Monday, October 5, 2015

Collectibility test: Companies Breyer copied

Question 2 from my sample Breyer collectibility test

2) Name four companies Breyer copied models from in the 1950's and/or 1960's.

This is a bit of a trick question in that there are more than four answers

Hartland: Though the exact details remain a bit murky, we know that Breyer took over a contract with Mastercrafter Clocks in 1950 to produce a plastic horse to stand over said clocks on a faux-marble base. The contract originally belonged to Hartland, and while the reason for the split between Hartland and Mastercrafter has been lost to time, the horse clocks remain. We don't know if Breyer was asked to duplicate the Hartland horse as closely as possible or if they simply chose to do so, but whatever the case, Breyer's Western Horse is a very, very close copy of Hartland's "Victor" horse. The differences are subtle, but they include slight differences in the hooves, mane and tail, bridle, and breastcollar. (But more on that in an upcoming post.)
Hartland on the left; Breyer on the right

Grand Wood Carving: The Grand Wood Carving Company of Chicago began producing a line of wooden horses in 1939. A number of them were portraits of famous racehorses from the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, such as War Admiral, Armed, and Native Dancer. At some point in the 1940s, they produced a model of Whirlaway, the 1941 Triple Crown winner. And in 1954 or 1955, Breyer released their Racehorse, an obvious copy of the GWC piece. A few years later, they also debuted their woodgrain color, very likely inspired by the real mahogany GWC pieces.
GWC Whirlaway on the left, Breyer Racehorse on the right
Breyer's traditional Man O' War model, first issued in 1967, was also obviously inspired by GWC's own portrait model of the great horse. More on that here.

Boehm: Though probably best known for his birds, Edwin Marshall Boehm also sculpted a number of animals for production out of his New Jersey porcelain art studio. One such was a Boxer dog first issued circa 1952. Only two years later, Breyer issued a copy directly molded from the original Boehm piece. Though the Breyer Boxer's paint job was not as detailed as that of the Boehm piece, it too was clearly copied from the original.
Boehm on the left, Breyer on the right (Photos via etsy)
In 1950, Boehm produced a walking Hereford Bull which will also be familiar to Breyer collectors. Breyer's copy was first released in about 1956 and was a direct copy like the Boxer. Some of Breyer's Herefords were chalky and glossy to duplicate the look of porcelain.
Boehm on the left, Breyer on the right
In about 1956, Breyer also released their Brahma bull which while similar to the earlier Boehm piece was not an exact copy. Perhaps Breyer was not able to acquire a Boehm to copy? Maybe Boehm had issued a cease and desist? Whatever the case, Breyer's Brahma has very similar foot and tail placement, but small differences are present---the Boehm has a turned head, slightly different horns, different detail in the wattle of the neck, etc.
Boehm on the left, Breyer on the right
Rumor has it that Breyer's Small Walking Angus was also copied from a Boehm piece, although this is the least similar of the four pieces mentioned here. Boehm's Angus is standing while Breyer's is walking, the Breyer Angus has a halter, and Boehm's piece is a trifle crude in comparison. Breyer's Angus in fact looks like a pointed down and slightly modified copy of the Walking Hereford. Breyer's Angus was not released until 1960, after Breyer had dealt with a copyright lawsuit from Hagen-Renaker, so perhaps they did not copy the Boehm closely so as not to repeat that experience.

Boehm on the left, Breyer on the right
Lastly, Boehm copies can not be discussed without mentioning Adios. Contrary to popular opinion, Breyer did NOT copy Boehm's Adios model. In fact, both the Breyer and Boehm piece were copied from the James Slick statue of the horse at the behest of his owner, Delvin Miller, at the same time.

Hagen-Renaker: Speaking of Hagen-Renaker, it is well-known that Breyer's Proud Arabian Mare, Proud Arabian Foal, and Family Arabian Stallion were copied from Hagen-Renaker's Large Zara, Zilla, and Amir. HR sued Breyer mostly successfully in 1959, resulting in the discontinuation of the PAM and PAF. The FAS was deemed not similar enough and remained in production.
HR Zara on the left, Breyer PAM on the right (Zara photo courtesy of Ed Alcorn)
In the 1970s, Breyer legally re-released the PAM and PAF, and they also obtained a lease from HR to produce a number of other HR designs in plastic. These include the Classic Arabian, Mustang, and Quarter Horse families, Kelso, Man O' War, Terrang, Swaps, Silky Sullivan, and the G1 Stablemates. The Little Bit Thoroughbred model sculpted by Chris Hess was probably loosely based in the G1 Seabiscuit.

Rosenthal: Breyer's (Large) Poodle, released in 1958, was another direct copy, this time of a piece sculpted for Rosenthal by Professor Theordor Kärner at an unknown earlier date. Rosenthal's Poodle was for sure available in the early 1950s in white and dark grey/black, colors which Breyer also copied.

Rosenthal Poodles in white and dark grey/black
Breyer Poodles in white and black
Next time, I'll tackle Breyer packaging from the 1950s-1980s. Lots of interesting and weird stuff to be discussed!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The best week ever

On June 6th, American Pharoah raced into the history books with a five length romp in the Belmont Stakes, securing the first Triple Crown victory in 37 years. As a lifelong horse racing fan, his win was an incredible thrill that I will never, ever forget. I shrieked, I cried, and I rewatched the race over and over that week. It still gives me chills---it always will.

The following Friday afternoon, still happily buzzed by an event I had begun to despair I would ever witness, I found myself noodling around on the internet and chatting with my mom. She asked me to take another look at an item that was part of the Hagen-Renaker archives estate dispersal, and as the eBay home page loaded, it flashed up a group of suggested auctions based on my interests and buying habits.

My heart nearly stopped as I glanced at the most recently listed items. There, staring me in the face with a buy-it-now of $15.99, was a random horse-shaped-object paired with my holiest of holy grails, a woodgrain Proud Arabian Foal. My hands went clammy and started to shake, but my fingers flew across the keys and completed the sale in seconds.

The few days that followed waiting for USPS to deliver the box felt like the longest I'd ever endured. I was terrified the foal would somehow be lost or misdirected or broken in transit. On Tuesday of the next week, the box was listed as out for delivery, and I was on edge all morning waiting for the mailman to reach my work place. Just after lunch, I heard the telltale rattle of a hand truck exiting the elevator. I grabbed my key to the mailroom and flew up the stairs. Sure enough, my box was waiting. 

My family has had some amazing luck finding rare models over the years in flea markets and antique malls, but this little filly is hands down the best find of my life. I can still hardly believe it. Somebody pinch me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Collectibility test: Breyer history timeline

Here is the first question and answer from the sample Breyer collectibility test I wrote about in my last post.

1) Create a Breyer history time line including the following information (please provide the year or years as close as possible): First Breyer horse issued, Reeves takeover, chalky era, decorator era, blue ribbon sticker era, first JAH issued, first BF, woodgrain era, general introduction of round Breyer stamp, general introduction of USA stamp, catalog year each of the four major scales was released (traditional, classic, little bit, stablemate)

When I posted the list of test questions on Facebook, I was bit disappointed to see some responses from collectors who couldn't understand the importance or relevance of this question. In my opinion, how can a person understand the collectibility of the models a company has produced if they don't have a fundamental understanding of the history of the company and the events that drove the changes to its product line?

Knowledge of Breyer's history is ultimately how we determine rarity after all. This question serves to provide a basic, baseline point of reference to determine how knowledgeable a judge is likely to be about the finer points of collectibility. In my opinion, anyone who wishes to judge Breyer collectibility should be able to reel off the answers to this question quickly and easily.
The very beginning, the Western Horse Clock

They are as follows:

1950 - First Breyer horse issued (which was the traditional scale Western Horse)

1959-1973 - Woodgrain era

1960 - General introduction of round Breyer stamp

1964 (approximately) - Decorator era (For sure they were available in 1964 as we have a price list and sales sheet from that year listing them. They may have been available as early as 1963. The decos however were duds and were likely discontinued at the end of 1964 after poor sales.)

Early 1960s - 1971 - Blue ribbon sticker era (The smaller stickers came first; the larger stickers were later.)

1970 - General introduction of USA stamp

1973 - First classic scale models introduced (Classic Arabian Family)

1973-1975 (roughly) - the chalky era (triggered by the 1970s oil crisis)

1975 - First Just About Horses issued; first Stablemates released

1984 - Reeves takeover (The factory subsequently moved from Chicago to New Jersey.); Little Bits released

1990 - First BreyerFest

Next time, a look at some of the molds that Breyer copied from other manufacturers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Judging Breyer Collectibility: Basic Required Knowledge

Recent discussions on Facebook about judging (triggered by great disparity in NAN results, a subject for another day) have once again brought up the topic of judging certification and what criteria we should be using to judge various divisions at shows. While these conversations do produce useful discussion, they have a tendency to stall out because a certain segment of the hobby demands to know who has the right to assess their knowledge (or lack thereof).

I find this incredibly dismaying because it suggests to me that those who make these complaints are likely not confident in their abilities as a judge and that they are unwilling to acknowledge it or to seek greater education to remedy it. This attitude is sadly what killed off Project '88, the hobby's best attempt at a program to provide basic judging certification. This attitude is frustrating as well because education is absolutely key in this hobby---there is always something new to learn. Our knowledge of equine color genetics has improved radically in the last 15 years for example, fashions and trends are forever changing in the real horse show world, and new, previously unknown models or documentation surface periodically via eBay, estate sales, etc. But I digress.

To move the FB discussion along, Lesli Kathman devised a sample judging test for breed halter with basic knowledge questions about anatomy, bio-mechanics, and color that any reasonably knowledgeable judge should be able to answer. I decided to follow suit and composed a sample test for Breyer collectibility because that is the subject I know best.

Note that this is NOT intended to be a comprehensive test of Breyer minutiae; instead, these questions are meant to demonstrate that a judge has a solid grasp on Breyer history and a good understanding of collectibility judging criteria, both essential qualities in a good Breyer collectibility judge. In my opinion, as a long-time collectibility shower and judge, these are questions that any competent Breyer collectibility judge should be able to answer easily.

I will follow this up with a series of posts answering the questions for any who are interested, and link the answers below. (I've already covered a few of the topics, so I will go ahead and link to those blog posts.) Be warned that some of these are trick questions!

1) Create a Breyer history time line including the following information (please provide the year or years as close as possible): First Breyer horse issued, Reeves takeover, chalky era, decorator era, blue ribbon sticker era, first Just About Horses issued, first BreyerFest, woodgrain era, general introduction of round Breyer stamp, general introduction of USA stamp

2) Name four companies Breyer copied models from in the 1950's and/or 1960's.

3) Explain what a chalky is and why they exist.

4) List Breyer packaging types in chronological order from earliest to latest (ending with the 1980's brown picture boxes). Provide date ranges to the best of your knowledge.

5) Explain the history of the PAM, FAM, and In-Between Mare.

6) Name the five rarest woodgrains.

7) Describe which of the following you factor into collectibility judging and why: condition, age, rarity, desirability, breed standard, documentation, presentation, conformation, color

8) Explain how you would place a class containing small runs (under 30 made or known) and OOAKs. Cite examples as desired.

9) Correctly identify the Breyer Western Horse from the 5 models pictured below. Bonus points if you can correctly identify the manufacturers of the other Western Horse Shaped objects. This turned into a massive research project and four blog posts. They are all linked here:

10) Explain the difference between an official Breyer flockie and a custom flockie.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Thelwell's Kipper: A Leg at Each Corner

One of my favorite memories of visits to my grandparents' farm was going into the study to look through Grandma's horse books. I inevitably selected her boxed set of Thelwell books as my reading material for an afternoon and curled up on the couch to giggle at the cartoons. Norman Thelwell, a British writer and cartoonist, had a unique and hilarious perspective on country life and a particular insight into the minds of small, clever ponies and their often unwitting victims riders. Thelwell's ponies were delightfully fat, hairy, and naughty.

Thelwell's first pony cartoon was published in 1953, and his first book of humorous pony illustrations, Angels on Horseback, followed soon after in 1957. The demand for his work, especially the ponies, was tremendous, and not long afterward, licensed Thelwell pony models were introduced to the market.

The earliest I know of were made by a company called Plastech and were probably made in the 1960s and/or 1970s. I've seen examples in grey, brown, and palomino. They all have rooted hair, tack, and a cute little rider (Penelope, perhaps?).

Check out the pony's expression. Classic.

In the 1980s, Beswick and several other ceramics companies made a variety of Thelwell ponies in porcelain and sometimes resin.
A seemingly well-behaved Beswick Thelwell.
Beswick's "Point of Departure," rather less well-behaved

But for the purposes of this post, I am primarily interested in the "Kipper" Thelwell model made by Breyer as there has been some misinformation about the piece floating around lately. Kipper debuted in 1986 and was of great interest to my young self, but apparently was less so to adult collectors at the time (the models did not sell well). The 1986 dealer catalog featured only Kipper but alluded to the production of two other ponies, Midget (pinto) and Pumpkin (palomino).

1986 Breyer dealer catalog
 The smaller 1986 "box catalog" featured a picture of all three ponies.

1986 box catalog

All four ponies pictured in the catalogs appear to have the same bodies, but the heads and ear positions vary a bit. According to Breyer historian Nancy Young, as per a conversation with Peter Stone, these ponies were resin-cast prototypes, not plastic models. The dappled brown Kipper in the dealer catalog was auctioned off at the first BreyerFest, and Peter noted at the time that it was one of two, the other of which was in his personal collection. Presumably, the pony Peter kept is the true bay shown in the box catalog photo. The Midget and Pumpkin prototypes probably also still belong to Peter.

UPDATE: Interestingly, during the BreyerFest 2021 live stream of the factory archive room, Kelly Weimer and Kelly Keracher, the hosts, showed off this set of Thelwells to collectors. They are made of vinyl, not resin, so it would seem the other Thelwell models made it past prototyping after all. What a shame they weren't all produced!

Screen capture of archive live stream

The Kipper model that Breyer ultimately produced had a very similar head to the prototypes but a different body.

The production Kipper is standing square and has much shorter legs, and the model is made of a vinyl-like hollow plastic with a rooted nylon mane and tail. They sold in clear plastic boxes with a green backing card as seen above. The models are marked "© 1986 thelwell." Approximately 5,000 were made, but the line was discontinued due to poor sales, and neither Pumpkin nor Midget ever went into production. Leftover Kippers were sold by several Breyer dealers. My own Kipper came from Mission Supply House in Florida. 
Photo courtesy of Melissa Heijmans
In the last few years, I've seen a few Thelwell-like toy ponies being advertised at shows or for sale as purported test runs for Breyer's partially unreleased Thelwell line. These ponies certainly do look similar stylistically, but they are clearly not the same quality as Breyer's Kipper. They are less well sculpted (especially the legs and hooves), they are made from cheaper materials, and the real kicker is the way they are marked. The wannabe ponies are stamped "© BBC WW 1999, Licensed by S4C Intl, Made in China" which should make it clear they not Breyer Thelwell test runs (nor Breyer pieces of any sort) for a number of reasons, the date being the most glaringly obvious.

Click to enlarge image. Clearly not Breyer nor Thelwell.
A bit of quick research and some help from the British Model Horse Collectors group on Facebook revealed that these little Thelwell wannabes are actually toys based on a BBC children's program called "Star Hill Ponies" which ran for several seasons beginning in 1998. It was also broadcast in Welsh in Wales, hence the "Licensed by S4C" bit of copyright on the pony's belly. Episodes can be found on Youtube.

Star Hill Ponies "Molly" (Photo from eBay)
Star Hill Ponies "Scruffy" (Photo from eBay)
The back of the packaging card showing the various ponies.
The Star Hill Ponies are undeniably cute, but they are definitely not Breyers nor are they related to Thelwells in any way. They can often be obtained on eBay for less than $10 each.

I hope this post clears up some of the confusion about what is and is not a Breyer Thelwell. All of the ponies shown here, regardless of maker, are collectible in their own fashion, but hopefully my little bit of sleuthing will save collectors from paying far too much for a models that are not Breyers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Once upon a time there was a horse named Kelso"

"Once upon a time there was a horse named Kelso. But only once."

~ Joe Hirsch, the "dean" of turf writing

Truer words were never written. Many gallant geldings have graced the American turf---Exterminator, Forego, John Henry---but as brilliant as they were, none of them quite measure up to the extraordinary talent that was Kelso. He was awarded Horse of the Year honors for five consecutive years, something no other horse has ever come close to matching. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup five times and the prestigious Whitney and Woodward three times each. He set nine track records, an American record for 1 1/2 miles on turf, and his world record for two miles on dirt still stands more than 50 years later. He could sprint; he could stay; he could run on any surface, dirt or turf, regardless of the condition of the track, sloppy or dry, firm or soft. And but for the love of the racing public, Kelso might never have been born.

In 1947, the "Magnificent Cripple," a flashy chestnut officially named Your Host was born in California. By Alibhai out of Boudoir (by Mahmoud), he had a regal pedigree, but he was born with some deformities that earned him this nickname (as well as a number of similar epithets). In particular, one eye was set higher than the other and he had a crooked neck so that he carried his head to one side when he raced in order to see better. 
Your Host
Despite these handicaps, he proved to be an excellent stakes winner in California, and he entered the 1950 Kentucky Derby as the favorite. After helping to set a blazing pace for the first mile, he faded badly and finished ninth. He returned to shorter races in California and eventually defeated both Hill Prince and Ponder, the Derby winner and runner-up. 

Returning to the races at four, Your Host proved he could carry weight and beat the clock, setting a new track record for 9 furlongs at Santa Anita under 130 pounds. But in only his third race of the season, he clipped heels and went down hard on his right shoulder, breaking his upper foreleg in four places. Veterinarians thought there was no hope of saving him, and Louis B. Mayer (of Metro Goldwyn Mayer) who had bred Your Host and who was the father-in-law of Your Host's owner, William Goetz, persuaded Lloyds of London to pay out an insurance claim on the horse. 

Had Your Host been euthanized at that juncture, racing would have lost one of the greatest horses of all time. But Lloyds of London decided to try to save the horse, hoping to recoup some of what they had lost by sending the horse to stud if the leg could be stabilized and allowed to heal. Under the watchful eye of his fans and the ASPCA, Your Host was eventually packed in sand to immobilize his legs, and slowly, he began to mend. Eventually, he was sound enough to go stud, and he proved to be a very useful sire. He died prematurely in 1961 just as the career of his most famous son was taking off.

In 1956, Your Host stood at Meadowview Farms in Moorestown, NJ, where he was bred to Maid of Flight (Count Fleet x Maidoduntreath, by Man O' War), a well-bred mare who had been only moderately successful on the track. Owned by Mrs. Allaire du Pont, the famed sportswoman, Maid of Flight's breeding that year was mostly one of convenience as Meadowview Farm was not far from Mrs. du Pont's own Woodstock Farm in Delaware. She had hoped for a filly in order to name it after Mrs. Kelso Everett, a close friend, but when the mating produced a colt instead, she gave him the name Kelso anyway.
Maid of Flight and Kelso as a foal
 Kelso wasn't much to look at as a youngster, and having inherited the nasty temperament his sire line was known for, he was gelded before the age of two. He was also a notorious cribber and suffered from bouts of colic because of it throughout his life. Gelding him didn't resolve his attitude problems although he mellowed some in the company of Mrs. du Pont, her dogs, and the sugary treats she spoiled him with.

He started for the first time late in his two year-old season, winning a maiden race in Atlantic City first time out and then running second in two allowances. He didn't return to the races until late June of his three year-old season, having been allowed some time to mature both physically and mentally. For a time, he was even for sale, but no one wanted the gangly cribber. He began to show real promise under the tutelage of trainer Carl Hanford, and he won a pair of allowance races by daylight in near record times. In his third start of the year, Kelso was trapped behind a wall of horses and never got a chance to run, finishing eighth. Paired with the inimitable jockey Eddie Arcaro, he would not lose again that year, reeling off six straight wins in the Choice Stakes (won by 7 lengths), the Jerome, the Discovery, the 1 5/8 miles Lawrence Realization (tied Man O' War's track record), the Hawthorne Gold Cup, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (just a tick off the world record on a sloppy track). Despite not beginning the season until after the Triple Crown races, Kelso earned not only Champion Three Year-Old but also Horse of the Year.

At four, Arcaro piloted Kelso to seven wins in nine starts under imposts as high as 136 pounds while giving away substantial weight to his rivals. He became only the third horse to win the prestigious Handicap Triple Crown comprising the Metropolitan (carrying 130 pounds), Brooklyn (133), and Suburban Handicaps (136). (Only one horse has swept that triple since Kelso did so in 1961.) He also won his second straight Jockey Club Gold Cup, the most important year-end race at the time.

Eddie Arcaro retired at the end of the year, and Kelso's 5 year-old season got off to a bumpy start with Willie Shoemaker in the irons. The two never saw eye to eye, and shortly thereafter, Ishmael "Milo" Valenzuela (uncle of Pat Valenzuela) became Kelso's regular rider. He won only 6 of 12 starts, plagued by poor riding and rabbits carrying far less weight, but he did win a record third Jockey Club Gold Cup by 10 lengths, and he finished a good second on turf in the Washington DC International, defeating Kentucky Derby winner Carry Back. His efforts were enough to nab a third Horse of the Year title.

At six, he started 12 times again, this time winning 9 of them. He won as he pleased regardless of weight, track surface, or distance, and his popularity rose to new heights. "King Kelly," as he was known to his fans, won his third Woodward and his fourth Jockey Club Gold Cup en route to his fourth Horse of the Year title. At seven, he won five of eleven starts, but three of his losses were by a neck, a nose, and a head to horses carrying less weight. He won his fifth straight Jockey Club Gold Cup, setting a new world record in the process and winning by more than five lengths. He also finally captured the turf classic Washington DC International, a race he had run second in for three consecutive years, and he did so in stunning fashion by establishing a new American record for 12 furlongs on turf, 2:23 4/5 (faster than Secretariat). It was enough to clinch an unprecedented fifth Horse of the Year title, and lasting fame as one of the greatest American runners of all time.

Kelso came back at eight and won several stakes including the Whitney before an eye infection caused by flying dirt put a premature end to his season. He made one start at nine, and after running an oddly poor fourth, he was discovered to have a hairline fracture and was retired. The gallant gelding, the leading money earner of his day, became Mrs. du Pont's personal hunter, and he had a good deal of success as a show jumper as well.

In October 1983 at the age of 26, Kelso traveled to Belmont to appear before the post parade with two other champion geldings, Forego and John Henry, to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund. Rarely have three such legendary horses ever been in the same place at the same time.
Kelso (left), John Henry (center), and Forego (right)
The event raised $27,000 for the Fund, and by all accounts, Kelso pranced and posed in the paddock and on the track as if he were ready to return the races. Sadly, the following evening, he succumbed to a bout of colic, the affliction that had plagued him throughout his life. But it seems fitting somehow that King Kelly should have been honored by his adoring public one last time for the titan of the turf he most assuredly was. Some years later, Eddie Arcaro, who rode both Citation and Whirlaway to Triple Crown victories, said that of the many champions he had ridden, Kelso was the best of them all without question.

The photo that very likely inspired Maureen Love's sculpture
Given Kelso's tremendous achievements and his popularity with both the racing and general public, it is not surprising that he was chosen as the subject of one of Hagen-Renaker's racehorse portrait models. He was the last of the five, released from spring 1965 until spring 1971 and again from fall 1974 to spring 1975. Of the five HR racehorses, Kelso is considered the rarest and most desirable although the model can be found for sale on a regular basis. They vary in color from a uniform dark brown to shaded bay with red undertones.
Photo courtesy of Tom Bainbridge
Photo courtesy of Teresa Fedak
In 1975, the year after Hagen-Renaker discontinued Kelso, Breyer released all five of the HR racehorses in plastic. Breyer's Kelso remained in the line until 1990, and during those 15 years, the model's paint job varied substantially. The earliest Kelso models were dark brown with two hind socks just like the real Kelso, although a fair number have only a right hind sock. Some of them had shading, some none. As the years progressed, the color of Kelso models shifted to a lighter shade of brown, some bordering on red bay. The sock number varied hugely as well, anywhere from no socks to all four.

Kelso variations
A typical early Kelso with two socks
An early two-sock Kelso with pretty shading
A nearly black Kelso with very oversprayed socks
A rare four-sock variation
An early 1980s reddish bay Kelso with one sock
Another 1980s variation with no socks
The Breyer Kelso model is not rare by any stretch, but it does remain popular with collectors and showers alike. Some of the variations are hard to find, particularly the 4-socked version. Finding it with one of the original cardboard boxes is also a nice treat. The earliest Kelso boxes were white; later examples were brown.

1970s box (Photo courtesy of Corrie McDermott)
The informative side-panel of the 1970s box
(Photo courtesy of Corrie McDermott)
The Breyer Kelso did come with one rare feature that is highly collectible, a round, yellow double-sided sticker that loops around one leg. Only a handful of these stickers are known. They date to 1979 or thereabouts.

Kelso is a terrific model for Thoroughbred lovers and variation collectors alike. The Breyer model  shows well in breed halter, and paired with a vintage box, he can be a viable collectibility contender as well. Likewise, the HR Kelso, especially a crisp model with an original sticker, can excel in both divisions. Breyer Kelso models can often be acquired for as little as $10-25 whereas the HR models are usually to be found in the $400-500 range. Particularly nice examples have sold for as much as $800, but in general, prices seem to have fallen in the last 10 years. Like many other models once thought to be very rare, the internet, especially eBay, has proven that more of these models are in circulation than most collectors realized.

But that said, Kelso is always a good investment, regardless of medium. Value aside, he is an aesthetic treasure and an elegant reminder of one of the most talented American Thoroughbreds of all time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blog and ye shall receive?

Just over a week ago, I posted a blog about chalkies, and I included information and pictures of 1960s chalkies that had been factory repainted over decorators and woodgrains in order to repurpose models that were not selling well. A handful of painted-over-decorators are in the hands of collectors, but the painted-over-woodgrains seem to be less common. So you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled across one only a matter of days later on eBay.

This chalky bay Clydesdale Stallion looks ordinary from this side...

But from this side, you can see there's something peculiar under that bay paint.

Here's a close up of the chipped spot on his rump revealing the original woodgrain paintjob underneath. You can just see the white layer of paint in between the woodgrain and bay paint.

Here's a better shot of the layers of paint on this model. The bay paint has rubbed away revealing the white basecoat, the basecoat has been chipped to reveal the woodgrain paintjob underneath, and the woodgrain paint is a bit rubbed, too, showing the creamy colored plastic underneath that.

The white basecoat paint is cracking and lifting in various places on this model, so I think it didn't adhere well to the topcoat Breyer put over the woodgrain finish. The paint in the chipped area on the rump is very fragile and flaky, and if I wanted, it would be easy to peel it away to reveal more of the woodgrain paintjob. If it were a particularly rare woodgrain, I might be tempted, but even in this beat up condition, I think my Clyde is much more interesting as is. He's a weird and wonderful piece of Breyer history.

Other hobbyists have tried to strip painted-over-decorators with varying success. Collector Karen Hoagland found a chalky bay Running Mare that had been painted over a Gold Charm, and because the white basecoat didn't stick well to the gloss, she was able to easily peel away the bay paint revealing the decorator underneath.

Chalky bay Running Mare with some of the paint removed (neck) revealing
the Gold Charm paint underneath. (Photo courtesy of Karen Hoagland)
Chalky bay Running Mare with nearly all of the bay paint stripped except on her face,
legs, mane, and tail. (Photo courtesy of Karen Hoagland)
The chalky bay paint pulled away in strips although it did take a layer of
gold with it. (Photo courtesy of Karen Hoagland)
Sadly, this chalky Five Gaiter painted over a Wedgewood did not fare so well. Wedgewoods lack the glossy finish other decorators have as well as the clear coat sprayed over woodgrains, so the white paint layer in this case stuck firmly to the wedgewood paint below, making it impossible to strip.

(Photo courtesy of Sande Schneider)
Needless to say, I'm going to have to go through my collection and have a good look at my chalkies from the 1950s and 1960s. Could there be a woodgrain lurking under my chalky honey bay Old Mold Proud Arabian Mare? Probably not, but I'm definitely going to hold her up to the light to check anyway! :)