Rare Wedgwood Blue Decorator Fighting Stallion $1200-2000.
Comparison of the four Breyer sizes of horses.
Balking Mule is very desirable, $50-200 in mint condition.
Glossy Palomino Fighting Stallion $100-200 in mint condition.
Rare wood grain Thoroughbread -molded in 1958 $500
Glossy Dapple Gray Belgian $500-850
Breyer Horses: Galloping Through the
They are beautiful, highly collectible and adored by their loyal fans.
Breyer horses are among one of the most enduring toy collectibles to emerge
from the 1950s. They were popular then and remain so today. The line is
still being produced and the legion of collectors has grown steadily each
year. Along with Barbie and Mr. Potato Head, these perfect plastic replicas
have always had shelf space since the day they were first produced.
I recently caught up with collector Melissa Gilkey Mince. Her extensive
Breyer collection is one of her many collecting passions. She has plenty
of insight into the collecting of these beauties. Here is a portion of
my interview with her.
MC: Would you give us a brief history of Breyer Creations?
MGM: The first Breyer animal creation was made in 1950. Breyers are still
produced today, but Reeves International now owns the company. The Mastercrafter
Clock Company commissioned the "Western Horse" mold in 1950.
Breyer retained the mold in lieu of payment. They began making horses
for the C.W. Woolworth Company, and an industry was born! Thousands of
Breyer fanatics converge on the Kentucky Horse Park the last weekend of
July each year for "Breyerfest," the largest gathering of affectionadoes.
Collectors buy, sell, and swap plastic horses with a vengeance! Everything
from the latest mold to the oldest and most rare model can be found at
Breyer produces horses in four sizes. Traditional, the largest, are about
10 inches tall, Classics are about 7 inches tall, Little Bits are 4 inches
tall and Stablemates are about 3 inches tall.
In addition to horses, Breyer has a full line of companion animals, including
dogs, cats, cattle, pigs, goats, deer, moose and elk. Breyer also made
lamps and horse and rider sets. The majority of the creations have a Breyer
molding mark on the inside hind leg. Over the years, the molding marks
have changed at least 20 times, giving a clue to the age of the model.
MC: How did you first become interested in collecting Breyer creations?
MGM: I was raised in the Midwest, heart of horse country. My parents went
to the Kentucky Derby in 1963 and brought home a small plastic horse as
my souvenir. Little did they realize what they had done: that one small
appaloosa Arabian foal was the start of a lifelong passion. As a kid,
I had to scrimp and save to buy a Breyer. At $5.10 a pop, I had to save
my 50-cent allowance for weeks to afford a single horse. Of course, I
wish I had bought more of them in the 60s and 70s, because many of those
horses are now selling for hundreds of dollars today!
MC: What do you find compelling about Breyer horses?
MGM: Breyer horses are very realistic sculptures. My favorites are the
models I was not able to afford as a child. To me, the "semi-rearing
Mustang" is the consummate Breyer. I have also acquired a taste for
"woodgrains". They are exactly what they sound like. They are
plastic horses painted to look like they are carved out of wood. Anyone
who had the chance to buy them in the 60s declined; those goofy looking
horses were not "realistic" looking, so who wanted them? Well,
the joke is on us, woodgrains, depending on the mold, now sell for $75.00
to $500.00! Charcoal glossy and red roan horses suffered
the same fate. No one wanted them, so they are now rather scarce and commend
high prices. During the 70s oil crises, Breyer routinely recycled models
that were not selling well. You will find many 70s horses are not made
of white plastic. Rather, they are green, blue or pink--the result of
that were crushed and remolded into models that Breyer hoped would be
Collectors do something that the uninitiated find bizarre! We love to
compete in "live shows." When I first heard about this, I thought
it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of. You treat your horses like
live beasts. They "compete" against other plastic horses in
a "show ring." (Okay, its a table in a building.) They
win ribbons! How dumb! That is, until your horse wins "Grand Champion"
and a full-sized ribbon for his efforts. Now your collecting efforts take
a different turn. No more rubs, only "live show quality" horses
will find a spot on your shelf! Live shows add an interesting dimension
to collecting and give collectors additional opportunities to mingle with
one another and share information with one another. We also recycle common
or extremely damaged horses by "remaking" them into works of
art. The novice remaker is content to merely repaint a scuffed model.
The true artist will transform a common, ugly horse into a detailed sculpture.
The goal of remaking is to create a work of art so wondrous, that no one
can guess what the mold was in its "past life." Expertly remade
horses can sell for several hundred dollars.
MC: Where are some of the places one can find Breyer horses add to a collection?
MGM: New Breyers are sold in major toy stores. Vintage Breyers are easy
to find now, thanks to on-line auction sites. I also find them in antique
malls and flea markets. Breyers are very tricky purchases if you do not
know what you are doing. I have found some of my best horses at antique
malls. The dealers had an idea that Breyers were valuable, so they marked
each one $50.00, but they didn't know one model from another. I laughed
at the common Arabians (usually worth $5.00 *if* you could find someone
who wants to bother "re-making" them.) But I couldn't wait to
fork over the fifty bucks for the glossy dapple gray Clydesdale, worth
MC: As a collector, what do you look for when deciding to make a purchase?
MGM: With Breyers, condition is everything. Even though they are made
of sturdy plastic, They do scratch, chip and break. If the horse is a
common one, paint rubs are the death-knell of value. Rubs are tolerated
in extremely rare models, however, the value plummets sharply because
collectors will always be looking for an "upgrade" and they
want to be sure they can sell the damaged horse for the same price they
MC: What do you consider the hardest to locate items?
MGM: Decorators are scarce. And once you see one, you'll know why. They
are ugly! In the early 60s, Breyer chose to issue several horses (and
the longhorn steer) in "decorator colors." Copenhagen (blue
speckles); Florentine (Gold speckles)"Wedgwood"(blue) and "Gold
Charm" (solid gold.) Each vintage decorator has a white mane and
tail. You have to be wary of these now as many, people have become adept
at recreating Decorators. While the original creator may sell the horse
as a reproduction, subsequent buyers may not pass on that critical bit
of information. A reproduction is worth $50.00; and
original is worth $600.00 to $2000.00, depending on the mold and color.
MC: Do you have any favorite items in your own collection?
MGM: I have many favorite horses; but the crown jewel of my collection
is my decorator Wedgwood Fighting Stallion. He certainly stands out among
the hundreds of brown and black horses on my shelf. But my absolute favorite
is good old "Man 'O War." I remember staring at this horse every
time I went to Weinbach's Department Store. Back in those days, stores
stocked only one of each model. When it was sold, that was it--he was
gone and there would be no more. I dutifully saved my allowance, counting
the pennies until I would have the required $5.10 to make him mine. One
day, horror of horrors, Man 'O War was gone! I was crushed. Even though
Christmas was right around the corner,
I had no hope of getting him. At my age (7th grade), gifts were practical,
not frivolous, especially from Grandmother. She was the type who gave
extremely practical gifts--like sturdy cotton underwear! Because she lived
out of town, she always sent money to Mother ahead of time, instructing
buy a suitable "practical and appropriate gift." That Christmas,
I saved Grandmother's gift until last. With each box I opened, my hopes
for Man "O War became dimmer and dimmer. I distinctly remember Grandmother's
gift--a shiny red box, bound with stretchy gold cord. No way would a horse
there. . . . I lifted the lid . . . and there he was! "Man "O
War"! As I gleefully yanked him out of the box, I heard Grandmother's
horrified cry, "Oh JODY! You bought her a HORSE?"
Man 'O War is one of the most common molds produced by Breyer, but he
will always be my most treasured horse. Every time I look at him, I'm
swept back to childhood, complete with fond memories of my dear Grandmother.
MC: Can you offer any advice to new folks interested in starting a collection
of Breyers? Any pitfalls to watch out for?
MGM: Try to limit your scope of collecting. There are thousands and thousands
of molds out there! Decide what you like. Vintage, Limited Editions, Special
runs, woodgrains, test models, unpainteds, glossies? Or do you prefer
to specialize in breeds. . .drafters, warm bloods, appys. . .the classes
endless. Remember that condition is everything, and that "color makes
the horse." The same mold can be worth $5.00 if its a common color
(for example, the bay running mare) or $1200.00 if she happens to be a
Copenhagen decorator running mare. Next, condition is crucial. That same
Copenhagen running mare will be worth 75% less if her paint is rubbed
or if her ears are chipped.
There are some wonderful reference books on the market. If you are just
starting out, you need to acquire Felicia Browell's "Breyer Animal
Collector Guide." She has incorporated color photos of all models
with price guides. Be wary of reproduction "decorators." Some,
like the 2001 Just About
Horses Limited Edition, are issued by Breyer. Others are created by remake
artists. Collectors need to become familiar with the look of "old
plastic," the exact shade of factory original paint, the correct
molding marks, and the finishing details of vintage decorators.
MC: Has the Internet changed the way you collect? How so?
MGM: Oh, yes! Now I don't have to wait for Breyerfest to find rare models.
On any given day, I can browse through 500 Breyers for sale. Of course,
this does not compare to the thousands of models I'll find at Breyerfest,
but it certainly beats trolling antique malls where I regularly found
Special thanks to Melissa for the photos of horses in her collection.