It may come as a surprise to collectors old and new that the topic of Breyer eyewhites is a little more complicated than it appears. Rather than being a relatively new feature on Breyer models, eyewhites have been appearing on Breyer models, on and off, since the 1950s.
Hand painted eyewhites first appeared in the late 1950s to compliment models such as the Clydesdale Stallion and the Arabian family sets. Translucent white paint was hand-applied with two brush strokes in the back corner of each eye. As Breyer expanded its line in the 1960s with molds such as the Running Mare and Fighting Stallion, they also received eyewhites.
For a brief time in the mid-1960s, Breyer experimented with a slightly different style of eyewhites: the eyeball was painted white first and the black pupil was then painted on top of it, creating a crisp, masked look. These can be seen on early examples of models such as the Pacer, Man O' War, and the Grazing Mare and Foal.
These early eyewhites were phased out by the late 1960s, probably to cut costs and streamline production. It wouldn’t be until the 1980s that eyewhites would reappear – first on limited edition and special runs, and eventually on many regular run items. Most larger-scale Breyer models produced today have painted eyewhites to make them more life-like and expressive.
Many collectors prize Breyers bearing these old style eyewhites, because they represent the earliest examples of their kind. Although the appearance of eyewhites is a good indicator of age, not all old models from the 1960s sported them. For example, most white or alabaster models were not produced with eyewhites, primarily because they would not have been visible. With the exception of a few models such as the Texas Longhorn Bull and the Walking Black Angus Bull, most of Breyer's non-horse models did not have eyewhites.
While these old-style eyewhites can contribute to the value and desirability of an older model, they should be considered more of a desirable addition than an absolute necessity. For example, take the old Breyer Racehorse: just because he never came with eyewhites certainly hasn't deterred collectors from wanting him anyway!