Saturday, October 31, 2015

Black Appaloosa Surprise

It’s going to be a pretty picture day, because I’m still recovering from an unpleasant bit of something or other that’s left me dead tired all week; we had company over yesterday, which also didn’t help.

Anyway, here’s the pretty picture: it’s a cull!

Of the Black Appaloosa Running Stallion. A pretty nice one, too; whatever it was that caused him to remain unfinished is not obvious to me. He even stands really well, unusual for such a notoriously tippy mold.

Sometimes it wasn’t anything at all: things would get missed during the production process, especially on models where the finishing details could be subtle, such as the black(er) eyes and gray(er) hooves of an Appaloosa Running Stallion.

If it was noticed, it still might have been the end of the day, or end of the week, a quota had to be made, or an order had to pushed out of the door. Something like this could have been boxed, shrink-wrapped and sent on his merry way, with nothing illicit about his escape.

From his shading, spotting and coloring I’d guess he was a mid-1970s model, from the “White Picture Box” era (ca. 1973-1978). Every Traditional and Classic model back then was, essentially, a surprise model: sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes weird.

This guy was a gift from a friend, at BreyerFest, as a small way of helping me through some of the rough patches this year. She had no idea (or at best, only a faint inkling) of the special place the Black Appaloosa Running Stallion has in my heart. I bought one at the Kentucky Horse Park gift shop during my very first visit there – in 1979!

I still have him (of course) in addition to an early one with a Blue Ribbon Sticker and no USA mark I found at BreyerFest many years later. Interesting: that means all three of my Black Appaloosa Running Stallions (and none of the dozens of others that have passed through my hands, over the years) were acquired in or around the Kentucky Horse Park.

The only slightly bittersweet note to the newest one’s arrival was the revelation of his origins: sometimes a mystery is more powerful and meaningful without a subsequent revelation.

(I wanted to attribute his arrival to Ninjas. Or Fairies. Or the Elevator Gnomes. Maybe I will, the next time the story gets told.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sugarloaf and the Gray Areas

When I heard that the Christmas Silver Filigree might have been leaked on eBay, and that its name was Sugarloaf, this is the first thing that came to my mind:

A nineteenth century quilt block pattern! (You know, I do have a bit of leftover “Silver Filigree” fabric I made for my BreyerFest hat last year, hmmm.)

Anyway, it was getting to that time of year where we speculate about the year-end special runs Reeves dumps on us, including the Silver Filigree. Although there’s a possibility that this “Sugarloaf” might be a rejected concept, it fits all of the usual parameters: it’s a relatively popular and very new mold with big hair.

(The Icelandic is a possibility, too, but with mold’s release as the Flagship Special Elska, it seems a little less likely.)

There’s been some discussion about the ethics of buying models like these (the vendor also has a translucent lavender Traditional Running Mare) that appear to be prototypes/samples of models yet to be.

It’s one thing to buy prototypes/samples of models that already exist or have (at least) been announced; models that clearly appear to be of things yet to be … are out of my personal comfort zone.

I’ve bought things of questionable provenance – both intentionally, and unintentionally. I bought several models from the notorious “newtoymens” dealer on eBay (though none of the super-pricey ones: out of my league entirely there) and I also purchased the Sample of the Pottery Barn Kennebec Count.

One of my rationales for buying them was that at least they were being sold after-the-fact: they weren’t revealing any special secrets or upcoming releases. While there were rumors of where these models were coming from, there had been no official confirmation, either.

The Kennebec Count was a liminal case: rumors had been going around that the Special had been planned, but canceled; a short time after the Sample appeared on eBay, it was officially released.

Everyone’s comfort zones in these ethical gray areas are different – and not necessarily wrong. We’re not really sure what the situation is at the factories in China that are allowing these pieces to come to market. They could have been gifts or compensation of some sort. And what constitutes ethical behavior in China – especially regarding knockoffs and antiquities – is another issue entirely.

There’s also the possibility that Reeves has already given the security issue some thought, and determined that either the positives (publicity) outweigh the negatives (element of surprise). Since it’s also something that happens with other toys and collectibles manufacturers there, they might have considered this risk a part of doing business in that part of the world.

That’s all speculation: I don’t know.

All I do know is that I’m more excited at the possibility of Traditional scale Horse Crazy release (which is what I’m assuming the Running Mare thingie is/might be) than the Sugarloaf, oddly enough.

I'm all for more Silver Filigrees, but how long has it been since we’ve had a Traditional Translucent production run, anyway? It feels like forever. The entire Running “family” would be wonderful candidates for that kind of treatment.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Exceptional and Ordinary

The most recent arrivals are not as dirty as the first, but also a bit on the boring side; these are among the nicest of the bunch:

Yep, a Bay Running Foal and a Palomino Rearing Stallion, neither one high on anyone’s want list. Both are standard issue models from the early 1970s: not Chalky, with no molding or painting anomalies.

They are, however, in excellent condition with positively superb shading and coloring. If you’re looking for a quality example of either piece, these are about as nice as they get.

They have that velvety matte finish typical of non-Chalky models from that era too, which is understandably hard to find in mint condition. I’m almost too afraid to touch them, less they pick up a stray burnish mark or two that would mar that appealing softness.

Models like this – simultaneously Exceptional and Ordinary – can be a tough sell, especially online. If hobbyists are going to spend extra for a “premium” example of a common model, they’re not going to go halfway: they’re going to go for the works. That means stickers, boxes, signatures, and unusual (Chalky, Pearly, Glossy) finishes.

Models that are just happen to be really nice…are sort of the silver medalists of the model horse world. You’re going to take it if you can get it, of course, but forever second to the real winner who might be just over the horizon.

So I’ll reserve these guys for either BreyerFest or a live show/swap meet situation, where hobbyists can see just how nice they are in person – and who may not be so willing to cough up the sometimes-insane prices the “Superpremium” models can bring.

(Same thing happens in comic books: the price cliff between “Mint” and “Fine” is a steep one, even if the aesthetic or technical differences are minimal.)

Keeping these two for myself doesn’t seem likely: I have a nice Rearing Stallion in Palomino already, and as far as the Running Foal goes, I’d really rather find one that’s a better match for my semi-gloss Mare with eyewhites.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


The one actual nice piece from that box of horrors: a mostly lovely Woodgrain Five-Gaiter!

Woodgrains are almost as hard to find as Blue and Gold Decorators in my part of the world, which I find odd; near as I can figure, retailers either didn’t sell them in this area, or buyers weren’t interested. Any time I bring home a Woodgrain that isn’t a Family Arabian or Fighting Stallion, it’s usually cause enough for dancing. Or cake.

I described this Five-Gaiter as mostly lovely: he does have condition issues. Some are the usual minor condition problems that show up with most vintage models found “in the wild”: eartip rubs, hoof rubs, a few high point nicks and dings. Nothing significant or out of the ordinary.

He also has two factory condition issues. The first you can’t really make out in the photos, but his graining coat is slightly pixilated. Basically, that paint/stain was either a little too wet, or the conditions in the factory were just a little bit too humid, causing the paint to bead.

It’s not the same thing as the bubbling that sometimes occurs on Woodgrains, but it is probably related somehow. I’m not planning on testing the theory: I plan on keeping him cool, clean and dry as long as he’s an occupant of this house.

His other problem is a little more amusing:

He has matching butt dimples! More precisely, these are sink marks: indentations in molded plastic that sometimes occur in thick-walled or solid areas of plastic, primarily due to uneven cooling rates. Basically, the plastic starts to cool before that section of the mold is completely filled, pulling it away from the mold wall.

Sink marks are not an uncommon thing to find in Breyer models, especially in the 1970s; just about every Proud Arabian Mare that I ever owned had them on their hooves. Sink marks this big – and matching! – are a little less common.

Both sides of the mold are molded simultaneously, so the fact that they “match” shouldn’t surprise: each side has a similar wall thickness, and experienced the same amount of heat, pressure, and so on. It’s the degree and the placement of those sink marks that surprises, and amuses.

Many naughty euphemisms come to mind. I’ll be good and leave those to your imagination.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


The first big box lot is in the house and it was…challenging. Everything was dirty, one horse was partially filled with sand (!) and many of them are a very entertaining and/or distressing shade of yellow. This Alabaster Family Mare and Foal set is a perfect illustration of what I was dealing with here:

The snowy-white FAF next to them is there for comparison: he was a previous restoration project who turned out almost perfect. (His muzzle is unretouched – it really came that way, that gray!)

At this point, I’m not sure if I even want to do any work on this pair. In fact, I’m seriously considering keeping them “as-is” (dust and all) for any demonstrations I may be called in to do in the future: they are such perfect examples of the grungiest Breyers can be.

They are textbook candidates for restoration, too: in excellent condition, underneath the yellow and the grime. (Aroma-free, too. Thank goodness.)

I don’t even see many significant rubs or scuffs in the gray areas, which is very unusual for Breyer Alabasters of this age. For some peculiar reason, Breyer often painted the gray areas of their Alabasters after glossing and not before, leaving them unprotected and very susceptible to rubs.

Cleaning those gray areas is one of the biggest Breyer restoration challenges: a little bit too much pressure with a cotton swab or toothbrush, and you can kiss that beautiful shading goodbye!

One technique I’ve found that keeps additional damage to a minimum is a variation of “power washing”: warm water, mixed with either a high-quality dishsoap (like Dawn) or a degreaser like Lestoil, repeatedly applied with a squirt bottle at close range.

I usually do it on a towel or in a shallow pan to contain the mess, rubbing and blotting only when absolutely necessary, if at all. I managed to clean a very dirty Horse-Over Clock this way, keeping the super-delicate “patinated” mane and tail intact.

I love doing this kind of restoration work – making the once beautiful, beautiful again – but that box lot took a lot out of me. I sure hope the next batch is a little less intense.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Top of the Heap

One of the things that I bought that I was hoping was awesome? It’s awesome!

Mint in box Chalky Clydesdale Stallion with the original 1974 Collector’s Manual – and bag! I think I can say that I’ve reached the top of the upgrade heap with this guy.

The funny thing is that he’s not my first MIB Chalky; my first was a Chestnut Belgian – which I bought primarily because he looked like a pretty nice MIB Belgian, not because I hoped he was a Chalky. I thought he might be, but at the price I was getting him at it didn’t matter. That he was was just a bonus.

The Clydesdale I did buy under the assumption that he was – which is not something I do very often, because judging Chalkies by slightly blurry online photos is an always-iffy proposition. I shelled out the little bit extra cash (for me) because I figured he was at least a semi-safe bet: in every other regard, he was a premium, high-end piece.

This is where the market is now going with Vintage pieces, anyway: the more bells and whistles, the better. White Picture Box? Check. Original Collector's Manual? Check. Original Bag? Check. Near mint condition? Check. 

Chalky? BINGO!

Even the roughest of Chalkies will always have a value – just as beat-up, coverless copies of key Golden Age comic books still have a greater-than-nominal value. But as with many collectibles from the modern era, better is better.  

Model horse collectors aren’t big on the concept of “patina”, outside of exceptions that fall either into the category of amusing (the heavily bloated, the heavily yellowed, or the disturbingly warped) or the exceptionally precious (Decorators, Test Colors, our childhood carpet herds).

It’s always funny whenever an antiquer tries to sell a body-quality Breyer that way. Luckily for me, it doesn’t happen too much around here any more; if it does, it’s usually someone new to the area who has not yet been schooled by the locals.

Now to dig out the Chalky Clydesdale I upgraded from – who is not too shabby himself, but Mint In Box he’s not.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Not the Horse You Were Looking For

The dental work was today, so I’m definitely not in the mood for anything long-winded. (All went well. Thank goodness!)

Here’s a picture of a Mysterious Black Breyer, though not the one you were expecting to see today:

It’s that Black Little Bits Thoroughbreds in Tenite, one of the gift bag treasures that baffled and confused attendees of the Sweet Home Chicago Event. The general consensus is that they are leftover Cobalts from the #1025 Cobalt and Veronica set, issued from 1995 through 1998. Another batch of about 40 were given to showers at the Meows and Minis show held the same weekend.

It’s not something I’ve investigated further – too many other boiling pots of water to attend to, alas – but it does stoke my desire to investigate the deeper mysteries of the Reeves warehouse. A place that had, apparently, at least 250 or so 17-year-old Tenite Little Bits sitting in a box somewhere.

What other kind of crazy stuff do you guys still have in there? (And do you need any assistance inventorying said stuff?)

As for the other Mysterious Black Breyer, Reeves has more or less confirmed (via Facebook, bleh) that the Black AQHA horse does/will exist, and that these new colors (Grulla, Roan, Black) are “rarities” and not just a fresh set of colors for the second half of the year.

It’d be nice if Reeves could also float us some general numbers or percentages so we could gauge just how excited we are supposed to be when we find these rarities – on a scale of “Hey, cool!” to “OMG” to “Spontaneously Combust”?

Though I don’t think it’d be likely before the end of the year, if they even do, just to save retailers the grief. Roan is one of my favorite colors, so my gauge is a bit north of “OMG”, regardless.

Coincidentally, I happened to stop by the same store on the way home from work yesterday – to take another look at the remaining Elskas, I told myself – but no other Horses of Unusual Color were to be found.

That’s actually a bit of a relief, since I just bought a couple of box lots for resale this week that took up that little bit of slack I had in the budget. (Not entirely for resale, I hope, if a couple of hunches prove right.)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Two More Small Additions

I decided to take a pass on the Kasper and Jack Halloween Foals; aside from trying to stay focused on budgetary issues, the more I looked at them, the less appealing I found them. To be honest, they just didn’t look that well-designed to me.

If I’m going to buy any Glow-in-the-Dark Halloween horses this year, it’ll be the Fighting Stallion Ichabod, with the cute little Appaloosa skull spots. Or last year’s Goffert Night Mare, covered in vampiric imagery that bordered on the genuinely creepy.

I did make a couple of small additions to the herd this week, though:

The now-no-longer elusive G4 Stablemates Andalusian and Bucking Bronco! I picked this pair up at a Jesse-free Tractor Supply, and found even more at a Meijer; the Meijer had the Mystery Foal Surprise sets also, but I’ll be taking a pass on those through the end of the year.

(Gotta save up for whatever surprises they’re going to throw our way this holiday season – now that it looks like I might be able to afford some of it.)

Remember when so many of us were worried earlier in the year, when the initial shipment of these two pretties sold out in an eyeblink? They’re still showing up as “Unavailable” on the web site, but judging from the number of pieces now turning up on eBay, Reeves must have allotted the latest batch to retailer orders first.

They don’t appear on the Discontinued list for 2015, so if they’re still not in your neck of the woods yet, I wouldn’t worry about it. Stablemates releases, generally, seem to have a longer shelf life, outside of Special Runs and mistakes like the Play Mat Palomino:

Who has reappeared this year, incidentally, in a slightly altered form:

While most recent switches of medium have been from Nonplastic to Plastic – like the Classics Amelia (formerly Tally Ho) and Liam (formerly Sir Buckingham) – the Stablemates, again, have been a bit of an exception to the rule. There have been a number of plastic-first Stablemates showing up in Nonplastics forms later, like the BreyerFest Specials in the early 2000s, and the “International Miniature Collection” from 2004-2005.

I’d rather see the Play Mat Palomino in plastic again, but it’s reassuring to know the mold hasn’t been completely forgotten.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

More About the Roan...and the "More"

Aside from the Roan AQHA horse, the week wrapped up with a lot of other good news and happy finds.

For instance, the dental work I need will be far less extensive – and less expensive – than I anticipated. Yes!

On the way home from the dentist I stopped at the local Salvation Army and found eight yards of matching vintage feedsack fabric that is perfect for that quilt rehab project I picked up at the flea market about a month ago – and drastically cheaper than the stuff I was pricing on eBay.

But back to the Topic du Jour: The Roan.

I know some of us are upset with Reeves and how they have been handling the release of information about the AQHA release, going as far as accusing them of various nefarious things up to and including deliberate deceit.

Well, yes and no.

As I’ve explained before, there are real horse/model horse people who work at Reeves, and there are the proverbial people who can’t distinguish Chestnut from Bay. It’s pretty clear to me that many of the responses I’ve seen posted and reposted were more from the latter than the former.

But it is true that they are not being terribly consistent with the release of information – and possibly using that inconsistency to stoke our enthusiasm. For instance, the text on the web site reads thus:

Breyer's American Quarter Horse is an assortment of beautiful colors: sorrel, bay, palomino, roan and dun.

The social media responses have been largely variations of the same theme; when asked what colors the release will be coming in, the following text appears to be cut-and-pasted in:
  1. Sorrel
  2. Bay
  3. Palomino
  4. Roan and Dun
(This is what’s made many hobbyists assume that Reeves couldn’t tell the difference between Roan and Dun.)

On the promotional page for the AQHA Foundation, we get a slightly different story:

Breyer is proud to honor the AQHA’s 75th anniversary milestone with this very special limited edition model. Featuring custom packaging and a silver logo on the belly, each model is airbrushed by hand in a variety of colors. Just as in the real horse world, the Breyer AQHA horses are most commonly found in sorrel and bay, but you might also be rewarded with a palomino, bay roan, grullo, black or more! Models are shipped randomly so you'll receive a wonderful surprise and a beautiful model and you'll feel great about your support of the Foundation.

Wait a minute: “…black or more!” Gah!

Anyway, it’s clear that Reeves does know the difference between Roan and Dun; the numbered color categories text above is, I believe, how they categorize/assort them for shipping: X number of #1, Y number of #2, and so on, with #4 being the “any and all other colors, including Roan and Dun”.

I like how the Foundation page text also states clearly what I’ve been assuming all along: the color release proportions will be similar to that in real-world Quarter Horses: lots of Bays and Chestnuts, some Palominos, and a smattering of everything else.

For the record, I have no idea what the actual production numbers are, or will be, for each color. I think the Grulla, Roan, and the (currently hypothetical) Black will still be relatively rare, because they are relatively rare in Quarter Horses in real life.

The Grullas seem a little more common right now, but that could just be an artifact of knowing where to mine for them: Tractor Supply stores. I found my Roan at a small, locally-owned hobby store; if that’s where the Roans (and “more”) are being targeted for release, finding them will be inherently a little harder.

It’s too soon to tell, however, based on such a small sample size. It would make sense if they did send the rarest of the rarities to stores like that, rewarding loyal and independent stores with higher demand items both to encourage foot traffic and drive more holiday and year-end sales.

As for what “more” entails, I have no idea if, when, what: Buckskin, Dappled Gray, Perlino Dun, Cremello, Silver Dapple and Dunalino are just some of the viable and still previously unused options for this mold.

I think that the Black ones, if they do exist, may be like the Black Fun Foals - factory repainted pieces of colors that are still in stock by the end of the year (Bays, Chestnuts?) My theory is that the Black will be the rarest - like the Fun Foals!

Or end up being casually tossed into the Ninja Pit next year to destroy us all.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Roan AQHA Horse

Well, just take a look at what I just found at the toy store on the way home, not even two hours ago - and what made me break my promise not to buy anything through the end of the year!

Yes, that's a BAY ROAN 75th Anniversary AQHA Horse. That everyone was sure didn't exist because of the cryptic nonanswers Reeves was dishing out on social media.

For the record, there are a lot of horse and model horse people who do work there. It's just that they are not always the ones to answer the questions.

I was still so excited after I bought him that I carried him with both hands to the 7-11 next door to buy a celebratory Big Gulp.

He already has a name, by the way - Roan Where You Want To! Because I am a dork.

The store had also just unpacked its Elskas, too, but I was too excited about the Roan to look at them clearly, so I took a pass on them.

This was one of the colors I was hoping for, so it was a very happy ending to a very crazy week.

Two scoops in one week!