Friday, November 8, 2013
For most of the intervening years since then, I focused mostly on collecting Breyers, but I happily bought old Hartlands when I could find them at reasonable prices. I've always liked their stylized look, especially the horses made in the 1960s, and for the last few years, I've been actively filling in gaps in my collection of horses from that era. I've also been filling in the gaps in my knowledge about Hartlands.
So, in my post about Hartland woodcuts earlier this summer, I mentioned the elusive gold woodcut 9" Mustang and included a photo of a partial set I found on Google. According to Gail Fitch's book Hartland Horses and Dogs, the gold Mustang was issued as a special run in the late 1960s for the Mustang Malt Liquor company in Pittsburgh, PA. No one knows how many were made or even exactly when they were made, but the horses are found often enough off the beer sign that I suspect there are a reasonable number to be had. Finding models still on the beer sign and with the original beverage container is however much more unusual. I see horses with the bases only very occasionally and complete sets hardly ever. So that said, I was really pleased to be able to add this set to my Hartland collection.
Unlike the other Hartland woodcuts which were molded in colored plastic, this model is molded in white plastic and was then painted gold. The base on this example is lettered on both sides, but some are only lettered on one side. I believe the piece was meant to come with the empty glass bottle as shown here, but I have seen at least one with an aluminum can instead. I'm not sure if it came both ways or if the can was a replacement for a presumably broken or lost bottle. Either way, it's a fun bit of breweriana and Hartland history.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Most collectors are familiar with the "Ranchcraft" line of Breyer woodgrain lamps sold by Dunning Industries in the 1960s and 1970s. They featured models such as the Running Mare and Foal, the Fighting Stallion, the Family Arab Foal, and even a few animals like the Longhorn Steer and the Brahma Bull. These woodgrain models were mounted on wooden bases and the lamps sported rustic burlap shades.A few non-woodgrain models graced these lamps, too, like the grey Elephant and Donkey and the Bay Rearing Stallion.
Less common, however, are the Western Horse lamps. Like the Western Horse clocks, they date to the 1950s, the earliest part of Breyer's model horse history. The Western Horse lamps, as with the clocks, have turned up in both alabaster and palomino. In my experience, the alabasters usually come on black-painted metal bases while the palominos are typically seen on brown-painted bases. A few green-painted bases have been found, too. That said, they are fairly scarce, and I've seen only a handful of these neat old lamps.
I have not yet been able to track down much information about the Marks Manufacturing Company, but as I work in a top-notch research library, that of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, I have access to some handy sources like a 1956 Chicago phone book. I was able to track down the address of Marks, and like the Mastercrafter Clock Company, it was a near neighbor of the Breyer factory. All three were located just west of downtown Chicago. Mastercrafters was about one mile due east of Breyer, and Marks was a bit northeast, about 2 miles away.
The use of the zone number (22) rather than a zip code most likely dates this piece to the 1950s (or possibly the very early 1960s at the latest). Based on pictures I've found of other (non-horse) Marks made lamps, the company appears to have been in business as early as the 1930s if not earlier. I have not yet been able to determine if it was related to the well-known Clayton Mark and Company (of Evanston, IL) and Mark (no "s") Manufacturing Company of Indiana. The latter two companies specialized in steel manufacturing of pipes and well equipment and were founded by Clayton Mark (of Marktown fame) and his sons. It's not a huge stretch to think that someone in the family might have opted for the decorative side of metal work, but it could also be a complete coincidence.
I plan to do more digging to track down the history of Marks. I'm very curious to know how long the company was in business after their collaboration with Breyer and whether or not it was related to one of Clayton Mark's companies. I'll be sure to blog about anything I find!
Next time, some news on those chinas we all Love!
Friday, July 19, 2013
What is collectibility?
Collectibility reference materials
The importance of provenance
Vinegar syndrome: all about shrinkies and oozies
Wooden horses, woodgrains, and woodcuts series:
Future topics will include:
* The resin revolution
* Original finish vs after market
* Epherema and values
* More real horse and portrait model profiles
If you'd like to suggest a topic, please feel free to leave a comment!
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
In the 1960s, Breyer was not the only company producing plastic model horses that were finished in a faux-wood style. Hartland Plastics of Hartland, Wisconsin, a town about 25 miles west of Milwaukee, introduced a line of models called "woodcuts" beginning in 1964.These models differed from Breyer's faux-wood models in that they were sculpted to look as though were whittled or carved from wood rather than just painted to look that way.
The Hartland woodcut look was achieved in three different ways. Some models have an angular surface meant to look like carving marks:
Some are both carved and marked with incised graining (in horizontal bands in this case):
The woodcut molds are unique molds separate from the corresponding smooth body versions. They were sculpted by Roger Williams, and the carving and/or graining was added by Alvar Bäckstrand. The models came came in three shades: walnut (tan), cherry (dark reddish-brown), and ebony (black). They were usually cast in tan, reddish-brown, and blue-grey or black plastic respectively and had a wash of darker shading rubbed over the surface to highlight the woodgraining look. Some models, especially the later walnut pieces, have very little of the contrasting color applied.
Less than 10 were sold by Sheryl Leisure in August 2002
The rarest woodcut, to the best of my knowledge, is a one-of-a-kind test run 9" Five-Gaited Saddlebred. She came from the collection of a former Hartland employee and probably dates to the mid-1960s. She was sold mounted on a base as shown and is grained only, not carved. My best guess is that she was possibly a one-off prototype that was never put into put into production, perhaps because she was too similar to the 9" Three Gaiters.
The last installment featuring Peter Stone woodgrains will be posted after BreyerFest. Hope to see you there!
Friday, July 12, 2013
Breyer's records from the 1950s are likewise pretty spotty. We do know that the Racehorse was the third equine model released by Breyer (circa 1954, preceded only by the Western Horse and Pony), and the mold was also one of the first to be released in woodgrain (circa 1959). The mold was undoubtedly copied directly from Grand Wood Carving's Whirlaway model as the comparison photo above attests, and I think that it's very likely that the distinctive woodgrain color with white markings was inspired by GWC as well.
An interesting feature sported by some of the early Breyer woodgrains are gold foil stickers that declare them to be "made of tenite acetate." Glossy realistically colored models such as the Appaloosa PAM and PAF occasionally had these gold stickers as well. Presumably, they were to indicate and emphasize that the models were indeed durable plastic rather than wood (or porcelain in the case of the realistic models). The plastic models were also likely cheaper than their wood or porcelain counterparts while still looking the part.
Breyer eventually produced 29 different horse and animal molds in the woodgrain color. Some are just streaked brown with no painted details other than black eyes while others have added white socks, a white star, and black hooves. Most woodgrains are matte to semi-gloss in terms of finish, though some, often those found on the Dunning "Ranchcraft" lamps, have a high semi-gloss or even glossy finish. The last woodgrain in production, the Fighting Stallion, was discontinued at the end of 1973.
In terms of collectibility, the woodgrain line includes some of the very rarest and most desirable Breyer models ever made. Seven of them are rare enough that only a handful of examples of each are presently known to collectors. They are the Buffalo, Donkey, Elephant, In-Between Mare, Polled Hereford, Proud Arabian Foal, and Walking Angus molds.
Several other woodgrain models are considered very rare, and while they are hard to find, they do exist in greater numbers than the seven listed above. They are the Proud Arab Mare, the Fury, the Belgian, and the Stretch Morgan. Interestingly, though several dozen of each of these models are probably accounted for in collectors' hands, these four models are still highly desirable and command four-figure prices not far behind the rarest seven.
Most of the other woodgrain models are reasonably common, though several command multiple hundreds of dollars, such as the Mustang and the Walking Hereford. Others, like the Family Arabians or Fighting Stallion can be found and purchased at easily affordable prices, often less than the cost of a new Breyer.
The "graining" on Breyer's woodgrain models varies from model to model. Some, like the Fury above, have bold stripes of light and dark paint while others are more uniform in tone. The shade of brown used on these models also ranges from golden to dark chocolate. Many woodgrain Running Mares, Running Foals, and Fighting Stallions that came on the Dunning "Ranchcraft" lamps exhibit the dark brown coloration.
Besides the usual rubs and scratches other models are prone to, woodgrains sometimes develop bubbling as seen in the picture above. The exact cause is unknown, but it may be the result of exposure to heat and/or humidity. Woodgrains with semi-gloss or glossy topcoats occasionally develop a milky opacity to the finish, especially in the muscle grooves or other areas where the finish may have pooled. In my experience, both as a collectibility shower and a judge, in the show ring, only bubbling is generally considered a flaw.
Breyer has attempted to revive the woodgrain color twice since it was discontinued. In the early 1990s in Just About Horses, Breyer announced an upcoming special run series of new woodgrains. Unfortunately, according to Breyer historian Nancy Young, Peter Stone said the run was cancelled because the last Breyer employee who knew how to paint the distinctive color had left the company. Rumors have also circulated for years that the chemicals and/or paint used to create the woodgrain look were no longer legal. Then in 1999, Breyer released two woodgrain keychains, the G2 Andalusian and G2 Clydesdale, as a special run for Breyerfest. The models are dark reddish-brown with subtle darker striping, but they bear very little resemblance to the original vintage woodgrains. But given the recent success Breyer has had at duplicating some of their unique vintage paint jobs for the Vintage Club, I'm hopeful they'll try woodgrain again soon.
Next time: Hartland woodcuts!
Friday, July 5, 2013
Grand Wood Carving got its start in 1939, producing a variety of horses and other animals carved from primarily Central and South American mahogany as well as a few other types of wood. Though they produced a variety of portrait horses and breeds, a large part of their equine line was devoted to racehorses, both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Phar Lap's dam Entreaty was a New Zealand-bred. Her sire Winkie was a full-brother to the 1910 1000 Guineas winner Winkipop though he never displayed the same talent, hence his exportation to New Zealand. Entreaty's other foals were no match for Phar Lap in terms of ability, but her daughters proved to be important producers. Interestingly, Entreaty can be found in the tail-female line of the modern Australian superstar mare Sunline through Phar Lap's full-sister Fortune's Wheel.
EDIT: Another video with more fascinating footage of Phar Lap:
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The famous Standardbred pacer Adios was born January 3, 1940, at The Two Gaits Farm in Carmel, IN, just north of Indianapolis. His sire Hal Dale, a tail male great-great-great-grandson of Hambletonian, was a successful pacer and producer of speedy horses, and his dam Adioo Volo had a regal pedigree. Though nearly 50 years have passed since Adios died, he is still considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Standardbreds of all time, both for his talent on the track and for the legacy he left as a sire of champions.
So it is to Mr. Miller that model horse collectors owe their gratitude for the Adios models that exist today. Shortly after Adios' death in 1965, Miller commissioned equine artist James Nelson Slick to sculpt a life-size bronze statue of his great stallion. It was unveiled on August 12, 1967, at the Meadows Racetrack, which Miller helped found, to coincide with the first running of the Adios Pace, a prestigious race for 3 year-olds. Smaller versions of the statue were and still are presented as trophies to the winning owner.
But the fact is that the Boehm and Breyer Adios models were both independently inspired by the Slick statue and were produced concurrently. Nancy Young's research for her Breyer Molds and Models books revealed that Delvin Miller had lent a copy of the small bronze trophy statue to Peter Stone and Chris Hess to copy for a plastic version in the fall of 1967. By July of 1968, the mold for Adios was being perfected as per letters between Breyer and Miller. Reading between the lines, it seems that Miller may have been the driving force behind the addition of an Adios model to the Breyer line. The model was released in plastic in 1969.
Boehm died only three months later on January 29, 1969, at the age of 55. His studio continued production in the capable hands of his wife Helen, and as I mentioned above, the Boehm porcelain Adios was also released in 1969. It was intended to be a run of 500 pieces, but Reese Palley wrote in his book The Porcelain Art of Edward Marshall Boehm that the edition was closed in June of 1974 when only 130 horses had been made.
The Breyer Adios enjoyed a longer run, remaining in production until 1980. It was also featured as a part of the Presentation Collection in the early 1970s. These models were mounted on wood bases with metal name plates.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
As I discussed in a previous blog post, Breyer's Proud Arab Mare and Foal molds were originally closely copied from Hagen-Renaker designs. After a very short period of production, less than two years, HR successfully sued Breyer for copyright infringement. Production of the PAM and PAF stopped in late 1959. The FAS was not deemed similar enough to HR's Amir model, so that mold remained a part of the Breyer line. But that did, however, leave Breyer in need of a new mare (and foal) for their Arabian family.
In early 1960, Breyer molded and produced a small number of models aptly named the In-Between Mare. She is the same size as the PAM but more closely resembles the coarser FAM in looks. Her neck is long and she sports a bit of a hay belly. Due to molding problems, these mares lean to the left. She has been found in Alabaster, Woodgrain, and Appaloosa so far, which makes sense as those are 3 of the 4 colors the PAM had been available in. A handful of each color are known to collectors, and it's possible that examples of the 4th color, bay, may eventually turn up. Enough IBMs have been found---nearly a dozen---that there is some speculation that they may have been released from the factory to stores, possibly accidentally. The presence of the gold tenite stickers on several of the woodgrains would certainly suggest that they were intended for distribution.
Whatever the case, production of the In-Between Mare was ultimately scrapped in favor of the similar but more attractive Family Arab Mare who debuted later in 1960. She has been in production, along with the FAF and FAS, ever since. (The PAM of course was re-issued in 1971.)
So how does a casual collector determine which of the three mares they have? Obviously, all three are distinctly different in terms of sculpting style and stance, and to someone familiar with OF Breyers, the nuances are easy to discern. Happily, for those less well-versed in Breyer minutiae, there is a very simple trick to tell which is which---the tails.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
What exactly are shrinkies and oozies? Both names are used to refer to Breyer models that are beginning to disintegrate from a problem that seems to be akin to vinegar syndrome in film. Like some kinds of film, many Breyers were made of a kind of plastic called cellulose acetate, and they are likewise starting to break down on a molecular level. The problem has only cropped up in the last few years, and so far, the only models that seem to be affected are those that were produced from around 1987-1992. (It is certainly possible that models may crop up from outside that range of years, but let's hope not many.) Not all models from those years are affected though, and it stands to reason that the affected models were made from a defective batch (or batches) of plastic.
Symptoms of vinegar syndrome include shrinking of the model in height and width, warping, slow implosion of the body cavity, legs that warp inward, paint discoloration (it gets lighter), a whitish film on the model that feels like chalk dust or soft powder, a strong vinegar smell, liquid oozing from the plastic, yellowing of white plastic areas, and in extreme cases, bubbling and collapse of the model.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no known method to stop vinegar syndrome. So far, models that have been kept out in the open air tend to just slowly shrink and warp without any of the uglier symptoms. But as this is a recent development for Breyers, we don't yet know exactly what will eventually happen. Models kept in storage and models exposed to heat and humidity are much more likely to ooze and frequently go through the full gamut of symptoms.
My sister and I found more affected models than I would have liked, all in varying stages of decay. None of them are especially valuable (other than my red bay 1988 Your Horse Source SR Phar Lap), but many of them have sentimental value. Here are a few of the victims:
These two Mustangs are both examples of #118, the "American Mustang," made from 1987-1989. I purchased the one on the right on sale at a Breyer signing party in 1990. The one on the left was a flea market acquisition, and at the time I bought him, he was not overtly affected by vinegar syndrome. He was lighter in body color and mane and tail color, a common variation of the run, but he was not nearly so light-colored as he looks now. In person, he is a textbook shrinky/oozy. He is smaller than his normal counterpart and starting to curve to one side, he is leaking goo from various places, and he has the tell-tale paint fading that is so typical of vinegar syndrome horses. From what I've seen, the lighter discoloration often seems to start where the model's legs meet the hollow body, as evidenced here.
Sadly, my awesomely eye-scorching neon palomino FAS is also a shrinky (purchased 1987 or 1988). He was signed by Peter Stone in 1990, and as you can see, the decomposition of his plastic has turned the once crisp signature into a blurry grey haze. His delightful lemon yellow color has also faded.
The bag he was in is full of oozy droplets.
And here's a close up of my sister's #702 buckskin variation Stretch Morgan (1988-1989). His paint hasn't faded too much yet, but you can see he's oozing and the plastic is starting to crinkle.
Sadly, he was one of my sister's favorite models. I was going to give her my own buckskin variation as a replacement, but alas, he is a shrinky, too.
For some reason, the #821 Rocky (1990-1992) pony is one I have seen several times over in spectacularly bad shape. This example, provided by longtime collector Penny Lehew, is bubbling and showing signs of crystalization. (My own Rocky has not reached this stage, but he was bad enough that I didn't even dare to open his bag.)
When removed from storage or from hot and humid conditions, affected models generally seem to stop oozing. My #109 dapple grey Five-Gaiter (1987-1988) was found swimming in brown goo in his bag when he was removed from storage several years ago. His white areas had yellowed and he had begun to shrink. He was then washed thoroughly and left on a tray on a shelf in the open air to see what would happen. Interestingly, he has stopped oozing, and his white areas have brightened up. He has continued to shrink, however, and as you can see in the picture below, he is beginning to curl sideways.
Happily, not all models from 1987-1992 are affected, and contrary to some early reports, vinegar syndrome is not contagious from model to model. For example, my Cips has turned out to be a shrinky, but my sister's Cips is fine. My Sears SR Black Blanket Appaloosa Performance Horse is oozing like mad, but the other two horses from that set who were stored in the same box are still normal.
It's taken around 20 years for these models to begin to manifest symptoms of vinegar syndrome, and there's no way to predict whether or not the currently unaffected models from those years will remain thus. Certain models do seem to be more likely to be affected, such as the 1987 Black Horse Ranch SR Proud Arabian Stallions, but because they were small runs of only 500 pieces per color, it stands to reason that many were made from the same batch of bad plastic. Because this is such a new issue with the 1987-1992 era Breyers, only time will tell which models will be affected.