Saturday, February 29, 2020

Ashes

At last, a release that doesn’t do a whole lot for me:


And that’s fine. I’m sure he’ll be lovelier in person, as most Breyer releases are. I remember not being particularly in love with the Vintage Club Chalky Alabaster Cantering Welsh Pony when I initially saw him, and then when my Gambler’s Choice arrived, I found myself smitten.

What will be nice about the Chalky finish is that it’ll emphasize all of the sculpting details that tend to get overlooked in discussions about Kathleen Moody’s sculpting style; hobbyists tend to get derailed by her manes and tails.

(For the record, I am pro-hair. If my love of Emma does not make that obvious!)

But again, Ash doesn’t float my boat. There have been a lot of Othello releases, and a lot of Othello releases in some variation of Dapple Gray, like the 2001 Volunteer Model The Poet. If it had been in another color that the mold hadn’t come in as often (Bay Roan?) I might have considered him.

One positive outcome: no more silly talk about the Othello being the Surprise release! With the reveal yesterday at BreyerWest that Brishen is being used for a Store Special, though, that means I either have to recalibrate my guess there, or hope my second choice (Croi Damsha) is still in the running.

Another positive spin I am putting on him is that it might make my life easier if I – as is usually the case – am stuck in the middle or the back of the line during my ticket times. As others use their slots to snap up Ash, I’ll have a better shot at getting items I am more interested in.

The only release (so far) that I absolutely positively need is the Angus Bull/Hamish, with the Georg/Oak definitely being a contender. I’m pretty sure that’s going to change once we get the Drafter section out of the way and get a pony mold or two in the lineup.

Aside from the (obvious to me) Croi, who else? Will it be something more modern like the Bouncer or Emma, or more Vintage like the Shetland Pony or Cantering Welsh?

I am good either way.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Benelli and the Shannondells

I am oddly unmoved by the latest BreyerFest reveal, the Store Special Benelli. It’s odd because I’ll pretty much buy anything if it comes in Blue Roan Sabino:


Then I realized it might be because it’s the third BreyerFest Shannondell Special Run in four years, preceded by the Ticket Special Vahana in 2017 and Raffle Model Woodford in 2018.

Which means that by the end of the year, including Glosses and mold variations, the Shannondell mold will have had at least 11 releases.

Five of those aren’t (or shouldn’t be) difficult to obtain – Markus, the #1793 Grey Shire, Vahana, the 2020 XMAS Horse, and Benelli.

Four of them are obtainable, but pricey: that would include both versions of the original Premier Club Shannondell, the Gloss version of the #1793 Shire, and the Gloss version of the Vintage Club Claude.

And two of them are basically unaffordable to the average collector: the 2018 BreyerFest Raffle model Woodford, and the Matte version of Claude.

So unless you were really on the ball, and/or were very lucky, this mold has already become very, very expensive to collect. You’re reluctant to fall in love because it will – quite literally! – cost you.

With Vintage molds – especially those made pre-1985 – there’s at least the slim but not unreasonable chance I could find some of the rarer pieces “in the wild” – as some of my more recent finds attest! Which is a comfort when they do throw the inevitable rarity out into the world.

Depending on how he looks in person, and what my budget and mood will be by then, Benelli is still a possibility. It’s not helping that I pretty much like everything they’ve shown us so far.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Toy Fair 2020

I have a not-inconsequential headache today (trying to kick my caffeine habit again, ahead of Lent. Not going well!) So just a little bit here about Toy Fair 2020. Reeves’s big product push for Toy Fair is…


… Mane Beauty Style Heads. This is basically the equine variation of the Barbie Styling Heads that some of us were subjected to as children when our requests for Breyer Horses (and only Breyer Horses!) were met with skeptical eyebrows. Here’s part of the formal press release:
The Breyer Mane Beauty Styling Heads are sculpted and decorated with long, no-tangle manes. Each comes with a styling booklet; a mane comb; and mane clips, spirals, and elastics for hairstyling possibilities. The heads are available in three styles: Blaze (black mane), Daybreak (white mane), and Sunset (blonde mane). The styling heads will be available this July. 
Press Release

Toy Fair web site page, with various links

I could easily have seen my nine-year-old self getting a Styling Head for Christmas, especially since Mom was kind of obsessed with styling my hair back then and clearly wanted me to follow suit. (Some of my grammar school “picture day” pictures are memorable for all the wrong reasons!)

While it certainly wasn’t exactly what I would have wanted, I would not have been completely displeased with it, either. Even today I’m pretty terrible at braiding and weaving, so I this product definitely would have reduced the amount of yelling involved when I was trying to teach myself basketweaving a few years ago, or this past week when I was trying to teach myself how to braid rope.

(Also not going well, but managing.)

The 70th Anniversary products do get a shoutout in the press release:
Breyer’s 70th Anniversary Assortment features five hand-decorated models, each commemorating a different decade. The models feature an anniversary logo and come in special packaging. There is also a limited-edition, rare chase figure in the collection. These figures are available now at specialty toy stores.
You can spot the Gambler’s Choice collection display in photos of their booth at Toy Fair on Twitter, too. But the focus is clearly on the Styling Heads, rather than the figurines we fret and obsess about.

If hobbyists have an issue with this (I don’t, but I’ve met my share who have), it might be worth revisiting how Reeves now defines Breyer itself: not as just a model horse manufacturer, but as a brand. Also from the press release:
Breyer, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020, is the world’s leading brand of horse-inspired toys, gifts, collectibles and live events.
This is part of their long-term strategy to reshape themselves into a lifestyle brand. It has been for me, for at least the past (yeesh!) forty-something years, so you know I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve kind of been wondering why it’s taken them this long, but whatever…

Friday, February 21, 2020

My Three Emmas

And for a few brief glimmering moments, my Emma collection is complete….


… except for the one BreyerFest Auction Test Color, at least one Sample that I know of, and any inevitable Prize or Raffle models that are probably in the pipeline because we know how that goes.

But, it’s still pretty remarkable to be able to keep up with all the (technically) available releases of any mold for over four years.

It helps that she’s not insanely popular, and has had only three releases since her introduction in late 2015. And that I was lucky enough to attend Chasing the Chesapeake in 2016 to get a Black-eyed Susan first hand.

Everyone else was gunning for the Brishen Sagamore Rye or the Shire Testudo, but the heart wants what it wants.

With more popular molds like Silver or Othello, the sheer number of releases overwhelms all but the most resilient of hearts, minds and budgets. And with molds like Esprit, you were pretty much out of the running before you even got past the starting gate.

Actually, I was just thinking about this a few days ago: for collectors, most (but not all) Breyer molds that debuted from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s are not particularly challenging to collect. Sure, most have one or two really tough ones – the Pluto has the “stealth” Spiegel Special Run in Dapple Gray, the Stud Spider has Stetson, and even Morganglanz has Brigadeiros!

But being able to get most of the way there without emptying your bank account – and in the meantime possibly being able to save up for the one or two that just might! – is a not unappealing collecting strategy. One that I’ve been considering as I mull over what I might want to add to my BreyerFest want list this year.

Now that I have somehow, inexplicably, found most of my Man o’ War grails.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Plushie Goodness

The box of goodies from Reeves has been sitting in my office, unopened, since Friday. But it’s the pile of plush goodies I found at a couple local Salvation Army Stores over the weekend that has me most tickled:


Technically I guess this counts as my first local find, since one of them is the #10112 War Admiral plush from the Seabiscuit movie merchandising back in 2004-2005?  But I only happened to find him after spotting a couple other horse-shaped objects on top of the giant plushie pile, and decided to go digging.

Whenever I’ve brought plushes to BreyerFest, they’ve always sold well. So I always consider it worth the effort.

Plushes are a relatively new Breyer thing. The first official plushes in 2001 were Christmas-themed items, but in 2002 they unleashed a veritable herd of merchandise, both as Seasonal and as Regular Run items.

The first BreyerFest Plush Special Run was the “Spanish Bucky” – complete with a fringed sombrero and red rose – in 2004. He was listed in the program that year in the “Mid-Year Product” section, though I don’t recall seeing him for sale anywhere other than BreyerFest. I do recall purchasing one in the NPOD year or two later, at a significantly discounted price.

It wouldn’t be until 2012 that the Plushes would become an official BreyerFest Thing.

And of course this year, Reeves went into partnership with Aurora to launch a whole new batch of plushes.

Although I do have a few – a Pony Gone Wild who was included in a Grab Bag ages ago, and the Wind Dancer Bali because I thought it was particularly cute – I don’t make it a point to collect them, because I already have enough stuff and the dog will confiscate them anyway.

(Before I went all-in on the model horses, I will admit to fantasizing about buying a Shetland Pony-sized horse plush that dangled from the ceiling of Circus World but alas, he was far too pricey for my $2 a week allowance back then!)

So most of these goodies (I’m still undecided on the Fran├žois Pompon Polar Bear) will go in the sales stash.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hamish

Yes, I am very pleased by this year’s BreyerFest Nonhorse Special Run Hamish, on the #365 Standing Black Angus Bull mold. He is even prettier than I imagined!


I thought this one was pretty obvious from the clue they gave us earlier in the week. Although combining splash spotting with masked markings is a technique that has been used on horse molds before – most notoriously on the Lady Roxana release Cinnamon – it’s been more typically found on livestock molds.

For examples, there’s the Micro Run Polled Hereford Bull Marshall, the BreyerFest Special Run Charolais Bowland, the Exclusive Event Longhorn Bull Wrangler, and the #384 Texas Longhorn Bull.

I momentarily considered the possibility that they might use the Charolais Bull mold instead. Usually when a mold returns after an extended absence as a small Special Run (like Reuben!) it’s followed up with a more plentiful Special Run or Regular Run shortly afterwards.

It’s costly and time-consuming to get a mold up and running, so it’s not something you’re going to do for just a couple hundred pieces. You run more, and warehouse the unused portion for later use. 

But it’s also possible that Reuben was made from the production leftovers from Bowland, back in 2012. After all, they only made 450 of him, which is partly why he’s one of the more difficult to find BreyerFest Nonhorse runs. That, and the fact that I consider him one of the more attractive recent BreyerFest Nonhorse Special Runs.

But Hamish is… well, all that and a bag of kettle chips: a vintage mold that hasn’t been in production for over 15 years, in an eyecatching gloss parti-color paint job. He’s basically Marshall with an Irish accent!

The consensus online seems to agree with me, so I am just a wee bit concerned about the piece run on this one. I hope that it’s a decently-sized one, because getting a good draw on my ticket times tends to be the exception, not the rule.

I have to admit that some of the more recent BreyerFest Nonhorse releases (namely, 2015’s Le Taureau, 2016’s Zebu, and 2017’s Diwali) haven’t blown me away. I collect the Dog molds so last year’s Saint Bernard Bucky was obvious, and I’ve been yearning (yearning!) for more Elk releases, so 2018’s Inari was my number one want (and got!) that year.

My only (minor) complaint is having to scroll past all of the usual backhanded compliments about this release being “appropriate to the theme this time”.

As I’ve addressed before, having every release hew as closely to a given theme is neither creatively nor economically viable. It’s in Reeves’s best interest to have a variety of molds and models to suit as wide an audience as possible – up to and including people who have little or no interest in the theme itself.

Personally I am indifferent to the theme this year, but all the models revealed so far have been quite lovely, whether they directly fit the theme (Hamish) or not (Oak).

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Dapple Belgians: A Love Story

My current favorite thing? Looking for horses on eBay wearing the wrong saddle – not the ubiquitous Western Horse/Western Prancing Horse switch: those, at least, make some kind of sense. It’s the pictures of Family Arabian Foals, Misty, and (my personal favorite) the Bubble-butt Belgian – that get me through my day. 

Researching Breyer horses can be hard, so I don’t necessarily fault the sellers, especially if model horses aren’t a regular part of their sales inventory. (Though if I ever see a Poodle with a saddle, I’ll know for sure they’re not even trying…)

But anyway, since I’ve obviously been on a tear with my eBay purchases lately, I was thinking about what other “wish list” items I could possible hope to acquire in the next few months – from eBay or elsewhere. And then I realized it’s probably been staring me in the face the entire time.

The #93 Gloss Dapple Gray Belgian.

Not the Dapple Black variation – that one’s definitely going to take the intervention of a higher power – but the “garden variety” Dapple Gray, made from roughly 1964 through 1966.

There is, naturally, a story to this.

Growing up, the lady that lived on the corner of our street had a Glossy Dapple Gray Belgian in her window, a window I had to walk past literally every day on my way to school.

Back then, any #93 Dapple Gray Belgian – not just the Dapple Black – was the grail of many a model horse collector, with nice examples typically going for $200-250 or more, far more than my model horse budget at the time could spare.

This is partly why a number of the earliest Special Run Belgians from the late 1970s and early 1980s were some form of Dapple Gray. Those of us who could not afford an original settled for a Special Run, instead: so much so that they kept bringing him back in Dapple Gray, again and again!

Eventually our neighbor retired and moved away, and she evidently took the Belgian with her; it definitely wasn’t in the house when we went to her estate sale. (I do not blame her one bit!)

Ever since then, I’ve been hoping that I could find one locally. But alas, it still hasn’t happened yet. And me being me, I’ve been too cheap to buy one retail.

Aside from amusing saddle placements, another thing I have noticed on eBay of late is that there are a ton of Glossy Dapple Gray Belgians for sale right now. Most of them are pretty darn nice too, and almost all of them are under $250. Sometimes significantly so.

That’s less than Appreciation Sale Glossies, and a lot of the more recent Web Specials.

Hmm.

If I hadn’t just dropped a wad of money on the Breyer web site yesterday – for Trailblazer, Jujube and Klaus – I would be much more tempted than I am now. And guys, I am seriously tempted. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Presenting...

Back in June of last year, I said this in passing about the possibility of completing my Bell-bottomed Shire collection:
(The Chalky Sorrel and the Glossy Dapple Gray are sufficiently out of reach that I am not even going to consider them a part of my list. Sort of the way I ignore the Presentation Series Man o’ War, until/if/when it happens.)
Dear readers, it happened:


He has a few (mostly minor) condition issues, a slightly sunken-in shoulder, and all that’s left of his brass nameplate is the stickum.

He also smells of cigarette smoke, but I swear virtually every Breyer model I’ve had that has been mounted on a wooden base – trophy, clock, sales awards, et al – has smelled this way. Wood is porous and absorbent, and way more people smoked in the early 1970s, back when these things were new.

In other words, it was not unexpected.

It’s also a pretty easy fix – clean it with warm water and good quality dish soap, and give it some time. For really bad cases of “the stinks”, sealing the offending model in a trash bag with an open box of baking soda for a couple weeks also helps.

Most of the minor condition issues will be fixed also, but the sunken shoulder (also not an uncommon issue with models of this era) will not. I’m undecided on the nameplate; it’s a common enough problem that it doesn’t bother me that much, especially considering the price I paid for it.

Well within my budget? Oh, yes. 

Y’all know my collecting philosophy by now: unless you are one of those people blessed with extraordinary good luck, you must either invest time, or money. Since the only luck I have is in living where model horses are relatively plentiful, and I grew up in a family where paying full retail for anything is almost a sin, time is my currency by necessity.

And my patience has paid off: except for some obscure variations, the 1970s Dapple Gray, and (sigh) Riddle, I’ve managed to come as close as possible to completing my Traditional Man o’ War collection as I probably can, without going into serious debt.

There are still a few Regular Runs I need to get, like a Spectacular Bid without staining, a General Lee’s Traveler without massive paint goobers, and some box/packaging variants. Another Test Color would be awesome, but unlikely unless I get insanely lucky or Reeves just randomly sends me one.

Not a bad consolation prize for not going to Seattle, I must say.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Emma and Lady Phase

Rough weather, more drama.

But on to happier things, like the restart of the Berries Ponies Series – as they hinted at in the January Collector Club newsletter. What I didn’t expect was that they started with the Emma mold!

(No really, I didn’t know ahead of time. The usual caveats apply.)

I especially appreciate the detail paid to Jujube’s off-side floof:


If I’m lucky, some of the money that I had allocated to the trip that’s not going to happen will now go towards purchasing her. (More about that below, if you’re interested.)

I’m still hopeful that the Emma mold will be making an appearance as a BreyerFest Special Run, too.

Prior to the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual for a mold to have only one or two releases over the course of a decade, but nowadays if something like that happens people start speculating about the reasons why.

And hobbyists being hobbyists, the scenarios are always something pretty dire, up to and including the destruction of the mold itself.

When the Lady Phase became kind of scarce in the late 1990s, I heard all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories, most of them premised on some version of the mold being destroyed, or being replaced by the Ideal Quarter Horse. Or not, or it being switched back and forth and good gravy it all gave me headaches.

Molds can sustain damage that merits pulling them from use either temporarily or permanently, though it the case of the latter, the reasons are more a matter of economics than a lack of technical expertise. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to simply create a newer mold in a similar breed or pose, updated for more modern tastes.

But more often than not, the lack of new or different releases is a matter of popularity and priorities. If it’s already selling well enough in the color it’s in – and in the case of Emma, her color is a pretty simple and inexpensive one to paint – developing new colorways is not a big priority.

Other considerations also come in to play, especially with portrait models. Again, Lady Phase serves as an excellent example: the reason why she came in three slightly different Buckskin Special Runs prior to 1988 was because that was the only other color her owner Lynn Anderson authorized.

I don’t remember which Model Horse Congress it was, but I remember Marney having a brief round table with attendees to ask for product ideas, with one exception: anything involving Lady Phase was probably off the table. I still wrote down “Dapple Gray Lady Phase with black points” anyway.

When it finally appeared a few years later, some celebratory fist-pumping was involved.

Finally, my last bit about Seattle.

Well, it’s pretty obvious at this point – barring some last minute cancellation or other miracle –that I’m not going. I’ve been struggling to find appropriate words to express my disappointment, but as a Michigander, I am afraid none of the words that immediately come to mind are the least bit appropriate.

Especially since “Plan B” – another event that happens the same weekend as Seattle – now goes into effect. That involves me losing not a little weight and fitting into a costume that looks a little something like this:


I’m trying to tell myself that this challenge will be better for me in the long run anyway, but right now the prospect is a little terrifying.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Unboxing More, Chasing Less

The in-hand photos of the new Collector’s Club release Carter are beginning to trickle in online and, as we suspected, his color is merely a slight variation on the very attractive Rose Gray color that was one of the scarcer colors available on last year’s BreyerFest Surprise Andalusian.

He’s quite lovely, but as I am still opening up things from last year, I’ll have to give him a pass. Things like my beautiful Bisbee, who I only recently rescued from the backseat of my car:


Yeah, I know, Bad Andrea. In my defense, (a) the weather has been mild, (b) I usually park under a tree anyway, and (c) I don’t do a lot of off-roading in my spare time. As you can see, she survived the ordeal just fine.

Sometimes I do feel a little alone in my appreciation for the Forever Saige mold, and I am perfectly okay with that. Collecting less popular molds means a lot less stress tracking down the scarcer ones! And wasn’t the Saige in last year’s BreyerFest Auction the cheapest of the lot? That’s definitely food for thought.

Last year – and particularly, the last four months of the year – were a little crazier than I anticipated, and the unboxing of things was not a priority. So for the next month or so I’ll focus my attention on unboxing all the goodies that are already here, instead of chasing more.

Unless I luck into that Black Pinto Smarty Jones: him, I’ll make an exception for. I love Black Pintos and I have a pretty fine little Smarty Jones collection going – including the Daytona, the 2018 BreyerFest Dark Horse Surprises in Black and Palomino Splash, the Connoisseur, and the Halloween Horse – and he’ll fit right in.

I’d love to add a Polo Pony version of the mold to the family, but the two that I really like (the 2016 Early Bird Model Polomar and the 2012 Raffle Model Carlisle) are essentially unattainable, and it’s hard to find a 2015 Santiago that doesn’t look totally goofy.

And good gravy, how insane is it that Palomino Hamiltons are selling for more than the Pinto Smarty Jones on eBay right now? I mean, I get that math is not everyone’s strong suit, and rarity alone does not guarantee value, but that’s still… arithmetically questionable.

It’s only (checks calendar) February 2nd! I don’t know what the production cutoff date is for models designed to be one-year releases, but I’m pretty sure there’s no need to worry until, I dunno, at least May or June.