Sunday, December 31, 2017

Chasing Rainbows

First we heard about the upcoming Classics release Day Dreamer, who is a Translucent Classics Harper with a rainbow on it.

Then we get an e-mail about the 2018 Stablemates Club Gambler’s Choice Finn the Mule, and one of the four potential selections is a Rainbow Overo Pinto:

And then news broke of an apparent Walmart Special Run Classics Unicorn named Skylar, who is a Pearly/Iridescent White Forthwind with a sparkly Rainbow-striped mane and tail.

This is an interesting development. So everything is coming up rainbows for 2018?

We have had a number of pastel and multicolored releases in the recent past – such as the Peace, Love and Horses Classics Warmblood Mare, some of the Unicorn releases like the Alaric, and a number of Test Colors – but it wasn’t until 2011 that we had a true “Rainbow-themed” release, with the Translucent Weather Girl Treasure Hunt redemption horse.

I’m all for Decorator finishes, but I’ve found the rainbow-themed ones aren’t really my cup of tea. (If I do happen to end up with the Rainbow Mule, I won’t be looking to trade. Generally I just go with whatever I get on Gambler’s Choice models.)

Actually, this is cool – if 2018 is going to be the Year of the Rainbow, that’ll help me out tremendously. One of the resolutions I was considering for next year was cutting back the horse buying to an absolute minimum: that means no retail “fun money” binges, no late night eBay pity purchases, and no Web Specials unless they happen to be one of the handful of molds or concepts that push my buttons (like the Traditional Man o’ War, or a holiday-themed Elk).

So it’ll just be obligate Club purchases, BreyerFest, and the incidental flea market/thrift store finds that mostly end up on my sales list anyway. Oh, and the Customer Appreciation Promotion, if they happen to do the “FREE GLOSSIES FOR EVERYBODY” thing again next year.

I’ll still be open to trades and genuine upgrades, and if something insanely rare and cheap turns up in my radar I certainly won’t turn it down, either.

But I’ve been liking the space my recent collection reorganization has given me, and goodness, I certainly could do without the paperwork all that buying and reselling entails. The extra money’s been helpful, but I’d rather have that time to focus on more creative endeavors next year. (Most of them not model-horse-related, unless you count Sparky and Jules.)

The Exclusive Event that’s coming up in the Spring also seems unlikely, though I’d rather wait to cross that bridge when I get to it.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Although tempting, I am not biting on the Warehouse clearance sale, especially since some of the best deals are on items I just purchased for the Customer Appreciation Offer!

It is kind of fascinating to look at the overstocks and see what Glossies could have been: the Icelandic, Chocolate Chip Kisses, Brunello, Smokin Doubledutch, Welsh Cob, Highland Pony, Irish Draught, the Traditional Foal and Blanket Sets, the Black Adios Fonzie Merit?

Any of those would have been fine by me. (Glossy Solid Black Adios? Yes, please!)

The local Ollie’s had at least a dozen of those Rocky foals – in Matte, of course, and at a better price – and if it wasn’t for the credit card bill I’d be seriously tempted to get one. I have a bit of a soft spot for the homely little Standing Stock Horse Foal; he’s another one of those later Hess sculpts I think could really shine with just a modest amount of cleanup and customizing.

There has been quite a bit of misinformation floating around in the hobby about the nature of inventory and overstock, and it’s been bugging me, a lot. That’s because these are things I happen to be intimately familiar with on a day-to-day basis at work.

So let me provide a little illumination.

Overstocks aren’t always or even necessarily the result of bad business decisions or factors within anyone’s direct control. Production issues, mathematical errors in sales calculations, shipping problems, communication issues, seasonal variables like weather or natural disasters, or sudden changes in taste or fashion: all of these things can lead to overstock.

The other problem is as old as retailing itself: no matter how carefully you plan, there will always be leftovers.

Legitimate, boneheaded mistakes do get made, but true mistakes are far fewer of than most of us might realize, and the decisions that led to them being made often seemed quite logical at the time.

I think the original Blue and Gold Decorators of the 1960s were a case in point. A significant chunk of Breyers, even in the 1960s, were purchased strictly as home decorating accents, and Breyer had had modest success marketing their Woodgrains as such.

So it did not seem too outrageous an idea to expand upon that with other less realistic and more decorative colors, especially ones that would have been easier to paint than Woodgrains.

Things did not go as planned, obviously.

If they had debuted a few years later, that idea might have even succeeded, but that’s another lengthy discussion in and of itself.

Breyer has always had overstock issues, though things were definitely different in the Chicago era. They could get away with having items sit in backstock for a while because production runs were measured in years or even decades back then: if they felt they were a little overstocked on something, they could just cease production for a while and sell down whatever they had sitting in the warehouse.

What didn’t sell after a certain period of time could – and would! – get shuttled off to mail-order companies like Horses International and Bentley Sales. And if there were items they still couldn’t pawn off on them (like, the original Decorators) they could repaint them or Chalk them up, and move them out as a new or better-selling release – or even a Special Run!

A big chunk of those Black Family Arabian Special Runs in the late 1970s appears to be overpainted backstock of Family Arabians in all the colors discontinued in the early 1970s.

Because the product life cycle is so abbreviated now – it’s rare for a Regular Run Traditional to make it to its second year of production, nowadays – Reeves does not have the luxury of time: overstock can’t sit in the warehouse for months or years to sell down, because they need room in the warehouse for new product now.

The easiest way to do that is to contract with retailers that deal with overstocks (like Tuesday Mornings and Ollie’s) to make room on an as-needed basis.

So it is difficult to say or judge how well Breyer is doing as a brand (or Reeves, as a company) based solely on what we see in the stores. It’s a little more complicated than that.

Regardless of what is going on behind the scenes (I don’t know all that much more than you guys, and sometimes even less) all I can say is that I hope the “Glossy Customer Appreciation Promotion” becomes a regular holiday offering.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Little Jewels

Since the past couple of Christmas Surprises haven’t been that hard to get on the secondary market, I decided to take a pass on the Christmas Surprise Bouncer Jewel Ponies today:

It was tough, though: Translucent and a Bouncer? While I liked all three colors offered – Emerald, Amethyst and Sapphire – if one of them had been Yellow or Orange (Citrine or Amber?) I would have definitely caved.

I remembered what I had been noticing with my recent herd cull, also: with a handful of exceptions either way, most of the vintage (pre-Reeves) pieces have been staying, and many of the most recent pieces have been going. Foregoing the Bouncers might just save me a step (and paperwork, ugh!) later on.

If I have a fraction of the success next year that I had on the secondary market this year, I shouldn’t have any problem finding suitable trade fodder, if I suddenly decide I can’t live without one or more of them.

There’s not going to be any shortage of Translucents in the coming year, either: aside from the inevitable BreyerFest Special Run Classic, Reeves is finally adding a Stablemates Suncatcher Craft Kit to the Craft and Activity line, and there’s another retail market Translucent Classic, a Rainbow-covered Harper named Day Dreamer. You can spot them in all their glory in this online copy of the 2018 Dealer Catalog:

(It’s not downloadable, but you can zoom in and drool.)

I wasn’t planning on getting any Regular Run Traditionals next year, but I think the Latigo Dun It on the Smart Chic Olena is going to be a difficult one to pass by. How is it that they always come up with the most gorgeous paint jobs for that mold?

My Christmas presents this year were remarkably horse-free, including John Crowley’s Ka, lots of novelty socks, fancy chocolates, some authentic Turkish Delight, a set of woodcarving tools (for Sparky and Jules) and the artbook The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works and Worlds of Herbert Crowley, which hasn’t been delivered yet.

(The two Crowleys are not related, other than being underappreciated fantasists.)

If I am feeling motivated tomorrow, I might do a little post-holiday bargain horse hunting, but it doesn’t seem likely; I’m in the middle of a big machine quilting project, and I want to get as much of it done as I can before I have to go back to work on Wednesday.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Glossy Jake

It’s a Glossy Jake for me, yay!

Actually, I would have been completely happy with the Bandera, and was fully expecting it. So getting something different is just extra sprinkles in my bowl of ice cream.

I have only one other Wixom – the pretty 2002 BreyerFest Special Run WH Annie, in Dappled Rose Gray – and after my recent collection reorganization, I won’t have any problem making room for another.

Some time in the near future I will be buying one of those Glossy Banderas. But not now, as there is room in my budget for just one more purchase and that’s either going to be whatever Reeves drops on us on Christmas, or an obscure grail I spied on eBay today.

That’s also what eventually stayed my hand on filling a second order – it certainly was not for a lack of stuff to buy!

Just a few more observations on the whole deal…

For the record, I don’t know any more than anyone else about the true quantities/ratios on the four freebies; Bandera and the Donkey are obviously the higher quantities, and the Jake and Liberty are the lower ones. Beyond that…?

Reeves hasn’t been forthcoming in the past about the piece counts on previous Gloss Promotion models, so we might have to be content with rough estimates. It’s probably still too soon to really do that, since I suspect a large quantity of packages haven’t been received or opened yet.

There’s also the issue of whether the promotion truly sold out, or was simply allowed to expire due to the holiday break. (If they did not, it was close.)

If it failed to completely sellout, it wasn’t for a lack of interest, but out of exhaustion – and a lack of money! We saw a lot of products and promotions this year, and most of us are just spent out, waiting in both anticipation and dread for that one last thing we know they’re going to foist upon us.

Incidentally, the other things in my box included another Warehouse Find Bluegrass Bandit (to upgrade my previous) the Cortes C Carrick I’ve been eyeing all year (on sale!), and a bunch of Stablemates. Because I want to focus on Stablemates for the time being.

(Yes, I am very excited about all the new Stablemates releases for next year!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Glossies for Everybody!

So this happened, and I caved:

Its a surprise which one youll receive, and they are all beautiful, exclusive pieces!  Will you get an adorable Hickory Hills Wall Street decked out in a high gloss finish?  Or will it be decorator denim blue Liberty with his high shine?  Or super glossy bronzy-coppery metallic limited edition Bandera?  Or glossy pinto drafter Bryant’s Jake?  We know you'll enjoy each one of these lovely models. But which one will you receive? 
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had been suggesting that they “gloss up” overstock and make some sort of special offer out of it. Collectors love Glossy variations and guaranteeing a limited edition Glossy with your order (albeit in a “Gambler’s Choice” fashion) seems like a pretty easy and obvious one to do.

I have no idea how they’re going to work the numbers, though I think I’ll be the contrarian and assume there will be 125 pieces of each of the four mentioned in the e-mail: the Pinto Wixom Jake, the Chestnut Brighty, the Decorator Silver and the Bandera.

It might seem like there are more Banderas, but that’ll be because the hobby currently has a major ick-cooties thing going on with that release.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t think Bandera has been as big a “flop” as the hobby seems to think he is. It’s a slightly different item designed for a slightly different market: not every model can, or should be, tailored specifically to hobbyists.

The hobby isn’t the whole market; it isn’t even the engine that drives the market. But that’s not a discussion I want to get into, today, especially since lots of hobbyists are still doomy and gloomy over the DreamWorks hires. (“It’s going to be nothing but cartoon horses with eyebrows from now on!” Sigh. No guys, no.)

If an argument can be made for any one of the four offerings being seriously overstocked, I’d go with the Brighty: the discount retail chain Ollie’s was selling them a couple weeks ago for $9.99 – 60 percent off MSRP! (They also had the Traditional American Pharoah, the Black Adios Fonzie Merit, and some of the Traditional Foal with Blanket sets, at somewhat less drastic discounts.)

I hope this kind of Customer Appreciation promotion – Glossy Overstock models for everybody! – becomes an annual thing, much like the Decorator Holiday Animal has. That way everyone would have the potential to snag at least one guaranteed limited edition Glossy – as long as they can scrape up $125 worth of stuff to buy off the web site.

(Though it might be nice if they also had a straight-up Glossy Overstock Gambler’s Choice offer from time to time, too, for the more budget-conscious among us.)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

In The Background

I found this at the local Salvation Army yesterday, on my way home from work:

I received this exact kit for Christmas way back when. I remember because I made a few “improvements” to the rather sorry design of the horse, making him look a bit more like the Family Arabian Stallion. I could do that because I had lots of leftover yarn from other latch hook kits I had received as gifts.

I got a lot of latch hook kits as a kid.

For the holidays, I’d hand all the relatives heavily annotated Breyer catalogs, but that rarely resulted in actual Breyer horses. Oh, they’d catch the hint about horses, but since I was the “artistic” kid, that meant… horse-themed craft kits.

Let’s face it: the horse world is confusing to people on the outside, whether it’s in “real-life” or in model-horse form. Unless you had another horse-crazy relative who understood, most of them figured it was Mom and Dad’s job to sort the Breyer stuff out. It was just easier to get you that craft kit they found at Kmart.

There was also never a reason for your other relatives to learn the ins-and-outs of the Breyer world, either: in spite of – or maybe even as a consequence of – being nearly ubiquitous, Breyers were always considered part of the background, much like the Japan clinkies you can just see on the box of this latch hook kit.

Breyer has never achieved the same cultural status or significance of Barbie, or Hot Wheels, or Legos. (Remember Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2? With the model horses that weren’t Breyer-shaped but were clearly meant to be Breyers? So close, yet so far... ) They never really achieved “fad” status, either, outside of the early successes of the Western Horse and the Davy Crockett set.

In fact, it was their relative lack of licensing success that probably saved them. Hartland found themselves scrambling in the 1960s as television Westerns faded from popularity, but Breyer continued to do what it had been doing all along: providing generic, license-free figurines for horse-crazy set.

Even that wouldn’t have been enough to carry them through: Breyer considered ditching the whole “Breyer Animal Creations” line in the late 1960s, but rumblings from the nascent hobby community persuaded them elsewise.

Through the 1970s, Breyers still had a solid, though peripheral, place in the toy industry, in spite of their best efforts to break through. In publishing terms, they were midlist items: they sold consistently, sometimes well, but they were never the bestsellers the industry or the country would talk about.

One of the numerous reasons why Breyer was sold to Reeves International back in the early 1980s was because of this issue: they wanted to develop the brand to achieve a bigger and more public presence in the toy and collectible market.

One of the ways to achieve that was to create Breyer merchandise that was not strictly models. We are not talking just about accessories like tack, props and stables, but “fun” and more ephemeral things. Breyer did have some products along those lines in the 1970s and early 1980s, like the Puffy Fun Stickers and the Coloring and Activity books:

And in more recent years we’ve seen a lot more of these types of items both on the web site, and at BreyerFest: pajama pants, tote bags, notebooks and license plate frames, anyone?

But there was never been a coherent or coordinated plan to it all.

This is why I’ve been sort of puzzled by the negative reactions to the hiring of the two DreamWorks executives, and to some of the products they’ve “soft launched” on the web site. I am especially fond of this fabulous tote bag:

This kind of branding is nothing new: it has been a goal for a very long time. All they’ve done now is hire professionals they’ve worked with before, with real-world expertise.

Ironic t-shirts at Hot Topic? Breyer-themed pillows and comforters at Target? A “Stablemates” cartoon? Latch-hook kits with a more faithful rendition of the Family Arabian Stallion?

Those are the kinds of things I think we will be seeing in the near future, as they try to develop Breyer into a brand that doesn’t just acquire licenses, but becomes a license worth acquiring by others.

In effect, they’re trying to create non-horse Breyer things a younger me would have appreciated as gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives, in addition to the horses themselves.

In short, the horses themselves are not going anywhere: they are the core of the brand. We are just getting more Breyer-branded stuff.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Foiled Again, Again?

Since I am still a bit grumpy because of my back troubles, aggravated by a slightly-more-traumatic-than-expected trip to the dentist today, I decided forego the research and decompress with a bit of retail therapy. Among my treasures:

A Border Fine Arts Yorkshire Terrier and a Hagen-Renaker Great Dane Hamlet!

A quick scan of my records tells me that I found them at the same Salvation Army Store where I made my first hobby-related purchases of the year, so that’s some nice symmetry.

Wow, it’s been such a good year for me with breakables: six Hagen-Renakers (four of them horses), a Boehm, four vintage Royal Doulton dogs, a smattering of assorted European clinkies, two BFAs, and two Walker-Renakers.

Oh, and I almost forgot those Maneki Neko cats!

Usually I just find a smattering of minis, a few Japans, and maybe one or two higher-end pieces. So I have nothing to complain about here, other than the fact that I am rapidly running out of room in my china cabinets.

In lieu of the now-delayed franchising/DreamWorks discussion, here’s a bit of BreyerFest 2018 news to overanalyze: Foiled Again has been announced as a guest!

The last sentence of the press release is of particular interest:
Please join Ohio Standardbreds & Friends and New Vocations at Breyerfest 2018 and get your Foiled Again model horse signed and your photo taken with the richest Standardbred in history.
The Traditional Foiled Again release was discontinued at the end of 2016, but is still appears to be available on the Breyer web site:

I don’t know if that means it became an online-only item, or that they’re selling down discontinued warehouse overstock, or something else entirely is going on. If I had more space and money to play with here, I’d buy one of those online Foiled Agains just to check the VIN number for a 2017 production date.

Since the press release hints that there will be Foiled Again models available at BreyerFest next year, this suggests to me that if he hasn’t been in production lately, he might be shortly.

They could change it up a little – by glossing it, chalking it, changing the halter color, or going with another mold entirely – but even if it’s not substantially different, these hypothetical Foiled Agains might still qualify as Reissues or Post Production Runs.

Or they could all be leftovers, and my back pain is making me spin the most elaborate theories, just because it can.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

An Early Chalky Western Horse

Since my back has been really bothering me the past several days (it’s nothing serious, just a chronic condition that periodically flares up) I’ll have to kick my commentary about that announcement Reeves made last week down the road a couple of days:

I want to add a bit of historical context to discussion, but my mobility issues have been putting a serious damper on my research abilities. (Note to self: buy smaller, lighter binders.)

But today I’ll spotlight what I hope is going to be one of my last eBay purchases for the year: a ca. 1951/52 Chalky Palomino Western Horse with black hooves, o-link reins and a high-grommet saddle!

Yeah, he’s not in the best of shape. That I attribute to his age: he was among the earliest Breyer models manufactured for sale independent of the clock, and Breyer probably still hadn’t realized that items sold as playthings will take more of a beating than a clock that sits on a mantel!

I had the opportunity to purchase a beautiful and near-mint Chalky White Western Horse at a very early BreyerFest and passed, and have regretted it ever since. This guy was cheap, and y’all know I’m not a huge stickler for condition.

But I know what some of you are thinking: What’s up with the Gray saddle?

Guys, it’s probably the least interesting part of him: it’s just a Brown saddle, faded to Gray. The only thing truly unusual about it is how nice and even the fading is, which suggests to me that it’s more than simply the result of sun-fading:

Again, it’s something I’d attribute to the earliness of his manufacturing. They were still in the earliest stages of figuring out this toy horse thing. Maybe this particular batch of brown plastic was not particularly color-fast?

We would not get true Gray/Graywashed plastic saddles until ca.1961/2, with the debut of the Western Prancing Horse, and it would not be until 1966/67 that we would see something similar on the Western Horse and Pony.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

On Golden Cows

Good grife, I hate reruns.

Went to bed before it went online Tuesday night, didn’t check anything model-horse-related for the five minutes I was online Wednesday morning, and when I finally got home from work Wednesday afternoon, the Gold Charm Cow and Calf were – of course! – sold out.

Again? Again??

Just lovely.

I wasn’t all that mad at Olaf – the Longhorn Bull is a shelf hog, and I’ve been trimming back my Bull collection a bit anyway. And my fun money fund really could go to other things. (In fact, I had transfer a chunk of my Paypal balance to another account the day before, for just such a purpose.)

I have access to multiple independent toy stores, farm stores, fabulous thrift stores, one of the world’s greatest flea markets and all that. This year I acquired numerous Monrovia H-Rs, several fabulous Hwins, another lovely Volunteer Model…

Yet relatively plentiful, first-come-first-served Holiday Animal Special Runs? It is starting to look like the Universe is telling me no-can-do.

I’m fearful it’s going to get put on the list of my other hobby no-can-dos, like getting picked from the Wait List for anything. (My win rate on Web Special draws is about average, but in the 200 or so of those drawings I have entered for, not once have I been pulled from the Wait List.)

As I predicted last year, the going price for Olafs today haven’t strayed far from the original issue price. I suspect Eldora and Sol will be the same in a year or so, when I’ll somehow probably manage to miss the next Holiday Animal Special Run.

It feels super weird that I can manage to score rarer things, but completely whiff on the stuff that’s specifically designed to almost be a “gimme”.

It’s not really that big of a deal. It’s not something that I was specifically pining for – it wasn’t a Deer Family, a Saint Bernard, or an Elk. And I do have a couple of kind and interesting offers to mull over.

But it still carries enough of a personal sting for me to consider washing my hands of the whole deal, as I have in the past with other models I shall not name.

Besides, it’s a Special Run that includes a Golden Calf whose name could also be interpreted as an acronym for how I’ve been feeling lately. I should just take those hints and run.

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Doozy of an Oozy

I got through another section of my inventory without any major surprises – other than one of my Little Bits Drafters spontaneously and spectacularly going “oozy” on me. What looks like a white plastic bag underneath him is actually the now-soggy tissue he was wrapped in:

(It looks like crime scene photo, doesn’t it?)

It was one made during the “Shrinky Era” – the late 1980s to early 1990s – so it wasn’t a completely random occurrence. Just a messy and inconvenient one.

Incidentally, everyone else in that box was absolutely fine. But just a few months ago, the Oozy One was fine too.

I got lucky with Shrinkies/Oozies: the late 1980s/early 1990s were exactly the same time period I was least active in the hobby, and buying the fewest models.

It had nothing to do with quality or production issues: I was busy with other things at the time, and simply taking a break. (In the SF/fannish communities, it’s sometimes called “gafiating”, or Getting Away From It All.)

Consequently, when other hobbyists started talking about models shrinking and oozing, I had very little first-hand experience with the phenomenon, beyond the Black Horse Special Runs – the Indian Ponies and Proud Arabian Stallions, specifically.

I’ve made up for it since then, and I’ve even bought a few Shrinkies intentionally. (I am sure some of you remember... The Toad?)

But that Little Bit Drafter caught me by surprise. I had last seen him back in June when I was pulling items out for my display at BreyerFest, and I noticed nothing amiss then. The weather has been unusually warm and humid this year – two things that adversely affect Shrinkies – so maybe that kickstarted the process somehow.

He has been the only one, so far, and the boxes that I’ll be going through next are mostly newer items and vintage items outside of the “Shrinky Era”. The only other surprise I can see lurking in those boxes is exactly how many more Bay Jumping Horse variations I still have. (How many did I buy over the years? Yikes!)

Being a Little Bit/Paddock Pal, he won’t be difficult or expensive to replace, though I am just a wee bit hesitant all the same.

The little Oozy One isn’t going anywhere, either. Since he already happens to be here, I’ll use him as a test subject for possible treatments. If there’s some way to stop it, or at least slow it down significantly, that’d really come in handy. There were some really nice Special Runs during that era, and I would hate to see them all meet an earlier-than-necessary demise.

If you have any yourself, just keep them cool and keep them dry in the meantime. And tuck a few extra paper towels in the bag if you have to keep them in storage, just in case.