Perhaps you've inherited a metal model horse from a friend or relative or you come across an odd on a major model horse collecting site advertising metal or pewter model horses. How do you know if they're collectible or not? Are they old or valuable?
Metal has long been used to fashion decorative items, and many of the earliest "model horses" produced throughout the centuries were made of metal. Pewter was often used to cast horse sculptures and jewelry pieces, for example. It's durable and picks up subtle details in the mold that make the horse look more lifelike.
Metal model horses are difficult to date accurately because so many were produced over the years, and many were sold or imported into the United States as gift shop items, commemorative items, and decorative items. Pewter model horses are a little easier to date or identify since only one major model horse sculptor, Maggie Bennett, regularly releases models in pewter.
Victorian and Older Metal Toy Horses
Toys were often cast in metal. The durable material withstood hours of play and was often passed from one child to another. You can sometimes find metal horses with harness molded onto them for sale at a significant discount on eBay and other auction sites. Most of these were lead or cast metal pieces that were once part of multiple-horse hitches, such as fire engine toys or stagecoach toys that were broken over the years. They are not worth very much on their own but many model horse collectors enjoy adding nostalgic toys from the past to their model horse collection.
Metal Horses: Knights, Military and Western Horse Models
Knights in armour have been a popular theme for generations, and many were cast in metal. Such knights may be mounted on horses. The most desirable collectible metal model horses in this series are those with armour and full tack regalia representing the Middle Ages.
Many metal horses were cast as military collectibles. Such horses are generally cast with molded-on saddle and bridle and are meant to accompany toy soldiers or lead soldiers. Britains, renowned for their military models (now owned by Top Gear in the US) is probably one of the most well-known companies producing metal soldiers and horses.
Other metal figures commonly found at yard sales, flea markets and auctions are metal cowboy figures. Many are molded directly onto the horse. Horses are usually in an action pose. Like toy soldiers, many were made as playthings for children.
Souvenir Metal Horse Models and Horse Statues
Souvenir brass, pewter and other metal model horses are easy to find in gift shops and at second hand stores. They range in size from large Breyer Traditional size (about 12" tall) to micro mini size (about 1" tall). Some feature stylized saddles and bridles representing the tack of their country of original and can be fun to collect for a global view of the horse world.
Artists Resin Model Horses Cast in Pewter: Micro Minis
Among all the pewter horse models on the market, the ones that collectors love are the pewter micro minis. The original micro minis were sculpted by artist Candace Liddy and released in plastic by the Creata Model Horse Company, but later additions in pewter, a galloping Thoroughbred with detachable base and a Clydesdale with attached base, were released in pewter by EquinArt Creations in 2006.
The best-known sculptor and creator of pewter micro mini model horses is Maggie Bennett. Maggie sculpts each horse with loving attention to detail, and they are made in the USA of lead-free pewter. She offers many breeds and poses, and even foals. Each foal is just slightly larger than a grain of rice and yet perfectly detailed!
Customizing and Showing Metal Model Horses
Most metal model horses are collected for personal enjoyment and are not shown. However, pewter micro minis are often prepped and painted in realistic colors and shown in live and photo show competitions. Both Maggie Bennett and Candace Liddy micro minis do very well in live and photo shows and many have received championship recognition, sometimes showing against large, popular resins and wining in live show competitions. That's quite an achievement!
For more information about metal model horses, please see the book 501 Collectible Horses by Jan Lindenberger with Dana Cain.