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!


  1. This is really interesting! History is always fascinating. Just discovered your blog and it's really cool :)

  2. I have this pic , is it worth anything

    1. I'm not really sure as I only collect the horse models. I bought my copy on ebay for about $20.