“Decorators,” or models with unrealistic colors, are a common sight in today’s Breyer lineup, but that was not always the case. The first decorator models debuted over 50 years ago, and they were so unpopular that they vanished from shelves within a year. Now, however, they are among some of the most popular and sought-after vintage Breyer models.
The story of these models begins around 1964. From early in its history, the Breyer Molding Company recognized the value of their horse and animal models as both toys for children and pieces of décor. (A side panel from the boxes of late 1950s horse and rider sets reads “A colorful toy… a collector’s joy… an authentic room decoration for every girl and boy.”) By extension, it can be inferred that these unusually-colored horses were an experiment for that home décor market.
These models were not technically the first unrealistically-colored Breyers – woodgrain models had debuted in 1959, and had to be selling well. (The longest-running woodgrain model, the #931 Fighting Stallion, held out all the way through 1973.) If models that looked like they were made out of wood were so popular, surely some blue and gold models resembling fine china would be popular as well? As it turned out, that wasn’t the case.
The four “vintage decorator” colors are Copenhagen (glossy dappled blue), Wedgewood (matte solid blue), Gold Charm (glossy solid gold, sometimes referred to as “Golden Charm”) and Florentine (glossy dappled gold). Each color has four white socks, a bald face, and pinking on their ears, noses, and hooves. (This pink doesn’t always appear on these models today as it can be prone to sun-fading). Each of these four colors appeared on the following five Breyer molds:
#2031 Florentine Fighting Stallion
Original sales flyer for the Decorator series from approx. 1964
The decorator models were sold through both standard Breyer retailers and in some Christmas catalogs during the 1964 holiday season. Alas, they were a total flop. Many Breyer collectors who were children at this time have similar stories of their parents telling them, “No, choose something else. Why on earth would you want a blue horse?” It seems that sentiment was popular. Almost as quickly as they appeared, the decorators disappeared from store shelves. Some overstock was painted over to become “chalky” models in much more marketable colors, like buckskin and bay. After the end of the woodgrain series, Breyer stuck solely to realistically-colored models for many years.
Like a cult classic film, interest in the decorator models grew in the coming decades, especially as the model horse hobby began to take shape. With this interest came increased demand and value for these pieces, which continues to rise today. Eventually, Breyer took notice of this increase in popularity as well, and in 1990 the first vintage-style decorator in decades was released: a Florentine Misty, used as a raffle model at the very first BreyerFest. 21 pieces were produced, and proceeds benefitted the Misty of Chincoteague Foundation.
Throughout the 1990s more limited-run decorators were produced, such as a Gold Charm version of Man O’ War (1991), Malibu (1996), a Wedgewood Hackney, and Serengeti (1998), a Copenhagen Big Ben. This decade also saw the birth of a new decorator color inspired by the vintage style: Silver Filigree, which was a silver color painted with the splatter dapples of Copenhagen and Florentine. (Silver Charm, a silver version of Gold Charm, would debut in 2008). Other colors such as red, green, and electric blue have also been paired with this splatter dapple style in recent years.
In 2000, vintage-style decorators would be available in a substantial quantity for the first time since the 1960s. A set of Missouri Fox Trotter models in the four decorator colors, dubbed “Fanfare,” was created in celebration of Breyer’s 50th anniversary. Exclusively available to subscribers of Breyer’s Just About Horses magazine, these models were also one of the earliest examples of a “gambler’s choice,” where buyers wouldn’t know what color they’d receive until their package arrived.
Today, the vintage decorator colors are beloved by Breyer fans of all ages. They still make appearances fairly often – many times as part of the Breyer Vintage Club or as Breyer Collector Club or BreyerFest Special Runs. Decorators in general also have a very strong following – today, some Breyer fans collect unrealistic models exclusively. As for those vintage pieces, it’s still not unheard of to come across them at antique stores or estate sales, so don’t be afraid to go out on a hunt and try your luck! After all, you never know when you’ll strike gold... or blue.