Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rare Ones

I managed to resist the Breyer web site’s valiant attempt to get me to spend more money, but then on the way home the next day I swung by the toy store, and voila –

Then I get home and this little one was waiting for me:

Let’s talk about some interesting particulars of both of these releases.

The absence of the Palomino AQHA Horse from the individual sales on the Breyer web site – along with the Black – have led many to speculate that the Palomino truly is, as some Breyer reps were telling us early in the year, “The Rare One”.

I am not so sure. I think the absence is partly due to the fact that it was exclusively “The Rare One” for eight months before any of the other colors showed up. Most the Palominos that were made have already been shipped out. And sold – not all, obviously, but most.

I do think the Black is likely the rarest. Either that, or bunches of undistributed ones will be showing up in the usual places otherwise undistributed things go. Along with any “unredeemed” Glosses from the Customer Appreciation Offers, unless they repurpose them somewhere.

(Cringes at the possibility of Gloss Blacks. Oh, dear.)

The colors on the Holly and Ivy are interesting: they’re not the conventional Bright Red and Kelly Green that most of us assumed they would be. They’re more like a Burgundy or Candy Apple Red and Evergreen.

Reeves had been working on perfecting the colors for a while – attendees of the previous Exclusive Event in New Jersey saw some early attempts. It was all pretty much guesswork on their part because there are no verifiable vintage Christmas Decorators to reference.

I momentarily considered trading my Holly for an Ivy, but then I realized (a) I don’t have time for that, and (b) I still want both. Or all: now that they seem to have two of the colors down, I’m hoping we will be seeing the Red Smoke and Green Smoke versions next year?

And what shall we call all of these “new” colors? Again, there’s no documentation to go by that would give us a clue.

I’d really rather not go with Green and Red Filigree. Aside from the fact that a significant portion of the hobby can’t spell “filigree”, I’d prefer we (or Reeves) give these colors names as unique as the original Decorator color names were.

I kind of like a sort of variation of Peppermint/Spearmint. (But not Spearmint as a flavor, personally. Long story.) I think Holly Red and Ivy Green can work too, in the same way we refer to the colorways of the original Buckshot as “Buckshot Blue” and the Appaloosa Performance Horse as some variation of “APH”.

These guys really have to be the last models I buy on a whim for a while, outside of possible thrift store finds, box/collection lots for resale, and any obligated club/trip purchases; I have too many other things committed to my time and money for the front end of next year.

I could probably stand to sell some more stuff, too.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Coin Flips

Shall I remind you again how awesome my Salvation Army is? I found this dress on sale there a couple weeks ago:

Next year’s theme is a Rio-style Carnaval, and my local Salvation Army delivers to me – on sale, even! – a blue and yellow satin dress that looks like it fell out of Carmen Miranda’s closet. Seriously, what were the odds of that happening?

It’s not a completely random thing, finding this dress: this particular store has a reputation for unexpected treasures, and I try to make it a habit to visit once a week or so. But finds like these (see also: Excalibur and Shannon) have made me think a great deal about the difference between chance and luck.

Chance is the outcome of the coin flip: absent any external or interfering factors (like the wind, or a weighted coin) it is completely random.

Luck is what you can make of those coin flips.

Luck can be changed: time or perspective can later reveal a bad flip good, a good flip bad, or inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes chance deals us blows – one big one, or series of small ones – that are devastating in ways a little positive thinking can’t completely overcome.

Chance is far more difficult to change. While coin flips do even out over the long run, in the short run you’re going to have runs of very fortunate flips, and runs of very bad ones. Unless you’re a Jedi (unlikely) you can’t change those coin flips, regardless of how or what you think about them.

I spent way too much time over the weekend persuading myself not to participate in this week’s “Collector Appreciation Weekend”. The text of the e-mail suggested that a different set of freebies will be available, and the Roan AQHA Horses appear to be sold out on the web site, hence my indecision.

In the end I didn’t do it, mostly because I hated having completely random chance trying to dictate my happiness. I’ll buy the models I want to buy now because I like them and want them, and not worry about the “friends” they might bring with them.

If I can get a few other things worked out on Tuesday, I might take Reeves up on that discount-plus-free-shipping thing. I’ve been lingering over the new Deer Family release every time I’ve seen one in my travels…

As far as the dress goes, I don’t know if I am going to participate in the costume contest, but at some point during the festivities, I am going to wear it.

(When I showed it to Mom, her first reaction was “You’re wearing that to BreyerFest next year, aren’t you?” Sometimes it’s like she knows me!)

It’ll make me happy, it might make other people happy. I have to keep reminding myself that that should be the end of the discussion.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Holly and Ivy

Sorry for my extended absence; earlier in the week I called an insurance company about what I thought was a minor billing issue. Six hours of multiple phone calls over the period of two days and… it’s still not resolved.

I won’t go into the particulars, except to say that the problem we discovered was so unusual that it was possibly unique. And as far as it can be determined, it was nothing I did, either. There was a tiny crack in the system, and lucky me managed to fall into it.

Sigh. All I can do is hope that they somehow sort it all out by the end of the month. And hope nothing bad happens to me in the meantime.

After dealing with all that, I opened my second surprise box, hoping the Universe would recompense me with an extra special gratuity: no, just a Sorrel. He is very nice (all the AQHA Anniversary Horse colors were), but I am undecided on his eventual fate; I’d rather wait until I am in a better state of mind to make that decision.

On a happier note, Reeves did provide us a Christmas Day Special:

Christmas Deco Flashes Holly and Ivy! Not the mold I was expecting, but a happy little surprise, nonetheless: our first true Christmas Decorators. While I’m hoping for the Green one, because the notion of an intentionally green horse delights me, they are both lovely.

As I expected, they ran it a little different this time: it was a first-come, first-serve Gambler’s Choice of two different colors, 350 pieces of each color, 95 dollars and Postage Paid, even internationally.

There was a little bit of grumbling in some quarters about pretty much every aspect of the offer (wrong colors, wrong molds, wrong timing, not being “rare” enough) with the inevitable prediction that it might not sell out at all, which of course was not the case: I think it took about four hours for it to do that, which was by 3 p.m. Eastern.

Aided by the free shipping to everywhere and people with multiple accounts (I swear, some days I feel like the only person in the hobby who has just one.)

Because there was such an initial rush to purchase, and the information page went away right after, there’s already a lot of misinformation going on about Holly and Ivy that will, as history has taught us, persist for years.

Namely, the quantity: there are 350 of each color, not total. I don’t think this will affect the prices on the secondary market too much, long-term or short-term, but I’d like to get it nipped in the bud. Bad data tends to generate more bad data.

As for another shoe/Special Run dropping in the next several days? Maybe.

Personally, I’d rather it not, since next week is full of work, and appointments, and that insurance issue that still needs to be resolved. But the Universe runs according to its own whims, and not my own.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Me and My Luck

Sorry about the little hiatus there – a busy weekend that involved a lot of cleaning, reorganization and housekeeping. My office now looks moderately presentable, or at least navigable.

I also had a minor panic when I received an e-mail about a refund for an item I ordered as a part of that 100-dollars-gets-you-a-free-horse promotion. After about an hour of fretting about it, I managed to determine which of the two boxes in question involved the refund, and opened it. Whew, I still got my freebie!

I had already heard about the vast majority of the freebies being AQHA Horses, and I thought that I’d be moderately safe, since I only had one of the six and it was a rarer one to boot. So I would have been fine with the Bay, the Black, the Grullo, the Palomino or the Sorrel. I pulled it out, and…

... a Roan again, naturally!

So I tried to spin this into a positive: at least I’ll be able to recoup some of my investment, right?

Then the next day Reeves decided to allow people to order Sorrel, Bay, Grullo and Roan directly off the web site, no mysteries involved. While the absence of the Black from the sale may indeed indicate that it is the rarest of the six store-released colors, I think the absence of the Palomino just means that they’ve already shipped all available stock to retailers. It was the rare one before the other rare ones, and it has been available all year.

So now I’ll probably have to hold on to my spare Roan for a while until the market settles. Since I do have most of this week off, I’ll toss pics of him up on my MH$P page on Monday, just in case. (I’d also consider trading him for a Grullo or Palomino.)

All in all, it wasn’t a bad deal; just another case of my funny luck kicking in and making my life a tad more complicated than it needs to be. Basically it is a variation of my Fighting Stallion Problem: finding Woodgrains and Charcoals is easy, but nice plain Matte Alabasters are inexplicably hard.

My other box remains unopened. Whether or not it stays that way until Christmas Eve will depend on how the rest of the week goes.

Oh, and here’s a (spoiler-free) picture I found on Twitter that pretty much sums up my Star Wars experience:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Not the Surprise I Was Expecting. Still Good!

Well, Wednesday was a surprise – just not the one I expected!

So anyway, here’s what happened. I was feeling my oats a bit on Tuesday, and decided to take a quick cruise of the local Craigslist. I normally don’t have a whole lot of luck there; either I’m too late, or it’s too far away, or prices are in the “You want What for What?” range.

I found an ad, and it was local. And the ad had been posted the day before. The work event that I had to be at on Wednesday was rescheduled for next week, so I had the time.

When I got there, here’s what I found:

Whee! Horsies!

It's a collection of about 90 or so models, mostly Breyer but some Stones and Resins. Most are from the late 1990s and early 2000s, the collection of a former hobbyist who lost interest in the hobby a while ago. The collection has been packed up since then. They are in fairly good shape overall, though some have minor nicks, dings and slight yellowing. The Silver Comet (Polo Pony) is bloated, and a few of the older models probably fall into body box territory.

There don't appear to be a lot of matched sets – it looks like the QVC horses were bought individually, for instance. Many models were bought at BreyerFest in the late 1990s - as the Bold, Excalibur, Rhodonites and Shannon attest.

The Eustis wasn’t technically a part of the sale, though I was told that offers would be considered. He had two chipped ears and a cracked tail, but seemed otherwise lovely.

Off in the upper left of one photo is a small box of tack, some by Elaine Sulser. (That Legionario over there had a broken/missing foot). There were a few boxed items, including a Cream of Tartar, Belgian Toby (without tack) and a Chestnut Pinto Lady Phase. Maybe a Gifted, too, I forget; I was so busy chatting that I forgot to take notes on that little group. The boxes were not in collectible shape, but the horses appear to be.

Yes, that’s an Extreme Justice laying on the table below. Not something I expected to find out here! He seemed fairly nice, but I was too busy chatting it up to take extensive notes on him. You know me, I’m not a huge resin person anyway:

So anyway, the ad is still up on Craigslist – I’m in Southeastern Michigan, to give you a head’s up where to look – and I’m about 25-30 minutes from the seller, if you want me to go take additional pictures or do pick ups for you. The seller is very motivated to get them sold, and the prices were reasonable, and negotiable.

And I know you’re ready to ask the question: Yes, I bought the Excalibur and the Shannon for myself!

(My office doesn’t normally look that bad. No, really! Dog + Holidays + Work, I swear.)

I had been wanting these two for years – the circumstances of the BreyerFests they were distributed at basically prevented me from even really trying to get them. I was on strict orders from my dermatologist to stay out of the sun the year they sold Shannon. And I was delayed for some reason getting to the KHP with the Excalibur; by the time I did get there I was way too far back in the line to make it worth my while, especially since they were having both technical and communication difficulties.

So I chalked these up as two models on my "not likely to get, ever" list. Either the timing, or the prices were never right.

Until today! Yay!

The flaws on these two are fairly minor – nose rub and a burnish mark on the neck of Excalibur, and a couple of pinpoint chips and a slightly bent hind leg on the Shannon. Moot, really, since they aren’t going anywhere.

My two "Surprise" boxes are still sitting on my porch, and have been there since I got home. Whether or not I got anything special is almost moot now, you know?

I attained two grails, and came home with a fun story to tell: anything else I got today will be the candy sprinkles on a chocolate cupcake day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Spoiler Alerts and Gray Areas

FYI: I’ll be mostly offline for the next few days to avoid spoilers for both Star Wars and the Collector Appreciation Surprises. My surprise(s) are allegedly arriving tomorrow. Can I hold out a week, or will the anticipation drive me mad(der)? We’ll see!

(For the record, I’d be happy with either an AQHA Horse or – yes, even – the Autism Horse. Again, folks, it’s not a horse designed for hobbyists per se, and that’s okay.)

How did I spend a small chunk of my Monday? Determining that I’ll likely be adding Tuesday Morning to my list of places where I can’t/won’t go looking for horses anymore. That was a lot of hard driving to see so very few horses!

My no-shop list also includes auction sites in languages other than English, Facebook, and Ollie’s. And after this year’s washout I’d add Tractor Supply to that list, if it wasn’t for the fact that my local one is located literally next door to the (much more fruitful) Salvation Army.

It’s interesting that the stores most hobbyists find their treasures are precisely the ones where I strike out – and vice versa! (Things might get interesting on that front later this week, incidentally.)

But anyway, getting back to spoilers and such… apparently a blurry photo of next year’s BreyerFest Horse – a gray Mangalarga Marchador by the name of Imperador das Aguas – has “leaked” online. It was possibly a blown up and slightly manipulated version of a thumbnail that can be found on the Breyer web site under your order history, if you ordered BreyerFest tickets this year.

It really is the size of a thumbnail, and even my prodigious Photoshop skills can’t render it into anything presentable without taking generous liberties with it. So I won’t.

There’s been some discussion of the ethics of distributing an image of an item that has not been “officially” released: does this thumbnail constitute an official photo release?

Yes and no. It can be found without resorting to nefarious or dubious means, so it’s not technically illegal to look at it – or point others in the same direction. But from its size and image quality, it’s definitely not meant to be a “best” look.

Whether Reeves meant to do it or not, I don’t know. I guess it could be interpreted as a “soft launch” – in other words, a quiet or discreet releasing of something without any fanfare. And even if not, I’d hardly call the image’s release evidence of some sort of failure on Reeves’s part.

It just is.

What I do find a little dubious are the snap judgments based on the thumbnail. Judging Breyers based on their official photos is dodgy enough, but on an image that’s only 80 x 64 pixels? Anything more than “Gray Horse, Action Pose” is a stretch.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Somewhat Surprised

The “surprise” Reeves promised us was a little anticlimactic, at least initially: a “Collector Appreciation Weekend” offer of one free model worth at least 46.99 – basically a higher-end Traditional – with every online purchase over $100 (on selected merchandise, yadda yadda).

I was kind of wondering if the photograph they were using to promote the surprise had provided us any clues, and apparently it did:

If you look closely at the photo, there’s one of those Sample/Prototype Valegros in it; the production pieces have black bases, not clear ones. The hook that’s been getting some people to bite on this deal? Some of those freebies could be something more. From the e-mail:
Your free model could be a beautiful Traditional model, or it could be a NEW 2016 model, or it could be a GLOSSY finished piece created just for Collector Appreciation Weekend!
Well, that’s one possible way to distribute those leftover Valegros!

While I rather doubt I’ll get anything “good” out of the deal – other than the Roan AQHA Horse, my luck on surprises this year has been not great – I took the plunge and bought a bunch of Stablemates and a couple odds and ends off the Breyer web site that I had been eyeing for a few months now.

Depending on how the finances look once I take care of a few bills today, I might go for another shot and get the rest of the Stablemates I want and the “lobster butt” Zodiac horse that amuses me so.
If nothing else, I get a bunch of stuff I wanted to get eventually anyway, and I will have a nice little stockpile of Stablemates that may come in handy next July, if a certain project comes to fruition.

The hyper-caffeinated real-time thread on Blab was an hysterical and fun way to spend a big chunk of my Friday afternoon, too. (No more Chewy Sweet Tarts for me, ooh boy….)

To heighten the surprise, I’ll wait until XMAS Eve before I open these box/boxes. I suspect a lot of hobbyists may go that route as well, so it may be a while before we know what gets distributed.

Oh, and I would not be surprised if there is at least one more surprise waiting in the wings. Remember, we had three last year, in addition to the Silver Filigree Ashquar: Banff, Glacier and Rolly.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tack Masking

And my selection was…

The Traditional Foiled Again! Upon closer inspection, the Performance Horse Indian Pony had a couple of bothersome smudges in his spots, while this Foiled Again had the neatest and cleanest halter I’ve seen on the multiple examples I’ve inspected over the past couple of months. Pretty shading, too, with no obvious flaws.

I don’t know what this brings my Pacer total up to. About twenty, maybe? I lose track of how many variations of the original #46 I have. (Five?) The Pacer is one of the few molds where I give my completist tendencies free rein.

I think I’m only missing the two Niatrosses (QVC and Regular Run), the Slate Gray, Before the Wind and of course (Le Sigh) Praline. I waffle back and fourth over the necessity of collecting every possible sock and halter color combo of the Dark Chestnut. I’d like to upgrade my Sulky Set, eventually, and I have to decide if I really need another Strike Out (the one I have might be a Sample, still not sure).

I don’t have any true Tests or Oddities of the Pacer; they’re not particularly rare or unusual, I just haven’t had the good fortune of running across one in my price range. I do have a Test for the Dan Patch, but it’s on the Quarter Horse Gelding mold.

While on the whole the switch from metal masking to laser die-cut stickers has been a net positive, one of the setbacks has been the loss of the tack masking, in favor of handpainting.

Theoretically this should have been a good thing (no overspray) but molded-on tack tends to be small and elaborate, and mistakes are difficult to correct when you’re working with paint that dries in seconds.

With small quantity Special Runs it’s not too big an issue, but with a Regular Run like the Dark Bay Foiled Again and his Bright Yellow halter, it’s been a problem.

You all know that I am rather forgiving when it comes to small flaws. But seriously: I am lucky enough to live in an area where it’s actually possible to handpick. and it still took me until nearly the middle of December to find a Foiled Again I was happy to take home with me.

Monday, December 7, 2015


There are some models that are determined to elude your grasp, and I just going to have to accept that the Mini Falhófnir is one of them. My Vintage Club Bravo came in the interim, and he will have to sate my Stablemates fix, for now:

I was a little concerned that they might not attempt the muscle line shading on this little guy, but it’s there. Yay! Now that the painters have had a little practice with that color, here’s hoping we’ll be more Glossy Line Shaded Alabasters in the near future.

It’s definitely one of the more underused of the “vintage” colors, and it’s hard to think of a model that wouldn’t look good in it, in any scale.

It can be a hard mental hurdle for a lot of hobbyists to overcome, but having a few “uncatchables” on your want list is not a bad thing. It would be very boring for me, personally, if every model I ever wanted just fell into my lap. The chase is part of the fun!

And it’s so very satisfying when you do finally snag one your elusive little buggers, especially if it’s at a fraction of its price when it was hot and/or new.

Speaking of gloss light gray goodness, apparently there are some Glossy Icelandic Elskas floating around. I’ve been fortunate enough to see quite a few Elskas locally, but nary a one in Gloss. I’m guessing that the Gloss percentage for the run is significantly lower than it has been for other more recent releases with random Glossies, like the Bay Giselle and Gilen set from a couple years back. (I saw another one in a store not that long ago, actually!)

I wouldn’t mind finding her, but I’m not going to go out of my way looking for her, either. If she’s as rare as I suspect she is, I really don’t have enough time in the day. Especially when I have to deal with this mayhem-generating monster:

Yesterday she got into a goodie bag stashed in my bedroom – necessitating an emergency run to the vet – and today she’s been hellbent on taking down the Christmas tree one ornament at a time. After all that, then she has the audacity to still be this adorable when she naps.

Anyway, I do want to get myself one more “store-bought” horse for the year, but I’m eyeing something a little more mundane like a Foiled Again, a Glitterati, or that pretty Indian Pony Performance Horse with the nice dappling who’s been giving me That Look the last few times I visited him at one of my local toy store haunts.

He’s not the Chalky variation – another one of my uncatchables – but he is pretty, affordable, available, and one of my favorite molds. Not seeing any downsides there.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cheetahs and Memories

I’ve had this picture for a couple of months now, and I’ve been wanting to post it here, but I haven’t quite found the right angle. But now I think I have, so here you go:

Yes, it’s an old taxidermy mount of a cheetah. Wearing a hat.

So, what does this have to do with Breyers or Breyer History, other than being an indirect reference to the Cheetah in the Chris Hess Wilderness Animal Series?

More than you might think.

Those of you who know me well (or better) know that I have a wealth of stories to tell – some about my family, some about the strange things that only seem to happen to me (a potential blog in and of itself), and quite a few about the hobby.

I alluded to one such story – about the Cheetah, above – in a post from about a year ago about the Solid Black Morgan:

Whenever I do tell the extended story of the weirdest things I’ve ever found at the flea market, the Cheetah usually comes up, partly because of the fabulous punchline: Oh, and by the way, it was wearing a hat.

It never fails to get at least an eyeroll from my audience.

It wasn’t until I was doing a search for something else entirely that I ran across a photo of the fabled beast. It really is him, and not something just like him, though I suppose with my track record that wouldn’t be out of the question, either…

Anyway, I knew it was real, but everyone else has just assumed that it had to be real because (1) it’s me doing the talking, and (2) the story is just too strange for it not to be real. There was no actual proof that this thing ever existed, except in my stories.

This is actually a significant problem in the model horse hobby. Because of the Breyer’s lackluster recordkeeping, and significant gaps in our ephemera stockpiles (especially for the 1959-1962 era) we tend to rely a great deal on stories that have been handed down, told and retold.

While there does tend to be a kernel of truth in many of these stories, there’s often no actual proof, other than the believability of the narrator and whether or not it fits the narrative we’ve already constructed.

That’s why I continue to look for evidence of things that we “know” to be true – because, in actuality, it might not be. Memory is a funny thing, and not 100 percent reliable, especially as the moment the memory was made rolls further away into the past.

That Cheetah is pretty much the way I remembered it though. Which is both reassuring, and disturbing.