Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Tally Ho!

Copperfox is on its way back.

The British model horse manufacturer, started up by a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, only to close its doors in 2018, is back in business again.

According to an email I received recently, Copperfox 2.0 is getting ready to launch.

From the start, the primary goal of Copperfox Model Horses has been to pay tribute to a wide variety of British breeds, particularly those under-represented in the herds of other model horse manufacturers.  Copperfox's initial offerings included a Connemara Pony, a Welsh Cob (Sec. D), and an Exmoor Pony.  Later, these founding three were joined by an Irish Sport Horse.

The full Copperfox story with all its ups and downs can be found on the Copperfox home page here.

In short, it tells us that Copperfox has been sold to new owners in the United States who will be manufacturing models both in the UK and the USA (it's not entirely clear whether or not completely different models are to be offered to each market).  Copperfox 2.0 promises to "honor and follow the original mission" of Copperfox so that "British breeds will continue to be the largest parts of the lineup."  They do  not, you will note, promise that their line-up will consist only of British breeds.

As before, the new Copperfox intends to release its models in both plastic and resin, with the addition of a line of miniature versions of their larger sculptures in Stablemate (Coppercub) and Micro Mini (Copperkit) scales -- something other model horse manufacturers like Breyer and Hartland have also gone into in a big way.

The final two molds produced in resin by the old Copperfox -- the Shire "Sir Winston" and the Shetland or Partbred Pony "Scamp" are apparently first in line for release.  The Copperfox Facebook site features plenty of previews of Winston in particular, as well as some tantalizing sneak peaks of the minis -- some in decorator colours.
"Katydid" my lone Copperfox model
During the heyday of Copperfox 1.0, I only purchased two Copperfox models -- Trifle, on the Exmoor Pony mold, and Henrietta, also on the Exmoor Pony mold.  Both were seconds, which brought their price down to something I didn't feel guilty about paying.  I had intended to keep them both, but after I got them I just couldn't warm up to Henrietta.  The flaws on them both were minuscule, and irrelevant to me since I no longer attend live shows.  But I didn't like Henrietta's stark pinto pattern, and so was happy to sell her on to someone who would love her more.  That left me with only one Copperfox -- the Exmoor I named "Katydid."

I do love "Katydid."  She's appealingly homely and humble in appearance, and certainly unlike anything Breyer, Stone, or Hartland has ever produced (although her colour gradient does remind me quite a bit of Breyer's Georg).

I love most of the other Copperfox sculptures too -- especially the Connemara and the Sport Horse.  But I have resisted buying them because they look like such excellent performance horses to me, and a good performance horse is pretty much wasted in my stable these days.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the horses that will be coming out of Copperfox in the future and glad to see that, as Hartland has done time and time again, they've found a way back from the brink of extinction.

Let's hope it's a long time before they've "gone to ground" again.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Horse-Shaped Fun

Normally, when a model horse collector talks about an "HSO" sighting, they're talking about a kind of model horse that sort of looks like it was meant to portray a real animal, but that has certain conformation, biomechanic, and/or coloration flaws that exclude it from becoming a part of one's show herd.  Horse-shaped objects (HSOs) attract us because of their whimsical nature, not because they are good representations of horses.

Just the other day, though, I bought an HSO for myself that isn't really even vaguely horse-shaped.  It is certainly whimsical, though.
What happened was that I got an email in my inbox from a comic book distributor I'd had prior dealings with.  They were having a Black Friday sale.  I hadn't been on their website for quite a while, so I clicked the link and took a look.  And that's where I found a Funko Pop! Quick Draw McGraw figurine on sale, and I simply could not resist bringing him home.

Quick Draw McGraw and his Zorro-like alter-ego, El Kabong, were among my favourite television cartoon characters when I was small.  The team of Quick Draw and his donkey sidekick Baba Looey pushed all my buttons -- they were cute, they were cartoons, they were equids.  What more could a kid want?
I was in seventh heaven when my local television station (one of three that we had access to during my childhood) added Quick Draw to their "Hanna-Barbera Hour" (or possibly half-hour: I don't recall the actual name of the program).  Other cartoons featured in daily rotation on that program included Yakky Doodle Duck; Huckleberry Hound; Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo; Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks; and Snagglepuss -- all early additions to Hanna-Barbera's stable of animated characters and all childhood favorites.

Hanna-Barbera was something of a powerhouse of an animation studio, particularly during the 1960s when their cartoons began taking over TV.  At that time I also watched "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," Walter Lantz's "Woody Woodpecker Show" (which I seem to recall airing only sporadically), some CanCon (Canadian content) cartoons like "Rockect Robin Hood" and "Spider-Man", and, for one brief season a show that included both "Shazzan" and "Luno," two other cartoons that I absolutely loved ("Shazzan" for its flying camel and "Luno" for its flying horse).  But despite all these contenders for my affection, my greatest love was always reserved for Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey.  Among other things, I once had a group of View-Master reels devoted to their adventures and I still have a 45 rpm record immortalizing El Kabong.

This video, called "The Good, the Bad, and the EL KABONG" probably tells you all you need to know about Quick Draw in about five minutes.

The Funko Pop! figurines honour just a few Hanna-Barbera characters in their line-up:  the back of Quick Draw's box mentions Ricochet Rabbit, Squiddley Diddley, and Penelope Pitstop, and I've never seen any of those cartoons, although I do remember once reading a comic book with Ricochet Rabbit in it.  I do believe they've expanded their line a little bit since Quick Draw debuted around December 2015 -- I've seen such characters as the Jetson's Dog Astro, Atom Ant, Touché Turtle, Top Cat, Lippy the Lion, Snagglepuss and even El Kabong and a very tempting Baba Looey for sale on eBay.

Collectible in their own right, Funko Pop! figurines win over most of their customers with cute versions of much more current pop culture heroes, like the Marvel Avengers, Star Wars characters, Walt Disney characters, the Harry Potter gang and the like.  Until I actually removed Quick Draw from his package, I thought these characters were all bobbleheads, but actually the Pop! line is a simple plastic figurine line -- Funko produces its bobbleheads under the name Wacky Wobblers.

According to Wikipedia, the large head of the Funko Pop! characters mimics a Japanese style of animation known as "chibi."  Chibi-style characters typically have small bodies and limbs and oversized heads to make them appear childlike.

Being a collector, I can certainly see the collectible appeal of these Funko figurines.  I'm already thinking that I need a Baba Looey to go with Quick Draw.  After all, I once dressed up a Breyer Traveller and Brighty and as the animated pair for a live show costume class.  But even though Funko also offers a line of My Little Pony (MLP) figures (including a Dr. Who-MLP mash-up named "Dr. Hooves") as well as such characters as Donkey from Shrek and Bullseye from Toy Story 2, I do not really need any more HSOs in my life.

It sure is fun to think about them, though, and bring back those memories of being mesmerized by the 'toons on our old black and white TV back when my choices of animated entertainment were limited to three numbers on a well-worn dial.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Toy Stories

I love the Disney/Pixar Toy Story movie franchise.  The voice casting of the characters is nearly perfect, and the personalities they've given to all the toy characters are cute and charming.  I love the way that they've worked in toys familiar to many children of my era -- if not actual duplicates of trademarked toys, many bear enough of a resemblance for viewers to identify and relate to them.

The messages of the Toy Story movies are meaningful too -- they are stories about friendship, love, looking out for one another, and finding one's purpose in life.

But for all that, there's something in my favourite of all the Toy Story movies, Toy Story 2 (my favourite because it brings us Jessie and Bullseye, as well as a brief shot of a Breyer-like collection of plastic horses) that troubles me.

The trouble is the portrait it paints of the adult toy collector, Al, of Al's Toy Barn.

Al McWhiggin (did you know his last name is McWhiggin?  I didn't until I looked it up!) is not the type of owner the toys want to have.  As toys, they want to be loved and they want to be played with -- their purpose, as they see it, is to bring happiness to children.  That is, after all, what makes the Mint in Box (MIB) Old Prospector toy from Toy Story 2 so bitter -- he's never been removed from his package so he was never played with and never loved.

I do love my model horses, but in ways I don't like to think about, I am Al.  
Al image courtesy of Disney/Pixar
What bothers me about being Al is not that I hurt the feelings of my toys (I'm not that crazy).  What bothers me is that I get joy out of collecting and displaying them, and that's not really what toys are meant for.  As the Toy Story movies declare over and over again: toys are meant to be played with. 

Now Al (a.k.a. "The Chicken Man") is not a sympathetic character.  Not only is he a toy collector, but he steals toys he cannot buy and has amassed his collection primarily for the purpose of selling it.

And Al does have an impressive collection.  I could easily see myself doing the same thing with say, a collection of Lone Ranger toys, or a collection of Black Beauty memorabilia.  And who's to say if, despite his mercenary intentions, Al doesn't have a childhood connection to the "Woody's Roundup" program that started him collecting all the "Woody's Roundup" toys in the beginning?
Does this make me an "Al"?
I guess I would feel better about amassing a collection of toy horses if there was a child in my family I could pass the toys on to, but there is not.  Not only are there no children of a suitable age, but I am the only person in my family, in fact the only person in all of my extended family -- living or dead -- who is at all horsey.

I can't say how I came to be the only one, but I have loved horses for as long as I can remember.  I've no idea what started it -- it's just something that's always been.  Perhaps it was the wooden rocking horse I had as a child.  My older sister and brother had both rocked on it before me, but it was a sturdy beast and was perfectly functional by the time it was my turn to go riding.  I can't think of any other horse in my life earlier than that one, but it seems a small platform to build a lifelong obsession upon.

But back to being Al.  Although my shelves full of Breyers do sometimes make me feel guiltily "Al-ish," I don't get the same feeling from my collection of clinkies.  Perhaps this is why I'm so attracted to fragile horses.  Clinkies, after all, are meant to be displayed and not played with, so by putting my porcelain ponies out in a cabinet get ogled I'm only doing what any clinky collector would do.
How about this?
Still, I like to share my toy horse stories and the only good way I have to do that is to line them up on shelves in much the same way as I do my clinkies.  I do sometimes try to steer visitors away from the "horse room" (a.k.a. my office) if the dust situation in there is too bad, but I like it best when people come in and ask questions about all the toys I have and why I have them.  So it's not like I'm at all ashamed of my hobby -- it's just that I sometimes wish I could pass on my love for and knowledge about my hobby horses to a suitable child.

As participants in this hobby all of us -- collectors, conservationists, record keepers, restorers, sculptors, customizers, tack and prop makers, showers, judges, writers, social media mavens and entrepreneurs -- have a part to play in building and maintaining what is rapidly turning out to be an impressive legacy of model horse lore.

That, above all else, makes me proud of what we do.  We aren't really Als: we're more like the Disney/Pixar Toy Story team.  Together, through all the different things we do, we use our talents and imaginations to bring our toys' story to life.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Taking Stock

Now that we're getting into the last month of year, I thought it was a good time to stop and take stock of what I've done with my collection this year.  Despite my oft-declared intention to downsize, I think I ended up adding more horses to my collection than I subtracted.  Mind you, I didn't bother to keep track of all the horses I sold or traded away in 2019, but considering the fact that, if you factor in a few horses that I've ordered but have not come in yet, I've added (gulp) 71 new horses to the collection in 2019, I kind of think that the buyer is beating the seller hands down.

I was actually surprised when I added them all up -- I didn't realize what I'd been up to all year.  Now, I do have a few excuses to make myself feel a little better.  Out of the 71 new faces, 16 were acquired through trades, or as part of a gift exchange, which is really just another method of trading.

Of the 55 remaining horses, 14 were Traditional scale or larger, 8 were around Classic scale, 28 were between Little Bit and Stablemate scale, and 5 were Micro scale.  That means that at least I'm conserving space a bit by buying small.
Breyer Traditional purchased in 2019
In terms of variety, from the 71 total I acquired 56 Breyers or Breyers by CollectA, 5 assorted clinkies, 4 Hartlands, 3 Stone Horses, 2 Schleich, and one resin.

Looking at that, the first question I ask myself is: why so many Breyers?  There's at least two good answers to that question.  One involves the fact that I was a member of two of the Collector Clubs this year -- the Premier Club and the Stablemate Club.  Those two alone account for 11 new horses, four of them Traditional size.

The other answer is simpler still -- I buy so many Breyers because it's easy to buy them.  Hartlands are relatively rare, Stone Horses are relatively expensive, clinkies are fragile and many sellers are reluctant to ship them, Schleich are cute but a little shy on realism, and resins have never really appealed to me.
Stone DAH Chip purchased in 2019
Before you could buy Breyers online they were a little bit harder to get.  You had to find a dealer you could trust, and all the collectors out there had their own ideas about who was the best dealer -- whether it was because of the personal service they offered, or their generally low prices, or loyalty discounts, or willingness to ship internationally.  With so many options out there, it was easiest just to choose one dealer and stick with them.  For me it was Bentley Sales Company -- the first dealer I was introduced to.  I tried a few others based on friends' recommendations, but my best experience was always with the Bentleys, so I cast my lot with them.

All that changed once Breyer became an online retailer.  There are plenty of good online retailers out there, but if you want a model horse as soon as it's become available, or something available only as a Breyer web special, you have to stop at the Breyer shop.  And because their shipping charges are based on the cost of the models you purchase as opposed to the weight of the box used to ship them in, the only way to make the postage work in your favour is to order to the max of the particular increment into which the one model you really want falls.  This means buying something like $20 worth, $50 worth, $100 worth, or $150 worth of models and so on in $50 increments until you buy over $400 worth of models, after which you've reached max postage.

The largest amount I've ordered so far has been in the $200 increment, which happened when a Premier Club model came out at the same time as a couple of other things that I wanted went on sale.
Breyer Blind Bag Stablemate purchased in 2019
I'm not proud of that, but it makes my point -- buying Breyers is just too easy.

So now, as I take stock, I have to ask myself two more questions.  One is: am I done yet?  With a couple of other Breyer "deals" expected to drop this month -- specifically, the Collectors Appreciation Day when you might get a regular run matte model glossed for free if you buy $125 worth of product, and the Christmas surprise model, which is normally a seasonally-themed decorator offered to collectors on Christmas morning -- will I be able to resist buying horses for the remainder of the year?

Right now, when my resistance is strong, I think I can go without ordering any more Breyers this year.  But who can say what will happen when the time comes?

The second serious question I have to ask myself is: what am I going to do next year?  I've pretty much already decided to rejoin the Stablemate Club, so that's 6 new Breyers plus whatever I have to buy to make the most of their postage.  Then, if I go for the deluxe Collector Club membership, that's a 7th Breyer.  On the plus side, they're all Stablemates.  But still, that's 7 new Breyer horses committed to before the year even starts.
Breyer Stablemate Club Horse purchased in 2019
One good thing about Breyers is that, just as they are easy to buy, they are also pretty easy to sell.  So having a collection that's largely composed of Breyers is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think it's pretty safe to say that they are the most popular model horse brand in North America, at least.

But to return to the question: will I buy so many Breyers in 2020, or will I try to cut down?  Knowing that this is going to be a big year for Breyer, since they're already hyping the 70th Anniversary angle, I have my doubts that I'm going to be able to put up much of a fight.

All I can say is that I hope that I don't get so sucked in by the marketing that I end up buying more than I'm happy with at the end of the year.

I like all the horses I purchased in 2019, but I don't like the fact that I purchased so many of them.  So I know it's a bit early, but after taking stock I'm prepared to make a New Year's resolution.  I resolve to buy fewer model horses in 2020.

Check in with me this time next year and I'll tell you how I did.