Thursday, December 13, 2012

Proud Arabian Mares: Old Mold vs New Mold

"How I can tell if my PAM is Old Mold or New Mold?"

If you've been in the hobby for any length of time, you're bound to have been asked this question. You've probably even asked it yourself at some point. It's a common query, and one that is surprisingly easy to answer given the amount of confusion it has generated over the years.

Simply put, if your Proud Arabian Mare is Glossy Alabaster, Glossy Bay (honey bay, not mahogany), Glossy Appaloosa, or Woodgrain, it's Old Mold. If it's any other color color, it's New Mold. Easy and straightforward, right? So why the confusion? And why are there old and new versions of the mold anyway?

In spring of 1957, the California pottery company Hagen-Renaker released their large Designers Workshop Arabian family sculpted by Maureen Love. By 1958, Breyer had released plastic copies of the mare and foal (with the stallion entering production in late 1958 or early 1959), but for the purpose of this post, we're only going to look at the mares. HR dubbed their mare "Zara," and Breyer named their mares Pride (alabaster), Sheba (bay), and Speck (appaloosa). (The Woodgrain PAM was never given a name.)

(HR Zara on the left courtesy of Ed Alcorn's HR Online Museum/Breyer Glossy Bay OM PAM on the right)
As you can see, though they are not identical, the mares are decidedly similar. Not surprisingly, Hagen-Renaker sued Breyer in 1959 for copyright infringement and won. Production of Breyer's Proud Arab Mare mold ceased by the end of that year.

With that in mind, we know that the Glossy Alabaster color was available in 1958, and the Glossy Bays were in production no later than 1959, but the Glossy Appaloosa and Woodgrain colors were only produced for a short time in 1959, hence their far greater scarcity.

Old Mold Woodgrain, Appaloosa, Bay, and Alabaster PAMs
For about 12 years, the Proud Arab Mare mold languished unused in the Breyer factory. Then in 1971, Breyer renegotiated a deal with Hagen-Renaker to produce the model again. According to Marney Walerius, hobby matriarch and one-time Breyer advisor, the part of the mold containing the PAM's left foreleg was somehow lost over the intervening years and had to be recast. The mares produced from 1971 on are thus considered the New Mold PAMs. The recast foreleg was flawed, however, and most New Mold mares toe out noticeably from the knee down.

New Mold PAMs also differ from Old Mold mares in that they are marked with the round Breyer Molding Company stamp and nearly all have the USA stamp as well. (It's often faint on the earliest New Mold mares.) In contrast, the Old Mold mares have no mold marks at all.

Lastly, most of the New Mold mares issued from the mid-1970s until the mold was discontinued in the mid-2000s have a bump on the back of their right front cannon bone. On some mares, it looks like the filling caused by a bowed tendon and on others, especially later mares, it's an obvious raised lump.

So there you have it. While there are physical differences between Old and New Mold PAMs, the easiest way to identify them is simply by color. Stay tuned for a post about the weird history of the Proud Arab Mares, In Between Mares, and Family Arab Mares!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Photographic References: Hagen-Renaker Thoroughbreds

Most hobbyists know that Maureen Love sculpted a number of the horses she created for Hagen-Renaker from life. Her sketchbooks were full of drawings of horses she visited at local farms and, for the purpose of this post, at racetracks in southern California.

Maureen's Thoroughbreds were a mix of horses known nationally as well as horses popular on the California circuit. She was a regular at Santa Anita, and she undoubtedly saw horses like Swaps, Terrang, and Silky Sullivan while there. Swaps of course is famous for winning the 1955 Kentucky Derby as well as being a top handicap horse and record setter. Silky Sullivan became known across the country for his unbelievable ability to close from far, far back and still win. There have been other deep closers, but no one holds a candle to Silky, as this neat old footage will attest:

Terrang is rather more obscure. Like Swaps, he was sired by Khaled and owned by Rex Ellsworth, and while he had great success in California, he was never a player on the national stage like his older "brother" was. Terrang contested the Kentucky Derby in 1956 after wins in the San Vicente and Santa Anita Derby, but he could only manage to finish 12th. He returned to California where he raced through his 6 year-old season, winning the Santa Anita Handicap and a number of other major CA stakes races. Here is one of the few photos I've found of him:

Seabiscuit is also well-known for his California ties, most notably his attempts to win the "Hundred Grander," the Santa Anita Handicap. However, his career was over more than 10 years before Maureen began working for Hagen-Renaker in 1951, and the horse himself died in 1947 when Maureen was only 24 years old. While she may have had the chance to see him run at Santa Anita, her sculpture of him was almost certainly based on the following photograph:

Here's a photo of the HR Mini Seabiscuit model for comparison from Ed Alcorn's Hagen-Renaker Online Museum:

As discussed in my last blog post about Man O' War, Maureen's MOW model was very likely based on this photo:

Man O' War raced only in New York and Maryland, and he also died in 1947, so while Maureen may have had the opportunity to visit him while he was at stud in Kentucky before his death, it seems much more likely that she worked from photos.
Triple Crown winner Citation made a handful of starts in California from 1948-1951, and while it's possible Maureen saw him run, her sculpture of the great horse is undoubtedly based on this photo:

Here is Ed Alcorn's HR Mini Citation for comparison:

Native Dancer, winner of 21 of his 22 starts, never raced further west than Arlington Park outside of Chicago, IL, and while he became a popular TV star because his grey coat stood out so well compared to his bay and chestnut brethren, Maureen's sculpture was probably based on the following photo:

And the HR Mini Native Dancer, again courtesy of Ed Alcorn:

Five-time Horse of the Year Kelso raced primarily on the east coast as well. Notorious for his bad behavior, he was gelded as a youngster in hope of improving his attitude. It has been said that it didn't work. I'd like to think that Kelso's fighting spirit drew Maureen to this photo and inspired her sculpture:

Ed's DW Kelso for comparison:

While the HR TBs may not be the strongest collectibility contenders, including these photos in one's documentation may provide an edge in the show ring. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"De Mostest Hoss That Ever Was"

"The days are long at Belmont.
Speed they never learn.
And it's many a day since Man O' War
Has looped the upper turn."

Man O' War winning the 1920 Belmont Stakes

Thus begins Blood-Horse editor Joseph Estes' poem "Big Red" published in the October 23, 1937, issue of that magazine, an homage to the greatest racehorse of all time. The legend of Man O' War has inspired many such tributes in a variety of forms---literature, art, advertising, brand names, and of particular interest to model horse collectors, sculpture.

Man O' War was born on August Belmont's Nursery Stud farm near Lexington, KY, on March 29, 1917. By top runner and sire Fair Play out of the regally bred mare Mahubah, a daughter of the English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand, Man O' War was recognized early on as a quality horse by his breeder. Belmont reluctantly sold the colt, however, after enlisting in the army at the age of 65 to serve in World War I.

Samuel Riddle famously purchased Man O' War for $5,000 at the 1918 Saratoga yearling sale and raced him in his black and gold Glen Riddle Farm colors. As a 2 year-old, Man O' War captured 9 of his 10 starts with his one loss, a fast-closing second, coming though no fault of his own. (He was turned sideways at the start and was intentionally boxed in at the rail by the other jockeys for most of the race.) He carried 130 pounds, an impost usually reserved for older horses (and rarely even then), 6 times while giving away substantial weight to his rivals and beating them easily by open lengths.

At three, he was sublime and utterly untouchable, winning all 11 of his starts, including the Preakness, Belmont, Withers, Dwyer, Travers, Lawrence Realization, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and a match race against the 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton.

If you read the race charts for Man O' War they all conclude with some variation of "eased final furlong" or "in a canter." Despite never being fully extended, he set three world records, two American records, two track records, and equaled another track record. And he didn't just break records by hundredths of seconds; he shattered them. In the Lawrence Realization, he shaved more than 4 seconds off the world record for 1 5/8th miles, winning by an estimated 100 lengths, both unheard of feats. His record for a 1 1/4 miles in the Travers stood for an unprecedented 42 years. No other horse in history can boast such a resume, especially when you take into account the staggering imposts Man O' War carried. In one race, he carried an astonishing 32 pounds more than his rivals. It's no surprise then that his groom Will Harbut called him "de mostest hoss that ever was."

At stud, Man O' War's brilliance continued. He sired numerous champions including Triple Crown winner War Admiral, as well as American Flag (Belmont, Withers, Dwyer), Crusader (Belmont, JCGC, Suburban), Clyde Van Dusen (Kentucky Derby), Scapa Flow (2 year-old champion), Florence Nightingale (Coaching Club American Oaks), Maid At Arms (Alabama), Edith Cavell (CCAO, Pimlico Cup over males twice), and the champion steeplechasers Battleship and Blockade. Man O' Wars daughters, in addition to being top flight runners, proved to be exceptional brood mares as well. He died at the age of 30 on November 1, 1947, and his funeral was broadcast publicly on the radio. He and several of his best offspring were originally interred at Faraway Farm under a larger than life statue by Herbert Haseltine, but in the early 1970s, the graves and statue were moved to their present location at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Man O' War was first immortalized as a collectible work of sculpture by the Grand Wood Carving company of Chicago sometime in the 1940s, probably after the great horse's death. This model is carved from mahogany, and it should look familiar to Breyer collectors.

Photo courtesy of Ed Alcorn / The Hagen-Renaker On-Line Museum Collection

There is some evidence that Breyer sculptor Chris Hess may have worked for the Grand Wood Carving company before being hired by Breyer, but that is the subject for another post. Suffice it say, Breyer had copied the work of GWC before, and their 1967 traditional scale model of Big Red was most definitely influenced by the GWC piece, right down to the halter. This is one of the earliest variations of the #47 Man O' War with eye-whites and distinctive battleship grey hooves.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Arendt

GWC produced a number of famous racehorses, many of which came on wood bases with name plaques. The idea for the Breyer Presentation Collection may have come from that practice. The Presentation Man O' War is the rarest of the traditional MOWs, made from 1971-1973 only.

The trad MOW was produced from 1967-1995, and not surprisingly, his color varied a bit over the years. The models from the late 1980s into the 1990s have, in my opinion, always best exemplified the "look" of Big Red. They tend to be a vibrant rich red chestnut with little shading.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Arendt

In 1990, Sears offered a very popular set of three glossy racehorses including Man O'War. Only 2000 pieces were made.
Photo courtesy of Penny Lehew, co-author of the Breyer Animal Quick Reference

In spring of 1961, Hagen-Renaker released their Designers Workshop Man O' War sculpted by Maureen Love. Of all of the MOW portraits, hers was the truest to the physique and majesty of the real horse as the photo below will attest. The HR MOW was in production from Spring 1961-Spring 1971 and from Fall 1974-Fall 1975, so he's not an especially rare piece. He is particularly lovely, however, and a must have for all MOW fans.
Monrovia and San Dimas versions, photo courtesy of Ed Alcorn / The Hagen-Renaker On-Line Museum Collection

A photo of Man O' War as a young stallion. I believe this may have been the photo that inspired Maureen Love's sculpture.
Photo courtesy of Thoroughbred Heritage

In 1975, Breyer arranged a lease for plastic production rights of Hagen-Renaker's DW Thoroughbred models, including Man O' War. The #602 Classic Man O' War model ran until 1990. Like his traditional counterpart, he ranged in color from more golden chestnut to deep red chestnut. His face marking also varied. The earliest models have a broken stripe like the model on the left, and the later ones had a star like the model on the right. The star-faced model first appears in the 1988 catalog.

In the late 1980s, American Artists released a series of resin racehorses. Fred Stone sculpted Man O' War for them, and the pose of this model bears a striking resemblance to Fred's famous painting of the horse. I believe 2500 pieces were made.
Photo courtesy of Karen Grimm / The Black Horse Ranch Collection

In 2004, the most recent Man O' War model was produced by Starlite Originals, sculpted by Kitty Cantrell. It was limited to 2500 pieces.
Photo courtesy of Karen Grimm / The Black Horse Ranch Collection

As you may have guessed, I have been a lifelong, die-hard fan of Man O' War. One of my earliest memories is of my dad reading C.W. Anderson horse books to me, and MOW was, rightfully so, the benchmark by which Anderson measured all other horses. So it's only fitting that I painted by my own Man O' War on Carol Williams' incredible Valor resin. While Valor is a mega-popular model, I don't think my guy is exactly collectible other than to me, but how could I not include him?

"We watch the heroes parading,
We wait, and our eyes are dim,
But we never discover another
Like him."

(Estes' entire poem can be found here.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ephemera: Hang Tags

What exactly constitutes ephemera? gives this very apt definition: "items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, especially pamphlets, notices, tickets, etc." In terms of model horse collectibility, that includes things like hang tags, stickers, accessories, original packaging, and catalogs---things that most people threw away or things that were lost because they were small and not integral to the piece. Each of these subjects deserves its own post (and the discussion of boxes in particular may span several blog entries), so this post will begin the subject with a discussion of hang tags.

While a variety of modern models are sold with hang tags, particularly Breyers, vintage hang tags are some of the hardest pieces of ephemera to find. Most buyers removed them from the models to facilitate play or display, and the tags were thrown away or lost over the years. In most cases, regardless of manufacturer, very few vintage hang tags are known to still exist, making them highly desirable to collectors. Most hang tags are made of paper or card stock, but a few were made of less traditional materials. I've included some examples below.

This is Breyer's Robin Hood on a white Fury Prancer with all original accessories and the original paper hang tag. This set dates from the late 1950s.

This Breyer Woodgrain Buffalo is one of about 3 known, all of which are on lamps. This fellow has the original leather and twine "Ranch Craft Originals by Dunning Industries" hang tag. The lamp dates to the mid 1960s.

This Breyer Little Bits Saddlebred is a SR from 1985. The hang tag, which describes Breyer's new partnership with Reeves International, identifies her as one of the first 500 pieces from the SR that were only distributed at the New York Toy Fair. A number of sorrel Saddlebreds were distributed sans hang tags at Breyer events in 1990-1992, making the models with tags more special.

Breyer's Susecion and Le Fire set is only about 10 years old, but they have become hot items amongst newer collectors lately. Sets with the original hang tag are consistently commanding higher prices.

Peter Stone horses rarely come with much in the way of ephemera, making this Chips model pretty unique. He is part of a run of 50 models given to entrants of a Stone show near Chicago in 2006 by way of apology for the show not being a NAN-qualifier as originally advertised.

Hang tags for china models are fairly uncommon regardless of age. This Beswick Welsh Mountain Pony by itself is not rare, but the little paper tag is pretty scarce.

Hagen-Renaker's Nataf is a highly desirable piece both for halter and collectibility showers. Finding one with a hang tag makes it all the more special.

These whimsical pieces by Walker-Renaker are not especially rare, but they are hard to find with all of their flowers and bows intact. The hang tags with the cute names add to their charm and collectibility.

This Rosenthal Small Polo Pony, already a rare piece and an old one (circa 1916), has a hang tag unlike any other I've seen. It's a small gold-colored metal plate that reads "Ertos" that is attached around his right rear leg with a small chain. Not surprisingly, he is always a strong contender in the collectibility show ring.

A close up of the tag.

Not only are they fun and interesting pieces of history, but hang tags can also give a collectibility entry a little extra "oomph" in the show ring. They can be the added edge needed to make a model stand out in a crowd.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Documentation in the Show Ring

When I first became active in the hobby in the late 1980s, pretty much everyone collected Breyers, Hartlands, and/or Hagen-Renakers to some degree, even those people who were primarily interested in customs (known as RRHs back then). Most people therefore had a pretty good idea of which models were rare and why.

Twenty-five years down the line, however, with the explosion in popularity of resins, Peter Stone horses, and contemporary chinas, and with the capability of immediate immersion in a particular facet of the hobby via the internet, it is possible to dive in and specialize right away without necessarily needing to know much about the history of the hobby or one's chosen collecting media.

Because of this, a growing number of newer hobbyists are often unaware of the collectibility aspects of various makes and models. It therefore behooves a collectibility shower to include thorough documentation when showing in that division. Just as in other divisions, it's best not to assume that the judge will be fully familiar with some of the odder things that can crop up, so good documentation is always a plus. Even basic documentation is better than none at all, including information about models that should be easily recognizable as rare and highly collectible, like a vintage Breyer decorator or an HR Bedouin. Lack of documentation can count against you in the show ring.

So when I judge collectibility or make info cards for my own models when I show, I like to see or include the following information:

Model name and production number: Pretty straightforward. If the manufacturer is the least bit obscure (anything other than obvious, really), including that name is always helpful, too.

Date(s) of production: Also relatively straightforward. Some models were made for a span of years but can be pegged individually at a specific year, so elaborating on this fact may make a model stand out from the crowd. For example, the #215 Breyer Dapple Grey Proud Arab Mare models were made from 1971-1988, but the black point variation dates to 1983 only.

Number produced: Including the number of models produced for limited runs is very helpful to both judges and to show holders. Many collectibility classes are split based on those production numbers. For rare vintage pieces that are limited in number because of their age, I like to include a guesstimate on the number of models known to collectors as that is often very relevant. For example, the Breyer Donkey with Red Baskets was made from 1958-1960, but only a couple are known to be in the hands of collectors.

Sculptor: Providing the sculptor’s name isn’t really necessary for OF plastics, but it is something I like to see with chinas, and artist info is a must for vintage CMs and resins.

Provenance: As I discussed in my last post, knowing a model’s origins can add to its collectibility whether it’s a SR made for a certain company or a test run purchased from a well-known collector or just an undocumented oddity purchased from a dealer.

Interesting mold marks, stickers, hang tags, etc: Even if these markings or bits of ephemera seem obvious, mentioning them in one's documentation provides an opportunity to expand on what makes them special.

Source Citation: While not strictly necessary for the show ring, citing one's sources is a nice touch.

Here's an example of a fairly simple collectibility card for the Breyer Woodgrain Poodle with a rare gold foil sticker.

Here's a more elaborate set up for the Breyer Indian Chief on a Music Box Prancer. The upright stand not only protects the delicate and rare paper headdress, but it also makes that item an unmistakable feature of the set.

Showers can add a bit of personal flair to their collectibility cards if they so desire, but style shouldn't distract from the facts or the model. Concise and legible will go a long way with a judge. Showers should also keep size constraints for documentation in mind. Most show holders will specify what they prefer in their show packet.

Next time---ephemera---all the fun bits and bobs that make up a good collectibility entry!