Friday, July 31, 2015

Rainy Parade

Alas, I was not visited by the Gloss Fairy this year at BreyerFest.

The last time I missed the Ninja Pit was in 2007, due to volunteer commitments; that’s when they tossed in the then-mysterious weighted Home Decorating models and super-rare German Stablemates Sets.

So it came as no surprise that when I had to skip it this year because of the wedding and volunteer commitments (again) that rare stray Glossies, some of last year’s Silver Charms, and other former prize models showed up.

I saw it coming the day before.

When I was taking care of some volunteer business at the Park Thursday afternoon, I took a wide swing by the Pit and saw Glossy Things in the distance, and sighed. I’ve had my share of fabulous finds over the years, so I should complain too loudly. But it did sting a bit still, especially since some of the models found included ones that I busted my behind to win, unsuccessfully.

I did end up getting a nice Sample of the Reissue/Warehouse Find Smoky, and a couple of variations of the new Polled Hereford Bull release, but that was the extent of what I bought in the NPOD this year. That was one of the reasons why I came home with money.

My number draws for the Special Run lines were bad, and I only managed to get one Quelle Surprise Lonesome Glory, and the commonest of the lot, too: the Matte Chestnut Overo. He’s actually quite lovely and well-executed; all four colors were, I thought.

But of the four, my favorite had to be the Cremello/Perlino/Pearl or whatever it was, which just coincidentally happened to be the rarest. (I wouldn’t have minded the Appaloosa one, either. I’ve been loving those Dark Bays lately.) My luck on previous surprise models has been really good, so even that didn’t dampen my mood too much, on its own.

Then came the Costume Contest. I thought I was playing it safe with Le Petit Prince. I’ll let Wikipedia explain why:
The novella is the 3rd most-translated book in the world and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects (as well as Braille), selling nearly two million copies annually with sales totaling over 140 million copies worldwide,‪ it has become one of the best-selling books ever published. 
There’s also a movie coming out very shortly:

But after the fifth person walked up to me backstage and asked who I was supposed to be, my heart sank. I felt like the only person in Kentucky who took French class.

I put on the brave face anyway. Not only did I not win, I ended up with a dented fender in the Alltech Arena parking lot.

Any one of these incidents wouldn’t have been all that traumatic: upsetting yes, but not in a want-to-hide-under-the-covers way. But all those little raindrops – plus Chicago, plus the weather, plus all the other usual dramas of Kentucky – combined to rain rather profusely on my parade.

There’s always next year. I’m less emotionally invested in a “Rio Carnival” theme, so that might help.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Newer Guy

My preliminary inventory says that I came home with money, or at the very least broke even (if I factor in the other expenses – i.e. the car issue). This is another thing to be thankful for, right?

To clarify, I didn’t get the Marshall; other models wandered into the room or into my line of sight, and took priority. Like this guy, down front: the “Matte” Walking Horned Hereford I’d been looking for, at last!

If you were to see him by himself, you might define him as Semi-Gloss, but set him next to a true vintage Gloss – here, a real oldie straight out of the late 1950s/early 1960s – and the difference in the “soft” highlights of the Matte and the “hard” highlights of the Gloss is more obvious.

(Sorry for the weird lighting effects – still working out the kinks with the new camera. But the yellowing on the newer guy is genuine.)

I was very surprised to find him in the Black Horse Ranch Rehoming Sale room, late Friday night, I think? For a variety of reasons I wasn’t able to get into the room any earlier – aside from the scheduling conflicts, I am not a part of the Facebook scene, at all, and the first rounds were given over exclusively to the Facebook participants.

(Not something I’m a fan of, hobby-wise – the last thing on Earth the hobby needs is to wall itself off in gated communities on the Internet – but that’s a separate topic.)

But anyway, in spite of it all, I still managed to glean this treasure from the chaff. That’s sort of my thing, really: pulling that one thing out of a room or collection that nobody else notices.

The Matte Walking Horned Hereford is a genuine rarity, especially when you consider the entirety of the mold’s run before it. From ca. 1956 through the majority of the 1970s – twenty plus years – he came in Gloss, with only the very tail end of the run coming in Matte/Semi-Gloss.

Exactly how long, I’m not sure; the Nonhorse molds were slow but steady sellers, and actual production could well have ceased a few years prior to 1981.

He's another example of how Glossy isn't always all that. Though I doubt that Reeves will ever put the switcheroo on the BreyerFest Surprise Special Runs and make the Mattes variations the scarcer ones.

Matte Finishes seemed to be a thing for me this year, but I’ll elaborate on that later in the week.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Here’s a picture of the Marney Test Color that I spoke of earlier, that I bought from the Black Horse Ranch sale booth at the Horse Park Sunday afternoon. I was taking one last look-see at what was left – to pick up another Appy Performance Horse, maybe, or a foal of some sort – and here this guy was, sitting nonchalantly on the table, like he was no big deal:

At first glance he looks like a basic, run-of-the-mill Bay Stock Horse Stallion, with gray hooves. The gray hoof variation is somewhat uncommon, though classifying it as “rare” might be a bit of a stretch. 

But he’s not that guy.

First, he’s Mahogany, not the Brown or Red that’s more typical of a Bay SHS. He also has an elongated, masked star and shaded (ahem) boy parts.

He’s not a Preproduction Test for the Bay release – the mold marks say otherwise – but I could see him being a possible Test for the Special Run “Sam I Am”, that is a very similar shade of Bay.

Or he could be something that Marney just whipped up on a slightly subpar body she pulled out of a cull bin one day. (He does have a few minor molding issues.)

I do consider myself lucky to have found him, and recognized him, even when my BreyerFest was essentially lost. Yay, me!

Speaking of losses…

Nope on Milky Way, and nope on the Chicago waitlist. The former is only a slight annoyance: the Bluegrass Bandit mold is very popular right now, and other hobbyists wanted her more than I did. She’s a cutie, but I can live without her.

But the latter hurts more, if that’s even possible.  Rejected twice: now I feel like I have cooties.

In the abstract, I do understand that I have had an otherwise enviable hobby “career”, and a collection that would have many of you Googling my address if a meteor were to take me out tomorrow. (Good luck getting past my brother, though: he’s been to BreyerFest and he works in retail.)

I’ve been to 25 BreyerFests, I attended three Model Horse Congresses. I own a few dozen Test Colors, and I know – or have at least met – most of the major players in the hobby, some of them before they were famous. Some of the things I’ve done or experienced are the stuff of hobby legend. 

I knew Marney. I met Chris Hess. I consider Linda Walter a friend. Peter Stone has left me voice mails. I had a private tour of the Breyer factory in New Jersey. Breyer once came to my house.

Some of my models and ideas have been translated into Breyer releases. My name has graced multiple issues of Just About Horses. I’ve been interviewed, photographed, and (so I’ve been told) appeared in at least one Breyer video.

I was the original Ninja, and once first in line for the NPOD. I wore a cape to the Horse Park, and tromped around the Covered Arena in six-inch high vinyl platform boots. I’ve won everything at least once.

And this year, I officiated my roommates’ wedding, in the presence of two Kentucky Derby winners.

I acknowledge all this is awesome, and am grateful – and so lucky! – to have had such experiences.

But in spite of all that, I can be – and still am – disappointed by the outcome of recent events. I have a competitive spirit, and not one to rest on my laurels. And I am also not the kind of person who will tell you that I am fine, when I am not. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

American Pharaoh, et al

I did pretty well this year, sales-wise, but I won’t know how well until I finish unpacking and inventorying. So far I’ve only made it through the miscellaneous stuff (china, ephemera, bodies); the Traditional Plastics I’m saving for a burst of energy sometime next week.

I did better than anticipated, actually, though I think some of that was me being a hotel homebody. I simply didn’t get the chance to wander or shop much. (Something I definitely want to rectify next year.)

As has been mentioned in the comment section here and elsewhere, the American Pharoah model was announced while most of us were away: it IS going to be on the Ruffian mold. Interesting.

The paint job, however, is somewhat different from the auction piece, and has a modified tail. So it is still unique – or nearly so – just very similar to the production item.

That’s one of the reasons why I am so apprehensive about dropping a large wad on any given auction piece; there’s always a chance it could go into production later, as-is, and then you’ll find yourself endlessly explaining that no, really, it is a Test Color! 

Though I actually prefer models like that – and have several in my collection. Why wouldn’t I? They are historical artifacts of the production process!

I also happen to have several because they tend to be cheap, or go for cheaper later on: many hobbyists, especially some of the newer ones, operate under the notion that the only good and/or worthy Test Colors are unique, and nothing else. Even a similar paintjob on a completely different mold is seen as suspect nowadays.

That seems so silly to me. That’s the purpose of a Test Color: to test things. Anything else falls closer to the category of Factory Custom. Factory Customs may be pretty, and generate a lot of money for charity, but they don’t “mean” much else.

Anyway, the flier for the American Pharaoh release is posted in multiple places on the Internet, but I’m not going to link to it, mostly because many of those posts also come with comment sections that consist mostly of people ranting about the repurposing of a old mold.

Sigh. The Internet seems to make everyone an expert at everything, doesn’t it?

There have been many technical advances that have allowed for more complex and detailed molds to be produced. Regardless, injection mold making is not cheap, it’s not easy, and it’s not quick: if it were, we'd be getting a dozen or more new molds every year, not three or four.

Anyone who pontificates otherwise has been drinking too many fruit-flavored malt beverages.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Buying Happens

Still recovering from the weekend. Everything is out of the car and the laundry is washed, but everything else? Not so much.

Normally I run a bit on the cold side – my nickname at work is “The Corpse” – but the heat in Kentucky this year definitely pushed me to my limit. That’s saying something!

I wasn’t planning on buying much; I briefly considered saving up the wad and blowing it on Marshall (the Polled Hereford Bull SR). It's not something I do often – buying something at market value! – but it's been a while, and I figured I was entitled. Especially considering all the nonsense I've had to deal with lately. 

But a wad of cash and a hotel full of horses? Buying happens. 

I even ended up – at almost literally the very last minute – buying another Marney Test Color.  The price was right and it was in one of my favorite colors, so it was a no-brainer, really. When I'm finally up to pulling out the camera, he'll be the first thing you'll be seeing from this year's modest haul.

It probably won’t be until at least weekend that I get to it, though. Still dealing with the consequences of Saturday. 

One of these years this darn trip isn’t going to “cost” me, one way or another. Sheesh.

Monday, July 20, 2015

For Shaun and Roger

BreyerFest took a lot out of me this year. It's going to take me the better part of the week to deal with some of the fallout, especially what happened on Saturday.

But rather than dwell on that today, let's focus on the one thing that went off almost flawlessly, which was the only thing that mattered in the end: the wedding.

Since so many of you couldn't attend because of all the usual commitments that BreyerFest foists on us, here's the text of the ceremony I wrote:

I'd like to welcome everyone to Shaun and Roger's wedding. We are all so glad you came - friends, family and BreyerFest attendees alike. 

Even though we may not know some of you, we consider all of you a part of our extended family.

This is also what draws us to the Horse Park for BreyerFest every year. We come not just to engage in the hobby that gives us so much joy, but to spend time with our loved ones: human and equine, near and far, familiar and new.

If feels like the biggest and best family reunion in the world. In spite of the heat, humidity, long lines, skunks and ninjas, there's really no other place we would rather be in July.

I am so honored to be able to consecrate an even more special bond within our happy little community.

I know how hard it is to find a good partner - it took me years to find someone like Shaun to be one of my BreyerFest roommates and partners-in-crime. So when she asked for someone to officiate this wedding, I could think of no greater gift to them.

I remember when the topic of bringing Roger to BreyerFest as an additional roommate was brought up. I was initially apprehensive because surely he couldn't be as awesome as Shaun said he was. I was never so happy to be proven wrong.

I am so happy to do this now for the two of you.

I have been asked to keep it short and sweet, and I hope I have. 

Shaun and Roger will now say their vows.

And so on.

(Though I'll be doing multiple posts this week to make up for last week's shortfall, this one should be up for a couple of days, at least.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Memories and Golden Ages

Warning: this post starts out as a bit of a downer.

Of course I didn’t get picked for the Chicago Event. Why did I even get my hopes up?

This hurts more than Marshall. Marshall was just a model. Enough money, and you can buy any model. Money can’t buy the experience.

Please, don’t speak to me of wait lists. In the entire history of Breyer wait lists, I have never been picked off of one, and I’m not counting on it now. Even though many said they wouldn’t go unless their partner was also picked, I’m really doubting that’s going to be the case.

I’m not going to lie, it hurts and I really don’t want to talk about it any more, unless my fortunes change.

On a slightly cheerier note, they did announce the American Pharoah model, though they are being coy about the details. Many have suspected that the Dappled Bay Ruffian in the BreyerFest Auction may have been the Test piece for him, and I could see it:

It’s unlikely that they'll use the Ruffian mold, though; I think they just happened to use the nearest available unpainted Thoroughbred mold in a pinch, and Ruffian was it. They’ve done it before; I actually own a few models like that, like my Test of the Pacer Dan Patch – on the Quarter Horse Gelding mold! He was chosen primarily because he, too, had a molded on halter, like the Pacer mold he actually ended up being produced on.

I don’t know anything more about the American Pharoah release than (almost) anyone else, though. I am also a little embarrassed to admit that my enthusiasm for this model is not as intense as it is in the rest of the hobby.

There’s a tendency for people to think the things they experienced in their youth represented a “Golden Age”: movies, sports, books, television shows, music, Breyer models… sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it isn’t.

(The whole “Breyers were better in the past” thing, for instance, just baffles me. Do y’all not remember fuzzy gray socks, sink marks, and seams so rough you could cut your fingers on them? Polka dot dapples? Lizard bi-eyes? The very existence of Khemosabi?)

But anyway, I grew up in what really was, empirically, one of the great “Golden Ages” of Horse Racing, back in the 1970s. I watched Secretariat, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, Wajima, Forego, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Genuine Risk. I was so hysterical during the Affirmed-Alydar Triple Crown duel that my family actually left me alone in the house during the Belmont. 

What was wonderful about it was that it was a bonding experience with my Dad, who was a huge racing fan in the 1950s – you know, the era of Native Dancer, Swaps, Nashua, Round Table, Bold Forbes, Silky Sullivan, and so on…

I won’t begrudge anyone for being excited about an American Pharoah model. It's just that I've already had my Golden Age of Horse Racing. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make It So!

The costume is just about done – a few minor details to finish – as is the paperwork and the packing. However, my attempted diorama is looking tragic, which is not the look I was going for. If it doesn’t start looking better by tomorrow, I’m going to toss it into my closet of diorama traumas past.

(Some individual parts of it are actually really cool, but those parts just aren’t fitting together. Bummer.)

I’m trying not to worry about it too much: my plate is already looking quite full this year. Aside from the Costume Contest, I’ll also be Volunteering, and participating in the wedding that will be happening at the Hall of Champions at the Horse Park Friday afternoon, just before the Auction. (Everybody is welcome! Come as you are!)

Speaking of the auction, my favorite piece this year has to be the Dappled Dun Stretched Morgan. I have no pretenses of actually owning him, especially since he seems to be going over pretty well all over, but a girl can dream for about a week, right?

I sure hope that’s a “True” Test Color for an honest-to-goodness production run in the very near future! It would look grand on almost anything.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of some of Reeves’s more recent attempts at Duns – the Lonesome Glory Tinseltown immediately comes to mind – but with this guy, maybe they’ve finally made the technical leaps necessary to pull it off.

I gave some brief thought of it being the Volunteer Special this year (and thus attainable) but last year’s Volunteer Special was Matte-Finished, Solid and Realistic, too. As I theorized earlier, this year’s will likely not be all three of those things.

They didn’t put the Volunteer Special in the auction last year, either.

But just when we think we’ve sussed out the rules, they change them up on us. Last year I thought it unlikely they’d use a model with a base, but they up and used the Show Jumping Warmblood. Go figure.

It is worth noting that Stretched Morgan releases have been in somewhat short supply lately. Other than the Vintage Club Halo in 2013, the only other Production Runs since 2000’s Raffle Model Showboat (26 pieces) have been the 2008 Exclusive Event A Night at the Oscars (4 pieces) and the 2012 Early Bird Prize Bennington (3 pieces).

Everything else has been Auction Tests.

In other words, we are due. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Common Praise and the Walmart Mestenos

Some sad news on the passing of Rowland Cheney, best known in our corner of the world as the sculptor of Breyer’s Mesteno series:

I had seen the story on the news about the plane crash; I had no idea that it would later turn out to be model-horse-related.

The Mestenos were not received warmly when they were released in the 1990s, but they’ve grown in popularity since then. A lot of that has to do with their wide availability and the wealth of fascinating (possibly experimental?) colors they were issued in as a part of the Walmart Wild Mustang Series.

As hobbyists, a lot of us get caught up in tracking down the oldest, rarest, weirdest and prettiest things, when it is common-as-dirt models like the Walmart Mustangs that are the real foundation of the hobby.

We start collecting with what is available at hand, and what is available is usually the most common of any given item. That’s just how the odds are: if there’s 490 pieces of one, and 10 of another, you’re simply more likely to find the former than the latter.

Sometimes we get lucky and stumble across the rarity, but often we only find out about it in retrospect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something at the flea market because – ooh, it’s a Breyer and it’s cheap! – and a few days or weeks (or years) later I discover that it’s something else – in happy cases, something even better.

Actually, when I’m out horse hunting, I like to think of every model I run across as unique, and in possession of a special and/or secret history. If the price is right and it doesn't seem particularly rare, that's generally my rationale for buying it. 

If it sticks around long enough, I’ll either discover that history – or by staying here a while, add to it (via provenance).

Time to get back to the BreyerFest prep.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Lots of news the past few days…

If you haven’t heard by now, the BreyerFest program was released earlier this week; if you download it now, though, you’ll notice the auction page is missing.

Apparently, in the first iteration of the PDF, all they did with that page was cover it with an opaque white picture box, and on some computers it wasn’t always the first item on that page to load – thus revealing all the auction models, even the “mystery” ones.

I won’t reveal them here, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble locating them…elsewhere. (Think of it as a Treasure Hunt!) All I’ll say is one of them fits with some of the recent speculation of who the Surprise SR might be.

The program also revealed that the piece counts for the two known “souvenir shop” Specials – Art Nouveau (500), and the Caves of Lascaux (650). I was expecting Lascaux to be a bit higher; I am not thrilled with that, but I’ll deal. There doesn’t seem to be a Souvenir Shop Stablemate listed in the program, but I’m not counting it out, yet.

The Sweet Home Chicago promos went up on the Breyer web site too. While it is a one-ticket-per-person deal as we suspected, it’s by drawing and not first-come, first-served. The model is a Vintage one – the rearing Traditional Mustang – in a very modern paintjob, a beautiful matte silver bay:

My luck on these kinds of drawings has been pretty spotty, so it’s another thing that’ll have to go in the “can’t worry about it” file. The only thing working to my advantage here is that a lot of hobbyists aren’t willing to travel alone, if need be, if their pre-arranged partners aren’t also selected.

Except for a few rare cases, I have almost always traveled to model horse events alone. I don’t want to get too deep into the personal details here, but it’s just been easier that way; most of my closest model horse friends are not physically close, and my other friends and family are beyond disinterested.

One time I did pick up someone locally it did work out great, but most of the time it’s ended up feeling awkward and weird. 

Some people are kvetching that this set-up is not fair to couples, but look: there’s no way to make everything fair all the time for everyone. Many of these Exclusive Events were pairs-only, and disadvantaged the singletons.

And let’s be honest, here, it’s about time there was an event that catered to us lonesome oddballs. That’s how hobbies get started: it’s when these lonesome oddballs find each other, and make a second family from it.

For an event that celebrates the founding of one of the companies that helped make this hobby exist, it only seems appropriate that the event would harken back to the hobby’s roots. 

(And really guys, take my scary roommate stories with a grain of salt. Most of them aren’t even in the hobby anymore – or likely to even enter for such an event.)