Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Blanket Collection

Let's start with Breyer's Show Blanket Collection.  These are all 9 currently known to exist.  I acquired these a few at a time, some for amazingly little (thank you Carrie!).  The light blue Devon, many people's favorite, and the AQHA and the BFest dark blue I've had since the beginning -- a phrase which means 'since they were first offered,' back in 2000 to 2003.
Breyer first released these blankets, each one lined and darted, with velcro'd girth and chest and adorned with a major show, organization or event's insignia, in 2000 (model no. 2801).  Back then there were five: USET, Devon, National Horse Show, AQHA, and BreyerFest.  They were quality pieces and offered good value.  I thought them so-so in terms of playability --- and heaven help me, that's my opinion today.

In 2004 to 2007 Breyer dropped the National Horse Show one and brought in two more, the dull orange Scottsdale and the bright-yellow American Royal.  The model number changed from 2801 to 2809.  Until I had it in my hands I didn't realize the American Royal's initials, the bold A and R, were not black, but deep royal purple.
In 2008 to 2010 Breyer changed the model number to 2600 (still calling them the Show Blanket Collection), dropped the USET and the Scottsdale, and brought in 2 more new ones, the USDF and the NRHA.  They still kept the light blue Devon, the AQHA and of course their own beloved BFest dark blue, making these 3 by far the most popular and the best sellers -- carried for 11 years!  Thus you can state that the NHS and the Scottsdale are the second-rarest, having been carried for only 4 years.  The USDF and the NRHA rate as rarest, carried for only 3 years.

Since then, no Show Blanket Collection blankets per se have been released.  But hey, Breyer has been plenty busy putting out blankets -- have no fear!  For a collector like me, this little-known and seldom-followed corner of the tackmaker's world became irresistable this summer.  It all started with this one.
I spotted the ad in eBay.  The seller said she didn't know the model number. "The rarest color!" she called it.  For some reason I was intrigued, and dug up all my Dealer's Catalogs, scrupulously collected over the years.  (I am missing just one, the 2013.)  The blanket was none other than Breyer's first color of the popular quilted hood set, today sold in turquoise with vivid hot pink binding.  The model number of the eBay piece was 2803, and it had been made from 2000 to 2003.  This set came in 3 colors over the years; the middle color (2004-2009) was purple with black binding, incidentally the first time Breyer had ever released a purple blanket.  The eBay offering included 4 leg wraps made by an independent artist.  I won it, thus discovering the binding is not black, but dark blue.
     Note how this particular pattern of blanket fits smaller Traditional molds: The Indian Pony, the Family Arabs, San Domingo, the Stock Horses and the Proud Arabs.  As horses got bigger, this blanket fit them less well, and other blankets appeared.  Why did they get bigger?  Question for another time...

I had recently received my first spreadsheet software.  The love of blankets led me to compile an enormous spreadsheet of every blanket Breyer had ever made.  It was (and still is) great fun.  I started with my Dealers Catalogs and then scoured eBay.  To my amazement I found blankets that weren't in the catalogs!  Why should I have been surprised??  More on these later...  I went on collecting: the blue WeatherBeeta at a steep discount because the neck seam had come undone and I was able to fix it.
The Newmarket blanket was my especial joy, because it passed my personal Great Test of a Blanket:  was it fuzzy on the inside?!  It's the horse who's gonna be wearing these things, after all!!  An earlier blogpost has featured this blanket with its comical upside-down Breyer tag.  : )
A blanket I'd had "since the beginning," and one that forms my "gold standard," is this Green Turnout Rug, model number 3050, part of the wave of blankets Breyer put out in 1995.
This is the Breyer blanket I've used the most over the years, and consider the best 'play value' for the money.  For decades it was the only one with a fuzz lining that I possessed.  The Turnout Rugs tend to wrinkle along the shoulder, and I admit this is not the best size horse to display it with!  The Green Turnout's straps were real suede.  I acquired it sometime in the 90s.
Once smitten with blanket fever I bought like crazy.  How to find out whether the Rambo Green was fuzzy inside?  or even whether it had a lining at all?? 
Turns out it does have a lining:  a silky soft white polyester one... if not exactly fuzzy.
A 2012 blanket I obtained by default joined the collection.
Serjeant Reckless's is one of the few pieces to be printed on both sides; it is definitely an example of blankets with printed (silkscreened), rather than embroidered, decoration.  (Though the green-and-brass leadropes should count for something.)  From 2010 on embroidery would be rare.  Speaking of 2010, of course I found out about the World Equestrian Games blankets.  Clever of Breyer, isn't it, to be making these limited edition pieces??  I hunted all over eBay until I found one that was within my price range.  Blankets are cheaper than horses and most tack, but they are not as cheap as, say, postage stamps or Stablemates.  Fiften to twenty dollars is the going rate for a decent Breyer blanket.  I paid about $24 for my 2010 WEG.
By the time the 2014 WEG blankets came out, friends were looking out for me, and with their help I excitedly added this green gem to my collection.  Compared to the 2010 one, it is of thinner material, has less printing and has only one color binding.  But I'm still dern glad to have it.
Back to the beginning of my infatuation.
In my researches and compilings I discovered there were two Turnout Rugs.  In addition to the green one I'd always had, there had been a Dark Blue!!  Model no. 2806, 2000 - 2003.  Excitement!!  I had to have it -- remember, fuzzy lining...  And so I took a photo of my Dealers Catalog page, PhotoShopped out the other horses around it, and posted a Want Ad up on MH$P.  And glory be, I got an answer almost immediately.
The kind girl who answered sold me her own well-loved Blue Turnout Rug.  I cannot remember being so anxious for something since my earliest model horse days.  What a delicious state of anticipation.  When finally it came, the blanket was badly faded and well worn, almost pilled inside.  But that was obviously from hard use and much love.  I immediately put it on Valhombra's new wife...
  There were differences from the Green Turnout Rug, most notably in the strap material.  The Blue had artificial leather, which is to say, plastic, straps.  It was a flexible brown nylon-y material, with a mesh backing, and beyond my disappointment at its not being real leather, it performed beautifully.  This was the sort of toy that could stand hard use and wetting without any problems.

 I was so tuned to blankets that when I saw another, unfaded, Blue Turnout on eBay I was seriously compelled to Buy It Now.
This was where things got interesting.  My second Blue Turnout featured straps of a different material.  I knew from the ad that it had 'grained' i.e. real leather, straps, not the plastic ones.
In a fit of curiosity I fell all over myself to get it, even though the timing was challenging.  When the blanket arrived, I discovered something completely new.  The straps were neither leather as in my old Green Rug nor plastic as in the faded Blue.  They were both!  A top grained very thin layer of leather was affixed to a lower layer of flexible nylon mesh.  Here was an intermediate product!  a blanket in transition.  You could watch Breyer trying to have a foot in both worlds: real leather but (I presume) saving money...
     In playability terms, the transition straps were a disaster.  The thin leather dried out and repeatedly cracked and broke.  All my skill of oiling and gluing was called for, but even then the straps could not stand much flexing.  The second Blue Turnout thus became my most fragile blanket.  It is still interesting as history.  But I live in hopes of someday finding a Blue Turnout with real leather (suede) straps.

At the same time I was learning about the Turnouts, I was pursuing a fabulous prize, the Green Weatherbeeta.
 

This is what I meant when I earlier mentioned blankets that weren't in the Catalogs.  Unless the Green WeatherBeeta is in the 2013 Dealer's Catalog, (and it would be indeed unusual for Breyer to carry a blanket for just one year), then it isn't in any of the Catalogs!!  And yet it exists, and I have seen other examples on eBay.  I found mine through the friend of a friend.  I was frantic when I heard about it -- a classic case of I-gotta-have-it!  Glady I paid $15 and considered this a bargain.  The Greens are fairly rare and new-looking, so it is tempting to speculate they are filling in for the Blue WeatherBeetas, which after all have been in production since 2005.  That is a good record for a stable blanket.

Breyer knows just how to get someone hooked.  This year, their Silver Jubliee, also featured a special run blanket as part of the fuss.  I got my first one through the incredible generosity of Andrea Gurdon of BreyerHistoryDiva.  Like the 2014 WEG blanket, the material is thin; unlike the WEG, the decal is printed only on one side.
 But it's cute, and it's my first example of a blanket with a metallic binding, so there.

Early on in my hunt for blankets, I saw an old Red Canvas go by on eBay.  How I wish I'd gotten it.  My research showed that 3 colors of Canvases were released: Red from 1977 to 1980, Blue (a dark blue) from 1977 to 1979, and Brown for one year only, 1980.  Right as my interest heated up, I saw an auction go by of old Breyer tack, including a Brown and a Blue Canvas Blanket in mint condition.  I bid!!  Imagine my annoyance when, at the last second, it sold for almost twice as much as I was willing to pay. 
About a week later, to my amazement, a single perfect-mint Brown showed up at a much more affordable price, from someone outside the hobby.  I bit so fast.  It was missing the front tie.  My catalog pictures failed to show just how that front was fastened, but my own memory (remember I've been in this hobby since the mid-1970s) recalled some kind of leather tie.  I have since found out the tie should be "bootlace" leather.
Note how this blanket is fitted almost perfectly to the old Stretch Morgan.  It is not the same as the Show Blanket Collection, Silver Jubilee, WEG or Newmarket pattern.  Those blankets have shorter backs and longer necks, almost certainly because that fits a larger variety of molds.
When I succeeded in acquiring this particular prize, I turned my thoughts to Didi Hornberger's Intermediaire Live! show on October 12, down in Harrisburg.  She is the only showholder I know who reliably has a class for "Stablewear."  For reasons of my own I seldom show or judge anymore, but she had asked me to be photographer for this show.  And she said yes when I asked whether I could show in "just one class."
Guess which class.
The class had 7 entries.  The Stretch Morgan and the Bonne Fete are mine.  There are some advantages to being official photographer!  Clearly some people didn't quite understand the class -- two of these horses had only costume halters, and one entry was a strange affair of tutus...
But the other two wore genuine blankets.
I brought out my 1980 Dealers Catalog and opened it to the page with the Canvas Blankets.  For my Bonne Fete I dug out two sets of blanket-hood-and-wraps I'd had since the early 1980s.  They were made by someone in the MidWest, whose name unfortunately I've lost track of.  Each set came with leg bandages.  The quality of these sets has to be seen to be believed.  On my entry's explanation card I wrote that individual hobby artists and home-made blankets were always going to be better than Breyer's.
Bonne Chance got first place and the Morgan got second.

I have more blankets to share, but they will have to wait until later.



4 comments:

  1. I had no idea there were so many. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I never realized how many blankets there were and the various styles! Thanks for sharing! :)

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  3. Really interesting to see the history of breyer blankets.
    The newmarket blankets are the only ones I've found fit the Cleveland.

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  4. Howdy Russinka, Thanks! I have tested Breyer's common red quilted blanket on my Cleveland Bay, and it fit (it has really long straps). Also, the Rambo Dark Green blanket fits him -- you just have to fasten the front strap to the front hook and the rear strap to the rear hook, not cross them under the belly as intended.

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