Thursday, December 24, 2020

Breyer Mysteries: Christmas decorators

Since I have a bit of extra free time this week, I thought it would be fun to tackle another holiday related blog topic, the infamous Breyer "Christmas decorators" rumor. While Breyer has blessed us with a variety of modern holiday decorator offerings in the last few years, everything from dappled red and green horses to clearware to candy cane striped zebras, the subject of vintage Christmas decorators always sparks a debate. Do they exist or don't they? Has anyone really seen one? Can anyone prove it one way or another?

Before we tackle that subject, it's useful to consider the history of the traditional Breyer decorators, the blue and gold beauties that collectors prize so much. In 1964, Breyer offered four decorator colors---gold charm, florentine, wedgewood, and copenhagen---on five molds, the Running Mare and Foal, the Five-Gaiter, the Mustang, and the Fighting Stallion. Very little documentation for them exists, but they were offered for sale in holiday catalogs like Aldens, in department stores like Montgomery Wards, and in five-and-dime stores like Ben Franklin. They did not sell well however, and were probably discontinued by 1965. Despite not having been made very long, the Breyer decorators do seem to have been issued in fairly large quantities. They remain rare to be sure, but a patient collector will find multiple decorators for sale every year on eBay or social media. 

Gold charm Mustang, copenhagen Running Mare, 
wedgewood Running Foal, and florentine Five-Gaiter

Which brings us to the purported vintage Christmas decorators. By the late 1990s, a few collectors reported rumors of Christmas decorators possibly spotted when they or someone they knew were children in the 1960s. These models were either dappled red and green much like the florentine and copenhagen models, or they were solid red and green with white points like the gold charm and wedgewood decorators. Nancy Young mentions these observations in her Breyer Molds and Models books with some skepticism, and interestingly, there is no mention of them at all in Marney Walerius' book published several years earlier. Marney did not shy away from including information that trended more toward rumor than observed fact, and it's interesting to me that the Christmas decorator rumor was apparently not circulating at that time. I myself never heard it until I read about it in Nancy's book though I was familiar with other persistant hobby rumors at that time (more on those in a future post). 
As of this writing in December 2020, not one credible scrap of evidence of the existence of vintage Christmas decorators has yet come to light. No models have ever turned up, no photos have been discovered, and not a single ad, price list, or catalog entry has been found. There are of course gaps in the paper trail of Breyer history, especially in the early years of the company, so it is possible that any documentation has simply been lost to time. After all, only a few documents pertaining to the blue and gold decorators are known.

1964 decorator dealer sheet

But while the lack of documentation is not surprising, I do think it's odd that no models have turned up in the last 55+ years. Other small runs from the 1960s are known, even in multiples, like the wedgewood Fury Prancers, the wedgewood Longhorns, and the In Between Mares. Had red and green decorators really been available in stores as reported, you would think at least one or two would have survived and turned up in an estate sale or antique mall. Also, given that the traditional decorators were only available for about a year and given that they did not sell well, would Breyer really have added red and green horses to the unsuccessful blue and gold line up?

It has been suggested by other collectors that the Christmas decorators may be the hobby's equivalent of the Mandela effect, and I suspect they're right. Human memory is of course fallible and definitely persuadable and changeable. The power of suggestion and confabulation of memories are common and well-known phenomena, and they are something pretty much all of us experience. I know I have absolutely misremembered things I thought I was certain of!

So with all of this in mind, I remain skeptical of the existence of vintage Christmas decorators. We can't prove their existence any more than we can disprove it, but as more time passes without one coming to light, the less likely it seems that any ever will. I sure would love a dappled red or green Five-Gaiter like the modern test pair that exists in the Breyer sample room. Maybe Breyer will bless us with some some vintage molds for their Christmas morning special run one of these years. Maybe even tomorrow? A girl can dream!


  1. I first heard of the "possible" Christmas Decorators in the early 80s, right when I was collecting my Decos. (I now have 8, including one gotten when I was 6, in 1966.) They were a rumour but a delightful one. I decided all Decos were descended from a single rainbow stallion, named, appropriately, Decorator. Why shouldn't he have produced some other colors?!? Collectively around then, repainters would figure out how to replicate Breyer's paintjobs (Karen Grimm, Shirley Ketchuk, etc), so who's to say...

  2. Marney did know of these, and her comment was they were just awful looking.. according to a conversation I had with her, they were one offs, made one year for gifts to "special" people, I remember one of those people was a sales rep. So if only 4 of them exists it is no surprise that they have not turned up.

    1. I also remember that the colors were jumper base green, and poodle tongue red...