Breyer Animal Creations
Breyer Animal Creations (or just Breyer), a division of Reeves International, Inc, is a manufacturer of model animals. The company specializes in models made from cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, and are best known for their model horses, but has branched out into porcelain and resin horse figures as well. Breyer began producing models of dog breeds in the 1950s and other domestic animals such as cats, farm yard animals, and wildlife in the 1960s. The company also produces model tack accessories, such as stables, barns, and grooming implements.
Since 1990, the company has held a model horse festival for model horse collectors called Breyerfest at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Breyer also hosts several other events in other parts of the country, such as Breyer Fun Days, special invitation only events, and model horse shows. Breyer also publishes a quarterly magazine called "Just About Horses".
Breyer Animal Creations was founded in 1950 in Chicago, Illinois, originally called Breyer Molding Company. They gained recognition when the company was commissioned by F.W. Woolworth to create a horse statue (now known as the # 57 Western Horse) to adorn a mantel clock. The horse was approximately 1:9 scale and the model was retained as payment for molding the parts. Orders began to roll in for the horse only and the Breyer Animal Creations company was founded. Since then, Breyer has become a leader in producing model horses.
In 1984, Reeves International acquired Breyer Animal Creations and spent the next 20 years completing its transformation from toy distribution to manufacturing. Today, Breyer remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Reeves International. Model horses are sold through independent distributors and the Breyer website.
There are six basic scales of Breyer horse models:
- Traditional: 1:9 scale (each model is around 8" H × 11" L)
- Classic: 1:12 scale (dollhouse; about 7" H × 5" L)
- Ponies/Pony Gals: same as Classics
- Paddock Pal 1:24 scale(about 6 inches to 4 inches) - Now retired.
- Little Bits (about 4.5" to 5" tall)
- Stablemates: 1:32 scale (about 7 cm H × 6 cm L)
- Mini Whinnies: 1:64 scale (each "adult" horse is only one inch tall)
As of 2008, the Ponies line has been replaced with a similar line titled, "Pony Gals". The line differs from other Breyer products in that the models have brush-able manes and tails and may have jointed heads, necks, and legs, and are marketed towards younger children.
Each horse is cast in a two-piece mold. Both halves are then put together and the seams are sanded and polished. Markings and color patterns are usually obtained by using a stencil known as a mask, although most older models were airbrushed by hand, with markings such as undefined socks or a bald face merely left unpainted. Most detailing, such as eye-whites (common on 1950s and 1960s models and is now enjoying a resurgence in modern models), brands, or other individual markings are painstakingly hand-painted. Sometimes, a variation in the paint job occurs. A variation is a difference, usually in the paint job, of one or a minority of a model as they came from the factory. The reason for variations is rarely known. For example, there is a common mold typically called the Proud Arabian Stallion (abbreviated PAS by collectors). For many years it was produced by Breyer with a dappled gray coat and a gray mane, tail and hooves. However, for some unknown reason a few of these models came from the factory with black manes, tails, and hooves, and black socks or stockings. These special, rare models are considered variations of the Dapple Grey PAS model and are very valuable compared to the regular model, which is quite common.
Breyer uses a number of different molds, with most molds having been released in several colors. For instance, there is a commonly used mold referred to as the Family Arabian Stallion (so popular that it is known as "FAS" to collectors). Breyer has released runs of this mold in a multitude of different coat colors with various markings and details such as socks and blazes, appaloosa blankets, even Native American paint decorations since its original production in 1956. Models may also have different finishes, such as matte or glossy. Each version of a particular mold is considered a separate model, and is almost always given a number and name. In certain instances, however, some models do not receive a number—these may be known as "special runs". New molds are often introduced, and old ones are sometimes "retired"—not created anymore—or even accidentally broken or lost.
The coloring and marking variations are infinite, of course, and include all the variations found among actual horses. Breyer also releases models in more unrealistic colors--"decorator models"—such as "wedgewood blue". Some decorators are painted Copenhagen or filigree, which is much like small spotted paint splotches all over the body and they are usually light blue or gold. Several decorator models have scenes and images painted on them, and even a few have been cast in a translucent form of cellulose acetate to look like blown glass. The company recently introduced a metallic "two-color" paint with a very flashy effect. Models painted with this paint are typically limited edition.
Collector value of products
A particular model horse can be graded, or valued, in several ways, depending on the purpose of the grading scale.
Unlike some collectible toys, Breyer horse packaging does not generally affect the model's value. Unfortunately, there have been some issues with pre-2000s packaging, in which if a model is left in the box for an extended period of time, the box can actually cause harm to the horse's finish due to rubbing of the horse's paint on the sides of the box or on the plastic ties binding it to the packaging, therefore diminishing the model's value.
Common flaws in used models are scratches, rubs, breaks (ears, tails, legs), seam splits, bent legs, yellowing, and so on, which come from use or careless storage. Other flaws come from the factory, such as very slightly off-target painting or slightly sloppy detailing, badly sanded seams, or bent legs (from improper cooling). Some flaws from the factory are considered variations and are sought after by collectors as rare oddities.
The rarity of the model is the other primary method of judging collectibility and value. A model can be defined as rare if was released for a short time period a long while back, so there are not many left in circulation, or if it was released in very limited numbers. The most extreme cases of this are the very few Breyer releases that are one-of-a-kind (OOAK), which are always given out as prizes or sold off at auction for charity at the yearly Breyerfest gatherings. These horses are by far the most coveted and highly valued model horses.
Model horse shows are a way for collectors to show off their models' rarity. In a show, a model is described as being one of two grades: Live Show Quality (LSQ) or Photo Show Quality (PSQ). LSQ means that the horse and all tack accurately depict the real animal and must be in good enough condition (considering flaws from the factory as well as from use) to be inspected on all sides. PSQ is less demanding, since both horse and tack can be seen from only one side in the photo and close examination is not possible. Therefore, the standards of condition and realistic appearance are not quite as high.
Another branch of the model horse hobby is customizing, in which a single model is remade in some way, making it unique. Sometimes models are simply repainted or have patterns etched in their existing paint (appaloosa blanket or paint horse markings for instance), while other models are repositioned by being heated and then shaped. In the most drastic cases the artist will completely re-sculpt the model, cutting body parts away, repositioning and reattaching them, and re-painting and finishing them. Breyer models are popular candidates for customizing, due to their inexpensiveness and ability to be easily obtained.
Depending on how well the customizing was done, how well-known the artist is, and how attractive the results are, these special, one-of-a-kind models can sometimes sell for thousands of dollars.
BreyerFest was first held in 1990, and from then on it has been held annually in July at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. This is a three-day festival for model horse fanatics. During this three-day period, attendees can buy models, sell their own, or trade with others, purchase specially-run Breyer models sold only at this particular event, and participate in huge model horse shows. There are also classes that teach how to paint, customize, and repair models, and lectures on collecting and judging models. Special guests of honor, usually renowned trainers and famous horses, are also present and perform for the attendees, and each year at least one real horse upon which a model has been based on is in attendance so that Breyer fans can see the inspiration behind the model. There are tours of Lexington horse farms and racetracks, a huge nightly Breyer trade fair among all the open rooms up and down the halls of the main hotel, and one huge official "swap-meet" in the ballroom. At the Breyer facility, silent auctions for special edition models are held. Bids can go up to at least $1,000 per model and often much more. There is also a 'Celebration Horse' every year, which is usually a famous horse that a model is made after. The model is included in the purchase price of a 3-day ticket. Each of the festivals has a different theme: Breyerfest 2009 was called 'Birthday Bash' (as it was Breyerfest's 20th anniversary), Breyerfest 2010 was called 'Lights, Camera, Action!', as it was based on movies as a theme, and Breyerfest 2011's theme was Fairy-tales. The 2012 theme was British Invasion. It was based on the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Just About Horses (JAH) is Breyer's model horse magazine. Six issues a year, this is the most popular model horse magazine in America. Subscriber benefits include membership to the Breyer collector club, access to rare, limited-edition models, sneak peeks into Breyer releases and events, chances to win models in contests, and so on. The magazine is now forced to go out of print, due to the fact that bimonthly magazine has grown expensive to produce. The last issue will be published in the fall of 2011[dated info] as a big finale. JAH has claimed that they will continue the magazine online to people who subscribed.
"Breyer Molds and Models: Horses, Riders, and Animals" by Nancy Young is an encyclopedic tome on models made by Breyer from 1990-1997 (fifth edition). It includes information on production runs and colors, mold marks and variations, Breyer catalogs, tack, stickers, lamps, clocks, and much more. Though no new editions have been released, this book is the most informative one available on the history and minutiae of Breyer models.
The "Breyer Animal Collector's Guide" by Felicia Browell (and others, in the later editions) is essentially a price guide featuring photographs of most of the models released by Breyer as well as values for them based on average selling prices.
- Verdon, Joan (December 11, 2003), "New Jersey Maker of World's Favorite Model Horses Continues to Go Strong." Knight Ridder/Tribune. Accessed November 2012. (subscription required)