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!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My Variation Addiction: Dapple Grey Proud Arabians Mares

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with the Breyer Proud Arabian Mare, and I actively conga the mold. I am incredibly fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to acquire some of the very rarest examples of this mold, and I now have all of them except one.* But rather than let that stop me, I also enjoy collecting variations. Many, many, many variations. I may have a problem.

My weakness is the #215 dapple grey. She debuted in 1972 and remained in production through 1988, and because each one was hand-splattered and hand-painted, variations abound. A few of them are even pretty rare!

Some of them are glossy...

But most are matte...

 Some are basecoat chalky...

A very few are chalky plastic....

Some have tiny dapples...

And this one has bizarre, huge dapples!

Some have pretty, haloed dapples...

 Some are very pale in color...

And some have dark shading, sometimes in odd places...

The ones made in the last few years of production are a lovely soft shade of grey. I bought this mare new at my local tack shop in 1987.

Not only do the shade of grey and the dappling style and placement vary, but the number of socks can vary, too. Four socks is the most common variation, but two socks is pretty typical as well. Many models also have substantial over-spray on their socks.

The rarest dapple grey PAMs (other than the chalkies) have black points. They are pictured only in the 1983 and 1984 catalogs, but in reality were made for less than a year, and they are therefore eagerly sought out by collectors. Some PAMs with charcoal grey points have been found, and they probably just pre-date the true black point mares.

Rarest of all is the black point variation with four white socks. These mares are quite scarce and very rarely seen. A few mares with black points and two socks are also known.

Dapple grey PAMs were issued in a variety of boxes. The white boxes from the 1970s and the brown boxes from the early 1980s are most commonly seen.

One of the most desirable boxes is the halter and carry case set made from 1972-1973. Breyer consultant and hobby godmother Marney Walerius once told me that she braided thousands of the halters included in these sets for Breyer.

Dapple grey PAMs were probably sold in the vacuum-sealed "blister wrap" shadow boxes issued briefly in the late 1970s, but so far I have only seen mahogany examples in those boxes. A dapple grey will undoubtedly come to light someday.

I have a few more dapple grey PAMs not pictured here, but unless something really wacky comes along, I'm reasonably content with my obsessive conga. It's always fun to look though. You never know what sort of oddity might be in the next antique shop or eBay listing!

* I'm only missing the SR VRE PAM "Celebrity." Anyone looking to sell? :D

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A different sort of clinky mayhem

I spent this past weekend wishing I was in southern California at Clinky Mayhem, the hobby gathering to disperse Karen Grimm's extensive china collection. My sister and I had planned to attend, but unfortunately, real life intruded for us both, and we weren't able to make the trip. Many attendees have posted videos and photos of the event, so it almost feels like we were there. Luckily for us, a friend of ours sweetly offered to be our proxy buyer, so a few pieces of Karen's vast china collection will be winging their way home to us soon.

By all accounts, everyone had a wonderful time and found treasures to bring home. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the stories that collectors have shared about Karen and why they sought out certain models from her collection. Some reminded them of fond times with their friend, some were longtime grails, and some were unexpected love at first sight.

One of the most poignant conversations that has come up with the dispersal of Karen's collection and others around the country lately is that we are only temporary caretakers for the models in our collections. They will outlive us all and someday will be passed on to new caretakers. With that in mind, I very much enjoy hearing and reading the stories that come with our models---where they were found or purchased, the serendipitous events that brought a collector to the right place at the right time, or stories of cherished gifts from family or friends.

My own china collection was seeded by gifts from my grandmother from her collection when I was just a little girl. Every time I visited, I would help Grandma feed and brush her real horses, and then sometimes we'd stop in Grandpa's office in the barn on our way back to the house to admire the china horses in a case on the wall. I got to pick out a new horse every summer at the end of our visit. This Hagen-Renaker rose grey Small Amir is one of my favorites. I chose him when I was in middle school and leasing a wonderful grey Arabian gelding named Ahab at the barn where I took riding lessons. Ahab was a fleabitten-grey by the time I knew him, but he must have been a rose grey as a youngster, so I was smitten. Interestingly (horrifyingly?), my aunt used to play with the HRs as a kid, so most of them have multiple repairs, but miraculously, Amir somehow survived intact.

In the years after Amir joined my herd, I had always intended to find the rest of his family, but HR buying opportunities were infrequent for me. And my collection goals for a long time were pretty plastic-oriented, too, so it was not until the last ten years or so that I became more serious about finding a matching Zara, Zilla, and Fez.

I don't generally have a lot of disposable income, so I'm pretty particular about the models I buy, and especially so when it comes to Hagen-Renakers. I tend to hold out for models that have nice shading and coloration combined with crisp detail. Very often, I pass up multiple examples of HRs I want while I wait for just the right one to come along. Eventually, the right Small Fez appeared, and he turned out to be an excellent match for my Amir.

Finding the right rose grey Small Zara was much trickier. They don't seem to turn up for sale very often, and the few I saw over the years weren't quite what I was looking for (and/or my wallet was empty at the time). A few summers ago though, the Right One finally appeared on eBay. Not only that, the same seller had a beautifully matching Small Zilla to boot! I was lucky enough to win them both. It must have been fated that they would be mine because the seller happened to live near my parents, so rather than worry about shipping fragile horses across the country, my parents sweetly met up with the seller the next weekend to pick them up.

The seller was a "picker" just like the guys on TV, and because he was astonished by how much the horses sold for, he told my parents the rather harrowing story of how he came to find them. He and his partner were going through an old barn that was packed to the rafters with decades worth of stuff. It was so full that they literally had to climb over boxes to get at various things they wanted. He described hearing stuff crunching in said boxes as they crawled across them. Eek!

Because the barn was so full, the two men took to throwing boxes of stuff they wanted out of a window from one guy to the other and into the back of a pick-up truck. A box full of china horses including the Zara and Zilla was one of those boxes. After tossing it out of the window and putting it in the truck, they changed their minds. Back it went through the window into the barn.

And then they changed their minds again, so the box made a third trip airborne through the window! Miraculously, all of the horses, wrapped in nothing more than newspaper, survived this less than careful treatment. Zara and Zilla turned out to be the only interesting pieces in the box, and after decades in a barn and some wild handling, they are safe with me for the foreseeable future. I can hardly wait to get all four of my rose grey small Arabians out for a group photo!

And someday, when they are passed on to a new home, I hope that their stories might be remembered. They are survivors!