Friday, August 24, 2018

I Don't Collect Cocker Spaniels...

I don't intentionally collect Cocker Spaniels. I'm not especially partial to the breed---I usually prefer leggier, more athletic-looking canines. But I have somehow managed to acquire a small pack of them, and I'm not really sure how this happened.

Even Butch is rolling his eyes at me
I suppose it all began with the funny little dog pictured below. I've written before of the Hagen-Renaker collection my paternal grandmother gifted to me and my sister, but my maternal grandmother also contributed a piece to my HR herd. This little pup, the A-97 Cocker Spaniel Puppy, sat in my grandma's china hutch with the Queen of Hearts (made by Wade of England) when I was a little girl. He lived in a wooden nutcracker, and whenever I visited, I was allowed to carefully play with the pup, the Queen, and their nutcracker house. These two are the only things I have from my grandma's estate, but they were exactly what I wanted most. They always make me smile and think of  happy afternoons spent in her apartment eating M&M cookies and watching the Price is Right together.

I eventually realized the dog was a Hagen-Renaker (made from Spring 1950 to Spring 1954). I'm not sure how my grandma came to have him or the Queen, and my mom doesn't know either. They were just always in the hutch. Given that the pup has a little heart-shaped spot on his chest, I'm sure Grandma thought he was an appropriate companion for the Queen of Hearts.

Sometime in the 1990s, I came across the matching A-98 Cocker Spaniel (Standing) dog in an antique store, and he of course had to come home with me. Like the pup, he was designed by Helen Perrin Farnlund and was made from Spring 1950 to Spring 1954. I have since realized there is a third dog to this set, a seated adult (A-205), so I imagine I will have to find one for my Collection of Cocker Spaniels That I Don't Actually Collect one of these days.

I had no intention of buying a Designers Workshop Honey Girl (H-1518). None whatsoever. My interest in DW HR dogs is pretty limited (that sound you hear, incidentally, is my sister laughing uproariously and asking, "How many HR dogs do you have now? Twenty? Twenty-five?"), but then I saw one owned by my friend Kristina Lucas Francis that had a beautifully detailed face and soulful character eyes, and I was smitten. So I started looking casually on eBay.

The one I ended up with does not have character eyes or whisker dots like Kristina's, but I couldn't resist the exceptionally crisp detail and rich shading. I wish she had a sticker, because I am an ephemera nerd like that, but I really should not be looking for variations. (Or should I?)

Naturally, Honey Girl needed her pupper Patsy (H-1519), and I got lucky and found one that had great shading, character eyes, and a sticker. Both Honey Girl and Patsy were sculpted by Maureen Love which I'm sure is part of their appeal for me. Maureen had such a gift for sculpting every sort of animal, not just horses. This pair was available in matte and glossy, and given the mid-century popularity of Cocker Spaniels, it's not surprising that Hagen-Renaker issued these pieces for quite some time (Fall 1955-Spring 1958, Fall 1961-Fall 1962, Fall 1966, and Spring 1968). Both are quite common and can often be acquired for as little as $25 on eBay.

This adorable DW Butch turned up not long after I had read an article about the real dog who inspired the piece. Butch was owned by the Saturday Evening Post artist Albert Staehle, and the mischievous dog was often featured on the cover of that publication and elsewhere. As cute as Butch is, I confess I bought him for the hang tag. Paper ephemera is generally rare from most all companies in the model horse universe, and especially so from Hagen-Renaker. As a collectibility fan, I could not resist.

My Butch (H-1542) also has a name sticker as seen above. It reads "Butch © A. Staehle" in reference to the artist. Hagen-Renaker's licensed design was sculpted by Don Winton and was made from Spring 1957 to Fall 1959. Winton also sculpted a Butch mini-me.

Mini Butch (A-1542) is posed and decorated nearly identically to the larger version, and most examples also bear the same sticker as the DW version. Mini Butch was made in 1957 only.

The (wonderful) trouble with Hagen-Renaker DW dogs is that a number of them were made in large quantities, often for a reasonable number of years, and they are therefore pretty easy to find and cheap to acquire. Pip Emma (H-1013) and His Nibs (H-1014), both with lovely shading and perfect stickers, joined my clinky dog pack for about $15 each. Neither are rare, but I just love their highly detailed coats and sweet expressions. Both were sculpted by Tom Masterson, and as far as I know, Emma was available in this colorway for both season in 1954 and again in Fall 1955. Nibs was also made in this color in Spring and Fall 1954 but in Spring 1955 rather than Fall.

My passion for rare bits of paper ephemera is also responsible for the presence of this Disney Lady (5001) in my collection. Most mini HRs were and still are sold on little squares of cardboard with Hagen-Renaker's name and address on them, but Disney-specific cards, of course, only came with Disney pieces and are not seen all that often. Mine has seen better days, but I thought it was pretty neat. Lady was also sculpted by Don Winton and was made from Fall 1955 to Fall 1959.

While traveling this summer, I stopped into an antique store in a small town, and though I didn't find any horses, I did find this pretty mini Cocker Spaniel with Newspaper (A-255). I picked it up and literally thought to myself, "Do I really need this? I don't collect Cocker Spaniels." But I was really taken with the juxtaposition of the shaded, glossy coat of the dog and the stark matte finish of the newspaper, and this dog has pretty Monrovia bi-eyes, too. For $3, how could I resist? This piece was sculpted by Maureen Love and made from Spring 1956 to Fall 1957. It also came in black, and there is a cute wiggly puppy to match in both tan and black. I may be on the look-out for them...

Just two weeks ago, my parents were out and about, and they decided to check out an antique store on their way home. They texted me this picture of an A-98 Cocker Spaniel (Standing) and A-205 Cocker Spaniel (Seated) in tan. "Do you need these?" they asked. I sighed. Yes. Yes, I do. Apparently, I do collect Cocker Spaniels after all!