When you first enter the model horse hobby, it can be tempting to buy anything and everything in sight. The thrill of collecting is fun, but many of us are limited to a certain budget and/or space for our herd. Here are some things to keep in mind as you budget out your hobby purchases.
The first thing to do is sit down and think about your current collection and what you would like in the future There are so many choices out there in the model horse world, and this will allow you to prioritize what you want and recognize your own personal collecting style.
Do you want a small, selective collection? Do you prefer "conga lines," collecting each color made on a favorite mold, or would you rather have one great example of each mold? Are there certain horse breeds or types that you prefer? Do you live show or would you like to?
How important is condition to you? Does each horse have to be completely mint? Are restored horses acceptable? Think about your collecting habits. Is your collection a "black hole" or do you sell or trade horses easily?
Think about your favorite molds and the types of models that you like best. Nostalgic vintage models might be your favorite, or perhaps you prefer the flashy new molds and colors. The more you know about what you do and don’t like, the easier it will be to avoid impulse purchases and attain the models you really want.
Sit down and create a wish list. List the horses that you would like to own, the price range they normally sell for, and what you would be willing or able to pay. Be realistic, and recognize that some of the horses will be "dream" horses that are out of your price range. Get an idea of how much you will spend on models this year, and decide if you would be happier getting lots of cheaper models with that money, or just a handful of expensive horses.
Knowledge is key – if you don’t know everything you can about the models you like, variations on them, and their selling prices and trends, you might walk right by a great deal! Many online resources, such as eBay auctions or Facebook groups, will give you an idea of what things are selling for right now. Model values are cyclical, so if you know when to buy you can get good deals.
Join some online groups to talk with other collectors and learn more about the model horse hobby. No matter how long you have been in the hobby, there is always something new to learn! The more you know about what you collect and trends within the hobby, the easier it will be to stretch your dollars.
Trading is a great way to get your hands on that elusive model at less than market value. A good way to acquire models to trade is to predict what will be sought after, and then buy directly from the source. Recognize that if you are going to buy duplicates, you need space to store them, and sometimes you may have to hold onto a model for years for it to become sought-after. Also realize that you are speculating on the popularity of something in the future, and collectors are a fickle bunch, so you are going to be wrong sometimes. To protect yourself when trading, have references to give to the person you are trading with, and ask for references from them. Always buy delivery confirmation or tracking when you ship a model, and ask the other person to do the same. Trading horses may also lead to making new friends in the hobby.
For current regular run models, it can be a smart idea to find a good Breyer dealer and stick with them. Some dealers offer discounts on large purchases, or reward loyal customers in some other way. Check out the Store Locator on BreyerHorses.com to see if there is a dealer within driving distance of you. Many dealers also attend the horse expos, and will offer a large selection of models at reasonable prices there. Alternatively, you can shop the current range of models online at the BreyerHorses.com web store. Once these models are "retired," or discontinued, their prices will often go up as inventory becomes scarcer.
For new special run models, it is almost always cheaper to buy directly from the source and avoid the secondary market. Many special run models can be purchased online, so find out who is distributing the horse and deal with them. Many special runs are also released through the Breyer Collector Club, which you can join at any time during the year.
For discontinued models or older special runs, things get trickier. The classic haunts of the Breyer collector are antique shops, flea markets and garage sales. While good deals can still be found, beware of overpriced models, especially those that are very common and/or in poor condition. With the advent of smartphones, it's never been easier to do quick value checks before purchasing a model found "in the wild." The thrill of the hunt is still there, and the payoff can be worth it!
For a more reliable way to get that older model, check out eBay and other online sales pages. Cruising eBay can get you some great deals, but watch out for a few pitfalls – read the auction description carefully and remember to consider the cost of shipping on top of the asking price. Before you bid, set your personal max and do not exceed it, no matter how exciting the bidding gets! Another model will turn up eventually. Avoid uninformed impulse purchases – do your research! There are many misinformed sellers on eBay, and what one person calls "rare" may not be at all.
Online model sales pages and groups have thousands of people subscribed to them, and offer up a huge variety of models every day. If you keep watching, eventually the horse you want at the price you can afford is going to show up. Don’t be afraid to politely ask if the price is flexible – sellers are often willing to work with you. If you are interested in an expensive model, time payments may let you obtain that "holy grail" in manageable increments. Just make sure you can stand waiting, and follow through of your obligation.
If you don’t mind restored horses, sending your horse to a repair artist (or learning how to restore yourself!) can be a great way to stretch your money. For relatively common, cheap models, it is probably more cost-effective to make your own repair. If you find that rare model that needs some help, a professional restorer can turn your good find into a spectacular find! Just be sure to keep careful track of what has been restored on each model, because you must disclose this information when you sell the them. Remember that "restoration" just means repairing damage done to an original finish model. Any enhancements, such as added markings or shading, will make the horse a custom model and it will no longer be eligible to show alongside OFs. Also keep in mind that depending on the extent of repairs, a restored horse may not be allowed in the live show ring.
Another way to help support your model horse habit is to develop a hobby-related craft or service. Maybe you could become an awesome tack-maker, and trade your tack for models? Or maybe your restoration skills will gain attention, and the money you earn from that can supplement the money you have available for models? If this appeals to you, look into all the different aspects of the hobby – you will not only find your niche, you will also meet some great people!