Monday, February 27, 2017

Rangoli and True North

Here’s the Sunday Raffle Model Rangoli, in case you haven’t seen him yet:

That paint job – an extra dark Sooty Dappled Buckskin Sabino – is amazing, and the rest of him isn’t too shabby either. But you know what I really like about the True North mold?

The shaggy buzzcut of a mane! It’s just so stinking cute. If he were a real-real horse, I’d want to run my fingers through it. 

I tend to appraise sculpts not purely on their anatomical or conformational correctness, but on the finishwork at the edges: the mane and tail, the ears, the hooves, and the muzzle. For me, that’s where the sculptor’s care and passion really shows: everything else is a matter of technical competence.

Getting the technical aspects correct is important, but it doesn’t always make you fall in love. Sometimes it does; but its things like pooky lips, fuzzy ears, and artfully messy manes that quickly turn admiration turn into adoration.

However, I am not real fond of having the first several releases of new molds (mostly but not exclusively the Premiers) be either expensive, or of extremely limited quantity. It’s difficult to get passionate about collecting something that becomes almost immediately hard to collect.  

That’s what turned me away from the Esprit mold, initially. Although I’ve since added a few to the herd – most notably the quirky BreyerFest Special Run Prince of Chintz, and the beautiful Dappled Bay Steppin’ Out – I’ve been hesitant to sink any more effort into it. I wouldn’t have minded getting the Decorator variation of the Samba Surprise from last year’s BreyerFest lineup, but I got only one shot at that guy last year and it didn’t happen. So I sold the one I did get (Matte Palomino) and moved on.

Part of the appeal of collecting Vintage is that unless you pick an exceptionally hard mold to collect – like the Elephant, or the In-Between Mare – the ratio of rare and difficult to not-so-rare or -difficult is better. You can collect for a while before the rarities start to bother you too much. And unlike most of the newer molds, there is a small but real possibility that you just might run across one of those rarities at a yard sale or late-night online auction. 

I never expected to own an Elephant with Howdah, but I somehow managed to snag one on eBay some years back, for considerably less than the going rate. (The Pink, Blue, and Woodgrain? Ah, well, I guess that is what the flea market is for.)

The actual True North release isn’t even out yet, and the likelihood of winning Rangoli is going to be pretty slim (I mean, just look at him!) but it’s a little too early to abandon hope yet. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

When History Shakes Your Hand

Originally I was going to write about that cute Dally and Spanky Store Special Set, but I was just looking at the BreyerFest Blog – ostensibly to check out today’s post about the Sunday Raffle Model Rangoli – but I found that the post from the day before… was directly relevant to something I had been trying to write about for a week.

I guess now is the time!

On the blog yesterday they announced the addition of the author Elizabeth Letts to seminar schedule. She wrote The Eighty-Dollar Champion, about the famous show jumper Snowman, who has been made into a Breyer model a twice over – and I own them both. That alone would be reason enough to have her as a guest. (And get my copy autographed!)

But she’s written another book, The Perfect Horse, about the rescue of the horses – primarily Arabians and Lipizzaners – seized/kidnapped by the Nazis for their equine breeding program. I’m sure most of you are familiar with or have seen the movie The Miracle of the White Stallions? That’s part of that story.

Prior to seeing that movie in elementary school, World War II was an abstraction for me. Most of my relatives (Belgian, Polish, Hungarian) had left Europe earlier, and those relatives that did serve never spoke of their service, at least not when the kids were around.

Anyway, as I’m walking in to work one day last week I overhear two coworkers talking – about horses! This is not unusual when I am present, but (obviously) I had not been present when this conversation started.

This was completely unknown to me before, but apparently the family of one of my coworkers – an older, soft-spoken lady who is also a professional clown – owned a Lipizzan farm in Poland just before World War II. Their horses were among those seized by the Nazis. Her family eventually left Poland for the U.S., but not everyone made it out alive.

I wasn’t quite rendered speechless – I ended up filling in a few incidental details about the story to the other coworker – but I did end up walking around in a bit of a daze for the rest of the day.

As the title of this blog makes abundantly clear, history is my thing. Most of the time I have to hunt and peck for it, but other times – like last week – it walks up to me and shakes my hand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Toy Fair and Spirit: Riding Free

One of the things on my personal “bucket list” is attending Toy Fair. It’s not just about the horses (in general) or Breyers (in particular); if you know me at all, my toy nerdery is both wide and deep.

Access isn’t the problem, but time and cost is: I am in Michigan, and Toy Fair is in New York City. So I have to content myself with living vicariously:

The only big news to come out of Toy Fair was the official announcement of the Spirit: Riding Free line, which was just about the worst kept “secret” in the model horse hobby ever. But it’s nice to see pictures of the actual, live pieces now and not just the catalog promo shots.

That being said, this line is not designed with someone like me in mind, though I will undoubtedly end up buying at least a few of the Blind Bag Stablemates and possibly the boxed Traditionals. (The Rain mold looks great in Matte Palomino!) It’ll be interesting to see if the third Traditional scale mold in the line, Boomerang, will eventually get incorporated into the regular line as the Spirit and Rain molds were.

There also didn’t appear to be any Toy Fair-specific giveaways, like the Gloss Highland Pony keychain or the Little Bits Chestnut Saddlebred, but my online shopping has been limited to targeted searches on eBay for box lots and specific (and oddly rather scarce) bodies, so I may well have missed it.

Incidentally, Breyer has been represented at the Toy Fair literally since the beginning of Breyer, as this article from the March 1951 issue of Playthings makes clear:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Recent Findings

I was just reviewing my “buy” list for the year so far: other than club-related purchases and the Locarno, almost everything else has been body box material. The most recent finds include these two recent dollar-a-bag dump bin discoveries:

This is the third (I think?) Classics Morgan Foal I’ve found with a broken/missing tail. Poor babies!

I completely cleaned out my Body Box last year in Kentucky, so this recent abundance of bodies is not an issue for me, so far.

What it has done, however, is pique my interest in the BreyerFest Customs Contest. This is a bit of an issue because I really don’t have time to enter another contest – I barely have enough time to get all of the other things done that I already need to get done!

But I’ve been on a project finishing kick lately, and if it’s a contest that motivates me to finish a few of those sad little derelicts sitting on my project table, so be it. And I like that they’re tweaking the rules and categories a bit, and adding a thematic category that will change from year to year.

The only problem I see is that the kind of customs I prefer doing don’t really fit into any of this year’s categories.

While I do have a Running Stallion Unicorn I’ve been working on for a while, he’s unfinished because I’m just not all that into Fantasy-themed models right now. I think I am capable of competing in Finishwork, but painting on that level stresses me out way too much, and I’d rather focus on something more enjoyable. I’ve never been much of a tack or performance-oriented person, so that category is clearly out, too.

Extreme customizing? I’d rather start with something that’s almost-sorta there and get it across the finish line; I’ve always had the most fun working with older funkier molds and doing subtle “A-ha!” customizing jobs that make you go “I see that now!” In other words, working with the existing mold, rather than against it. Reducing a Breyer model to an armature is…not my kind of fun.

So that leaves me with the thematic class, which is restricted to Little Bits scale and below this year, with no firm restrictions on the amount or kind of customizing. I do have a couple of Stablemates projects I could finish, but I’ve always wanted to do something interesting with a Little Bits mold – mostly because they don’t get a lot of customizing love.

But so far, no Little Bits scale bodies have crossed my path.

While I mull my options, I also have to figure out what to do with another promising recent find:

Yes, it’s a beautiful, genuine, heavily sequined and embroidered green sari, found at one of my local Salvation Army stores. Because of course I would!

After a little bit of research, I figured out how to put it on, and proceeded to prance and sparkle around the house like a princess. I’ll be wearing it at BreyerFest at some point, no doubt. But when and where? No idea, yet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

More Fun with Fury

Here’s a picture of a couple of scarcer-than-average variations of the original #27 TV’s Fury for your examination:

Most Furies are either solidly painted or (more rarely) molded black plastic with overpainted markings. These two early, pre-mold mark fellows have bare plastic markings instead.

The “tan” hooves on the sockless Fury are actually just plain, slightly yellowed plastic. The facial markings on both are also irregularly shaped, as if they were tape-masked, though I don’t know if that was actually the case or something else was going on here:

There are a lot of variations on this release, which really isn’t shocking for something that ran nearly ten years (ca. 1957/8? through 1965). However, I’d consider any individual variation from the standard Black with overpainted markings to be scarce, at least in terms of volume.

Most of my variations – I think I have five or six of them, total – either came in box/body lots, or were found locally. Like my Black Stretched Morgans, I don’t go out of my way to find them, but they do seem to go out their way to find me!

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been collecting for what seems like forever, and I have a fondness for the oddballs. They tend to stick around, while the more common/ordinary ones move on.

As common as the model is, they can be a bit of a challenge to collect, online or off. It’s not realistic enough for noncollectors to automatically assume it’s a Breyer, and since the mold was in production for a few years prior to the addition of the mold mark in 1960, a significant portion of Furies don’t come with it.

On the flip side, this lack of recognition as a Breyer does help when one is found “in the wild”. Just another toy horse, nothing to see here…

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Repeating Themselves

Well, there’s my first must-have for this year’s BreyerFest, the Store Special Repeat the Beat:

That’s exactly the color I’ve been hoping for on the Bluegrass Bandit mold! It is very similar to another recent roan paint job that I was very fond of, the Classics #931 Bay Roan Quarter Horse:

In its rather short life, the Bluegrass Bandit mold has already made three other appearances as a BreyerFest Special Run model: 2011’s Translucent Under the Sea, 2013’s Store Special Lady C, and 2014’s Store Special Champagne Wishes.

True, it is a bit unusual that a mold that’s only been around since 2008 is now making its third appearance as a Store Special, but Bluegrass Bandit mold has become unusually popular over the past few years; I’ve been trying to add to my tiny (2 piece!) collection, but the prices keep getting in the way.

While it is also true that a Tennessee Walking Horse has little to do with the India theme, I suspect the real horse’s guest appearance at BreyerFest this year may be a not-so-subtle nudge in the effort to get the soring ban finally implemented.

Like the recent Christmas Horse Esprit Bayberry and Roses, Repeat the Beat’s tail lacks a white basecoat; because Samples are usually depicted in these early promotional pictures, it’s too early to tell if this is idiosyncratic to this particular Sample, or a detail that will make it into the final production pieces.

It may see a bit odd, but I do like it, since it adds a hint of translucency to the tail itself. But I’ll be fine with it, either way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Locarno 62

It’s that time of the year when everyone is cleaning closets, slashing prices, or listing their otherwise unlistables in order to pay off their bills and/or stay on budget. I’ve been trying to be good about my budget, too, but some of the deals I’ve had to pass up have nearly killed me.

I finally broke down and bought a box lot. The price was right, and after I resell the bulk of it, I’ll be left with this handsome fellow free and clear:

It’s a Special Run #1406 Morganglanz Locarno 62! I had been wanting one for a while; I have a bit of a soft spot for this largely unloved mold, and his Mahogany Bay paint job is so dark and pretty.

This release is one of the best illustrations of why the most important component of “Collectability” is Desirability. He has all the points in his favor, on paper: he’s a relatively scarce Special Run, distributed overseas, in a genuinely beautiful color.

But he is not considered particularly desirable. While his coloring does give him a bit of reprieve from the antagonism the 2014 Exclusive Event Gris Gris receives, he’s still not beloved or sought out by many. A lack of interest translates into a lack of listings, so you hardly ever see them for sale stateside – and that’s most of the reason why it took this long for me to get one.

It’s mostly about the mold: there’s never been a lot of love for awkward and ungainly Morganglanz. He’s a tough sell even when you dress him up in pretty clothes, like last year’s BreyerFest Reserve Grand Open Show prize Brigadeiros.

That might change in the future. The original Decorators were a huge bust in the 1960s, and molds like the Classics Mestenos and Brishen have gone from “not” to “hot”. So as unlikely as it may seem, it could happen.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fact that rarities like Gris Gris and Brigadeiros are within the realm of possibility in my budget.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Adios’s Little Star

Since I mentioned it in passing last time, here’s a close-up of the original Adios’s teeny-tiny star:

(The spot on his nose is just a rub, not some rare or obscure variation.)

You might notice that this example has extra black shading around his eyes, because he’s an early release of this model, ca. 1970, with a near-complete Blue Ribbon Sticker. Some examples even have fully blackened ears; mine has black ear tips, but I wasn’t quite able to pick them up in the light of my office.

The only thing that would make this guy any better – besides a sticker in slightly better condition – would be if he didn’t have the USA mold mark, but that’s a pretty rare trick to pull off for an Adios, sticker or no.

Early Adioses with Blue Ribbon Stickers seem to be a bit of a hot commodity lately, so I am not going to think about upgrading, unless one miraculously drops into my lap at my local Salvation Army or something.

Adios was not the first Breyer “portrait” model – as true Breyer aficionados know, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin can claim that title, both being released in 1956. (I think Lassie came out a couple months before Rinty, but that topic deserves a post in and of itself.) And then there is the Circus Boy set, which came out in late 1956 or early 1957: the actual “Circus Boy” is a fairly decent depiction of a young Mickey Dolenz in his pre-Monkee years. 

Adios isn’t even the first equine portrait model: that title would go to the Fury Prancer release of “TV’s Fury” ca. 1958. The second? That was the #47 Man o’ War in 1967.

But other than being “a black horse with white markings”, Fury looks little like the actual Fury; and as much as I adore the Traditional Man o’ War, it wasn’t until 2010 that the WEG Reissue accurately portrayed his actual star and stripe.

Adios is thus the first equine portrait model that made a real effort to look like the actual horse, both in form and in the paint masking.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Meet the New Guys, Same as the Old Guys

Silly me tried to upgrade something I really didn’t need to upgrade, with the usual consequences:

As experience should have taught me by now, this older Classic Quarter Horse Family was in about the same condition and about the same quality as my current set. The only significant differences were that this set has larger stars, and still has its original box.

The difference in the size of the stars is really quite striking, though:

There were no actual templates or masks for the stars on the early Classic Quarter Horses that I know of. Details that small were probably too difficult to create via the intricate metal masks of the era anyway, so they might have either tape-masked or resist-dappled them.

In some cases, even, they may have been created by paint removal – with a little dab of acetone on a paint brush or cotton swab, quickly blotted away.

In the case of the new set, I think they used the resist dapple technique – dabbing a bit of the resist-dappling goo on the forehead prior to painting, and peeling it off after painting was done. The plastic looks too raw and too clean for it to be anything else, really.

It is not really a surprise that such a minor and labor-intensive detail on non-portrait (non-Adios) releases like the Classic Quarter Horse Family disappeared so quickly. That’s a bit too much work for not quite enough reward.

My original, smaller-starred set’s better provenance (it’s the one mentioned in Nancy Young’s book!) outweighs the bigger stars + original box of the newest set, so the new guys will likely be heading to my sales list soon. Or whenever I can actually find the time to update it.