Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Beginnings

Whatever got a grip on me earlier this week apparently took out a bigger bite than I thought; long story short, it’s going to be another one of those picture days.

I found this picture a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something else entirely (a photo of a certain well-known hobbyist at one of their very first live shows, looking both awkward and adorable). It’s my entire collection at the very beginning of my “hobby career”:

I can’t remember why I decided I wanted to document it for posterity, but I did. I had the Cardboard version of the Stablemates Stable, too, but I couldn’t get it to fit on the top of the dresser with everything else. (It wasn’t a horse anyway, right?)

Most of the Traditionals and Classics were gifts – Christmas, Birthday, Easter, etc. – and most of the Stablemates were ones I purchased myself with my allowance money. I still have most of these models, though I did lose a couple shortly afterwards when I discovered the awesome but mostly terrible power of nail polish remover.

The Stablemates were the early ones and a couple of these models (Man o’ War and the Western Prancing Horse) were Chalkies, but for the most part most of these models were then (and are now) pretty average in terms of rarity and/or value.

My collection then was a good representation of what was available to a suburban, working-class kid in the Midwest in the 1970s. Okay, I probably had slightly more chances and places to buy Breyers: we were right on the edge of what was considered “the country”, so feed stores were a part of my personal horse-buying equation, too.

(Flea markets came much, much later.)

I buy and sell collections of this size, composition and vintage on a somewhat regular basis now; in my more pensive moments I’ll wonder what other passion – or lack thereof – made the person who amassed that collection stop.

And wonder what I could do to lure them back.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Plain is the New Fancy

I’ve been sick almost to the point of being bedridden the past day and a half – some horrible nastiness at work that finally caught me – and while I now think the worst of it is behind me, it’ll probably be a while before I’m up to full speed again. So if you’ve been expecting a response from me, it might be another day or two yet.

So I will keep it simple today. Here’s a picture of one of my old favorites, the “Alabaster” (White, really) Running Stallion, released from 1968-1971. I liked this release so much I actually bought one at full market price, instead of waiting for the flea market to provide me one:

I am a little baffled by some of the online commentary – instigated by the release of the Croi Damsha Banks Vanilla – that berates Alabaster (and to a degree, Solid Black) paint jobs as lazy. While they are certainly less complex, they are not necessarily “lazy”.

In fact, I’d argue that a soft light Alabaster or White paint job like Banks Vanilla is no less difficult to execute than another color that may require more layers of paint or masking. Most of the work involved in an Alabaster paint job isn’t in the painting technique, but in the prep work.

Since minor flaws or imperfections cannot be hidden or camouflaged by painting or masking, the prep work on the model – the molding, seamwork, deburring, and cleaning – has to be held to a higher standard.

And contrary to common belief, the white plastic itself is not “unpainted”: anyone who has seen a true unpainted model next to a vintage Alabaster knows they are nothing alike. The surface of unpainted models have a certain sparkle or sheen to it that is removed during the production process.

I’m not entirely sure how the process goes today, but in the Chicago years that sheen was usually dealt with by the application of a Clear Matte or Gloss topcoat. Typically it was done after most of the details were paint on, but that was not always so in the case of Alabasters. Often the gray paint was applied last, which is why that gray paint tends to rub so easily.

The application of the Clear Matte topcoat during the Chicago era was inconsistent, however, and sometimes dispensed with altogether with releases that had only minor bits of white, like the Traditional Man o’ War. In the more modern (Reeves) era they have been similarly inconsistent, though most of the Matte-finished releases get “deglossed”, at least.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Concept of BreyerFest

This should be fairly obvious at this point, but I’m not going to BreyerWest. It’s too far away, and there’s no room in the budget right now anyway. Even if I did have the resources, I’m way behind on all the projects I had intended to work on this year already; I can’t afford another distraction.

I don’t do many “real world” model horse things outside of BreyerFest; my work schedule even rules out a lot of local events, outside of some weekend flea marketing. One of these days I’ll finally make it to a local live show again, I swear…

There’s also the thing where I consider it very important to step away from some potential model horse activities and carve out time for other things. I’ve said this multiple times before, but it bears repeating: I think a lot of hobbyists get themselves in trouble by not having another activity outside of the hobby to step away into.

It’ll keep you from burning out and/or losing your mind.

Lost out on a much-wanted Special Run? Totally bombed out at a live show? That obscure Clinky Grail you finally acquired arrives on your doorstep, smashed to bits?

Time to do some knitting. Or birdwatching. And in my case, quilt. (Actually, the past few weeks it’s mostly been prep work. Yes, I wash and iron fabric for fun!)

It doesn’t stop me from having BreyerFest-related nightmares, or posting dumb things on the Internet, but it helps.

I’m also a little bit worried that some of my co-hobbyists might be working themselves up a little too much about having another BreyerFest-like event on the west side of the country. It’s somewhat understandable: it’s been a few years since there’s been an event of that sort out that way, and Kentucky is several time zones away and simply not feasible for most folks out there.

In 1991, Reeves experimented with having four regional BreyerFests instead of just the one in Kentucky. They could kinda-sorta pull it off then, because BreyerFest in its earliest years was a relatively simple affair: a “gift” model, some meet-and-greets/Q&As, dinner, a raffle and an auction.

How simple? Check out this actual promotional flier for the very first BreyerFest in 1990:

And take a look at the schedule of events for the 1991 Kentucky BreyerFest (the first one I actually attended):

Yep, all in one day! (From what I remember, the “diorama contest” was a fairly casual thing then, and significantly different from the diorama contest of today.)

All the fancier stuff that we now come to expect came later, accruing over time, and has since made the regional BreyerFest concept more difficult to pull off – unless they are able to tie it to local hobbyists’ efforts.

From what I’ve seen so far they’ve been shooting for a relatively modest event, closer in spirit to the earlier BreyerFests than the later ones.

Which is fine, really. While it is always good to hope for bigger and better things, anything beyond getting together with a group of your fellow hobbyists to talk and do some horsetrading is gravy.

Friday, February 19, 2016

More Breyers at Meijers

Head’s up to anyone in the Midwest: Meijer recently got a shipment of the Stablemates American Pharoahs. I heard a rumor and decided to follow up on it on the way home from work today. And there they were, hanging out next to the Schleich display!

I didn’t buy one because I already have a couple – purchased as a part of that “Get a Free Horse!” promotion back in December. But it’s nice to know that Meijer continues to have some sort of business relationship with Reeves.

They’ve had an on-and-off relationship with them since at least the late 1980s, but as far as I know, no official Special Runs or Exclusive items. If you’re really into obscure packaging variations, some of the items sold at Meijer in the early 1990s had their own unique issue numbers assigned to them, like some of the Regular Runs sold through QVC.

Like most of the QVC items, once they are out of the box they are indistinguishable from any other Regular Run. I did find one boxed item in the Ninja Pit years ago – Double Take, I think? – that still had the Meijer labeling on it, which I thought was an obscure-but-kinda-cool thing.

(Not cool enough for me to keep New in Box, though. I saved the label, somewhere …)

Meijer was also among a select group of retailers to carry items that were essentially “Big Box Store” Exclusives, which were not otherwise available online or via smaller chains or independently-owned stores.

The two that come to mine came out in 2008: the #625 Foal Set with the Red Roan Frolicking Foal and Black Pinto Morgan Foal, and the #626 Frolicking QH Stallion in Bay Blanket Appaloosa.

Neither set is super-duper rare, but it’s been a few years so they are a little harder to find than your average Classics releases (the Foals, especially).

I’ll confess that I have a family member who works for Meijer, so I have a somewhat vested interest (Discounts!) in seeing an exclusive item there in the future.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Little Valegro

There is almost always some difference between the promotional pictures of a new model and the actual production pieces, but with the Stablemates Valegro, the differences are starker than most: while the “promo pic” Valegro has hand painted/masked leg markings similar to the real Valegro, the production Valegros have four generic airbrushed stockings.

Masked markings and finer details tend to be the exception, not the rule, on Regular Run Stablemates releases. Sometimes we’ll see some dappling, or eyewhites, or facial markings, but for the most part that kind of detailing is reserved for higher-end Stablemates releases, like the BreyerFest One-Day SRs, various Holiday-oriented items, and Club and Event giveaways.

Why? It’s probably not cost-effective to put that level of detail into items that will retail in the $3-5 range, individually.

It actually took a considerable amount of time for us to get anything other than a solid paintjob or airbrushed markings on any Stablemates release. Sure, we got Dapple Grays right out of the gate in 1975, but they were discontinued by the end of 1977, presumably because it was difficult to keep those resist dapples in scale.

(Though I think “cornflake” dappled Stablemates would have been kind of cool, personally.)

It wasn’t until 1984 that colors started getting more interesting, and more complicated: that is when we got an old-fashioned Freckle Red Roan in the Riegseckers seven-piece G1 Draft Horse set. Appaloosas appeared in 1992 (the Chestnut Leopard Appaloosa on the QH Stallion, and the Black Blanket Appaloosa on the Morgan Stallion in that year’s Sears Wishbook Stablemate Assortment/Set) and in 1995 we got a Pinto, finally, on the Seabiscuit mold (#5179 Running Paint, in Chestnut Overo – a Regular Run piece!)

Aside from the cost issue, there were also technical ones: in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, the technology wasn’t there to make the wee little masks necessary to pull off a nicely detailed Pinto, or to do anything beyond splash-spotted (or hand-spotted) Appaloosas.

We have the technology now, but the cost issues still remain. While Stablemates fanatics are not averse to spending 10-20-30 dollars or more on a single release, the vast majority of consumers (who are not hobbyists, or even particularly “horse people”) are.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Another Obscure Man o' War Variation

To show you how deep I’m going on my Man o’ War project, this was my previous purchase in the endeavor, sometime later last year:

That’s the 1986 Sears Wishbook release. (He was also very cheap!)

What’s nice about this example is that it can be tied to a specific vendor, and a relatively narrow window of time. And so will be another useful piece for establishing the chronology. As far as I know, the Wishbook release will be identical to the regular run Man o’ War, who was available through 1995.

But you never know, I might find something that distinguishes him. That’s the whole point of this exercise!

These “deep cuts” are not the kind of thing I target on a regular basis: really, you’ll drive yourself mad trying to get every box, and every variation of every box, in additional to all the actual and perceived model variations.

And end up broke, too.

Not only that, I do not have the time or space to start delving deep into every release that needs that kind of treatment (including most items prior to the purchase by Reeves in the mid-1980s).

But I thought it’d be an interesting experiment with a few specific releases I have a certain fondness for, and which already have a long and complicated variation history that need to be sorted out to my satisfaction anyway.

As I mentioned before, I've already gotten most of the expensive ones out the the way, so while this project may end up driving me crazy, it (probably) won’t drive me broke.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It's the Brahma

Today’s (February 9th’s) sneak peek on Breyer’s BreyerFest Blog is rather obviously the Brahma Bull:

It’ll be another day or two before we see if they made some changes to the horns and ears, or just went with the mold as-is. Even if that’s the case, as we should have learned from the Croi Damsha SR Chanel last year, what we see in the prerelease promo pictures isn’t necessarily what we get.

This would be one of the rare occasions where I would actually welcome a change in the mold: the pendulous ears of the Indo-Brazilian (known within Brazil as the Indubrasil) are kinda adorable. In this case the changes would be limited in scope, as the ears and horns are separately molded anyway.

Last year we didn’t have a Special Run with a Gloss/Matte split, other than the Glosses within the Surprise SR. I think this release would be an excellent candidate for that treatment, especially since it would hearken back to the original Gray release, which came in both Gloss and Matte as well.

While the Matte variation of the Gray Brahma is much less common than the Gloss, it doesn’t necessarily command a significant amount of money or attention. If most hobbyists are going to spend big bucks on a Brahma, it’s going to be for one of the more distinctive variations of the Gloss, like the Chalky or the Black-humped.

The Brahma Bull is one of the few Bull molds where I have been able to acquire the full complement, other than the Chalky (with the prices Chalkies bring nowadays, I pin my hopes on a lucky flea market find there.) I’ll have to see the Sample at the Thursday night preview before I make the decision on the newest guy. (Droopy ears = signs point to yes!)

I’m trying, for real, to limit the spending this year, so I have to be very selective about who/what I choose to bring home.

So far most of this year’s SRs have been a little … predictable. A Desatado, a Hermosa and Corazon set, and now the Brahma. (Obvious as in if you Google “Brazilian Cattle”, the Indo-Brazilian is right up top.) They’re hinting that some of the SR mold selections may come as a surprise, on the Special Run home page:
BreyerFest 2016 is inspired by the international flair of the Rio Games. Following in the spirit of the Olympics, each of our Special Runs represent either a continent or the 'brio' of Rio! Models will be released periodically leading up to BreyerFest. Be sure to cheer on your favorite!

Interesting. I’m also expecting/hoping for a Legionario at some point. I think he’d make a lovely selection for the Surprise SR, especially since he’s primarily come in solid colors, and Matte finishes. Lots of possibilities there! (Also, he’d be a good candidate for South America’s “Delegate”.)

Oh, and I’d like to point out that Reeves settles on most of these ideas sometime shortly after last year's BreyerFest. At this point in the game, all we're doing is making very good educated guesses, not actually influencing what gets made.

(Except maybe the glossy/matte thing. There might be some time yet to influence that decision.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Here’s that model in question I referred to earlier in the week: he’s a nice, minty, later variation of the #47 Traditional Man o’ War.

One of my ongoing projects currently involves tracking the changes that occurred in some long-running Regular Run items, including the Traditional #47 Man o’ War and #46 Pacer. Both the timing and the price were right, so yay, a new Man o’ War is now in the house!

Most of my Man o’ Wars are either early variations or oddballs; this is good, in a way, because it means the holes I now get to fill in my Man o’ War chronology/timeline are the more common and less expensive pieces. (The only real “rarity” I need is the Presentation Series one. Since the last one I saw for sale ended up in the $700 range, that can wait!)

But tell me if you’ve heard (or experienced) this story before. You get super-excited to get something you want real cheap… until it arrives in a box that’s clearly too small, and reeks of your Grandmother’s ashtray.

Fortunately – and as you can see from the photos – he survived the journey to my doorstep without a scratch. The box and packaging made a quick exit to the recycling bin in the garage, though, and “Manny” has been going through a couple of showers with me since then.

(We all do that, right? Rinse dirty and/or stinky new horses in the shower with us? Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

Stinky models are not an uncommon occurrence for either me or thee. Traditional Breyers are made from a semi-synthetic material that is heat and moisture sensitive: kept in a stinky environment, they’re eventually going to start stinking like it. Only cleaning, fresh air, sunshine and time can remedy that problem.

I grew up in a family of smokers, so I got good at mitigating cigarette smells. The stinkiness of the packaging was the lesser of the two evils here. That could be fixed.

The size of the box, on the other hand, made me nervous as heck. It takes more than soap and water to fix rubs, scratches and breaks.

While I can understand that some people can become inured to the smell of cigarette smoke, the fact that the model is a little too big for the box you’ve chosen should be obvious. My local post office (as I assume most of them in the U.S.) has little handouts and charts to instruct you on sensible packaging procedures.

Some of it is a lack of experience: we ship a lot of stuff to each other on a daily basis, so hobbyists tend to be unusually high-skilled in the art. But I don’t know how many times I’ve been at the local Post Office during the year-end holidays, stuck behind someone holding a box, a gift item, and wearing a confused and desperate look on their face.

The other, of course, is cost: to either save money or to avoid a trip to the store to buy packing supplies, they’ll scrimp and make do with what they have in the house. And these models are virtually unbreakable, right? A plastic bag or a couple pieces of wadded up newspaper should be more than enough!

I got lucky this time, but there are times that I have not. Why it always seems to be the really rare or unusual items that end up losing the shipping lottery, I’ll never figure out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Well, that didn’t last long – another potential financial setback yesterday that puts a sudden damper on my plastic equine hopes and dreams. Like that reverse dapple blue roan Web Special Croi Damsha “Bramble” that looks like it was engineered out of the same stuff my “little girl and magical flying dream horse” fantasies were made from:

Bramble is not what I would have ordered if I ever “won” the opportunity to Design a Test Color, but I wouldn’t have crossed it off my preliminary/brainstorming list, either.

It will be interesting to see if they can pull off such a challenging color on a production piece. They have had mixed results in the past; some of the Connoisseur Flash Reverse Polarities looked awesome, for instance, but others looked like not-passable attempts to do a Leopard-themed Decorator.

The “Berry Pony” concept is not something anyone had on their radar – most guesses centered around gemstones, or Norse Gods and other pantheons. I also thought that maybe, in honor of the Rio Olympics, that they might have gone with something Olympic-themed – either by country, or by discipline.

I guess the “Pony” part shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise: Reeves has spent some time in the past few years building up their stable of Pony molds, including the Traditionals Newsworthy, Bouncer, the new Fell Pony, and the Classic Haflinger/New Forest Pony Mare and Foal. I am all for more and better ponies!

(Speaking of which, is a new Shetland Pony mold in the pipeline yet, Reeves? Something cute, fuzzy, and a little surly? Please?)

The Collector Club Exclusive Abdul, a Flaxen Chestnut Tobiano on the Ashquar mold, has also been taken off the table. I was a little less enthused about him anyway. It’s not the mold or the pose – I’ve seen lots of pictures of Arabian Stallions “feeling their oats”, so to speak, so I have no problems with a mold doing the same.

I’m just not that crazy about him in pinto; solid colors seem to do much more to enhance his unique silhouette.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I am also annoyed that they went with pinto for the CC Special – again. Spotted releases sell better than solids, which is likely why they did it, but remember how pretty the Ashquar mold was in Gloss Bay last year, as Ganache?

He didn’t sell out at BreyerFest, but he did not long after the leftovers were put up on the web site. So while he was not everyone’s first choice, he was a lot of people’s second. Something interesting to ponder there, I think...

Gotta get to be early tonight – I have to work early, and I have a sinus headache that probably needs more sleep than medication to fix.

Oh, and the box with the horse I bought came today: the box was very small, and very stinky. Methinks I’ll be talking about this model sooner, rather than later, and about a topic or two only vaguely related to the reason why I bought him in the first place.