They're fuzzy, they're funny, they're utterly fantastic – they're flockies! What began as one man's personal endeavor to create a realistic miniature six horse hitch eventually led to some of the finest collectible pieces ever produced for Breyer.
Mel Riegsecker brought the magic of handmade buggies, flocked horses, and picture-perfect harnesses to Breyer in the form of the Miniature Collection, introduced first as special run items in 1983, then later added to the regular line. These exquisite showpiece items, mounted on bases and covered with clear display cases, were on the costly side, decidedly aimed at “the discriminating miniatures collector.” Stand alone life-like horses and a series of fantasy equines and plucky rocking horses with flocked coats, haired manes and tails, glass eyes and painted hooves, came with more modest price tags.
Montgomery Ward offered the original “Open Top Buggy” in their 1983 Christmas catalog. Included in the set was a flocked chestnut Proud Arabian Stallion in a single horse harness, hitched to a “wood and metal horse buggy in yellow and Brewster green with pin-striped spoked wheels and cushioned posh velvet seat.” The horse, buggy, and clear display case top could be purchased individually or together. The following year, Ward offered collectors “Delivering the Goods,” featuring a Classics Keen model in flocked chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, blaze and three stockings. A porcelain doll drives the four-wheeled delivery wagon. That same year, JC Penney opted for perhaps the most appealing of all the sets: "Collector's One Horse Open Sleigh" (also known as "Those Wonderful Wintry Rides"). Limited to no more than 1500 pieces, this charming set contains the Classic Black Beauty mold, flocked and dappled. Within the sleigh, two little ceramic dolls are dressed for a winter drive from the hats on their heads to the lap robe across their knees. The cost then? $220!
In 1985, Montgomery Ward brought out the last of the special run Miniature sets. Presented as "Joey and His Pony Cart," the characters are Joey and Midge from Marguerite Henry's book, Our First Pony. The Merrylegs mold is flocked black and white pinto and is harnessed to a sulky. A doll driver completes the set. All of these delightful, Amish-made miniature wagons were fashioned of hard maple with metal wheels or runners. Each set was signed and numbered and included a certificate of authenticity.
The Breyer Miniature Collection made its regular catalog premiere in 1984.
Pictured is #19841, the "Open Top Buggy" (previously featured as the 1983 Ward's Christmas offering) with a specially dressed Brenda doll. Other sets listed are #19842, "The Doctor's Buggy" and #19843, "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." These last two sets were pictured in the 1984 collector's manual with the "Open Top Buggy"replaced by "Drive on a Sunny Day," a classic-scaled set with a chestnut flocked Johar and black buggy with yellow-spoked wheels. Brenda was replaced with a smaller ceramic lady. "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" became "Surrey to Church on Sunday" (called "Family to Church on Sunday" in the 1985 brochure). Bay flocked Duchess and Jet Run are paired under harness to a surrey (with fringe on top!) containing a family of four. "The Country Doctor" (known in 1985 as "The Doctor's Buggy") features a Classics Black Stallion model in flocked bay with three socks, and a distinctive buggy. The good doctor himself is only pictured in the 1984 manual. In 1987, "Joey's Pony Cart," #19845, and "Delivery Wagon," #19846, were added to the Miniature Collection.
From 1983-1986, Sears, JC Penney, and Montgomery Ward offered flocked horses in their Christmas catalogs. Included were a palomino Running Mare and Foal set and Misty and Stormy models flocked in their distinctive pinto patterns. The Clydesdale Mare took a turn as a bay flocked stallion several years running, sporting flowers in his mane and a banded tail. The model was sold with a removable white leather halter. A flocked bay Proud Arabian Stallion was sold with a similar halter. Two of the more unusual pieces in the flocked series were the JCP Circus horses. The "Rearing Circus Horse with Ringmaster" set included a white Fighting Stallion with white leather bridle and striped surcingle, red plume on his headstall and Ben Breyer in a ringmaster's outfit. This gift set was a pricey handcrafted item even in 1985, selling for $44.99. A flocked Legionario played the part of a high-stepping circus performance horse with red and white surcingle, white bridle and red plume. A circus ballerina (Brenda Breyer in tutu) posed on top.
JC Penney started the ball rolling in 1984 with Smoky the Cow Horse posing as a white flocked Unicorn with a gold and white striped horn. Fast on his heels was another Unicorn and a Pegasus the following year. This Unicorn Running Stallion and the Classic Lipizzan Pegasus were both flocked blue with sparkles—sure to attract the eyes of children. Other pieces designed for the younger set were the "Fanciful Mare and Pony" set, a Running Mare and Foal in flocked white with pink manes and tails. Four different Rocking Horses were also introduced. The 1985 Breyer catalog offered the "Collector's Rocking Horse," a flocked chestnut Saddlebred Weanling with amber glass eyes. Sears offered the more exciting "Our Rocking Horse," a black blanket Appaloosa with blue glass eyes and leather accessories. But it was JCP who offered the most startling pair: "My Favorite Rocking Horse" flocked in mauve and lavender with a dark lavender saddle, and "My Companion Rocking Horse" flocked white with pink hair and pink leather accessories. What a collection!
Fanciful fantasy flockies from the mid-1980s
Mel Riegsecke once remarked that the flocking process is "sort of like painting your car in the driveway on a windy day—all the dust sticks to it!" After the manes and tails were removed, the horse models were repositioned using a torch and a band saw. Automobile body filler was used to fill in large areas, and epoxy putty for the finer work. When the body was ready for flocking, a liquid adhesive would be applied to the area to be flocked. The rayon flocking, which was premixed to desired colors, was applied with a blow gun. If additional colors were needed, such as for pintos or white markings, the model would be allowed to dry for 24 hours. A new coat of adhesive would then be applied to the unflocked areas so the second color could be blown on. To create dapples, multiple colors of flock were mixed. Highlights and fine details were added with an airbrush. Finally, the eyes were finished and hair manes and tails affixed.
Behind the scenes at the Riegsecker workshop in the 1980s
There have been only a few Breyer-issued flockies produced since the Riegsecker releases of the 1980s. The Riegseckers customized many models that can be found on the secondary market. Though these are not official Breyer releases and considered custom models, they are collectible in their own right.
The most recent Breyer flockies were sold at BreyerFest 2001, when two separate flocked sets were sold as Special Run items. The first set contained a Stablemates G2 Arabian in chestnut pinto, and the Stablemates Cantering Foal in a buckskin blanket Appaloosa. The other flocked set has an adorable Jack Russell comapnion animal and a grey Stablemates G2 Morgan.
Flockies created for BreyerFest 2001
Sadly, flocked models are easily damaged. Dust tends to settle in the flocking, giving the white areas an overall grey appearance. The glue that bonds the acrylic fur manes and tails can separate from the model and discolor over time. Use a soft toothbrush to gently brush over the model’s body and hair to remove surface dust. To keep your flocked models in tip top shape, keep them away from dust and dirt. An acrylic display case can protect them from further damage. Finding a model in impeccable condition can be a difficult task!