When I was a little girl, I loved horses. I think most little girls do. Along with my Walter Farley books, I had a large collection of horse figurines and toys, including a fair number or Breyer horses.
When I was 20 and moving out of my parent’s home, I gave many of my ‘childish things’ away, including all of my horsey inventory. But once I began collecting Black Stallion books, it was inevitable that I should bump into The Black Stallion figures made by Breyer. Though I had never owned these Breyers, I rationalized that they were part of my book collection.
After getting the set (complete with the box, thank you), I did buy a few other Breyer horses. However, it soon became apparent that I didn’t have the room for another collection requiring such space. Even though model horses require less space (and expense) than the live horses do, in this collector’s home, I don’t have enough pastures (shelf space) to accommodate them. Since I am the type of person who feels terrible to have her beloved items in a box hidden away somewhere — especially when it’s clear there are so many who would adore such items — I decided to sell them.
Because I had impulsively purchased the items based on looks or memories of model horses I had owned as a child, I didn’t really know much about the Breyer horses I had. And there are other issues about the huge secondary Breyer model horse market which makes identifying specific models difficult. So let’s take a look at some of the happenings on the secondary model horse market.
For one thing, many little girls never really out-grow their love of horses. Even if they cannot own real horses. This means there are a large number of grown up women buying, collecting and yes, showing their Breyer model horses. There are even model horse breeding and edigree programs. (Some of these women state that they collect and show Breyer horses as a activity to do with their children, but we all recognize a fellow collector rationalizing, don’t we?)
There are photo competitions and live model shows with model horse owners as attached to their models as real pet owners are. This means they are reluctant to ‘put down’ a horse for a broken leg. And so they have discovered the ways and means of repairing damaged model horses. So now, if you find a Breyer with a broken tail, chipped ear etc at a rummage sale, you now have the means to rebuild it. Perhaps better than that — like the Six Million Dollar Man — you have the technology to make them better than before: with custom work.
You can heat, bend and reshape features; you can remove paint and repaint; add hair manes and tails; and you can be-deck these horses with all sorts of new accessories. Some custom work is done to immortalize a real horse. Some works are pure fantasy. But all are works of art. There are even artisans selling Breyer and non-Breyer resin molds for you to paint yourself. On the secondary market, there are many buyers looking for these artistic remodels of Breyer horses. But of course, there are many collectors who want specific vintage models, or at least want assurance that this is an authentic, non-repaired Breyer horse.
This combination of discontinued Breyer models, discontinued colors, limited edition models, custom work, artisan models etc. makes identifying Breyer horses very difficult.
While there is a wealth of information at the Official Breyer website, I quickly discovered that specific information about older models was difficult to come by. So I invested in “Breyer Animal Collector’s Guide: Identification and Values” by Felicia Browell.
I’m not much of a collector’s guide fan, but these guides by Browell are well worth it. Whether you collect Breyer horses to reclaim your childhood, are still living out your dreams of owning horses, or are putting an entire ranch of Breyer horses up for auction, there’s no better guide for identifying the proper color, year, model name etc of Breyer horses than the “Breyer Animal Collector’s Guide: Identification and Values.”
If you’d like more information online about Breyer horses, check out these websites:
Ponylagoon is an identification resource for Breyer’s original finish models. Though they do not sell models, they do list an estimate of model values.
Breyer Molds & Models: Horse, Riders, & Animals 1950-1997 is an out of print book that I’ve not seen, but that other Breyer collectors swear by.
This is the most active Breyer’s Model Message Board that I know of.