Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are You Serious?

I thought my budget was safe.

The flea market has been relatively uneventful, the pickings slim on the thrift store circuit, nothing’s out at my local Tractor Supply yet, the Tuesday Mornings were mostly cleaned out by the time I got to them, and even Craigslist has been quiet…

And then my brother shows me this ad, and my world gets turned upside down:

Are you kidding me?

A live auction with real, honest-to-goodness Vintage Carousel Horses that’s literally a twenty-minute walk from the house?

Gee, thanks again, Universe.

To give you some evidence of the seriousness of my desire to own the “ultimate” model horse, behold the cover art of the second (!) issue of my MGR Sampler, from 1995:

Now I find myself doing the math to figure out if buying one of the fixer-uppers is actually feasible. As long as I stay away from the Dentzel or the Greyhound I might be fine, right? (I have been eyeing the tragic, screaming pinto on top of page two. I think he needs me.)

Yeah, right. It’ll probably devolve into me taking lots of notes and pictures while I mutter cuss words to myself the moment every piece soars past my teeny budget. (They just bid HOW MUCH on that pile of horse parts? Are you ******* kidding me?)

I might not be able to afford one, but can’t not go, either. Carousel parts do turn up at the flea market and local antique malls from time to time, as there used to be a considerable number of amusement parks in this area.

It has been a while since I have seen a genuine carousel animal, though. (I think that one that did turn up around here ended up being spotlighted on an episode of Antiques Roadshow?) I cannot pass up the opportunity to see over a dozen for auction, so close to me.

It’s just more proof that I pretty much do live in the best model horse shopping zone in the U.S., outside of the Reeves Warehouse.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tractor Supply 2017

This year’s Tractor Supply Specials offer an interesting contrast. We’ve got something old – the Traditional Running Black Beauty in Palomino, named Lakota:

And something new – the Geronimo in an Aged Gray, named Jacy:

(FYI: Neither one is technically available, yet. They are just on the TSC web site to get us all stirred up, obviously.)

Hobbyists tend to forget that the model-horse-buying public consists of more than just active hobbyists, and what the rest of the world likes and what we like rarely align.

Lakota is clearly designed with the rest of the model-horse-buying public in mind.

I see two big markets for Lakota. The first: someone who might feel nostalgic for the less sophisticated Breyers of their youth – he might not be popular now, but the original #89 Black Beauty had a pretty respectable ten-year run through most of the 1980s. The second: someone (young or old) who just wants a pretty palomino horse to gallop on their shelves, and for whom strict realism or accuracy is not that big a thing.

Jacy is a little more tailored to the active hobbyist market: a new mold fresh off a moderately well-received BreyerFest release, in a modest and realistic color. (The other widely available Geronimo is the Patinated Copper Decorator Bandera – an acquired taste, no disagreement there.)

If I were to buy one – this Fall is looking to be a bit of an expensive one for me, so the TSC SRs are a definitely not a priority here – the Lakota would get the nod. It’s not that I’m necessarily a huge fan of the mold (who is the very definition of a shelf hog) but the color looks lovely on him.

Like one of the 2010 Tractor Supply Specials – Templeton Thompson’s Jane, a solid Chestnut on the Stock Horse Mare mold – I fear I may be smitten once I see him. Darn it, Tractor Supply, why do you have to be right next door to the local Salvation Army store....

Friday, August 25, 2017


The past few weeks have been relatively quiet on the flea market/thrift shop circuit; just a few odds and ends, a magnificently garish late 1960s/early 1970s quilt top (with frog-themed fabric!) and these guys:

A Walker-Renaker Elephant and the 1999 Sears Wishbook Mustang. Both are damaged; the Mustang will be heading for the body box, but the Elephant will fit right in with my small, ragtag group of busted-up flea market Walker-Renaker rescues.

I’ve been good about holding off on retail horse purchases – yes, I (painfully) had to pass on the BreyerFest Leftover Kaalee – but the upcoming Brick and Mortar Special, a Liver Chestnut Loose-maned Shannondell named Markus, might break my resolve.

I really adore my BreyerFest Vahana; he’s going to be one of my “office horses”, once I get it reorganized. I don’t think he’d mind having a shaggy friend to hang out with!

If I happen to be near one of my local Flagship stores come mid-September I’ll probably pick one up, but I’m not going to go out of my way to get him. That seems like a reasonable compromise, yes?

Incidentally, this year at BreyerFest I helped out in the Hands-On Hobby booth, and I actually got to spend quite a bit of time with Shannondell’s “mom” Karen Gerhardt, who gave a sculpting demonstration on Friday and Saturday.

I showed up early on Friday to finish setting up my history display, and she had shown up early as well, so there were the two of us hobby “lifers” just hanging out backstage together at BreyerFest, no big…

It was a lovely, quiet moment before the chaos began.

History dork me was super-excited to see that she had brought the original cast of the Shannondell, too. I got to hear her talk about his creation and history, and issues with the casting/moldmaking process.

The best part was that Karen seemed genuinely (and rather adorably) surprised when I told her how popular the mold was, and how certain I was that Vahana was going sell out every time slot.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Forgotten Things

I’ve set out a huge task for myself this week – cleaning up the office! – so the next few posts will probably be a bit on the short side, as I hack my way through mountains of models and paperwork.  

Today I’ll wrap a couple more bits of nearly forgotten BreyerFest business... 

First, here are some of the lovely little tokens given to me at ‘Fest this year. The Latin textbook (yes, I collect such things) was from Linda Walter. For my fellow old farts out there, yes, she’s THAT Linda Walter:

Second, here’s a nice little CHIN find that I was surprised to find late Saturday night:

It’s an early No-Star version of the El Pastor! He was pretty cheap, too. He’s very similar to the Ratliff Farm Special Run Paso Fino issued ca. 1987 – the color on the SR is a little more brown than red, and it is missing the USA mold mark. 

Another important difference: the Ratliff Paso Finos still command decent prices, whenever they do come up for sale. (There were only 100 of them, so it’s not often.) While the fortunes of the No-Star variation of the standard El Pastor have apparently fallen considerably. To the point where I could get one for not much more than body price – at BreyerFest!

I would have thought that – in a year with an El Pastor prize model (Diorama prize Sona) – a relatively rare El Pastor like this would have gotten noticed and snapped up before I noticed him.

Then again, it does seem to take a while for the market to catch up – it took about a year for interest in the Western Prancing Horses to begin to rise, in the wake of the Vintage Club Lucky release. 

So I’ll just chalk this up as me getting ahead of the curve, again

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Burbank Color

My Fylkir arrived earlier this week. The Appaloosa!

Once upon a time I had a notion that the Stablemates Icelandic mold would be something that I’d actively collect. I haven’t gotten the 2013 One-Day Stablemate Indigo yet, but that was more a matter of timing and priorities, rather than money.

Then Reeves had to go and make him the Gambler’s Choice mold for the Stablemates Club this year.

I was absolutely fine with all four of Fylkir’s colors, but I was hoping that I’d get one of the “more desirable” ones, primarily to save myself some money. Alas, it appears – at least in the short term – that the Appaloosa is the least popular of the four colors.

That’s kind of a bummer, but I do have some big expenses coming up soon anyway, so I’ll chalk it up as the Universe’s way telling me the disposable parts of my income need to go elsewhere.

One thing I find interesting about the Appaloosa Fylkir is that it’s another appearance – second in a year, in fact – of the Burbank colorway: a dark-headed Bay Roan Appaloosa with a masked spotted hip blanket, first popularized on the Exclusive Event Nokota Horse release in 2008.

Earlier this year, we saw it again on the Collector’s Club Exclusive on the Classics Swaps mold, as one of the three available colors on Scotty. That I did not buy because (grumble-mumble) they didn’t make my favorite out of the quartet – the Dun – we voted on.

(Hmm. My favorite of the four Gambler’s Choice Diesels last year was the Gloss Brindle, who also ended up being the least popular of that set. I sense a trend…)

Anyway, it’s kind of neat to see a color “born” like this, especially since it arose out of a Special Run that was not that well received when he was released. Though I think that was due more to his relatively large run size for an Exclusive Event item, rather than any aesthetic issues.

I wonder who’ll be the next to wear it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Vintage Custom Ruffian!

The fine folks behind VCMEC will be very proud of my latest acquisition:

Another vintage Judy Renee Pope custom!

Because the flea market has been so bountiful lately – and the possibility of a large and expensive purchase looming in the horizon – I’ve had to be stricter than average regarding my pony budget. But when I spotted this pretty little thing on eBay a couple weeks ago, I had to relent.

She’s in much better shape than the auction photos let on; I was worried that she might need to be rehaired, and custom-quality mohair is not an easy or cheap thing to find nowadays. Just a little bit of styling, and a few minor touch ups, and she’ll be shelf-ready in no time.

(Show ready? We’ll see.)

Incidentally, because of my work schedule I haven’t made much progress on my own customs; most of my free time has been spent in car pools, which is much more amenable to quilting than it is to customizing.

Here’s the Ponies body, next to his inspiration – a G2 Warmblood that I customized for the Diorama contest a million years ago:

My roommates that year can testify that I did 90 percent of the work on that little guy in the hotel room the week of BreyerFest, using the barest minimum of art supplies. Now to see what I can do with more time and better supplies….

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Golden Anniversary: Breyer’s Man o’ War

As I am really busy right now taking care of various odds and ends, I will post the contents of the flier I created for the Man o’ War display I presented at the Hands-On Hobby at BreyerFest this year. I will make paper copies of the original available to everyone who wants one, eventually, along with extra copies of the Sampler. 

In the meantime, does anyone have any spare 28-hour days lying around? I could really use a few...

Man o’ War’s history with Breyer began in 1967, with the release of the #47 Race Horse – Man o’ War. Sculpted by Breyer’s original moldmaker Chris Hess, this Traditional-scale piece was one of four new molds – including the Pacer, Bear and Bear Cub – to debut that year.

Many collectors are aware that Breyer’s original #36 Racehorse is based on a wooden sculpture of the famous racehorse Whirlaway, made by Grand Wood Carving Company of Chicago, Illinois. Less well known is that the Traditional Man o’ War (the model that eventually replaced the Racehorse, discontinued in 1966) also appears to be based on a Grand Wood Carving design.

Like most Breyer releases of the 1960s and 1970s, the #47 Man o’ War would go through many subtle – and not so subtle – changes through the years. The earliest Man o’ Wars, for instance, came with opaque “Battleship Gray” hooves and large, prominent eyewhites, a beautiful and eye catching variation that is highly sought after today!

Another scarce variation of the Man o’ War was the one released as part of the Presentation Collection in the early 1970s. This series consisted of then-current production models, mounted on wooden bases with brass nameplates, and marketed as trophies and home decorating pieces.

It wouldn’t be until the 1990s that Breyer enthusiasts would see more unique and distinctive Man o’ Wars. In 1990, a Special Run in Gloss was issued in a three-piece “Race Horse Set” (along with a Gloss Sham and a Gloss Secretariat) that was available through the Sears Wishbook.

He was also chosen – along with the Legionario, the San Domingo, and the Sham – to be a BreyerFest Raffle model in 1991. Twenty Gold Charm Man o’ Wars were raffled off at the BreyerFest in Kentucky that year, with another being sold at the Benefit Auction.

Although the mold itself has come in many other colors since the original release was discontinued in 1995 (most notably as his son “War Admiral” in 2003-2004) the original Man o’ War has also been re-released twice since then.

Man o’ War first reappeared as a Special Run, with slightly different shading and a Certificate of Authenticity, for QVC in 2002. He returned a second time as a Special Run for the World Equestrian Games, when the event was held at the Kentucky Horse Park 2010. Only 48 pieces of that particular Special Run were made, featuring a laminated hangtag and a more accurately masked star and stripe.

A Classics-scale mold of Man o’ War, a Hagen-Renaker design by Maureen Love Calvert, joined the Breyer line in 1975. The original #602 release remained in production until 1990 and like its Traditional counterpart, he also came in multiple variations. There are least three different facial markings – a straight blaze, a broken stripe, and an irregular star – and multiple gradations of Chestnut, from light orangey brown (usually earlier) to dark red (usually later).

Although it was included in a “Famous Race Horses” gift set available in the 1975 Sears Wishbook, it wasn’t until this year that the Classics version was formally re-released (as #9149) for Man o’ War’s Centennial.

In 2013, Breyer issued its third unique Man o’ War release, a Christmas ornament (#700662) in their popular Race Horse Series. But for fans of “The Mostest Hoss There Ever Was”, every day is a reason to celebrate his life and legend – whether it’s with one special Breyer Man o’ War model, or more!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

At Long Last...

Here’s a sampling of the goodies I recovered from the flea market on Sunday:

Yes, the Man o’ War is Chalky!

He came with his original box as well, but I’ll spare you the sight of it: let’s just say it did its job, and leave it at that. The model, on the other hand – well, other than a couple of minor mildew marks and pinpoint rubs, I couldn’t ask for a better example!

As you may know, my very first model was a Chalky Man o’ War, but I’ve been wanting to add another to my MOW family for a while. With the market being the way that it is for Chalkies, I had to bide my time until something showed up at the flea market. And finally, one did!

(Ah, if only he had shown up before BreyerFest, instead of after. I really could have used him in the Man o’ War display at the Horse Park.)

Honestly, I was actually very lucky to get him at all.

Just a few moments after I spotted him and his cohorts (the dealer had about a dozen pieces, of various vintages and conditions) and made my way not-too-leisurely to the booth, an old guy literally ran up behind me and started grabbing horses as well. I had to shoo him away from my “pile” – including the Smoke Western Prancer, above – a couple of times, actually.

And then he proceeded to badger the vendor about the price, rather aggressively and persistently. The dealer and I both knew that his story about buying them for his granddaughter was probably bunkum, but she eventually relented, if only to get him to go away.

I did a bit of negotiating as well, but (I hope!) not quite as obnoxiously. I was pretty excited to get the Man o’ War, and I did not try to hide it. So paying a bit more than I normally would have seemed fair.

Guys like that are one of the reasons why hobbyists get a bad rap at flea markets: it’s one thing to haggle, but it’s quite another to badger. And never assume the person you are dealing with, on either end of the deal, is an idiot.

Yet it is a behavior so ingrained in some of us that it plays out with distressing frequency, even at BreyerFest. (And I am not immune to attempts!)

The Western Prancing Horse I am on the fence about; his shading is magnificent, but I really don’t need another Smoke variation. He was the fellow covered in a gravy-like substance I mentioned before. He’s still a bit yellow, but considerably better looking than he was on Sunday.

The Beswick puppies also exist in a similar fugitive state; until I decide their fate, they’ll be chilling on my desk with the little Britains Donkey that came in the Hagen-Renaker box. (I don’t normally collect Britains, but he’s so cute and little!)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Holi Daze

Another spectacular day at the flea market – unrelated to the potential/pending business of last week – but I wrote this ahead of time, so you’ll have to wait a few days to see what turned up this week.

(Plus they were filthy dirty. I think one was covered in…gravy? Yeah, let’s go with gravy…)

Here’s another BreyerFest piece unpacked/unboxed – the Elephant Holi, making friends with his teapot buddy:

I was somewhat concerned that the Holi of the photographs – pinking, freckles et al – was not going to be the Holi we would see in Kentucky. I was very happy to have my fears allayed when I saw him in the Artisan’s Gallery Thursday night!

I was a little surprised that he didn’t sell as well as many had thought. Since I was preoccupied with all my other duties on Friday and most of Saturday, I was lucky enough to make arrangements with a friend to get a pick up. When I made a quick trip into the Bazaar either late Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning (I think I made two trips in there, but it’s all a blur, at this point) there were still plenty of Holis to be had.

Most curious.

I suspect a number of factors were at work. First, the Elephant mold has always been something that has a wider appeal to people more outside of the hobby than in. Second, the decals probably put some hobbyists off: aside from pushing it into “Decorator” territory, the long-term viability of complex decals on a mostly-wrinkly surface was also a not-wholly-unjustified concern.

(So far, so good on mine, whew!)

Plus, he was a little on the pricey side – $45, when you could have gotten the two-piece Dally and Spanky set for five dollars less.

In the long run, Holi will sell out, and eventually will become a more in-demand piece. Especially once hobby outsiders find out about him.

Illustrating my point: I had a heck of a time, pre-BreyerFest, trying to find a reasonably-priced Elephant body for my diorama entry. I had to run some pretty esoteric searches on eBay before a suitable (i.e. not identified as a Breyer!) candidate showed up.

He showed up smelling like the bottom of Grandma’s ashtray, but an overnight soak took care of that problem. All hail, the power of Dawn dish soap!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bollywood Buttermilk

The adventure I hinted at last time will have to wait a month or so. This is not a problem for me, especially since – if it pans out – it may be pricey, and might necessitate the assistance of other local hobbyists.

And even if it doesn’t, well, I’ll have another interesting story to tell. (More details as the situation develops. Or doesn’t.)

The Bollywood Surprise numbers were finally released on Facebook (Sigh. Of course.) And there are no surprises in the numbers themselves:

A - Dark Bay Tobiano (1225 Matte, 175 Glossy)
B - Buttermilk Buckskin (800 Matte, 175 Glossy)
C - Chestnut Overo (650 Matte, 175 Glossy)
D - Grulla Pintaloosa (425 Matte, 175 Glossy)

It was obvious that the Tobiano was the most common, and that the Buckskin and Overo were fairly close numerically.

The only question I had was whether or not the Pintaloosa was truly the rare one. As the most eyecatching of the quartet, it seemed most likely that he was the rarest, but the prices/relative scarcity might have been a reflection of a belief that might not been borne out by reality.

That’s what I kept telling myself, until the official numbers came out. Ah well, there goes another little hope and dream…

And ironic that it’s a Pintaloosa, given the hobby’s general antagonism towards them in general. Being the “rare one” changes things, I guess.

Nevertheless, I really did like Buttermilk Buckskin – and you know that I am rather picky when it comes to Buckskins, generally. One of the two that I received is actually quite nice, and possibly live show quality:

Definitely a keeper! But, as I said before, I did not need two.

I’ll probably need to sell a few things for the possible “mystery trip”, so selling off the second might have been a necessity anyway. Or at least, that’s another thing I’ll tell myself…