Breyer model horses come in a variety of finishes. The finish is the final coat on the horse that gives the Breyer model a matte, glossy, or another type of appearance. The vast majority of Breyer horses sport a matte finish, but there are other finishes to learn. As you build your model horse collection, you may want to obtain a particular mold issued in both a variety of colors and finishes. The finish may also point to the age and rarity of the model. It's also an important characteristic to note when determining the value of Breyer horses. Many of these finishes are also used by other plastic horse model companies, such as Hartland, which produced both matte and glossy finish models. China models have a nomenclature all their own; some may be matte or glossy, but there are many other terms to learn there!
Breyer Horse Models and Common Finishes
The two most common finishes on Breyer horses are matte and glossy.
- Matte finish: This is the standard of typical finish on nearly all models that leave Breyer's factory. The appearance is soft and natural. You may spot some glossy patches; these are the result of either an improper painting technique or the plastic used to make the model horse. In some cases these patches can be so large that the model's finish actually falls into the semi-glossy category, which is somewhere between matte and glossy.
- Glossy Finish: Glossy finishes shine as if the model's coat is wet. A glossy finish looks best when brand new and does tend to show up dust and fingerprints, so treat it gently and wipe it down with a soft cloth to keep it looking sparkling and new. Glossy models may also occur on a standard matte issued color if the paints are mixed improperly or even by accident!
Unusual Finishes on Breyer Horses
In the 1970's two additional finishes were produced accidentally. You won't find either mentioned in a Breyer dealer's catalog or an old ad. In both cases, the underlying plastic body of the model is what gives it an unusual appearance.
- Chalky finish: A chalky finish model horse is also known by the nickname "chalkies". Chalkies occur when either the white unpainted plastic shows through or a white base coat applied to the horse casts a different appearance to the matte color. Chalkies look like chalk, hence the name. It's easier to spot a chalky plastic horse on a light colored model. On darker horses, look under the hooves or at unpainted areas such as the bald face on the Family Arabian Stallion. If it's a true chalky, the plastic will look and feel heavier than others. The company was most likely experimenting with different casting materials in the late 1960's and 1970's.
- Pearly Finish: Like chalkies, pearly finishes were never advertised but appear to be yet another fluke of the plastic manufacturing process. The finish glows with a pearlescent cast that's quite beautiful. Pearly finishes are found only on Classic scale, 1970's era horses. The company actually painted some with such a finish starting in the 1980's, so pearly horses in any other scale or on molds introduced after 1980 are likely painted that way and are not true pearly finishes.
- Flocked Models: Flocking mimics a fur or hair coat. A spray-on material is added to the horse and gives the body a fuzzy appearance. Breyer issued very few flocked models, mostly through special runs at Christmas time such as the 1984 Montgomery Ward Catalog Proud Arabian Stallion issued with halter and lead or with a fine harness and open top buggy. Some collectors add flocking on their own. Such horses are considered customized even if many horses were flocked the same way; if they weren't produced at the factory with a flocked coating, they are considered customs.
Collecting Model Horses by Finish
So what does this mean for the person just starting to enjoy the model horse collecting hobby? Knowing which models were issued in various finishes may help you distinguish among original finish (OF) models and customized ones. Unknowing or unscrupulous sellers on auction sites may try to pass off a customized Breyer as a 'rare' glossy horse. A running foal painted coal black and sprayed with high gloss finish was once promoted as a 'rare glossy black running foal'; there's no such thing. Finding Breyers at flea markets, yard sales and thrift shops is also part of the fun, and knowing if you hold in your hands a unique pearly model or a plain old Classic Scale Ruffian can help you determine if you should spend the extra few dollars to buy him or not.
For a more information and lots of reference photos, see the Breyer Animal Collector's Guide, Fifth Edition, by Felicia Browell, Kelly Korber-Welmer, and Kelly Kesicki.