What is collectibility?Collectibility is a division in model horse showing that rewards rarity and desirability rather than correct anatomy, color genetics, or conformity to a breed standard. It’s the division where decorators, woodgrains, highly stylized models, and all sorts of other oddities that don’t fit into normal breed classes have a chance to shine. Models may be vintage or new, realistic or fantasy-colored. The provenance of a model and the bits of ephemera that might have been sold with it are also an important part of collectibility showing. Rare models of all makes are welcome---plastic, porcelain and ceramic, metal, even wood or rubber!
Provenance is the particular history of a model. In collectibility classes, showers usually include this information with the model on a small card. When a model was made, why it was made (e.g. a test run), how it was acquired, etc, are all relevant details.
|A Breyer Indian Chief and Pinto Prancer Music Box with provenance and|
paper and plastic ephemera
Ephemera are items that came with a model that are often lost or discarded over time, such as saddles, small accessories, original boxes, hang tags, paperwork, etc. A well-researched model with original extras makes for a strong collectibility entry. But as with all other model horse show divisions, placement depends strongly on what else is on the table. Which begs the question...
How are collectibility classes judged at shows?
The primary criterion for judging collectibility is rarity. Age, desirability, and condition all factor into the placings as well.
Rarity is determined by how unusual or uncommon a model is, and the degree of rarity can be fluid. For instance, some vintage models may have been made in reasonably large numbers, but with the passage of 50 or 60 years, few have survived to make it into the hands of collectors. Some models were only ever made in small numbers, whether vintage or new, and are thus hard to acquire. Usually, the more limited a model is, the better it will place. However, because more and more one-of-a-kind models are being produced every year for special events, a OOAK model is not necessarily better or more rare (in terms of collector perception) than a model of which 2 or 3 or even 10 examples are known. For example, any collector can participate in the BreyerFest auction of OOAK models, but it may take years of searching to track down a vintage decorator or a special china piece.
Age is important because, as mentioned above, while some models were not necessarily made in small numbers, they may have been made many decades ago and few have survived. Newer rare models can often be acquired with a little patience and a willingness to pay the going rate. Older rare models are often much harder to acquire because few are known, and those that are known are often in "black hole" collections. The Nymphenburg horse above, for example, was made circa 1916, and very few are known to collectors.
Desirability can definitely play a role in collectibility as well. Certain molds and models have more cachet than others, such as vintage Breyer decorators, rocking-horse grey Beswicks, or Maureen Love’s exquisite horses produced by Hagen-Renaker.
Condition is usually a relatively minor consideration in collectibility judging because the other criteria listed above generally outweigh it. Models with major condition issues are probably best left at home, but small flaws like hoof rubs or a well-repaired leg or ear may be forgivable in the show ring, especially if the model is old.
How do I become a good collectibility shower or judge?
Becoming a good shower or judge of collectibility requires immersion in the subject and a fascination with the history and minutiae of the companies and models involved. Thankfully, model horse hobbyists have written a number of excellent reference books, websites, and blogs on the various makes available.
Breyer Molds & Models: Horses, Riders, & Animals 1950-1997 by Nancy Atkinson Young is the best and most comprehensive compilation of Breyer history we have. Nancy published two hardbound editions, one covering material from 1950-1995 (red cover) and an updated version covering 1990-1997 (blue cover). The books address every possible variation of mold, color, and markings on Breyer models, as well as interesting trivia on the origins and inspirations for many pieces. They discuss not only the horses, but also the animals, riders (both hard plastic and pose-able), dealer and collector catalogs, tack, stickers, hang tags, lamps, clocks, night lights, music boxes, and much more. It is a treasure trove of fascinating information and a must-read for any collectibility fan. The books are out of print, but second-hand copies can be found on eBay or Amazon. They are a must for serious collectors and judges.
Breyer Animal Collector's Guide: Identification and Values by Felicia Browell, Kelly Kesicki, and Kelly Korber-Weimer makes an excellent companion guide to Nancy's encyclopedic tomes. The guide offers color pictures of almost every Breyer model produced including many oddities, and it offers values based on average selling prices at the time of publication. It too has been updated through several paperback versions, the most recent being the fifth edition published in 2007.
Identify Your Breyer is a website created and maintained by Janice Cox. It is the most up-to-date photo identification resource available to Breyer collectors and bridges the gap from the out-of-print books to the present day. The site provides a wealth of information and is mobile-friendly so it can be accessed on the go.
Peter Stone Horse References
Because of the high volume of one of a kind and micro-run models produced by the Peter Stone Company, collectors have an uphill battle trying to keep track of them all. Thankfully, collector Barb Bacon took on the gargantuan task and complied the Peter Stone Model Horse Reference Website.
Hartland collector Gail Fitch has published several books over the years dedicated to all things Hartland---horses, gunfighters, farm animals, and more. Her three most recent and most comprehensive books are still available in paperback on her website. They are: Hartland Horses and Dogs, Hartland Horsemen, and Hartland Horses: New Model Horses Since 2000.
Hagen-Renaker and Related Pottery References
Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue by Gayle Roller is a classic insurance guide for Hagen-Renakers. Written by a long time collector, it is a thorough compendium of the pieces made by HR, including the Designers Workshop horses, dogs, cats, and other animals, the Miniatures line, the Little Horribles, the Disney pieces, the early decorative ware (plates, bells, shadow boxes, etc), and more, as well as pieces produced by HR offshoot companies like Freeman-McFarlin, Loza Electrica, Walker-Renaker, Made With Love, and more. Each section details the specifics about various molds, such as production dates, model numbers, colors, and detail variations. The photos are mostly in black and white and the values are somewhat out of date, but it’s a very complete resource in terms of identifying pieces. The third edition published in 2003 is the most recent.
Hagen-Renaker Pottery: Horses and Other Figurines by Nancy Kelly is a must-have for collectors interested in the history of HR and its artists. This book truly tells the story of the company---its beginning, its various factory locations, its spin-off companies, and the biographies of the people involved. Most importantly and interestingly, it devotes a number of chapters to the artists and designers, often including memories of their time with HR in their own words. It’s a terrific read full of fascinating anecdotes, color pictures, and wonderful insight into the people of HR.
Hagen-Renaker Through the Years, also by Nancy Kelly, is a follow-up book to the above with further information about the company, its rivals and copyists, and many more photos of unusual and test run pieces.
More Hagen-Renaker Pottery, the third book in Nancy’s HR trilogy, contains photos and information about some of the newer pieces made by Hagen-Renaker, such as the Designer’s Workshop re-releases, as well as chapters on the Disney, Little Horribles, and Black Bisque lines, dogs and cats, more exquisite test runs, and some unusual and rare colors. The book closes with a touching tribute to John and Maxine Renaker.
Nancy also wrote Horse, Bird, and Wildlife Figures of Maureen Love: Hagen-Renaker and Beyond, a biography of Maureen and a stunning compendium of her artwork. It is a must have for serious collectors and fans of Maureen’s work. Nancy’s most recent publication is Freeman-McFarlin Pottery: 1951-1980, a history of the company with many beautiful color photos showcasing their wares, from functional items to decorative sculptures. Check out Nancy’s website for more information on all of her books.
Also of interest is Ed Alcorn’s phenomenal Hagen-Renaker Online Museum. Ed’s enormous collection contains interesting color and molding variations of hundreds of pieces. He also has pages devoted to several of the related HR potteries, the dispersal of Maureen Love’s personal collection, and sculptures by Grand Wood Carving, Calvin Roy Kinstler, Francis Eustis, and George Ford Morris, and more.
Ed has collaborated with collector and artist Kristina Lucas Francis to resurrect the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club which offers regular information-packed newsletters to subscribers.
European and Other China References
The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Beswick Animals (later editions are titled Beswick Animals: A Charlton Standard Catalogue) is the best guide available to collectors of Beswick horses. It appears to be updated every few years, and like other Charlton guides, it presents a catalog of the figures produced by Beswick with production date information, notes on rare colors, and general estimates of value.
Charlton is the go-to source for many other collectible chinas. Their Charlton Standard Guide of Royal Worcester Figurines is split into two volumes, one for figures and one for animals, and is the best source of information available for that company.
Charlton and Schiffer offer a number of other titles covering many collectible animal figures. A search of their websites will turn up more titles on Royal Doulton, Border Fine Arts, Josef Originals, Japan chinas, and much more.
Finding reference books for other companies, especially from non-English speaking counties, can be tricky. Here are a few that may be of interest:
Rosenthal Porcelain Figurines by Ann Banduhn
Royal Copenhagen Porcelain: Animals and Figurines by Robert Heritage
Audrey Falconer has a website devoted to Rosenthal figurines, including a page with a great deal of information about the horses:
There are a number of Facebook groups devoted to learning more about model horse companies and their history. Here are a few of the larger groups to get you started:
Vintage OF Breyer Fanatics
Breyer Chalky And Pearly Aficionados
What is my Original Finish Breyer Worth?
Peter Stone Horses Sales Page
Hartland Horse Lovers
The Clinky Connection
The Art of Maureen Love
Metal Horse Collectors
I am always happy to answer questions about model horse collectibility and showing. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ipitombe