I want a super rare, glossy, gold charm running foal! Easy-peasy…if you’ve got the cash, you can find the horse! Start with Ebay…if you can’t find one there you could try the Model Horse Sales Pages, make a posting on one of dozens of dedicated Facebook pages, or message boards, or chat rooms (do they still have those?), or maybe even Craigslist. It might take you a couple hours, or worse, a couple days, but you’ll find that elusive plastic treasure...it’s almost a guarantee. But wait…we didn’t have any of those things in 1989. The internet as we know it today existed only in the imaginations of people who are now much richer than I’ll ever be. Those of you who are children of the 1980s and earlier know what I’m getting at…the internet has changed the face of Breyer horse collecting forever. It has influenced values, changed our perceptions of what is truly rare, and produced an entire generation of kids and young adults who have no idea what an LSASE is.
I received my first Breyer for my 11th birthday in 1987, a gift which started a life-long fascination with and at times inexplicable desire to purchase and prominently display horse-shaped hunks of plastic. I had a favorite store I purchased the bulk of my early collection from; an IGA/Ben Franklin store that had an entire back wall filled with glorious horse formed from hard, odoriferous, tenite plastic! I’d happily plunk down two weeks of hard-earned allowance to take home one more horse to add to my slowly growing collection.
Part of the exhilaration of getting a new model horse was the catalog that came in the box. I’d pore over the catalog circling each horse I wanted and hoping against hope than the elusive Appaloosa yearling (I was going to name Sandy) or dapple grey Proud Arabian Stallion would be at the IGA the next time I was there (they never were).
The catalogs introduced me to models I’d never seen before. Occasionally, I’d find a discontinued model still on the store shelf. With trembling fingers I’d grab the rarity and hold it close, protecting it from the imaginary prying, covetous eyes of fellow shoppers. In my young mind finding new in box models with catalogs as far back as 1984 was like finding a rare antique in a flea market. The “old” catalogs were a highly prized part of my collection.
As a subscriber to Just About Horses, the Breyer model horse publication, I learned of rare and unusual models from the prehistoric era of the 1960s. They were called “Woodgrains” and “Decorators,” there was the “Old Mold” Proud Arabian Mare and various Special Runs of decades gone by. These elusive models seemed far beyond my reach…they were so rare, how could I ever hope to own one? I dreamed of walking into an antique store some day and finding one of these priceless plastic horses…even to see or, (dare to dream!) touch it would be an honor beyond imagination.
The pre-internet era search started in the classified section of JAH magazine. There were dozens of tiny classified ads with lists of model numbers for sale. No prices, no descriptions aside from the 1-4 rating scale many collectors used. Some ads simply said “Entire collection dispersal. Send LSASE for list” followed by an address. Those ads were my favorite, to get a list of models for sale in the mail was like stumbling into a secret store with a nearly inexhaustible supply of never-before-seen models!
Box catalogs in hand, I scoured the sales lists for the models I was looking for. If I found one I liked I could call and ask if it was still available (if a phone number was given), or I would write down the model I wanted on a piece of paper, put it and a check for the correct amount into an envelope, stick it in the mail and hope that the model would show up on my doorstep in a few weeks’ time. Sometimes, the check would come back with a note explaining the model had been sold. Luckily, I never ran across a dishonest seller who simply cashed my check without sending a model.
On some of the lists I received I found some of those rare models from yesteryear with exorbitant prices due to their extreme scarcity:
Woodgrain FAS +3 (few rubs) $350
Gold Florentine Running Foal +2 (chipped ear, rubs) $2500
1990 Commemorative Edition (like new) $1500
I could only dream of such riches to add to my collection! Some of you may be eyeing those prices and wondering what happened? How could anyone ask those prices? Especially 25 years ago?
Enter: the internet
Yes, the internet. Ebay taught us that our uber-rare models were not as rare as we thought they were. As soon as the Woodgrains hit Ebay and sold for hundreds of dollars each, dozens more came out of the wood work (pardon the pun) – supply soon surpassed demand and drove the prices down to never before seen lows! I got mine in 2002 for $25.
There are a surprising number of Old Mold Proud Arabian Mares hanging around the internet. Not nearly as common as a Woodgrain Family Arabian Stallion but still possible to get the most common, the glossy Alabaster, for an affordable $50-$60, less if you’re not too picky on condition.
The “ultra-valuable” Limited and Commemorative Editions? Yup…nope. You can’t even get your money back out of those anymore. I’d seen the 1987 Limited Edition “Precipitado Sin Par” on a sales list for over $100 and therefore was tickled pink paisley plaid when I found the same model still on a store shelf in 1989 and snatched it up for a measly (but expensive for the time) $24. That Commemorative Edition ASB weanling from 1990? I saw that on a sales list for $1500 in the early 1990s. Picked it up at Breyerfest a few years ago for $20.
Among my most prized models were the special runs from the Sears holiday catalog. My 12-year-old self is still exceedingly disappointed to see they are worth less now than Mom paid for them as Christmas gifts 25 years ago. Alas…life goes on.
There are some rarities that still are, well, rare. The Decorators still command high prices…turns out they really are rare. A mid 1990s collector’s guide listed the glossy Appaloosa Proud Arabian Mare as “rumored to exist” – they do exist, I’ve seen two. Glossy Honey Bay Proud Arabian Mare, you can find it but it will cost you. Not as much as in the 1980s but still pricey. Black point Proud Arabian Family? Still rare but you can find them as well. Pre-internet you’d better be prepared to pony up several hundred dollars each. Now, less than half that – much less depending on the day and your bidding competition.
I guess overall it’s a good thing…for the buyer anyway. I’ve been able to fulfill a couple childhood dreams at an affordable price. It is still a little disheartening to discover some of the models I thought were such treasures really are not – kind of like discovering Superman is really that geeky guy changing his clothes in a public phone booth.
Oh, and for those of you under the age of 25 who defied the odds and stayed with me all the way through this long post: an LSASE is a Long Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. That means you write your address on a business-sized envelope, put a stamp (or two) on it, fold it up and put it in another envelope and mail it to the address you want to get a sales list from.
Young collector, old collector, or somewhere in between…happy collecting and appreciate the benefits of living in the age of instant gratification.
A pre-internet purchase. Found this PAF on a sales list in the early 1990s. An oldie from the 1970s, I longed to add her to my collection. Bought sight unseen (as they all were then). Condition is pretty good but the factory overspray on the hind leg was not mentioned in the description. I think I paid $25
7/8/2017 07:25:17 pm
Thank you! 😊
5/30/2018 01:40:53 pm
Great blog brought back memories! You and I both girlfriend you hit it on the nail I am so disappointed in the $ value of so many hard earned oldies but goodies. However I have passed many on to my daughter and I collect through her. I love my collection no matter the value nothing can replace the memories.
5/31/2018 08:28:57 pm
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the post! My favorite models are still my very first ones. They're so great! The nostalgia, the memories! I'm sad many of the newer/younger collectors don't have an appreciation of the so-called vintage models (I don't like referring to anything from my youth as vintage!)
10/25/2021 04:51:41 pm
Loved the article. Ebay has made my collection grow. I've collected since the 1960s. I purchased models from the jah ads. Loved to send away for the lists.
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Cheryl L. Eriksen, MSW - EAGALA Certified, author, horse midwife, artist...not always in that order...