Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Delicate Flowers

My work schedule is relatively light this week, so with a little luck, I should be able to get a huge chunk of my BreyerFest prep done this week. I tried squeezing in what I could over the weekend, but the distractions (and chores) were many and mighty.

And the flea market was unusually unproductive again, this week.

Instead of focusing on the aggravation, let us instead focus on a recent upgrade I made to my Stablemates collection:

Isn’t she lovely?

A Dapple Gray Arabian Mare was actually one of the first Stablemates I ever bought for myself, way back when. Not long after she came home from Kmart with me, my brother got into an angry snit over something dumb, and in the process broke off one of her legs. (Grandma moved in, and my brother and I had to share a bedroom for a while. Things got heated, occasionally.)

In the ensuing years I spent a great deal of time trying to upgrade her, usually without luck. Dapple Gray paint jobs, especially those from the later 1970s, were definitely not built to last, and finding an unrubbed/undamaged example was not easy.

My previous example was pretty good – just a few high point rubs, mostly on her legs – but when I pulled this one out of that pretty terrific box lot I purchased earlier this year, there was no question who was staying and who was going.

Both earlier and later Dapple Grays were far more durable. Earlier Dapple Grays either came with a Gloss or Matte topcoat that did a good job of sealing the gray paint job from excessive damage, and later examples had improved surface prep to ensure better paint adhesion.

If I recall correctly, the use of the Matte topcoat extended into the Stablemates era, but wasn’t used on the handful of Stablemates that came in Dapple Gray.

I don’t think it was a technical issue, because the topcoat was used on the Alabaster releases. Maybe they didn’t think it worth the expense, especially since the Dapple Grays were challenging enough as it was?

Whatever the reason, the lack of a “sealer” coat created condition issues down the road that has ended up making these already-scarce releases even scarcer.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Time, Timing, and Sparkles

In spite of my already overscheduled weekend, I went on a last-minute “wild horse chase” this morning. My sales list for BreyerFest is looking a little spare (no time to finish herd culling!) and I was hoping I could supplement it with a few bodies, at least.

There were no horses worth bringing back. The trip wasn’t a total loss – I did find exactly the vintage fabric I needed to finish off another old quilt project – but for the time. BreyerFest is coming up way too fast, and it really feels like I don’t have a moment to spare this year.

Speaking of impromptu road trips, I did manage to make a quick stop at one of the better stocked toy stores earlier this week on my way home from work, and finally manage to catch an up-close look at several of those new Translucent Patriot models that everyone’s going gaga over.

And… I’m still not all that impressed by it. It’s mostly the mold: it’s very hard for the Clock Saddlebred mold to impress me. The 2005 BreyerFest Raffle Dragon Horse Merlin was another extremely popular piece that left me wondering what the hubbub was about.

I wouldn’t have turned one down if I had won it, of course, but not-winning that year didn’t have the usual sting. (And it also came with a bit of relief, because me and somewhat delicate things made of resin don’t mix.)

I was hoping for a little more oomph on Patriot’s paint job, too: you could barely see the stars on the ones I got to examine. And there were no sparkles! The Horse Crazy Stablemates have ruined me for that.

The store also had a Toro – the Buckskin Appaloosa Nokota Horse Flagship Horse – and him, I liked. But since I need to be on this super-tight budget a few weeks more, I left that one behind too.

I also skipped out on the Vintage Club Blind Bag Drawing, in spite of the temptation of Glossy Kiowas. Aside from the lack of fun money being an issue, my luck has not been so good with winning random Glossies/goodies lately – whether it’s a super-limited (12 pieces?) Glossy Kiowa or one of the Decorator Running Stallion Sailors I don’t have.

Besides, I already have that Sample/Test Kiowa – the non-Chalky one with the acrylic handpainted markings, on a Warehouse body – that I found in the Ninja Pit couple years back, and I’m plenty happy with him. Two is company, three’s a crowd, right?

Let’s hope tomorrow’s road trip to the flea market is more productive than this morning, and last week. (The market was busy, but the pickings were slim for me.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Breyer and LIcensing

Alan Young passed away last week. For those of you not old old enough to remember, he played Wilbur Post on the TV show Mr. Ed.


Mr. Ed may have been responsible for my obsession with horses: in my pre-Kindergarten years, I lived for the early afternoon TV lineup on our local UHF Channel 50 that consisted of The Adventures of Superman, Mr. Ed, and Bill Kennedy’s At the Movies.

One of my childhood crusades was trying to get Breyer to make a Mr. Ed model. (And also, to a limited degree, Super-Horse. Which in light of the Supergirl TV show, might be an idea worth looking into again. But I digress…)

I learned later that there had been some motion on the notion, but a Mr. Ed model never came to fruition, obviously.

Sometimes a license is too expensive, or it’s too difficult to work with, or the marketing research tells you that there’s not enough of a market there to make a go of it.

Breyer has also not always had the best of luck when it comes to licenses, either. By the time they had finally committed to expanding their “Breyer Animal Creations” line in the 1950s, Hartland had already locked up most of the TV Western licenses.

Breyer did eventually manage to secure licenses for Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Circus Boy (Corky and Bimbo the Elephant) and Fury. Lassie, Rinty and Fury ran well into the 1960s, and they recouped any losses they might have incurred with the short-lived Circus Boy by releasing the Elephant as a separate item into the 1970s (and beyond).

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Breyer attempted to secure more entertainment industry licenses.

And one of the first big licenses they went after?

Benji and Tiffany.

Yeah, that didn’t go so well, either.

It went so not-well that the leftovers Gift Sets haunted the Bentley Sales Discontinued Sales List for years afterward. It’s only the passage of time, and nostalgia, that’s eventually given those dogs some value.

The licensing situation has gotten somewhat better for them, but in light of that history, it’s understandable that Reeves is cautious.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Additions to the Reference Shelf

Here’s an unusual and unexpected addition I made to my Marguerite Henry First Edition collection. Though, as you will plainly see, I rather doubt they’ll ever be making a model or gift set out of this one:

There are no horses in Geraldine Belinda, just a selfish little girl who learns how to share. It’s from 1942, a few years before Henry wrote Justin Morgan Had a Horse.

I found it while poking around a dollar table at the local flea market; I only happened to pick it up because my mother’s name is Geraldine. She’s never been fond of it, but I thought it might cheer her up a bit to know that her name was at one time considered pretty enough to grace the cover of a children’s book.

(And who knows? Maybe that’s really where Grandma Jankowiak got the name. It’s from the same time period. Though Mom’s middle name is actually Virginia, not Belinda.)

Another fun addition to the library was this hobby catalog from 1959/60. I was really excited when I found it, since it falls within that largely undocumented period of Breyer History. It’s an engrossing read but alas, animals of any kind are scarce within.

Horses are rather complicated creatures, anatomically, and not easy to “make right” even as preassembled pieces. Most kit horses that do turn up (that aren’t “The Visible Horse”) are usually a part of Western-themed or historical kits. Throughout the 1960s, however, both Aurora and Revell came out with a small line of 1/8 horse kits:


(Breyer had the license for Fury through 1966, so Aurora’s kit was clearly not considered direct competition.)

I’ve always wanted to find just one of these kits – assembled or otherwise – for my collection, but this is a fairly big area for modellers, and vintage kits of any kind tend to be scarce and/or expensive.

Breyer didn’t start making kits of their own until the 1970s, and of accessories, not the horses themselves. But I’ll take about that some other time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fit for a Duchess

Just yesterday I was cleaning out my body box; I was looking for some craft supplies I had tucked away in the same general area, and sorting happened. One of the bodies was of a Classics Duchess, a mold that I’ve grown rather fond of in recent years.

Like a lot of hobbyists ca. 1980, I dismissed the Duchess mold in the “Black Beauty and Friends” Gift Set as the plainest and least interesting member of the quartet. A standing mare, in unmarked Bay: a description doesn’t get any more nondescript than that.

In more recent years, however, she’s grown to become my favorite. There’s a casual, backyard beauty to her that’s been obscured not just by her initial paint job, but also a bit by the rougher finish Chris Hess went with with this set. One of these days, I tell myself, I’m going to do a custom that reveals it.

So after a long day at work today, I did a quick scan of the Internet for any breaking news, and look at the latest BreyerFest Special Run announcement: there’s a Duchess in it!

Dang you Reeves, for reading my mind, again. (The full announcement is on the BreyerFest Blog site, if you want to read the particulars.)

I probably shouldn’t get too excited about her, though, since this pair – Mancha and Gato – are items specific to the “Breyer Mercado” – aka this year’s version of the Pop-Up Store/Tent of Despair.

Nope, nope, nope. I’ll sleep on a sidewalk overnight, walk around a dirt arena in high heels and/or a funny hat, or saw models in half, but that’s just one line too many to stand in.

I really do not understand Reeves’s reasoning on these Pop-Up Stores. If they are as concerned about the Friday morning goings-on as they say they are, why add a couple more first-come-first-served scarce (but cheap!) Special Runs into the mix?

If the Pop-Up Store is really meant to have a more casual tourist/gift shop atmosphere, the items within can’t just be less expensive, they also have to be more plentiful. That’s about the only way I can think of that could cool down that situation.

If I want to add a few more Duchesses to the herd, shelf or body, I’ll just have to prowl the hotel for them. It’ll be a lot less stressful, and cheaper too.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dimensional Stability

I was doing a little cleanup in the office yesterday and noticed something on my research shelf of Family Arabian Foals:

The variable heights aren’t the big news here: most of us know that Cellulose Acetate is susceptible to shrinkage, both during and after molding. It’s more a quirk of the manufacturing process than a concern, unless it is also accompanied by paint discoloration, distortion, and oozing that indicate the model may be suffering from the dreaded “Shrinky Syndrome”.

What’s interesting is the composition of the tallest member of this little crew: according to his “B” mold mark, he’s molded from the Cellulose Propionate plastic.

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but that makes a lot of sense.

Breyer briefly experimented with this slightly different Tenite cellulosic plastic in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with mixed results. It was more widely available and had greater dimensional stability, but was also more brittle and difficult to finish/work after molding.

Better dimensional stability means less shrinkage and warping.

What that means for us is that this Foal is the most accurate depiction, dimensionally, of what the interior of the Family Arabian Foal’s mold actually looks like.

I now find myself almost intrigued enough by this idea to seek out other Propionate models and cross-compare them with their more standard Acetate counterparts.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Not Basic Black

You could say my first visit to the flea market this season was successful. Lots of odds and ends, but I suppose it’s the horses y’all are most interested in. One of my regular dealers had a large and plentiful box of 1990s Traditionals that I had my pick from, and these three tickled my fancy the most:

Since I’m still on budget lockdown, I’ll be limiting myself to just keeping one of them, and it’s most likely going to be the Friesian. I only have one other Friesian in my collection currently – the Celebration Model of Fire Magic – and I’ve been meaning to add another example of this Jeanne Mellin Herrick mold to the herd for a while now.

Especially one of the “Dark Gray/Charcoal” variations. And this fellow is, happily for me!

The late 1980s and early 1990s are considered one of the lower points of Breyer’s quality control; it took a few years for Reeves to get the hang of actually manufacturing something, rather than just distributing it. It also took them a few years to cultivate a stable of new sculptors and moldmakers to fill the very big void left by Chris Hess’s departure.

One of the things they managed to get right in this time period, or at least made more interesting, was the color Black.

I’m not sure why it was decided that, of all things, they needed to focus on their Black paint jobs. Perhaps because the beloved body-shaded Black of the 1960s, seen on the likes of the Stretched Morgan and the Grazing Mare and Foal, wasn’t coming back, either? Like Hess, the painters who had mastered that technique were gone by then, too.

Out of this experimentation we got the “Black-pointed Charcoal” of the early Friesians, the purplish “Plum Black” of the 1991 Show Special Saddlebred Weanling Raven, and the near-black “Mahogany” of the Adios Mesa and the #822 Morgan release of the Justin Morgan mold.

Among others: even good old-fashioned Gloss Charcoal came back after a nearly 20 year hiatus, on 1992’s Midnight Sun release Memphis Storm.

Just more reasons why I’m not as quick as others to dismiss a Black paint job. Or two, three or four of them. They could be all the same. But they could be all different, too! It is practically a cliche by now, but you really cannot judge a model by its promo picture.

Speaking of... I had previously been somewhat indifferent to the Carrick mold, but I saw some Cortes C models in person last week, and by golly he looks amazing in Black. I was not expecting that!

Monday, May 9, 2016

More a Lark than a Hope

My first reaction to the Test Color Purchase-Raffle was: I guess that means we can rule out the Ranch Horse as a BreyerFest Special Run, maybe? The mold was on my short list as a potential candidate for either the Samba Surprise or the Volunteer Model.

My second reaction was: good for Reeves for trying to spread the wealth as far as Test Colors go. Test Colors shouldn’t only be available to the highest bidder: charge a premium for them, sure, but as is the case with other scarce models, there should be multiple ways of distributing them.

On the other hand, that price.

I understood how they arrived at that price – $850 is near the low baseline for BreyerFest auction models, and hobbyist speculation on the more desirable Micro Runs also didn’t help much.

But it still made me wince. That … doesn’t really “improve” availability by a lot.

While it’s true that most of my Test Colors are older paint jobs on older molds and mostly not live show quality, the price I paid for all of my Test Colors wasn’t that much, combined. (I don’t know the exact number I have, but it’s more than a few.)

Not all Tests are primo show pieces, nor should they be priced as such. Some of us don’t necessarily want a show horse anyway, just a little piece of history to call our own.

But I don’t know how they’d go about making it a little easier for more budget-minded collectors to get in on the action, too. Classic or Stablemate Tests? A Gambler’s Choice/Mystery Sample Sale (a random Traditional Sample sent to you for X dollars)? A “Chipped and Dinged” Sale?

I did enter a couple of times, by the way, but knowing my recent luck on these things, it was more as a lark than in hope.

If I had won (Ha!) I would have found a way, somehow. I loved the color on him, and his provenance? Impeccable.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Jello vs. Kool-Aid

I finally got around to upgrading the Pink Horse Crazy G3 Tennessee Walking Horse that Vita “customized” a while back. I wasn’t able to find one locally, so I waited a while and tossed one in my Stablemates Club order:

That’s also a good way, if you did not already know, of getting your Club shipments and Web Specials double boxed, though in this case I just wanted to save myself time and gas money. I’m not sure how it is in stores in your part of the world, but in mine, the Horse Crazy Stablemates are in short supply.

But the story here isn’t about my thriftiness or ingenuity, it’s the color – the new guy is a slightly different color and opacity compared to the old. To put in in food terms: the old guy looks like Raspberry-flavored Jello, while the new guy looks like Tropical Fruit Punch Kool-Aid. Or more precisely, the slightly murky store-brand version that your Mom used to buy to save a few cents here and there.

I knew there was some color variations to be found in the Horse Crazy pieces, especially with the Purple and Pink ones being more like opposite ends of a continuum than two distinct hues, but the opacity issue took me by surprise. I don’t know if it’s enough to classify it as a “big V” variation, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

I intend on keeping the three-legged TWH, by the way. It’s not the first – and likely, not the last – three-legged Stablemate in my herd. Each one of them comes with a story, and you know how I like my stories.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Runs and Drips

I’m not going to elaborate any further than this, but I’m going to pretend that this weekend didn’t happen. Nothing particularly awful, just extremely unproductive and frustrating.

For the next week or two, as I get some long overdue paperwork and spring cleaning over and done with, the posts will be a bit on the short side, length-wise.

For example, today’s topic is about drips. Drips like this one, on an otherwise very nice Chalky Pacer:

While the general consensus seems to be that runs and drips are a clear indicator that a finish has either been tampered with, or falsified entirely, that’s simply not the case.

Although they are not common, they do show up from time to time usually – as is the case here – on Basecoated Chalkies.

Every once and a while you will also see runs and drips on early Glosses, too – particularly items from the 1950s and early 1960s. I’ve owned at least one Gloss Family Arabian Stallion with factory dripping, and I’ve seen a handful of Western Horses and Ponies suffering from similar painting malfunctions.

These are a little more controversial, because Glosses are pretty easy to fake, but identifying a genuine Gloss drip or run is like identifying a genuine Chalky finish: once you see one in person, it tends to become very obvious.

For the record, I don’t try to “fix” these kinds of factory flaws if I come across them, especially if the model is otherwise presentable. It’s part of the history of the model, and gentle reminder that those “Good Old Days” weren’t uniformly so.

Here’s a picture of the whole horse, if you’re curious:

A few marks and rubs, and a bit unstable (hence the crutch) but definitely a keeper.