Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Breyer Bronze Age

When Nancy Young's Breyer history books were published in the mid-1990s, I poured over them for hours and days and weeks. I pretty much read the first book (and the later updated book for that matter) cover to cover including all of the weird minutiae about variations, stamps, mold flaws, and other oddities in the footnotes about each mold. I found answers to all sorts of questions I'd had over the years and learned many new tidbits as well.

One particular oddity that stuck with me was an anecdote about an experiment with bronze paint that Peter Stone and Chris Hess conducted.1 According to Nancy, sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s, Peter and Chris experimented with a bronze-colored rub-on finish called Bronze Glo (or something similar---Peter couldn't recall the name for sure). They tried it on a variety of molds---Peter mentioned the buffalo, some bulls, and possibly the Quarter Horse Yearling.2 Because the finish was applied by hand, it seems likely that it was deemed too time consuming for regular production and nothing ever came of the experiments. Peter could not remember what became of the test models, but presumably, they were taken home by Breyer employees or reground.

Over the intervening years, a few models that seem to be the results of Peter and Chris' experimentation have found their way into collectors' hands. The first one I became aware of was a bronze Jasper the pig that a friend of mine turned up at a flea market in the mid-1990s.

Bronze Glo Jasper
A few years later, my family acquired a bronze donkey and elephant. Two or three other bronze elephants have surfaced since then as well. Interestingly, at least two of the elephants have black painted eyes while some of the other Bronze Glo pieces do not. My elephant, another I have seen, and the one Nancy describes in her book also have a bit of dark shading that gives them an antiqued finish.

Bronze Glo donkey (photo taken with flash)

Note how the paint was not rubbed into the tight wrinkles on the head

A few years ago while surfing eBay, I spotted a bronze-colored Breyer bighorn ram in a lot of miscellaneous models. I was pretty sure it was one of Peter and Chris' experimental models, so I took a chance on it. Sure enough, it was!

(Another photo with flash; the true color is not quite this bright)
Until this past year, however, no bronze-colored equines from these experiments had come to light. Once again, while idly eBay surfing, I unexpectedly turned up a model that had the right look, so I took a chance. This Family Arabian Mare appears to be part of the same experiments, but she is a little different from the other examples I've seen.

As you can see from the photos, she's had a rough life, and while she does have some rubs, the vast majority of the areas missing paint are recessed areas---muscle and tendon grooves, that hard to reach spot behind the elbow, etc. This is consistent with the paint having been rubbed on rather than sprayed on. (I assume her feet lack bronze paint because she was being held by her hooves while being painted?) The same incomplete finish is visible on the head and in the deeper grooves of our bronze Elephant. The peculiar thing about this FAM though is that she is the only bronze model I've seen that was painted over an already finished model, an alabaster FAM. More on that in a minute.

According to Nancy, Peter couldn't remember exactly when he and Chris had experimented with the bronze paint, but based on the extant models themselves, I would guess it was sometime around 1974. The Donkey mold never received a Breyer mold mark or the USA stamp, so that model can't really tell us anything. The Elephant mold did not receive the round Breyer mark until 2000 (or possibly later), but sometime between 1970 and 1974, the USA stamp was added. (The USA mark was added to most Breyer molds around 1970.) Our bronze Elephant has no mold markings, so it probably falls somewhere in that 1970-1974 window. The Elephant mold was discontinued at the end of 1974, resurfaced briefly in 1976 with a USA stamp for the election year, and then was not produced again until the 1990s, so the bronze model probably wouldn't be later than 1974 (unless an old stock model was used which is certainly possible).

The Bighorn Ram mold was introduced in 1969, and while it has a round Breyer stamp, it never was updated with the USA mark. We can narrow the timeline even more with the bronze Jasper pig model---Jasper was not released until 1974. 

The monkey wrench in this bit of logic is the bronze FAM. We know the underlying alabaster FAM was made until 1973, but this mare has only the round Breyer stamp, no USA stamp, which would suggest she was made before 1970. My best guess is that she was perhaps still sitting around the factory as a sample or display model or even as unsold stock when she was grabbed for the bronze paint experiment.

So my guesstimate pegging these models as having been made in about 1974 is reliant on a couple of factors. Jasper was first released in 1974, but molds take about a year to be made, so it's possible some Jasper samples were available by the end of 1973. That gives us a terminus ante quem date---the models can not have been made before late-1973 at the earliest.

The terminus post quem date is a little fuzzier in that it's possible Peter and Chris used an Elephant that had been sitting around for a while as they seem to have done with the FAM. So we can't say for sure they were made no later than 1974, but at the moment, circa 1974 (or even circa mid-1970s) seems like a reasonable guess given the evidence we have from the models that have been found. 

This post is of course predicated on the notion that the bronze/antiqued gold models pictured above are all the result of the same experiment. They do all look similar enough that it seems probable that they are part of the painting experiment that Peter Stone related to Nancy Young. If anyone reading this has a potential bronze glo Breyer, especially on a mold other than the pig, donkey, elephant, ram, or FAM, I'd love to know about it! Please feel free to comment with photos or email me at mumtazmahal (at) gmail (dot) com Thanks!

1. Young, Nancy A. Breyer Molds and Models: Horses, Riders, and Animals. (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1999), 322.

2. Ibid.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Blame Kristina, a Tale (Tail?) of Two Honey Girls

Alternate titles: "I Don't Collect Cocker Spaniels, Part the Second," a sequel to this post, or "Blog and Ye Shall Receive...Again!" more coincidences like this post.

As I mentioned in the afore-linked blog post about my collection of Cocker Spaniels that I don't actually collect, I bought a Hagen-Renaker DW Honey Girl a while ago because I was entranced by the lovely examples and variations thereof owned by my friend Kristina. I chose my Honey Girl for her incredibly crisp detail and beautiful coloring, but I had hoped to find one that had character eyes and a sticker as well. I said as much in my blog, and look what turned up on eBay?

The new Honey Girl is not as crisp as her sister, but she's lovely all the same, and it's interesting to observe the differences in color, shading, and crispness between the two. (Click the pictures for a larger view.)

First Honey Girl on the left, new HG on the right
First Honey Girl on the left, new HG on the right
Now if I could just find the mini Cocker Spaniel with Newspaper (A-255) in black...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Pretty Pony Pix: Meows and Minis 2018

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of judging at Meows and Minis, an all mini-scale model horse show held in the Chicago suburbs. The show is a fundraiser for Cat Guardians, a no-kill, cageless shelter for cats in Lombard, Illinois. They not only adopt cats into forever homes, but they also permanently house and care for cats that have not been adoptable because of their age, health, or behavioral issues. I showed once at M&M several years ago and had a blast, so I was really delighted to be able to come back and judge.

I arrived Friday afternoon to help set up the show hall and unpack the many auction and raffle donations. But first, I made a quick visit to the local hobby shop and toy store conveniently located right next to the hotel to check out their Breyer selection. The temptation was great, and I happily added the new grey Shannondell to my herd.

Saturday started bright and early with a full room---the show drew in many of the local regulars as well as friends from as far away as New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon!

I judged chinas, both OF and custom glaze, and the competition was fierce. Here are some of the OF lovelies from the breed classes.

The breed champ call back table
Marcherware Rose Oberon and Hagen-Renaker Thoroughbred Mare
Hagen-Renaker Morgan Foal and Rearing Stallion
An exquisite HR Saddlebred
Stunning HR Arabian Mare in rose grey
Another shot of the call back table
Oberon was the overall breed champ
And the lovely Saddlebred was the reserve overall champ
The gaited class boasted no less then four white HR Saddlebreds. The variations in shading, ribbon color, and detail was fascinating. 

The show was running on a pretty tight time line as we had to be completely out of the show hall by 5pm, so unfortunately, I didn't get any pix of the fabulous custom glaze entries other than my breed champs. Both of them were Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig's incredible Imp sculpture. I wish I had more pictures of the CMG pieces to share because just about all of them deserved rosettes. The workmanship and level of artistry on these horses was mind-blowing.

Overall CMG champ
Overall reserve CMG champ
The raffle gods were kind to me, and I came home with a few fun goodies.

Hagen-Renaker anvil
Breyer Mini Whinny chase piece
I was also pleased to win the auction for the Hagen-Renaker Starlite cat custom glazed by the late Karen Grimm of Black Horse Ranch. The piece was generously donated by Heather Wells and the BHR estate. The kitty, now christened Maud, will soon be joining my sister's clowder of Starlites to take part in the Adventures in Cosclay shenanigans with Georgette, Henrietta, and the incorrigible Clarice. You've been warned!

She looks like a trouble maker.

Friday, August 24, 2018

I Don't Collect Cocker Spaniels...

I don't intentionally collect Cocker Spaniels. I'm not especially partial to the breed---I usually prefer leggier, more athletic-looking canines. But I have somehow managed to acquire a small pack of them, and I'm not really sure how this happened.

Even Butch is rolling his eyes at me
I suppose it all began with the funny little dog pictured below. I've written before of the Hagen-Renaker collection my paternal grandmother gifted to me and my sister, but my maternal grandmother also contributed a piece to my HR herd. This little pup, the A-97 Cocker Spaniel Puppy, sat in my grandma's china hutch with the Queen of Hearts (made by Wade of England) when I was a little girl. He lived in a wooden nutcracker, and whenever I visited, I was allowed to carefully play with the pup, the Queen, and their nutcracker house. These two are the only things I have from my grandma's estate, but they were exactly what I wanted most. They always make me smile and think of  happy afternoons spent in her apartment eating M&M cookies and watching the Price is Right together.

I eventually realized the dog was a Hagen-Renaker (made from Spring 1950 to Spring 1954). I'm not sure how my grandma came to have him or the Queen, and my mom doesn't know either. They were just always in the hutch. Given that the pup has a little heart-shaped spot on his chest, I'm sure Grandma thought he was an appropriate companion for the Queen of Hearts.

Sometime in the 1990s, I came across the matching A-98 Cocker Spaniel (Standing) dog in an antique store, and he of course had to come home with me. Like the pup, he was designed by Helen Perrin Farnlund and was made from Spring 1950 to Spring 1954. I have since realized there is a third dog to this set, a seated adult (A-205), so I imagine I will have to find one for my Collection of Cocker Spaniels That I Don't Actually Collect one of these days.

I had no intention of buying a Designers Workshop Honey Girl (H-1518). None whatsoever. My interest in DW HR dogs is pretty limited (that sound you hear, incidentally, is my sister laughing uproariously and asking, "How many HR dogs do you have now? Twenty? Twenty-five?"), but then I saw one owned by my friend Kristina Lucas Francis that had a beautifully detailed face and soulful character eyes, and I was smitten. So I started looking casually on eBay.

The one I ended up with does not have character eyes or whisker dots like Kristina's, but I couldn't resist the exceptionally crisp detail and rich shading. I wish she had a sticker, because I am an ephemera nerd like that, but I really should not be looking for variations. (Or should I?)

Naturally, Honey Girl needed her pupper Patsy (H-1519), and I got lucky and found one that had great shading, character eyes, and a sticker. Both Honey Girl and Patsy were sculpted by Maureen Love which I'm sure is part of their appeal for me. Maureen had such a gift for sculpting every sort of animal, not just horses. This pair was available in matte and glossy, and given the mid-century popularity of Cocker Spaniels, it's not surprising that Hagen-Renaker issued these pieces for quite some time (Fall 1955-Spring 1958, Fall 1961-Fall 1962, Fall 1966, and Spring 1968). Both are quite common and can often be acquired for as little as $25 on eBay.

This adorable DW Butch turned up not long after I had read an article about the real dog who inspired the piece. Butch was owned by the Saturday Evening Post artist Albert Staehle, and the mischievous dog was often featured on the cover of that publication and elsewhere. As cute as Butch is, I confess I bought him for the hang tag. Paper ephemera is generally rare from most all companies in the model horse universe, and especially so from Hagen-Renaker. As a collectibility fan, I could not resist.

My Butch (H-1542) also has a name sticker as seen above. It reads "Butch © A. Staehle" in reference to the artist. Hagen-Renaker's licensed design was sculpted by Don Winton and was made from Spring 1957 to Fall 1959. Winton also sculpted a Butch mini-me.

Mini Butch (A-1542) is posed and decorated nearly identically to the larger version, and most examples also bear the same sticker as the DW version. Mini Butch was made in 1957 only.

The (wonderful) trouble with Hagen-Renaker DW dogs is that a number of them were made in large quantities, often for a reasonable number of years, and they are therefore pretty easy to find and cheap to acquire. Pip Emma (H-1013) and His Nibs (H-1014), both with lovely shading and perfect stickers, joined my clinky dog pack for about $15 each. Neither are rare, but I just love their highly detailed coats and sweet expressions. Both were sculpted by Tom Masterson, and as far as I know, Emma was available in this colorway for both season in 1954 and again in Fall 1955. Nibs was also made in this color in Spring and Fall 1954 but in Spring 1955 rather than Fall.

My passion for rare bits of paper ephemera is also responsible for the presence of this Disney Lady (5001) in my collection. Most mini HRs were and still are sold on little squares of cardboard with Hagen-Renaker's name and address on them, but Disney-specific cards, of course, only came with Disney pieces and are not seen all that often. Mine has seen better days, but I thought it was pretty neat. Lady was also sculpted by Don Winton and was made from Fall 1955 to Fall 1959.

While traveling this summer, I stopped into an antique store in a small town, and though I didn't find any horses, I did find this pretty mini Cocker Spaniel with Newspaper (A-255). I picked it up and literally thought to myself, "Do I really need this? I don't collect Cocker Spaniels." But I was really taken with the juxtaposition of the shaded, glossy coat of the dog and the stark matte finish of the newspaper, and this dog has pretty Monrovia bi-eyes, too. For $3, how could I resist? This piece was sculpted by Maureen Love and made from Spring 1956 to Fall 1957. It also came in black, and there is a cute wiggly puppy to match in both tan and black. I may be on the look-out for them...

Just two weeks ago, my parents were out and about, and they decided to check out an antique store on their way home. They texted me this picture of an A-98 Cocker Spaniel (Standing) and A-205 Cocker Spaniel (Seated) in tan. "Do you need these?" they asked. I sighed. Yes. Yes, I do. Apparently, I do collect Cocker Spaniels after all!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

BreyerFest Hangover

Sitting at work today, I feel like I've been gone for a couple of weeks instead of just a few days. I think it must be because I crammed so much into the last week with so little sleep. I am so very tired, and I can hardly wait for the weekend so I can sleep in, unpack completely (how novel!), and make room for my BreyerFest loot. BreyerFest weekend is such a whirlwind of activity and shopping and socializing, but it's always a blast!

My sister Sarah, my mom, and me
My family attended the first BreyerFest in 1990, and we've been to every one since. This one, the 29th (I can hardly believe it!), stands out to me as one of the most fun in recent years. As a lifelong horse racing fan, the "Off to the Races" theme was right up my alley, and Breyer did an outstanding job selecting guest horses and designing special run models.

On Friday morning, well before sunrise, we rolled out to the Altech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park for the BreyerFest Open Show (because sleeping is for after BreyerFest, am I right?). I didn't manage to take a lot of pictures because we had a pretty full day of showing, but my sister was able to get most of the collectors' classes at least, so I'll post those in a future entry. The day started off with a bang for us when my collector's class Variety entry won first place!

To add to the excitement, my sister's Theme collector's class entry got second place. Sarah was absolutely thrilled by this because she congas the Pacer mold, and the prize model for second was a beautiful grey tobiano Pacer!

The competition in the collectibility division was fierce as usual, and the overall winners were definitely deserving. The overall reserve champ was this stunning 1975 test run dapple grey Cantering Welsh Pony owned by D'Arry Jone Frank. D'Arry got it from Marney Walerius, and the pony was the start of their long friendship. Marney, who did consulting work for Breyer, introduced D'Arry to Peter Stone, and D'Arry eventually painted a number of test runs for Breyer herself, all because of this pony.

The overall champion in collectibility was Ethan Lewis' fabulous 2014 BreyerFest Early Bird raffle grullo Alborozo. It was such a treat to see this amazing model in person! Only three were made.

On Saturday, we ventured out to the Park once again to visit with the celebration horses and do a bit of shopping. Our first stop was the newly renovated American Saddlebred museum. The new gallery is nearing completion and is starting to fill up with amazing artwork. If you're a fan of George Ford Morris' work (and you really should be if you're not already), this is a must-see collection.

Sweetheart on Parade, one of my most favorite GFM paintings
Glitzy, sparkly, silvered parade tack and outfit
Carved wooden Saddlebred by Calvin Roy Kinstler, one of many
Kinstler pieces in the KHP's collection
We then headed into the park proper... pick up our one-day ticket Stablemates (aren't they fabulous?)...

Man O' War, Silver Charm, Ruffian, and (Big Blue) Lexington
...and to pick up our celebration models and buy raffle tickets at the Breyer booth in the covered arena. The silent auction models were on display there as usual.

Glossy versions of the Dark Horse surprise special run
A OOAK blue version of the Dark Horse deco special run
Glossy Brass Hat, the costume contest prize model
Custom contest prizes
Sarah and I then headed next door to the celebration horse barn to see Foiled Again, the 14 year-old champion Standardbred gelding who has become the harness racing world's richest race horse. He just won his 100th race, and the hardy bay pacer will run until the end of the year. (Harness racers are not allowed to run beyond the age of 14 for some reason.) Not only did we get to see the great horse, we got to pet him and have our picture taken with him!

We also found Harley, the lovely American Sugarbush drafter that you may recognize from the Kentucky Derby post parade. He ponies Thoroughbreds to the gate at Churchill Downs and has quite a fan following (and deservedly so).

As a lifelong horse racing fan, I was determined to find Brass Hat, the hard-knocking Thoroughbred gelding who is cut from similar cloth as Foiled Again. Brass Hat raced 40 times in a career spanning seven years, and nearly all of his starts came in graded stakes company, including a win in the prestigious G1 Donn Handicap in 2006.

Some other interesting horses we spotted Saturday afternoon as we waited for the raffle (we didn't win).

Pretty frame overo
Gorgeous Hackney Ponies
We rarely get the chance to attend BreyerFest on Sunday because we're usually on the road home bright and early, but this year, we weren't able to trade our special run tent tickets for another day. So I went out to the park early to go through the lines while my sister packed up the van like the BreyerFest tetris champ she is. I thoroughly enjoyed being there while it was still quiet and cool. Several horses were out getting a little second breakfast or getting groomed for their public appearances.

Fell Pony?
A handsome Standardbred
Laura, a stunning Suffolk Punch mare
I had a bit of time to kill, so I headed up to the Hall of Champions to see the boys before getting in line. Go For Gin, the 1994 Kentucky Derby winner, was definitely not a morning person, but he was still good enough to pose for a picture with me.

Gin doing his "Look of Eagles" pose
Breyer moved the special run tent to the paddock across the way from the Hall of Champion this year, and being separated from the Breyer store really improved both venues. Neither was overly crowded, the lines moved quickly, and the check out process was a breeze. Hooray!

Lining up!
The new special run tent
Happily, I was able to pick up exactly what Sarah and I had hoped to get on my two trips through the line---I snagged the piebald elk and the glossy chestnut Duende for her, and I was delighted to get a glossy and a matte rose grey Proud Arabian Mare to keep my PAM conga up to date. The PAMs are chalky other than their socks, and they are just gorgeous!

We had a wonderful weekend and got to see a number of our friends (and made some new friends, too!), but it never feels like enough time to really sit and down and have a good catch-up gabfest, and we didn't find everyone we wanted to see. The event has grown so much over the years that it's hard now to see and do everything and coordinate hang-outs, too. I think Sarah and I will just have to start coming a day or two early to be sure we ease into the week with plenty of socializing, haha!