Breyer Animal Creations (or just Breyer), a division of Reeves International, is one of the oldest model animal companies in existence. The company specializes in models made from cellulose acetate (a form of plastic) and are best known for their model horses, although various wildlife and domestic animal models are also produced, including an extensive line of dog breeds. Its model horses are some of the most renowned model horses in the hobby, being as the models are both inexpensive and realistic. Breyer manufactures well over 5 million models annually.
Each summer, the company holds a festival for model horse collectors called Breyerfest at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Every year since 2002 has had a different theme, and 2009 is their 20th anniversary. The company also publishes its own magazine--Just About Horses or JAH for short, and has six issues per year.
Breyer Animal Creations was founded in 1950 in Chicago, IL., originally called Breyer Molding Company. They gained recognition when the company was commissioned by F.W. Woolworth to create a horse statue (now known as the # 57 Western Horse) to adorn a mantel clock. As payment for making the mold, Breyer was allowed to keep it for their own use, and started making the model as a toy. From there on out, Breyer has been a major leader in producing model horses.
Reeves International was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Werner J. Fleischmann in 1946 as a toy specialty company. In 1984, Reeves International acquired Breyer Animal Creations and spent the next 20 years completing its transformation from toy distribution to manufacturing. Today, Breyer remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Reeves International. Model horses are sold through independent distributors. They are not sold from the website.
The company specializes in realistic, scale models of horses made from cellulose acetate, but has branched out into porcelain and resin horse figures as well. Breyer has also produced dog models since the 1950s and began producing other animals such as cats, farm yard animals, and wildlife in the 1960s.
Traditional: 1:9 scale (each model is around 8"H x 11"L) Classic: 1:12 scale (dollhouse; about 7"H x 5"L) Paddock Pals: 1:24 scale (about 3"H x 2"L) Stablemates: 1:32 scale (about 7cmH x 6cmL) Mini Whinnies: 1:64 scale (each "adult" horse is only one inch tall)
Breyer also makes dogs, cats, cattle, wildlife, farm yard animals, etc.
Each horse is cast in a two-piece mold. Then both halves are put together and the seams are sanded and polished. Markings and color patterns are usually obtained by using a stencil, 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 enjoying a resurgence in modern models), brands, or other individual markings are painstakingly hand-painted.
Breyer uses a relatively limited number of molds (shapes for the models), 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 common that its known as the FAS to collectors), and Breyer has released models of this mold done in white, black, dappled gray, chestnut, palomino, and so on, with various markings and details such as socks and blazes, appaloosa blankets, even Native American paint decorations. They may also have different finishes, such as matte or glossy. Each version of this mold is considered a separate model, and is almost always given a number and name. So for example, the Family Arabian Stallion in palomino matte is very a common model, made for 20 years by Breyer, and is #4. And the only completely black Family Arabian Stallion is one of the rarest FAS models, only 200 were made for a special occasion, and it doesn't have a number as it was a Special Release. 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 done in "unrealistic" colors known as "decorator" (also known as a deco) or "fantasy" colors. For example, they have put out many models done with metallic gold or silver paint, or Wedgewood blue. Some are called Copenhagen and filigree, which is much like small spotted paint splotches all over the body, and they are usually blue or gold. They have recently introduced a metallic "two-color" paint with a very flashy effect. They have several models with scenes and images painted on them, and even a few that have been cast in a translucent form of cellulose acetate, making them look like blown glass.
For selling and trading purposes, on-line on eBay for instance, horses are graded by, among other things, their packaging and condition. A horse can be New In Box (NIB), New In Package (NIP), New, Like New, and so on. The highest level is Mint condition, but keep in mind this is not synonymous with New In Box. Some horses are shipped from the company (or sold from the store) with flaws. And many collectors collect horses still in their packaging (usually a box), and the condition of the packaging itself affects the value of a particular model.
Common flaws in used models are scratches, rubs, breaks (ears, tails, legs), bent legs, yellowing, and so on, which come from use or careless storage. But other flaws come from the factory, like very slightly off-target painting or slightly sloppy detailing, badly sanded seams, or bent legs (from improper cooling). Some "flaws" from the factory are considered "variations", and are sought by collectors as rare oddities. 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 them 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 paint-job giving it a dappled, gray coat, with 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 (the area of the leg just above the hoof). 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.
Which brings us to the other big factor in deciding the value of a particular model to most collectors, the rarity of the model (a particular mold done in a particular color). A model can be rare because it was released for a short time period a long while back, so there are not many left in circulation. Or it may have been released in very limited numbers, perhaps for a special occasion, or by request from one particular retailer, or to raise funds for a cause. 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 models.
But even beyond simple collecting, there are model horse shows (contests between collectors), and within these there are basically two recognized grades of horse, having nothing really to do with the newness of them. Live Show Quality (LSQ) is the highest grade of horse. This means that the horse and all tack accurately depict the real thing and must be in good enough condition (considering flaws from the factory as well as from use) to be inspected on all sides. Photo Show Quality (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.
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 thousands of dollars.
The "Breyer Animal Collector's Guide" by Felicia Browell (and others, in the later editions) is considered the definitive book on the hobby, and includes a catalog, with photographs, of every animal model Breyer has ever released. It is an amazing collection of information and photographs, by one of the oldest and best-informed collectors in the country. And since it lists every model put out by Breyer, and Breyer releases a few new ones every year, and has (as of June 2008) five editions, each bigger than the last.
And an enormous source of on-line information about model horses can be found in the huge eBay community that has grown up around the hobby. New, used, rare, and common models are bought, sold, and traded here, by the thousands. See also the excellent list of links at the bottom of this article. Many customized and originally painted horses can also be found on a sight called MH$P [Model Horse Sales Pages].