Many Mini Hooves

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Originally published September 13, 2013

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - the Sears Years

Mail order special runs were a long-established institution, but in 1989, Breyer and Sears teamed up to bring collectors a little something new. This was the year a gift set of twelve Stablemates was included amongst the special run offerings in the Sears Wish Book. Granted only five of the twelve were models exclusive to the set, but still, twelve models all at once!

Later sets would bear the title Parade of Breeds, but for now they were just the Stablemate Assortment with a roman numeral indicating release order.

1989 Stablemate Assortment

Missing: black Saddlebred

The repackaged regular runs included a chestnut Morgan Stallion, palomino Morgan Mare, grey Arabian Stallion, dapple grey Draft Horse, a bay Thoroughbred Mare, and an Alabaster Arabian Mare. Also making his special run Assortment debut was the black Saddlebred - he wouldn't be a part of a gift set again until 1996.

These models are all exactly the same as the regular runs, which makes it a pain to collect them second-hand. With the exception of the Morgan Stallion, all models pictured above were likely regular run issues. The Morgan Stallion was purchased as the special run from someone who had bought him new.

A Swaps in a flea-bitten grey (or black leopard appaloosa, depending on who you ask), a buckskin Silky Sullivan, Citation in a chestnut-based flea-bitten grey, a stunning blood bay Native Dancer (one of my top ten favourite G1 releases), and deep red chestnut Seabiscuit completed the set.

Fewer than half of the assortment were new, but it was a fair start.

1990 Stablemate Assortment II

Missing: black Arabian Mare, chestnut Morgan Mare, slate grey Swaps, & rose grey Swaps

Speaking of better things to come, the 1990 special run was even better than the preceding year; twelve all new colours on eleven molds.

The deep red chestnut Morgan Stallion was impossible to confuse with his regular run chestnut herd-mates, but the chestnut Morgan Mare could be a bit more difficult. I do not own examples of either the regular run or the special run myself, so I must rely on online pictures for my descriptions.

The regular run chestnut was only available in 1976 and seems to have a certain je ne sais quoi which sets her apart from the special run. The regular run seems to be more matte, slightly textured, and the mane and tail seem to be closer in shade to the body colour. The special run looks smoother, has more of a shine to her finish, and the mane and tail seem to be distinctly darker than the body. But, as with so many of our Stablemate runs, variations can blur the line between the runs.

The Draft Horse was a perfect solid black, Silky Sullivan could be called a dusty chestnut or wild bay, Citation was an interesting muted chestnut, and Native Dancer was stunning as always in a black pointed white-grey.

Also in the herd was a buckskin Arabian Stallion, his mate, the Arabian Mare in black, the Thoroughbred Mare looking adorable in blood bay, and an electric yellow palomino Seabiscuit. Finishing off the group were two Swaps models, one in slate grey and another in a rosy grey. The models this year all seemed to have a satin to semi-gloss finish.

1991 Stablemate Assortment III

Missing: bay Silky Sullivan

Fans of the Draft Horse would find 1991 particularly exciting as the Stablemate Assortment III featured two new releases of that mold. Collectors didn't know it at the time, but this year would be notable as it was the last time a special run assortment would be released in old plastic.

The six Thoroughbred molds were heavy on the grey this year: Citation in slate grey, the Thoroughbred Mare in Alabaster, and Seabiscuit in splatter-dapple grey. A bay Silky Sullivan, black-bay Swaps, and a lemon yellow palomino Native Dancer balanced out their grey-scale herd-mates.

Also in the same blinding palomino was the Morgan Stallion. His mate, the Morgan Mare was much more sedate in a red bay with four snappy little socks. Our other couple, the Arabian Stallion and Arabian Mare could be found in black and chestnut, respectively.

Last but not least we had the Draft Horses. One was a plain, but lovely clear bay while the other was a little more unconventional. Many reference guides describe this model as "olive dun" and while he is more likely a sooty buckskin, the popular term does suit him down to the ground; all he needs is a toothpick and a pimento.

The following years would bring about many changes to this particular gift set tradition, but the holiday herds would be with us for a long time to come.

Originally published November 22, 2013

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Passing the Torch

Unbeknownst to collectors, 1992 would mark the end of the Stablemate Assortments issued through the Sears Wish Book. The assortment this year would be one of many firsts: it was the first special run assortment issued in the new plastic, it featured the first unequivocally appaloosa Stablemates, and it also contained the first non-grey dappled Stablemate. The colour palette for this group was a bit drab compared to past years, but the models were still lovely.

1992 Stablemate Assortment IV & 1994 JCPenney 12-Piece Stablemates Set

In the 1989 set, two of the models are often referred to as "appaloosa", but they tend to make more convincing flea-bitten greys; this year the spotted models were unmistakably meant to be appaloosas - a chestnut leopard appaloosa Quarter Horse Stallion and a black blanket appaloosa Morgan Stallion proudly flaunted their spots.

Speaking of spots, the Arabian Stallion had some of his own; in 1992 he became the first non-grey dappled Stablemate. The effect isn't quite up to our modern standards, but at the time, his dappled chestnut colouring was quite exciting.

A range of grey models made up a third of the set and represented many of the stages of this colour goes through. A mousey chestnut-faded-to-rose-grey gave quite a distinguished look to Silky Sullivan. The Arabian Mare sported four white stockings with her dark, solid grey body. Citation was a wild dapple grey with bubble dapples, and Seabiscuit sported a cool alabaster coat.

Rounding out the herd was a very yellow buckskin Swaps, a beautiful black Native Dancer (who, let's face it, just looks good in everything), a very deep, dark bay Morgan Stallion, a flaxen-liver chestnut Morgan Mare, and a sweetly soft buckskin Draft Horse.

1993 came and went with no new Stablemate Assortment. The next year, in 1994, JCPenney featured something new in their holiday catalogue - a 12-Piece Stablemates Set! But wait a minute, it was the same one as sold through Sears in 1992.

Now, there is some confusion regarding whether or not these sets are exact re-releases. I've heard many theories: one year had matte finishes, the other semi-gloss or satin; 1992 has matte eyes, 1994 glossy; one year has black hooves, the other grey. A few kind folks on Blab looked over their collections and reported back: other than the usual variations, both the Sears and the JCPenney sets were identical in regards to finish and hoof colour.

This is what Nancy Young had to say about the two sets:

"The 1994 set is a reissue of the 1992 set; the test-run samples created for the 1992 set were used again for the 1994 set, according to the Breyer executive Peter Stone (conversation of Nov. 1994). The only systematic difference between the two sets in my experience is that the 1994 horse have glossed eyes whereas the 1992 horses do not." 9

When I requested Blab members to look over their sets, one collector noticed the eyes of her 1992 Sears set were indeed matte while the 1994 JCPenney set had glossy eyes. The other collector noticed no difference in eye-finish. My duplicates, which all came from JCPenney sets have a mixed bag of glossy and matte eyes. So, how can you tell for sure the difference between the 1992 Sears and the 1994 JCPenney sets? I dunno. If the eyes are glossy, it's probably the JCP release, if they're matte, it's probably the Sears release, but maybe not. :)

Over the next few years JCPenney would continue to carry the 12-Piece Stablemates Sets, much to the delight of Stablemate fans (and likely to the relief of those looking for holiday gift ideas for those collectors).

Many thanks to appyinthewind and Deb Walsmith for their contributions towards my effort to unravel the mystery of the Sears/JCP assortment and to Sharon Walbridge for her contribution of the original catalogue pictures.

Originally published January 3, 2014

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Many Minis from JCPenney

Collectors held their collective breaths when the 1995 JCPenney Christmas catalogue came out; would there be another Stablemates Assortment this year? Why, yes, yes there was! There, nestled in amongst the other Breyer holiday offerings was the Set of 12 Miniatures, and weren't they lovely?

1995 Set of 12 Miniatures

Some of the colours this year were a little...odd. Those with the colours easiest to define were the blue roan Silky Sullivan, the bay Native Dancer, the flaxen chestnut Morgan Mare, the Quarter Horse Stallion in chestnut, another Silky Sullivan, this one in white grey, and a deep, dark mahogany bay Thoroughbred Mare.

The two appaloosas were kind of in-between colours. The blanket appaloosa Citation was a sort of mousy, brownish-grey with black spots and the Arabian Mare had grey points and head with a semi-leopard pattern of chestnut spots.

The second Citation had nicely dappled shoulders and hind quarters over a buckskin-going-grey type base colour. The Morgan Stallion looked lovely in black, but the white stripes in the mane and tail were a bit odd, maybe he was supposed to be a minimal tobiano?

Swaps was a strange kind of brown roan; I often see him called 'grulla'. Finally, there was the buckskin/sandy bay Arabian Stallion with softly shaded white legs which you could call stockings, but looks more like panagre.

Expectations were high for 1996 since JCPenney was apparently going to pick up where Sears had left off.

1996 12-Piece Stablemates Set

The colours in the 1996 set were a bit more mainstream than the year before. The main draw for this year was the first appearance of the Saddlebred since 1989. The mold looked spiffy in a modern dapple grey and sported painted ribbons for the first time. The Draft Horse was also breaking new ground by appearing in its first spotted paint job - black splash.

The colour palette was a bit heavy on the brown tones again: bay Seabiscuit, dark bay Swaps, bay blanket appaloosa Citation, buckskin Quarter Horse Stallion, and rose grey Arabian Stallion. Also on the dark end of the spectrum was an absolutely beautiful blue roan Arabian Mare.

Representing the lighter colours were a Native Dancer in a pale chestnut/red dun, a Morgan Mare in an even lighter chestnut, a black leopard appaloosa Silky Sullivan, and a Morgan Stallion in alabaster with an interestingly striped mane and tail.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I was a bit disappointed when I received my set - some of the horses were different!

1996 JCPenney Holiday Catalogue

The catalogue picture for this set was a bit misleading. The colour on the Quarter Horse Stallion was supposed to be on the Citation, and Citation's bay blanket appaloosa colour was on a second Swaps. I really wanted that Swaps, but an appy Citation did turn out pretty cute, too.

1997 12-pc. Parade of Breeds

1997 marked the first time the Parade of Breeds label was used for this type of gift set. This year would also be the last year of an exclusively G1 collection; when the gift sets returned around half of the molds would be G2s. Some of the colours were a bit strange, but the oddest thing about this year was the type of plastic used and the range of finishes the models exhibited; from glossy to chalky.

The plastic used for some of the models in this set was different than usual, being rather milky and translucent. Also, as a change of pace, some of the models were given white base-coats, making them chalky, and one model had a decidedly high-gloss finish.. Just to make things interesting, finish and plastic composition could vary from set to set.

The only model in my set which appeared somewhat normal was the Morgan Mare, who looks quite trim in a dark seal bay. At first glance my Silky Sullivan seemed pretty standard, but then I noticed he had gone in the opposite direction from the translucents; his plastic is unusually bright white and very opaque.

In the chalky department is a shocking, highlighter yellow buckskin Swaps, and a liver chestnut/bay Saddlebred, again with painted ribbons.

The remainder of my models were of the translucent plastic. The Draft Horse is a chestnut roan/red dun with a spattering of tiny resist dapples on his belly, the Morgan Stallion is a soft, dark chestnut, and Citation glowed as a palomino with a bald face. One of the two Arabian Stallions could be said to either be a snowflake appaloosa pattern or a greying liver chestnut with Tetrarch spots.

Three of the models seemed to be the most likely to show variation. The finish on the chestnut Seabiscuit could range from semi to high gloss; mine is a high gloss. The Quarter Horse Stallion's blue roan blanket appaloosa colour could be lightly or heavily roaned. Most distinct of all the variations were those shown by the second Arabian Stallion. Some collectors received something like a chestnut dun, others, like me received an oddly coloured model which looked like a buckskin going grey. They could also come in normal or translucent plastic.

It would be seven years before the Stablemate Gift Sets would be seen again in the JCPenney catalogue, but they would return.

Originally published March 14, 2014

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments, Part IV - Sears' Last Hurrah

After years of silence on the Breyer-front from Sears, collectors were pleasantly shocked by a loaded Christmas Wishbook in 1998. They had it all, Traditionals, Classics, and yes, Stablemates! Not only did the set include favourites like the G1 Draft Horse and G1 Saddlebred, but for the first time a SR Assortment included foals!

This collection seemed to be rather heavy on the pink and included some rather odd colours. First though was the undeniably cute family consisting of a bay blanket appaloosa Morgan Stallion and his matching twin Thoroughbred Lying and Standing Foals - both foals sporting airbrushed bald faces. Among the more standard colours were a dapple grey Swaps and a black tobiano Seabiscuit who sported a snazzy little blaze.

In the pink corner we had a very nice chestnut roan Arabian Stallion, a pale flea-bitten chestnut Draft Horse with a bright white blaze, and an odd, but appealing chestnut-going grey Seabiscuit. Two other models appeared to be in the going-grey department, a bay-going-grey Saddlebred with a bald face and red-on-white ribbons, and a liver chestnut-going-grey Thoroughbred mare, also with a bald face, though I have a solid faced variation, too.

The final two molds had some weird spots going on. The reddish-tan chestnut Citation looked a bit like one of Breyer's peppercorn roans, but could also pass for having Bend-Or spots. Less easy to explain was the Quarter Horse Stallion.

At first glance he appears to be nothing less than a luscious bay with four perky little socks, but when you look closer you notice a tiny scattering of lavender or light blue specks over his hindquarters. At first collectors thought they each had received a damaged model, one that had perhaps caught some spray from an errant airbrush in the factory, but after comparing notes on mailing lists and message boards they came to the conclusion he was meant to be that way.

The best we can tell, he might have been intended to be a snowflake appaloosa like the 1992 SR Traditional Standing Stock Horse Foal "Night Vision" who also sports lavender/light blue spots. There's rumor of spotless variations of the QHS kicking around, but a poll on Blab failed to turn up any examples, which doesn't mean they're not out there, but probably means they're rather rare.

This charming little set was the final offering of a special run Stablemate assortment from Sears; from here on out it was up to JCPenney to keep the tradition alive.

Many thanks to appyinthewind and Deb Walsmith for taking the time to examine the backsides of their G1 Quarter Horse Stallions for me!

Originally published June 22, 2014 during Birthday Week

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Ads and Stats

After our romp through the 90s with the Sears and JCPenney Special Run assortments I thought it might be fun to see the catalogue pages which inspired collectors back in the day. I've also included some fun statistics for each year's collection. It was interesting to see how much the price dropped after production moved overseas for the 1994 set.

1989: Sears Special Run #495600 Stablemate Assortment

Run count - 4,500 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $29.99
Cost per Model -$2.50

1990: Sears Special Run #495601 Stablemate Assortment II

Run count - 5,000 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $37.00
Cost per Model - $3.08

1991: Sears Special Run #495091 Stablemate Assortment III

Run count - 4,400 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $43.00
Cost per Model - $3.58

1992: Sears Special Run #495092 Stablemate Assortment IV

Run count - 4,500 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $30.00
Cost per Model - $2.50

1994: JCPenney Special Run #711094 12-Piece Stablemates Set

Run count - 10,000 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $19.99
Cost per Model - $1.67

1995: JCPenney Special Run #710695 Set of 12 Miniatures

Run count - 10,600 16
Collection size - 12
Original price - $19.99
Cost per Model - $1.67

1996: JCPenney Special Run #711096 12-Piece Stablemates Set

Run count - 7,500~ 17
Collection size - 12
Original price - $19.99
Cost per Model - $1.67

1997: JCPenney Special Run #710897 12-pc. Parade of Breeds

Run count - estimated 7,500 to 8,500 17
Collection size - 12
Original price - $21.99
Cost per Model - $1.83

1998: Sears Special Run #770198 12-pc Stablemates

Run count - Unknown; possibly similar to 1997 numbers
Collection size - 12
Original price - $29.99
Cost per Model - $2.50

Many thanks to Sharon Walbridge, Sande Schneider, & Heather H. for providing scans of the JCP and Sears Wish Book pages! Run count information for the sets can also be found with the relevant models at Identify Your Breyer.

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