me the Classic Andalusian Family for Christmas in 1978 - she bought it straight from Bentley Sales. (I stapled the sales list and order form to my wish list!)

Maybe it’s because the Black Stallion mold has never really made much of an impression on me, and that’s why I didn’t see that it’s not an actual Black Stallion in the catalog photo, or even a Sample or Test piece: it’s the painted resin prototype, still on its sculpting base. The copy even says "Base shown not included." 


Prototypes in Christmas Catalogs are not unusual. While it is often not obvious when we see the catalog photo, it becomes obvious when we receive the ordered item. Either the mold ends up being different (like the Stud Spider scan I featured recently, for the Stud Spider Gift Set) or the paint job is off in a significant way.

In the case of the Black Stallion here, it wasn’t immediately obvious even after we had the models in hand because the model was the model, and it was painted black - there are not too many ways to change up a black paint job. The base could have been rationalized away as a prop for tippy model at an indoor photo shoot.

The reason why so many prototypes and oddballs end up as stand-ins in Christmas Catalog photo shoots is because the photos for these catalogs are shot in the Spring. If they were planning on doing a pre-release of a model being released the following year, there was a good chance that the mold and/or design would not have been finished or finalized at that point.

While I know the location of some resin prototypes, I don’t know where the Black Stallion’s would be. Even though he’s not high on my list of favorites, I wouldn’t turn him down if he did show up: I have lots of Samples, Tests, Culls and Oddities, but I still have no Resin Prototypes to my name.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Me and the Triple Crown

The flea market was excellent; some good bodies were present, but mostly I went for the non-model stuff, including a Palenske print of Whirlaway I found in a box of loose ephemera. It was dirty and damaged, but I thought it deserved a better fate than becoming part of someone’s scrapbook project. A much better looking example here:


Speaking of Triple Crown winners…

I didn’t want to be like all those other folks jumping in on the bandwagon, so even though I was home at the time and had no pressing commitments, I decided to not watch the Belmont.

You know how I have a knack for predicting upcoming Breyer releases? I used to have that same "gift" with horse racing. It’s not really a gift, as much as it’s a side effect of deep research: the more you know your stuff, the easier it is to make more-accurate-than-average predictions - sometimes even unintentionally.

I was good enough that I even briefly considered - much to my parents' horror - a career as a bookie.

I haven’t followed racing with that kind of intensity in years. It is interesting that in spite of that I still retained a bit of my horse racing senses: this was the first year I can remember since Affirmed that I didn’t dismiss the idea of another Triple Crown winner to anyone who mentioned the possibility to me.

Horse racing - especially the Triple Crown excitement of the 1970s - is what brought me into the hobby in the first place. Although I had been collecting for a few years prior, and I had been talking about the hobby with a couple of acquaintances I had met on the junior high school bus, I didn’t officially enter it until a few months after Affirmed’s Triple Crown in 1978. I received my first issue of Just About Horses shortly afterwards, and an issue of The Model Horse Shower’s Journal (via JAH) in September of that year, and it’s been downhill ever since.

If recent Breyer history is an indicator, there will be an American Pharoah model, possibly by the end of the year. In general, there haven’t been that many issues with getting permission or licensing rights. I know if I owned a famous/successful racehorse, I’d certainly be welcoming that phone call!

It can take several months or even years to create a mold from scratch; we didn't get the Classics Ruffian mold, for instance, until 1977 - a year and a half after her passing. Since they’ll want to get the model out as soon as possible, the likelihood is that they’ll reuse an already-existing mold.

I could see some slight mold modifications to an existing mold - the simple changes to manes, tails and ears that they’ve been doing for a while now. The suggestion I've seen most often is for the Lonesome Glory mold, and they’ve made changes to that mold before (for the last official Connoisseur, Mosaic), so that might be a good choice.

Second, for those still clamoring for an entirely new mold, let me remind you that only two other winners have had their own dedicated molds: Secretariat, and Citation. The Secretariat mold was not well-received, and the Citation is a G1 (Hagen-Renaker) Stablemates mold.

Everyone else - save the Christmas ornament series - has been on a repurposed mold.

There’s no shame in that. Affirmed was my guy, and I love the example they made of him on the Cigar mold - especially the one in Gloss.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Idiosyncrasies and Astru

I haven’t gotten a chance to know my Astru that well yet, since my daily schedule recently has been eat-sleep-work-BreyerFest prep. Every third day, blog post; every seventh day go to the flea market, if it’s not raining - and sleep in, when it does. He’s not shiny, metallic, luminescent, chalky or whatnot, but he seems quite pleasant, visually.

I was originally on the fence about keeping him - space issues and all that - but the more I look at him, the more likely it’ll be that I’ll keep him. If I do, I’ll probably stick to a "heavy metal" theme for his name. (Lithium?)

I’m not seeing any major issues with mine; he does have a bit of the dappled "square" that some people are having some problems with, but I don’t see that as a flaw as much as an idiosyncrasy of his particular paint job.

It’s like the "belly band" blankets on the mid-1960s Gray Appaloosas (most notably on the Family Arabians), the dappling and roaning that extended into the manes and tail on releases in the early 1970s, and the crazy lizard bi-eyes that appeared in early 1997. They may be "flaws" in an aesthetic sense, but not in a technical one. The mistake was more in the design, than the execution.

I always find it interesting of the way these things are perceived in-the-hobby versus out-of-the-hobby. The nonhobby public, in general, tends to interpret visual peculiarities as something inherent to the piece itself. And if something does look a little more off than average, it is still seen as either intentional, or an inevitable consequence of the object’s aging process. That’s why we see yellowing not described as a flaw in eBay listings, for instance, but as the color "cream"!

The hobby public perceives any model that doesn’t look either (a) exactly like the portrait model or breed in question, or (b) exactly like the catalog prototype model as defective. Or worse than defective - almost a betrayal!

The fact that each group judges to different standards accounts a lot for those differing perceptions. People who see Breyers as just another class of vintage collectible objects aren’t looking for the same flaws that people who see Breyers as potential show horses are.

The rest could be ascribed, on one hand, to the general public’s lack of knowledge about horse and model stuff, and on the other to the hobby’s obsession with perfectibility - that since we have the means to create "perfect" representations, that anything less than perfect has little worth.

I guess I fall somewhere in the middle; while I’d like my models to be as close to perfect and accurate as possible, I haven’t done that much live showing in recent years. Most of my interaction with my models has been as collectible objects.

I worked in an injection molding plant for several years, too - administratively and technically - so my awareness of the limitations inherent in the process probably affects my perceptions, as well.

When you've seen the entire process - from concept to execution - and all the points at which things could go oh-so-wrong, close enough becomes good enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Some APH Tests

It's been one of those days. So here's are some pictures for you to ogle at:

While Test Colors that utilize the original Appaloosa Performance Horse paint job are almost plentiful, Test Colors on the Appaloosa Performance Horse mold itself are not. The reasons why are obvious: the mold is very "old school" Appaloosa and not very flashy. The two vintage photos that I have from Marney's files are both, no surprise, Appaloosas. Here's the other guy:

Although both models appear to be from the mid-1970s - and may possibly even be Preproduction pieces - they utilize a softer, finer speckling technique to their roaning that wasn't used on a production run item until the later 1980s.

At the point these two were made, the only other roans in production were the "Freckle" Red Roans on the Running Stallion, Lying Down and Scratching Foal. So Breyer had the technical capability to make more realistic roans, and chose not to.


There are a few more recent APH Tests floating around, including that fabulous frame overo piece for the BreyerFest auction a little while back, and somewhere, out there, the Test piece they used as a stand-in for the Stud Spider in the 1977 J.C. Penney Christmas Catalog.

Wanna talk about grails? Sigh...