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! February is the shortest month of the year, and understandably the month went by quickly. Time flies when you're exploring one of Breyer's most iconic decades: the 1960s! This is the decade where the Breyer Molding Company officially became Breyer Animal Creations, and the company's focus shifted squarely to its line of model horses and animals.
Although they weren't the first stickers used on Breyer models - that honor goes to the gold foil stickers of the late 1950s/early 1960s - the Blue Ribbon Sticker is perhaps the most iconic. The blue ribbon motif was a hallmark of early Breyer advertising, and Blue Ribbon Stickers assured buyers that they were purchasing a genuine Breyer Animal Creation.
The 1968 Collector's Manual (box catalog) and Dealer Catalog both prominently featured
blue ribbon motifs that match the Blue Ribbon Stickers put on models.
Two different styles of Blue Ribbon Stickers were produced. The "small" sticker, featured on the below matte alabaster Family Arabian Stallion, was used from around 1966-1968. These stickers feature "Breyer Creations" alongside the model's item number (in his case, #7). The "large" sticker was used from 1969 through the early 1970s, and also includes the model's name. Because these stickers are paper and therefore fragile, they can be quite difficult to find in tact! A model with a Blue Ribbon Sticker is a special piece of Breyer history.
Blue Ribbon Stickers have been recreated for most releases in Breyer's Vintage Club because of their iconic status! If you're interested in learning more about Blue Ribbon Stickers, check out our article on them here.
A #7 alabaster Family Arabian Stallion model sporting a small Blue Ribbon Sticker.
The model's matte finish (which debuted in 1967) paired with the small Blue Ribbon Sticker
dates him to either 1967 or 1968.
One of the most significant moments in Breyer history was the debut of Man O' War - the company's first "portrait model!" Although portrait models (models created in the likeness of a real life horse) make up a significant portion of Breyer's regular run Traditional lineup today, in the company's early days this was far from the case.
"TV's Fury," first released around 1957, was technically Breyer's first attempt at creating the likeness of a horse in plastic. However, the model produced bared little resemblance to the "Fury" featured on TV, and Fury himself was simply a character emblazoned on an equine actor, not a real horse with notoriety and achievements. Legendary Thoroughbred stallion Man O' War had the honor of becoming the very first Breyer portrait model of a non-fictional horse in 1967.
Widely considered one of the greatest racehorses of all time, it's no surprise that the first horse given this honor was "The Mostest Hoss That Ever Was!" Man O' War's Traditional model remained in production through 1995. He was also honored as a Classics (1:12 scale) model from 1975 to 1990, which was reissued in 2017 to celebrate what would have been "Big Red's" 100th birthday.
A "standard" Man O' War model, circa 1990s.
Early Man O' War models featured eyewhites and/or battleship grey hooves. Some also had Blue Ribbon Stickers. Like with many Breyer models who have had multi-decade production windows, there are many fun variations to collect! Other special Man O' War releases include a glossy version made for Sears in 1990, a Gold Charm decorator created for the 1991 BreyerFest raffle, and an updated version with a more accurate facial marking made in limited quantities for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY.
The only other horse to be honored with a portrait model in the 1960s was Adios, the champion harness racing Standardbred, whose model was released in 1969 and remained in production through 1973.
Glossy Man O' War (1990 Sears Holiday SR), Gold Charm Man O' War (BreyerFest 1991 Raffle Model),
and a "modern" take on Man O' War (2010 WEG reissue).
An exhaustive Man O' War collection courtesy of collector Laura Hicks!
Many fans of vintage Breyer models consider the crown jewels of the 1960s to be the vintage Decorators. These models, which were largely considered undesriable upon their release, have now become some of the most highly sought-after models in Breyer's history!
With the success of the Woodgrain series in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Breyer decided to branch out its unrealistically-colored offerings. Around 1963, Breyer debuted what are now known as the four "classic" decorator colors - Copenhagen (dappled blue), Wedgewood (solid blue), Gold Charm (solid gold, originally listed as "Golden Charm") and Florentine (dappled gold) - on five different molds: the Fighting Stallion, Mustang, Five Gaiter, and Running Mare and Foal. They were a flop, and were quietly discontinued by the end of 1964.
An excerpt from an original 1964 price list - back then, a decorator model could be yours for
two dollars and fifty cents!
Some Decorator models were even painted over with more profitable colors... like buckskin and bay! Painted-over decorators can be identified with a strong light that passes through a Breyer model's semi-translucent cellulose acetate plastic and reveals the dapples (or streaks, in the case of a Woodgrain) underneath, or if paint has chipped away to reveal the hidden treasure. These models are also rare and highly-desirable collector's pieces.
As time went on, the vintage Decorators became more and more legendary and their desirability skyrocketed. Breyer's first foray into reproducing these colors came in 1990 with the BreyerFest 1990 raffle model: a Florentine Misty. By the 2000s, the classic Decorator colors had been fully welcomed back into the Breyer fold.
In addition to the usual gold and blue, other colors have now been paired with their solid and dappled patterns, including bronze, red, green, silver, color-shift, and rose gold! The term "decorator" has also been adopted as a term to describe any Breyer model produced in an unrealistic color or pattern.
An original Wedgewood Running Foal, circa 1963-1964.
An assortment of modern decorator models displaying coats that are both recreations of the "classic" Decorator colors and newer takes on the original solid and dappled patterns.
Pam Mitchell shared this Wedgewood Five Gaiter with us on Facebook - he was a gift from her
mother on her 7th birthday and looks absolutely stunning for his age!
Traditional (1:9) scale is Breyer's longest-running scale for its models - at approximately 12" long and 9" high, creating models in this ratio was standard practice in the early days of the company.
Although the 1:12 scale Classics line didn't debut until 1973, 1:12 scale models came into existence over a decade before that! The Bucking Bronco (initially known as the "Bucking Horse") debuted in 1961, and the Rearing Stallion debuted in 1965. These half-pint stallions were initially listed as part of the regular Traditional line, despite being significantly smaller than their other counterparts.
Does the Rearing Stallion look familiar? Although he is a completely original sculpture, Chris Hess made him strikingly similar to the Traditional scale Fighting Stallion! The differences between the two are subtle - their legs are in slightly different positions, and the Rearing Stallion's face is a bit more dished.
Broncos initially only came in black and grey, but "Rex" the Rearing Stallion was a bit more colorful - he was often pictured alongside the Fighting Stallion and came in bay, palomino, and alabaster (listed as a "Lippizan" - unfortunately, spell check didn't exist in the 1960s!). Fun fact - "Rex" is the Latin word for "King," which is the name the full-scale Fighting Stallion was known as!
A Bentley Sales Co. Bronco and a bay "Rex" Rearing Stallion face off! Note the size difference
compared to the Traditional scale Mustang and Fighting Stallion in the background.
"King" and "Rex" pictured alongside each other in the 1968 Dealer Catalog.