Breyer Animal Creations (commonly referred to as simply Breyer) is primarily a manufacturer of model horses. Founded in 1950, the company, now a division of Reeves International, Inc, specializes in model horses made from cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, and produces other animal models from the same material as well. Less well known are its porcelain horse figures, which are aimed at the adult collector market. The company also produces model tack accessories and horse-related structures, such as stables, barns, and grooming implements in scale to its model horses.
Breyer Animal Creations was founded in 1950 in Chicago, Illinois, as Breyer Molding Company. It gained recognition when commissioned by F.W. Woolworth to create a horse statue (now known as the # 57 Western Horse) to adorn a mantel clock. It was approximately 1:9 scale and the model was retained as payment for molding the parts. Orders began to roll in for the horse only and the Breyer Animal Creations company was founded. Since then, Breyer has become a leader in producing model horses.
In 1984, Reeves International acquired Breyer Animal Creations and spent the next 20 years completing its transformation from toy distribution to manufacturing. Model horses are sold through independent distributors and the Breyer website.
While Breyer products were originally manufactured in the United States, production now takes place in China.
There are several scales of Breyer horse models:
- Traditional: 1:9 scale (adult models are approximately 11″ long × 9″ high) and is the most popular scale.
- Classic: 1:12 scale (adult models are approximately 9″ long × 6″ high)
- Ponies/Dapples/Pony Gals: 1:12 scale (adult models are approximately 9″ long × 6″ high) and are aimed at the youth market.
- Paddock Pal/Little Bits: 1:24 scale (about 6″ long x 5″ high) - Now retired, but some products are found in craft kits.
- Stablemates: 1:32 scale (adults are about 4″ long × 3″ high)
- Mini Whinnies: 1:64 scale (adults are about 2″ long x 1″ high)
As of 2008, the Ponies line has been replaced with a similar line titled "Pony Gals". The line differs from other Breyer products in that the models have brushable manes and tails and may have jointed heads, necks, and legs, and are marketed towards younger children.
Each horse is cast in a two to three piece mold. Both halves are then put together and the seams are sanded and polished. Markings and color patterns are usually obtained by using a stencil known as a mask, although most older models were airbrushed by hand, with markings such as undefined socks or a bald face merely left unpainted. Most detailing, such as eye-whites (common on 1950s and 1960s models and is now enjoying a resurgence in modern models), brands, or other individual markings are painstakingly hand-painted. Sometimes, a variation in the paint job occurs. A variation is a difference, usually in the paint job, of one or a minority of a model as they came from the factory. The reason for variations is rarely known. For example, there is a common mold typically called the Proud Arabian Stallion (abbreviated PAS by collectors). For many years it was produced by Breyer with a dappled gray coat and a gray mane, tail and hooves. However, for some unknown reason a few of these models came from the factory with black manes, tails, and hooves, and black socks or stockings. These special, rare models are considered variations of the Dapple Grey PAS model and are very valuable compared to the regular model, which is quite common. They were later determined to be their own unique colorway, and not a variation.
Breyer uses a number of different molds, with most molds having been released in several colors. For instance, there is a commonly used mold referred to as the Family Arabian Stallion (so popular that it is known as "FAS" to collectors). Breyer has released runs of this mold in a multitude of different coat colors with various markings and details such as socks and blazes, appaloosa blankets, even Native American paint decorations since its original production in 1956. Models may also have different finishes, such as matte or glossy. Each version of a particular mold is considered a separate model, and is almost always given a number and name. In certain instances, however, some models do not receive a number—these may be known as "test runs". New molds are often introduced, and old ones are sometimes "retired"—not created anymore—or even accidentally broken or lost.
The coloring and marking variations are infinite, of course, and include all the variations found among actual horses. Breyer also releases models in more unrealistic colors - "decorator models". The original four decorator colors were produced in the 1960s: Wedgwood (light blue with white mane and tail, intended to suggest the colors of Wedgwood china), Copenhagen (dappled blue with white mane and tail), Florentine (dappled gold with white mane and tail), and Gold Charm (solid gold body with white mane and tail). A woodgrain finish was also produced. Later Breyer introduced a "bronze" finish and more recently "silver filigree" which is basically silver Florentine. The original four decorator colors are still occasionally used in limited run editions but the original decorators are now highly sought after by collectors. Several more recent decorator models have scenes and images painted on them, especially those done in the Halloween line, and a few have been cast in a translucent form of cellulose acetate to look like blown glass, known as "clearware." The company recently introduced a metallic "two-color" paint with a very flashy effect. Models painted with this paint are typically limited edition.
Portrait models are models made to look like a real horse. These include famous racehorses such as American Pharaoh, Man o' War, Secretariat, Barbaro, and Zenyatta. In 2018, it was announced that a collection of models in different scales, as well as Christmas tree ornaments, would be created of Triple Crown winner Justify. Living horses who have inspired portrait models are often guests at BreyerFest.
Collector value of products
A particular model horse can be graded, or valued, in several ways, depending on the purpose of the grading scale.
Unlike some collectible toys, Breyer horse packaging does not generally affect the model's value. Unfortunately, there have been some issues with pre-2000s packaging, in which if a model is left in the box for an extended period of time, the box can actually cause harm to the horse's finish due to rubbing of the horse's paint on the sides of the box or on the plastic ties binding it to the packaging, therefore diminishing the model's value.
Common flaws in used models are scratches, rubs, breaks (ears, tails, legs), seam splits, warped legs, yellowing, and so on, which come from use or careless storage. Other flaws come from the factory, such as very slightly off-target painting or slightly sloppy detailing, badly sanded seams, over spray, or bent legs (from improper cooling). Some flaws from the factory are considered variations and are sought after by collectors as rare oddities.
The rarity of the model is the other primary method of judging collectibility and value. A model can be defined as rare if it was released for a short time period a long while back, so there are not many left in circulation, or if it was released in very limited numbers. The most extreme cases of this are the very few Breyer releases that are one-of-a-kind (OOAK), which are always given out as prizes or sold off at auction for charity at the yearly Breyerfest gatherings. These horses are by far the most coveted and highly valued model horses.
Model horse shows
Model horse shows are a way for collectors to show off their models. In a show, a model is described as being one of two grades: Live Show Quality (LSQ) or Photo Show Quality (PSQ). LSQ means that the horse and all tack accurately depict the real animal and must be in good enough condition (considering flaws from the factory, as well as from use) to be inspected on all sides. PSQ is less demanding, since both horse and tack can be seen from only one side in the photo and close examination is not possible. Therefore, the standards of condition and realistic appearance are not quite as high.
There are two types of shows: live shows and photo shows. In a live show, the model is judged from all sides. In a photo show, images of a model are sent/emailed in, and therefore can only be judged be judged from one side. In a live show, there are three types of classes: collectability, halter, and performance. In a collectability class, an entrant's goal is to have the rarest model. In a halter class, the model must have a name and a breed, and this class is judged after how the model matches the breed it is given. The goal in performance class is to create a realistic and accurate depiction of an equine sport.
Another branch of the model horse hobby is customizing, in which a single model is edited in some way, making it unique. Sometimes models are simply repainted or have patterns etched in their existing paint (appaloosa or paint horse markings, for instance), while other models are repositioned by being heated and then shaped. In the most drastic cases, the artist will completely re-sculpt the model, cutting body parts away, repositioning and reattaching them, and re-painting and finishing them. Breyer models are popular candidates for customizing, due to their inexpensiveness and ability to be easily obtained.
Depending on how well the customizing was done, how well-known the artist is, and how attractive the results are, these special, one-of-a-kind models can sometimes sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
BreyerFest was first held in 1989 and since then has been held annually in July at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. This popular event is a three-day festival for model horse collectors of all ages. During this event, attendees can purchase special run Breyer models sold only at Breyerfest, purchase RR (Regular Run) and retired models from Breyer and dealers in attendance, and participate in large model horse shows. In addition, there are classes on how to paint, customize, and repair models as well as lectures on collecting and judging them. Special guests of honor, usually renowned trainers and famous horses, are also present and perform for the attendees. Typically, the equine guest of honor has been previously represented by a Breyer model horse. A live auction is held each year featuring one-of-a-kind model horses created by Breyer and sold to the highest bidder, often for thousands of dollars. A silent auction for rare or customized models and model horse related accessories is also held. Included in the purchase price of a 3-day ticket is a Traditional-scale "Celebration" model, and 1-day ticket holders receive a Stablemate-scale model. Each BreyerFest has a unique theme, upon which many or all of the special-run models are designed.
Breyer models are available through the company website and from a variety of online and brick and mortar dealers such as toy and tack shops. In the secondary market models are frequently found on eBay M$HP, and Model Horse Sales Pages. Breyer also has a dealer finder on its website.
Just About Horses (JAH) is Breyer's model horse magazine. Issued annually to Collector Club members, this is the most popular model horse magazine in America. Subscriber benefits include sneak peeks into Breyer releases and events, articles on the hobby, and highlights on noted collectors and sculptors. Information on back issues of Just About Horses can be found on the "Identify Your Breyer" website.
Breyer Molds and Models: Horses, Riders, and Animals, fifth edition, by Nancy Young is an encyclopedic book on models made by Breyer from 1990 to 1997. It includes information on production runs and colors, mold marks and variations, Breyer catalogs, tack, stickers, lamps, clocks, and much more. Though no new editions have been released, this book is the most informative one available on the history and minutiae of Breyer models.
The Breyer Animal Collector's Guide by Felicia Browell (and others, in the later editions) is essentially a price guide featuring photographs of most of the models released by Breyer as well as values for them based on average selling prices.
- Verdon, Joan (December 11, 2003), "New Jersey Maker of World's Favorite Model Horses Continues to Go Strong." Knight Ridder/Tribune. Accessed November 2012. (subscription required)
- Young, Nancy Atkinson, "Breyer Molds and Models, Fifth Edition". Schiffer Publishing, 1997, p. 332,
- Chapman, Gray (2018-07-26). "Giddy Up, Girlfriend!". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
- "How Harley the Magnificent Became a Breyer Horse Model". www.americasbestracing.net. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
- "Breyer to Produce More Barbaro Models". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
- Horsetalk.co.nz (2018-07-19). "Triple Crown winner Justify honored as model horse". Horsetalk.co.nz. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
- Menegus, Bryan. "72 Hours in Model Horse Mecca". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
- Illinois, Matt KoesterGateHouse Media. "Model horse collectors compete in shows near and far". The Register-Mail. Retrieved 2019-02-04.