In case you missed it, as part of Breyer's 70th birthday celebrations, we're taking a stroll through Breyer history all year round on our social media channels! For April, we explored the totally tubular decade of the 1980s. The 80s were quite an iconic decade for Breyer - during this time, we saw the acquisition of Breyer by Reeves International and its move to New Jersey from Chicago, a plethora of new sculptures added to the lineup, and even a new scale of models introduced!
Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to catch up on our dive into the world of Breyer's racehorses from May, and be sure to grab your flannel and dial-up modem, because the 1990s are right around the corner in June!
One of the most unique curiosities of this decade was that of the "flockie." In the early-to-mid 1980s, the Riegsecker family of Indiana and their team designed and produced these models, which were covered in a fuzzy coating of flocking and had their plastic mares and tails removed and replaced with mohair. Horses produced as part of the "Breyer Miniature Collection" were often accompanied by dolls and vehicles also handcrafted by the Riegseckers.
Advertisements for flocked Breyer models and vehicles from the 1984 and 1985 Dealer Catalogs.
The 1980s also marked the rise of the "special run" model - these are Breyer models that are only available from certain dealers, events, and/or locations, rather than anywhere Breyer models are sold. Department store holiday catalogs were one of the first widespread sources to purchase special run models, and they often had at least a couple of exclusive styles available each year - some of which were flockies. Although most official Breyer flockies were made in realistic colors, a handful of these department store special runs were unrealistic - from pink, to blue, to unicorns and pegasi!
A selection of "fantastical" flockies - the blue "Pegasus Flying Horse" (1985 JC Penney SR), #701 Collector's Rocking Horse in original packaging, and black appaloosa "Our Rocking Horse" (1985 Sears SR).
Various department store special run flockies, including the 1984 JC Penney "Collector's Unicorn."
About a couple dozen flockie models were officially produced by Breyer in all during the 1980s, in both Traditional and Classics (1:12) scale. They have remained entirely a product of this decade, aside from a couple sets of BreyerFest 2001 special runs - three Stablemates and one Jack Russell companion animal were sold with a flockie finish (their manes and tails were also flocked, instead of being replaced with mohair). Flockies are certainly a fun novelty, and are highly-coveted by vintage Breyer fans!
These BreyerFest 2001 special run Stablemates, and Companion Animals Jack Russell Terrier, are the only official "modern" flockies that have been released.
The 1980s marked the rise of special and limited run Breyer models. By this time, a firm collector base had formed around the brand, and the model horse hobby and model horse showing were both in full swing. The brand was now fully committed to producing the world's most realistic model horses for both play and collecting.
In 1987, Breyer introduced its first official "limited edition" model to the regular line - a portrait model of the Paso Fino stallion Precipitado Sin Par that was limited to 1987 production only. Unlike today, "portrait" models made in the likeness of famous horses were few and far between in the 1980s, which made his release even more exciting! To make each model even more special, their eyes, hooves and nostrils were painted by hand with precision never before seen in Breyer production. "Cips" was the model who started the tradition of detailed limited edition pieces that still continues today.
The following year brought a portrait of champion Appaloosa mare Breezing Dixie into Breyer fans' herds, who still remains a favorite among many today, and the decade was rounded out in 1989 by a portrait of Abdullah, the world-famous show jumping Trakehner stallion.
Original sell sheets for Cips, Breezing Dixie, and Abdullah.
Eye and nostril detailing on Breezing Dixie and Cips models.
The tradition of portrait models being used for a yearly limited edition wrapped up in the early 1990s, but models limited to a single year of production can still be found in the regular line today. They include models like Breyer's yearly Holiday Horse, spring and fall decorators such as Crystalline and Prism, and special gift sets such as Protocol and Friends.
Cips and Abdullah in real life!
One of the most groundbreaking additions to the 1980s Breyer line was the Artist Series, a new initiative that brought three new sculptors and six new molds into the Traditional lineup from 1984 to 1987 - a feat never seen before!
Original advertisements for Artist Series models.
The series began with fan-favorite model Sham, sculpted by Rich Rudish, in 1984. Marguerite Henry published a fictionalized biography of the Godolphin Arabian titled King of the Wind in 1948, which sparked Sham’s popularity among horse literature fans. Rudish also sculpted Sham's mate from the novel, Lady Roxanna, who was released as part of the Artist Series in 1986.
Bob Scriver, known for his work in bronze celebrating the cowboy and the American West, sculpted Buckshot, 1985's addition to the series. Fun fact - his sculpture was named after the first horse registered in the Spanish Mustang Registry!
Jeanne Mellin Herrick also made her Breyer debut via the Artist Series with Sherman Morgan in 1987. A breeder, trainer,and exhibitor of Morgans, it's no surprise that her first piece for Breyer was of this classic American breed! Herrick went on to sculpt other late 80s/early 90s additions to the Breyer line such as the original Friesian and John Henry.
The complete Artist Series lineup: Secretariat (1987), Sherman Morgan (1987), Touch of Class (1986), Lady Roxanna (1986), Sham (1984), and Buckshot (1985).
Finally, the Artist Series also debuted the final two sculptures that master sculptor and mold-maker Chris Hess created for Breyer: Touch of Class in 1986, and Secretariat in 1987. Hess was originally trained in the tool and die industry, but began sculpting horses for the Breyer Molding Company in the 1950s in addition to his duties as a mold-maker. His dozens of sculptures provided the foundation of Breyer’s lineup in multiple scales, and made Breyer known worldwide for its variety of horse breeds and poses on offer. His influence in creating the Breyer world we know and love today cannot be understated.
These photos were taken during Chris Hess' visit to Touch of Class' stable, for research while sculpting her model. Touch of Class is on the left, and Chris is on the right.
With this being said, the Artist Series did usher in a new era of Breyer, where a variety of equine sculptors were brought on board to contribute their talents to Breyer's lineup and create offerings more diverse than ever before. Today, about a few dozen different artists from multiple countries have sculpted models for Breyer, all with different styles and artistic signatures!
1984 was a busy year for Breyer - along with the introduction of the Artist Series, as discussed above, this was the year that Little Bits were also introduced. Sculpted by Chris Hess in 1:24 scale, these seven sculptures provided Breyer fans with a size of models in-between Classics and Stablemates scale.
Little Bits introduced in the 1984 Dealer Catalog.
Little Bits also have the distinction of being the first Breyer line to be released with accessories at launch, in the form of Bitsy Breyer! Bitsy could be purchased with a variety of horses and riding styles, from Western riding to even a beach getaway with a fanciful Arabian stallion.
In the 1999, the line became known as Paddock Pals, welcoming a new generation of fans to the scale. Although not currently in production at the moment, unpainted Little Bits/Paddock Pals models can be found in Breyer's "My Dream Horse" painting craft kits, and make an excellent canvas for customizing!
A selection of original Little Bits models from the 1984 launch, including a Bitsy Breyer and Quarter Horse Western Set and a few models still packaged on their original cards.
The 1980s were a beloved decade for Breyer fans that brought a variety of new sculptures, special runs, and artistic techniques into the company. The 1980s also marked Breyer's move from Chicago to New Jersey when it was acquired by Reeves International, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of many fine toys. Our headquarters still remain in Pequannock to this very day!
Do you know what the inaugural model painted in Breyer's brand-new facility was? On July 8th, 1985, the very first Breyer model produced in New Jersey was finished - a No. 89 Traditional scale Black Beauty. How fitting for such an iconic model and literary character to mark a new era in the world of Breyer!
This "Invite a Horse Home" sales flyer for Black Beauty is an iconic piece of vintage Breyer advertising.