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! In March, we focused on the 1970s. Breyer historian Nancy Young deemed this decade the "decade of diversity," and that moniker is quite fitting - the 1970s saw many new additions to the Breyer line, and was also the decade where the model horse hobby's roots flourished.
The 70s were a decade where Breyer packaging and presentation got a facelift from the simple brown shipping boxes of the 60s. The "Showcase Collection," which was a redesigned package made entirely of clear plastic, debuted in 1970. This packaging allowed customers to inspect their model from all angles before purchasing, and its molded handles let the box also act as a carrying case. This packaging was ultimately discontinued in 1972 due to high production costs. Along with the limited production window, the plastic used for Showcase Collection packaging is also prone to yellowing and cracking with age, making intact examples incredibly difficult to find today.
A buckskin Indian Pony still sealed in her original Showcase Collection packaging. Model owned and photographed by collector Robin Roberts.
An original early 70s Breyer advertisement
Showcase Collection models on display at a hobby shop.
The "Presentation Collection" was another early 70s example of Breyer enhancing the presentation of its models. From 1971 to 1973, Breyer offered 11 models (7 horses and 4 cattle/wildlife) mounted to walnut bases with engraved brass nameplates. These models were often marketed as "gifts, trophies or decorator pieces" and dressed up these regular run models with a "classier" appearance compared to their unmounted counterparts. Presentation Collection pieces are also quite difficult to find, and are just some of the many treasures released by Breyer in the 1970s!
Vintage Breyer ephemera featuring Presentation models, and a lovely example of an alabaster Presentation Series Indian Pony (model owned and photographed by collector Kirsten Wellman).
1975 was one of the most iconic years in Breyer's history - this year brought one of the biggest changes ever to the company's lineup, which was the addition of the Classics and Stablemates series! At this time, Breyer's "standard" 1:9 scale models also received the "Traditional" moniker they are known as today.
Classics, a series of 1:12 scale models, debuted with portrait models of five iconic Thoroughbred racehorses plus a Lipizzan Stallion. (Although a couple 1:12 scale models existed in Breyer's line before 1975!) Each of these models was packaged in a full-color picture box with illustrated scenes of horse racing (and in the Lipizzan's case, the Spanish Riding School.)
The original announcement introducing the Classics series and the concept of scales into the Breyer line. If you look closely, you'll notice that back in 1975 we actually spelled "Lipizzan" wrong... oops!
Stablemates were a new series of miniature model horses for "kids from ages 4 to 84!" Created in 1:32 scale, these tiny equines still boasted the same craftsmanship of their larger counterparts, but came at a smaller price point for consumers and were easily transportable due to their size. Each was packaged on a card with a plastic bubble - a packaging style that still continues to be used for this scale to this day. In 1976, the first Stablemates scale accessories were released, including a colorful stable made out of corrugated cardboard. The Stablemates scale continues to be a fan-favorite, from regular releases to our own specialty Stablemates Club!
Original announcement for the Stablemates series.
One of a handful of fun model variations that happened during this decade was the chalky. "Chalkies" have been nicknamed as such due to their look that mimics American chalkware. The Oil Crisis of the 1970s made sourcing white plastic difficult and expensive, which meant that Breyer needed to improvise.
Models were molded out of plastic swirled with other colors (or different solid colors entirely - such as green or purple!) and slathered with a thick coat of white paint to hide the color underneath before the normal painting process began.
The basecoats of chalky models give their coat color heightened contrast, and today these variations are highly sought-after by vintage Breyer fans! In both photos, "normal" models are on the left, and their chalky counterparts are on the right. Notice their stark white markings compared to the soft white of Breyer's normal unpainted plastic. Identifying chalkies in photos can be quite difficult, but it becomes much easier when you know what you're looking for!
A selection of "chalky" models compared to their non-chalky counterparts. Collector Club members can read an in-depth article on the history of chalkies here!
Just About Horses is Breyer's model horse magazine, which is now distributed as an annual issue to all Collector Club members. However, its beginnings are quite humble - the very first issue of JAH for Oct/Nov/Dec 1975 was simply a double-sided piece of paper folded into a tr-fold brochure! This issue's focus is on the Morgan horse.
"JAH" soon grew into one of the most important publications in the model horse hobby, providing tutorials, show reports, special runs, contests, and behind-the-scenes looks at the world of Breyer, plus extensive space for classified ads. Before the rise of online auction sites and later, social media, classified ads were the most popular way to buy and sell model horses or make new hobby friends!
The inaugural issue of Just About Horses in its entirety.
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