Wednesday, 8 April 2020

A Different Kind of Rarity

Probably the most potentially expensive of all the horses I received in my 2020 Collectors Club (CC) Grab Bag was the 2016 Breyerfest Special Run "Namid."  Judging from the sales that traditionally follow most Breyerfests, the Celebration Horse itself is the usually the least expensive on the secondary market, with the Pop-Up Shop and Store Specials commanding slightly more money, and the Special Runs (particularly the Special Run Surprise Horses) costing the most.

In my CC Grab Bag I received one Celebration Horse, both a Stablemate and a Classic Store Special, and one Breyerfest Special Run -- "Namid."
My Breyerfest 2016 matte "Namid"
Granted, "Namid" is not the most popular horse with collectors today.  The mold, known either as the Mustang Mare or by her initial release name, "Forever Saige," seems to have more vocal detractors than fans.  That being said, I do know of a few fans who, if not vocal, are truly in love with the mold.

The primary objection to the mold seems to be the way the mare is holding her head high in the air, making her neck look unusually long.  Although you can see horses making this same gesture when they are startled and ready to bolt, are trying to avoid a bit or bridle, or scenting something wafting high in the air, in real life the moment is usually brief, so it looks a bit odd when frozen in time.

I call her "Tangi," the Oshiwambo word for "Thank you"

Although designed to represent an American Mustang, it turns out that "Forever Saige" does make a really decent Namib Desert Horse.  The Namibian horse is now considered an official breed, although the horses themselves are all feral horses of uncertain origin and breeding.  

Theories abound about how they can to be, but the most amazing thing about these horses is how they have adapted to survive in the harshest of conditions.  There's a reason why there are no native horses in Southern Africa -- the conditions are just not good enough to allow horses to thrive.  As a result, the Namib horses are surviving, but only just.  The latest estimates put the entire population at between 90 and 150 individuals, and while a population of 200 would be better for genetic diversity, the environment simply cannot sustain so many horses.

This long clip from CNN's Inside Africa (about 25 minutes long) tells you almost everything you need to know about the Namib Desert Horse.  Wikipedia, although not a source I would always recommend, does a good summary of the conclusions drawn in other articles about the Namibian horses that you can find on the net. 

Clearly, the Namib Desert Horse is a different kind of rarity than that model horse fanciers usually talk about.  In fact, the Breyerfest 2016 output of 1,600 models (800 glossy and 800 matte) far outnumbers the population of actual Namib Desert Horses in the world.

I can find no evidence that the Namibian horses have ever been re-domesticated, as many American Mustangs are.  This is probably because of their extreme rarity and fragility as a population.  It is noteworthy, though, that the existing horses seem to most experts to be very healthy and to have, about the head especially, the look of a well-bred saddle horse.

In fact, it's really only the head that keeps "Namid" from being a perfect Namib Desert Horse.  Her head is a bit coarse, as befits a Mustang, but in all other ways, from her dark, dark bay colour to her "athletic, muscular, clean-limbed, and strong boned" body with "oblique shoulders and good withers," she fits the defining characters of the Namibian horse.

Although, as I say, my "Namid" is possibly the most expensive horse I got in my CC Grab Bag, I'm glad that I have no wish to sell her.  The fact that she was a leftover, coupled with the fact that she is not a really popular mold, will probably work against her for resellers.  I've seen a few appearing on eBay since the bags were shipped, and I haven't seen any of them sold, yet.

But for someone like me, who's only ever been to one Breyerfest and is usually put off by after-market prices, "Namid" is a rare piece in my collection indeed.  And although I wasn't sure this was going to happen, I have to say, I'm a fan.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

What a Difference a Bay Makes

As I think I've mentioned before, I have a fair number of Breyer porcelains but not so many Breyer resins.  Those that I do have, like the three horses of the Equine Art Collection, and "Bull in the Heather" (who arrived with his finish so damaged he is currently undergoing customization), are all fairly small -- approximately Little Bits size, I'd guess.

But the other day I was browsing an online estate sale and came across one of the larger Breyer resins who for one reason or another really took my fancy.  The price was right so I put in a bid and with no other bidders he soon was mine.
Breyer's "Chesterfield" resin.
I really knew next to nothing about the "Chesterfield" resin, or indeed about any of Breyer's larger resins, before I bought one.  For one thing, I had always assumed that those horses who had wooden bases were attached to those bases -- that's the Beswick collector in me, I guess.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I found that I could easily display "Chesterfield" without his base.

I was also not at all prepared for his gigantic box.  I've saved all the boxes for my porcelains as they will make excellent shippers when and if I decide to sell those horses.  I'm going to save the box for "Chesterfield" as well, but at this point I'm not sure where exactly.  It doesn't stack up nicely with all my porcelain boxes.  Also, while I did get the picture box for "Chesterfield" I didn't get his protective fitted cardboard box, and you really need to two of them to ship Breyer porcelains safely.

Before I found him in the estate sale, I'd never really given much thought to "Chesterfield," mostly because I thought he was affixed to his base.  I was aware of his prior release as "Silver Lining" in 2000 and I wasn't all that impressed with "Silver Lining" -- I could never get past his weird stripey legs.

"Chesterfield" has a much more attractive paint job, and if there ever was a case of colour making a world of difference on a model horse it's the case of "Silver Lining" and "Chesterfield."

Aside from its colour, I find the sculpture itself very attractive.  I seem to remember hearing or reading a rumour at the time of "Silver Lining's" release that the sculpture was a rejected prototype for "Lonesome Glory," another Kitty Cantrell sculpture released in 2000.  It would make sense, if true.  Both molds show an alert, racing-fit Thoroughbred on his toes as if dancing to the starting gate in a post parade.  Although it's easy to see both as a flat racer, they both also have the distinctive lanky but powerful look of the steeplechaser, which is "Lonesome Glory's" claim to fame.  And since the resin sculpture didn't make the cut to represent the great steeeplechaser in plastic, the "silver lining" would be his appearance as a limited edition resin.
Breyer's "Afleet Alex" -- Do you see the family resemblance?
"Silver Lining" and "Chesterfield" are the only two releases I'm aware of for this mold.  Seems a pity, since even though we already have "Lonesome Glory," we could have endless variations of "Silver Lining/Chesterfield" in plastic.  A porcelain release would be welcome as well.  Perhaps even a shrinky?  Given the direction that Breyer is going in these days, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Rearing Stallion Mystery

When I took a closer look at my new Breyerfest 2013 "Nocona" Rearing Stallion, I noticed to my surprise that he has the "B stamp" on one hind leg.
If you look closely you can spot the B stamp on "Nocona"

I had always thought that the B stamp was removed from all the Breyers that got it during the 1970s oil crisis years.  At this time Breyer was experimenting with different kinds of plastics and, the theory goes, the B stamp was added to horses made with the new batch to prevent them accidentally being reground with old batches of plastics should they fail to work out.

However, after having done a little research (primarily on the Breyer History Diva's blog page), I discovered that the Rearing Stallion is notorious for not having had his B stamp removed. 

You've got wonder why.  The Rearing Stallion has been released in approximately 17 new colours and patterns since the 1970s.  You can see the B stamp on the rear right hock of this one from 2005, the Pisces horse from 2015, and the portrait of Cloud in the current Cloud's Legend set.  I've no doubt it appears on others as well, I just don't have access to any pictures of them.

However, when it became necessary for Breyer to remove the U.S.A. stamp from their horses when production was shifted to China, the Rearing Stallion duly lost his U.S.A.  My 2013 "Nocona" doesn't have one.  He has the old round Breyer Molding Co. stamp and the peculiar B stamp, and that's it.
The round Breyer Molding Co. stamp, no U.S.A.
Again, I find myself wondering why Breyer wouldn't remove the B stamp at the same time they removed the U.S.A. stamp.  True, they're on opposite legs, but it seems like it would be simple enough to modify both halves of the mold at once.  Of course, I don't actually know very much about the injection molding process or the maintenance of the molds themselves, so there might be a perfectly obvious reason for doing one leg and not the other that I'm simply not seeing here.
It's difficult to see, but the B stamp is there inside the circle.
The result, of course, is that you can't rely on the presence of a B stamp to accurately date your Rearing Stallions the way you can with those models who had the B stamp removed at the end of the B stamp era.

This is the essence of the Rearing Stallion Mystery -- why him?  Is his B stamp just too difficult to remove?  Are there other molds out there who never lost their B stamp either?  If so, what, if anything, do they have in common?
"Nocona" is a shaded grey and not black, which accounts for the light belly.
I don't suppose I'll ever know if it was something to do with the mold that resulted in the Rearing Stallion keeping his B stamp, but more research should reveal whether or not there are other models also still carrying the B stamp out there.  Do any of my readers know of any?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks!

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Ghosts of Breyerfests Past

Well, I'm actually pretty glad that I jumped on Breyer's Collector Club Grab Bag this year.  They didn't exactly sell out right away, but they were sold out within six days and the bag that I ordered (#3) sold out even earlier than that.

Just as in 2016, I happened to choose the bag that was actually the best for my tastes.  I know, more or less, what was in all the other Grab Bags now, and if I had to choose between them I would still have chosen #3.
Most of the stuff in Grab Bag #3
There were a number of differences between the 2016 offers and the 2020 ones.  In 2016 the bags included Breyer tack, props, and Christmas ornaments.  In 2020 the bag is almost all horses, with the exceptions of the Enchantmints Music Box and the 2020 Breyer Calendar that appeared in each bag (at least one of which I will be giving away).

In fact, five similar items appeared in each of the four bags.  Every bag contained one Breyerfest 2018 "Hands Down" Stablemate, one Series One Mystery Stablemate Blind Bag, one Series Two Mystery Mini Whinny Blind Bag, a 2020 Calendar, and a Music Box (any variety).

The Music Box did surprise me a bit, as I would have thought that Breyer knew its Collector Club audience tends to skew to an older demographic.  But perhaps they were thinking of parents and grandparents who might have a child to regift the box to.  At any rate, with a retail price of approximately $25 to $30 U.S., it does take up a significant chunk of the value in the bag.

The Music Box was, indeed, the only thing that really disappointed me in my box, and that's ironic because I was actually looking forward to getting another one.  I got one in a previous holiday-themed Grab Bag, and I have found it very useful for holding my Mini Whinnies all in one place.  However, my current box is full to overflowing, so I was hoping to get another horse-themed one to add to it -- even the unicorn or the pegasus box would have done.

Unfortunately, I got a Ballet Shoes Music Box.  I had a ballerina music box as a small child when my parents were still hoping to make a dancer out of me.  That never happened, and the sight of a ballerina music box now brings back unhappy memories of me fighting my parents on the subject of dance lessons.  But this Enchantmints box is bigger and deeper than my old one, so I might hang onto it anyway.  I sure would have preferred the similar Butterfly Music Box though.

The most noticeable change between the 2016 Collector Club Grab Bag and the 2020 one is in the number of Breyerfest horses included in the bags.  In 2016, I got one Breyerfest set (technically two horses, but boxed together so they count as one).  In 2020, I got four Breyerfest horses.  In fact, I think most of the other bags got four as well (the possible exception being bag #2, which had at least three).

My ghosts of Breyerfests past included: the 2018 "Hands Down" already mentioned, the 2017 Celebration Horse "Nazruddin," the 2016 Special Run "Namid," and the 2013 Pop-Up Store "Nocona."
My Ghosts of Breyerfests Past
I love all of them, and I think they'll all be keepers.  If I happen to get a glossy "Khalid" as my May Collector Club Appreciation horse, I'll have to decide whether I want to keep both or sell either "Nazruddin" or "Khalid," but that's a decision for another day, if I even have to make it at all.

"Nocona", too, is not generally my sort of decorator, but I suspect he's going to grow on me as I have a real fondness for the little Rearing Horse.

Other horses in my bag included the just-discontinued "Protocol" set, the 2019 Horse of the Year "Malik," the unicorn "Serafina," the Spirit Riding Free "Boomerang and Abigail" small set, and the 2017 Stablemates Collector Club "Zahrat."

In fact, "Zahrat" and the 2020 Calendar are the only two items in my Grab Bag that I already have.  But "Zahrat" is a beautiful glossy Arab, so I don't think I'll have any trouble selling him, and the 2020 Calendar will be given to one of my friends who will appreciate the pretty pictures.

I added up the retail prices of all the items I received in my Grab Bag and it came to approximately $319 U.S.  The Breyerfest Celebration Horse actually has no retail value, but Breyer is putting a value of $50 U.S. on this year's Celebration Horse, so that's the figure I used.

Since the bag itself cost about $150 U.S., I got a slightly greater than 50 per cent discount on all my stuff.  Even if you factor in the two items I might give away (which together retail at approx. $40 U.S.) the value of my goods remains $279 U.S., which is still significantly more than I paid.

So am I happy with my 2020 Collectors Club Grab Bag?  You betcha!  It was a real bargain, a nice surprise, and just the kind of pick-me-up I needed right now.

Now to find the shelf space I need ...