Collector's Corner: Breyer Horses
By Juli Schwab
Breyer horses, made by Breyer Animal Creations, Reeves International, have always been very collectable toys. The Breyer Molding company started in the 1950s and made plastic molded horses and animals to adorn mantle clocks and lamps, making them into a Western motif for decorating. They discovered that youngsters were taking the horse models off the functional pieces and playing with them, so a whole new aspect for the plastic molding company opened up.
The models Breyer produced were of hard durable plastic (cellulose acetate) and could hold up to some of the hardest playing. They lasted and were a big hit. These toys were easily made and were priced in a range most all could afford. Soon consumers were demanding more colors of horses and more distinctly made breeds of the horse. Up until then the horses were of a generic breed and mainly brown, white, yellow or black.
Breyer found artists to do better figures, and so the models became more collectible. Although some were still wide sprayed, most had some details added by hand, most notably the "eye whites" around the iris of the eye, as opposed to all-black eyes. Nostrils were painted pink and hooves colored with highlights.
These traditions continue today, and some of the artists creating the new models have been with Reeves for several years. Collecting models created by specific artists is one way to narrow your collection. To collect every Breyer model in every color scheme would take quite a warehouse to hold!
Many of the very first models were made in the entire rainbow of colors, even blues and purples! Test runs were made of many "odd" horse colors, and this is another aspect of collecting to pursue, although they are very difficult to find. For example, a frost blue may have been painted on 20 Arabian Stallion models, and to get one today would be in the range of $1,000 because they are so rare.
Breyer horses are solid with a small "breathing" hole, usually in one or both nostrils. 99% of all Breyer molds have the Breyer Molding Co. logo or Reeves International logo on the inside of one of the back legs. Although the logo has changed over the years, using the logo is not always the way to tell if the horse is an old one, since horses made today may be made from old molds.
Condition is very important, but beginning collectors may start their collection with models that have been played with that show some wear and tear. Even with marks and scratches, if the color is the right one, it's still valuable. Even those horses with broken legs, tails and ears can be of value to someone. Also, if the color was only painted for a few years, then it would be worth more than if it is an average color that has been available for 10 years.
A whole new arena of collecting has broken out recently. Customizers are artists who take Breyer horses and change their appearance, maybe adding real hair to the mane and tail. So your old broken horse, with the appropriate pieces, is still worth a few dollars to the person learning to customize. If you can't find a horse in the collecting catalogs, this may be why. Educate yourself on each color used on the models you collect, and you will have no problem spotting the customized horses.
"Breyer Animal Collector's Guide, 3rd Edition" is a guide to Breyer animals http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1574322966/auctionbytescom. Yes, they actually make more than just horses, some of the early models included wide eyed kittens, cows, Bear and cubs, deer family.
Reeves does a good job keeping collectors informed with their five times a year magazine, JAH, Just About Horses. The magazine has the most up-to-date information available for new molds coming out and new color schemes for old molds. They also include articles about customizing and making tack to fit the models, plus a "blast to the past" feature about one model in each issue. (A collection of the magazine is also a must for Breyer horse collectors.)
Each year, a new catalog comes out of all the horse molds that will be available that year. If a collector can find all of the catalogs, they have no need of the collector books. These little catalogs can usually be found on the auction sites also.
The main event for all Breyer horse collectors is the BreyerFest in the summer in the heart of horse country in Kentucky. This is a week long event to promote Breyer horses, clubs, shows, and live horses. Children of all ages can come and learn about the collecting, care and handling of live horses and meet some of the artists. Usually one or more of the actual live horses is there that has been captured in plastic. What a thrill to see the actual horse and his mini counterpart!
About the author:
Juli Schwab has been a Breyer horse collector from an early age, her current tally is 250 models. Her goal is to own one of every mold ever made, a goal that will never be realized as long as Breyer Animal Creations is still producing. Juli is a first time writer for AuctionBytes.
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