Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I wasn’t holding out much hope for the flea market this weekend – the weather reports were a bit iffy, and that tends to depress the turnout – but look who showed up in the last aisle during my last walk through…

… a mid-1960s Matte Bay Clydesdale Stallion with gold bobs and big handpainted eyewhites! He has just a few minor condition issues – slight yellowing, a couple of nicks, eartip rubs – all the usual stuff you’d expect in a fifty year old model, and what other hobbies would classify as desirable “patina”.

(He was actually a little more suspect-looking at the flea market, but he managed to clean up better than I expected.)

Desirable is definitely a word to describe him! He’s such a pretty boy I am tempted to keep him – I’m almost certain that I don’t have this particular variation in my multitudes of Bay Clydesdales, and his shading is outstanding – but I have a lot of things on my plate right now, and I haven’t had the time to cull the herd for potential sales items as I planned.

I am not letting him go for a lack of fondness for the release: none of my other Bay Clydesdales are going anywhere. It’s just easier to let more recent arrivals go, especially this close to BreyerFest.

There is also the issue of space: there is only so much room in the house for variations. (Perish the thought!)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Native Divers

I have a lot of stuff I need to get done over the long weekend – mostly, but not entirely model horse related – so my Internet time will be even lighter than usual through Tuesday.

Look who I found while digging through some of my storage boxes this week, looking for something else – my Matte and Gloss #921 Native Divers!

I bought these two at a local Toys R Us back in 1995 – right after they were released. That particular store was actually a little bit out of my way, but I made it a point to visit whenever I was in that part of town because it had a reputation for getting oddities.

Both the Gloss and the Matte were sitting on the shelf together; since I had no idea which one was the “official” version (I didn’t have a catalog on me, and I couldn’t recall hearing about any variations) I eventually surrendered and got both. Just to be safe.

The Gloss is much more obvious in person, though it is more in the thin/wet style that sits on the edge of Semi-Gloss, rather than the thick/deep style we’re more accustomed to now – and way back when. The Gloss one also seems to be a darker black than the Matte, who looks almost like a dark charcoal gray in comparison.

They’re not particularly flashy or eyecatching – as you can see, they don’t even have much in the way of shading or detail – but even though I’ve sold off a big chunk of my Phar Laps, these two guys are still here.

Just sentimental favorites, I guess.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New 'Bits?

The latest Web Special Acadia is beautiful, but I only entered once and did not win. He would have made a lovely husband to my Ruffian Goddess Athena, but it wasn’t something I felt I could justify going all-in for. I still want/need a Valegro, but I’ll have to wait for a more affordable one.

(The BreyerFest release Indu is still a contender.)

There are a couple of stores reasonably close by that are holding Spirit Fun Days in a couple of weeks. (Yes, I know I am lucky to have multiple stores to choose from!) If I’m not scheduled to work that day, I might go to check the new releases. Especially the new Traditional-scale Boomerang mold:

He reminds me of the pinto in one of the stashes of vintage photos I found last year:

So I could definitely see myself coming home with one sooner rather than later! (Especially if it keeps me from breaking out the paint and epoxy and attempting to customize my own.)

The “Small Sets” in the Spirit line intrigue me also. Here’s the Boomerang one, who (coincidentally) is the nicest of the three new Small Set molds, I think:

So, if I’m reading these details right – 3-inch riders, 4-inch horses – these are basically Little Bits scale? So after all these years Reeves is giving us three new, honest-to-goodness plastic Little Bits/Paddock Pals molds?

Sneaky, guys.

Nevertheless, I approve.

The last “official” Little Bits/Paddock Pal mold release was the Saddlebred, in 1985. Unless you count the Small Mare and Foal with the rooted hair in the same scale who debuted in 1997, but are usually associated with the Ponies line. Or the resin Breeds of the World pieces from 2012 that tend to be lumped in with the Gallery/Nonplastics.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Desi, The Rare Gem Twist

I really like the Open Show Reserve Prize this year, the Gem Twist Desi in Dark Bay Appaloosa:

While there are some scarcer-than-average Gem Twist releases – the Dark Dapple Gray 2002 QVC release, and the 2006 USET Special Run Exclusive Authentic come to mind – there aren’t a lot of rarities. Until the addition of Desi, the mold was a relatively easy one to collect.

It’s a moderately popular mold that I thought might have been a good candidate for the BreyerFest Surprise model this year, since there is hardly anything “colorful” in this model’s production past. Lots of room to experiment!

There has been only one other production run in Appaloosa (the #726 Gray Appaloosa Sport Horse in 1998-1999), and one in Pinto (the flashy #1705 Pinto Sport Horse 2013 Mid-Year release). The closest thing we’ve gotten to a Decorator was the very pearly Petsmart Special Run of Snowman, from 2005.

(My personal favorite!)

There has been a fair smattering of Test Colors, though.

The only other thing worth noting today – aside from the mold’s obvious USET connections, as a portrait of the legendary show jumper Gem Twist – is that when it debuted in 1993 it was the first Kathleen Moody mold designed for injection molded plastic. Kathleen’s earlier molds for Breyer included pieces in the Porcelain Evolution of the Horse Series, starting with the Icelandic Pony in 1992.

It’s hard to believe that Kathleen’s been doing molds for Breyer for 25 years now! And me so old I can remember when she was a mere mortal, like the rest of us.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Splash Cull

Because of recent time constraints, I was expecting to pull the bulk of this year’s sales stock for BreyerFest from the herd (just the usual edge and hedge trimmings, no worries) but my wonderful flea market has other plans:

A framed print of English Triple Crown winner Bahram, by Wesley Dennis, and a Cull(!) of the 1998-1999 release Splash, on the Quarter Horse Gelding mold.

The Gelding was part of a box lot that included ten Traditionals in various states of disrepair. He was only keeper in this lot, while the rest will fill out a body box that is on its way to being as deep as last year’s horde.

He was also the only “interesting” model among them – everything else appears to be garden variety Regular Runs from ca. 1998-2000. While he is not in the best condition, his color is pretty and all his limbs are still intact.

And he’s a Cull. That I found at a flea market 15 minutes from my house. That is about 12 hour drive from New Jersey.

How he got there is a mystery. The dealer wasn’t able to give me any information: he hadn’t even noticed it was any different from the others.

The most curious part of the story is that the rest of the models in the lot were from roughly the same time period.

While it was not unusual for some Culls to make it into retail store stock even at that late a date, it was usually pieces in a more finished state. The hooves, the eyes, or the mane and tail might not be painted, but it could have passed for a finished model otherwise.

Though this dealer certainly didn’t notice, so maybe the previous owner/s did not, either?

A couple of other possibilities include (a) a friend or family member worked at the factory in New Jersey, (b) this might be directly or indirectly related to the “newtoymens” factory escapees.

Or it could be one of those random weird and unexplainable thing that just shows up from time to time. This flea market seems to be good for that.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

USET Contest

Back in 1980, Breyer ran a subscription contest for Just About Horses, with different prize levels resulting in different awards. For fifty subscriptions, you got a Test Color!

In retrospect, it seems like a pretty fabulous deal: subscriptions to JAH at the time were a mere dollar. So you could have gotten your own personally designed Test Color for a mere fifty bucks! And at least one person did:

But of course, this was 1980: the average retail price of a Traditional Breyer Horse, according to a Bentley Sales Company flier dated May 1980, was $6.99. (FYI: for Classics, it was $4.99, and Stablemates it was $1.79. I know, I know…)

I didn’t enter this contest since most of my friends who were into live horses or Breyers at the time already had subscriptions, and my friends or relatives who weren’t wouldn’t have appreciated me asking.

Five years later, I managed to make it to Model Horse Congress for the first time, and acquired my first Test Colors. While I didn’t get to design them, they did cost me considerably less than fifty dollars. (Several of them combined, even. Again, I know…)

I have acquired many more Test Colors since then – so many that I’ve even had the luxury to sell a few – so the appeal of this kind of prize is no longer as strong as it used to be.

While I have had some ideas translated or incorporated into Breyer releases over the years, I’ve never had a Test Color designed by me for me. I simply can’t afford the “Design a Test” auction at BreyerFest, and the other opportunities have never really panned out.

But yesterday I got that e-mail from Breyer about the fundraising contest for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation - “to increase awareness of equestrian sports” – with the top fundraiser getting a “a custom Breyer® model” and “a framed Rio Olympic poster signed by the entire 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian Team.”

(That “custom Breyer model” being, of course, a self-designed Test Color under another name.)

This time around, I’ll go for it. The cause itself is a worthy one, and it doesn’t involve me annoying my family or coworkers into getting a subscription for a magazine they wouldn’t ready anyway. Even if I don’t “win” this contest (unlikely anyway), it’s still a win for USET.

All this means in the short-term (until the end of the contest in early June) is that I’ll have a link off to the side, and have a few more posts focusing on past and present Breyer USET releases in the interim. I’ve written about Breyer USET models a lot in the past – most recently during my trip to attend the Chasing the Chesapeake event back in October – and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have even more to say about the subject.

What was funny was that while I was reading through that e-mail I was fixated on the illustration of the prizes:

The picture that they so helpfully labeled “sample model” is actually one of those Sample Valegros that I am slightly obsessed about! I’d be just as happy with one of those as with any Test Color I could design, though I wouldn’t turn down a Test Color, if the opportunity arose.

It’s also worth noting – and most likely, a coincidence – that that first Breyer contest with a Test Color prize took place the same year that Breyer’s USET Gift Set debuted.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The 2017 Man o' War

So that Man o’ War release is a Reissue – of the Classic Man o’ War:

It’s not too surprising that they went with the Classics mold. The Traditional Man o’ War has already been reissued three times before: as a part of the Sears Glossed Racehorse set in 1990, slightly modified and with a certificate through QVC in 2002, and at the 2010 World Equestrian Games with hangtag and accurately masked facial markings.

Since this is a release being marketed as much to casual hobbyists, tourists and the general public as to us (it was no coincidence that the formal announcement happened right around Derby Day weekend) it was unlikely that they’d make some odd Glossy or Decorator-styled thing that would appeal only to us.

The Classic mold has never been reissued before – sort of. He was a part of at least a couple Christmas Catalog sets during his lengthy run (1975-1990), most notably as a part of the Sears 1975 Famous Race Horses Set with that fabulous box:

The original Classics release, like its bigger brother, came in a host of color variations.  There are least three different facial markings – the early straight blaze, the common broken stripe, and the late irregular star – and multiple gradations of Chestnut, from light orangey brown (usually earlier) to dark red (usually later).

The earliest examples of the mold also came without a mold mark, and boxes? Yes, in addition to the Christmas Shipper Boxes, the original Classics box comes in a couple different variations as well.

He has been released a couple of times in different shades of Chestnut, too: in 1991/2 as the #252 Pepe, with four high stockings; and in 1988 as Affirmed in the Triple Crown II Set, with an elongated star.

(And maybe the #288 Tumbleweed in 1997, depending on how pedantic your definition of “Chestnut” is.)

It’s hard to judge it based on the available photos, but the shading on the Classics Reissue seems quite different from the original Classic releases, and I am going to assume that the facial markings will be different also (more accurately masked?)

The only minor disappointment I have about the release is that it’s being treated, basically, as a Mid-Year release: it appears to be an open-ended run (no set quantity manufactured) and there’s no need for you to go to BreyerFest, or the Horse Park itself to get one.

On one hand it’s a good thing – it won’t be pricey or hard-to-get, like the WEG Reissue or the QVC Reissue – but it does feel a shade less special.

Unless they have something else planned just for us. I doubt it, but one never knows these days.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Box

I’ve been coughing up a lung for most of the past two days (my annual Spring cold came a bit late this year, bleh) so I don’t have much energy to do anything except comment on a photo Reeves posted on Facebook today:

I’m not quite sure what Reeves is doing by posting this picture now. While these cleanouts are something that they do on a somewhat regular basis, they haven’t so blatantly “advertised” it before.

They did an archive room cleanout a few years ago; we knew because they solicited hobbyists to come in and assist. Although we didn’t know for sure the items getting cleaned out would be in the Ninja Pit, if you were paying attention, it was a safe assumption to make.

It was a scarier than normal year in the Pit, especially when everyone saw the boxes and did the math.

For many years now they’ve intimated that they wanted to tamp down the enthusiasm for the early Friday morning line, though they have done only minimal or nominal effort in that regard. Although I don’t ever want to see it completely eliminated – people are going to line up, regardless, and there should be a least a token something for the faithful’s efforts – they need to do a little bit more than just passing out numbers and holding back a few goodies for later.

Posting a picture like this is definitely not going to help. Unless they have other plans, like Blind Bag Purchase Raffles or Grab Bags or something.

Just toss in a little card or letter congratulating the recipient on their “Archive Room Escapee”: Reeves makes money, collectors get a Sample with bombproof documentation, nobody gets a shuriken to the forehead, everybody happy….

(This could all be moot, though, if they’re just tossing them in the regrind bin. I don’t think they’d be that intentionally cruel.)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Tale of Two Ranas

I’ve been wanting to add a Desatado to my herd for a while now, but none of the more widely available releases have really clicked with me. The closest I’ve come is with the Web Special Orion in that lovely pearlescent Perlino Dun – one of my favorite colors – but what they’ve been going for is a little bit beyond what my budget allows.

There was an insanely cheap one on eBay about a month ago, but as April was shaping up to be a rough month for me financially (taxes, dentist appointment, a new radio for the car) I had to walk away from it.

Then Reeves surprises us with this beauty earlier this week:

Normally I’ve been skipping the disappointment of the Saturday Raffle to participate in the disappointment of the Costume Contest: effecting a costume change and getting from the Covered Arena to the Alltech Arena in less than an hour is challenging, and my odds of winning the Costume Contest are fractionally better than the Raffle anyway.

But, oh my goodness, this is the Desatado that I’ve been waiting for. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve wanted a BreyerFest Raffle model as much as I want Rana.

The costume is already well underway, and buying Rana in the aftermarket will not happen, so I don’t quite know what to do.

The funny thing is that another horse named Rana is currently on my want list: the original Breyer #863 Rana, on the Sham mold.

This Rana also features an unusual color on a moderately popular mold: it’s the Traditional Sham, in what’s been described as “Blue Chocolate.” More precisely, it’s Reeves’ early 1990s interpretation of an unusual form of Black Silver that used to occur in Friesians.

(This was roughly the same era that gave us Clayton and the Majestic Arabian: obscure colors on inappropriate molds were a thing then.)

I’ve been wanting one ever since I saw friend’s example that was more Blue than Black. It was very similar, in fact, to the early Stone Horses “Turquoise” color.

The problem I have in acquiring that Rana hasn’t been a matter of cost, but degree: most of the ones I’ve found are more Charcoal Gray than Blue. While they are not unattractive, they are also not the models I want.

Even though I’ve set myself a rather unusual hurdle, it’s still more likely I’ll come home with the Sham rather than the Desatado. But after what happened last year, who knows?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Experiments vs. Customs

There’s another Test Piece Purchase Raffle up and I think she’s adorable, but you know I have a thing for Roans:

Being an older piece with a less sophisticated paint job and not mint, they really lay on the sales patter:
This lovely test is vintage late 1990’s, and features tape mask sabino markings, fine splatter roaning and a darker shaded head. She has four extensive stockings on her feathered legs, and a pretty blaze face. She is a beloved older sample in our archive room, and it is time for her to find a new loving home so we can make room for new test pieces! There are a few dark marks on her white legs and face, which can be seen when you zoom in on the images. We've decided not to attempt to touch up older test runs as we've found that this can alter their character and uniqueness.
Guys, seriously, you had me at “tape mask”. Behold, one of my own beloved Test Color treasures:

I think they (Marney?) used at least a half roll of masking tape on this boy! That took some serious effort and dedication, for what they knew was going to be a less-than-stellar result.

In all seriousness though, this is what an average Vintage Test Color – and the bulk of my Tests, in particular – look like. The BreyerFest auctions have accustomed many to the notion of a Test Color as a Factory Custom when they are, first and foremost, Factory Experiments. Experiments are not always beautiful, and do not always succeed.

As an historian, I find Experiments much more interesting than Customs. Judging from the commentary I’ve seen, it looks like a lot of hobbyists aren’t feeling the same way towards this little Clydesdale baby, who is pretty nice for a late 1990’s Test.

Based on what’s happened with all of the other previous Test Color Purchase Raffles, however, I don’t see that lack of enthusiasm translating into better odds for someone like me. I want her because I want her, not because of what I could get as a result of her.

But the laws of probability, alas, do not take that into account.

I’ll live. I have plenty of other Vintage Tests to keep me company.