Monday, August 18, 2014

BreyerFest Open Show 2014: More exquisite equines!

On Friday morning, we were up bright and early... Scratch that. Dark and really early as you can see from this picture my sister snapped as we waited for the doors of the show hall to open.

Mom and me and lots of coffee
This was our 25th year attending BreyerFest, so early mornings and little sleep are par for the course. Happily, the busiest part of our show day takes place first thing, so we were well caffeinated and raring to go (no pun intended) for collectors classes at 7 AM.

At BreyerFest, the collectors classes are split into three divisions: novice, variety (essentially collectibility), and commonality (theme). I'll do a post specifically about collectors classes later, but for those of you who may not have seen them before, the purpose of these classes is to showcase a small subset of a collector's best and rarest models. The classes allow you to display 8 to 12 models, and creativity and good documentation are encouraged. Here are some of the winners from each division.


Novice 1st place

Novice 2nd place
Novice 3rd place
Novice 4th place


Variety 1st place
Variety 2nd place
Variety 3rd place
Variety 4th place
Variety 5th place


Commonality 1st place
Commonality 2nd place
Commonality 3rd place
Commonality 4th place
Commonality 5th place
Commonality 6th place

As you can see, there were some pretty amazing rarities to be seen! If you're a collectibility nerd like me, it's worth getting up early just to go and spectate. I wish I'd had more time to take pictures once the regular collectibility halter classes began, but both my sister and I had a full showstring, so we were on the move all morning once the collectors classes ended. Maybe next year! :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NAN 2014: Pretty pony picture post!

I have a lot of new posts in the pipeline, but before I buckle down and finish writing them all, I thought it might be fun to share some of my pix from NAN and BreyerFest since that weekend was all about collectibility for me and my family.

My mom, sister, and I have been collectibility nuts for quite a long time, but we had never showed at NAN in that division until this year. Since most of our show horses were coming for BF anyway, adding an extra day to our annual Lexington pilgrimage was easy and fun. As to be expected at the North American Nationals, the competition was fierce! We were thrilled to come home with a pile of plaques and rosettes.

Breyer Davy Crockett with all original accessories including the box and instruction sheets. This is the only known set with the original box. This is the very set mentioned in Marney Walerius' book.

Hagen-Renaker Designers Workshop Bedouin in mint condition with all tassels, original rifle, and sticker.

Breyer Wedgewood Running Foal with original box. She won the toughest decorator class I've ever seen. I did not envy the judges their task!

Nymphenberg "Fallen Horse" sculpted by Theodor Kärner. One of only a handful of color-glazed examples known.

Breyer Mountie with all accessories and the original box. This is the hard to find version with Drewries Brewry stickers on the saddle cloth.

OOAK Stone Arab test run painted by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig

Breyer Alabaster Family Arabian Stallion in his very rare original "Touchability" box

Breyer "Ford Pinto" Family Arabian Foal

Breyer Kelso with an elusive, possibly unreleased "dumb bell" sticker

Breyer G1 Stablemate Saddlebred 1975 25th anniversary silver plated model.

Breyer Woodgrain Proud Arabian Mare (Really thrilled by this win!)
And last but not least, the circa 1970-1971 test run Proud Arabian Mare from Marney's collection. This model is believed to have been a test for the re-release of the Proud Arabian Mare mold in 1971. Marney brought this piece home from the factory in that year, and she's been treasured by collectors ever since.

Posting all of these pictures makes me itch to tell the stories behind these rare models, and I promise I will as I am able. I think they might be perfect for some future Friday Featurettes!

BreyerFest pictures coming in the next post!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vinegar syndrome victims

(Updated 6/25/21)

The subject of Breyer shrinkies and oozies is going round on Facebook again, and I thought it might be handy to post a list of models identified as prone to vinegar syndrome. Long story short, ANY model made between 1987-1992 has the potential to be a shrinky. You can look at catalogs from these years on Identify Your Breyer here to check which models those might be. Here is a quick refresher on what vinegar syndrome is and its symptoms:

1) So far, only models made from about 1987-1992 seem to be affected. Not all models made between those years have gone bad. Presumably, some will remain unaffected.

2) Models affected by vinegar syndrome (VS) shrink and slowly warp inward. VS models that are kept wrapped up usually ooze a liquid that smells strongly of vinegar. Models kept in the open, such as on a shelf, are less likely to ooze, but they will sometimes smell of vinegar. Some will just shrink and will not develop the smell. Models that are not outwardly oozing are still doing so inside. Shrinkies and oozies are therefore two names for the same problem.

3) Many VS models develop a chalk-like film on their surface as they start to shrink.

4) The paint on most VS models usually begins to fade and white areas become yellowed. The areas that tend to fade first are thick areas where liquid can pool, such as where the legs meet the body.

5) Vinegar syndrome in Breyers does NOT appear to be contagious despite early reports to that effect. Many collectors have normal models that have been shelved or stored with VS models for years that are completely unaffected. If it were contagious, this would not be the case.

And below is a list of models that have been observed as shrinkies/oozies. Not all copies of these models are affected, but some are. I am listing them by mold followed by specifics regarding which examples of that mold have been documented as affected. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list as more shrinkies turn up all of the time. I will update this list periodically. For more information on shrinkies, please see my post here.

Action Stock Horse Foal (#225 Buckskin, #237 Bay Pinto, #238 Grey Appaloosa)

Adios (1987 JCP SR Chestnut Appaloosa, 1987 BHR SR Dapple Grey, 1987 BHR SR Palomino, #51 Yellow Mount, #830 Black Roan, #705 Red Dun)

Appaloosa Performance Horse (1990 Sears SR Black Appy)

Azteca/Foundation Stallion (#85 Dapple Grey, #710 Red Roan, 1987 JCP SR Liver Chestnut)

Belgian (1987 Mail Order SR Bay)

Black Stallion (#401 original release, 1988 JCP SR Bay, #811 Leopard Appy)

Buckshot (#416 Chestnut Pinto Spanish Barb)

Clydesdale Foal (#826 Light Bay)

Clydesdale Mare (#825 Light Bay)

Clydesdale Stallion (#824 Light Bay, 1987 SR Dapple Grey)

El Pastor (#116 Precipitado Sin Par aka Cips)

Family Arabian Foal (#6 Palomino, #816 Light Bay)

Family Arabian Mare
(#5 Palomino, #815 Light Bay)

Family Arabian Stallion (#4 Palomino, #814 Light Bay)

Family Arabian Stallion (#4 Palomino, purchased in 1988)

Fighting Stallion (#709 Leopard Appy)

Five-Gaiter (#109 Dapple Grey,
#117 Project Universe, 1987-1989)

Halla (1989 JCP SR Fleabit)

Hanoverian (1987 Your Horse Source SR Alabaster, 1987 YHS SR Bay, 1987 YHS SR Black, 1987 YHS SR Chestnut)

Indian Pony (1987 BHR SR Bay, 1987 BHR SR Dapple Grey, 1987 BHR SR Grey Appaloosa, 1987 BHR SR Leopard Appaloosa, 1988 JCP SR Red Dun)

Justin Morgan (1988 JCP SR Chestnut)

Lady Phase (#711 Breezing Dixie, 1988, 1990 JCP SR Dapple Grey) 

Man O' War (#47 original release, 1990 Sears SR Glossy)

Mustang (#118 Chestnut, 1988 SR Ruby)

Pacer (#819 Dan Patch)

Phar Lap (1988 Your Horse Source SR Red Bay, 1988 YHS SR Liver Chestnut, 1988 YHS SR Dapple Grey, 1988 YHS SR Sorrel)

Pony of the Americas (#821 Rocky)

Proud Arab Foal (#806 Rose Grey)

Proud Arab Mare (#840 Chestnut, #805 Rose Grey)

Proud Arab Stallion (#213 Dapple Grey, #804 Rose Grey, 1987 BHR SR Bay, 1987 BHR SR Black, 1987 BHR SR Light Chestnut)

Quarter Horse Yearling (#103 Bay Apploosa, 1987-1988)

Roy (original release)

Running Foal (1987 Sears SR Dapple Grey)

Running Mare (1987 Sears SR Dapple Grey) 

San Domingo (#67 original release, 1987 JCP SR Bay, #703 Grey Appaloosa)

Secretariat (regular run, 1990 Sears SR Glossy)

(1990 Sears SR Glossy, #411 Fleabit Grey, #812 Palomino, 1989-1991)

Sherman Morgan (#430 original release)

Shetland Pony (#3066 Black Pinto from Our First Pony set)

Stock Horse Mare (#230 Bay Overo,
#222 Buckskin)

Stock Horse Stallion (#221 Buckskin)

Stretch Morgan (#702 Buckskin variation, 1988-1989)

Stud Spider (1990 Sears SR Blue Roan Appy, #823 Chestnut Appy, 1990-1991)

Touch of Class (#original release, 1986-1988)

Classic Arabian Family (1987-1988 UK SR Dapple Grey, 1990 JCP SR Black)
Classic King of the Wind Set (1990-1992)

Classic Arabian Foal
(#3066 Bay Pinto from Our First Pony set, purchased in 1987)
Classic Black Beauty Family
Classic Black Stallion Returns Set
Classic Mustang Foal
(#3066 Black Pinto from Our First Pony set, purchased in 1987)
Classic Quarter Horse Family (original release, 1991 JCP SR Liver and Alabaster)

Variety of Stablemates and Little Bits made between 1987-1992
Many of the 1989-1992 SR SM models from the Sears sets
Black Angus
Brahma Bull 
Deer Family
Hereford Bull

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday Snippet: Swaps!

I meant to get this posted yesterday as a Friday Featurette, but I ran out of time. However, since today is the Kentucky Derby and therefore a national holiday on my calendar, I think it's perfectly appropriate to kick back and blog about horse racing and Derby winners. (And it's much more interesting than listening to celebrities try to pretend they know anything about racing!)

So that said, the Swaps model is pretty far from being rare, but some interesting coincidences have made it the perfect subject of today's post. The first is that the favorite for today's 140th running of the Kentucky Derby has a Swaps connection, despite being nearly 60 years removed from that great Derby winner. California Chrome, like Swaps before him, is a California-bred chestnut who stamped his ticket to Churchill Downs with a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.

 California Chrome winning the SA Derby with ease (Benoit photo)

The connection doesn't end there though. California Chrome is trained by Art Sherman, who, in 1955, traveled to Churchill Downs in a railroad car with Swaps as his exercise rider. Now he's back as the trainer of the favorite. Because of these connections, comparisons between Swaps and California Chrome are inevitable, and while the latter still has much to prove, it got me thinking about Swaps, one of the first great Cal-breds, and some of the odd-ball Swaps models I've acquired lately.

The real Swaps was so much more than just a great Cal-bred---he easily ranks as one of the best American runners of all time. He began his racing career in May of his two year-old year, winning his first start, a MSW at Hollywood Park. He started 6 times more that year, winning only two, and despite that inauspicious start, he would come into his own at three.


Swaps began racking up wins at Santa Anita, despite chronic soundness issues. He took the San Vincente and the Santa Anita Derby with ease before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. There, he conquered the favorite Nashua, a champion in his own right, winning geared down by about 2 lengths. Swaps' connections then sent him back home to California, eschewing the Triple Crown trail, while Nashua took the Preakness and Belmont. Swaps however took on older horses and the clock and beat both, setting a new world record for a mile and a sixteenth in the Californian.

Nashua's success on the east coast prompted his owners to propose a match race against Swaps. Unbeknownst to the public however, Swaps had suffered an injury in a workout before the race, and according to Olin Gentry, manager of Darby Dan Farm where Swaps later stood at stud, "he was so sore he didn't know where to put that foot down." His connections opted to go forward with the race anyway, but unsurprisingly, Swaps was no match for Nashua that day. The injury, worsened by running on it, required surgery and sidelined the horse for nearly six months.

Though he was never completely sound again, Swaps put together an astonishing 4 year-old campaign. He raced 10 times, carrying 130 pounds in 7 of those starts, and winning 8 of them. He set four world records and equaled another, often while giving away more than 15 pounds to his rivals. In the mile and a quarter Hollywood Gold Cup, Swaps smashed the track record by a full second, an astonishing feat. In his only defeats, he was sadly noticeably sore. As two-time Triple Crown winning jockey Eddie Arcaro said, “[he] was probably the worst managed horse in history. There is no telling how great Swaps would have been if he’d been managed right. No telling."

Swaps underwent surgery twice more in September of 1956 and suffered from another abcess before breaking down in a workout. His right hind leg was broken in two places, forcing his retirement. His career ended with 19 wins out of 25 starts. He set 5 new world records and equaled another as well as setting three new track rcords. At stud, he sired Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Chateaugay, the champion filly and broodmare Affectionately, and the hugely influential broodmare Intriguing (an ancestress of California Chrome incidentally).

It's not surprising therefore that California native and Santa Anita frequenter Maureen Love chose to sculpt Swaps for Hagen-Renaker. He was the first of the five famous TBs she sculpted, released in 1957, the year after Swaps retired. He was produced until 1974, so he's not hard to find, but the models do vary a bit, especially in terms of color, shading, sock height, and placement. My own example unfortunately has fairly soft detail, but his socks are pretty close to those of the real horse.

But the story of the HR Swaps and his oddities is the story for another day and another blog. Kristina Lucas Francis plans to cover it for her Muddy Hoofprints blog, so be sure to subscribe to it if you haven't already!

Breyer acquired the rights to the Hagen-Renaker Designers Workshop Thoroughbreds in the mid-1970s, and they issued the Swaps model in plastic from 1975-1990. Like most models produced in those years, they varied in color, shading, number and placement of socks, and face markings.

The Swaps models on the left and in the middle are fairly typical examples. The left-hand model has tall socks while the center model has low socks. Both have a diamond-shaped star that is typical of the earlier releases. The Swaps on the right has only one sock, and it's on the wrong hind leg. He also has a tear-drop shaped star. He is a somewhat less common variation that is thought to have occurred in the years nearer to the end of the production run.

This Swaps, however, with four socks instead of the usual two is highly unusual and rare. I have not seen another like him, and I was really tickled to find him. If only he had a blaze, I could name him California Chrome!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Back in November, my friend and fellow blogger Kristina Lucas Francis brought an eBay auction to my attention. The item was a replacement insert for a lighted Budweiser bar sign; it was printed on translucent paper with mirror image printing on either side. The horses should look awfully familiar to Breyer collectors.

I clicked the Buy-It-Now button and then waited and waited and waited for the print to arrive. USPS decided to send it from New Jersey to my local hub in the suburbs of Chicago, but then for some reason, the print took a jaunt to Miami for several weeks. Finally, just before Christmas, it made its way back to Chicago and into my hands.

Obviously, this print is interesting to model horse collectors because of the striking resemblance the horses bear to Breyer's traditional Clydesdale Mare and Foal molds sculpted by Chris Hess. But what is truly fascinating, as Kristina pointed out to me, is the copyright date on the print (click to enlarge). 

The print was copyrighted in 1964 while Breyer's Clydesdale Mare and Foal did not debut until 1969. Allowing a year for molding, the print still predates the Breyer models by four years. While I can't state conclusively that Breyer's Clydesdales were inspired by this print, given the company's history of copying the designs of other makers in the 1950s and 1960s, it's not a stretch to think that someone from Breyer saw a sign like this in a bar, maybe even Chris Hess himself. I personally think the similarity between them is too strong to be mere coincidence.

There are subtle differences---the heads of the mare and foal are turned a little bit more in the print and the colt's tail is swished a little differently---but I think the similarities of pose, leg placement, hair, etc, speak for themselves. Interestingly, even the color of the original releases echos what is shown in the print. Despite actually being bays, the foal coloration was rendered as chestnut by Breyer. And the mare in the print has just a hint of black on her knees and hocks, something that could easily be overlooked by someone not familiar with horse color. Breyer's mare reflects that with only a darker mane and tail. Granted, most Breyer "bays" at that time were produced with no black on the legs, but I think it's interesting all the same.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Kudos to Kristina for spotting this fascinating piece of the puzzle that is Breyer history!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Melty Monday: Vinegar Syndrome Revisited

(Last year's adventure with vinegar syndrome for those unfamiliar with shrinkies/oozies: )

Melty in terms of plastic horses. Not so much in terms of the weather here. With temps in the -14 range with -43 windchill, the snow here in Chicago isn't going anywhere fast. Would that it was the snow melting and not the horses though!

I spent some time over the holidays again working on inventorying my collection, and I was alarmed to see the continued disintegration of the shrinkies and oozies I pulled out of storage in the last few years. My BHR SR sorrel/orange PAS has shrunk dramatically in both height and width in the last year, and his paint has radically lightened. He looks like he has a film of chalk dust all over him now. And worse still, one of his back hooves had started to melt to the plastic shelf he's been sitting on.

I didn't get a chance to check on the shrinkies/oozies that had been relegated to the garage (I'm sure they're practically soup by now), but I was both interested and horrified to see what had become of my dapple grey Five Gaiter. He has been lying on a styrofoam meat tray on a shelf in  climate-controlled room for several years now, and he has shrunk even more...

How he looked a few years ago:

He's smaller and even more curved now. He no longer stands.

His head doesn't seem to be shrinking at the same rate as his body, and it's not quite proportional anymore. His hind leg reacted with the styrofoam tray and has melted through it partially:

I flipped him over and was startled to see that the vinegar syndrome process had eaten a hole through the styrofoam:

And he's reached the point where he's beginning to develop "warts." I'm not sure what causes them---bits of good plastic mixed in with bad? Or plastic decaying at a different rate?

My mom wanted to throw him away, but for the sake of scientific observation (and because he's a sentimental favorite (::sniffle::)), he's been sentenced to life in the garage for the time being. I'll check on him in July when I'm home again for BreyerFest to see what exposure to a Georgia summer has done to him.

(And in the meantime, if anyone has a non-shrinky dapple grey Five Gaiter for sale, I sure would love to own one. Mine didn't survive nearly long enough.)