Friday, April 29, 2016

Different Shades of White

For your consideration and discussion today, an early and attractive Classic Arabian Family set:

These were a part of the same lot that brought me my “Famous Race Horses” set. Even though I knew they were in nicer-than-average condition when I bought them, I didn’t have any hesitation about their ultimate destination: the sales list. I have several examples of the Classic Arabian Family, and I really didn’t need another.

Until they arrived and I was able to inspect them in person, and darn it, they’re Chalky Plastic!

Well, the Stallion and the Mare are, but not the Foal. I found that a little amusing since it’s been my experience that the Foal is usually the easiest of the three to find as a Chalky.

It’s not unusual for Family sets to have “mixed” finishes: we tend to forget that each of these molds is a separate entity unto itself. One shot of plastic into a mold does not make an entire family, just the pieces of a single family member (usually two, but occasionally more if it has interchangeable ears, manes, tails or horns).

This is not a universal truth: I know some of the G1 Stablemates molds (at least) are “doubled up” and one shot can get you two different horses. But that’s a different subject for a different day.

Most of the Chalky Classic Arabians I’ve had over the years have been the basecoated type; Chalky Plastic ones are a little less common.

These were from that time period, however, when Cellulose Acetate was hard to come by, and Breyer was buying whatever they could get their hands on. That included a lot of batches of varying shades of whiteness and translucency, ranging from very bright white to housepaint-opaque.

These different shades of white might not have been as noticeable then, but they’ve become moreso over time, yellowing in different ways (if at all) from the standard semi-translucent stuff.

I’ll give myself a little more time to consider whether or not the set gets to stay, or have to go. That mare is so nice…

Monday, April 25, 2016

Silver Linings and Gold Trims

Not that one either:

Even though I wasn’t as emotionally invested in Rodney as I had been the two previous Micro Run online Payment-Raffles – Marshall and Dugan – and I’m stretched rather thin financially at the moment, I still entered every day anyway.

I have the two variations of the Dall Sheep – Gray Horn and Tan Horn – and a nice early example of the original Bighorn Ram itself. But I do not have one of the later Reissues, from which the bodies of this Special Run were likely drawn.

I did at one point, but I must not have found the example I had to be particularly appealing enough to keep. (I didn’t find the “right one”, I guess.)

That makes me 0 for 3 since the switch to the online raffle system for Micro Runs, by the way. Y’all know my opinion on this new system, and since I seem to be in the minority about it, that's as far as I'll go.

In the meantime, on to happier things. Here’s another Traditional Man o’ War. There is something special about this guy – can you see it?

He doesn’t have any gold trim on his halter!

Generally hobbyists are quick to label something like this a Cull, but since this model is otherwise flawless (for a model from the early 1970s), I think he is better classified as an Oddity: the gold trim was the last, or one of the last steps in the decorating process, and it was obviously skipped.

A detail like that could have easily been overlooked, especially if it was the end of the day and/or they had to rush an order out. A lot of times even we don’t notice these subtle mistakes, unless it’s a mold we obsess about – like me with the Traditional Man o’ War, currently.

(Which may have been the reason why I got him so cheap!)

Since he has lighter gray (but not Battleship Gray) hooves, a USA mold mark, and warmer orange-brown tones to his body color, this example is probably dateable to the period from 1970-1973.

He also happened to be purchased from the same collection as that mighty fine Bay Proud Arabian Stallion I recently spotlighted, who also from that same time period.

Friday, April 22, 2016


There was a “contest” on the Breyer web site recently to make birthday cards for Queen Elizabeth:

Who, by the way, is totally one of us. A model horse collector, that is.

I can’t recall if I shared the story here or not – I did in one of my BreyerFest Samplers a few years back – but I accidentally met one of the Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting at BreyerFest, who was there to pick up the Celebration Horse for her. I believe it was Grayingham Lucky Lad?

Anyway, it was a weird and wonderful moment for me, though a little unnerving. You didn’t go to BreyerFest – especially in the early days – and expect to find yourself confronted by questions of royal etiquette.

There was one other member of royalty who was also allegedly a Breyer collector, as well: Prince.

If you ever get a chance to watch the movie Purple Rain, take a close look at some of the scenery: there are Breyers in the background! There’s at least one music video that has a Breyer in it, too – a Buckskin Western Prancing Horse – but it wasn’t one of his videos per se, but of one of his protégés.

I remember watching it on MTV one day and freaking out about it, because to this day I still can’t find myself a decent Buckskin Western Prancing Horse, and Prince apparently gave his away to one of his paramours. Argh!

Anyway, it was something that was talked about back in the day; I remember being at one of the Model Horse Congresses I attended and the subject came up. The rumor was that hobbyists had tried to reach out and invite him to a local live show in Minnesota.

Goodness, could you have imagined if he had accepted?

I had the opportunity to look at some of the new 2016 releases first hand, finally, on Tuesday. While I’m not in a position to buy anything right now (and how!) it doesn’t cost a thing to just take a look, right?

One of those pieces was the Rock ‘N Roll Forever Horse, the Translucent Purple Decorator on the Classic Frolicking Quarter Horse:

It’s purple and covered in flamboyant decals and an image of a guitar. I looked at it and said to myself “This is totally Prince’s horse.” 

I think it’s a coincidence: I rather doubt Reeves would have known of this rather obscure bit of hobby trivia. The only celebrities they seem mention in their social media accounts, outside of the equine ones, are country music artists I’ve never heard of. (No offense, just not a fan of the more modern stuff.)

As soon as I can manage to scratch up the cash, though, I am bringing my “Purple Rain” home with me. And making a teeny-tiny raspberry beret for it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Mahogany Bay PAS Of My Dreams

Now here, my dears, is one of the most beautiful Mahogany Bay Proud Arabian Stallions in the world:

He’s one of the early ones – the “*Witez II” version, ca. 1971-4, or thereabouts – with the neatly airbrushed hind socks. Everything about him in fact, is neatly and lovingly done, right down to the wisps of his mane.

Later Mahogany Bay Proud Arabian Stallions – particularly in the late 1970s – were not so carefully painted, and were especially prone to having fuzzy gray oversprayed socks. Among other things: the late 1970s were really and truly not the best of times for Breyer’s quality control.

It was a constant source of frustration to me my younger days, when I wanted to add a Mahogany Bay PAS to my herd. Then I started going to live shows and found that neatly painted, two-stocking versions did exist, and were just as awesome I had imagined, giving me hope that I’d finally get the Bay Proud Arabian Stallion of my dreams.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally – finally! – managed to acquire one that was all the things that I had hoped for: Beautifully shaded. Neatly painted. In near-perfect condition. And (relatively) cheap.

The hardest part wasn’t finding one – he was a fairly popular mold back then, as Breyer’s first Arabian Stallion who really looked like an Arabian Stallion, or at least the way we imagined them. On any given day on almost any part of the Internet, you’re going to find multiple Bay Proud Arabian Stallion for sale somewhere, and some of them are the early two-sock version.

The biggest issue is condition: these models weren’t just popular and played with, they were also dearly loved: held, cuddled, taken to bed and taken to school. The lightly textured finish that was another hallmark of these earliest pieces was very prone to rubbing, so many Proud Arabian Stallions bear the wounds of that well-meaning devotion.

So I went through a lot of these guys – until I found this guy.

The only problem now is that the hobby’s standards of Arabian beauty have changed. While he would have crushed the competition in the late 1980s, he’d only be competitive in Vintage and Collectibility classes today.

No matter. I love him anyway. And his buddy, too, who is next up in the queue...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Puppy Monkey Breyer

Just a little head’s up here: I got hit with a double financial whammy this week – a bigger than expected tax bill, and some bad news from the dentist – so I’ll be listing some items on MH$P in the next week or two to help with the slight shortfall. I’ve been meaning to do that anyway, so I guess now is as good a time as any.

I don’t know if I’m going to buy one – the pictures are clearly that of a prototype, and not the real thing, and we all should know by now not to judge a Special Run by its prototype – but you know something? I don’t hate Estrela do Carnaval the way the rest of the hobby does.

My first reaction was not unlike the one I had for that strange and slightly disturbing Mountain Dew “Puppy Monkey Baby” Super Bowl commercial. (“What the…”) but then I sort of started giggling over the absurdity and inevitability of it.

Seriously, they’ve done just about every conceivable color and pattern on the Silver by now: an orange, lime green and brown Pegasus with a semi-naked lady decaled on its belly was just about all that was left.

While I would have gone full-on “parrot” with a bright blue body color instead of poo brown, I’m assuming that was tried and the show-through didn’t mix well with the skin tones of the Samba dancer on its belly.

It is worth remembering that the original Decorators – in Wedgewood Blue, Copenhagen, Florentine and Gold Charm – were considered hideous and spectacular failures when they were released in the 1960s. And Palomino Family Arabians were, in terms of sales and longevity, one of Breyer’s most successful.

Anyway, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be getting one; it’s one of those pieces, like the Times Square before it, that probably won’t win anyone over until he’s seen in the flesh. I am also trying (again) to keep my spending to a minimum this year – not out of a lack of interest, but a lack of space. Still trying to downsize here just a bit…

If anyone’s interested, this is the order – from most to least – of my interest in this year’s lineup of purchasable BreyerFest Special Runs, based on my assessment from their photos alone:
  1. Dag Dia – Brishen (Store Special)
  2. Namib
  3. Samba Surprise
  4. Bozeman 
  5. Sheila
  6. Estrela do Carnaval
  7. Zebu
  8. Furano
  9. Mamacita y Chico
  10. Diablo DC – Desatado (Store Special)
Interesting that there’s only one Gloss release, aside from the One Day Stablemates and whatever will be the “surprise” in the Samba Surprise. I wonder if that means we’ll be getting a 50/50 Gloss/Matte split on someone this year?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Classic Mustang Mare Variations

There’s a new Collector’s Grab Bag up for grabs on the Breyer web site, but alas I have to take a pass on it: April is an expensive month around here, with taxes, dental appointments and license plate fees on top of all the usual bills.

The hint for the last BreyerFest SR is up, and as most of us thought it’s something of the Decorator variety. (Shrunk here for clarity):

It looks like something in the Moody family of molds, with a paint job similar to the Show Jumping Warmblood Sunny, from several Exclusive Events back:

If I recall correctly, Sunny was painted on leftover Translucent bodies of the Halloween Special Run Twilight Terror, so if that’s the look they’re going for, this might be another one of the Translucents we’ve been looking for. An equine representation of the Olympic flame on a Silver, maybe, with masked flames like last year’s wild and crazy auction piece Brishen?

Back to the box lot…

This is one I’ve been meaning to spotlight for a while, but my other Mustang Family is currently in storage, and I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison. The box lot had a similar Mare, so here we go:

Some early Classics Mustang Family Mares have hand-airbrushed pinto markings, but the majority are masked with some overshading, and the ones near the end of the run are even darker and dispense with the extra airbrushing.

This photo clearly shows the first and second variations of the Mustang Mare; I don’t have the third “Clean Mask” variation because I haven’t made the Mustang Family the priority it now obviously should be.

The Mustang Family was the last of the three Classic Hagen-Renaker Family sets to be released, in 1976, and Breyer seems to have gotten a lot of the variability out of their Classics paint jobs by then.

But not all, obviously. Although my hand-airbrushed Mare is fairly close to the masking that was settled on, it’s not difficult to find ones that are not. Sometimes wildly so! The Stallion and Foal have some variability, too, mostly in the shades of Chestnut they wear (the Foal, especially) but their markings and masking stayed fairly consistent.

The Clean Mask variation of the Mare seems to be the least common of the variations among them, though none of them are particularly rare. Unlike the Arabian and Quarter Horse Families, if you want to track down and buy them, it should put much of a strain on your horse budget.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

1975 Sears Wishbook Famous Race Horses Set

And here is Pretty Horse Number Two from the recent box lot – a beautifully shaded Classic Man o’ War with an oversprayed blaze:

Of all the Classic Love Racehorses, the Man o’ War is the one with the most variability in its run. The earliest examples, like this beautiful boy, are a body-shaded Chestnut with orange undertones and extensive dark shading on his head and hooves. Later ones are lighter, more orangey, and with less extra shading. Classic Man o’ Wars at the end of the release’s extended run are redder and flatter, with paint jobs very similar to the Traditional Man o’ Wars of the same period.

The facial markings varied quite a bit, too, with at least three distinct variations:

The broken stripe is the most common, and the Hobo-style blaze is the least.

Like his compadre, the Man o’ War is also free of the mold mark. Indeed, those two and the Swaps came in the Classic Racehorse set that was sold in the 1975 Sears Wishbook, in this snug little shipper box:

It is amazing that all three fit inside that box – its dimensions are approximately 6.5 x 7.5 x 8 inches – and that at least two of them came out immaculate. Alas, the Swaps who also came in the lot has already been consigned to the body box: it’s impossible to tell if the worst of the damage came before or after the box had been opened by its previous owner.

The best part of the purchase for me wasn’t the horses, but that box. Most of the Christmas catalog shipper boxes came with similar graphics, but the size and shape of it also remind me of a vintage lunchbox. It’s a weird thing to say about a cardboard box, but it’s kind of adorable.

It also holds special meaning to me because my original three Breyer Racehorses also came via this set, though not exactly for Christmas.

Santa always made sure that my brother and I always got the same amount of gifts every year, but one of the elves in charge of processing our “order” that year delivered one too many to me, and that gift – the Famous Race Horses Set – was taken aside and hidden in a closet for a few months until it could be given to me as an early birthday present.

I discovered its hiding place a few weeks after the holidays, while I was looking for something else; it was wrapped in red and white striped paper, and I could just make out the outlines of the three horses through it. I don’t know how many times I went back to the hiding place to stare at it, until it was finally given to me.

And now I can stare at it all I want!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dark Chocolate Kelso

I was reviewing the spreadsheets of all my purchases and sales earlier this week, and I was a little amazed at how many of my eBay purchases were box lots.

Judging from my recent bidding history, I don’t think this year will be any different.

Aside from the bargain of it, it’s the excitement of opening the box and seeing what you actually have, compared to the sometimes small, sometimes blurry, and usually insufficient number of photographs you had to go on when you made that decision to bid in the first place.

I’m usually pretty good about bidding up to my max, and no higher, and making that bid on the assumption that whatever I see is in slightly worse condition than it appears. So even if I lose, I don’t lose much, other than time and a bit of enthusiasm.

(Want to lose some enthusiasm real quick? Try rinsing out petrified bugs from a sticky and heavily smoke-encrusted Marx horse’s back end. Ah, the glamorous life of a box lot reseller...)

The box lot that arrived at the house today was filled with many surprises, most of them of the happier variety. Even after I factor out the pieces I’ll be keeping – and I’ll be keeping several – I should be able to break even, at minimum.

It’ll take me two or three additional posts to discuss some of these treasures within. Since time is short today (most of was spent on the road for work), I’ll give you a photo of one of the loveliest of them all. Just look at this stunning, first-year, no-mold-mark Kelso:

Hubba hubba! The photo can’t quite convey just how deep and dark-chocolaty he is in person. In an era when there was a lot of color variations, the original runs of the Classic Racehorses (except for their markings) were relatively stable. Kelsos did get lighter and more traditionally bay-like as time went on, but finding the dark chocolate variation is not difficult.

Finding one this well-executed, however, is another matter. Even if the rest of the lot he came in had been bodies, it would have been worth it for him alone.

But they weren’t, as I’ll show you next time.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Dating That Flier

Okay, this has been bugging me for a while, and today is as good a day as any to get it out of my system. Recently Reeves sent out a color copy of this flier to Vintage Club members:

I can’t recall if this black and white copy is one I received either directly from Marney, from Reeves themselves, from someone else, or was bought as part of a package of copies that someone within the hobby was selling. The buying/selling/trading of Xeroxed ephemera was quite the booming little business back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when good reference materials were hard to come by.

Some of the earlier and more exotic pages, I later discovered, were copies of the actual archival materials Breyer had, presumably made by Marney herself. So there’s a strong possibility that even if I didn’t get this copy from Reeves, it might be a copy from the very same source material.

There are two things that bug the bananas out of this fresh bit of ephemera, however.

First is the dating: anyone who has dabbled in Breyer history could tell you that Reeves’s claim that this piece of ephemera is from “circa 1963” is wrong, on a couple of levels.

The Old Mold Mare and Foal – later known as the Proud Arabian Mare and Foal – were out of production by 1960, due to the legal dispute with Hagen-Renaker. While photos with the Old Mold Mare and Foal did float around for about a year or so afterwards – presumably by advertisers and retailers using up older PR materials – Breyer had stopped using images of these two molds themselves by early 1960 at the latest.

A more accurate date for this flier, I think, is ca. 1959, and it was designed to announce the arrival of the Family Arabian Stallion and the introduction of the color Bay. My copy of the flip side of this flier shows the Alabaster version of the Stallion all by his lonesome, though listing the Mare and Foal and all the various combos that were available:

I also have a copy of a 1959 press release from Eastman Chemical – Breyer’s Cellulose Acetate supplier at the time – that announces the release of the Bay set:

(Click to enlarge, to read.)

It is also a little troublesome that this bit of ephemera might have been cropped and retouched for release to collectors, unless there was a slightly different copy that I was not aware of without the bottom address and flip arrow. There are other early pieces of ephemera that come with slight variations of format and copy, so it is possible. 

I cannot, for the life of me, remember the exact details of the flier in Reeves’s possession when I saw it oh so long ago. So my fuzzy memory can perhaps give them a bit of a pass on that issue.

But still, guys, the date is Breyer History 101 kind of stuff. You can do better.

Friday, April 1, 2016

At Last, Another BreyerFest Buckshot!

You can tell that the Early Bird Ticket deadline is approaching, with not one but three different releases announced this week.

Two were obvious, or semi-obvious: a Bobbi Jo in a minimal Chestnut Pinto, and the “Samba” Surprise, which suggests to me either the Marwari mold (the Dancing Horse of India) or a Croi Damsha (whose name means Dancing Heart). The only thing dissuading me from those two ideas is that they were both released on very well-received BreyerFest Special Runs last year.

Releasing the same mold as a Special Run in consecutive years is not unheard of, but I’d like to give Reeves a little more credit and originality than that, in spite of evidence to the contrary. (Part of my mild apprehension to the Brahma Bull release Zebu is the name: calling a Brahma Bull release “Zebu” is like naming a Holstein Cow “Dairy”. Really, guys, that is the best you could come up with?)

So it’ll most likely be something else that’s a little less popular and more vaguely prancy, like a Ranch Horse, Rejoice, or Marabella. I also wouldn’t mind a Western Prancing Horse, but I’d rather not spend time tracking down any rare ones that would inevitably show up in a Surprise release, so forget I even mentioned it…

I like the Bobbi Jo, though I thought they’d go with something a little further away from the Premier Club release’s Red Dun Overo, and the Vintage Club Charlie in Chestnut Appaloosa. I do love minimally marked pintos, though, so I’ll definitely keep her under consideration.

But the one release that was a genuine Surprise – and a bit of a delight – was the Diorama Contest prize Pele – a Gloss Dappled Bay on the Buckshot mold?

Well, hello there, handsome. 

Didn’t see that one coming. The Buckshot mold has only been seen once before on the BreyerFest “circuit”, in another Solid and Glossy and Very Scarce release: the Gloss Charcoal Raffle Model Winchester in 1994.

If one thing can be said of the Buckshot mold, Reeves has not been shy about dressing him up in some of the most fabulous patterns and paintjobs, starting with his original release in that funky Blue Roan and/or Grulla Appaloosa. It is so distinct a colorway that it is often referred to it as “Buckshot Blue”.

As far as I can remember (long day) Buckshot Blue has only been used on one other Production item, a Special Run from the mid- to late-1980s onslaught of Special Run mail-order Belgians. (In other words, a Vintage Club release in that color is a bit overdue.)

But as one of Breyer’s more “artistic” molds – indeed, he was originally released as part of the “Artist’s Series” of models in the mid-1980s – Buckshot doesn’t get a lot of hobby-love.

Another factory in his lack of popularity is the fact that he’s also one of the most tippy of the Traditional molds. That’s why, in spite of my fondness for the mold, all of my Buckshots are currently in storage right now. There’s no amount of QuakeHold putty that would save them from The Vita.

I wouldn’t mind winning a Pele, but considering my luck on those sort of things, I won’t worry about the potential storage or display issues unless it actually happens.