Saturday, July 30, 2016

Elks Club

Almost caught up on the sleep, almost finished unpacking, and I just did a preliminary inventory of what I brought back.

In short: not much! My sales list was basically cut in half – and my pre-BreyerFest sales list was over six pages long!

I was genuinely surprised that I sold that much – including every single body I brought (all 43) So for the first time in a while, my trip was completely, utterly revenue-neutral. Yay me!

Other than the Man o’ War, I didn’t buy all that much beyond the Store and Line Specials. And even a few of those will probably be heading out the door soon; the only Samba Surprise Esprit I was interested in was the Decorator – Glossy or Matte, it didn’t matter – and I ended up with a Matte Palomino. Although it is actually the scarcest of the non-Decorator Mattes, it was the least interesting one for me, so he’ll get rehomed in the near future.

One of the few pieces I brought home that will be sticking around is this handsome Red Chestnut variation of the Elk, shown here with his older (no USA mold mark) and more brownish cousin:

Like my Chestnut Buffalo, this Elk is a late, probable end-of-run variation. I had been looking, half-heartedly, for this particular variation on eBay, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger and buy one due to my budget.

Until I sudden found myself at BreyerFest flush with cash, and in the presence of one nice enough to spend it on.

I was not alone in this assessment. He actually had to hide behind a curtain in our room for a while, as a stunning number of shoppers walking into our room made grabby hands in his general direction.

Vintage Breyer Elks generally sell pretty consistently online and offline, but even I was a little taken aback by how popular a fellow my guy was this year. I guess I shouldn’t have been, though – one of my first sales at BreyerFest this year was a (slightly) bloated Elk out of my Body Box. (Not the strangest thing I have ever sold at BreyerFest, but definitely up there.)

So Reeves, if you’re reading, I really hope you are considering an Elk as one of your Christmas Web Specials this year (or next – I can wait). I can personally attest that there’s definitely a market for him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oh, My Beautiful One

Physically, BreyerFest was not too much of a drain on me – other than what I think was an allergic reaction to something at the hotel. It wasn’t the “con crud” that took down a bunch of people this year: all my symptoms – puffiness, stuffiness and congestion – were my typical allergic reactions.

(I’m guessing it was a soap, detergent or a cleanser the hotel was using, since it happened shortly after I took a shower.)

Mentally – well, we’ll get to that another time, the good and the bad.

But here is the one completely unmitigated good that came out of this year’s BreyerFest: it was the acquisition of a model I thought I would never own. A model I thought so unattainable, I never even imagined putting him on my Grail list:

The 1991 BreyerFest Raffle Model Gold Charm Man o’ War.

I did not attend the first BreyerFest in 1990: at the time, I was taking a bit of a respite from the hobby anyway, and what was advertised didn’t seem like all that big a deal – in fact, it felt a bit like Breyer was hijacking Marney’s Model Horse Congress for its own ends, but without the live show component.

But the following year was the year of four regional BreyerFests, each with a Decorator Raffle model. And the one in Kentucky? They were raffling off a Gold Charm Man o’ War.

I wanted to go. I had to go.

I spent $43 on raffle tickets: this is the most I have ever spent on any Raffle Model, before or since. That was a fairly huge amount back then, but you know the Man o’ War mold was/is a pretty big deal for me, so I had to give it a shot.

It didn’t happen, of course. And I definitely didn’t have the budget or the mindset to buy it second hand, so I just assumed that he was gone forever. Or at least until I won the lottery or something.

This year I had no plans on buying anything significant: maybe a few oddities, bodies and whatnot, but nothing major. I need to get caught up on a few things, financially: any extra moolah I made this year was going towards that goal.

But my sales were doing really well, so I felt a bit flush with cash and thought maybe I can get myself one nicer-than-average thing. Still within my budget, naturally, but you know how cheap I am: I was thinking really cool oddity, or a much needed upgrade.

I get back to the hotel on Friday after doing some volunteer stuff at the KHP. Since it was a bit on the “late” side, I had to park in the back back lot and hoof it through the 300 wing to my room, which at the opposite end (312) from where I had entered.

As I’m passing through, a room catches my eye. I have no idea why I even choose it, of all the rooms that were open, to walk into.

In the corner of the room, I see Him.

Ha! Surely he had to be some crazy, budget-busting price. These things never come up for sale. I thought myself honored to even see one in person.

Then I blinked several times when I saw his price. Were my eyes deceiving me? It was within spitting distance of the upper end of my budget! He was a bit tarnished and dinged, but heck, so was I, 25 years later. I made an offer, and after a tense 15-20 minute wait, the deal was done.

He was mine. I took him back to my room, and showed him off to a friend I had to leave in charge of my room for the five minutes I was gone.

What made his acquisition even better was because of that strange coincidence and timing, it led to a chain of events that brought another friend to also acquire her heart’s desire.

Oh, My Beautiful One. I have waited half my life to find you, and I am so glad you are now home. And from the moment I acquired you, spreading joy to all you encounter.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Lady

One more slightly revised Sampler rerun, while on the road.

Rich Rudish’s original concept art for the Lady Roxana, shown in the 1986 Dealer Catalog, was really quite lovely. She’s all sweeping lines and swooping curves - similar in style to the Sham, naturally, but it almost as if she was meant to be an Art Nouveau-themed interpretation of a horse. Was Rudish attempting to take the “Art” part of the “Artist’s Series,” to which the Lady Roxana mold belongs, even more literally? Alas, he is no longer around for us to ask.

The reality is, of course, quite different from the concept: the actual Roxana mold is lumpy, bumpy and kind of chunky. The rumors have it that Mr. Rudish had only a couple of days to sculpt her - less time, probably, than it took for him to do the concept sketch.

The hastiness of her execution is borne out by a Test Color of the Lady Roxana that I acquired from the estate of a former Breyer employee: since the mold wasn’t available for testing, a Sham was substituted, instead. At first glance, “she” doesn’t look too different from a conventional Fleabitten Gray Sham, though the differences are quite obvious in person. (Hand-airbrushed mane and tail, no pinking, no fleabites.)

In spite of her obvious inadequacies, the actual Lady Roxana mold does have her charms. She was one of the first molds to shown doing a correct trot - and a rather lively one at that, thanks to her tail. That tail that also helps make her an extremely “stable” stander for an action-oriented mold, which no doubt adds to her play value among younger hobbyists.

It’s fairly clear that many of her releases have been tailored to the younger set. How else would you explain Cinnamon, the Limited Edition Bay Appaloosa with the “pinking shears” blanket. (She sold pretty well, from what I’ve heard.) There were the Playful Mare and Foal sets in the early 1990s, too. Her most recent release was as the lovely light gray “Sahara,” from the youth-oriented “My Favorite Horses” series.

My second test color Lady Roxana - yes, I have two! - is of the Sahara. Actually, she’s probably more accurately described as a Sample or Preproduction piece, as she’s almost indistinguishable from a regular run Sahara, except with some handwritten notations on her belly.

Because of course only someone like me would actually own two (well, two and a half) Lady Roxana Tests. That’s okay, I really don’t mind!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Breyer Kitten

Since I am out of town on Breyer business (of course!) and the Wi-Fi at the hotel can be a little unpredictable (and overtaxed) I’ll be running a couple of slightly edited reruns from past Samplers here. First up – the ever-popular Creepy Meow!

Breyer released four different Dog molds in the 1950s alone; for a time it even described itself in toy directories as a “Dog and Horse Figurine” manufacturer. But it wasn’t until 1966 that Breyer decided to give felines their due, releasing the now notorious Breyer Kitten, aka The Creepy Meow.

As with other models before it, Breyer had some painting issues with their initial releases, in both the rendering and the naming. The coloring of the #335 Siamese Kitten was mostly correct, but the markings on the face tended to resemble a scruffy hobo beard, rather than an elegant mask. Some even came with strangely pinked lips, which added to the effect.

The “Calico” was not a true Calico at all, but a Red Mackerel Tabby. The hand-airbrushed tabby markings on the Calico varied widely, from a few stray stripes to almost zebra-like patterning.

Other significant variations of these two Kittens also exist. The eyes, in particular: typically the Calico came with green, and the Siamese blue, but that was sometimes reversed. The paint itself was not consistent, either: the eye paint on earlier releases had a distinct pearly sheen – a feature unique to the mold in the 1960s – but later examples did not.

The Siamese version of the Kitten was discontinued in 1970, and the Calico followed suit in 1973. They didn’t reappear in the Breyer line until 1994, with the release of the Red Tabby Cleopatra and the Gray Tabby Leonardo.

I am partially to blame for the Kitten’s return in the 1990s; when Reeves had contacted me in 1992 about some matters of Breyer History, they also seemed keenly interested in taking some photos of my Calico Kitten for reference! When “Cleo” and “Leo” showed up a couple years later, I thought of them as kittens of my own Kitten. (And yes, that very Kitten pictured above is the very same one! How I got him was a funny story in and of itself – and for another day.)

Along with most of the other Pet molds released around the same time, both of these newer Kittens were discontinued in 1995. The mold reappeared in 1996 as a portrait model of the President Clinton’s cat Socks. But again, there were painting issues: the Tuxedo pattern of “Socks” bore only a passing resemblance to the actual cat.

A few years later, the first official Special Run of the Kitten appeared at the 2000 BreyerFest, a 750-piece run named “Patches”. She was a real Calico this time, with black and red striped tabby patches over a white body.

The fidelity of her paint job did not help her sales, and leftover Kittens haunted the BreyerFest sales area for years afterwards. It was during this time period that the mold earned its nickname “The Creepy Meow”, as newer or less savvy hobbyists would sometimes find themselves confronted and/or menaced by the model’s slightly disturbing (and almost human) stare.

In spite of the failure at BreyerFest, the Kitten mold was given one more go as the Christmas Kitten “Tom Foolery” in 2003. This tuxedo cat – in a significantly different pattern from Socks – came with kelly green eyes, a jaunty little Santa cap and a set of holiday lights to get tangled up in.

The Kitten mold disappeared again after that; by then the Companion Animal cats had insinuated themselves in the hearts and minds of collectors, who at last had the in-scale barn cats they had been clamoring for. I know I didn’t expect to see the Kitten return for a good while, even as a “Vintage-style” release.

And then it happened: the mold made a surprise reappearance in 2012 during the now-infamous Breyer web site “Vault Sale”. Unlike most of the other items in that sale, including the Special Run Bull Logan, the Lynx Point Siamese Kitten Angel lingered on the web site for several days before the 50-piece run finally sold out.

Aside from its unblinking, unflinching stare, it is the scale issue that many hobbyists find most offputting about the Kitten: it is not to scale with any other model in the Breyer line. While most Traditional horses hover around the 1:9 scale, the Kitten may be the only Breyer mold that approaches 1:1 scale, or life size. It towers over most of the dogs, and looks gigantic next to most of the horses.

Why so big? Many early Breyer molds were freely adapted from molds made by other manufacturers, and scale was not as big a concern then. What did matter was size: the Kitten – although huge in scale – was roughly the same size as the other Dog molds, and therefore could be sold at a similar price point. On Breyer pricelists from the late 1960s, the Kitten’s wholesale price ($1.35) was identical to the Boxer and the Bloodhound/Bassett Hound!

As far as I know, the Kitten was an entirely new creation of sculptor and moldmaker Chris Hess, and not adapted from any other sculpture; at least I have not found any evidence to suggest otherwise. Though some have derided the mold for being awkward or ill-proportioned, anyone who has shared a house with one or more cats knows otherwise.

The Kitten has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years and well-painted examples, variations, and test colors have been commanding unusually strong prices. Even the Vault Sale Angel is a pricey thing to find now.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Marney Sale

Doing all my last minute running around and packing; everything is as done as it’s going to be until I get down to Kentucky, where I will be working on it even more. Because in spite of my best intentions, that’s just how I apparently roll.

(Inhale. Exhale.)

I had to scan this interesting bit of history for someone earlier this month, and I thought the rest of you might enjoy it as well – it’s the original flier for Marney’s estate sale, back in 1992:

(With a few selective blur edits. The cropping on the right side, BTW, is my scanner’s fault, I swear.)

I can’t recall if it was mailed to me or I picked it up somewhere else. I do remember that I was aware of the sale ahead of time, but I wasn’t able to attend: I didn’t have the money, I couldn’t spare the time off work, and emotionally? I just wasn’t ready for it, either.

I had (still have!) a number of pieces that I had, directly or indirectly, purchased from Marney, so I had no pressing need to acquire more Rarities and Oddities. All the pieces I would have wanted to buy were clearly going to be out of my reach, or even not available at all (for a variety of reasons).

So it was probably for the best that I missed it.

The only thing I regret, in hindsight, is not pressing for the preservation of her papers. That only occurred to me after the fact; I was relieved to find out that some of it was saved – and some of it I eventually acquired.

But what was lost? That’s another thing I’d rather not torture myself over.

So anyway, as we make our way to our happy place, remember to be kind, keep yourself hydrated, and if you see a newbie in need, adopt them for the weekend.

Friday, July 15, 2016

BreyerFest is Coming

I haven’t slept in a couple of days, the office is a wreck, I’m slightly nauseous, and I’m covered in papier-mache and glitter.

On the plus side, my diorama entry is looking pretty good! It’s been coming together really well, much to my surprise and delight, so I’m hoping that I’ll be less stressed out when it doesn’t win. Unlike some of my previous nonwinning entries now hiding in the basement (because I have a hard time throwing out anything I make) I think this one will actually get to live in the office with me, regardless of the outcome.

As per my usual, I haven’t been paying much attention to this year’s auction pieces – can’t afford them, and I’m not the target market anyway – but today’s pretty little Rain definitely caught my eye:

I like the contrast between realistic (paint job) and the fantastic (the mold) with this one; she’s really quite appealing. I was beginning to think that this mold might be the “Surprise”: she’s something well-liked but not overly popular, there haven’t been too many production releases on her yet (just three: Rain, Lady Liberty, and Lionesse!), it’s a quasi-“Spanish” (Mustang) mold, and she’s even got a feather in her hair.

But it’s been a few years since they’ve put up a Surprise piece (the rarest of them, anyway) at auction, so probably not. But I am encouraged to think that maybe we’ll be seeing more of the Rain mold in the near future. Maybe as a Holiday SR of some sort? She’d make a lovely Christmas Horse, I think.

I’m still holding out hope for the Legionario! Since the Surprises have been following a Solid-Tobiano-Overo-Appaloosa pattern, and old “Legs” hasn’t had any production run Apps or Pintos, and precious few Glosses (the 1991 Florentine Raffle Model, and the 1999 Silver Filigree Grane of Gotterdammerung). So there’s lots of potential there.

Current betting favorites are either the Peruvian Paso or the Esprit, and I’d be fine with either one of those, too. I also wouldn’t rule out the Ranch Horse. (That Test Color Ranch Horse they purchase-raffled earlier this year had to be a Test for something, yes?)

I haven’t given much thought to the Volunteer Special this year, either. It will be at least one of three things: Glossy, Decorator, Vintage (Pre-Reeves) Mold.

I’m leaning towards a Deco, because (a) it’s been a while since we've had a “true” Decorator (not just Gloss) – 2003’s Gloss Charcoal Lonesome Glory, and (b) aside from of a couple of Mercado pieces, the Silent Auction Rainbow Five-Gaiter, and Funky Brown Pegasus, there seems to be relative dearth of outrageous models for a Rio-themed BreyerFest.

So there, all my predictions. Back to sanding, spackling, and quietly freaking out in the basement.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just Beachy

(Work ran really long today, so tonight’s post is really short.)

Breyer has issued a lot of really weird accessories over the years. But what would be the weirdest? Was it the Baby Gorilla from the Pony Gals Wildlife Adventure Gift Set?

(Because of my current infatuation with the Classics Duchess, I might be adding that one to my want list for BreyerFest.)

The scary-big Fly that came with the Summer Turnout Set? And the newer Turnout Set?

(Not a big fan of the mutant bugs, so not on the want list. Nope.)

However, my personal favorite has to be the original head scratcher:

Yes, the Bitsy Breyer Beach Set. It came with a surfboard.

My first thought upon seeing this set back when it came out in the early 1980s was – hey, it’s a Mr. Ed gift set! Because of course I remembered that episode where Mr. Ed goes surfing:

Because being the horse-centric girl that I was, my first assumption was that the surfboard was for the horse. The board was a bit small, but eh, most of the accessories then (and to a degree, even now) were never quite to scale anyway. Seemed perfectly logical to me then.

The only part that was not logical was that none of the Little Bits Arabians issued at the time came in Palomino. Just the standard and kind of boring actually Chestnut, Bay and Slate Gray. And Mr. Ed himself was not an Arabian.

Oh well, maybe someday...

Friday, July 8, 2016

Trying Not to Worry

The past few days have been exceptionally rough. I really can’t elaborate in public, other than to say if you have any virtual hugs to give, they would be most appreciated.

One thing that has gone well is my (potential) diorama entry; I gave myself the free time I had this week to see if I could pull something together from what I have on hand. Remarkably, I think I might be able to. Here’s a hint where I’m going with it:

(Coincidentally, this also doubles as a fair approximation of how I feel about everything else in my life right now.)

And like my last entry, I’m trying not to invest too much in it emotionally, other than the joy inherent the creative process. I find working with my hands very comforting, emotionally.

The BreyerFest program was released earlier this week, and the most important information (for most of us) was the piece counts and price points for the Special Runs:

Store Specials:
Dag Dia – 1250 pieces - $75
Diablo DC – 1100 pieces - $75

Mercado Merchandise:
Auriverde – 1000 pieces - $30
Copacabana – 2000 pieces - $8
Mancha y Gato – 100 pieces - $40
The Girl from Ipanema (crystal) – 750 pieces - $45

Ticket Specials:
Namid – 1800 pieces - $55
Zebu – 800 pieces - $65
Bozeman – 1500 pieces - $65
Furano – 1400 pieces - $50
Sheila – 1600 pieces - $55
Mamacita y Chico – 1700 pieces - $60
Samba Surprise – 3700 pieces - $85
Estrela do Carnaval – 725 pieces - $65

Nothing too unusual, other than the lower-than-I-thought piece count on the Estrela do Carnaval; that factor alone may help spur a sellout, though I haven’t been following that discussion too closely to see if the tide of public opinion has turned on that piece yet.

The most “affordable” ticket options are the Furano (on the trendy/popular Make A Wish mold) and the Mamacita y Chico (the first “affordable” release on a new Mare and Foal set) so those will probably go quick. And also probably Bozeman: newish mold + elaborate spotted paint job = winning formula (see also, 2014’s Bonne Fete).

The upped piece counts on the Mercado merchandise is encouraging, but probably still not enough to get me to stand in another line.

There’s been some concern that there might not be enough Special Runs to go around, per the amount of potential number of tickets being distributed. Yes, there have been a couple of years where there were either insufficient Special Runs or Celebration models. But oddly, I am not hugely concerned that this is going to be that big of a problem this year.

The fact that they have printed up 475 tickets per ticket time doesn’t mean that all will be distributed, redeemed, or even partially redeemed.

I am not familiar with how Reeves handles its inventory (as an inventory pro, I’d love to know, though!) so my guess is that they have been taking a look at the sales numbers, comparing the number of tickets sold to the number redeemed, and trying to making projections accordingly.

You can’t account for every variable, and some stuff will sell out regardless. But I’m pretty sure it everything will be fine, more or less.

For me, it will have to be regardless: I have too many other things to worry about, so I’m choosing not to worry about this one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On the Periphery

Not much in the way of goodies again, this week, other than another unfinished quilt project, a giant bag of vintage gumball charms, and a few Josef Originals miniatures. Oh, and one other little thing:

A customized Classic Quarter Horse Mare. What’s interesting about her is that this isn’t the typical kind of custom I find in the field. Most of those are either pro/am hobbyist creations (not all that rare around here, actually), or nonhobbyist pieces that were either repair jobs, or someone with a creative itch to scratch.

The nonhobbyist pieces are usually a bit cruder – like this gal – and don’t feature any significant customizing beyond hairing. The person who worked on her roached her mane, docked her tail, tweaked her ears, removed her logo and even tried to square her hind legs.

That’s a lot of work, and definitely not something I expected to see with this kind of paint job. She kind of fascinates me!

Sometimes I run across people I call peripheral hobbyists. Although they either were never directly involved in the hobby, or even aware of its existence, within their own enclosed communities (or even just their own homes) they pretty much did everything we do in the hobby anyway.

Basically, they invented the hobby for themselves. Sometimes they happen to meet other people who do the same things, and sometimes some of those people have some contact with even more people, and eventually that’s how they get into the hobby proper.

(From what I hear – I didn’t formally enter the hobby until 1978 – that’s pretty much how the hobby created itself. We needed it, we created it. Breyer is just along for the ride.)

But sometimes they don’t, for whatever reasons. Interests change, they get frustrated by the state of their artistic skills, money becomes an issue, or that crucial “first contact” never happens.

Was that the case here? Someone who either made some tentative steps into the hobby – the larger one, or the one of their own making – then stepped away?

I found her in a dump bin of toys – almost literally the definition of no context – so I’ll never know.

I plan on keeping her around for a while, and possibly making her a rehab project like some of my quilts, trying to take her where her original artist intended.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Unlikeliest Color

It is Green, right? The most unlikely color for a horse is Green?

Yet when I was looking at the Auriverde – the latest (last?) Pop Up Store/Mercado Special Run, I realized that Green has been a relatively common color for Breyer horses.

Certainly more common than even a lot of more horse-like colors! Off the top of my head we’ve had…

… the Running Stallion Jade, his mini-me on the Stablemates Running Mustang, the Fighting Stallion Translucent Carnivale, last year’s Christmas Decorator Ivy, the Horse Crazy Stablemates G2 Saddlebred and G4 Driving Horse, and the May “Lily of the Valley” Horse from the Blossoms Series. Those are all entirely or primarily Green.

Some of the Unicorns (like the Little Bits/Paddock Pals ones), some of the Zodiac Series, and the Year of the Horse Esprit all came with noticeable and distinctly Green body shading.

There are ornaments and keychains, too, that are also partially or mostly Green, like the G2 Appaloosa from the Mod Squad set and the Lime Green G1 Standing Thoroughbred Foal.

And finally, there are some horses that were meant to be something else other than Green, but turned out that way anyway, like some of Reeves’ early attempts at Blue Roan and the infamous Dappled “Green Bay” Sham from the 1994 half-year #3163 Arabian Stallion and Frisky Foal Set.

Some Breyers were even molded in a Kelly Green-colored Tenite in the 1970s – it’s one of the many “off” colors they purchased and overpainted into Chalkies. We sometimes see stripped examples being sold as something rare or unusual but they aren’t, not really.

There are a few light, limey green plastic Classic Quarter Horse Foals floating around the hobby, too. Those appear to be genuinely Factory Unpainteds. Those are probably the rarest and most collectible of the Greens, outside some Mod Squad Test Shots Reeves parcels out as prizes on occasion.

We don’t know the situation with the Auriverde – piece count, or overall hobby demand – so whether or not it becomes another Caves of Lascaux is still to be determined.

I hope not, because I’m still stinging a bit from that one.