Monday, August 31, 2015


Looks like the next several weeks are going to be a little crazy for me; what it means here is that you’ll be seeing a lot of short and sweet posts here in the interim. (Nothing traumatic or life-threatening, just work-related and time-sensitive.)

First up is this Bentley Sales Company ad from early 1978, scanned from the pages of the short-lived but influential hobby magazine The International Model Horse Journal.

As I’ve elaborated on before, the Black Angus Calf was one of the earliest of the direct-to-collectors Special Runs, debuting at the 1977 Model Horse Congress. The hobby was much smaller then, so even though the subscription base for the IMHJ was only around 200 people, that still represented a significant chunk of the hobby community.

It’s kind of mindblowing to think that a low piece run Special Run Calf could still be available nearly a half year after it was offered. Yep, things were definitely different back then! (Not always better...)

The International Model Horse Journal was an early attempt at creating an offset-printed (i.e. “professional-looking”) hobby periodical. Almost all hobby publications prior – and for several years after – were printed via ditto or mimeograph machine. The results weren’t always pretty, but those printing methods were cheap and accessible. They got the job done.

The IMHJ had already been cancelled before I made my formal entrĂ©e into the hobby in the latter half of 1978, so its influence on me was largely indirect. I think I have an almost complete archive of them now, but the numbering system was a little off, so it’s hard to tell.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stablemates Speculation

First – before you get any ideas – I’ve already secured one, so if you’ve managed to have a few extra, feel free to distribute them to other needy Stablemate collectors elsewhere. I’m good!

I am talking about the Foiled Again Special Run Stablemate that is selling like … a rare Special Run Stablemate on eBay. I would have thought that the enthusiasm for them would be leveling off a bit by now, but they’re still selling at a good clip in the fifty-dollar range, and sometimes better.

This is, by the way, the upper range of what cheapskate me would spend for a limited edition Stablemate. This is also why I don’t own a Silver G1 Saddlebred, the Poop Paperweight, or any of the super-rare German Special Runs. Among many others. (Swirly Exclusive Event Trivia Contest Stablemates, I’m thinking of you.)

The piece run on the Foiled Again appears to be in the range of 3000, give or take a few hundred. While this may seem low, it’s about double the piece run for last year’s BreyerFest One-Day Stablemates (1750, I think?) This is why it seems a little odd to me that they’re going for twice what an average One Day SM goes for, this early in the game.

I’ve seen some rationalization that that’s because the Foiled Again was a publicly distributed item: many of them will be ending up in the hands of nonhobbyists, therefore reducing the number of pieces circulating within the hobby proper.

There is some truth to that, yes: low-number items vanish rather quickly when they are distributed to the general population. Take the fabled Pink and Blue Elephants of the 1950s, for instance: at least a few hundred of each had to have been produced and distributed, but where are most of them now? Not in hobbyist hands!

On the other hand, Reeves went out of their way to let us know when and where it was being distributed.  I suspect that a higher-than-average percentage of racetrack regulars also know what Breyers are and have an inkling that maybe it might be something they don’t just hand off to the kids or grandkids (unless they’re collectors already).

In short, I don’t think the attrition rate on these Stablemates will be as high as other Stablemate Rarities, most of which were very low piece runs, and barely advertised.

But I also don’t think the prices, at the level they seem to be at now (fifty-ish) are too unreasonable.

Not a bargain, but I don’t think you’d be losing a significant amount of money in the long term. Stablemate collectors are a dedicated bunch, and the prices on them seem way more stable (pardon the pun) than they are for other scales.

Allegedly there’s going to be another Foiled Again promotion in the near future, but I haven’t spent much time looking into that, due to work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

FAS Weathervane

The flea market was much better this week; super-busy, and filled with fun horsey things, though most of what I brought home were bodies. Not that I need them, but you never know when inspiration strikes, right?

(Like it did this past weekend, when I thought it was a good idea to go through some now-not-abandoned sewing projects.)

This little tidbit, however, was found earlier in the week at my one-stop costuming shop, shoe store, and craft supply outlet: aka the local Salvation Army store. I found a copy of the 1972/1973 Sturbridge Yankee Workshop Handbook and Catalog in the craft section, and look what I found within:

(Click to enlarge.)

Well, hello there Mr. Family Arabian Stallion! Hmm, I always assumed the term “Early American” meant 1650s or 1750s, not the 1950s, unless you’re specifically talking Model Horse History.

Here is the most interesting part of the description in the photo above; the “one man’s” name is not mentioned, by the way:

This one is a beauty, low in price only because the one man who makes it has concentrated almost entirely on making this one Arabian Horse vane.

Or maybe because he knew he was treading on thin ice re: copyright infringement, and didn’t want to push his luck? I'd also disagree with the “low in price” part: I could have gotten at least six Traditional horses back then for the price of the cheapest finish option (Dupont gilt) on this weathervane!

The Sturbridge Yankee Workshop is still around, and still making the kind of home furnishings that your grandmother loves: sturdy, comfortable, and headed straight to the Salvation Army donation truck when she downsizes from a house to that furnished condo in a retirement community.

I wouldn’t mind owning that weathervane, but as far as I can tell, it’s been discontinued and replaced with a more suitably antique-looking ones.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quarter Horse Gelding: First State

I’ve been meaning to get better pictures of this guy on the Internet, and now seems as good a time as any:

This is the earliest version of the Buckskin Quarter Horse Gelding, released ca. 1961; he came out a year or two after the Gloss Bay and Woodgrain versions. This particular example has eyewhites, which are an unusual feature for models in this color, and were the primary reason I bought him. He wasn’t cheap, but he was definitely worth it.

His color and shading are pretty awesome too, which was a bonus.

All that fabulous shading and detail isn’t just painted on, however, it’s molded in: this is the fabled “supermuscled” version of the Quarter Horse Gelding mold. He’s big, he’s beefy, he’s superdefined: he’s the epitome of the “bulldog” type of Quarter Horse that predominated when the mold was first produced.

Here's a shot that shows the muscle detailing on the shoulder and barrel better; there is scarcely a smooth surface anywhere on this guy:

Since the late 1950s, the preferred body type has changed dramatically, and so has the Quarter Horse Gelding mold – at least twice.

I’ll get to that some other time, though, when I have the time to draw up some diagrams that highlight the changes. I still want to do a bit more research on the subject, too: I’m still trying to figure out when the last major change (a belly tuck) was made to the mold.

In art historical terms, what this particular example above represents is a mold in its “first state” or “first impression”, before any significant changes were made.

Almost all Breyer molds have had modifications throughout the years, mostly as a consequence of maintenance. An eartip might get shaved a bit, a small flaw or bump in the mold might be polished out, undercuts or projections eliminated to reduce molding issues.

In other cases, as with the Quarter Horse Gelding, it’s done to update to mold to more current tastes.

The Buckskin version of the Supermuscled QHG is a lot scarcer than the Bay and Woodgrain, since it was introduced later. I’m guessing – based on its scarcity – that the first major mold change (eliminating/smoothing out most of the muscling) occurred not long after.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The New PHB

Just because I didn’t come home with a Marshall did not mean I came home from BreyerFest Polled-Hereford-Bull-free:

Although I could have purchased one cheaper locally, I enjoyed the luxury of being able to handpick factory-direct stock in the sales tent on the Sunday afternoon of BreyerFest. While the mold has gained in popularity over the past year or so – thanks, in part, to Marshall – I still had nearly two dozen models to choose from.

And virtually nobody nosing around to see if I had “found” something, even at that late a time. (Truth: I've had people follow me around, for just that reason.)

I picked this one because he was (obviously) different from the others. While the masking is a little different – the mold’s roughly textured finish makes them all unique – what made this example stand out to me was how dark the masked edges were compared to the rest of his coloring.

Most of the other PHBs I inspected had darker masked edges, too, but nothing comparable to this guy. It’s almost like he was outlined in black.

Darker shading along edges isn’t a new thing; it was frequently seen on models from the 1970s, when Breyer was experimenting with freehand airbrushed markings. The best known is Jasper, the Market Hog: on the earliest releases, his big blue-gray spot was lightly outlined and then filled in, leaving a darker edge where the paint overlapped.

In the case of the newer Polled Hereford Bulls, I don’t know if the dark edges were an intentional part of the design, a result of a mandated painting process, or a consequence of the natural tendency of painters to define an edge first, before filling it in.

Whatever the reason, you end up with extra – and usually darker – paint along the mask edges. And in this fellow’s case, to fairly handsome effect.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Inevitability of Zebras

It was a strangely quiet day at the flea market today, though I still managed to find a few good bodies and a slew of cute china miniatures. My dollar table stuff was absolutely decimated at BreyerFest this year; while I don’t make much money off of that kind of stuff, I like having that kind of “finger candy” around for the more budget-minded shoppers.

Sometimes you get just as much satisfaction buying a dollar mini as you do a $150 Web Special, you know?

Speaking of such, the BreyerFest leftovers are now up on the web site, for your shopping pleasure. Everything is available except the Surprise, the Haute Couture, and now (apparently) the Ganache.

I had been considering the Ganache myself, but I’m glad that that decision has been taken out of my hands, since I’m not really in a physical position to handle anything beyond Stablemates right now. In fact, most of my weekend was spent trying to get the inventory under control. (Still not ideal, but I’m not stubbing my toes on anything anymore!)

I would not have hesitated over a Caves of Lascaux, but none of the Pop-Up/Souvenir Store items – nor the Stablemates (rats!) – are available either, apparently.

While I had rationalized to myself that the Caves of Lascaux wouldn’t be that difficult to obtain, I knew by the Wednesday night of BreyerFest week that it wasn’t going to happen.

I thought the piece count was low, but judging from the demand Reeves probably could have doubled the run count and still sold out. I had no idea of the pent-up demand for this mold – and I don’t think Reeves did, either.

To make a long story short, though, we will be seeing more Zebra releases in the very near future.

In the past, anytime we’ve had a situation where an out-of-production mold returns to production with a low-number Special Run, more and/or larger runs tend to follow. Because the bodies are already there: knowing something of the production process as I do, it is financially impractical to run an injection mold with a piece count as low as 650.

The Web Special Polled Hereford Bull Marshall was a case in point: we hadn’t seen that mold in production since 2004. While it was certainly possible that they had 40 or so of those Bull bodies tucked away in the warehouse somewhere, it was also not a surprise that the mold returned to the Regular Run line a year later.

Whether these soon-to-be Zebra releases will take the form of a Web Special, Christmas Special, or a Regular Run item I couldn’t say.

I will say that I’m rather fond of the notion of a Silver-striped Christmas Zebra; a not-so-implausible idea, considering that they gave us a Wedgewood Blue Pronghorn Antelope last year.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eye Candy

All too often lately I’ve found myself shaking my head at the endless litany of complaints online about each and every Breyer release, sometimes extending all the way down to the selection of the name. While I’ve done my share of complaining (and how!) I’d like to take this evening to focus on something that Reeves got better than right.

The biggest surprise in the Special Run lineup at BreyerFest this year was not the Surprise Special Run itself – I can’t speak for the rest of you (especially the Silver- and Othello-obsessed) but the Lonesome Glory mold was on my radar as an outside possibility.

No, what blew my mind was Chanel. The photo on the web site showed Chanel’s color hinted that was more in line with the color we saw on the 2013 Celebration Horse Smart and Shiney: bright, golden, almost Family Arabian-ish. In many ways, the photograph looked like a modern reinterpretation of the Palomino Family Arabian Stallion.

What we saw at the Thursday night preview looked almost nothing like the promotional photo used on the web site:

Sooty palomino with pronounced dappling, body shading, gray highlighted mane and tail, and tons of Oh. My. Goodness! I had no idea that this would be an almost textbook case of that hobby truism: Never judge a Breyer release by its promotional photo!

I had been a little on the fence about her based on the web site photo; I liked her a lot, but didn’t love-love her.  As is usually the case with these things. I figured she’d be better in person.

I had no idea she’d be that much better. Now THAT’S how Dappled Sooty Palomino is done, people! I’m have a hard time trying to not imagine that color on almost everything.

That’s all for tonight, folks. I’ll be trying to finish up some old, old business over my extended weekend off, and I need to make the most of every minute of it. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Consolation Smoky

Weekend plans did not go as planned because a slightly fluffy dog of small stature decided to (a) take a romp in the weeds in the wooded area behind the house and then (b) get cuddly with me shortly afterwards.

Hello poison ivy, my old friend.

I’m pretty sure it was revenge for putting her on a diet earlier this week. ("No more marshmallows? I’ll show you!") Mission accomplished, Vita.

Since antihistamines make me very groggy, not much work of any sort got done, other than a pleasant but uneventful trip to the flea market: just a few odds and ends and a Clydesdale body to add to the body stash. That was fine by me: I’d rather have more money coming in than going out right now.

It seems as good a time as any to introduce you to the Reissue Smoky Sample that I mentioned in passing earlier. He’s significantly different from the original issue, on a number of fronts:

The first thing that I noticed – that I truly didn’t see before – was the complete absence of the Rocking R brand; I believe the Tractor Supply Special Run Nevada Joe Sterling was the first brand-free release, in 2002, but mine is currently unavailable for inspection.

The stockings are cleaner and more distinct, the hooves are a slightly different shade of gray than the body color, and the blaze has been shortened and cleanly masked. The body color is more richly shaded than the Regular Run #69 Smoky, too, who ran from 1981 through 1985.

He bears very little resemblance to that original Smoky, in truth. Considering my fondness for models of that era (my personal “Golden Age of Collecting”) I wouldn’t call the Reissue better, just different. But in a good way.

While in some ways I think of him as my “consolation sample”, the more I look at him, the happier I am that I rescued him.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Things We Value

I was doing a little pricing research on eBay this week – a few pieces are already up on MHSP, with more to follow throughout the weekend – and I have to say that I am utterly befuddled by the high prices Flockies are commanding there.

I’m not talking of the rare Regular Runs or Special Runs ones, or the occasional Test pieces that show up, but the undocumented “free range” ones that I had thought the hobby had all agreed were basically Customs.

It's no secret that I am not a big fan of Flockies: they creep me out, especially the ones with the glass eyes. But I will also admit that the ones made by the Riegeseckers for Breyer – the Miniature Series in the Regular Run catalogs, and all the assorted pieces available via holiday mail-order catalogs – have both historical and monetary value. And some people have taste different than my own. (Whatever you want to keep on the shelf in your horse room is your own business!)

These custom ones have some, too – they were sort of a thing in the hobby for a while, oddly enough – but the prices I’ve been seeing seem way out of proportion.

Am I missing something? Is it something I should be glad I missed? Was there a rumor of them being Tests/Culls/Decos under the fake fur-like substance? Is it a bit of bad intel multiplied by a surplus of fun money?

It seems so weird to me; sometimes I understand completely why something becomes popular, desirable, or expensive, but this one makes me shrug my shoulders.

It’s one of the many reasons I try to avoid giving out advice on value and pricing. If I were able to shape the universe as I saw fit, something like this would be more valued than it is:

It’s a Matte Black Pinto Western Pony. Like its Palomino counterpart, the majority of them are Gloss, not Matte. It’s actually a rather scarce piece, in any condition – even body quality, as here.

The Black Pinto is slightly more common than its Palomino counterpart – I see a small handful of them in the wild every year, while the Matte Palomino is about as common as the Matte Walking Horned Hereford Bull, and that one took me nearly a decade to acquire.

She came in what wasn’t supposed to be – but ended up being – a body box lot. She wasn’t the only interesting piece in the lot, but I’ll get to them when the time and moment is right.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Le Taureau and Consistency

I did come home with one bonafide Gloss from Kentucky – the Spanish Fighting Bull Le Taureau:

It’s been two weeks, though, and I still haven’t made a “connection” to him yet. I almost always opt for the Nonhorse choice almost out of habit, because I dig those molds in general. He’s really well done, but I’m still not feeling the love yet.

Other stuff needs to be sold off sooner (bodies, ephemera, some boxed items) so he might have a few more months to settle in with the local crowd before he gets exiled to the sales list.  

One admirable thing about this Special Run is the variability of the paint job; the ones I’ve seen in person and online vary widely, from very light to very dark, lightly striped to heavily so. My guy falls more toward the darker end of the spectrum.

If there’s one legitimate claim to be had about Breyers “not being made the way they used to be” it’s in the realm of variability: there’s just not as much variation as there used to be.

Some of that is attributable to the short and sweet production runs: it’s easier to maintain consistency over a 6 month or one year run, and opposed to one stretching decades.

But a lot of it has to do with improved quality control. Some of you may be snickering in the corner thinking “yeah, right” but hear me out: one part of quality control is in maintaining consistency.

Every model nowadays is “on model”, so to speak. Every once and a while you’ll find an especially nice example of something out there – more shading, cleaner masking, a little lighter or darker – but Breyer models, in general, are almost annoyingly consistent now.

This is a good thing for the average/low information consumer, who wants a model to look like it does in its promo pictures (more or less).

But for some of us fuddy-duddies who were around in the good old days, where – in spite of the picture on the box, you really weren’t sure what you were getting when you opened it – there’s a little bit less mystery and allure.

If you were particularly enamored of one release of a model, like I was with the Dapple Gray Azteca/ Foundation Stallion, those variations gave us the opportunity to buy that same beloved creature multiple times.

If there’s one change that they can make to the Vintage Club releases, it’d be the introduction of more variability within the runs. Not just the Gloss/Matte thing, but almost anything: gray hooves vs. pink hooves; star vs. no star; “Blue” Charcoal vs. “Chocolate”  Charcoal, or different halter or eye colors.

There’s been a little bit of that more recently, with the reintroduction of splash spotting technique and the “Gambler’s Choice” on the Running Stallion. Judging from the generally favorable response, it might be time for Reeves to kick it up a notch.